07-31-19

Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 13:11

Finally, brothers and sisters, good-bye. Put things in order, respond to my encouragement, be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Thought for the Day: These are some of Paul’s closing words in this second letter to the Church at Corinth. Some might think that final words are not where the meat of the letter are to be found, and though it is not lengthy in actual word count, it is substantive. He provides a check list of necessities if a community of faith is going to have any hope at resembling Jesus to the world. I am especially taken by the phrase, “Put things in order…” For a Type A personality, this is exciting news. A Type A is already thinking through the documentation and flowcharts for how the church will structure itself. This, of course, can be helpful to any community or institution, but I don’t believe that’s necessarily what Paul was thinking. Within the Jewish tradition, patterns and the order of things was very important. People participated in ceremonies and rituals that reinforced these patterns that helped to order life. But it wasn’t just about keeping the patterns and order, but asking what do these patterns and the ordering of daily life suggest about our values and what we hold true. Jesus was constantly struggling with those who emphasized the pattern above the humanity of a person. We can become so vigilant and obsessed with maintaining the pattern that we forget what the pattern was intended to teach us. Every week, we have communion in worship. It is a pattern that helps order life, but too often Christians have battled over how we take communion and who; is allowed to take communion without asking, “What is this pattern of weekly communion supposed to teach us?” Paul recognized the importance of having patterns that helped to order life, for they should help teach and shape a person in what Paul goes on to talk about – harmony, peace and love.

Prayer: Provide me helpful and healthy patterns to give shape to my life. I need them, O Lord, if I am going to be your disciple and represent you to the world. Amen.


Sunday’s Sermon: The Shape of the Vine

Based upon John 15:1-5

07-30-19

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Don’t you understand that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test.

Thought for the Day: A few days ago, I referenced the author Brennan Manning. Within a few hours of writing that devotional, I had watched a YouTube video of Manning from the 1970’s, and then pulled up a portion of one of his books. He was inspiring and challenging at the same time. He made you feel good about who you are as a beloved child of God, while also opening the door to even greater opportunities of faithfulness. In my reading, I came across this quote:

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

Christianity is exceptional at the blame-game, assigning responsibility for the decline in American churches on everyone and everything except Christianity. This smokescreen of denial is fooling only those who remain inside the church, while the culture shakes its head with sad embarrassment. There is a longing to know Jesus as a model for life, yet the opinion of so many within our current culture is that the church is the last place to go and look for this Jesus.

Now before you feel too depressed, I see amazing examples of the Jesus-life being made real in the daily lives of those who yearn to follow Jesus. We need to be more passionate, not in an egotistical way, of sharing these stories. I don’t know if we really fail the test or if we fail to share the stories of the faithful.

Prayer: In a world consumed with bad news, I wish to share some good news. Merciful God, encourage and inspire my words as I tell the stories of those who are really doing a beautiful job of revealing Jesus. Amen.



07-29-19

Prayer for the Week: Provided by Dr. Joel Plaag, Director Of Traditional Worship.

We all fall short, O God, of what you would have us be.  Maybe we don’t use our gifts to the best of our ability.  Maybe we don’t listen well or we don’t speak well.  Perhaps our cooking skills, our writing, our joke-telling, our technology-wielding seems insufficient for the work You would have us do.  In these times, O God, remind us that Moses had to ask for the right words, that David had to be taller than he was, that Paul had to overcome his prejudice, and that Peter had to reconcile his fears.   When we are blinded, sightless by our emotional upsets, by our physical frailties, by our spiritual wilderness, walk with us, as you walked with Fanny Crosby.  Show us that to be faithful people takes work, challenge, and growth.  Even the best among us, even the heroes of Christianity, who walk it and talk it each day, have their moments of doubt.  Walk with us through these.   Grant us the grace that blinds our frailties to You through your absolute love of us, which we see every day, both in the faces of one another, and in the acts of Jesus.  Mold us, O God, into Your People, into Your Church, and into Your World.  Amen.



07-28-19

Scripture: 1st Corinthians 15:57-58

Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! As a result of all this, my loved brothers and sisters, you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord.

Thought for the Day: I came across these words from Brennan Manning:

Suffering, failure, loneliness,

sorrow, discouragement, and death

will be part of your journey.

But the Kingdom of God

will conquer all these horrors.

No evil can resist grace forever.

In knowing some of Brennan Manning’s life story, his struggles and the personal demons he fought, I find his words to be inescapably bound to hope. There are plenty of folks trying to offer you a really good deal on how to avoid all brokenness and hardship, but you can feel pretty confident that their deal is fraudulent. Each of us faces and struggles with our own unique set of issues, some because of personal poor choices and others that appeared on our doorstep with no explanation. Whatever the case, facing them without hope is frightening. Without hope, a period of darkness can become the defining moment of our existence. Paul writes to the people of Corinth, speaking of a victory already won. The problem remains in the fact that we live in a world that is refusing to acknowledge grace’s victory.

Prayer: Keep pumping hope into my heart, O God of Grace, or I might begin to think brokenness and hardship will have the final victory. Keep pumping it into my life, and I will continue to do my best at living a life of grace. Amen.



07-27-19

Scripture: John 15:7

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.

Thought for the Day: Once again, we have a passage of scripture that is utilized by certain Christians for purposes so far outside the realm of Jesus that it is impossible to justify…though they do so nonetheless with great passion and manipulation. They emphasize, “…whatever you want…” as the hook, and then it is followed by an unscrupulous book plug that gives the answer to how a person gets whatever they want. But no book purchase is necessary as all Jesus requested was that we remain firmly connected to his words of love that were both spoken and demonstrated. Once a person remains within the source of those words, and those words remain in the person, whatever is asked will be done. Of course, someone so rooted in that self-sacrificing gift is going to request the Fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. For this is what is required of us to represent Jesus to the world.

Prayer: As I allow you to dwell within me and I work to more fully dwell within you, O Lord Jesus, I pray that my requests will allow me to more fully participate in your kingdom building. You invite me to provide the good fruit to the world, and this fruit comes from those who abide in you. May it be so! Amen.




07-26-19

Scripture: Psalm 118:22-24

The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thought for the Day: Building on those same scriptural words from yesterday, I point to those familiar closing words: “This is the day the LORD has made…” Those words are referenced in numerous and very diverse settings. They can be shouted as a call to worship on Sunday morning or quietly prayed as one watches a sunrise. The author of the Psalm is announcing a new thing God is doing, and though it is a human tendency to assume it will happen some other day than today, the author says, “This is the day…” There is nothing novel about human beings dreaming alongside God of something new and marvelous, but then placing it beyond the present. And when tomorrow comes, we continue to hold it at an equal and safe distance. It allows us to speak with hopeful joy without ever suggesting a need to take responsibility for what God is needing us to do today. We have a tendency to think, “Soon is the day that the Lord will do the new thing, and I will most definitely rejoice in the new thing God does. But in the meantime, I will hold tightly to my old ideals that keep God’s new thing just out of reach.”

Prayer: We have been waiting too long! Our waiting is not for you, Merciful God, but for our own readiness to leap in and join the life-changing work you are doing. In Jesus, be our model and inspiration. Amen.




07-25-19

Scripture: Psalm 118:22-24

The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thought for the Day: The last day of General Assembly just might have been the single most energizing/spirit-filled worship experience I have ever known. The Rev. William J. Barber II was our preacher. He is the voice of the new Poor People’s Campaign, a rebirth of Dr. King’s vision. I don’t care who you are or where you sit on the political or social spectrum, he will challenge you and bring some pretty major discomfort to your life. And all he does is preach the scriptures, often reading them to us in big chunks. From the prophets to Jesus, there are some disquieting passages that are too often watered down or dismissed all together. With that said, he referenced these words from Psalm 118, specifically focusing on the words: Rejected and Cornerstone. As Christians, we have designated Jesus as the Cornerstone, and though that is not a bad interpretation, Barber talked about all those who have been rejected who have become the cornerstones, part of the foundation, organizers, voices or even martyrs in the building of the next God-thing. Barber, and I believe accurately, describes a coming day (which is today) when the rejected of the world are going to be the cornerstones of the new thing God is doing. And this new thing is going to leave no stone of the former empire of greed and hate standing. If you’re like me, I have not known much rejection. If anything, there are ways that I might not be on the right side of the new thing God is doing. But just because I may not know rejection like others, I can still become an advocate and proponent of this new thing.

Prayer: Oh my, oh my! There are moments, Lord, when your spirit-filled vision knocks the wind out of me while at the same time spills into me with power. We have become so content with the way things are that we see minuscule changes as earth-shaking transformation. Oh my, oh my! I don’t know if I’m ready for what you are doing. Oh my, oh my…I want to be ready for the new things you are doing among us and with us. Amen.



07-24-19

Scripture: John 15:1-5

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything.

Thought for the Day: Today is the last day of General Assembly, and the theme from John 15 has guided our life together. I have been blessed beyond measure, not only by the Assembly itself, but by my fellow travelers from Cypress Creek Christian Church. What an amazingly gracious group of human beings. God is good! As I reflect on what I have heard and experienced, I am taken back to the first night when our General Minister and President, Rev. Teri Hord Owens, preached on the above text. During the sermon, she provided an image of a bouquet of flowers where no one has watered it. The flowers are dead and dry, and when you go to throw them away, they crumble and make a mess. Rev. Owens then said, “Those who are not connected crumble.” How many churches see themselves as a beautiful bouquet, but because they are not connected (are not connected to the source or “abide”) they are dry and brittle. In the end, they leave only a mess. What I see at Cypress Creek Christian Church is a community that truly abides, and in that experience, finds nourishment and life. And in that, there is something beautiful to give the world.

Prayer: You are the Vine, and we are the branches. May we abide in you as you abide in us. We ask this as those who seek true life. Amen.



07-22-19

Prayer for the Week: Today, and throughout this coming week, we offer prayers for our children and youth. So many marvelous experiences – from church camps to Vacation Bible School, from Mission Trips to playful time at the poolside – there have been so many wonderful moments to meet you, be inspired by you and to serve you. O God of All Life and Goodness, we are thankful for the many opportunities our young people have been given. May the Good News revealed to them in love continue to speak and engage their hearts. Whether it was a song they learned, a scripture that stuck with them, a silly game played or a living act of service, we are awed by your capacity to get inside of us – even the youngest among us. May their joyful and insightful experiences enrich the life of this community of faith moving forward. Give us ears to hear their stories, and how they have come to know you in unique ways. We pray for a few more weeks of play and rest before the new school year begins. Allow for all their summer experiences to be woven into the larger ministry of spiritual formation. This we pray as a congregation, doing so in the name of Jesus our mentor and model. Amen.