Daily Devotional: 08-31-13

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Scripture: Acts 9:11-12
The Lord said to Saul, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”

Thought for the Day: I’ve heard it said by many people: “At some point we all end up bruised and broken at the bottom of a well looking up. It is good friends who will make good ropes.”  There is some real truth to this idea, but in life, there are times when we are knocked so low and left so alone that only one is capable of rescuing us.  Of course, I believe that one is God.  Yet God works less with ropes and more with presence.  God doesn’t dangle a rope from on high in hopes that we can hold on while we are pulled to safety.  The God we meet in Jesus is one who comes alongside us, showing a willingness to relinquish self for our sake.  Saul was knocked down for the first time on the day of his conversion, but there would be many more times.  With each experience, Saul (who would become Paul) would grow in his conviction of a God whose presence was closer than he could have ever imagined.

Prayer: God of Grace, I give you thanks for your presence that is so very close to me, whether I can name it or not.  Continue to help me grow in my belief that there is nothing that can separate me from you and your love.  Amen.

 Join us tomorrow morning for Worship…
(8:15, 9:30 & 11:00)

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Saul to Paul

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-30-13

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Scripture: Acts 9:26-30
When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.  So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.  He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him.  When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Thought for the Day: Earlier this week, I made a Bruce Blunder that nearly cost the church some money.  I had a letter that needed postage, and so my plan was to use the church’s postage machine…something I haven’t done very often.  As I walked past Karen’s desk, I clarified the four-digit code to turn on the postage machine, a four-digit number that begins with a 6.  She confirmed that I had the correct number, so I went in, typed in the code, and ran my envelope through the machine.  As I started to walk away, I glanced at the top righthand corner of the envelope and was confused to see numbers that shouldn’t have been there.  Yes-as you may have guessed, the machine was already on and I had just typed in a four digit number starting with a six that was now the new postage amount.  The envelope I held in my hand, with a single piece of paper enclosed, had postage in excess of $65.  Let’s just say that I gave the rest of the staff the best laugh they have had in a long time, though that didn’t make me feel any better.  Thank goodness Jan and Karen were able to bring their laughter under control and research possibilities of solving the problem.  Come to find out, this is not unusual.  In fact, there’s an official US Postal form for that.  And better yet, Jan pointed out that the form’s line in which you write the amount of the mistake has eight boxes – that is, you could make a $999,999.99 mistake.  The $65+ mistake I made looked rather small in comparison.  In the end, I learned a couple of important lessons.  First, it is wonderful to have a staff who are able to fix my blunders.  And second, it is equally wonderful to have people who put my mistakes in perspective.  Saul, who found himself in a couple of rough places, often found some amazing people who came alongside him.

By the way, we already received our check to reimburse us for my mistake.  I feel much better!

Prayer: God, thank you for those gracious people who not only make us feel better when we do something incredibly stupid, but even help us solve the problems brought on by our mistake.  Amen.

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Saul to Paul

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-29-13

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Scripture: Matthew 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Thought for the Day: In an article posted on deeperstory.com (CLICK HERE), Ashleigh Baker wrote about her ballet dancing son.  At times, the article is painful to read as she shares the insensitive, at times brutal, comments that some people offer because her son likes ballet.  We need to live in a world where the things a child finds beautiful and life-giving are not tempered or trounced by the insecurities of others.  In the article, Baker writes about her son’s first Nutcracker performance, and though there were many who rolled their eyes or added disparaging remarks, her son said to her, “Mama, it feels like my heart is flying when I’m dancing.  I think God made ballet because he knew I’d love it.”  That’s my dream for every human being; to find a place in this world that is drenched with purpose; that place where an individual can joyfully claim, “I think God made this just for me.”

Prayer: There is no greater joy then to find our place in you, O Lord.  You provided each of us with gifts, and when those gifts are used to your glory, we find our divinely created niche.   Thank you, Lord!  Amen.

Join us for worship on Sunday morning…
(8:15, 9:30 & 11:00)

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-28-13

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Scripture: Psalm 37:9
“And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.”

Thought for the Day: Hope is a strange and often difficult concept to fully grasp.  It is so much more than wishful thinking, for in faith, God is active within it.  Back in January of 2011, President Obama offered remarks at a memorial service in Tucson where he said, “As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.  Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let’s use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”  I love the language of expanding our moral imaginations, an act fully based in hope.  Throughout history, many hope-filled people have allowed their God-inspired imaginations to reach beyond the boundaries of what was.  On this anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech, I am reminded of those powerful words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by their character.”  Such thoughts are often considered naive idealism, but thank God for those who allow their moral imaginations to connect with true hope.  I don’t believe we’ve quite embodied Dr. King’s imaginative place of justice and wholeness, but we are moving in the right direction because many hope-filled people continue to allow their moral imaginations to soar.

Prayer: I hope in you, O God, and in that hope my imagination begins to connect with your dreams for this world.  Call me to be a partner with you in seeing hope realized in the lives of all people.  Amen.

Join us this Sunday…

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-27-13

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Scripture: Luke 4:16-19
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Thought for the Day: If you’ve watched even five minutes of news the last 48 hours, you’ve probably heard about Miley Cyrus and her rather controversial performance on the MTV Video Music Awards.  I must acknowledge that I did not watch the show live and have only viewed a few minutes of online video, but there was genuine discomfort even among those who are usually quite callous to the provocative and edgy material common to these events.  Miley has come along way since her debut as Disney’s Hannah Montana, though we must all be cautious in our judgment of this young woman.  How many of us, had we found ourselves a star at age 14, wouldn’t have allowed the fame to leave us with a big head and a broken heart.  Movie stardom is not for children.

The Youth Ministry website for the Indiana United Methodist Church provided for me the most helpful analysis of the situation.  The blog pointed out how Miley’s goal for the night was to be even more shocking than previous performances.  The writer offered this insight: “Whether or not she achieved her goal is probably up for debate. However, I just can’t help but wonder how a person with so much potential wound up setting such low standards for herself.”  That’s it!  It is one thing to be shocking or controversial to make a point.  Some of the great social movements in history have used what was deemed unacceptable to challenge the status quo, but the goal was always lofty.   This performance, on the other hand, taught young people to seek purpose that has no ultimate value.  It’s like having a dream to be the most raunchy, vulgar, violent, unethical or lazy.  Even if you are an overachiever and do it brilliantly, is it really going to bring anything of value to society?  If are youth see people pushing the envelope, let it be those who push for the sake of civil rights, better access to health care, respecting the dignity of all people or creating a more peaceful world.  Let them dream as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed some 50 years ago.

Prayer: As Jesus invited us to join with him in reaching toward your great vision, O Lord, may I do so with a desire to reach further than those who came before me.  Amen.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the blog post

 

 

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-26-13

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Scripture: Acts 11:22-24
News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord.

Thought for the Day: Yesterday during all three services, I felt as if things didn’t go as well as I would have liked.  There were bumps, a few missteps, and times when words didn’t sound as impressive off my lips as they had inside my brain.  Yet at each service, I heard people describe the experiences with language like: holy reverence, a living-spirit, and a genuine welcome.  I guess I didn’t see or experience what they did, but it was a good reminder of God’s ability to work with our bumps, missteps and imperfection…or in-spite of these things.  In the early church, God was working in places and among people no one could have previously imagined, yet grace was at work with such power that even Barnabas, the newcomer, could visibly see its existence.  How has God surprised you recently?  Where has grace come alive where you least expected it to do so?  What did that teach you?

Prayer: Keep surprising me, Lord.  Continue to show me how the limits I impose on a situation are only opportunities for you to reveal something that wouldn’t otherwise be visible.  Amen.

 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-25-13

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Scripture: Isaiah 29:15-16
Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”  You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay? Shall the thing made say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of the one who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Thought for the Day: It is often said that the prophets turned the world on its head, and for many, that’s been their experience.  But the prophets were often spinning the world – a world that had already turned things upside down – back around to the way God intended it.  The spin may leave you queasy and disoriented, and the first reaction might be to spin it back to where it was.  That’s only natural, but God is trying to bring a new normal that in fact was the original normal, but is not the normal that folks have accepted as normal.   For that reason, it takes a little time to reorient ourselves to the new normal that was the original normal.  Give it time, and you will see why God sees it as normal.

Prayer: I’ve taken my spiritual dramamine, and I am ready for you to spin my world, Lord.  I trust you to orient my life as you would have it even when I might initially fight it as it doesn’t feel right.  Just hold my hand, steady my feet, and let me gain my bearings.  Amen.

Join us this morning
at Cypress Creek Christian Church

(Worship at 8:15, 9:30 & 11:00)
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