via WordPress https://ift.tt/2YLibPa
Thought for the Day: Do you have someone in your life who can tell you the truth? I’m not talking about rude, or someone who is out to tear you down. I have been blessed in life to have a number of people who walked alongside me, encouraging and inspiring me. But on those days when I needed some truth-telling, even when it might hurt a bit, they were willing to speak the hard words. Of course, they had been given permission…by me. In every case, even when I felt wounded for a while, I knew that each of those people was motivated out of love for me. These were people who were wise, capable of differentiating between their own insecurities and the potential within me. Like many of you, I have had people who claimed to have my best interest in mind, but their motivation arose from self-interest, not self-sacrifice. Most observers would not think of wisdom as a critical attribute for a truth-teller, but wisdom provides clarity of self. They knew who they were, and they were not seeking to fill some emptiness within themselves at my expense. That kind of wisdom is in short supply right now, and for that reason, I am even more thankful for those who have gifted me.
Prayer: You, O Lord, came to a world that was driven by self-interest. You not only claimed your love for us, but gave your life. Such sacrifice requires wisdom, the ability to understand the difference between a self-centered life and a love-centered life. Give us this wisdom, O Generous God. Amen.
via WordPress https://ift.tt/2EHBulw
SUNDAY - Concluding the Worship Series on Habits https://ift.tt/34MFex4
Thought for the Day: This is part of the well known “Doubting Thomas” story. Let me suggest that we dismiss much of the story in the belief that it is well summarized by simply saying things like, “Well that’s just Thomas. He was the doubter.” Of course, Thomas was the only disciple who wasn’t there when the resurrected Jesus made an earlier appearance. I’ve got to imagine that Thomas wanted to believe, but he was grieving and afraid and confused. Had it been Peter or James or any of the other disciples who hadn’t been there for the earlier encounter, I feel confident that the response would have been very similar to that of Thomas. There are times in life when we convince ourselves that God cannot be there. Life’s circumstances, on top of things like grief, guilt, shame, anxiety, exhaustion or bitterness, can often leave us unable to perceive the divine presence in our midst. Hope was standing in front of Thomas, but it took him a little while to get to the point of seeing it and embracing it. It is that other stuff that can have us believing that God has given up or doesn’t care. Most of us have been there at one time or another. That’s when we need a little tangible evidence, and in today’s world, that evidence is revealed through the Body of Christ, the church. We are God’s instrument by which God declares, “You are not alone. We will make it through this.” Today begins a new Wednesday LiveStream Study (11am & 7pm) based upon the words from Philippians 1:6 – “…the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job…” There are times when the stuff of life stands as an obstacle, eclipsing our capacity to see or even believe that God is still trying to help with the current mess. Let me just acknowledge how often I have seen the people of Cypress Creek Christian Church doing a really good job of being that tangible evidence in a very difficult time.
Prayer: My Lord and My God! A powerful declaration that emerges from doubt and disbelief. I know you will remain faithful as there is nothing in all of creation that can separate any of us from your love. Even when I cannot see it, provide me with that mysterious conviction that I am not alone. Amen.
via WordPress https://ift.tt/31snODy
Thought for the Day: Yesterday I was scrolling past a lot of useless emails when I noticed one that, in the subject line, talked about the potential hurricane(s). The very next email’s subject line read: Do you have enough life insurance? I laughed, but pretending that the second email wasn’t intentionally playing on people’s insecurity at this moment is to be naive. So many in our world today claim to have our best interest in mind, when in fact, they are seeking their own best interest. As those who live in Christ, and thus, the love of Christ, there is a peacefulness that allows for healthy discernment. Is it always perfect? No! But if we are able to approach, with a calm spirit, those who are claiming that the sky is falling, there is a better chance of making good choices. Maybe the sky is falling, but it would be nice to make that determination using good science and allowing for our faith to speak rationally to the situation. Equally important, a calm spirit allows for us to assist those who might otherwise become sucked into the less than ethical approaches that seek to take advantage of the vulnerable. In times of crisis, it has often been the people of faith who have asked the good questions that simply couldn’t be asked by those who had already been caught in the anxiousness.
Prayer: Let my faith be more than a one time declaration. Lord of Life, I seek a faith that is deeply connected to you and your grace. It is there that I shall extract the necessary strength for a calm and discerning spirit. It is because of you that I am able to be a rational and compassionate voice among all those who are seeking to leverage fear. Amen.
via WordPress https://ift.tt/3linJKv
via WordPress https://ift.tt/2ErGM4q
Thought for the Day: Our carbon monoxide detectors went off yesterday here at the house. We were not concerned, but when we called the manufacturer of the detectors, they (for true safety and legal reasons) told us to call the fire department. Now we tried everything to silence them, but nothing worked. I was even pondering the hammer, but we caved and called. I pleaded with them to come incognito, no sirens. It wasn’t an emergency. They did come in the big fire truck, but no sirens. Five delightful firefighters (my wife added the adjective nice-looking) came in and checked the house for any carbon monoxide. There was nothing. After a lengthy inspection, they suggested that the detectors were old and there was probably a bad sensor. They returned to the fire station and we replaced six carbon monoxide detectors in the house. I kind of felt foolish, but at no point did they make me feel foolish. I think about God, and God not only shows absolutely no partiality, but God never seeks to make us feel foolish. We can call out to God in prayer, even when we learn later that it was a false alarm, and God does not roll the divine eyes. God doesn’t treat us like the boy who cried wolf. In fact, I think it pleases God when we call, and I think those fire fighters were glad we called. I imagine they’ve known tragic situations when people didn’t call and should have.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your love that bridges every divide and reaches every corner of creation. There is no place we can go, and there is no situation unworthy of your attention. You genuinely care. Amen.
via WordPress https://ift.tt/32mhFrM
Thought for the Day: An individual can communicate certain ideas adequately without any personal involvement in the actual idea. I can explain a basic math problem or how to turn on a vacuum without having any deep emotional connection to it. In fact, it is probably good that I do not have a strong emotional connection to the vacuum. The sharing of the Gospel is different. It requires the sharing of ourselves. The Gospel is an empty concept if it is not joined to a person who knows firsthand the Good News of God’s abundant love. You can, of course, explain Martin Luther’s understanding of grace quite adequately from a historic perspective without any emotional connection, but a neighbor aching with grief isn’t interested in a generic history lesson. Paul made it clear that the world needs the Gospel, and the Gospel comes alive as it is connected to you and your life story.
Prayer: Lord, let the Gospel break loose from the confines of a theoretical concept as it takes on flesh through my life and my witness. Amen.
via WordPress https://ift.tt/3l8kkOx
Thought for the Day: This Sunday, I will be referencing the story of Cornelius and his encounter with the Apostle Peter. It is a story rich with details and themes, enough to entice the imagination of any student of scripture. I focus on these opening words because of scripture’s wonderful capacity to reject cookie cutter characters. Cornelius is not what one expects when thinking of a main role in a faith story. As part of the elite Roman guard, he comes from the “other side,” yet he has many wonderful and grace-filled qualities. He doesn’t fit any of the usual categories. It is far from a melodrama where the lines delineating the good from the bad are clear. Instead, this story feels a bit more like real life where rarely does a human being fit neatly into a single classification. And of course, this story comes immediately after the story of Saul, the great persecutor of the early church, who would find transformation and become Paul, the church’s greatest advocate. We also hear about a woman named Tabitha whose life “overflowed” with good works and compassion. The writer of Acts has no interest in presenting cookie cutter characters, and I find it refreshing and hopeful. For even though today there is an attempt in some corners of Christianity to force people into a very narrow definition of Christian, it does not hold up as you read Acts. This community formed by the Holy Spirit was about as eclectic and quirky as one could imagine. That is a model for us to use today.
Prayer: If they all fit in your community of grace, O Lord, then I’ve got to believe there is a place for me. Thank you for your love that makes space for all. Amen.
via WordPress https://ift.tt/2CNfc0R
Thought for the Day: This passage speaks to our current situation. Right now, we are not meeting together for the safety of individuals and to hopefully curb the number of COVID cases. There are lots of joke as people talk about watching worship at the kitchen table in their pajamas. I have told many folks that our first Sunday back together that I plan to preach in my pajamas. Habits are formed rather quickly, and sometimes out of necessity. But as we read in Hebrews, our current habit of worshiping from home needs to have with it a sign that reads: Temporary. I am thankful for technology that allows us to gather around a common message each week, but it definitely is not what most of us want or need from community. Encouragement is best expressed when someone comes alongside another human being. I have watched some encouraging message on my computer. I have received emails and other notes of encouragement that I treasure. But at the end of the day, there is nothing like the encouragement found when those who love God and love neighbor come together for worship, fellowship and service.
Prayer: By the power of your Spirit, Lord, keep us bound together for the work of encouragement that fosters hope and sanctifies your beloved community. In the short term, let us think creatively in how we encourage, while also looking to that day when we will uplift one another as we sing and pray side by side. Amen.
via WordPress https://ift.tt/2Yhyfbf