Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-28-16

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Scripture: Hosea 10:12
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap faithful love; break up your unplanted ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

Thought for the Day: Has your life ever felt like a dry and barren land? No matter how much you dig, there is only dust and unproductive soil. Hosea is calling out idolatry, the turning away from God. If we have walked away from the One who provides the righteous rain, it doesn’t matter what we do. All things will remain unproductive, but Hosea suggests that we begin breaking up the soil with acts of faithful love and rightful-living. It is this kind of living that turns us back to God and allows for God to more easily pour out the nourishing rain. It is this life-giving water that will change the parched and arid ground into a soil that is receptive to whatever God might plant. Does your life feel like a dry and barren land? There is something you can do…

Prayer: God of All Creation, when all I see within my life appears parched and hopeless, I turn to you for guidance on how to till the soil; I look to you for what I can do to put myself under the outpouring of your righteous rain. Amen.

WEDNESDAY STUDY
Noon & 6:30pm

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-27-16

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Scripture: Romans 13:10
Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.

Thought for the Day: Desmond Tutu remains one of my mentors from a distance. He wrote, “If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” In our current divisive and bitter political environment, what would happen if people spoke with – not their enemies – but those with whom they disagreed. I try to remove that language of enemy as it only inflames the divisions, but I challenge us all to speak to those who just might have some very different ideas. And when you approach such folks, do not do so with the intention of changing their minds or demonstrating how idiotic their thinking might be. Instead, ask them about their family; what is their guiding conviction on ethical and moral issues; what do they like to do in their free time; what grieves their soul? Understanding – true understanding – is a lost value in our culture. The above passage from Romans comes amidst a conversation about how faithful people live within a culture and political system with which they disagree. Surprisingly, Paul encouraged submissiveness, paying taxes without complaint, and giving respect to leaders. Wow! Those are some challenging words amidst the current political battles. Paul challenged his readers in the First Century, but also challenges us, to put love above all things – including politics.

Prayer: At times, I am pretty certain my political values and beliefs are exactly what you would want, O Lord. Humble my spirit; drive me back to scripture; allow compassion to lead me; provide me opportunities to listen to those who are on the other side and just might be right. O Lord, it is not easy. Please be gracious. Amen.

AND SPREAD THE WORD

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-26-16

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Scripture: Ephesians 3:7
I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.

Thought for the Day: What might the world look like with a few more Chris Bakers? I don’t want to puff up Chris’ ego too much, but there are some wonderful servants in the world, and Chris is one of them. He is willing to venture into the brokenness and suffering that too many attempt to ignore, and through the grace of God shown him, he is able to bring beauty and healing. What might the world look like with a few more Chris Bakers? It is not because of a lack of good models.

Prayer: God, make me a willing servant of your Gospel of unconditional love. Make in me a willing and receptive spirit to your invitation to bring that Gospel to those whom the world has rejected. Amen.

New Study Begins Wednesday

Noon & 6:30pm
(Chapters 1-7)

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-25-16

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Scripture: Ephesians 4:28
Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.

Thought for the Day: Some folks might hear this as a rather obvious statement – confirming that those who steal need to stop. But for Paul, he is not only telling thieves to change their ways, but he also is making a profound theological statement when he speaks about them using their hands for the purpose of creating something to share. Paul doesn’t say, “Lock them up and throw away the key!” He doesn’t suggest that they are lost and worthless. In fact, he makes it rather clear that they have something of value to bring to the community. Our faith tells us that all of humanity has value and purpose in the eyes of God, yet we often do not communicate that idea in relationship to those who have made mistakes or fallen short of their potential. How might we help bring about a new perspective for someone who otherwise might go on believing that s/he has no potential for goodness or right-living?

Prayer: Merciful and Gracious God, I give you thanks for the way you remind us of our value in your Kingdom. May I live into this glorious truth and help others realize their potential as well. Amen.

Let’s Come Together In Worship
Today
at
8:15am, 9:30am & 11:00am

Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-24-16

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Scripture: Romans 16:3-4
Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same.

Thought for the Day: We always need to remember how Paul’s letters were not written with the intention of them becoming scripture. They were letters of introduction, encouragement, love and occasionally a little discipline. Toward the end of Romans, Paul spoke fondly of Prisca and Aquila, two “coworkers in Christ Jesus.” They risked everything for him – or literally, they placed their lives below the life of Paul by exposing their necks. In John’s Gospel, we find Jesus explaining how there is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. From Paul’s vantage point, this is what Pricsa and Aquila had done. When we place our lives below the life of another, it is not only a gift but a powerful symbol. It says in a way that words cannot, “You are a person a value.” Isn’t that what God did in Jesus?

Prayer: Lord God, for all those who have lowered themselves with grace and humanity, I am blessed. Thank your for being the model that first inspired it all. Amen.

JOIN US FOR WORSHIP
TOMORROW MORNING
8:15, 9:30 & 11:00

Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-23-16

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Scripture: Luke 17:33
Whoever tries to preserve their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life will preserve it.

Thought for the Day: Jesus always liked to spin things – to turn on its head what was previously assumed to be true. At times, people would scratch their heads and comment on his sanity. Other times, people felt a bit of discomfort and so dismissed him. But others refused to allow the discomfort to keep them from exploring his comments more deeply.

Now most of us when we think about losing something, it is not a choice we make. We do not intentionally lose something, for if that was the case, it would not technically be lost. But when Jesus spoke about losing one’s life, there was a sense of someone making a choice – conscious decision-making. For us to understand what it means to lose one’s life, we need to look to Jesus as the model – and in losing, he was suggesting that we make a conscious choice to give away ourselves for the sake of another. Though I’m losing it, I know where it is all the time. And when I have chosen to let go, Jesus suggests that it will be fully preserved and never lost.

Prayer: Teach me to let go, O Gracious and Generous God. Teach me to let go of my life, and in doing so, find my life. Amen.

TONIGHT – 7pm
In The Forum
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-22-16

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Scripture: Psalm 103:17-18
But the LORD’s faithful love is from forever ago to forever from now for those who honor him. And God’s righteousness reaches to the grandchildren of those who keep his covenant and remember to keep his commands.

Thought for the Day: Love begins with _____________. I imagine that this fill-in-the-blank could be answered in all kinds of ways, many of them being very thoughtful and insightful. Even within our church and among very faithful people, the word or phrase used might be quite varied. And though I won’t impose my specific answer upon you today, I will suggest that love by its very nature is not egocentric or self-serving. For that reason, I don’t know if ME could be the answer – unless someone understood the phrase as a call to responsibility – that is to say, love doesn’t cast blame but simply acts. In whatever way you might choose to answer the fill-in-the-blank, do so by imagining how God might answer it.

Prayer: In your faithful love, O Lord, I find myself fully enveloped. This gift was mine before I was conceived and will be mine long after I am deceased. Thank you for loving me with a love that knows no ending point. Amen.

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-21-16

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Scripture: Luke 10:21
At that very moment, Jesus overflowed with joy from the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you’ve hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and shown them to babies. Indeed, Father, this brings you happiness…”

Thought for the Day: The wonderful author on Spiritual Formation, Richard Foster, wrote the following:

Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience.
We need to be light-hearted in what we do
to avoid taking ourselves too seriously.
It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride.

What things bring God joy? It sure appear as if joy in it’s simplest and unornamented form is what God seeks. Too often joy becomes attached to the accumulation of stuff or money. That is probably worldly happiness, not the joy of faith. I think of the child who was sent to his room because of bad behavior – no tv or toys. A few minutes later, the boy’s parents find him laying on the bed with his pillowcase hanging from his shoulders like a cape. He is pretending to fly.

In the worst and most bleak of situations, the imagination of a child can find joy. Now God does not dismiss or ignore our struggles, but God desires for us to seek joy no matter the circumstance…and when we find it, it brings joy to God.

Prayer: Give me an open heart, Father and Lord of Heaven. Allow me to glimpse the things that bring you joy, for I believe in faith that such things will bring me joy. Amen.

Let’s Make Chris Feel Welcome

And let us learn what we can do
on issues of human trafficking…
especially as we approach that Big Football Game.
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-20-16

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Scripture: Psalm 115:10-13
Trust in the LORD, house of Aaron! God is their help and shield. You who honor the LORD, trust in the LORD! God is their help and shield. The LORD remembers us and will bless us: God will bless the house of Israel; God will bless the house of Aaron; God will bless those who honor the LORD— from the smallest to the greatest.

Thought for the Day: Clement VII was born Robert of Geneva, but took the name Clement VII when he was elected Pope on this day in 1378AD. It was during a schism, and so there was another Pope who claimed the title as well. What’s fascinating about Clement VII was his resume. Most of us when looking for a job, especially in the field of religion, are going to want our resume to communicate high ethical and moral standards. We desire adjectives and titles associated with our name that will catch people’s attention in a positive way. Clement VII, when he was still known as Robert of Geneva, got the nickname: The Butcher of Cesena. In what was known as the War of the Eight Saints, Robert of Geneva led the troops on a city called Cesena, and he authorized the massacre of between 3,000 – 8,000 civilians – mostly women and children. Too often we dismiss these kinds of acts because they happened “a long time ago,” yet that really should not be a reason for justification or acquittal. There is simply no way of explaining or vindicating such an act.

How will I be remembered? This isn’t a question of legacy in the sense of monuments or buildings with my name attached to them. It is a question of my impact upon this world beyond my life. Will the influence I have had move the world a little closer to God’s kingdom, or will those who follow me be battling a negative headwind created by my actions? Most of us are a mixed bag, and God is most definitely generous with grace. At the same time, I cannot use it as an excuse. I do not need my name remembered in the annals of history, but I sure hope my work is remembered positively in the heavenly realm.

Prayer: Use me for the work of your kingdom, O Lord of Love. Place me in the stream of good works that I might add to the forward movement of your kingdom building. Amen.

HOPE IT IS ON YOUR CALENDAR

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 09-19-16

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Scripture: Psalm 75:1
We give thanks to you, God. Yes, we give thanks! Your name is near. Your marvelous deeds are declared.

Thought for the Day: Today, I give thanks to God – Yes, I give thanks! This past weekend, I gathered with Disciple men from throughout the state of Texas, including 17 from Cypress Creek Christian Church. The retreat was held near Brownwood State Park, and if you’ve never been to the area, it is beautiful. My gratitude today begins with God, but I am also thankful for all the servants who made the retreat possible. If you did not know, our own Nathan Higginbotham serves as Regional Staff Person for Men’s Ministry…receiving the excessive salary of $1/year (that’s joyful sarcasm and gratitude). Nathan provides leadership to the group of men who do all the behind the scenes work to make sure this great event happens. I am also thankful to God for the men called together for this retreat. Like last year, I met some pretty amazing people of faith…including some from our own church. In that kind of setting, you find time for more open and intimate conversations. So just to reiterate my main point: Today, I give thanks to God – Yes, I give thanks!
Prayer: With a full heart, I offer my gratitude to you, Generous God. You are always working to bring us into stronger relationships that bind your church together for the purpose of service. Continue to draw us together. Amen.