links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, comfort, evangelism, familiarity, Millenials  & outreach: Don’t Let Your Comfort Zone Kill Your Church

“… are you willfully blind toward the needs of the young people in your church or toward reaching young people in general?”

Death: When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

“Dying space is sacred space.”

Discussion, social media & the spiral of silence: How Social Media Silences Debate

“The researchers set out to investigate the effect of the Internet on the so-called spiral of silence, a theory that people are less likely to express their views if they believe they differ from those of their friends, family and colleagues. The Internet, many people thought, would do away with that notion because it connects more heterogeneous people and gives even minority voices a bullhorn.

“Instead, the researchers found, the Internet reflects the offline world, where people have always gravitated toward like-minded friends and shied away from expressing divergent opinions. (There is a reason for the old rule to avoid religion or politics at the dinner table.)

“And in some ways, the Internet has deepened that divide. It makes it easy for people to read only news and opinions from people they agree with. In many cases, people don’t even make that choice for themselves.”

Ecology, environment & pollution: Choking the Oceans With Plastic

“I have just returned with a team of scientists from six weeks at sea conducting research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the Equator at the latitude of our great terrestrial deserts. Although it was my 10th voyage to the area, I was utterly shocked to see the enormous increase in the quantity of plastic waste since my last trip in 2009.”

Exodus & the movies: Exodus: Gods, Kings, and Evangelical Headcanon

“This Christmas we’re getting another Bible epic film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale as Moses.”

Modesty: To the Girls In the Pew Ahead of Me

“Thank you for reflecting Christ in the simplest of ways.”

sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: be strong in the Lord

 

Most of you have probably seen the videos that have gone viral of late of people accepting “The Ice Bucket Challenge.” It’s a gimmick to raise awareness of – and funds for – the fight against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known to a previous generation as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

I accepted the challenge – dump a bucket of ice water on yourself – and I’ve set aside a contribution to the ALS Association. I challenge you to do the same (at alsa.org).

But this morning I challenge you to consider what it means to “be strong in the Lord.” For that is precisely what each of us here is called to become. “Strong in the Lord.”

Just what does that phrase say to you? What image does it conjure up in your head?

Let’s ask the person who first used it: an apostle of God. His name was Paul. And when Paul thought about “being strong in the Lord” his mind instantly went to an image of war. (Eph. 6.10 NRSV) It’s an image of a soldier fully equipped to do battle with the enemy. (Eph. 6.11 NRSV)

Being “strong in the Lord” is deadly serious business; it’s a battlefield!

In that sort of scenario, you are, if nothing else, fully-focused. There are things you just don’t do (like carry things you don’t need). And there things you do no matter what (you “behave appropriately”). cf. Rom. 13.12b-13a NRSV. For it goes without saying: it’s a matter of life and death.

Now let me ask you: how do you picture yourself when it comes to being “strong in the Lord;” when it comes to your engagement in spiritual warfare?

I can’t see your answer, but I can relate to you what I sometimes hear.

“I want to be strong in the Lord, but I’m just not feeling it. I want to be spiritual and I start out doing well, but I seem to quickly fizzle out. What am I doing wrong?”

Does that sound like you? What it looks like is hand-to-hand combat and the battlefield is your mind. God has put his Spirit in us to permeate our mind and work out his will in this world. However, our enemy, Satan, opposes God and us. His plan of attach is to reverse God’s intended nature of things by using the world and its ways to impact us sensually, taking control of our mind and dominating our spirit. The contested ground, the ground where the battle will be either won or lost, is in our mind.

Through the years I’ve had occasion to talk with combat-hardened veterans of military service. Sometimes I’ve asked them what being truly ready for battle is all about. More often than not they do something like this (“tapping their head”) and say something like “keeping your head in the game.”

One time, I had a young veteran – one of the current generation raised on video games like Call of Duty – look me right in the eye and say:

“They lied to me. There’s nothing quick, easy, or fun about killing a man.”

I’ll leave it to you to sort all of that. Including what all that young man must have wrestled with (and still does).

But I think what he said nailed it. It comes down to what we’re thinking and our expectations. Make no mistake about it: our part in the battle – the fulfillment of our duty to God – will be won or lost in our head.

“What am I doing wrong?,” you ask.

It’s likely the way you think about things. Or more precisely, the way you don’t think about your expectations.

How many of us have been duped by the Devil to think our maturity in Christ can, and will, come quickly? How many of us live under Satan’s deception that being a Christian is supposed to come relatively easily? How many of us have been deluded to believe – and diluted in our faith – to suppose that life in God must be fun?

I tell you the reality of it is more like the difference between the look in the eyes of the fresh, new recruit who has never “seen the elephant” and the eyes of the battle-hardened veteran who has seen it all … again, and again, and again.

I challenge you: name one thing that’s solid and central about Christian faith that happens “quickly.” There’s nothing there. It takes time. A lot of time. A lifetime.

Precious little – if anything – about believing, truly trusting God, is “easy.” Faith is “the proof of what we don’t see.” (cf. Heb. 11.1b CEB) What, pray tell, is easy about that?

And “fun?” While joy is certainly part of the fruit that God’s Spirit grows in/on us, that word was never intended to carry the full freight load of what it means to follow after God and his will. If so, someone forgot to tell our Lord, our mentor, our model, the Man of Sorrows. No, strong Christians make use of all the colors in the box, not just happy yellow. They can, and do, “weep with those who weep” and they can, and do, grieve over their sins.

“What are you doing wrong?” It’s likely a matter of the battle going on in your mind. You have a set of assumptions and expectations that have no place on the battlefield, and you’re in the Army now, mister; get your mind right!

Put on the full armor of God! Every day the sun comes up is a day there is an enemy at the gates and evil in the air. (Eph. 6.13 NRSV) Gear up with faith in God, hope in Christ, and love by the Spirit. (1 Thes. 5.8 NRSV) Your life – and the lives those around you – depend on it. And march into battle with the assurance that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, will see us through to our destiny with him, in him and for him. (1 Thes. 5.9 NRSV)

Who today will take up the challenge? Who will get their mind right by turning a deaf ear to the Devil’s propaganda? Step right into the ranks of the legions who call Jesus “Lord.”

LIFE group discussion guide: love is a battlefield – becoming strong in the Lord

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Aug. 24) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. 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.

To explore the meaning of, preparation for, and engagement in spiritual warfare.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

… let’s get rid of the actions that belong to the darkness and put on the weapons of light. Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day. (Romans 13.12b-13a CEB)

• … be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6.10-18 NIV)

• … since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5.8-11 NRSV)

Relation

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

1. Tell us of a feat of strength you accomplished in your childhood days that meant much to you.

2. Fill in the blank with a single word: “To win the battle with Christ a Christian must ________.”

Research

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

1. Consider the three Scripture texts above. What do all three of them have in common?

2. Make a list of all the “action items” in the texts above (e.g. – “get rid of,” “put on,” etc. ).

3. No emotions are directly referenced in these texts. However, what feelings are likely implied?

Reflection

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

1. Name the common false expectations noted in the sermon. Which do you do battle with most?

2. “We all experience seasons when the Lord doesn’t feel near.” Your thoughts on this?

3. What all did Paul mean when he said: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood?”

4. Which piece of armor do you find yourself struggling to consistently utilize well? Why?

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. Carve out some quiet time and make a very candid, comprehensive, and private written list of the “actions that belong to the darkness” in your life that you need to get rid of. Pray over it.

2. Develop a basic “battle plan” as to how you will “put on the weapons of light” every day.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Complaining & gratitude: Complaining is a Spiritual Problem

“The problem is how I see the world.”

Racism & repentance: * It’s Time to Listen: Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice? (Part 1) by Leonce Crump; * Dr. Seuss Draws Anti-Japanese Cartoons During WWII, Then Atones with Horton Hears a Who!

* “We’ve launched a series here called, It’s Time to Listen. In it, we’ve asked African-American evangelical leaders to share from their diverse perspectives.”

 

* “In 1953, Geisel visited Japan where he met and talked with its people and witnessed the horrific aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. He soon started to rethink his anti-Japanese vehemence. So he issued an apology in the only way that Dr. Seuss could. He wrote a children’s book … Horton Hears a Who!”

Grace & the Old Testament: God’s Scandalous Grace in the Old Testament [required reading]

“Grace is not just a characteristic of God that pops up here and there; it’s the very backbone of the Old Testament story.”

Health care: Cardiologist Speaks From The Heart About America’s Medical System

“American medicine is the best in the world when it comes to providing high-tech care .. If you have an esoteric disease, you want to be in the United States. God forbid you have Ebola, our academic medical centers are second to none. But if you have run-of-the-mill chronic diseases like congestive heart failure or diabetes, the system is not designed to find you the best possible care. And that’s what has to change.”

Loving your enemies: Three Barriers Hijacking Christians’ Ability to Love Our ‘Enemies’

“1. Fear … 2. Nationalism … 3. Power. … What if we took seriously Jesus’ words that the first shall be last and the last will be first?”

Revelation: Reading Revelation in an Unjust World [required reading]

“… just to be clear: Revelation doesn’t give us details about the rapture or who will be Left Behind. Revelation has as much to do with Four Blood Moons as Goodnight Moon. Revelation barely gives any details about the end times–even if it offers some clues about our perfect ending. Revelation doesn’t tell us about hell—even if some have been accused of Erasing Hell. The sole reason for Revelation’s existence is to encourage people who are suffering injustice.”