October 22, 2019
Scripture: 1st Corinthians 10:23-38
Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other. Eat everything that is sold in the marketplace, without asking questions about it because of your conscience. The earth and all that is in it belong to the Lord. If an unbeliever invites you to eat with them and you want to go, eat whatever is served, without asking questions because of your conscience. But if someone says to you, “This meat was sacrificed in a temple,” then don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience.
Pastoral Thought: Today, I am offering a Pastoral Thought in place of my Daily Devotional. To be honest, I don’t know if there is much difference. Yet I want it to be heard as a challenge from your pastor to continue to rise toward the Love First Life.
It would be shocking to no one if I were to speak of our highly charged political climate. Some churches have great uniformity in regard to their political ideology, but Cypress Creek Christian Church has just about every stripe imaginable… and some I have yet to explore. That’s wonderful! That’s beautiful! That is challenging! It really touches my spirit when I see folks who would disagree passionately in the polling booth, but love each other and treat one another with an amazing attitude of respect. It is not only what makes our church unique, but it is a model our culture desperately needs if we are going to rise above the ugliness that seeks to destroy others at any cost.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to conflict and challenging questions in regard to maintaining the community. For most of us, we do not need to deal with meat sacrificed to idols. I have never stood at HEB’s meat counter and debated if I would save $.25/lbs by going with meat sacrificed to Apollo. In fact, we might find the whole discussion rather silly, but it was serious stuff at the time of Paul. I appreciate Paul’s words, “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial.” I don’t know if I would echo Paul and use the word everything, but I might say, “Most things are permitted…” Yet when a community chooses to live in love, the amazing love of God made real in Jesus, there are very intentional choices the community members make. On one level, these choices may feel like a sacrifice or even an infringement on one’s freedom, but love teaches us that we have the freedom to choose what demonstrates respect for our neighbor. We have the freedom to make sacrifices for the sake of that neighbor. It is a much more demanding approach to life, but I believe it is both noble and Christ-like.
With that said, I want to raise the topic of politics, and specifically how we live the Love First Life in our current political environment. Some would say that politics never belongs in church. Not to be rude, but that’s nonsense. Everything Jesus said had political ramifications, especially when you understand that the word comes from the Greek Politiká or Polis which means the affairs of the city or community. The simple teaching of “loving the neighbor,” especially when Jesus explained who the neighbor was by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan, pushed back against social and political norms of the time…and still does today if we take it seriously.
At the same time, I think there is a significant difference in struggling with the social and political implications of our faith -vs- bringing a political party or candidate into the faith community. I have an unwritten rule, but I won’t quote a politician in a sermon until we are at least 10 years out from his/her term. I’ve made a few exceptions, but time is an amazing gift that often softens strongly held opinions.
With this, I am asking you to live into the Love First Life by respecting Paul’s invitation to embrace freedom by embracing the freedom to choose love. When we gather for worship or other church events, let’s leave our political t-shirts, hats, buttons and other paraphernalia at home. Let me also encourage you to be involved in the political conversations happening in our community, take seriously your responsibility at the voting booth, and feel free to support your candidate with yard signs or whatever else you might desire to buy. But let’s leave it behind when the community gathers for work, study and worship. We have enough challenges when it comes to Living the Love First Life, and we don’t need to be distracted because we are offending the person across the aisle from us because we are wearing socks announcing Politician X. Some might say that its his/her choice to be offended, and there is probably some truth to that, but Paul heard the same thing in regard to those who were offended by meat sacrificed to idols.
Let me return to an earlier thought for emphasis – I hope you will still discus the issues of the day and how you believe the teachings of Jesus invite you to respond. Let’s do so with lots of “I Statements” that provide opportunities for diverse opinions to be shared. I also encourage people to be confessional and talk about how they know the teachings of Jesus on a subject, but they find it difficult in just how that can be applied to some current social issue or engagement. There has never been a Christian politician or Christian political party. Many of tried, but all have failed. Don’t get me wrong, there have been politicians who are Christian and are trying to figure out how their faith shapes their political values, but they all fall short in being a full representative of Jesus in the world today.
Thanks for thinking with me when it comes to Live more fully into the Love First Life together. If by chance you show up, accidentally, in a shirt promoting a specific politician or party – don’t leave! We have plenty of Cypress Creek Christian Church shirts. We’d be glad to loan you one.
Prayer: Lord God, I love my faith community! I love the people who make up my faith community. I love the diversity found within my faith community, even those I find wrong when it comes to politics. Let the love you have taught me be the love I share, especially with those who disagree with me. Those are the moments when something special can happen, and humanity begins to rise above narrow partisanship to reflect the values of your merciful reign revealed in Jesus. Amen.
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October 21, 2019
Prayer For The Week:
who discover genuine welcome;
who receive a loving affirmation;
who find respite from the chaos;
from every background
and way of thinking –
who meet you,
God whose Kindness and Mercy
You are building something unique,
You are creating something
of value for the community around us,
You are forming a body,
The Body of Christ,
In this setting
for the work of putting love first
as Christ embodied,
as Christ exemplified.
For the sake of the Youth and Children
For the sake of adults of all ages
Allow for this church and all churches
to move beyond
the short-sided survivalist thinking.
By your Spirit,
move us to that place of abundant living,
This we request with an expectation
that you will help us
see all this through to fruition.
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October 20, 2019
Scripture: Jeremiah 31:25
I will strengthen the weary and renew those who are weak.
Thought for the Day: This is part of a prophetic promise to those who have been in captivity, those who have been blocked from their place of peace. How many of us know well the frustration of getting stuck in traffic? What happens when a detour is necessary, though we are not absolutely sure where to go? GPS and mapping programs on our phones are so incredibly helpful, but what about the days prior to this technology? I remember getting off a main road and winding my way through a neighborhood, certain I was going to find an alternative route. Instead, I found myself right back to the road where the traffic was stopped. I just wanted to get home! The promise of strength and renewal found in Jeremiah is offered, not to those upon arriving at their desired destination, but along the way. People can become lost in their frustration, impatience and weariness as they move toward home and their place of peace. God recognizes how the journey home for many is tedious and exacting. Strength and renewal should not be viewed as the gifts received upon arriving at our destination, but the divine blessings offered along the way.
Prayer: Through a prayerful relationship with you, Merciful God, I seek the necessary tools for the journey. In the journeys of life, from brokenness to wholeness, from lostness to peace, I need your presence and encouragement at every turn. Amen.
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October 19, 2019
Scripture: Luke 4:18-19
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Thought for the Day: I recently shared these words of scripture with someone who is in jail. I’m not talking some figurative jail, but a real jail cell. There is no other place in scripture, at least as I read it, where we have a clearer description of Jesus’ mission statement. If you want to know what Jesus does, look here. Now I think his vision (big picture) was/is to act proactively with love – to put the Love First Life before humanity. A mission, on the other hand, is where the vision meets reality, and for Jesus, he is taking the Good News of God’s unconditional and unrelenting love to the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed. Some will ask whether Jesus was speaking metaphorically – “spiritual captives” or “holy blindness” -or- was he speaking about those who were economically poor and those who were physically oppressed? I think the answer is YES to everyone. Jesus did not sit around and compare people’s brokenness. He did not place a physical ailment above a mental illness. He saw suffering, and the love of God burning within him could not remain quiet. He had to act. And if these words from Luke’s Gospel are the mission statement of Jesus, then they probably are the mission statement of the Body of Christ. Our mission is to Put Love First In All Things, and our mission is to help individuals and families live this Love First Life… which is to act with love, not because people have earned it, but because Jesus showed us how to live such love for those who feel utterly alienated from love because of their woundedness and brokenness.
Prayer: I pray this day for all who yearn for the Spirit’s anointing. Come, Holy Spirit, and find the body you need for the proclamation of the Good News – a proclamation in both word and action. Amen.
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October 18, 2019
Scripture: Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Thought for the Day: The word “renewing” is only found one other time in the Bible, and that is in Titus 3:5 where it says, “God saved us… through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Even in the Greek, the root word is “new” as in the passage from Mark’s Gospel when Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper, “I assure you that I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in God’s kingdom.” It is the same language Paul used when he wrote about becoming a new creation. All this is to suggest that renewal and becoming something new requires more than a desire or wish. If we want renewal that leads to becoming something utterly new, then change will be required. It will demand a reorientation of our mindset, a reorganization of our priorities and a redesign of how we perceive the world around us. That sounds a bit more demanding than what is often associated with church membership, but at the end of the day, Jesus didn’t invite us to be members. He invited us to follow.
Prayer: Teach me again and again about your love, O God, as it is what inspires and beckons us to follow. Amen.
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October 17, 2019
Scripture: Isaiah 43:19
Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.
A Thursday Prayer: Let the lives of those whose names we do not know and whose lives we may not understand continue to receive our full respect. May every human being be treated as having equal value in your eyes, Gracious God. You have made their value known to us, and we shall live our lives honoring and celebrating your opinion of creation. It will not always be easy, but it clearly was not easy for Jesus to announce the beloved nature of those society had tossed aside. In fact, society killed him for it. What shall we offer in the name of your gift, Jesus Christ, who revealed our place as beloved children with the sacrifice of his own life. Amen.
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