“… be brave, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16.13 CEB)
“… be brave, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16.13 CEB)
Christian perception & persecution: * The Difference Between Persecution and Being Corrected by Robert Cargill; * Christians and Persecution, Then and Now by James McGrath [required reading]
* “Just because you didn’t get what you want doesn’t mean that you are ‘persecuted.’ It means you can’t have everything.”
* “American Christians have no idea what they are talking about when they cry persecution. And as someone married to a Romanian, and thus who experienced something which, if still not like Nero’s time, was far more truly persecution than what most Americans have ever experienced, I do not find it merely inaccurate. I find it offensive. It is cheapening the term and thereby minimizing the plight of those who really do face persecution.”
Confrontation, courage & fear: Courage is Not the Absence of Fear by Michael Hyatt
“Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.”
Facebook: Facebook’s Privacy Settings
“With the latest privacy update, however, Facebook has made it easier to find some of the most important privacy settings. When you’re logged into Facebook, you’ll notice a new lock icon with three horizontal lines in the top toolbar.”
Noise, silence, silent retreats & stress: The Buzz on Silent Retreats
“If you feel bombarded by emails, phone calls, text messages and the daily stress that comes with them, there could be a solution for you. Some people have found relief in perfect silence.”
“If every petitionary prayer were answered on the time specified by the petitioner, God might even be thought of as an instrument or tool for earthly benefits.”
NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Nov. 18. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: Grow a Spine. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides.
To explore what it means to develop a spine and to devote it to God.
I’m writing these things to you so … you’ll know how you should behave in God’s household. It is the church of the living God and the backbone and support of the truth. Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3.14b-16 CEB)
Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.
1. Here’s a sanctified chance to moan a bit. Do you have back trouble? If so, tell us about it. What’s it like, how does it affect what you do, etc.
2. Tell us about some “aggie-engineering” (sorry Aggies; perhaps I should have said “a Rube Goldberg device”) you used to hold something together one time. Think “over-abundance of duct tape,” etc. How’d that work out for you?
These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.
1. vs. 15 – Compare the wording here in several versions. Thoughts? What is the backbone and support of the truth?
2. vs. 15b – What is “the truth” Paul has reference to here? Answer in context.
3. vs. 15a,16 – How is it that the truths expressed in vs. 16 – “the mystery of godliness” – relate to our knowing how to “behave in God’s household?”
These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.
1. If truth is truth, how is it truth needs any “backbone” or “support?”
2. What singular item of the six aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ – “the mystery of godliness” (vs. 16) – do you think of most often? Why? Least often? Why?
3. What does it do for you to know that God is counting on you to courageously and consistently support with your life what he defines as “the truth” in this world?
4. How have you seen the church powerfully living out some of God’s truth?
5. Someone tells you that all “truth” is subjective? How would you respond?
6. Pray together as a group for God’s people – yourself included – to have discernment for what truly matters, what does not, and to have a strong spine for the former.
Apologizing: Courageous Leaders Don’t Make Excuses…They Apologize
“Because so many of us have a hard time apologizing, I thought it might be helpful to have an ‘apology primer.’ Here you go …”
Church, parenting & sports: Are You Skipping Church for Your Kids’ Sports? by Joy Fisher [required reading]
“Each year, 35 million children (ages 5 to 18) suit up for organized sports. When they suit up is sometimes a gray area for Christian families. Regular church attendance is a must for parents who want their kids to put God first in their lives. So what impact does skipping church for sports have on that worthy goal?”
Courage & sacrifice: Ajith Fernando: On the Anvil of Suffering by Tim Stafford
“Offered his dream job in the United States, Fernando opted to stay in war-torn Sri Lanka, a decision that has made all the difference for the cause of Christ.”
Jesus, race & the U.S.: Deconstructing the Whiteness of Christ
“When we see the traditional images of Jesus as a blondish, blue-eyed European, where do those depictions stem from historically? … these images were not present in British America. Only after the United States became a new nation did Americans begin producing images of Jesus. He was not blue eyed at first, and his hair was brown. He was made white in this form at exactly the moment Americans were buying and selling more slaves and justifying the expropriation of Native American lands in the Southwest. In many ways, making Jesus white was an effort to sanctify these goals for land, power, and authority. … Jesus was first mass-produced in the United States in the early 1800s, but it was not until after the Civil War that his being white became an object of widespread discussion.”
Prayer & understanding your Bible: The Role of Prayer in Bible Interpretation
“For a man solemnly to undertake the interpretation of any portion of Scripture without invocation of God, to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from any one who thus proudly engages in a work so much above his ability.”
Reflection & wonder: What I Found in My Pocket by G.K. Chesterton [required reading]
“… I deny most energetically that anything is, or can be, uninteresting.”
This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is courage. The week’s readings are:
This week’s memory verse is: “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.” (Acts 14.22b)
David … chose five smooth stones from the streambed. He put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag and with sling in hand went out to the Philistine. (1 Samuel 17.40 CEB)
Acts 6-7 speaks of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Following is the account of his death:
But Stephen, enabled by the Holy Spirit, stared into heaven and saw God’s majesty and Jesus standing at God’s right side. He exclaimed, “Look! I can see heaven on display and the Human One standing at God’s right side!” At this, they shrieked and covered their ears. Together, they charged at him, threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses placed their coats in the care of a young man named Saul. As they battered him with stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, accept my life!” Falling to his knees, he shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” Then he died. (Acts 7:55-60 CEB)
What moves you about this account? Is it the vision God grants Stephen? Perhap it’s Stephen’s faith? Or maybe it’s his courage and conviction? His prayer for the forgiveness of his murderers?
“Look! I can see heaven on display and the Human One standing at God’s right side!” (Acts 7:55 CEB)
Does this statement sound familiar to you? It likely reminds you of something Jesus said as he was under review, and about to be sentenced to death, by this same group:
… the high priest asked, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed one?” Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Human One sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.” … They all condemned him. “He deserves to die!” (Mark 14:61b-62,64b CEB)
Stephen’s words follow the path of his Lord’s words. And Jesus’ words and Stephen’s words find their roots in the words of Daniel’s prophetic vision:
… I suddenly saw one like a human being coming with the heavenly clouds. He came to the ancient one … [and] rule, glory, and kingship were given to him … (Daniel 7:13-14a CEB)
Now I notice this account concerning Stephen (Acts 6-7) and the preceding account concerning the perplexed crowd (yesterday’s post on John 12) for us to notice this one thing: everything turns on whether a person recognizes Jesus as “the Human One.”
You can be like one of the crowd or the court – filled with wrong expectations – and you’ll miss “the Human One.” Or you can be like Stephen – filled with faith and recognizing Jesus for who he is, the Human One from God. People committed to Jesus see Jesus for who he is, while those who are looking out for themselves can’t see God’s “Human One” standing right in front of them.
God, you hear me ask of you often for greater conviction, courage, commitment, and compassion. You tell me these things will be mine if I see the Human One for who he is and keep my eyes on him. Today, Father, that is what I will do. Amen.