links: this went thru my mind

 

Contribution, generosity, giving, offering & tips: * Why We Give (or Don’t) [required reading]; * Is It Stealing From God to Split Your Tithe Between the Church and Other Charities?

* “Why do we give to others? Why do we choose not to? New research seeking answers to these questions has important implications for Christians. For example, not all of our giving is altruistic.”

* “Three views on what it means to give faithfully.”

Education, income, social injustice, wages & work: What’s Wrong With This Picture? [infographic]

“Low-wage-workers are far more educated than they were in 1968 … but we’re paying them less.”

Nonviolence: She Survived a Standoff with a Gunman — Could You? [essential reading]

“Now she is the only one standing between the gunman and 800 children at an elementary school just outside Atlanta. Tuff began her day by reading Psalms 23: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’”

Stress: * How Couples Can Cope with Professional Stress; * When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t; * The Best Way to Defuse Your Stress; * What to Do When You Can’t Control Your Stress

* “Each couple will have to find their own solutions, but learning to cope with stress together is a fundamental skill for thriving at work and at home.”

* “Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away.”

* “Think of stress as a monster, who lives in your body and feeds on uncertainty. The monster’s most satisfying meal starts with the sentence: ‘What will happen if … ?’”

* “When your anxious thoughts come at you, rather than grappling with them, you let them just be. Observe them.  Notice them. And simply direct your attention to something other than your thoughts, such as your breath. This may not be easy at first, but if you are having one of those days, it is likely to be much more successful before any meeting that provokes anxiety in anticipation of it. Also, practice makes perfect. If you practice this method often, you are likely to get better at it over time.”

LIFE group guide: Why Give? The Gladness of Giving

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 23) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the fourth in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 giving of our means.

Revelation

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

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” [Psalm 112.9]

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9.6-15 NIV)

Relation

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

1. Tell us of a time where you have personally experienced either of the truths of vs. 7.

2. Relate an instance in which you saw a child put something in the offering plate.

Research

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

1. Every sentence of the ten verses above describes some reason to rejoice. Note how so.

2. Read Ps. 112. How is it commentary on Ps. 111.10? What in it makes you recall Ps. 1?

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 does giving as a Christian differ from giving on the part of one yet to believe?

2. What does God give to enable our giving? What does God receive from it?

3. Which is greater: to meet a person’s needs or to enable them to thank and praise God?

4. What would it look like for a Christian to “freely scatter their gifts to the poor?”

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. List the good you think will come thru your next offering. Give the list to God in prayer.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible interpretation: My Problem With the Bible [essential reading]

“I have a problem with the Bible, but all is not lost. I just need to read it standing on my head. I need to change my perspective. If I can accept that the Bible is trying to lift up those who are unlike me, then perhaps I can read the Bible right.”

Church, language, race & worship: 5 Reasons People Avoid Visiting A Bilingual Service

“I still have people tell me: ‘I would visit the bilingual service, but I’m not bilingual.’ Explanations about how one only needs to know either one of the two languages used seem to fall on deaf ears.”

Discipleship, generosity, giving, minimalist, possessions & selflessness: 5 Practices Toward A More Radical Christian Life [essential reading]

“The older I get the more convinced I become that as rich Americans, you and I are at a tremendous disadvantage to experiencing the depths of the Kingdom Jesus came to inaugurate. … While I’ve traveled to more than 40 countries and spent nearly 8 years living outside the US, it has been my time in India (and more specifically my time in the slums and brothel areas) that has most motivated me to rid myself of American materialism so that I’m free to embrace the Kingdom Jesus spoke of.”

Free will & God: Open Theism Simplified

“Why would Open Theists think that God knows the future as partly composed of possibilities, and not only a future of settled facts in the mind of God?”

Immigration, love & racism: If People Excluded “Illegal Immigrants”, We Wouldn’t Have Jesus

“Under God’s law, Ruth was an ‘illegal’ and to be excluded– but thankfully, she was not. A man named Boaz comes along and becomes the hero of the story by ignoring a law that was ultimately unloving. Boaz marries Ruth, and they have a family. Like Jesus demonstrated by healing on the Sabbath, Boaz realized that it’s better to love than to obey the law. … We only have Jesus because someone loved an ‘illegal’ immigrant.”

Means & provision: If God Will Provide, Why Are My Means So Meager?

“Without a trust that God will provide, it will seem we work harder and get less.”

Tithing: * There’s More to Tithing Than 10%; * Tithing for New Covenant Believers–Yes or No?; * Why I Tithe – Part 1

* “Even if you give 10 percent faithfully, it doesn’t mean you’ll come away with the right perspective about the other 90 percent.”

* “God is pleased when our giving reflects our love for Him regardless of the percentage or amount.”

* “While I respect and understand differing perspectives. I believe the Bible teaches we are to offer God the first-fruits of our income. Gross, not net.”

LIFE group guide: giving: when give? adding grit to your giving

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 16) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the third in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 giving of our means.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon. Words underlined are stressed in the Greek.

• Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16.1-3 NRSV)

• Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” [Ex. 16.18] (2 Corinthians 8.10b-15 NIV)

Relation

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

1. Name something, big or small, that you saved up for a while to acquire or do.

2. On a scale of 0-100, score yourself as to how you are about finishing things you start.

Research

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

1. Read more regarding “the collection” spoken of here: Rom. 15.26-29 and Gal. 2.1-10.

2. Read 1 Cor. 16.1-3 closely. When are the funds saved? When is the money collected?

3. Read Ex. 16.1-18 (the context of the quotation of Ex. 16.15 in 2 Cor. 8.15).

Reflection

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

1. What is the significance of saving funds specifically “on the first day of every week”?

2. Some say: “This text teaches we can only give to ‘the saints.’” How do you respond?

3. Nowhere is “God” or “Jesus” named in the texts above. Where is God in all of this?

4. “The goal is equality.” What would it look like if Christians achieved this goal?

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. Over the next four months, “put aside and save” some money to give to a ministry in this church family you believe has some needs (i.e. – your own “special contribution”).

LIFE group guide: what gives? the goal of our giving

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 9) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the second in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 giving of our means.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon. Words underlined are stressed in the Greek.

• … we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8.1-9 NIV)

• Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9.7 CEB)

Relation

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

1. As a child, what was a toy you had that you never wanted to share?

2. Tell us of something you gave or shared one time that gave you great joy to do.

Research

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

1. To whom were the Macedonian & Corinthian Christians giving? What was the need?

2. What is stated in the texts above as their source and their motivation of giving?

3. What exactly was God’s “grace” (2 Cor. 8.1) to the Corinthian Christians? What was Christ’s “grace” to them (2 Cor. 8.9)?

Reflection

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

1. We think of prayer and Scripture reading as spiritual disciplines. How is giving such?

2. How is “overflowing joy” (8.2) and “cheerfulness” (9.7) connected with godly giving?

3. What can a Christian do to nurture their growth of a healthy, happy heart for giving?

Response

This idea/suggestion is for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out this message in the coming days.

1. Thoughtfully and carefully review and evaluate the history of your giving through the years and where you currently stand in your participation and maturing in this grace.

LIFE group guide: who gives? our giving God!

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 2) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the first in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 giving of our means.

Revelation

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

• the Lord God … gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Ps. 84.11 NLT)

• Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him. (Dan. 2.20-22 NRSV)

• … as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5.21 RSV)

• Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age … (Gal. 1.3-4 NIV)

• … our great God and savior Jesus Christ … gave himself for us in order to rescue us from every kind of lawless behavior, and cleanse a special people for himself who are eager to do good actions. (Titus 2.13b-14 CEB)

• God is against the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. (1 Pet. 5.5 NCV; cf. Prov. 3.34)

Relation

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

1. When I think of the qualities of God, I think of God as being ____________.”

2. “Whenever I gladly and freely give to meet a genuine need, I feel ____________.”

Research

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

1. Using only the Scripture texts above, what can we say we believe God has given?

2. Discuss Psalm 84.11. What does it mean? What does it not mean?

Reflection

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

1. Why does God give his rebellious creation anything at all, and to what end? Where would his creation be without his constant giving?

2. “It’s hard for me to see God as “giving” whenever I see _____. I handle this by _____.”

3. Why does God often elect to give “through” people, partnering with them in blessing?

4. What does God’s gift of Christ to us say to you? Try to describe this indescribable gift.

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 all you recall God has given (i.e. – literally count your blessings) and pray.

2. Choose to read any five psalms from the book of Psalms. Note what God is said to have already given and/or is being asked to give, be it explicitly stated or implied.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Adultery: The United States of Adultery

[This is an interactive map. Houston is #2 in the country, beat out only by three-time winner Washington D.C.]

Birth of Jesus & Christmas: * Baby Jesus Meek and Mild, Overthrew an Empire – Wild!; * Is There A Dragon In Your Nativity Set?

* “May your Christmas be a time when you ponder the summons of a subversive kingdom. May you choose to peacefully follow the baby in the manger to the cross and through resurrection, proclaiming with the angels that a new era has begun; an era when the people of God can undo the works of oppressive ‘empires.’ Merry Christmas.”

* “Every nativity set needs a red dragon. If you don’t remember that part of the story, you might want to read chapter 12 of Revelation.”

China, Christianity & persecution: China’s Hardship-Hardened Church

“Vibrant amid persecution, it seeks faithfulness over freedom.”

Contribution, generosity, giving, possessions, sacrifice, stewardship & wealth: The Scary Truth About Christian Giving

“Over the past 40 years, self-identified evangelicals have given between 2 and 3 percent of their incomes to churches and Christian organizations. Stewardship is a crucial part of the Christian life, and according to these figures, it is sadly lacking.”

Criticism, hatred & humility: Haters

“Never criticize what God is blessing.”

Firearms & guns: Gun Country

“They bring families together and they tear them apart. They kill innocent people and protect them. The United States continues to love and revile its hundreds of millions of firearms. Here is a look at that complicated  relationship, told through the personal stories of Americans.”

Insurance & the uninsured: Mapping Uninsured Americans

“Census data released Dec. 17 show where the uninsured live.”

Love & truth: 3 John: When Love is Abused

“He abused his power; he abused the love entrusted to him.”

Poor & poverty: In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary [required reading]

“Without the panoply of government benefits — like food stamps, subsidized school lunches and the earned-income tax credit, which provides extra money to household heads earning low wages — the nation’s poverty rate last year would have reached almost 31 percent, up from 25 percent in 1967, according to the research at Columbia.”

Warfare: The Great War’s Ominous Echoes

“… the era just before World War I, with its gas lighting and its horse-drawn carriages, seems very far-off, it is similar to ours — often unsettlingly so — in many ways.”