10 older books I keep going back to

10. Chiasmus in the New Testament: A Study in the Form and Function of Chiastic Structures by Nils Wilhelm Lund

9. The Language and Imagery of the Bible by G. B. Caird

8. New Testament Theology by Leon Morris

7. Jesus as They Saw Him by William Barclay

6. New Testament Words by William Barclay

5. Well-Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church by Marshall Shelley

4. How Can I Help? by Lynda D. Elliott

3. Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels by Burton H. Throckmorton

2. Testaments of Love by Leon Morris

1. The Discovery Bible: New American Standard New Testament edited by Gleason Archer & Gary Hill

blessing

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Oct. 23). This guide flows out of the sermon that I’ll preach, God willing, that morning. Think of this sermon as “the rest of the story” of James 3:1-12. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

To stimulate verbal blessing and praise to God and encouragement and strength to others.

Word

“… those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. … with it [the tongue] we bless the Lord and Father … [and this is like] fresh water …” (James 3:2,9,11 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Tell us about one of the most encouraging or strengthening things you’ve ever been told.

2. Which would you say is easier for you: to stay silent or to speak up? Would others agree?

Dig

These questions are intended to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture text.

1. What exactly does “fresh water” do for a person? How can it be used? Why is it essential?

2. We often ask God to bless us, but how is it we can “bless the Lord?” What does that mean?

3. What would “full maturity” in a Christian sound like in terms of their speech?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. Why do you suppose many Christians are not so quick or comfortable to audibly mention God and praise him in the presence of others outside of a Christian worship gathering?

2. What thoughts and feelings tend to well up in you when you receive sincere verbal encouragement and blessing? Do you tend to dismiss it, accept it, revel in it, or what?

3. As a group, brainstorm ways an individual Christian can grow in verbal praise of God. How can you help others grow in that praise? What can a congregation do?

4. Describe how important it is to you to overhear God deliberately, verbally, and creatively praised inside, or outside, of Christian gatherings.

5. A long-time fellow Christian and church member consistently hurts others with their speech. What should/must be done, and what should/must not be done, in response?

6. How have you deliberately tried to stretch yourself and challenge yourself in growing in vocalization of praise of God?

7. Complete this sentence: “When it comes to “full maturity” in Christ in terms of speech, on a scale of 0-10, I think in the past five years my ‘score’ has gone from a _____ to a _____.”

8. Make a personal plan and a promise: “This week will not end before I have deliberately, thoughtfully, and verbally encouraged _____ number of my brothers and sisters in Christ who I am not already in the habit of encouraging.”

this went thru my mind

Among the things I’ve read online this week, I’ve found the following to be especially worthwhile.

Church: Six Dramatic Trends Impacting Small Churches by Chuck Warnock.

“(1) Loosening denominational ties … (2) greater use of technology … (3) increasing informality in worship … (4) aging membership … (5) increasing member education and affluence … and (6) increasing growth and popularity of large churches.”

Guidance: Wondering If You Should Wait on God? by Jon Acuff.

“… I have discovered one tiny verse that’s challenged how I view the waiting dilemma. The verse is Mark 15:43, and it’s really simple. It’s such a fragment of a fragment of a much bigger story that it’s easy to overlook it.”

ImmigrationBiblical Principles Applied to Immigration Issues by Timothy Archer is good stuff.

“… I want to have a serious discussion on immigration issues. To get the thought process started, I wanted to … bring a number of different biblical principles into the discussion.”

Ministry: Pastors Feel Privileged and Positive, Though Discouragement Can Come.

“… the finding of a survey by LifeWay Research of 1,000 American Protestant pastors conducted Aug. 17-24, 2011.”

Oil: U.S. Oil Consumption Infographic.

“U.S. Oil Usage is an attempt to educate the average person about where U.S. oil comes from, how it is being used and how U.S. consumption compares with that of other major oil consumers. The information is both shocking and concerning!”

Parenting: Adam Marshall tipped me of to this excellent article by Jonathan McKee entitled ‘Dad, Can I Go to the Homecoming Dance?’

“WARNING: The following blog might offend some of you. The subject matter I’m talking about is pretty vile, and I’ve chosen to go ahead and just say it like it is. If you’re offended… GOOD. You should be. Because this is the crude reality most of our kids are facing right now, and parents need to open their eyes to it.”

Poverty: Two recent posts that will make you sit up and think are Could You Make It On Food Stamps? by Larry James and  Do Church Pantries Do More Harm Than Good? by Josef Kuhn.

“The USDA recently reported that 14.5 percent of Americans are food insecure. … “In June of this year, a staggering 45.2 million Americans filed to get food stamps because they either are facing or living in poverty. More than half of food stamp recipients are children and 8 percent are individuals over the age of 60.”

Q. You say churches and charities can harm those they propose to help. How? A: Typically, the giving is one-way: those of us with the resources give to those with a lack of resources. One-way giving tends to make the poor objects of pity, which harms their dignity. It also erodes their work ethic and produces a dependency that is unhealthy both for the giver and the recipient.”

Preaching & sermons: Adam S. McHugh’s post entitled Why You Can’t Express the Most Important Things just might be the most significant thing you read anytime soon regarding preaching and hearing sermons.

“… a person that can very clearly delineate the points of a sermon, may not have actually fully listened.”

Racism: Are You a Christian Racist? by Peter Scazzero. Take the eleven question quiz.

“… 21st-century racism is different from that of the past. Contemporary racism is not conscious, and it is not accompanied by dislike, so it gets expressed in indirect, subtle ways.”

Spiritual gifts: Matt Dabbs continues his series on spiritual gifts. Check out How to Determine Spiritual Gifts and Five Flaws With Some Spiritual Gifts Inventories.

“(1) I am not really certain they measure spiritual gifts given to you any more than they just confirm the things you enjoy doing. … (2) There are some things that I just may have never been exposed to that I have no idea I am gifted at unless I try. … (3) There may be things I am gifted at doing that don’t bring me enjoyment. … (4) An inventory is only as good at determining something as you are at accurately reporting it. … (5) They are impersonal. They don’t know you.”

Temptation: Quotes from C.S. Lewis make up this post entitled What to Remember When Fighting Temptation. Trey Morgan’s post entitled Overcoming Sexual Temptation is also full of good stuff.

“One of these days my funeral will come. I could care less if anyone mentions if I was a good minister or could preach a good sermon. I do not care if anyone mentions that I ever helped anyone. My only goal, as they stand over my dead body, is that they say,“He was faithful to God, his wife, and he was a good dad!”

Women: John Willis’ series on the role of women continues. Biblical Female Teachers, Deacons, Elders, Preachers (part 6).

“Biblically, both males and females fit the function of elders or shepherds.”