links: this went thru my mind

-

Church, Christian faith, immigration, justice & mercy: * Immigration and Church – Why It Matters; * 5 Immigration Myths Debunked [essential reading]; * Obama, Daring Congress, Acts to Overhaul Immigration; * 4 Ways (Im)migration Impacts the Mission of the Church [essential reading]

* “…  Christians must agree that we have a responsibility to love and care for the immigrant.”

* ” Here are 5 myths about undocumented immigrants, and why they’re wrong. Myth # 1: They don’t pay taxes. [ Undocumented immigrants are already U.S. taxpayers. Collectively, they paid an estimated $10.6 billion to state and local taxes in 2010 … On average they pay about 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes] …

Myth # 2: They don’t pay into Social Security. [… undocumented immigrants contribute more in payroll taxes than they will ever consume in public benefits. Take Social Security. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), unauthorized immigrants — who are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits — have paid an eye-popping $100 billion into the fund over the past decade. ] …

Myth #3: They drain the system. [Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years] …

Myth # 4: They take American jobs. [ The American economy needs immigrant workers. The belief that immigrants take jobs that can otherwise be filled by hard-working Americans has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data. ] …

Myth # 5: It’s just a matter of following the law. […  under current immigration laws, there are very few options for legal immigration, the costs are increasingly prohibitive and the wait for any kind of status can be long and frustrating.]”

* “… Mr. Obama told Americans that deporting millions is ‘not who we are’ and cited Scripture, saying, ‘We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too.’ … Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?”

* “While there isn’t space in this blog post to propose and unpack all the issues, I think it’s valuable to examine four ways immigration is impacting the church and its call to share the gospel with all peoples.”

Compassion, love & mercy: Gate A-4

“This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.”

Consumerism & contentment: * The Cult of Contentment [required reading]; * God is Not Santa Claus: How the Consumerist Worldview Affects the Church

* “… I have a modest proposal, instead of fighting to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ what if we fought to keep the Friday in Black Friday?”

* ” God is not Santa Claus. But we seem to forget that sometimes because we have embraced a worldview called consumerism. In this way of seeing the world, the consumer is at the center, and his or her goal is to find pleasure and avoid pain by consuming things, experiences, and people. Unfortunately, we take this same consumerist worldview to Jesus and his church, but he wants to move us from being consumers to contributors.”

 

links: this went thru my mind

 

Attention, busyness, communication, connection, distraction, listening & relationships: 3 Ways We Lose When We Don’t Connect with Others

“… sometimes the failure to be fully present with others is more than a momentary occurrence. Some people are just not emotionally present regardless of the circumstances. This is just the way they function. In other words, they live each day not really present in the moment they have right now. What do we lose when we are not fully present?”

Boko Haram: * Boko Haram is Not New; * Supplement to Boko Haram is Not New

* “The recent kidnapping of 300 girls in northern Nigeria has rightly ignited a fresh firestorm of concern about Boko Haram. We must be grateful that the world’s attention has turned to this crisis. … Although Boko Haram itself may date to 2002, similar violence was occurring in northern Nigeria in the 1990’s.”

* “… it is important for the world to know that these events have been building for a long time. Those in Nigeria working for peace and restoration (including help for the girls) need our prayers.”

Church, conformity, culture & Millenials: It’s Not About Conforming to the World

“These so-called ‘progressive evangelicals’ believe the Church must conform to the world or die. They tell us millennials will leave if we don’t get with the program and imitate the culture when it comes to gender, sexuality, and science. But we must remain faithful to the Gospel and to God’s Word in the face of this pressure or else risk losing our identity. We can’t just give in to the world because of pressure to be cool.”

“I hear some version of this argument at least once a week … and I believe it is common enough (and reasonable enough) to warrant a brief response here, extended with nothing but grace, peace, and goodwill for my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I respectfully disagree.”

Depression: * The Hard Fought War Over Depression; * How to Help a Friend Fight Depression

* “Depression is a buried mind-field warfare and we must be careful not to step on them. We can blame others; yet I believe such charges are weak excuses. We are the ones who decide whether to let circumstances and comments take us down. We have the choice to resist. I was notoriously weak at resistance. For one, I didn’t know how. However, Philippians 4:4-9 urged me to practice thinking about the many things going right, with the promise that if I would, then the peace of God would persist.  When I began to obey this divine charge, a new and surprising life arose. I’d never seen this side of the thought terrain.”

* “I know I’m hard to love when I’m depressed, but if you are the rare friend who is committed to staying with me through the pain, consider these seven ways you can help me.”

God, grace, mercy & Scripture: The Bible Wasn’t Written to Tell God What He Has to Do [essential reading]

“… God will have mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy.”

LIFE group guide: be merciful

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Dec. 22). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon marks the conclusion of the Jesus, Master & Commander sermon series.

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 the sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon.

• She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1.21)

• Mary said … “In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. … He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God.” (Luke 1.47-48,50)

• … Zechariah … prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us … to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember … the oath he swore to our father Abraham: … to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1.67-69,72-75)

• Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.36)

• For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Romans 9.15-16)

• … he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3.5a)

• … judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2.13)

• … await our Lord Jesus Christ’s mercy. … In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering (Jude 21-22)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all just start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. In your own words, define “mercy.” What is it? What is it not?

2. Tell us of an instance in which you know you were the recipient of great mercy.

Research

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

1. As you read Jesus’ birth narratives (Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2), make a list of every act of mercy.

2. Go through the headlines of today’s news. How could mercy be shown in each event?

Reflection

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. How is forgiveness and mercy linked? Why is it often quite difficult to be merciful?

2. How sick is it to expect mercy and not be merciful? Define the elements of the disease.

3. What are some very specific ways in which we can extend mercy to others?

4. What happens inside us, to God, and to others, when we are merciful to others?

5. What essential steps must be taken after extending mercy? After receiving it?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Visualize specific instances and ways in which you will be merciful throughout a day.

2. Pray for someone you need to forgive. Make a decisive and direct action plan to do so.

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Atrocities: A Photographer Captures the Violence in the Streets of the Central African Republic

“I think that you know, all the ghosts of Rwanda are waking up. … It’s very, very difficult to bear sometimes.”

Christian persecution: ‘Largest Massacre of Christians in Syria’ Ignored

“In late October, the U.S-supported ‘opposition’ invaded and occupied Sadad for over a week, till ousted by the nation’s military. Among other atrocities, 45 Christians—including women and children—were killed, several tortured to death; Sadat’s 14 churches, some ancient, were ransacked and destroyed; the bodies of six people from one family, ranging from ages 16 to 90, were found at the bottom of a well (an increasingly common fate for “subhuman” Christians).”

Economic violence on the poor: Good Poor, Bad Poor [required reading]

“On Sundays, this time of year, my parents would pack a gaggle of us kids into the station wagon for a tour of two Christmas worlds. First, we’d go to the wealthy neighborhoods on a hill — grand Tudor houses glowing with the seasonal incandescence of good fortune. Faces pressed against the car windows, we wondered why their Santa was a better toy-maker than ours.

“Then, down to the valley, where sketchy-looking people lived in vans by the river, in plywood shacks with rusted appliances on the front lawn, their laundry frozen stiff on wire lines. The rich, my mother explained, were lucky. The poor were unfortunate.”

Forgiveness & murder: Widow of American Teacher Forgives Attackers Who Killed Her Husband in Libya [essential reading]

“To the attackers, she wrote: ‘I love you and I forgive you.’ …

“‘I hear people speaking with hate, anger and blame over Ronnie’s death, but that’s not what Ronnie would want,’ Smith wrote of her husband. ‘I want all of you — all of the people of Libya — to know I am praying for the peace and prosperity of Libya. May Ronnie’s blood, shed on Libyan soil, encourage peace and reconciliation between the Libyan people and God.'”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: “Is Capital Punishment in Harmony with Divine Law?”

“The children of God can take no part or lot in the work.”

Compulsory patriotism & nationalism: No, Thanks: Stop Saying “Support the Troops”

“I do not begrudge the troops for availing themselves of any benefits companies choose to offer, nor do I begrudge the companies for offering those benefits. Of greater interest is what the phenomenon of corporate charity for the troops tells us about commercial conduct in an era of compulsory patriotism.”

Full contact sports: N.F.L. Agrees to Settle Concussion Suit for $765 Million

“The settlement, announced Thursday, will be seen as a victory for the league, which has nearly $10 billion in annual revenue and faced the possibility of billions of dollars in liability payments and a discovery phase that could have proved damaging if the case had moved forward.”

Justice, restorative & retributive: A Better Story: How Our Understanding of Justice is Radically Re-defined by the Gospel [essential reading]

“Reflecting the assumptions of the surrounding culture, Christian theology has classically framed mercy as being in conflict with justice. This goes way beyond theology however, and can be found as the assumptions underlying any national debate over the use of state violence, whether in regards to crime or international conflict and war. To ‘bring about justice’ means punishing, it means violence, it means seeking to harm. Conversely, mercy means to refrain from violence. It is thus understood as an inaction. So in short: in this framework justice means inflicting harm, and mercy means doing nothing.

“Because these are our culture’s default understandings of both justice and mercy, it is common for people to think that the only way to address crime or conflict is by inflicting harm, by the use of violent force. It is either that or doing nothing, we think. … Because the options are framed in this way, many Christians reject the teaching of Jesus to love our enemies because they think it entails doing nothing in the face of evil, which would be unloving and morally irresponsible. We need to protect the vulnerable from harm, don’t we? We need to care for the wellbeing for ourselves and our loved ones. So while people may regret the need to respond with violence, they feel they have no alternative but to respond to violence with violence. It’s regrettable, but what choice do we have? How else can we stop violence?

“The tragic irony is that inflicting violence and harm in the name of justice does not in fact stop violence at all; it perpetuates it. … the fruit of this kind of ‘justice’ is that it makes things worse. …

“That’s where the gospel comes in.”

Lord Jesus, Obama, Syria & warfare: * War on Syria? No [required reading]; * How A Reluctant Obama Ended Up Preparing For War

*”We call ‘Lord’ a man who told us to love our enemies but in his name make enemies to promote our values. We call a peaceful man “Lord” and then favor those who divide in order to conquer. … Why do we call him ‘Lord’ and not do as he says?”

* “‘It seems to me that we are going to be engaged in a strike because he had a lack of wisdom to avoid laying down a red line,’ says Rajan Menon, a political scientist at City College of New York. ‘This is the second time the red line has been crossed, so now he’s boxed in.'”