links: this went thru my mind

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Acceptance, evangelism, fellowship, forgiveness, hypocrisy, love, mercy, murder & outreach: He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God [essential reading]

“Mr. Dahmer left behind confused parents, dozens of distraught relatives of the victims, the traumatized city of Milwaukee — and this white-bearded minister, struggling still at 60 with the sense that he, too, had been condemned, for having the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil.”

Announcements & corporate worship gatherings: Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

“I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations.”

Capital punishment, death penalty, payback & revenge: Don’t Give Tsarnaev Death Penalty [required reading]

“Should we kill Tsarnaev? And the answer, despite the abhorrent nature of the crime, is simple: No, we should not. We are better than that. The fact is that the death penalty isn’t justice, it’s revenge.”

Choices, farming, generations, life, lifestyle, Millenials & priorities: A Young Generation Sees Greener Pastures In Agriculture

“America’s heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years. Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But, in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there’s new crop of farmers to thank for it.”

ISIS, money, Muslim, power, stereo-typing, terrorism & violence: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion [required reading]

“When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising Mohammed or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims. It’s like bank robbers wearing masks of presidents; we don’t really think Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush hit the Bank of America during their down time.”

links: this went thru my mind

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Archaeology, Assyrians, Iraq, Isis, Ninevah & terrorism: ISIS Threatens to Blow Up the Historical Walls of Nineveh

“Residents of the Bab Nergal area of Mosul said ISIS has informed them that it will blow up the walls of Nineveh with the start of operations to liberate Mosul by the Iraqi army. In the last month ISIS has seized the content of the cultural museum in Mosul as well as destroyed Assyrian monuments in the city, which ISIS claims “distort Islam.”

Blessings, communication, humility & witness: The One Things Christians Should Stop Saying [required reading]

“I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the ‘amen’ at the end of a prayer.”

Christianity, faith, government, kingdom & politics: 12 Reasons for Keeping the Kingdom of God Separate from Politics (parts 1 & 2) [essential reading]

“Jesus came to establish a kingdom that was not of this world.”

Evangelism, humility, listening, missions & outreach: Reverse Evangelism

“I really do believe that the Gospel is good news for everyone.  I just don’t think we know how good the news is until we do the hard work of listening and learning about what people’s hopes and dreams are.  And I have noticed that whenever I enter another culture, and understand it, even (or especially) when they don’t believe what I believe, that the Gospel just gets bigger for me.”

Marriage: Study Finds More Reasons to Get and Stay Married

“Social scientists have long known that married people tend to be happier, but they debate whether that is because marriage causes happiness or simply because happier people are more likely to get married. The new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, controlled for pre-marriage happiness levels.

“It concluded that being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single – particularly during the most stressful periods, like mid-life crises.”

LIFE group guide: love is a battlefield – being strong in the Lord (4)

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Sept. 14) 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.

• Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1.26-27 NLT)

• … from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5.16-21 CEB)

• Finally, 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 … 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. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6.10-12,18-20 NRSV)

• As, therefore, God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.  (Colossians 3.12-14 J.B. Phillips)

Relation

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

1. Pull out some cash or currency. Who’s likeness is depicted on it? How exactly did they represent our nation?

2. Have you served as an official representative of a group/organization? Tell us about the experience.

Research

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

1. Compare 2 Corinthians 5.16-20 and Ephesians 6.10-18. How can a Christian be an “ambassador” and a “soldier?”

2. Compare the wording of Colossians 3.12a in several English translations with the Phillips edition above.

Reflection

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

1. As a Christian, you are an ambassador representing King Jesus. How does that make you feel?

2. What does being Christ’s ambassador , his representative, have to do with spiritual warfare?

3. What does an “ambassador” seek to accomplish? What abilities and skills suit an ambassador well?

4. As the personal messenger (ambassador) of King Jesus, what is the message we carry and deliver?

5. “What we are when we aren’t consciously trying to represent Christ might influence most of all.” How?

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. Consider well the message of Christ you can share with someone who is yet to believe. Write it down so it can be said in 20 seconds.

2. Pursue God’s peace in your life. Do this for the sake of others, so that you can share the Prince of Peace.

links: this went thru my mind

Accountability & responsibility: The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

“Accountability … making, keeping, and managing agreements and expectations. … Responsibility … the feeling of ownership.”

ADHD, children, medicine & public schools: Why So Many kids Can’t Sit Still in School Today

“In the following post, Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist … suggests … another reason more children are being diagnosed with ADHD, whether or not they really have it: the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school.”

Community, inclusion, isolation, loneliness, relationships & violence: Sandy Hook Dad on What You Can Do Right Now to Help Prevent Violence

“… we should … do what we can to foster empathy; to create a world where no one feels invisible and ignored — least of all those who disproportionately fall victim to our collective failure to care enough to act.”

Discipleship, obedience & salvation: * Disciple; * Christ is Lord: What Does It Mean?

* “When Jesus describes discipleship, he does so in stunningly simple terms: teaching, obeying, and trusting.”

* “It’d be a pretty sick marriage if one spouse were to ask the other spouse, ‘What’s the minimal level I can be committed to my marriage vows without you divorcing me?’ Well, this is basically what we’re doing when we ask, ‘How submitted do I have to be to the Lord to be saved?'”

Evangelism & outreach: The Great Commission Means Sharing Christ’s Story, Not Yours

“We’re all about ‘sharing our testimonies’ and ‘telling our stories’ and recounting our ‘spiritual journey.’ … But there’s a subtle danger lurking here. Because of our emphasis on conversion stories and testimonies, we can unintentionally make people think that evangelism is the same thing as sharing your experience. We interpret The Great Commission’s ‘Go make disciples’ as ‘Go tell your story.’ They are not the same thing.”

Faith, military service, pacifism, unity & war: Christians Going to War

“The purpose of this blog is NOT to take a position, but to make a VERY IMPORTANT point. I have never heard a church to DIVIDE over the WAR ISSUE. Somehow we argue our points, and then continue to study and pray and work TOGETHER. But ironically we DIVIDE over many other questions. This does not make sense. At the very least, we need to be consistent. Through the centuries, the war issue has been important for some, and not for others. Human beings cannot agree on any issue. But Christians should love one another and love all people even when we disagree.”

Marriage: 5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Tie the Knot

“1. Does this person have integrity? … 2. Do I Respect This Person? … 3. Can I Continue to Respect and Love This Person if Their Most Annoying Habit or Significant Weakness Never Changes? … 4. Does This Person Deeply Love God? … 5. Does This Person Encourage Me in Word and in Action?”

Money & saving: 27 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving Money

“Think you can’t save? Think again. Sure, it seems like there’s not much wiggle room in your budget, due to the rising costs of basic necessities — but that’s all the more reason to have a slush fund. Fortunately, there are plenty of painless ways to siphon cash from even a fixed income.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Animals: Zoo Animals and Their Discontents

“The notion that animals think and feel may be rampant among pet owners, but it makes all kinds of scientific types uncomfortable. … That may be changing. A profusion of recent studies has shown animals to be far closer to us than we previously believed …”

Baptism: Six Things I Don’t Believe About Baptism

“… not an exhaustive list. But it’s a start.”

Church, evangelism, Nones & outreach: Five Toxic Church Environments Turning Away Nones

“… nones … They are currently the single fastest-growing religious group of our time and currently represent 20% of the US population.”

Discipleship & social media: Will Social Media Destroy Discipleship?

“The Internet becomes dangerous when it keeps us from deeply investing in real one-on-one relationships. God is an extremely relational God. He is one God in three persons. He is literally made up of relationship. We are created in His image. We are wired to be relational, to encourage, be with, and love other people. Discipleship is God’s joy and passion for His people. Discipleship is God’s plan for redemption.”

Hitler, home invasion, nonviolence, pacifism & self-defense: What If Hitler Invaded Your Home? [essential reading]

“Some trust in horses and chariots, some trust in Smith and Wesson, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Humility, ministry, preaching & weakness: A Word to Those Who Preach

“…  our role is to tell Him thank you for the ways He is choosing to use us to reach the world.  You most likely assume that you are not a big deal.  Good.  We aren’t. However, we are in His eyes when we walk in humility alongside the Spirit of Jesus.”