links: this went thru my mind

 

Americanism, exceptionalism, idolatry, nationalism & the U.S.: Huckabee and the Heresy of Americanism [required reading]

“Americanism is a heresy; in certain respects it is simply idolatrous. Jesus, not James Madison, brought in the ‘new order of the ages.’”

Church attendance & church statistics: Stop Taking Attendance

“In every church that I have ever visited or served there has been an emphasis on the number of people that attend the morning worship services. After years in the ministry, I have come to the conclusion that the church needs to stop taking attendance — immediately.”

Free will & God: God Does Not Always Get What He Wants

“… God does not always get what he wants for he gave people free will. God created us with the capacity to receive and reflect his love back to him and to each other as well as toward the animal kingdom and the earth. But because we’re talking about love, God couldn’t pre-program us to cooperate with God’s plan. We have the capacity to thwart God’s will, within limits. And when we do, it breaks God’s heart.”

ISIS: A 13-Year-Old Witness to ISIS’ Beheadings, Crucifixion in Syria

“‘[They told me] if you prevent Mohammed from coming to the camp, we will cut off your head,’ his father …”

Time & work: Who’s in the Office? – The American Workday In One Graph

“… the government conducts an annual study called the that tracks how people spend their days.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Blessing, kingdom living & love: The Kingdom of God While Mowing the Lawn [essential reading]

“… the first task Jesus gave this disciples when he sent them out to serve and evangelize the world was to bless every house they came upon (Luke 10). This, he suggested, is our first and most basic act of loving service to the world. We are to be a people who simply express God’s love by blessing people. We are to agree with God that each and every person we see was worth Jesus dying for. And we express this first and foremost by blessing them.”

Brain, dementia, health & mental health: Brain Games that Could Pay Off in Retirement

“While the scientific community has more to learn, for now it’d be hard to go wrong finding a progressively challenging hobby that you enjoy, and that won’t break the bank. Park and her research team decided to focus on quilting and photography, but other activities they considered studying were learning a second language, learning a musical instrument, dancing and bridge.

“Physical exercise is also essential. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise improves memory and brain function, in party by increasing blood flow to the brain. Also, remember to shake things up every once in a while: Vary your workout, learn something new, visit new places. Said Small, ‘The brain loves novelty.'”

God, forgiveness, suffering & time: Is God Inside or Outside of Time?

“… does this mean that God can simultaneously view all moments in time and know what is going to happen in the future without infringing on human free will?”

Grief: 1 Things Pastors Should Never Say to the Grieving

“Immediately after he passed away, a nurse came in and made an empty attempt at comfort, ‘He’s in a better place’ she said. As soon as the words were uttered they seemed to bounce around the room with nowhere to comfortably land.”

Roads, Roman Empire, & travel in the ancient world: Roman Roads and Milestones in Judaea/Palaestina

“… a systematic survey of all the extant remains related to roads, in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the Roman road network in Israel.”

LIFE group guide: our declaration of dependence

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (July 6) 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 declare and underscore our complete dependence on God, the only true Power.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. … The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. (Psalm 28.8; 29.11 NIV)

•  No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and  our shield. (Psalm 33.16-20 NIV)

•  The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21.1 NRSV)

•  I am the vine, you are the branches. … apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15.5 NRSV)

•  From one person God created every human nation to live on the whole earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. (Acts 17.26-27a CEB)

•  … it doesn’t depend on a person’s desire or effort. It depends entirely on God, who shows mercy. (Romans 9.16 CEB)

•  … let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. … the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. … Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (Galatians 5.16a,22-23a,25 NLT)

•  … through your faith, God is protecting you by his power … (1 Peter 1.5 NLT)

Relation

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

1. At what age would you say you became independent of your parents? Where were you in life?

2. Tell us of an instance in which you became keenly aware of your total dependence on God.

Research

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

1. As a group, read Ps. 23 aloud. For what does this psalm’s author sense his God-dependence?

2. Categorize each of the texts above as to what each specifies we’re dependent on God for.

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 a gathering of believers (e.g. a LIFE group or church) express dependence on God?

2. If a person seeks to live totally dependent on God what will they not do?

3. How is prayer tied to our dependence on God? Humility? Faith?

4. What steps can a person take to mature their awareness of dependence on God? A church?

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. Itemize specifics in which you sense your God-dependence. Study the list for what’s missing.

2. Methodically pray through the Psalms of Ascent (Ps. 120-134) with your mind on dependency.

then they can see my glory, which you gave me

 

“Father, I want those you gave me to be with me where I am. Then they can see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17.24 CEB)

Sharing what I know of God, through words and ways, is my great privilege and joy every day of the week. Bringing light into realms of darkness and helping add fuel to the lamps of others who burn for God, well, this is my bread and butter.

Blog-tour-logo-CompadresBut what, pray tell, I ask, does it mean to “be” where Jesus is? Or to “see” Jesus’ “glory?” What on earth – or wherever Jesus is – is the glory the Father gave him “because” he loved” him? Do, please explain to me the glory our Father God gave his Son Jesus “before the creation of the world,” if you can.

I tell you, you can’t do it. And neither can I.

For to read and reflect and on these words sets our collective mind to reeling. Our brain goes on tilt. It’s as if we need someone to hit the reset button, for we don’t even begin to understand what all these words of our Lord must mean.

And that’s okay. Actually more than “okay” … glorious. Really.

For these words from our Lord were not recorded to give us greater clarity of knowledge about God, but to deliberately deepen the mystery that surrounds – indeed, is – our God, as well as our faith in him. They were not intended to answer our questions (as if we even naturally know what are the best questions to ask to begin with!), but rather to give rise to more and different questions in our heart. Truly, this is the purpose of these words from our Lord: to increase the volume of our wonder, not vaporize it.

What’s that you say? You ask, “Why is that?” Quite frankly, because we don’t need a god we can completely figure out.

Oh, we might think we want such a god, but a god who doesn’t transcend us is no brighter or greater than us and thereby, no god at all. Such a “god” would only be an extension of us or a projection of ourselves. Such a god would be a god far too small to be God. God knows this world has enough puny-pretend, lazy-and-lame gods already, thank you very much.

No, our deep need is a God we can’t get our arms completely around. Not even close. We need (and in our saner moments, we know we want) God to be a God who can – and always has, and always will – do far more than we can ever begin to even ask or imagine. We understand that what we want God to be is holy and wholly “other;” nothing but good and radically distinct from us. We need God not to be One who can be naturally understood by all, but supernatural in all his ways. A God who is far, far bigger than just what we know in this moment, but all of what is past and all of what is future, too.

Only such a God as this is truly “glorious” and can (and would) lovingly long to share his glorious presence with us.

And he has. His name is Jesus.

And he will. Through Jesus.

This he began before he created this world. As he works this still in his re-creation of things now. And he will still be doing it when he completely and gloriously brings heaven and earth together in his glory forever to come.

This is mind-blowing stuff that words alone are all too insufficient to convey! And so … like the One who interceded/intercedes for us … we should engage this mystery with the mystery that is p-r-a-y-e-r, and do so with his glory in view.

Father in heaven, hear this prayer of the One who intercedes for us. We echo his prayer and we mingle our prayers with his: bring us into his presence and Yours. Grant that we will be enabled to see your glory. The love and glory that alone is of you and has always been. So be it. Though we – gloriously – can’t begin to fully comprehend it.

Glory be to God!

links: this went thru my mind

 

Children’s ministry: The Most Important Sub-Ministry In Your Church

“Here’s the lesson: You can drop the ball in the service, but ace it with the kids, and still have a chance that they’ll return. But no matter how good the service is, if the children’s ministry is bad, they won’t come back – unless they’re people without children. Too many people treat children’s ministry as a necessary evil. It’s severely underfunded, understaffed, and underappreciated. Wake up. Children are the heart of your growth engine.”

Dignity: What Maya Angelou Did on the First Day of Class

“When you recognize someone’s name, you recognize them not just as human but as a person. One of the greatest ways you bestow human dignity on someone is by calling them by name.”

Encouragement & ministry: The Single Most Encouraging Thing You Can Do for a Pastor

“I will tell you, friend, that when you encourage a messenger God sends to your church, the Lord in Heaven takes note and counts it as something done for Him.  Likewise, if you set yourself to discouraging and undermining the minister, God takes that personally also, and the news for you is not good.”

God & perspective: The God Who Shows Off Broken Seashells

“To a child, it is silly to think that a broken edge could somehow diminish the value of a seashell. The edge is simply a testament to the waves that brought the shell to shore – waves which provide another source of continual amazement.”

Life & priorities: 7 Steps to Live Your Ideal Eulogy

“One of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff, has a poignant section in his book Start called “The Plane Crash”. He talks about creating a pretend, life-ending disaster in your head and asking yourself the question, ‘If I died today, what would I regret not being able to do?’ A little morbid, but effective. Of course, the real question that comes out of this exercise is ‘Are those the things I’m doing right now?'”