links: this went thru my mind

Following are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful.

Archaeology, Israel & Jerusalem: Nose Falls Off the Skull of Gordon’s Calvary

“Visitors to the Garden Tomb of Jerusalem are usually shown the “Skull” identified by Charles Gordon as part of the case that this spot may be the authentic site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. On February 20 the bridge of the skull’s nose collapsed during a storm.”

Churches of Christ & church decline: The 2015 Churches of Christ in the United States

“… the average congregation size has declined … to 124 adherents per congregation. … The Christian Chronicle reports that the same figures reflect a 7.8% decline in membership since 1990, reflecting about 100,443 souls. … The 1990s were a time of plateaued growth … — essentially flat, even though it was a time of rapid population growth. … the rate of decline is accelerating. A lot. … The loss of members, adherents, and congregations is … doubling roughly every 15 to 20 years. … During this same period, the population of the United States has grown … the nation is growing at twice the rate at which the Churches of Christ are declining.”

Distraction, faith & focus: The Wheelchair or the Throne [required reading]

“Our enemy is an expert at distraction. If he can get our eyes off that throne and on the pain and uncertainty of the world, then we are doomed to walk this life in fear and agony. He knows that and he loves every minute of it. … Refuse to focus on what you can see and set your minds on things above. Look away from the evil and drama that saturate our lives and fix your eyes on the King of Glory. Only there will you find healing and hope.”

Documentaries, history, Jesus & media: Finding Jesus: Review of Part One

“… as a docu-drama, I thought this was better than many of them, and I look forward to the remaining five episodes.”

Evangelism, expectations, honesty, hypocrisy, outreach, sensitivity & transparency: Seven Lies Christians Tell [essential reading]

“We mean well, but is the truth really on our lips when we evangelize? … We lie when we claim we are more confident than we really are. … We lie when we claim that unexplainable things are in fact explainable. … We lie when we don’t acknowledge our doubts within the drama of faith. … We lie when we pretend like the Bible doesn’t say some really nasty things when in fact it does. … We lie when we claim we understand other beliefs, faiths and world views. … We lie when we claim that all of our beliefs are a ’10.’ … Finally, and most importantly, we lie (insidious and barbaric lying) when we pretend like we really, really, really love the other person when in fact we don’t.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be thought-provoking and helpful reading:

Alliances, Bible interpretation, Israel, politics & war: Why Evangelicals Should Think Twice about Equating Modern Israel with Israel of the Bible

“Ancient Israel was not supposed to have a standing army. They weren’t supposed to stockpile weapons. There were no taxes to fund a permanent military. Israel’s rulers were forbidden from amassing large numbers of horses (Deuteronomy 17:16-17)—which was about as close as you could get to an arms race in the ancient Near East. Israel’s king was not supposed to make foreign military alliances. God stipulated that Israel should remain militarily weak so they would learn to trust him for protection.”

Benevolence, community, evangelism, & outreach: Instead of a Coffee Shop How About a Laundromat?

“… what would be a good third space for a poor neighborhood like the one surrounding our church? A place that would serve the neighborhood but could also be a place where people would spend time talking and forming relationships? My idea has always been for our church to run laundromat.”

Faith & prayer: 11 Brother Lawrence Quotes that Will Challenge How You Practice Faith

“After a dramatic religious conversion, young soldier Nicholas Herman decided to devote his life to following God and learning more about Christ. He joined a monastery and took the name Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. There, he spent the rest of his life working in a kitchen and repairing his brothers’ sandals. But during his decades of doing seemingly menial jobs, Brother Lawrence discovered a profound truth about having a relationship with God: Experiencing His presence can—and should—happen everywhere.”

God’s character, justice & vengeance: Deconstructing the Bully God – N.T. Wright

“…  love, faced with rejection, overcomes it with yet more love.”

Non-violence & violence: Does the Bible Teach Total Non-Violence? [essential reading]

“If you honestly, carefully, and with an open mind study the following passages, I believe you’ll agree that the teaching against violence for Kingdom people is as clear as any teaching in the Bible could ever be. I’ll break this sampling of passages (the list isn’t at all exhaustive) into three categories, Old Testament, teachings of Jesus and teachings in the rest of the New Testament.”

links: this went thru my mind

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

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.