links: this went thru my mind

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Here are links to five articles I consider interesting and helpful for thought.

American history, memory, myth & religion: Why 1940s America Wasn’t as Religious as You Think — the Rise and Fall of American Religion

“It’s common for people to believe that religion was always more vibrant in the past. Earlier generations were always more religious than we are, right? Not always. Religiosity can rise and fall just like other things do over time. In fact, America of the 1940s was about as religious as America today.”

Bethlehem, nativity scenes & the birth of Jesus: Bethlehem – the Manger and the Inn

“What actually did a stable look like in the time of Christ?”

Church shopping: ‘It Meets My Needs’ and Other Bad Reasons for Choosing a Church

“If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice.”

God, love, punishment & suffering: Did God Love the Egyptians?

“Did God love the Egyptians when he struck Egypt with plagues? In the larger biblical narrative, the answer is obviously yes. The prophet Isaiah later prophesies about judgments on Egypt (Isa 19:1-17, 22; akin to judgments he also prophesies against Israel); as a result, Egyptians will turn to God and they will become part of God’s people alongside Israel (19:18-25). In the law of Moses, Israelites are forbidden to despise Egyptians, because Israel’s ancestors found refuge in Egypt (Deut 23:7).”

Judging: Fellowship & Judgment

“‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’ (Luke 6:37) These instructions are more specific iterations of the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), if you think about it.”

eluding our idols: 20 questions on 1 John 1.5-2.6

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This coming Sunday (Dec. 14) at 9:00 a.m., some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue a study of John’s letters entitled Eluding Our Idols. To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, following is: (a) the text of 1 John 1.5-2.6 and (b) twenty questions and exercises go along with this reading.

receiving this word in our mind

1.5 This is the message that we have heard from him and announce to you: “God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.” 6 If we claim, “We have fellowship with him,” and live in the darkness, we are lying and do not act truthfully. 7 But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. 8 If we claim, “We don’t have any sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. 10 If we claim, “We have never sinned,” we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

2.1 My little children, I’m writing these things to you so that you don’t sin. But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. 2 He is God’s way of dealing with our sins, not only ours but the sins of the whole world. 3 This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. 4 The one who claims, “I know him,” while not keeping his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this person. 5 But the love of God is truly perfected in whoever keeps his word. This is how we know we are in him. 6 The one who claims to remain in him ought to live in the same way as he lived.

wrestling with this word in our mind

1. In this text (1.5-2.6), underscore every use of the word “in.” What is “in” God, and what is not? What can be “in” us and what can we be “in?”

2. What sort of “claims” are made in this passage. To know, note every occurrence of the appearances of the word “claim” in 1.5-2.6.

3. There is “no darkness in him [God] at all.” (1.5b) What are some of the “dark” things you sometimes hear people claim God is about?

4. God is light (1.5) and we’re called to “live in the light” (1.7). What does someone look like if they’re “living in the light?”

5. Fellowship with God (1.6) goes hand-in-hand with fellowship with each other (1.7). It’s not a matter of the former being essential and the latter being optional. How so?

6. Blood is a tangible thing, but sin is not. (1.7) And so, when John says it is Jesus’ “blood” that cleanses us from sin, what is John saying? That is, are we to understand the word “blood” literally here or are we to take it figuratively, like a metaphor for something else?

7. There is no sin too big for God to forgive us of and he can cleanse us of all wrong doing. (1.7,9) What does this truth do for your heart and spirit as well as your outlook and perspective?

8. Who in their right mind would claim to not have any sin or to have never sinned?! (1.8,10) Further, study what commentators and scholars say about who is being spoken of in these verses.

9. We can sometimes deceive others, but how is it that we can “deceive ourselves?” (1.8) What does this tell you about the power of sin and the weakness of human beings?

10. What is “the truth?” (1.8; 2.4) Make sure your answer fits John’s thinking and usage in this context.

11. The Greek word translated “confess” in 1.9 is a present infinitive, which means John is telling us that confession is an ongoing, habitual, ceaseless action for the Christian; it’s anything but a ‘one and done’ sort of thing. How is it that confession is a necessary habit for a healthy relationship with God and others? And what sort of things need to be in place in a person’s spirit so that confession can happen?

12. John writes so that his readers won’t sin (2.1). Turn that around and ponder it: your weapon with which to repel sin and your tool with which to ramp up a life of holiness is to read. So, how are you coming along with that? Tell us a bit about your reading habits regarding Scripture and some of your successes and failures with such.

13. Jesus is Christ is our “advocate” with the Father. (2.1) With the aid of BibleGateway (biblegateway.com) or a similar site, compare the rendering of the word “advocate” here in the CEB with other English translations such as the NCV, NIRV, The Message, and The Voice. What image of Jesus Christ is being placed here before us? What does this image say about us? What does it say about Jesus and what he does/will do?

14. How is the phrase “… God’s way of dealing with our sins …” in 2.2 (CEB) translated in other renderings? Compare the GNT, NASB, NIV, and RSV.

15. After reading 2.2, consider this: how does the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ differ from the many sacrifices commanded of the Jewish people under the Old Covenant?

16. Jesus Christ is God’s solution for dealing with “the sins of the whole world.” (2.2) What does this tell you about Jesus Christ? Does this mean every person needs to be a Christian or does it mean that whoever God forgives and accepts, he does so on the basis of Christ’s work for them? Explain.

17. How do we know that we know God? (2.3)

18. No one can keep God’s commandments perfectly. And so, can we ever say that we “know” God or can God’s love ever be perfected in us? (2.4-6)

19. “… live in the same way as he lived.” (2.6) Really? How far is a person supposed to go with that statement? What phrase or concept in the immediate context of this statement serves as good commentary or definition of what John meant when he said “live in the same way as he lived?”

20. Our right standing with God isn’t based on our ability to make something like a plausible sounding claim of having no real sin in our life, rather that we have a keen sense of our dependency on the work and blood of Jesus Christ for us. How can a Christian nurture the development of such a mind as that?

links: this went thru my mind

 

ALS & Lou Gehrig: Put Down That Bucket of Ice Water. Read Lou Gehrig’s Story. Learn About the Science of ALS. Then Donate.

“If social pressure isn’t enough to convince you to donate to ALS research, the heart-wrenching story of Lou Gehrig and the science behind the illness that shares his name should be.”

C-sections, healthcare & pregnancy: The Cesarean-Industrial Complex

“New research finds that compared with those born vaginally, C-section babies go on to have a  22 percent higher risk of obesity, nearly double the risk of celiac disease, a 20 percent higher risk of asthma and type 1 diabetes, and up to an 800 percent higher risk of sensitivity to allergens.”

Churches of Christ, division & fellowship: * What Makes a Church a Church of Christ?; * Top 10 Ways Churches of Christ in America Can Survive and Thrive in the “4th Great Awakening” [essential reading]

* “…  if we are serious about letting the Bible draw the lines, set the standard and call the shots then we need to be as gracious as what we find in scripture and stop saying people aren’t Christians or churches aren’t really churches over matters as serious as anything on this list or as trivial as the crazy things people divide and disfellowship over until they get it all perfect.”

* “How can we look through this cultural maelstrom and not only survive, but thrive?”

Expectations, honesty, parenting & reality: Lies We Tell Our Kids

“When we say they’re smart … they assume school should require little effort. When we suggest they’re ‘amazing’ … they wonder why everyone doesn’t adore them and want to be around them. When we tell them they’re gifted … they get confused that people won’t pay big money for their talent. When we say they’re awesome at their sport … they don’t understand why talent scouts don’t recruit them.”

LIFE group guide: covering the Spirit’s medley

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 16) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Covering the Spirit’s Medley”) works out of Ephesians 5.18-21 and is the third in a three-part series entitled Sing!

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 stress the significance of singing in our life together as seekers of God.

Revelation

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

• Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 NRSV)

• Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 NIV)

• Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 CEB)

• Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life. When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart. Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to thank God the Father for everything. Honor Christ and put others first. (Ephesians 5.18-21 CEV)

Relation

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

1. Music is on that you like. And so, you [choose one]: (a) bob your head, (b) tap your foot, or (c) drum your fingers?

2. Name a song you think has been “covered” better than it was performed by the original band.

Research

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

1. Using the translations above, what are synonyms for “debauchery” (vs. 18)?

2. Using the text above, in what four specific ways are Christians to be “be filled with the Spirit”?

3. Using the text above, ID: (a) what Christians do to each other and (b) what they do to God.

4. Describe the roles (a) God our Father, (b) Jesus Christ, and (c) the Spirit play in the text 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. How is being “drunk with wine” and “filled with the Spirit” similar? How do they differ?

2. Your life is a song. How does the music you’ve made the week before affect Sunday singing?

3. Over the long haul, which most powerfully influences your personal faith: sermons or songs?

4. How can you use Christian music/spiritual songs to reach out to those who are yet to believe?

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. Learn a new, spiritual song. Learn it so well you can easily sing all of it by memory. Repeat.

2. Carefully consider the words of several songs in our hymnal. Use such as prompts for prayer.

LIFE group guide: come together anyway

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Jan. 12). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the second in a series entitled Gatherings. This series will run through the month of January.

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 gathering together as a church.

Revelation

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

• I have a serious concern to bring up with you … I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. I bring this up because some … brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.” (1 Corinthians 1.10-12)

• Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? (1 Corinthians 3.1-3)

• … I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. (1 Corinthians 11.17-19)

Relation

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

1. What are the main excuses you hear folks offer for not “going to church?”

2. Name something you deeply love and appreciate about our church family.

Research

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

1. Scan 1 Corinthians. Make a list of the most obvious sins in the Corinthian church.

2. Scan 1 Cor. Make a list of the apostle Paul’s “prescriptions” for the Corinthians’ “sin sickness.”

Reflection

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

1. Every sin we commit, private and public, always affects the whole church.” Discuss.

2. If it were not for the good I’ve experienced in the life of the church I would be __________.

3. A friend says “I quit church due to all the hypocrisy.” A constructive response?

4. What does truly “healthy talk” about sin in each other’s lives sound like?

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. Work at developing a mind and way that is always aware of, and sensitive to, the unchurched.

2. Deliberately encourage two people this week: one who has “quit church” and one who has not.