Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-30-17


Scripture: Ephesians 4:31 (the Message)
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk.

Thought for the Day: This morning, I will be preaching on these words from Ephesians 4. Actually, this translation is from what is known as the Message, a bit more contemporary and loose translation of the original text. Unlike most translations that were done by dozens and dozens of scholars who debated and argued over a number of years, the Message was translated by one person – Eugene Peterson. I find his translation often challenging, pushing a slightly different perspective on the passage. This is a good thing, though it is always important to remember that one person is one person. Even the best of translators will bring a bias to the work…even a large group of scholars will have some bias, but it is usually deluded a bit by the diversity of thought.

With all that said, I appreciate how Peterson uses the language of making a clean break. You and I both have probably used the language of, “I am still a work in progress.” I believe this and I hope to always view myself as a work in progress, but it can also be used as an excuse. If a person continues to yell and scream uncontrollably or say sarcastic and humiliating words toward another human being, the excuse – I am still a work in progress – really is not a viable option. There are times when we need a clean break and stop giving ourselves the excuse that we are a work in progress. Today, as you look at your life, what area are you needing a clean break? Where could a dramatic change – a 180 degree turn – be transformative to self and others?

Prayer: Merciful God, allow for your grace and forgiveness to spill over me. Allow these gifts to provide a doorway to real and lasting change. I don’t want to make an excuse that will become my excuse. I want to be a better person; I want to be a person who knows who to love; I want to be the person you believe I can be. Amen.

Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-29-17


Scripture: Psalm 37:8
Let go of anger and leave rage behind! Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil.

Thought for the Day: There is a part of me that wants to say in response to the scripture, “Well duh!” We all know that anger and rage never produce anything positive. Now I want to make a distinction that some do not make. I believe there is a difference between anger/rage and righteous indignation. Righteous indignation begins with a vision of what is right and just, and because the world does not resemble that vision, there is a tension that cannot be ignored. Righteous indignation is not simply about exploding or fighting, but about seeing the vision of what is possible and putting all energy toward moving the world toward that vision of what is right. In conflict resolution, there is still room for righteous indignation. It is the passion to see things better, but anger and rage produce nothing and go nowhere except toward more anger and rage which ultimately can spiral into evil. I don’t know if I can entirely agree with the author of the Psalm when s/he says, “Don’t get upset…” We are going to get upset, but let’s make sure we get upset about the right things – those things that really matter beyond the pettiness that too often consumes us. It’s ok to get upset about the violence and hatred and injustice in our world today, but let’s not just be angry and spew rage. Let’s funnel that energy toward a vision of what is possible: true healing, redemption and justice.

Prayer: Make my life a tool of real change in this world, O God of Heaven. Work with me so that when the world is not as it could be, I am able to live my life in a way that moves it toward what you want it to be. Amen.

See You In Worship


Continuing our discussion
Conflict Resolution


Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-28-17


Teach me your ways, Living and Life-giving Spirit;
Guide me to the place where my spirit
     can drink from the well of grace and mercy;
Encourage me amidst the distractions along the way;
Find me when the path I have chosen
     is far from the path you would have chosen.

O Holy One of Creation,
Teach me about Jesus and his life of service;
Guide me as I discern how to implement his life
     in my home, workplace and the public square;
Encourage me when the cross is cumbersome;
Find me when his way and my way
     no longer appear to be the same.

O Jesus of the Faith,
Teach me to listen to my sisters and brothers;
Guide me to see life as your greatest gift,
     a gift by which all creation moves to wholeness;
Encourage me when the slow pace of change is frustrating;
Find me when disillusionment
     has me walking away from you and your calling.

This is my prayerful appeal offered in the name of your grace and goodness. Amen.



MAY 7, 2017

At Cypress Creek Christian Church

To Register:
(right hand side)

Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-27-17


Scripture: Proverbs 16:32
Better to be patient than a warrior, and better to have self-control than to capture a city.

Thought for the Day: The Proverb is suggesting patience and self-control are better than fame (warrior) and wealth (capturing a city). Among many in America, this would be a hard thing to sell. In fact, they would suggest that impatience and pushing the edges of what many have deemed proper is the pathway to fame and wealth. This might be true, but the wisdom of the Proverbs would suggest that patience and self-control will be more valuable in the end. For the average person, patience and self-control are two areas in need of some work. In the work of faith, these are often described as discipline or working the Spiritual Disciplines. Maybe you are a nervous eater, and you want to break the habit. What do you do? You look closely at what triggers the eating. Yes, it happens during times of anxiousness, but are you alone, at home, at work, late at night, etc? Look closely at the environment and stimuli around you. What can you change? This is where discipline – being patient and working on self-control – are essential to the process. If your life goal is something other than fame and wealth, you might want to work on those disciplines that help teach patience and self-control; that make room for self-reflection; that help us tap the reservoir of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: We all give a lot of lip service to patience and self-control, but we’re not too good at it – O God of Eternity. Work with us, providing us tools and learning that can better shape our lives toward the good habits of serenity, forbearance and resilience. Amen. 


Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-26-17


Scripture: Luke 11:38-40
When the Pharisee saw that Jesus didn’t ritually purify his hands by washing before the meal, he was astonished. The Lord said to him, “Now, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and platter, but your insides are stuffed with greed and wickedness. Foolish people! Didn’t the one who made the outside also make the inside?”

Thought for the Day: As the children of clergy get older, a high percentage of them can find themselves with a negative feeling toward the church. This happens for a whole host of reasons, but it often is the conflict the children see between the preacher in the pulpit and the preacher in his/her pajamas. There is a pretty big gap between the lofty thoughts of hope and the less than lofty thoughts offered by a less than stellar parent who happens to be a minister. This is one of the reasons (not the only) that I tend to be a bit confessional in my sermons. If anyone is going to look bad in one of my illustrations, it tends to be me. Finding these illustrations of fragility and faults is not difficult. I hope my son doesn’t see too much hypocrisy in me, though like most people, I have my fair share that still needs some work. In my confessional style of preaching, I hope people see a person who is trying to clean both the outside as well as the inside.

Prayer: Keep me about the good work of self-reflection and introspection. Keep asking the tough questions about faith and daily life and where they do not appear to be in alignment. Merciful God, be gentle when you can, but if necessary, push me in such a way that I can awaken to where my hypocrisy is speaking too loudly. Amen.





Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-25-27


Scripture: Galatians 6:5
Each person will have to carry their own load.

Thought for the Day: Once again, our English translation doesn’t quite cut it. I think of load, and my mind thinks of a lot of things. I think about my load of laundry that is currently running. I think of the load of rock I carried into the back yard a few weeks ago as we are redoing some landscaping. I think about the load my son carries to school each day with his backpack and violin. These are all considered loads, but the word translated as load here is the Greek word Phortion. It basically means those things loaded onto a ship. We are each to carry our own cargo ship of stuff. That’s a lot!

This is where it might become complicated as we are invited to not only carry our own load, but to help one another. In other places in scripture, we are invited to carry one another’s burdens. This is all to suggest that we have a responsibility. If something belongs to us, no matter how we didn’t want it, it is ours to carry. If by faith, we are asked to assist someone along the way, Christ calls us to do so with out complaint. But as we speak about conflict resolution, I also want us to think about those times when technically only 10% of the burden is our responsibility. In those moments, it is so easy to blow some smoke, do some misdirection and have others believing our responsibility is nothing. As people of faith, when 10% of the burden is our responsibility, we should probably step up and take at least 11% for good measure.

Prayer: When the opportunity arises for me to pass off my responsibility, don’t allow me to do it. This is my request, Lord. As much as I may wish to pretend it doesn’t belong to me, help me to step up and acknowledge what is mine to own. Amen.




Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-24-17


In Sunday’s sermon, I started a conversation around Conflict Resolution and some simple tools for those moments of conflict. As I suggested, it is important for us to not only listen, but do so in a way that the other feels as if s/he has been heard. This can be difficult, especially when we have been confronted or accused of doing something. It doesn’t matter if it is entirely true, partially true or not true at all – the tendency for most any person is to feel threatened. The ego can feel bruised by the attack, and the response for most people is about as far from listening as one could get. Instead, the average person wants to go on the offensive, but that never leads to true resolution of the problem.

Some of the specific ideas I shared in the sermon were:
Don’t interrupt when first confronted. Allow the person to speak.
Don’t interpret what you have heard from a place of defensiveness.
Instead, inhale – take a deep breath or two.
And inquire – ask a genuine question about what you have heard.

These simple steps can help reduce the tension and make room for those involved to begin walking the path toward understanding and resolution.

I also added a few other simple ideas:

Be mindful of posture – are the person’s arms crossed, fists clinched? Does the person make eye contact or not? Don’t simply be mindful of the posture as the person first confronts you, but does the posture change after you listen and inquire?
Watch for extremes – what words or phrases do you use when first responding? Do you say things like, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. You can’t actually believe that?” We might say such a thing as a way of pointing out what we believe is the absurdity of the person’s accusation, but do such extreme/over the top comments make the person feel as if s/he has been heard?
Stay away from the “But” – people will often try to sound understanding by saying, “I sense that you’re angry, but…” The old adage is that everything that comes before the “but” is nonsense in the mind of the person who is speaking. There is probably some truth to that, and the person to whom the “but” was directed will often feel as if his/her words have been dismissed or not really heard at all.

What’s one area here that you believe you could put to practice? Is there one of the suggests that could be implemented for the next few days, being mindful of opportunities to use or avoid certain words or language? I encourage you to give it a try…

Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-23-17


Scripture: Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Thought for the Day: What Jesus described with the word peacemaker (eirénopoios) is someone who is the author or the cause of peace. But the word eiréné that we translate as peace is not simply the absence of violence, but the health, welfare and goodness of another. Someone who is a peacemaker is doing more than protecting another from violence. It is the creation of a space where the fullness of life can be found and lived. There are times when simply making a household, neighborhood, community or city less violent is important. But without a greater vision for true eiréné, the violence will quickly return.

Prayer: Make me an instrument of your peace, O Merciful God. Allow for my words, actions and interactions to provide an environment where others can pursue the fullness of life. Amen.

Let’s Join Together
Worship This Morning


Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-22-17


Scripture: John 8:3-7
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Thought for the Day: Tomorrow, I will begin preaching on Conflict Resolution and how we often need a little more than spiritual duct tape to hold our relationships together. One of the areas that I have been reflecting on is related to accepting responsibility. How often have we heard someone say, “It take two to tango.” This is often used when someone wishes to place all the blame on one person, when in fact, the blame can be spread out a bit more. I’m sure you have raised the same question that I have raised in the above story about the woman caught in adultery. As far as I know, two people are required for adultery. So often in conflict, blame is cast upon one person. Part of the defensiveness is felt in carrying the full burden of blame when it should have been shared. When trying to deal with a situation of conflict, look carefully at where you can take some of the burden of blame. Now there are times when the responsibility is entirely on one person’s shoulders, but often there is something we can accept. Even if it something small, the confession is helpful to the ears of the one feeling defensive. That small confession may lower the tension felt by the other party.

Prayer: Give me eyes to see what I may not have previously seen, O Lord. Allow me to take responsibility where there is responsibility for me to take. Amen.



Ecclesiological Etchings: 04-21-17


Scripture: Luke 19:8-9
Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.”

Thought for the Day: On Wednesday evenings throughout the season of Lent, we focused our attention on story – the importance of finding, embracing and sharing our stories. I am currently working on a presentation for an event outside the church where I am talking about the power of story. The group to which I am speaking is not entirely Christian – though there is a faith/religious component to it. As I referenced in my Lenten Soup for the Soul presentation, I believe we all have a defining story(ies) that shapes our values and priorities. It isn’t simply “the Jesus story” or “the Bible” as there are a whole host of stories found within those two groupings. It is more than the pithy saying such as, “Jesus died for my sins so that I can go to heaven.” The story that defines you is where the news of Jesus of Christ’s love meets your life story through grace, forgiveness, encouragement, inspiration or friendship. Without that defining story, I believe a lot of Christians struggle when life becomes difficult. What they find is the so-called story that they thought defined their life ended up being irrelevant or disconnected from real life. Zacchaeus had heard stories of Jesus and probably could share those stories, but when Jesus truly encountered him on a personal level, everything changed. When Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus and ate dinner with him, a defining story was created through which Zacchaeus would see the world differently for the rest of his life.

Prayer: As you teach me the stories of your love, O Kind and Merciful God, may I recognize the places where the stories redefine my own stories. Provide me each day with a reminder of the places in my own life where the Gospel has become tangible and unmistakable. Amen.


Helping to Create the Love First Life
as we work on our relationships