God has locked up all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all of them. (Romans 11.32)
Civil War: New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll by Guy Gugliotta
“For 110 years, the numbers stood as gospel: 618,222 men died in the Civil War, 360,222 from the North and 258,000 from the South — by far the greatest toll of any war in American history. But new research shows that the numbers were far too low.”
Continuing revelation: “God Told Me” and Other Embarrassing Phrases Christians Use by Brian Jones
“Whenever someone tells you something that begins with the three words ‘God told me’ you should immediately …”
Evangelism: Know Your Neighbors? by Matt Branaugh
“We all need a place to start. … The challenge is realizing where we are starting from.”
Generations: How To Reach a Lost Generation 5: 25 Reasons Young People Are Leaving the Church by Matt Dabbs
“There are many more but this is a start. It is good to be aware of these issues because they point to something deeper that needs to change in our very paradigm of what we view church to be.”
Great commission: The First Great Commission: Mercy, Not Sacrifice by Mark Love
“We all know how the gospel of Matthew ends: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go into all the world, making disciples…” These verses, are less well known. “Woe to you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make a single covert and make the new convert twice the child of hell as yourselves” (Mt. 23:15). It would appear that Jesus is after something more than missionary zeal.”
Health: Kitchen Cures Doctors Swear By by Marisa Cohen
“‘True, some home remedies are simply old wives’ tales, but others have stuck around for generations because they actually work,’ says Philip Hagen, M.D., preventive medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic.”
Jesus wept: Jefferson’s Bible and the Tears of Christ by Makoto Fujimura
“Predictably, ‘Jesus wept’ [John 11.35] did not make into the Jefferson Bible. John 11 was cut out entirely, falling onto the floor of his Monticello home and discarded, along with Martha’s confession. Jefferson’s rationalism allowed only a distant deity that made sense in reference to objective ‘scientific’ calibrations, not ephemeral marks of compassion.”
Preaching: The Awful Task of Preaching by Terry Rush
“Preaching is transitory. I don’t know how it is for others, but for me the burden of speaking to a church about God is increasingly burdening….in a wonderful way. It scares me more week by week.”
The resurrection of Jesus: ‘People have very odd ideas about Jesus’ (Sam Hailes interview of N.T. Wright)
“Anyone who is in any sense a Christian cannot with any consistency believe that Jesus stayed dead. … if you say Jesus died and nothing happened but the disciples had some interesting ideas, then you have cut off the branch on which all classic Christianity is sitting. This generation needs to wake up, smell the coffee and realize serious Christianity begins when Jesus comes out of the tomb on Easter morning. This is not a nice optional extra for those who like believing in funny things.”
American history & religion: The Faith (and Doubts) of Our Fathers
“Academic historians are bemused at times by the inquiries they get from people with no previous interest in the nation’s beginnings: what did America’s creators really believe? Jill Lepore, a Harvard professor who deconstructs the uses and abuses of the past, is wary of would-be historians with an agenda. For her, the founders’ genius lay in their willingness to cast doubt on fixed ways of thinking inherited from the past. So to make them final arbiters is to traduce their spirit. Nor, indeed, were the fathers of one mind. They did not spend their time producing pearls of unanimously agreed wisdom. They quarrelled bitterly. Indeed, if something about this period still resonates in modern politics, it may be the fathers’ disputes, and the subtle points each side brought to bear.”
Benevolence: How Charity Can Be Toxic, Just in Time for Christmas (how to avoid destroying dignity). This is required reading.
“Dignity is given to us by our creator. We hold a whole theology of community and mutual supportedness, bearing one another’s burdens and concerns. One-way giving creates toxic relationships where one has the resources, the other has the need. Do recipients at clothes closets and food pantries become a part of your church? Often, they’re not participants in our community. How do we create respectful, honest, caring, and mutually supportive relationships?”
Christmas season: The Immigrant Days of Christmas
“I noticed this Christmas season, for the first time, that not only were Mary and Joseph forced to migrate under Rome’s census; not only was the Incarnate God born into a humiliating space — but, as they fled to Egypt, they never registered in Bethlehem with the census. A dream, an angel, told the migrant father to gather his family and run from the authorities. Unaccounted for in the empire, baby Jesus’ first movement in this world was a government-evading trek through the desert by night.”
“”So what do we do? Perhaps the answer is much simpler, and more ‘old-fashioned,’ than we think: Maybe we ought to be teaching churchgoers to read the gospel. The first thing Muslim children learn about Christians is one of the last things Christians learn about themselves: we are a ‘people of the Book.’ Perhaps we ought to ask how to make this observation from the Qur’an true, once more, among those who fellowship around the Bible. How can we form ourselves as a people of the Book?”
Coffee With Jesus: If you’re not reading Coffee With Jesus, you’re missing out.
Compassion: Why Christians Shoot Their Wounded
“You’d think our individual brokenness would cause us, especially those of us who call ourselves christians, to heed the question of Jesus when he asks, ‘Who among us can cast the first stone?’ or in the context of this post, ‘take the first shot.’ ”But the desire to attribute people’s behavior to innate character rather than to local context runs deep. In fact, psychologists have a name for this behavior: It’s called ‘the fundamental attribution error.’”
Contribution: How to Fill the Offering Plate
“Nurturing cheerful givers is more challenging than ever during an economic downturn. New research provides important insights that could boost the financial and spiritual health of congregations. Take our quiz to test your knowledge of church giving trends.”
“… expert analysis on the latest Facebook developments, helpful tips, tricks and how-tos, and the latest updates on privacy, Facebook apps and more.”
Gifts for children: Great Christmas Gifts For Your Kids
“Still trying to decide what to get your kids this year for Christmas? How about getting them something that will last a lifetime?”
Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population
“The number of Christians around the world has more than tripled in the last 100 years, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2 billion in 2010. But the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).”
“And so our policy in the final weeks of this war is as simple as it is shameful: submit your paperwork and wait. If you can survive the next 18 months, maybe we’ll let you in.”
“… it is up to you, as the leader, to create this alignment. It doesn’t just happen.”
Peacemakers: 10 Things to Say to Keep the Peace
“The holidays, with all their extended-family gatherings, can be a verbal minefield. You’re either dodging nosy questions from some tactless relative over dinner (‘Still dieting then?’) or taking out the stress of all that extra cooking and shopping on those dearest to you (‘Do I have to do everything around here?’). It doesn’t have to be that bad. Use these 10 go-to phrases to defuse potentially volatile conversations and help you get through the coming weeks―and the months and years to follow―in harmony.”
“Immediately apparent is a broad ‘Poverty Belt’ – states where more than three in ten people live in high poverty areas – stretching from West Virginia through Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.”
Senior adults: A Senior Moment
“Contrary to rosy propaganda, 85 is not the new 65. The elder population boom will affect everyone, and the church has an important role to play. In understanding the situation and what areas need improvement, congregations learn that they too benefit when they are involved in supporting the frail elderly.”
Social networking: How to Think about Social Networking in Churches
“Social networking reminds us of our intrinsic sociality, but constantly moves us closer to the point where sociality no longer requires our bodies to be fully human.”
NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Oct. 30). This guide will enable your follow-up of the sermon that I’ll preach, God willing, that morning from James 3:13-18. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.
To appreciate God’s peace as we live by his wisdom and how wise it is to live in his peace.
“Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. … (17) What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. (18) Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.” (James 3:13,17-18 CEB)
Icebreaker questions are meant to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.
1. Recount a funny instance of your knuckleheadedness when you failed to use “wisdom.”
2. One thing I do to try and bring peace in a tense situation is to __________.
These questions are intended to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture text.
1. We’re to have a humble lifestyle (vs. 13). In context, what would such a lifestyle look like?
2. How would everything change if the wisdom from above was not “pure?” (vs. 17a)
3. Compare the wording of the seven qualities of pure wisdom from above (vs. 17) in several different English translations. What variation in wording do you notice?
4. Pick a word from vs. 17 and explain how such is crucial to forming or keeping peace.
5. Substitute the phrase “right relationships between people” for the word “justice” in vs. 18. How does this help you understand James’ point with this whole passage?
These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.
1. God is what he expects of us. Recount an instance in the life of Jesus Christ that depicts him living out each of the seven qualities mentioned in vs. 17.
2. Would you say there can be wisdom in a church without peace? How about real peace without wisdom? How do you think James would answer those two questions?
3. What sort of things would you expect to be common in a church that was well exercised in the seven qualities enumerated in vs. 17? What would you expect to be hard to find?
4. James points to the seven qualities in vs. 17 as distinctives of true heavenly wisdom. What would you say the church today tends to emphasize as her “wisdom distinctives?” How does the list you come up with differ from the list here in James?
5. James says the experience of peace among Christians doesn’t just happen, rather, it is the result of deliberate effort. It’s like the work of a farmer (“sow … seeds of justice;” vs. 18). What qualities must a farmer exhibit when planting seed and expecting a harvest? How are those qualities necessary for the work of planting seeds of peace?
6. As a group, recite and practice the last sentence of vs. 17 until you have it memorized.
7. Pick one of the seven qualities in vs. 17 that you would say best completes the following sentence: “If I was truly wise, I would personally work hard at becoming more __________.”