links: this went thru my mind

 

Contribution, generosity, giving, offering & tips: * Why We Give (or Don’t) [required reading]; * Is It Stealing From God to Split Your Tithe Between the Church and Other Charities?

* “Why do we give to others? Why do we choose not to? New research seeking answers to these questions has important implications for Christians. For example, not all of our giving is altruistic.”

* “Three views on what it means to give faithfully.”

Education, income, social injustice, wages & work: What’s Wrong With This Picture? [infographic]

“Low-wage-workers are far more educated than they were in 1968 … but we’re paying them less.”

Nonviolence: She Survived a Standoff with a Gunman — Could You? [essential reading]

“Now she is the only one standing between the gunman and 800 children at an elementary school just outside Atlanta. Tuff began her day by reading Psalms 23: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’”

Stress: * How Couples Can Cope with Professional Stress; * When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t; * The Best Way to Defuse Your Stress; * What to Do When You Can’t Control Your Stress

* “Each couple will have to find their own solutions, but learning to cope with stress together is a fundamental skill for thriving at work and at home.”

* “Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away.”

* “Think of stress as a monster, who lives in your body and feeds on uncertainty. The monster’s most satisfying meal starts with the sentence: ‘What will happen if … ?’”

* “When your anxious thoughts come at you, rather than grappling with them, you let them just be. Observe them.  Notice them. And simply direct your attention to something other than your thoughts, such as your breath. This may not be easy at first, but if you are having one of those days, it is likely to be much more successful before any meeting that provokes anxiety in anticipation of it. Also, practice makes perfect. If you practice this method often, you are likely to get better at it over time.”

LIFE group guide: Why Give? The Gladness of Giving

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 23) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the fourth in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon, in a series.

To explore and emphasize the importance of our giving of our means.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” [Psalm 112.9]

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9.6-15 NIV)

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 time where you have personally experienced either of the truths of vs. 7.

2. Relate an instance in which you saw a child put something in the offering plate.

Research

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

1. Every sentence of the ten verses above describes some reason to rejoice. Note how so.

2. Read Ps. 112. How is it commentary on Ps. 111.10? What in it makes you recall Ps. 1?

Reflection

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

1. How does giving as a Christian differ from giving on the part of one yet to believe?

2. What does God give to enable our giving? What does God receive from it?

3. Which is greater: to meet a person’s needs or to enable them to thank and praise God?

4. What would it look like for a Christian to “freely scatter their gifts to the poor?”

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. List the good you think will come thru your next offering. Give the list to God in prayer.

LIFE group guide: giving: when give? adding grit to your giving

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 16) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the third in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To explore and emphasize the importance of our giving of our means.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon. Words underlined are stressed in the Greek.

• Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16.1-3 NRSV)

• Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” [Ex. 16.18] (2 Corinthians 8.10b-15 NIV)

Relation

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

1. Name something, big or small, that you saved up for a while to acquire or do.

2. On a scale of 0-100, score yourself as to how you are about finishing things you start.

Research

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

1. Read more regarding “the collection” spoken of here: Rom. 15.26-29 and Gal. 2.1-10.

2. Read 1 Cor. 16.1-3 closely. When are the funds saved? When is the money collected?

3. Read Ex. 16.1-18 (the context of the quotation of Ex. 16.15 in 2 Cor. 8.15).

Reflection

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

1. What is the significance of saving funds specifically “on the first day of every week”?

2. Some say: “This text teaches we can only give to ‘the saints.’” How do you respond?

3. Nowhere is “God” or “Jesus” named in the texts above. Where is God in all of this?

4. “The goal is equality.” What would it look like if Christians achieved this goal?

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. Over the next four months, “put aside and save” some money to give to a ministry in this church family you believe has some needs (i.e. – your own “special contribution”).

LIFE group guide: what gives? the goal of our giving

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 9) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the second in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To explore and emphasize the importance of our giving of our means.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon. Words underlined are stressed in the Greek.

• … we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8.1-9 NIV)

• Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9.7 CEB)

Relation

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

1. As a child, what was a toy you had that you never wanted to share?

2. Tell us of something you gave or shared one time that gave you great joy to do.

Research

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

1. To whom were the Macedonian & Corinthian Christians giving? What was the need?

2. What is stated in the texts above as their source and their motivation of giving?

3. What exactly was God’s “grace” (2 Cor. 8.1) to the Corinthian Christians? What was Christ’s “grace” to them (2 Cor. 8.9)?

Reflection

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

1. We think of prayer and Scripture reading as spiritual disciplines. How is giving such?

2. How is “overflowing joy” (8.2) and “cheerfulness” (9.7) connected with godly giving?

3. What can a Christian do to nurture their growth of a healthy, happy heart for giving?

Response

This idea/suggestion is for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out this message in the coming days.

1. Thoughtfully and carefully review and evaluate the history of your giving through the years and where you currently stand in your participation and maturing in this grace.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Adultery: The United States of Adultery

[This is an interactive map. Houston is #2 in the country, beat out only by three-time winner Washington D.C.]

Birth of Jesus & Christmas: * Baby Jesus Meek and Mild, Overthrew an Empire – Wild!; * Is There A Dragon In Your Nativity Set?

* “May your Christmas be a time when you ponder the summons of a subversive kingdom. May you choose to peacefully follow the baby in the manger to the cross and through resurrection, proclaiming with the angels that a new era has begun; an era when the people of God can undo the works of oppressive ‘empires.’ Merry Christmas.”

* “Every nativity set needs a red dragon. If you don’t remember that part of the story, you might want to read chapter 12 of Revelation.”

China, Christianity & persecution: China’s Hardship-Hardened Church

“Vibrant amid persecution, it seeks faithfulness over freedom.”

Contribution, generosity, giving, possessions, sacrifice, stewardship & wealth: The Scary Truth About Christian Giving

“Over the past 40 years, self-identified evangelicals have given between 2 and 3 percent of their incomes to churches and Christian organizations. Stewardship is a crucial part of the Christian life, and according to these figures, it is sadly lacking.”

Criticism, hatred & humility: Haters

“Never criticize what God is blessing.”

Firearms & guns: Gun Country

“They bring families together and they tear them apart. They kill innocent people and protect them. The United States continues to love and revile its hundreds of millions of firearms. Here is a look at that complicated  relationship, told through the personal stories of Americans.”

Insurance & the uninsured: Mapping Uninsured Americans

“Census data released Dec. 17 show where the uninsured live.”

Love & truth: 3 John: When Love is Abused

“He abused his power; he abused the love entrusted to him.”

Poor & poverty: In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary [required reading]

“Without the panoply of government benefits — like food stamps, subsidized school lunches and the earned-income tax credit, which provides extra money to household heads earning low wages — the nation’s poverty rate last year would have reached almost 31 percent, up from 25 percent in 1967, according to the research at Columbia.”

Warfare: The Great War’s Ominous Echoes

“… the era just before World War I, with its gas lighting and its horse-drawn carriages, seems very far-off, it is similar to ours — often unsettlingly so — in many ways.”

this went thru my mind

 

Affliction, faith, loss, pain, & suffering: There Really Is A Reason – 12 Benefits Of Afflictions

“God doesn’t afflict us or allow us to be afflicted for no reason. … in God’s plan, afflictions have great benefit to us, as painful as they are at times.  If we keep these benefits in mind when we suffer, they can help us endure joyfully.”

Archaeology: Roads of Arabia Exhibition: Update

“Here is the schedule for upcoming shows of the exhibition … The Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, TX – December 22, 2013 – March 9, 2014.”

Busyness & leadership: Busy is Killing Leadership

“If you’re not careful busyness will quietly take over your life without you even being aware of it.”

Children & Uganda: Launching Reunite Uganda in the US! [essential reading; the work of one of MoSt Church's own: Darby Priest]

“Help us get Ugandan children out of orphanages and back to their families.”

Church, fear, ministry & the work of God: Francis Chan: Are You ‘Protecting’ Your Church from a Movement of God?  [10 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… it blew my mind that an older man would come alongside of me and believe in me.”

Church & intergenerational ministry: Congregations as Families of Faith: Beyond Age-Level Ministries

“…  research has continued to show that intergenerational relationships are like glue that makes faith sticky for young people. Age-level ministries are still important to create a community of peers for children, youth, and adults to belong to. But if we hope to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, then we must develop intergenerational ministries that model the faith for our children and youth, and support our families as they seek to follow Christ. The research tells us that we need to be doing church differently.”

Communication, culture, demographics, social media, & society: Just Who Uses Social Media? A Demographic Breakdown

“You think you know social? How about who uses it? Well, you might not know it as well as you would have guessed. A new study from the Pew Research Center and Docstoc shed some light on just who uses social and on what platforms. Some of the findings seem in line with what you would probably guess, but others were surprising.”

Distribution of wealth: A Rise in Wealth for the Wealthy; Declines for the Lower 93%

“During the first two years of the nation’s economic recovery, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7% of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28%, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93% dropped by 4%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released Census Bureau data.”

Employment, faith, jobs, & work: Why Tim Keller Wants You to Stay in That Job You Hate

“‘I hate my job. It’s not just like I don’t have a lot of power—I really can’t stand what I have to do every day.’ How would you pastor someone in that situation?”

Expectations & introverts: 7 False Assumptions Made About Introverts by Ron Edmonson

“There are a lot of false assumptions made when someone is introverted. Here are 7 false assumptions made of me as an introvert …”

Church finances, collection, contribution, electronic giving, & offering: What the Decline in Check Writing Will Mean for Your Church

“If we do not change our process for collecting the offering we will see our offerings decline. The reason is simple. The harder we make it for people to give the less likely they will give.”

Ego, Facebook, photography, pride, & vanity: Snap Judgments: Our Societal Obsession With Taking Pictures [required reading]

“Each day, we upload more than 5.2 million photos to Instragram and 100 million to Facebook, with no signs of slowing down our snapping and sharing. … In a sense, this is totally natural. Photographs speak to the age-old custom of physically marking spaces and moments in thanksgiving and remembrance. … The danger of using photos as markers is that images appeal to our vanity. We become quickly obsessed with accumulating experiences, capturing them in photos, and publicly displaying our photos as trophies. If we aren’t careful, our Facebook pages and blogs can become trophy cases of our own accomplishments: Me, on a church mission trip, lumped in with a group of smiling ethnic children.”

Grace: God at Work: Common Grace by Jonathan Storment [required reading]

“The bad guy in the Christian story isn’t someone, it’s the broken reality that Jesus calls sin. And because of common grace we can see God working through people outside of our tribe, our immediate community, or our faith. We can see the image of God in everyone.”

Hope, immigration, mercy, North Korea, pain, & suffering: Hyeonseo Lee: My Escape from North Korea [12 min. video clip; required viewing]

“… one day, in 1995, my Mom brought home a letter from a coworker’s sister. It read, ‘When you read this, all five family members will not exist in this world, because we haven’t eaten in the past two weeks. We are lying on the floor together, and our bodies are so week, we are ready to die.’”

Ministry, relationships, & time management: How Does a Pastor Interact With Those Who Seek to Monopolize His Time on Sunday?

“It is one of the great dilemmas every Sunday for the pastor.  Who do I speak with and for how long?  Most pastors stand at a doorway after the morning service to greet those who are leaving.  Others stay down front inviting folks to come and speak with the pastor to ask questions about the sermon.  It is a constant juggling match that most pastors feel they fail at most of the time. What adds to the madness is the person who aggressively hunts the pastor down after the service and feels entitled to his undivided attention for a long time.”

Worship: Your Worship Service is B-O-R-I-N-G!

“There’s a reason your church isn’t more creative. … most churches are boring because of The Olive Garden Problem.”

Americanism, culture, & politics: A Political Rant Born From a Deeper Theological Conviction than “Americanism”

“I’ve seen several posts on social media advocating a picture as a “way forward” in terms of political policy. It looks like this … What I want to do is interact with these ideas as a Christian who takes Scripture seriously and who is more committed to the kingdom of God than to a specific country/government. I intend to provide a ‘play by play’ through each of the statements …”

 

this went thru my mind

 

Atonement: What DID Jesus Do? The Atonement Symposium Videos Now Online

[Videos featuring Scot McKnight, J. Daniel Kirk, Leanne Van Dyk, and Vincent Bacote]

Christian faith, idolatry, nationalism, patriotism & the United States: * Are You Anti-American? by Greg Boyd [essential viewing; 2 1/2 min. video]; * Nationalism: The Nationalistic Corruption of Worship in America by Craig M. Watts

* “I am not anti-American. … What I am is, I want to be kingdom. And that means I want to be trans-national in my perspective. … What I’m impassioned about is that followers of Jesus don’t become co-opted by the nationalism of a country, or by any other political or national agenda. And the history of the church is that going on, and on, and on. … It’s so important; I think it’s so, so, so so important that we understand the kingdom of God looks like Jesus, dying on the cross for the people who are putting him there … The kingdoms of this world look other than that. They look like America, or China, or Russia. They’re always some version of Caesar. … In America, precisely because it gives us more freedoms than most other countries, we have to guard against the temptation that identify it as anything more than a good country that gives us some good rights and some good privileges.”

* “… if there has been little serious conflict in the United States between Christian devotion and American allegiance it is not due to some Christian nature of America that some people imagine exists. Instead this is an indication of the extent that the church has been conformed to American ideals, interests and identity. No clear distinction between being American and being Christian is even a possibility because the two have become one in the hearts of many. The God being worshiped is the American God and the nation they love is in some fashion God’s nation. Consequently, many Christians find it incomprehensible that incorporating the rituals of America into the worship of the church could be anything other than a positive, edifying practice.”

Church & generations: How to Connect Different Age Groups Within the Congregation by Matt Dabbs

“LIFE Groups – the vast majority of our LIFE groups are inter-generational. … it is good to have a mix of different types of groups in small group ministry and inter-generational is a big part of that.”

Contribution, electronic giving & worship: I Need Your Ideas by Ed Stetzer

” Does your church offer online giving and, if so, how do you incorporate it into worship?”

Gospel & kingdom: * Paul’s “Gospel” Ministry in Romans by Tim Gombis [required reading]; * The Ugly Beauty of the Kingdom of God by Kurt Willems

* “Paul’s conception of the gospel … is not merely the tidy presentation that gets one into the Christian faith. According to Paul’s gospel conception, God is at work to restore creation.”

* “The cross is ugly, but the wonder of the kingdom is that God takes on ugliness and uses it as the ultimate example of beauty.”

Evangelism, Hispanics, immigration Latinos & outreach: It’s Time to Reach Out to Immigrants by Tim Archer

“… let me encourage churches to get ahead of the curve. Those churches that reached out to immigrants during Reagan’s amnesty program are the ones that today are making important inroads into the Latino community. Lay aside your political feelings and think about the ministry possibilities. This could well be the critical time.”

Learning & understanding: Questions vs. Assertions by James McGrath

“Confident assertions often weigh us down and tie us to ways of thinking that often are not as well founded as we initially assumed. Questions raise us up to discover new things that we could never have if we refused to ask them. Even if the questioning leads us to conclude that what we thought initially was correct, we are better for having asked.”

Les Misérables: * The Miserable by Casey Picker; * On Forgiveness and Escaping the Past by John Byron

* “True love isn’t a butterfly feeling, but an action with skin and bones. And it’s not just something we do for people we are attracted to or who are lovable to us, it’s something we extend to all who are around us. It means having eyes to see the broken and the hurting around us, a heart that feels compassion for them, and hands that are willing to give them the grace that they need.”

* “… what caught my attention this time was the struggle between being forgiven and escaping the past.”