Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-31-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 12:26-27
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Thought for the Day: We are the body of Christ, not for the purpose of hunkering down and protecting ourselves. We are the body of Christ because we are the body of Christ. To be a follower of Jesus Christ means you are to follow Jesus Christ, and we must look to Jesus to define what that actually means for us. Now let’s not pretend that every little decision is going to have a clear and absolute from the mouth of Jesus answer. There are many situations that are a bit more complex than what we might find in the Gospels, and to suggest there is an unambiguous decree for everything is a stretch. With this said, there is still a lot – and when I say, “a lot,” I mean a lot – of straightforward teachings of Jesus. And our starting place in understanding what Jesus might do is summarized, in my opinion, in two moments of his ministry – one a parable and the other an event. The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us how Jesus would treat other human beings, even those decreed as outsiders. And if that is how Jesus would treat them then that is how the body of Christ should treat them. And second, the cross stands as the breathtaking and heartbreaking demonstration of love. The event of the cross answers the question of just how far Jesus was willing to go, and if sacrificing of self is how far Jesus would go, then we might have found the answer to how far the body of Christ is to go. In today’s world, there are a lot of preachers who skip or ignore Jesus in favor of an obscure verse from the Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Old Testament. But if Jesus has a pretty straight forward message on a topic, like who is my neighbor and how am I to treat this person, we should not go digging in Leviticus to find an answer that might feel better. Of course, Leviticus 19:18 says, “…to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Prayer: Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me everything I can understand about his life and teachings. Allow it to stretch me and challenge me on what it means to love as he loved. I make this request recognizing the audacity of the request. Amen.

TOMORROW

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Ecclesioloigcal Etchings: 01-30-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 12:1
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

Thought for the Day: If you want to be practical, here is Paul being practical. You have a concern? Paul will inform you on the subject. Paul speaks about the diversity of gifts, but also the unifying component being the Source of the gifts – God. These gifts are given, not to build up the ego of an individual, but to build up the common good. Though we are many, we are one. This could be difficult to understand, yet Paul lays it out in a wonderful and accessible way. In fact, it is quite simple to read…but the complexity is found in living these ideas. We are in a constant battling with our selfishness, pride and insecurities. It is these sins that continue to fracture our oneness in God. Remember, if what you are doing is not building up the common good, you might want to revisit what you are doing and how you are doing it. If what you are doing does not respect and enhance the gifts of others, you might want to rethink what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Prayer: I do not wish to be uninformed, so I ask you, Lord, to reduce the size of my ego that your gifts within me can truly honor you by serving the common good. Amen.

SIGNED UP FOR RETREATS

Men’s Retreat at Camp Gonzo
Feb. 17-18

Women’s Retreat at CCCC
Feb. 18
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Ecclesiological Etchings:01-29-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 11:14-15
Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

Thought for the Day: Paul, I’m going to have to say a big NO to what you are suggesting. I don’t believe nature teaches that long hair on men degrades them. It is interesting how Paul uses “the nature” argument often in his writing, and even today, we have a tendency to use it to make a point. The problem lies in that what we often assume to be nature is in fact cultural norms. Throughout human history, our confusion of these two has caused bigotry, hate and even violence. People have said certain people are inferior or incapable or immoral because something goes against nature. Of course, scientists can almost always demonstrate how the thing that has been decreed as unnatural actually occurs in nature more often than one might think. And some of the use of “the nature” argument is outright embarrassing. I was just rewatching the movie Selma and was reminded of how “the nature” argument was used to discriminate, jail and even justify murder. This is not intended to discredit Paul, but we must realize how even Paul was influenced by cultural norms.

Prayer: May I always recognize the capacity of your love, O God, to bridge what culture might have incorrectly taught as immoral, unhealthy or unnatural. Lead me always see through the eyes of love. Amen.

TODAY

Laity Sunday

Don’t miss it…

Ecclesiological Etching: 01-28-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 9:25-27
Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Thought for the Day: Let’s be honest, athletes do not exercise self-control in all things. There are plenty of athletes who have demonstrated their inability to maintain self-control. At the same time, I understand the point Paul is attempting to make. The decision to follow Jesus is not all roses and chocolate bars. This discipleship thing is tough, demanding and requires us to take the training seriously. There were those who followed Jesus, living with him for over three years, and they still didn’t get it. We should never pretend that it will come naturally to us or require a few sessions here and there. It is a life-time commitment, but the wonderful outcome is that the discipline and training is always producing something marvelous. Let us be about the work of creating a training center of the love first life at Cypress Creek Christian Church. This training will not simply happen in the sanctuary or Sunday School rooms of our church, but in the hallway conversations, phone calls between members, quiet morning devotionals, the youth mission trips, the ongoing financial support of the church, and all the other places we might find ourselves each and every day. You see, those who take seriously the idea of training him/herself for the love first life will discover that each and every day is the classroom for living the Jesus-life.

Prayer: Train me in your ways, Merciful God. Push me where I need to be pushed. Be gracious when I falter, but don’t allow me to sit too long before getting back to work. Amen.

TODAY

IS A BIG DAY
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-27-17

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Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Thought for the Day: This is a beautiful passage, but also a rather dangerous ideal to set before the church. We cannot and we should not try to be all things to all people. We need to be mindful of the gifts God has given us, both as individuals and collectively, but those gifts will probably not cover the broad range of needs around us. This is where we need to celebrate and respect other congregations and their gifts. We are not enemies who are in competition with one another. Though we might have differences, even significant differences in theology and practice, we should always honor the way the Spirit is moving and acting in a congregation. A number of years ago, there was a church whose theology nearly drove me crazy. It was a sweet little church not far from where I was serving, but they had some really bizarre (I know, that’s a very judgmental statement…but it is to make my point) ideas, but they also had an amazing ministry to two group homes that served adults with developmental disabilities. The men from those two homes came to worship, fully participating in the life of that church. I might have disagree with their understanding of the Trinity and salvation, but I couldn’t argue with their amazing hospitality and compassion. I don’t believe I am called to be all things to all people. I don’t believe Cypress Creek Christian Church is called to be all things to all people. Yet the hundreds of churches in NW Houston area can probably come pretty close to being all things to all people.

Prayer: Continue to stir our gifts, Amazing God, into a wonderful mixture of faithfulness. Gifts from different congregations, communities and organizations can make a genuine difference as we face a myriad of social, economic, emotional and spiritual needs. Be the guide, O Lord. Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-26-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 8:9-10
But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?

Thought for the Day: This is part of what might be Paul’s most famous argument. The issue is whether it is ok to eat food sacrificed to idols. The simple answer, “Of course! There are no other gods and so there is nothing to concern us.” Great, let’s eat! Paul then offers a “but”…a very important one. What about those who are very young in their faith. What about those who just last week were at the temples where these idols were worshiped. It is hard to break old habits, and now you want to eat meat that these new converts might have seen sacrificed to that idol just last week. Paul doesn’t want to give an inch on his belief in only one God, but he is also very practical in his teachings – especially when he is dealing with a church that has a very practical problem. One of the great challenges in the church – no matter what century – is how to balance sound theology and pastoral care. There are times that they align perfectly, and then there are those times when one will need to give a little. And most of the time, it will mean a slight bending of the theology to make room for love and compassion – and maybe in the end, that is good sound theology.

Prayer: Your grace, Lord God, has always provided extra room to show compassion and concern for sisters and brothers. Thank you, Lord, for those times when I will need that little extra understanding and love. Amen.

BIG SATURDAY
AT CYPRESS CREEK
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-25-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 7:18-19
Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything.

Thought for the Day: Can I confess something? I laugh each time I come across this passage. I’m so glad Paul gave those already circumcised permission to not try to reverse it… especially back in the First Century. Plastic surgery was not very good back then. So much of Paul’s teaching is about not going backwards – what’s done is done. And for those circumcised, Paul does not want them to think about it anymore. Instead, he wants them to obey the commandments of God. Of course, some would have argued with Paul and said that circumcision was one of the commands of God, but for Paul there is a new commandment: to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. Don’t allow people to back you into a corner on some fringe issue of faith. Instead, just tell them: “I am a Great Commandment person.”

Prayer: Keep me seeking ways to better love you, O Gracious Father, and to love my neighbor as was defined by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Amen.

STUDY TODAY
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Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-24-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 7:3-4
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.

Thought for the Day: We come across these words, and for most people in our modern age, we find ourselves to be a bit uncomfortable with what they are saying. In a world of human trafficking, rape and where men believe they have power over women’s bodies, these words can be used (and have been used out of context) to justify unhealthy and violent actions against women. This is one of those moments when we need a mental time machine, traveling back to First Century Palestine where women did not have any authority over anything, including their bodies. Yet Paul offers what would have been a rather shocking addition to traditional thinking. Not only does the husband have authority over his wife’s body, but Paul adds that the wife has authority over her husband’s body.

I can’t say for sure, but I imagine a few people in the days of Paul falling over backwards upon hearing or reading these words. Because of his relationship with God through Jesus Christ, Paul saw dramatic breaks with old ways of thinking. Now does that mean Paul was setting a new set of guidelines for all time, or should we view his words as providing insight into how faith in the One who provides unconditional love continues to challenge our ways of thinking and living?

Prayer: Most Holy God, continue to challenge my thinking and our corporate thinking on a whole range of ideas. Though you have a great vision for humanity, it appears that we humans can only receive its deep beauty and far-reaching character a little at a time. Please be patient with us. Amen.

COMING UP

Wednesday Study
Noon & 6:30pm

Saturday Mission
S.O.A.P Event
9:30am – 3:00pm

Laity Sunday
Commissioning our Stephen Ministers
8:15, 9:30 & 11:00

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-23-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 6:20
For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Thought for the Day: So often in scripture when we see the words “bought” or “ransomed” to describe what Jesus has done, we think of his love act saving us from something. But the larger passage of 1 Corinthians 6 is about a changed life – it is about becoming something different. We have been bought, not to purchase us from something, but for something…for a purpose. Too many people view faith as nothing more than a rescue mission, and once they have been rescued, they are good to go. But Paul has just finished a long and rather harsh discussion on those who have been rescued and are now living lives that do not represent the life of Christ. God is gracious, and the metaphor Paul uses of buying or rescuing has much more to do with the life to which we have been rescued – the life with Christ, a life lived for Christ, a life that glorifies Christ through how we live our lives.

Prayer: Bring me, Glorious God, to that place where my life better resembles your expression of love, Jesus Christ. Bring me to that place where I join the baptized community in declaring that we have died and risen with Christ for the purpose of a life that is lived for Christ. Amen.

8:15 REQUEST

We are looking for someone
to help prepare communion
one Sunday a month – can you help?

Ecclesiological Etchings: 01-22-17

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Scripture: 1st Corinthians 6:1
When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints?

Thought for the Day: The church needs to deal with church issues in church ways before church people. The problem is that the church, for whatever reason, doesn’t always follow those steps. Instead, the church goes outside the church using non-church ways before non-church people. Paul doesn’t suggest this because he wants the church to hide its dirty laundry or pretend the church is without its share of problems. I believe Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth because he believed Jesus Christ had formed a new community, and this new community was radically different than the government, the judicial system or any other such entity. He believed such a community could exist, yet for it to exist, it had to live its values out in every aspect of its life – including how it dealt with problems and disagreements. This is a real challenge for the church of Jesus Christ in today’s world.

Prayer: Make us into the community you believe we can be, O Lord Jesus. Help us as we do the hard work of life together, never seeking the easy way out. Amen.



GET SIGNED UP
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