Winning Ways - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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"Writing Letters to God"
by Tom Goodman
November 8, 2006

A distraught teen sought forgiveness for an abortion.  An unwed mother wanted God to make the baby’s father marry her.  A man asked to win the lottery—twice.

These were the requests in letters written to God.  The letters—about 300 in all—were sent to a New Jersey minister across the last thirty years.  They were recently found in the ocean, most of them unopened.

Bill Lacovara found them while fishing last month with his son.  He spotted a flowered plastic shopping bag and waded out to retrieve it.  “There are hundreds of lives here,” he said, showing reporters the dried-out letters.  “A lot of struggle, all washed up on the beach.”

The letters had been sent to Pastor Grady Cooper to be placed on a church’s altar and prayed over.  Cooper died two years ago at the age of 79, and someone probably disposed of the letters when they were cleaning out his belongings.  “I guess rather than just throw them in the garbage, maybe they thought they'd set them out to sea to bless these people,” Lacovara said.

Did the pastor or congregation ever pray over the letters?  Were the letters ceremoniously sent to sea or unceremoniously thrown away?

We may never know what people thought of the letters, but we know what God thought of them.  When the Apostle John described his vision of the heavenly worship service in Revelation 4-5, he said, “The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8).

Notice what value is placed on our prayers:  They are carried in golden bowls by those closest to God’s throne, and our prayers circle the Lord like perfumed clouds of incense.

Take heart and return to your prayers.  No matter the value people put on them here, God listens.


Important Notes

Sermon Series.  We have one more week in the Apostles Creed.  This week, read chapters 23-25 of The Anchor Course.  To catch up with the series, listen online (iTunes or website).  To learn more about the book that accompanies this sermon series, read the introduction by clicking here or check out the website at  Remember:  Everyone who attends gets a free copy of the book.  Also, with Christmas approaching, do you need additional copies of The Anchor Course for gift-giving?  You can purchase additional copies for $13 in the lobby on Sundays or in the office during the week.  The price we’re currently charging is an introductory price, so get your additional copies now.

Get an iMix of Praise Music!  Here's how to get more familiar with the worship music in the Bold service and enjoy it throughout the week.  Get an "iMix" at iTunes called "Hillcrest Bold Gold (Volume 1)."  By clicking on the hyperlink, you will find contemporary recording artists singing ten songs that our Hillcrest Praise Band leads us to sing.  If you don't have iTunes on your computer, when you click Hillcrest Bold Gold (Volume 1), you will be directed to download your free copy of iTunes.  Once you have the program on your computer, you can listen to 30-second clips of the 10 songs in the iMix.  You can then choose to download the entire mix for $9.90 or select individual songs from the mix for $.99 each.  You don't need an iPod to enjoy songs downloaded on iTunes.  Even without an iPod, you can listen to the songs on your computer, or you can burn audio CDs from iTunes if you have a CD burner connected to your computer.  We'll create a "Hillcrest Bold Gold (Volume 2)" iMix in a few weeks. Send me your suggestions about what you want on it.

Links to Your World

While Kinky Friedman wants to be the Good Shepherd for Texas, incumbent Governor Rick Perry is taking heat for pointing people to the real Good Shepherd.  See my reaction here.
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is November 12.  To prepare, be sure to read, “From torturing to tears: A prison warden repents.”  This Voice of the Martyrs story highlights one man’s transformation from tyrant to believer.
The Austin American-Statesman has a new religion feature on Saturdays, managed by Eileen Flynn who did such a good job with her front-page story on our church back in April.)  I liked this week’s article by Ben Wear, “Finding faith when you're not looking.”  It sure sounds a lot like our I.N.V.I.T.E. Strategy at work.
And now for something completely different:  Did you know that last Friday was National Cliché Day?  I didn’t either, but when I found out that I missed it, you could have blown me over with a feather.  In addition, one man shows you how to make a Big Mac Smoothie here if you want a hamburger and fries but you’re too lazy to chew.  And I’m sure you’d agree with this list of 40 Things That Only Happen In Movies.
You’ll find other news and opinions at my weblog, “Get Anchored,” including “Your Mission Dollars at Work,” comments about Texas Governor Rick Perry affirming his belief in Jesus, and QB Kurt Warner’s stance against embryonic stem cell research.  To keep up with the weblog, sign up for e-mail updates or assign the RSS feed to your news reader.

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