a prayer for my own city today, with another – Ferguson, MO – in mind

Baytown-water-tower-2014As I pray today for all who live in Ferguson, MO, I’m moved to also pray for all who live in my own community. Won’t you join me?

You, Father God, are the Giver of all that is good. You are the perfect Understander of all things, even every human heart. You are the only wise, holy, and just Judge of all people and situations everywhere. Blessed be your name!

And so, I confess to you that I all too often take for granted the measure of your peace that you have granted to the community in which I live. I would do well to put my hand over my mouth more often than I do, rather than speak as if I have perfect understanding of people and events in my town. I sometimes make judgment calls on others that are hasty and unhelpful. Please, forgive me.

I thank you for every mind in my locale that is open, willing and active to learn how to best love others; this is from you. I’m grateful for all the hearts here in which the walls that separate them from others are crumbling; this is your work. And I’m appreciative for every pair of eyes that see past the outward appearance of people and see, in their neighbor’s eyes, the eyes of Christ; this is your grace.

And so, in the name of your Son Jesus, I ask you, Father God, that you shield and deliver my city from all the hatred, violence, and every other evil, that is welling up elsewhere. I request that you give me great wisdom as to how I should conduct myself when things do not appear to go the way I think they should and deep humility when they go the way I think they should. I pray your forgiveness and mercy on me for all the times I have judged others and have spoken ill of them for I know that such only tears community apart.

Deliver us from evil, Father, and lead in the ways that are good. Bring in your kingdom and use me in that good process, I pray.

Amen.

links: this went thru my mind

-

Here are five links to some thoughtful reading.

American history & Native Americans: The Horrific Sand Creek Massacre Will Be Forgotten No More

“The opening of a national historic site in Colorado helps restore to public memory one of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated on Native Americans.”

Children & parenting: Giving Your Kids the Gift of Discouragement

“… let’s distinguish “discouragement” from being a downer or jerk or disheartening your children. A certain kind of discouragement is designed to make folks feel badly about themselves and their abilities. That’s not what we’re after. To discourage someone is simply to persuade them against an action. Encouragement, then, is to give support or confidence for an action. Parents cannot be one-note. We have to both encourage and discourage, lest our children be ill-equipped to face the world, deal with reality, and run amok. Discouragement allows the people we love to focus more intently on God’s gifting in them.”

Climate change, environment, perception, pollution, persuasion & public opinion: Why Doesn’t Everyone Believe Humans Are Causing Climate Change?

“Only 40% of Americans attribute global warming to human activity, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. This, despite decades of scientific evidence and the fact that Americans generally trust climate scientists. … while the scientific community had converged on a consensus, the general public had not, at least not in the U.S. … Whatever we can do now will be heroic for our great-grandchildren, and whatever we do not do will be infamous.”

Marriage, perseverance & promises: When Marriage is No Longer Exciting

“How might a worldview that exalts the sweeping, passionate adventure shape our expectations of a covenant promise that remains, even in the dullest years?”

Remarriage: Four-in-Ten Couples are Saying “I Do,” Again

“In 2013, fully four-in-ten new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before, and two-in-ten new marriages were between people who had both previously stepped down the aisle …”

LIFE group discussion guide: whole

-

NOTE: We’ll use the discussion guide you’ll find below in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow night (Nov. 23). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning on remarriage (Whole). To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon (or sermon series).

To consider and contemplate the place of remarriage among Christians.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Genesis 2.19 NRSV)

• He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10.11-12 NIV)

• To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife. (1 Corinthians 7.8-16 NRSV)

• I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin … (1 Corinthians 7.26-29 NRSV)

• A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7.39 NRSV)

• The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some … will turn away from the faith. … They will prohibit marriage … Everything created by God is good, and nothing that is received with thanksgiving should rejected. These things are made holy by God’s word and prayer. (1 Timothy 4.1,3a,4-5 CEB)

Relation

Use the following icebreaker question to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Have you ever repaired some broken something and it turned out stronger than before? Tell us about it.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. What is the meaning of the phrase “only in the Lord” in 1 Cor. 7.39? Study what scholars have written.

2. Read 1 Timothy 3.2 and Titus 1.6, comparing them in various translations. Is Paul saying a remarried man isn’t eligible to serve as an elder, if a man is married he must be a “one woman kind of man” or what?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. The church has generally made life for the remarried: (a) easier, (b) more difficult, (c) both, or (d) other.

2. Why shouldn’t remarriage be an option to those whose divorced mate resists reconciliation or is dead?

3. Fill in the blank: “Most arguments against the divorced being allowed to remarry sound ______ to me.”

4. Studies have shown that with each successive remarriage, most marriages are less likely to last. Why?

5. A divorced friend tells you privately that they’re considering remarriage. What advice do you offer?

6. How does one determine how much time to give a divorced mate an opportunity for reconciliation?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Urge all believers within your sphere of influence, to marry a maturing disciple (if they marry at all).

2. Refuse to “look down on” or “keep at arm’s length” the remarried. Rather, accept and strengthen them.

toward a stranger Thanksgiving

-

NOTE: The following is a guest post by a dear friend of mine, Bill Ehlig. Bill happens to be one of my shepherds at MoSt Church and I can assure you, he, more than anyone else I know, “practices what he preaches” in this post. Enjoy, and be challenged!

- Our President took the liberty to refer to a concept from the Bible last night. It is not all that well known, but ignorance of the concept cannot be attributed to the concept being unmentioned. In fact the concept of care for strangers is fairly basic in the Bible from beginning to end. The President said, “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.” He was nearly quoting from Exodus 23.9:

“Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

This is a theme in the Law [Genesis – Deuteronomy] and also the Prophets [Isaiah – Malachi, the Jews adding most of Joshua – 2 Kings]. Have a look if you wish: Ex. 22.21 (20); Lev. 19.33, 34; Deut. 10.18,19; 24.17,18; Jer. 7.6; 22.3; Ezek.  22.7,29; Zech. 7.10. If you looked at these, you may have noticed that the concern is not only negative [don’t oppress], but also positive [take care of the stranger]. The 3rd or 4th commandment [depending if you count the Catholic or Protestant] refers to the same concern [Deut. 5.12-14; Ex. 20.8-11]. Also, Israel was supposed to be somewhat careless regarding the harvest and leave some in the field for the strangers and others [Deut. 24.19-22; Ruth 2.1-23]. The Law took all this one step further regarding taxes in Deuteronomy 14.28-29:

“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Israel paid for assistance whether they got taxes from the stranger or not! This was in their budget. Not too surprisingly Jesus took up the same line as Moses. An example: the commandment he called ‘The Second’ [Matt. 22.34-36; Mark 12.28-34; Luke 10.25-28] “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The story of the Good Samaritan is downstream of this commandment in Luke. Jesus was quoting from Leviticus 19.18. I would add from the same chapter verses 33 and 34.

“And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

A last note from Jesus; he defined the differences between sheep and goats on how they cared for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned [Matt. 25.31-46]. He set the bar high, much higher than our discourse has generally been. Earlier, I wrote ‘beginning to end’. Let me add Genesis 15.13 and Hebrews 13.2. That would be about 92% of span of the whole Bible. There is plenty more between these about caring for others, even strangers.

There is something which should be added to all this: The President used the word ‘stranger’ for his speech. That would be from the King James Version. He could have used other words instead. Other translations do not use ‘stranger.’ They use foreigner, alien, immigrant, and more. Generally the point can be made with a little more umph from these other translations.

I wonder how much the President’s citation from scripture was noticed. I wonder how much hearers realized just how rich the concern for strangers is in Scripture.

There will be those who would prefer the President kept out of religion. Fine, I suppose. But I hope these abandon the song of “our Judeo/Christian heritage”. If we can’t get “the heart of a stranger” right, we might want to avoid other subjects where Scripture is not so clearly represented. Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving. Let us not forget the ‘stranger’ part of that celebration.

Bill Ehlig