Scripture: 1st Corinthians 1:4-7
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thought for the Day: Today, many people are scheming and plotting the best way of frightening neighbors, friends or even complete strangers. I, on the other hand, am moving into a spirit of appreciation. That’s not the usual emotion associated with Halloween, but today is Halloween only by cultural standards. It is All-Hallows’-Eve in the life of the church, the evening before All Saints Day. Though there are pagan roots to the celebration (as there are to most all of the Christian holidays), October 31 became a time to visit the cemetery and pray for the dead. It often included festivities around bonfires and the sharing of fall harvest foods like nuts and dried fruits. I will concede that a princess, werewolf and Spiderman at your door yelling, “Trick-or-Treat” is probably not what our ancestries had in mind, but there is still room to ponder all those who allowed the grace of God to enrich their lives so they could become a testimony to that act of grace. They may be gone from this life, but our memory of their testimony should be honored and celebrated. Join the Apostle Paul and give thanks to God for all those whose life witness impacted your life and the lives of others…and then be prepared for visitors wanting candy.
Prayer: Merciful and Gracious God, I am forever grateful for all those who have given witness to you and your unconditional love. On this unique day when culture and Christianity intersect, may I find ways of allowing the testimony of the saints to intersect the culture around me. Amen.
Help is needed to put
the Christmas Lights
on the Church Campus.
-Starting at 9:00am-
Scripture: Ephesians 1:2
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thought for the Day: These words of the Apostle Paul were a basic greeting that could have been found in any correspondence. For that reason, such words are often dismissed as a superficial salutation. I must confess how I have often breezed past these words on my way to what I determined was the real meat of the letter, but that may have been a mistake. As I read this simple sentence again, it makes me wonder what kind of world we would live in if we sought to make those words a reality. What if we imparted grace and peace upon others, not only with words, but in our daily interaction? How much has our insouciant reading of these words (and others) given us permission to relegate them to the realm of ornamental language? I would encourage all of us to try offering this greeting to someone today, and then follow it with an act which embodies what we have just said.
Prayer: Give my words meaning, O Lord, and may their meaning be shown in how I live my life with and toward others. Amen.
Scripture: John 16:20
[Jesus said,] Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
Thought for the Day: Jesus seems overly optimistic here. He appears certain that the sadness and pain of the disciples will eventually turn into joy. These words have a familiar ring to them – for it was 1700 years later that Voltaire wrote, “Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.” Whether you were a disciple who witnessed your Lord’s crucifixion or anyone who has been thrust into despair, the possibility of finding joy on some future day seems rather unrealistic. Yet for Jesus, his optimism was rooted in the conviction that love is always victorious, and with love comes joy and peace and wholeness. As hard as it is at times, people of faith need to move forward in the belief that despite the opinions of many, joy will win over despair. Yes, it sounds like madness – but just remember, you are in good company as Jesus was called crazy by many.
Prayer: Lord, help my cautious optimism to be turned into a faith-filled conviction… a genuine belief that your love and joy will once again touch and reshape my broken heart. Amen.
Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 8:1-6
We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints— and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you.
Thought for the Day: Last night, Rev. Dick Maddox did a marvelous presentation on Advanced Directives and other important documents associated with end of life. During his opening comments, he made a casual reference to some of the patients he works with at MD Anderson – specifically a floor with those who have chosen to enter into Phase One Clinical Trials. To my surprise, this is not testing new medications in hopes that those participating in the test will be healed. Instead, these are the necessary trials to better understand what happens at certain dosage levels. Those who agree to participate in a Phase One Clinical Trial at MD Anderson are basically allowing their bodies to be used to save another generation.
This Friday, November 1 (celebrating this Sunday, November 3), is All Saints Day. Among the Saints, we usually think of the great witnesses who died while sharing the faith or missionaries who sacrificed so very much. But as I listened to Rev. Maddox describe these selfless individuals who allow their circumstance to become a study by which future generations will be saved, I realized I needed to add another group to my list of Saints.
There are so many people throughout the centuries who have allowed their life or death witness to become a means by which others experienced the love of God. They are all around us. Who do you see?
Prayer: Merciful God, I give thanks for all those who allow their unique circumstance to be a means by which grace and hope are shared. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 55:4
My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Thought for the Day: In today’s sermon, I am referencing a thought-provoking idea from T.S. Elliot. He wrote, “Our lives are a constant evasion of ourselves.” It sounds as if Elliot is suggesting that human beings avoid themselves. As strange as the thought might be, there are those things within each of us that we’d prefer to ignore or avoid. Some of them might be minor flaws in our character, and disregarding them is possible. There are other attributes that are more fundamental to what it means to be human, and among them is the reality of our mortality. Our misguided attempts at avoidance are a response to our fear, and death is an unknown and thus a source of fear. This is where our Christian identity is so very important – as we follow the one who has known the unknown. Christ is the victor of death, and though fear may still visit us now and then, we must claim our connection to the one who not only has walked that journey but has promised to walk it again with us.
Prayer: In Christ, you have brought life out of death. Lord God, we are thankful for the way you have allowed us to see past the tomb and into an abiding love whose power has removed the sting of death. Amen.
Join us this morning
Scripture: Proverbs 28:1
The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
Thought for the Day: Why would anyone flee when there is no one pursuing them? This was my initial question in reading the first half of this passage, and then it hit me. There is no person or army approaching ‘the wicked’, but there is something else that is chasing them. It is, what Geoffrey Chaucer described as, the power of guilt. He wrote, “The guilty think all talk is of themselves.” The persecuting power of a guilty conscience is unrelenting in its pursuit because it is inescapably attached to the one who is running. The only way to change the situation is to stop running, face our past, confess, seek healing, and to begin the process of loosening the tight grip guilt can hold on us. Any other option will have us in excellent shape for the guilt-ridden marathon, but that is a race no one wants to finish.
Prayer: Encourage me, O Gracious God, to trust your mercy, stop my race to nowhere, and to find your healing. This I pray in the name of the one who will be my strength every step of the way, Jesus. Amen.
Join us tomorrow…
Scripture: Matthew 10:38-39
[Jesus said,]…and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Thought for the Day: Amy-Jill Levine writes in her thought-provoking book, The Misunderstood Jew, “Whenever a new religious movement, political view, or social practice emerges, some resistance is to be expected, usually from the representatives of the status quo. As long as Peter and his colleagues lived in relative obscurity…they would not have come to the attention of Rome’s local allies, the Jerusalem establishment. But as the movement began to spread, danger followed. To proclaim the resurrection of an individual is one thing; to proclaim that the Messiah was a man crucified by Rome was something else entirely…To proclaim oneself a follower of Jesus consequently meant to risk ridicule, ostracism, and even persecution” (Harper One ©2006, p. 55). In reading Levine’s comments, I am left wondering how it relates to 21st century Christians living in the relative security of middle class America. I’m not entirely sure, but what I do believe is that despite the contextual differences, those of us living today are called to live a life of faith that will often run contrary to popular beliefs and politics as usual. We do not judge others, but we do live a life that is unmistakably different from what has traditionally been called customary…especially when what has become customary looks nothing like the Jesus of scripture.
Prayer: O Lord whose ways are that of the cross, provide me strength within my convictions so my life is never confused with cultural values that support violence above peace, greed instead of compassion, and hate over love. Amen.
Join us Sunday morning
and Sunday night…
Scripture: Romans 12:9-10
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
Thought for the Day: Last night, I finished my three week class on Sex and the Bible. Actually, it was more like I ran out of time. With that said, the conversation was wonderful and the giggling was kept to a minimum. Throughout the class, we have looked at the ancient culture and the values that no longer make sense in today’s world. First, women are not property, yet much of the Bible talks of marriage in terms of a contract between the father and the husband to-be (or the father of the husband to-be). For most of us, this is no longer an acceptable value. And most of us would even go as far as saying that it goes against the values of God. Girls were betrothed to their husbands when they were very young, and marriage occurred shortly after they started menstruation – around the age of 12 or 13. Usually this marriage was to a man who was much older and might even have another wife. Again, our culture would describe this as unacceptable and illegal…and for good reason.
So how do we understand the Bible, an ancient text created in a time with very different cultural values, as normative and informative for today’s world. As I started to suggest at the end of the class, we must dig deeper. It won’t be as clear as some people would like, but there is Good News to be found that stretches across the boundaries of history. For instance, in this short passage from Romans, we find ideas that push the thinking of both ancient cultures and our own. Paul speaks about love – the kind of love we have found in Jesus Christ – the kind of love that shows no hypocrisy (genuine) – and he places that love alongside a deep and abiding respect (mutual affection). It is from this kind of love, that a person is able to strive toward the lofty goal of putting the other’s needs above self (outdo one another in showing honor).
I’m not suggesting this passage is going to dramatically reduce teen pregnancies or significantly change our unhealthy sexual attitudes, but I do believe where families teach and churches live it, young people will grow-up with a valued understanding of self and neighbor… even when that neighbor is the beautiful or handsome individual with-whom they have a date this Friday night.
Prayer: God, allow us to look beyond ancient norms that can often be used to argue the irrelevance of Christianity. Instead, allow us to celebrate and live the genuineness of the Jesus-story that shows respect, love and concern for every human being. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 92:1
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
Thought for the Day: I’m in a thankful mood. I would hope that such a mood would be a regular happening in my life, and I think I am generally a thankful kind of guy. With that said, I have had a really good couple of days. Rev. Brian Edwards and I did a road trip to Fort Worth, and let me just say, I really appreciate and respect Brian. He is a good human being, and a wonderful minister. While in Fort Worth, we met with faculty from TCU, learned about the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School (a ministry for military veterans struggling with the aftereffects of war), and a lunch with some of the staff from University Christian Church. I met good people, learned about good ministry, and created some relationships that will help Cypress Creek Christian Church and its ministries. I should be a man full of gratitude, and this day, I am. Hopefully I can conclude this day with the same attitude.
Prayer: O God who is the focus of this prayer and the ultimate source of my gratitude, may my attitude continue to grow with a sense of appreciation for all the good things I have received and experienced. Amen.
And don’t forget…
Scripture: Matthew 25:36
I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
Thought for the Day: I just heard that Mexico’s Prison Angel died last week. Sister Antonia Brenner, an American Nun, died after years of living inside a Tijuana prison where she served the inmates. She was born in the United States, into a family of great wealth. The family lived in Beverly Hills, and owned an 11-bedroom, ocean-view summer home in Laguna Beach. But Antonia chose to leave it all behind, become a nun, and live in a dark cell barely big enough for a cot, desk and folding chair. Yet she believed that the best way of serving those in prison was to live alongside them. I am proud of the prison ministry of Cypress Creek Christian Church, and I am thankful for all those whose ministry behind the walls is a vision of the Gospel.
Prayer: Lord, I give you thanks for all who choose to serve you inside the prisons where sisters and brothers hunger for the Gospel. Amen.