links: this went thru my mind

 

Application & moralizing: Moralizing Scripture…the Rush to Application and Misappropriating the Text

“…  let us be careful when we moralize scripture and rush to application that we don’t, in the process, undermine the text and the power of God to do greater things than make us nicer people.”

Capital punishment & death penalty5 Death Penalty Myths Debunked

“In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.”

Children, church & parenting: Let the Children Come to Me…Unless They’re Too Loud, Distracting, or Difficult

“The church in America has raised a whole generation that has never really been spiritually formed by the larger church gathering.”

Cinema, film, movies & Noah: * To See or Not to See the Movie Noah? [required reading]; * What’s Really Behind Christians’ Rejection of Noah?

* “Art often needs to speak honestly about evil, and I hope we don’t sanitize the Bible to the point where we forget just how well it does that. I get the pushback about Noah going off script, and being concerned about disinformation. But I think our real problem is that, unlike Christians of earlier centuries, we no longer understand what art does or how it works.”

* “This week Christians will have the chance to see Noah. And in an ironic twist, Paramount Pictures and the director find themselves defending their film against strong criticism from Christians, the audience they assumed would be the first in line to see this biblically epic story. In what has become a reversal of roles, Hollywood has heard the cry of Christians for bible based films (and the allure of their money, no doubt) and produced an epic picture and now Christians are the ones rejecting it. And in this case, it’s Christians who may not be completely honest about their reasons for rejecting it as we’ve formerly accused Hollywood of being in rejecting bible based films in the past. And the only public leg we have to stand on is the presence of biblical errors in the movie.”

Friendship, Jesus & sinners: Setting the Record Straight on Jesus, ‘the Friend of Sinners’ [essential reading]

“… does it matter that we correctly understand Jesus’ social habits? It does actually. Because Christians believe they must “live as Jesus did.” If the faithful only build relational bridges with those who are open to converting, they will find it increasingly difficult to exist in a pluralistic, post-Christian culture.”

Ministry: * Dear Churchgoers …; * The Friendless Pastor

* “Now I understand you might think I should know all the things that are happening with you. I really do want to. Most of my fellow pastors would agree. We love to know the things that are going on in your life. We want to hear all about it. But there’s a good chance that we won’t know if you never tell us.”

* “It’s ironic that pastors, who talk the most about the need for community, experience it the least. … We have too many relationships and too few friends.”

LIFE group guide: saved from start to finish

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 23) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Saved from Start to Finish”) works out of Acts 16.11-40 and Philippians 2.12-13.

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 particular sermon.

To consider the importance of not only starting life with Christ, but staying with him.

Revelation

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

• “’… what must I do to be rescued?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your entire household.’ … He and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. … He was overjoyed because he and everyone in his household had come to believe in God.” (Acts 16.30-34 CEB)

• … my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2.12-13 NIV)

Relation

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

1. As a group, brainstorm synonyms for the word “saved.”

2. Which is most difficult today for most people: coming to, or continuing with, Christ? Why?

Research

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

1. Have the group read aloud of the start of the church in Philippi. That is, read Acts 16.11-40.

2. Read Philippians 2.1-4,12-18. Make a list of what Christians are to work out in their salvation.

Reflection

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

1. Who were the people who had the greatest influence on your becoming a Christian?

2. Name those who have had the greatest impact on your growth and continuance in Christ.

3. If you were to advise someone just beginning their walk of discipleship, what would you say?

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. Using the list you created above (Research, #2), dedicate a different item on that list to receive your special attention and practice daily for one full week during the coming weeks.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Accountability, awareness, Christian faith, knowledge, social injustice & violence: We Cannot Say We Did Not Know [essential reading]

“The sage in Proverbs 24:11-12 warns us to rescue those being led away to death: ‘If you say, “We did not know this” – does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?’”

Children, parenting & sex: 7 Suggestions for Talking to Children about Sex

“I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.”

Church membership: The 7 Commandments for Choosing a Church

“If you don’t like the church where you are, the problem is probably you (or at least partially you… but probably mostly you).”

Forgiveness, intercession, love & ministry: The Chaplain from Missouri Who Tried to Save the Black Souls of the Nazis at Nuremberg

“… he would ultimately minister 13 of 21 of Hitler’s most malevolent Nazi leaders on trial in Nuremberg after World War Two for their heinous war crimes.”

Guests, visitors & welcome: 7 Ways to Connect with Guests Beyond the First Greeting

“Your God is awesome. Your church is wonderful. Yet guests who visit your church don’t often return. No true connection was made. A parking lot greeter in our church expressed that concern: ‘We’ve got to figure out how to actually connect every guest with another person. Our flippant hellos or glad-you-cames just aren’t adequate.’ Why not challenge every member of your church to use these seven tips to connect with guests.”

Youth ministry: Tribal Youth Ministry (Part 1): The Necessity of Age Desegregation in Our Churches [essential reading]

“This article is by Duncan Campbell and is the first of three outlining his approach to transitioning youth ministry toward a more intergenerational approach. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest questions facing churches today as we are beginning to see the connections between our traditional approaches to youth ministry and the disconnect from parents and other adults being a part of the faith development of our children, and the mass exodus from church by young adults.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Archaeology, history & Syria: Among the Wounded in Syria’s War: Ancient History

“The situation now is absolutely terrible there. … They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.”

Church atmosphere & environment: * What’s the Habitat? [essential reading]; * The Church is a Zoo; * The Dark Side of Small [essential reading]

* “Here’s an important question to ask regularly: ‘Who does well here?’ Don’t just ask, ‘who attends here currently?’ Ask, ‘Who thrives here?’ Ask it in the present tense rather than, ‘Who has survived here over the years?’”

* “… if God is bringing people different than those you thought He would bring, rejoice that He’s drawing any of His children to your church at all.”

* “I have often praised smaller churches. … But I am not wholly idealistic and naïve. Wherever there are human beings trying to make it through life together, there are problems. It matters not whether the setting is large or small. Every community of people faces challenges which, if not handled with wisdom, grace, and love, will threaten its health and perhaps even its existence.”

Crimea, Ukraine & Russia: The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine

“It would be pleasant to think that the U.S. and Europe are taking these religious factors into full account as they calculate their response to the present crisis in Crimea and Ukraine. Pleasant, but unlikely.”

Encouragement, leadership & ministry: Minister Search: You Have More to Offer Than You Might Think

“Church leaders often underestimate what they have to offer a prospective minister.  They have much value to offer a minister and I’m not talking about money. … Church leaders need to spend time thinking about what they have to offer that is of value. … Church leaders who will form a hedge of protection around a young minister really have something of value to offer. … Church leaders who will show a genuine interest in the lives of their ministers and families definitely have something valuable to offer.”

Happiness, money, possessions & stuff: Why Buying Stuff Won’t Make You Happy (and One Thing That Might)

“The pursuit and purchase of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in buying a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days. Researchers even have a phrase for this temporary fulfillment: retail therapy.”

History & the United States: Watch the United States Grow Before Your Eyes

“On March 4, 1789, the U.S. Constitution took effect, forming a nation of 13 colonies and a whole heck of a lot of unorganized territory. On August 21, 1959, Congress admitted Hawaii as the 50th state. … [see] this handy gif of all the steps it took to get us from point A to point B.”

The South: These 9 Maps Should Absolutely Outrage Southerners

“… there are lots of things to love about the South. It’s clean and quiet. There’s delicious food, good people and often amazing weather. But that’s exactly why it makes us so sad to think about all the ways in which the region is struggling today.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, relationships & the marginalized: What of the Marginalized Christians?

“When Jesus ministered to people in the margins, the majority of them were people who were in the margins of Judaism, the church. They were already a part of the faith.”

Computing: 8 Essential Browser Tips & Tricks

“The Web browser is a funny thing. It’s one of the most-used computer programs, but many people don’t really understand it. … Today, I’m helping you get the most out of your browser with a few simple tricks that you really need to know.”

Justice, penal system, prison, punishment & solitary confinement: Solitary Confinement: 29 Years in a Box

“Prisoners in solitary confinement tend to be restricted to cells of 80 square feet, not much larger than a king-size bed.”

Marriage: How Do I Get My Wife to Love Me Again?

“A man seldom understands (this man included) how different a woman is from a man.”

Ministry: Three Smooth Stones for Ministry

“Ministry is about the two most unpredictable forces in the world–the Spirit of God and human beings. There’s little predicting to be done, or little cause and effect logic to be implemented when these are the primary mediums involved in your work.”

Non-resistance, nonviolence, pacifism & violence: The Case for Non-Resistance– Part One [essential reading]

“The nations of this world employ physical weapons of offense and defense. When Jesus announced His new nation, He needed to clarify the character of His nation with respect to the use of force.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Beggars, the poor & the marginalized: Beggars in Mark

“The stories that end this chapter are about beggars, people who in desperate need. They are angry with life or with Satan, but not with Jesus. Life has not followed the rules with them—it has treated them and those they love unfairly—and they are not particularly concerned that Jesus doesn’t always color within the lines. In fact, they are quite hopeful that (with those they love) Jesus can stretch outside of normal boundaries and accomplish something beyond the ordinary.”

Bible reading: How the World’s Top 10 Countries Search the Bible Differently

“Two of the four ‘implications of the search for truth’ noted in the study: Are pastors and missionaries preaching too much from Paul? Too little from the Old Testament?”

Idolatry: If Daniel 3 Were Written Today

“Beloved countrymen, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can sustain us in the event we are being marginalized, cast aside, and silenced, and He can rescue us from craving approval from the rest of our society. But even if He does not protect us from your penalties and fines, we want you as a society to know that we will not serve your gods or celebrate the gold statue you set up.”

Ministry: Just What Does a Minister Do Anyway?

“I don’t suppose there is an easier target for criticism or maybe jokestering than that of a minister.”

Parenting: 7 Ways Parents Injure a Child — Without Even Knowing It

“… looking back, I can see some of these we were guilty of doing — and I remain thankful for God’s grace in spite of me.”

Racism & reconciliation: Ok, White Folks, Here’s How You Can Really Help! [required reading]

“Young man we appreciate your support and energy but really the best thing you can do for our movement is to go back to your churches, families, communities and friends and share the truth you have heard today.  It is the education of your own race, which will be the biggest catalyst for change in reconciling all races and bringing the kingdom value of racial unity and harmony into existence.”

you’ve got to make your own kind of music

 

I have a friend who, back in the day, was in the orchestra. He was very good at what he did. It was a joy to watch and hear him play. I often sat in awe. There was simply no way on earth I could have played what he did or the way he did. Not in a million years.

Orchestra and me? Not a mix. Not that I didn’t care for orchestral music, you understand. It’s just that I was in jazz band (stage band). If you had put me in the orchestra I would have been like a fish out of water; I would have shriveled up and died. And hey, I’m even bold enough to think my friend might have struggled had he been thrust into stage band.

See, in orchestral music, there’s rarely, if ever, any real opportunity for improvisation. Every note is planned out long before the sheet music even hits the stand. The idea is sound: you take the music and you put your heart into it. Hard to argue with that.

But, in jazz band, we typically lived or died by improvisation. Improvisation was the air we breathed; it was our bread and butter. While most of what we’d do was planned out to the note before we went on stage, included in the music was deliberate open space for exploration of what was in our heart in the moment. And the way it sounded in performance might not be at all what it sounded like in practice. It’s a healthy idea: you take your heart and you let the music come out from it.

Now if you can grasp that, then understand it’s the same way with preaching. Some preachers are like those in the orchestra. They live by structure and predictable repeatability. They know what they’re going to do months in advance and their Sunday sermons are in manuscript form long before Saturday night rolls around. Improv isn’t even in the vocabulary of such ministers. And that can be a good thing.

Meanwhile, other ministers can’t plan out in detail a single sermon in advance, much less a series. A manuscript? What’s that?! Oh, but don’t think for a minute that such preachers are unprepared or of a lower grade. No, they’re prepared to the hilt! It’s just that it’s just not possible for them to preach the same sermon twice and it come out the same way. They’re often just as surprised by what comes out when they get up on stage as anyone else in the room. And that too can be a very good thing.

Now I say all of this to simply say two things. First, if you’re a minister, deliberately experiment. Find the style toward which you tend to gravitate. And then, own it. Refuse to beat yourself up for not being like – or even able to be like – others who preach differently. And if others, who preach differently, give you static, let it roll right off of you. I know, that’s easier said than done and it’s a ceaseless task, but improvise. Because you’ve got to make your own kind of music.

Second, if you’re an elder who oversees your preacher – or you’re a member who listens to your preacher – give your preacher the freedom to sing their own special song. They need that. And you need that. Don’t ever try to squeeze them into your own mold. Especially if they’re more of the jazz band type and you’re more into the orchestral mode – or vice-versa. After all, the preacher’s task isn’t to cover the song the way you would or the way you think they should, but to play the music they sense God is laying on their heart. If they try to do otherwise the music will likely, at best, come out all wrong – forced, stilted, and flat.

Imagine, and let it be.