Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-31-16

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Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11
I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.

Thought for the Day: This is one of the well known passages from the Prophet Jeremiah, and I must confess how it has found itself into my thinking on so many occasions in life…so many different occasions and situations. As I was working on my sermon for this past Sunday, it hit me again as I was typing out the quote I used from Rob Bell (How to be Here):

When we hold back our best efforts because of what happened in the past, we are letting the past decide the future. Is there any chance you are holding back because you were burned before. Is there any way you need to let the past be the past so that the future can be something new. Are there any critical voices that are running on repeat in your head holding you back from giving it everything you’ve got.

I tend to think God’s hopes and dreams for all of humanity are those of peace and health, yet too often the hope-filled future into which God is inviting us to participate is impossible to reach because of how rooted we are in the past. Don’t get me wrong, remembrances of the past can bring joy and wisdom, but too often it is not just remembering but reliving and repeating the past. God is inviting us to embrace the gift of forgiveness – the gift that helps us to relinquish the past’s hold on us. The future is made today – with lessons learned from the past – and while listening for the beckoning call of God to move into that future.

Prayer: By your immeasurable grace, God, let me be one who is informed by the past but does not live in the past; help me to offer forgiveness in those places where I am stuck; guide me into a future that is faithful to you and to all of creation. Amen.


Continuing With Jeremiah
This Coming Sunday

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Are You Praying For Your Church?


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Jessica Galvan will be teaching the ARK Program –
For both Church and Community People.

This is an excellent program for learning and sharing
God’s great gift of unconditional love.



 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-30–16

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Scripture: Jeremiah 1:18-19
Today I have made you an armed city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall against the entire land—the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and all its people. They will attack you, but they won’t defeat you, because I am with you and will rescue you, declares the LORD.

Thought for the Day: It might sound as if Jeremiah needs to prepare for a true war, but in vs. 17, we read how Jeremiah must be ready to utter every word that God commands. The Word of God is often described as a sword, yet it is like so much of the Bible, a metaphor. The old notion of sticks and stones might break our bones, but names will never hurt us assumes that words carry with them no power. It was the character, Albus Dumbledore, from Harry Potter who said, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” Though the prophet’s language can be harsh and there might be violence all around, there is never a suggestion the violence will be the remedy. The prophets believed in the power of words and imagery, poetry and metaphor to help move people and culture to realign themselves with God. One of my greatest concerns about our current culture is how little stock we put in language – we use it to insult people, and then language is left behind as we reach for the literal sword.

Prayer: Give us words – give us your words, Loving Lord, and allow them to shape us and to be a central tool by which we help to shape the world around us. Amen.

Sunday’s Sermon

Continuing With Jeremiah

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-29-16

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Scripture: Jeremiah 1:9-10
Then the LORD stretched out his hand, touched my mouth, and said to me, “I’m putting my words in your mouth. This very day I appoint you over nations and empires, to dig up and pull down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.”

Thought for the Day: If you heard the sermon yesterday, you know that Jeremiah was not initially enthusiastic about God’s call. In fact, Jeremiah had some excellent excuses for why it was a bad idea. Yet God remained persistent, and here in these two verses, we find imagery of God’s empowerment of Jeremiah – instilling within him the needed words for the work of a prophet. Again, a prophet was not a fortune teller, soothsayer or psychic. A prophet was one who read the current situation and was able to speak the painful truth when the direction of the people was at odds with the direction of God. And as we will hear, Jeremiah will speak harshly about what lies ahead for those who continue in an unhealthy and hurtful direction. But even here in vs. 10, we hear how the task of the prophet is to dig up, pull down, destroy and demolish. It doesn’t take special powers to see how self-destructive behavior will lead to self-destruction. At the same time, the prophet offers two more verbs – build and plant. A number of scholars suggest the prefix ‘re’ should be added to these verbs – rebuild and replant. Despite all that will be torn down and turned over, it is really for the purpose of rebuilding and replanting. The prophet does not want to paint a pretty picture – like a person working through addiction – because it is not going to be easy or pretty. At the same time, the destruction of what was will not be the final outcome. Out of the dust and carnage, something new and wonderful will emerge…

Prayer: O Creative God, when my life is built around those things that are unhealthy and hurtful, help me to see that the painful work of tearing down is necessary for health and restoration to occur. Let me trust in that promise even when I cannot imagine it as a possibility. Amen.

 

Remember Pray For Your Church



 

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-28-16

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Scripture: 1st King 12:20-24
When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was no one who followed the house of David, except the tribe of Judah alone. When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, one hundred eighty thousand chosen troops to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam son of Solomon. But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: Say to King Rehoboam of Judah, son of Solomon, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, “Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kindred the people of Israel. Let everyone go home, for this thing is from me.” So they heeded the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

Thought for the Day: After the death of King Solomon, a division occurred – eventually splitting the 12 Tribes – 10 tribes to the northern Kingdom (Israel, with its capital Samaria) and two tribes to the southern Kingdom (Judah, with its capital Jerusalem). A nation brought together under one King was now breaking apart. The Prophets, including Jeremiah, were calling out the ramifications of this division. So much of the faith became all tangled with bitterness and resentment to those on the other side. Religion became a tool of the political system, and often it was the least among the nations that were forgotten – the poor, widows, orphans and aliens. It was this suffering and injustice that drove the prophets crazy, for the covenant between God and the people emphasized compassion and care. Too often a culture becomes obsessed with its politics and its political enemies, and though there is lots of pontificating about those in need, it is more about show. It is in moments like this that the prophets arise, though most people will ignore their truth-telling.

Prayer: Give us the ears to hear your prophets, O Lord, even those whose messages step squarely upon our toes. Amen.

TODAY BEGINS A SERIES ON
JEREMIAH THE PROPHET

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AND MEN

Don’t Forget About The Gathering
Today at 3pm

Mellow Mushrrom

Watching the Game
And Talking About
The Men’s Retreat

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-27-16

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Scripture: Jeremiah 1:1
These are the words of Jeremiah, Hilkiah’s son, who was one of the priests from Anathoth in the land of Benjamin.

Thought for the Day: Tomorrow we begin a three week look at some key passages from the prophet Jeremiah. If you turn just past the halfway mark of your Bibles, you will find yourself in Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel. These are considered three of the heavy hitters when it comes to Hebrew Prophets. The book of Jeremiah is not easy to read for it was probably not edited together in chronological order. We have a mix of poems, oracles, judgements, laments, along with some very powerful words of hope. It starts during the period prior to the Babylonian invasion of the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the destruction of the capital Jerusalem. From this first verse, we learn that Jeremiah came from a family of priests who lived just outside of Jerusalem. The Assyrians were losing power in the region, and the land of Judah found itself in a tug of war between Egypt and the rising power known as Babylon. In 597BC, Judah attempted to revolt against Babylon, but it quickly found itself invaded and its king deported. Another rebellion occurred in 587BC, and this time, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon killed the son’s of King Zedekiah (Judah’s king) and blinded him so that the last thing he ever saw was his sons’ dead bodies.

This is the context for the Prophet Jeremiah, yet the prophet believed much of the suffering and destruction experienced by Judah was rooted in their lack of faithfulness to the covenantal relationship with God. Clearly the people were feeling as if God was unjustly punishing them, but the prophet called upon the people to take ownership when it came to the problems and suffering Judah had experienced. We can argue the theology – does God use war or natural disasters to punish people or not – yet one of the key take aways from Jeremiah is the importance of looking inside oneself and asking, “What sin of commission or omission have I committed that undermines the faithfulness of the community, and thus undermines the health and wellbeing of the community?” It is a question we should continue to ask ourselves.

Prayer: Lord, guide me deep within myself where I can more objectively see and understand who I am and what I have done. Let me see, and where necessary, let me humbly confess when what I see is not of you. Amen.

TOMORROW’S SERMON
BEGINS A LOOK AT
THE PROPHET JEREMIAH
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SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Men’s Gathering – 2:45pm
at the Mellow Mushroom

To Watch the Texans Game
and to discuss
the upcoming
Men’s Retreat

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-26-16

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Scripture: Ephesians 6:18
Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers.

Thought for the Day: Last night was the sixth and final Congregational Conversation. Actually, that was the last of the Bruce-led conversations for now, but I pray that the conversations are just beginning. It was my intention to lay out a number of ideas, dreams, essential practices, expectations, hopes, alongside some questions and unknowns. It is clear that it stirred up some folks…in a good way. I have received emails for clarification, encouragement, excitement, hope and a few, “What’s next?” The answer to this question comes back to you – What will be next for us?

The other night, we had a first time visitor show up for one of our sessions. She was just driving by, stuck her head in and asked what was going on. She was in her late 20’s or early 30’s, and after the session, she talked about how much she learned and how excited she was about the church. This was an outsider with no knowledge of this place, but she said very convincingly, “I’ll be back!”

Churches are notorious for sparking interest, building some excitement, beginning the movement, and then finding itself distracted as the dream is lost amidst the knee-deep muck of the trivial or even idolatrous. What was set out in the Congregational Conversations hopefully brought a few more folks onto the path of vision and mission. The final destination was not clearly defined for a couple of reasons – 1. I’m not too sure exactly what it will look like; 2. There needs to be more input from the entire congregation; 3. God might be moving us in this direction now only as preparation for a dramatic move in a different direction.

I make some simple requests of you: Don’t let the buzz die! Please continue to be persistent in your prayers! Ask questions that encourage us to dig deep and explore what faithfulness should look like within our current cultural context. And of course, continue to love one another as Christ loves us.

Prayer: Continue to give us reason to buzz with excitement. You are the source of all that is good and wonderful, O Mighty God, and as we find ourselves in tune with you, the path of faithfulness will be made more clear. Amen.

SUNDAY’S SERMON:

Three Weeks on Jeremiah
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-25-16

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Scripture: Galatians 6:9
Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up.

Thought for the Day: Bill Bradley said, “Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” I don’t know if ambition is the right word for people of faith, but maybe yearning or hunger is the path to success. But Bradley was absolutely correct when he spoke of persistence as the vehicle that will get us there. In the life of the church, it is said that it can take 5-7 years to change the direction and culture, yet the average pastor stays at a church for only 3 1/2 years. The change of leadership on such a regular basis becomes the only real change the church can handle in those years. Thus the church does not change in the areas where change is needed. It is mostly cosmetic – changes in names and personnel – but not in the mission and direction. Our vision (the destination) is the love first life, and I think most people yearn to live that life and to see it lived in their children, friends and colleagues…to see a greater number of people around the globe with such a commitment. The mission, helping individuals and families live the love first life, is how we achieve the mission – and this is where persistence must be present for such an ideal will not come easy in our current world.

Prayer: God of all creation, help us to dream of a day when all of humanity is working to put love first. With the dream before us, keep us passionate and persistent in our daily journey toward that marvelous goal. Keep us moving forward, even when it might feel as if the world is moving backwards. Amen.

TONIGHT

LAST OF
THE CONGREGATIONAL
CONVERSATIONS

6:30pm
In the Activity Room
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Sunday’s Sermon

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-24-16

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Scripture: Deuteronomy 5:12-14
Keep the Sabbath day and treat it as holy, exactly as the LORD your God commanded: Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Don’t do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your oxen or donkeys or any of your animals, or the immigrant who is living among you—so that your male and female servants can rest just like you.

Thought for the Day: In the book, The Great Omission, Dallas Willard is speaking about the importance of true Sabbath Rest. Willard refers to a pastor who had made a significant change in his life, placing more emphasis on the Spiritual Disciplines, specifically Sabbath. The pastor wrote:
As I have slowed my life down through silence and solitude, I have discovered both the wickedness hidden by a hurried life as well as the wonder and delight my Father has in me. Oddly, through intentional times of practicing spiritual disciplines my walk with Jesus has become more spontaneous. He is present in more of my day. I have loved others better, and seen progress made in overcoming anger and the desire to have things my way. In a nutshell, Jesus has greater access to and control over my life. I’m more in tune to the still small voice of the Spirit.

I don’t want to pretend that Sabbath is the salvation of all things and that suddenly your life will be better. At the same time, being more intentional about Sabbath will almost always make a noticeable change for the better. It is just common sense…yet that doesn’t always mean we do what we should.

Prayer: Provide me, Lord, with time, even if it is just a few minutes. Help me to carve out time for Sabbath rest where my spiritual senses are more attentive to the movement of your Spirit. Amen.

TODAY

Next Round of
Congregational Conversatoins

Noon & 6:30pm

In the Forum

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Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-23-16

 

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Scripture: Proverbs 15:21
Folly is joy to those who lack sense, but those with understanding walk straight ahead.

Thought for the Day: Today is the second day of school for the children and youth around Spring, Texas. The second day brings with it a new set of challenges. Yesterday, most everyone was on their best behavior. Today, teachers will begin seeing the unique character of each child…and of course, 28 kids in one class means 28 different ways of learning and expressing themselves. Multiply that by 5 or 6 classes each day, and that requires a lot of awareness and creativity on the part of the teacher. Let us pray for discerning eyes and ears so that the needed encouragement and teaching methods are available to each teacher in the right moment.

Prayer: For all who give of themselves for the education of our children, we give thanks for them and give thanks to you, our Creator and Vision-setter. Guide each of us so that we can support the good work done in each classroom. Amen.

TONIGHT

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You are invited to lecture presentation by Hasting Stewart, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs, Houston Super Bowl Host Committee. He will be with us to talk about planning for the game and related activities. Should be a great evening!


TOMORROW – WEDNESDAY

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NEXT TWO
CONGREGATIONAL CONVERSATIONS

Noon and 6:30pm
In the Activity Room

Ecclesiological Etchings: 08-22-16

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Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4
Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant…

Thought for the Day: While reading more of CS Lewis the other night (I referenced him in my devotional yesterday), I came across these words:

Love is not affectionate feeling,
but a steady wish for
the loved person’s ultimate good
as far as it can be obtained.

To simply think of love as an affectionate feeling is a whole lot easier. If I think of it in those terms, I can continue to live for myself – selfishly and arrogantly, with an attitude that is stingy and narrow-minded. To think of love only as an affectionate feeling sure would be nice and easy, yet the Jesus-life offers a crushing blow to such thinking. Each and every time someone attempted to put a limit to love’s far-reaching character, Jesus obliterated the limitation with a story or metaphor that left many trembling and others rejoicing.

Prayer: Allow the love that you have given me, Mighty God, to be a love that seeks the ultimate good of the other. Amen.

Praying For Your Church
Each Day of the Week