links: this went thru my mind

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Church, church attendance, churchlessness & secularization: Secularism Grows as More Christians Turn Churchless

“There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular attender at a house of worship. How these people think, pray and use their time is shifting away from a faith-based perspective. As a result, a churchless or secular worldview ‘is becoming its own social force.'”

Ebola, faith, fear, hysteria & panic: How Christians Should Respond to Ebola in the United States [required reading]

“Never did I expect or think that my mom would contract the disease, be airlifted to Emory University Hospital or undergo the ordeal she did. We are exceedingly thankful for God’s mercy and kindness towards us in all the ways he provided to secure mom’s recovery and health. In recent days we’ve heard and seen more news of other American contracting the virus and even here in the United States. Unfortunately there is a high degree of panic about this virus, even among Christians. But this isn’t the way it should be, especially for those of us who follow and trust Christ. For Christian’s this ‘panic’ about Ebola isn’t warranted. Let me explain …”

Ministry, mission & outreach: Competency Three: Find and Cultivate New Partners in Mission

“The first work of conversion for us to have a credible witness in the world will be our own. And here is our salvation: to believe with everything we have that God’s power and significance in the world can be fully expressed in the form of a servant.”

Ministry & preaching: The Metric of a Prophet [required reading]

“‘How will the prophet measure success? In a world where the church is increasingly taken with corporate metrics of growth and success what is the metric of the prophet? … It’s found in [Ezekiel] 2.4-5: “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says.” And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them.’ … They may listen. They may not listen. But the one thing they will know is this: A prophet lived among them. … This … is the only thing you can control. That when people look back at their lives they remember your words and life. They remember, perhaps from a long time ago, that they once knew a person who spoke truth to them. In a world full of thorns and scorpions they once knew a child of God. A man or a woman who spoke words of judgment and words of grace. They remember a prophet once lived among them.”

Spiritual formation & worship: When Worship Becomes Formative

“… worship is designed to accomplish four things: First, worship redefines our identity. Second, worship reorders our affections. Third, worship repatterns our imagination. Finally, worship reorients our life in the world. How does this all happen? What is going on in the worship that leads to these four elements? What are we doing in worship? What are we to be doing when we gather for worship?”

LIFE group guide: be brave!

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NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Oct. 26) 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.

A call to courage; a summons to live bravely in Christ’s name in a fearsome world.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … (Exodus 14.13 NIV)

• God says, “Because you are devoted to me, I’ll rescue you. I’ll protect you because you know my name. Whenever you cry out to me, I’ll answer. I’ll be with you in troubling times. I’ll save you and glorify you. I’ll fill you full with old age. I’ll show you my salvation.” (Psalm 91.14-16 CEB)

• … the righteous are as confident as a lion. (Proverbs 28.1 CEB)

• As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9.51 NIV)

• Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong. Everything should be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16.13-14 CEB)

• … the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid … (2 Timothy 1.7 NIV)

• Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. (Hebrews 11.32-34 CEB)

Relation

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

1. “I remember a situation in which I was brave. I __________.” Seriously or humorously.

2. Tell us about something you did that you even surprised yourself a bit that you did.

Research

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

1. Poll the group. What would test their bravery most: disease, destitution, or derision?

2. Read Psalm 27. What does it say to you about fear and courage?

Reflection

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

1. Is there such a thing as “good fear?” If so, differentiate “good fear” and “bad fear.”

2. Specifically, how do life’s three greatest things – faith, hope & love – inspire courage?

3. Share one of the most encouraging (pouring courage into) acts you’ve ever received.

4. I find I’m most willing to face the difficult or try what I’ve not tried before when I ___.

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. Make a list of the ways God “braved you up” to face difficult times. Then, thank him.

2. Get involved in a ministry you’ve either not engaged in before or it’s been awhile.

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.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Attitude, life, outlook & perspective: How to View the Struggles of Your Day

“In every situation, we can choose to think higher. We are not to live in denial of the rugged nor insulting terrain. Rather, we are to set our minds upon the many more elements that are going right.  In every case (note: every), conditions could be much worse; but they are not. I’ve encountered brutal take your breath away kinds of days. By His clear call, I have understood that even these could be worse.  Leading my mind to think upon the many issues going well has allowed God the room to prove His above point. Peace that cannot be explained … arrives.”

Change, fear, generations & the Holy Spirit: Why are We So Afraid of Change?

“Fear isn’t to be the church gauge. Trust in the Spirit is. Change is an ever-present trait of the Holy Spirit of God. Each generation needs to remember this as we strive to move forward in the most exciting kingdom ever!”

Communication, leadership, problems & relationships: A Culturally Intelligent Way of Handling the Elephant in the Room

“I’ve always been a fan of directly addressing the elephant in the room. I don’t enjoy conflict but I loathe avoiding it even more.”

Depression & mental illness: * Five Common Myths About Depression; * Mental Illness & The Church: An Interview with Amy Simpson

* “1. Depression is synonymous with sadness. … 2. Depression is a sign of mental weakness. … 3. Depression is always situational. … 4. Depression symptoms are all in your head. … 5. If you are diagnosed with depression, you’ll be on antidepressants the rest of your life.”

* “One of the most painful elements of mental illness is that it’s marked by isolation, which is exactly the opposite of what people need. Everybody needs community and loving friendship and a place where they belong. And one of the things people with mental illness most need is for this kind of loving community to tighten around them, not to loosen. This is one of the things the church can provide.”

Discipleship & faith: Kent Brantley: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Outs

“Who says that kind of thing in that moment?”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: Secret Drugs, Agonizing Deaths

“In the name of security, states are now withholding vital information about their death penalty procedures — from death row prisoners’ lawyers and from judges, whose stamp of approval they need to impose the ultimate sanction, as well as from the public, in whose name the sentence is carried out.”

Children, compassion, morality & parenting: Raising a Moral Child [essential reading]

“Despite the significance that it holds in our lives, teaching children to care about others is no simple task.”

Church: * The Church as a Hospice for the Dying [essential reading]; * What the Church May Need is What the Church Does Not Want

* “It seems to me that it’s better to think of the Church as a hospice, rather than as a hospital. … The Church as hospice makes good, Gospel sense. And, there are very practical implications in this metaphor as well. When people tell the pastor that they are leaving the church because their ‘needs’ aren’t being met, all the pastor has to do is remind them of what the Church is, and point out that their ‘needs’ are indeed being met: They’re being given an opportunity to die to their ‘needs’ in order to experience more of the resurrection life of Christ. So, the church really is meeting their needs; they just don’t know it.”

* “… I wonder if the Christian element in America has grown fat and sassy.  Have we fallen into a dangerous religion of indifferent slumber? Persecution may not be at our doorstep; but I do think it is traipsing up the sidewalk. This will never be the thing we want.  Yet, it may be the very thing needed to move us from our glut of mediocre indifference.”

Crucifixion: Roman Crucifixion Methods Reveal the History of Crucifixion

“… Hershel Shanks looks at evidence of Roman crucifixion methods as analyzed from the remains found in Jerusalem of a young man crucified in the first century A.D.”

Faith & science: 9 Groundbreaking Scientists Who Happened to Be Christians

“There’s a general sense that science and religion are two camps, and the two can never meet without fighting or, at the very least, stepping mighty carefully around each other’s views. There might be a very little bit of truth to that—a few noisy emissaries from both sides have been known to go out of their way to discredit the other. However, what is frequently lost in all this is that the history of science is rich with believing Christians, for whom the process of discovery did not jeopardize their faith, but enforced it.”

Fear: Do Not Let Fear be the CEO of the Church

“How many times have we said or at least heard, I’m afraid of what this might lead to?”

Passover: Passover as Jesus Knew It

“It was a joyous, celebratory occasion: work was temporarily stopped, families were reunited, food and wine were plentiful, and hopes and dreams were in the air. At the heart of the festival was a story: an account of a chosen people liberated from slavery centuries before through God’s gracious deliverance. But there was also a tragic irony: Israel was no longer free. This time the oppressors were not the Egyptians, but Rome. Together, these ideas created a lethal cocktail of deep religious yearnings, nationalism and resentment. ‘It is on these festive occasions that sedition is most likely to break out’ noted the historian Josephus wryly (War 1.88), and most of the riots recorded in his works seem to have occurred at Passover in particular.”

Prayer: Did Jesus Send a Mixed Message About Repetition in His Teaching About Prayer?

“… Jesus is talking about different things in these two teachings.”