sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: be strong in the Lord (3)

 

This is the essence of my sermon this morning.

Read Scripture. Often.

Not merely to read, but to hear God. Not merely to hear God, but to trust him. Not merely to trust him, but to do in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. Not merely to do in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, but to love God and others with the love his Spirit has poured into your heart. Not merely to love God and others with the love his Spirit has poured into your heart, but to revel in the hope you have in Christ your Lord. Not merely to revel in the hope you have in Christ your Lord, but to place your life in his hands and find your peace in him. Not merely to place your life in his hands and find your peace in him, but to know God and love him all the more.

Meditate on Scripture. Constantly.

LIFE group guide: love is a battlefield – being strong in the Lord (3)

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Sept. 7) 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 explore the meaning of, preparation for, and engagement in spiritual warfare.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, “Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?” It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, “Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?” No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it. (Deuteronomy 30.10-14 NLT)

• The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. … The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19.7-11 NIV)

• … God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions. No creature is hidden from it, but rather everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of the one to whom we have to give an answer. (Hebrews 4.12-13 CEB)

• Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5.1-5 NRSV)

Relation

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

1. You need to focus on some reading/studying. Which do you prefer: silence or background music?

2. Share with us a word from, and an action of, a loved one that is especially dear and meaningful to you.

Research

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

1. Compare Deuteronomy 30.10-14 with 1 John 5.1-5. What matters do these two texts have in common?

2. List the words used in Psalm 19.7-11 to describe the qualities of God’s word. Do the same for the benefits.

3. Answering only from Hebrews 4.12-13, what exactly do we believe God’s word to us is able to do to us?

Reflection

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

1. I find myself being most mindful of the word of God whenever I __________.

2. A Scripture I find myself recalling frequently or turning to often these days is ________. Why?

3. What excuse(s) and rationalization(s) do you sometimes find yourself offering up to not read Scripture?

4. “Opening up to and receiving God’s word isn’t an end in itself, but just a means to the end.” How so?

5. How truly hungry would you say you are for receiving and doing God’s word at this point in your life?

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. Reserve a specific, daily time you will spend reading God’s word and asking him to help you live it out.

2. Develop a mental habit of connecting a brief portion of Scripture with all of your actions, big and small.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible reading: Reading the Bible and the Bible Reading You

“At some point, being a Jesus person means you gotta read the Bible.”

Charities, giving & non-profit organizations: ALS, Navigating Charities, and Changing Lives

“Have you ever considered what an organization looks like where 100% of your money goes to the cause with nothing going to the organization? Have you ever wondered how the organization supports itself? How the leaders get paid? How the word even gets out that this organization exists and why its causes are worthy of your support? Most often we don’t because we are stuck with the ‘we want nonprofits with low overheads where all of our money goes to the cause’ with little thought to the capacity of the organization or its ability to actually solve problems, change lives, and make lasting change.”

Church, measurements & statistics: Nickels and Noses – What Do We Value and Measure in the Parish?

“… are the people growing? Isn’t that the real question?”

Violence: Violence in God’s Name: Our Greatest Sin

“Paul’s great sin, as he saw it, was the sin of violence committed in the name of God.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Aliens, culture, faith & immigration: God’s Immigrants [essential reading]

“The total global diaspora numbers about 859 million from 327 distinct people groups. A larger number of those peoples settle in the US than in any other host country, making about 11% of the US population foreign born. … Let us see if we can’t … reclaim the deep resonances and reverence scripture caries for the immigrant.”

Busyness, Christianity, church, faith, over-stimulation, United States: Why It’s Hard to Be Christian in America [essential reading]

“What we need is a community of people who agree to live by a different ethic and rhythm. The Bible has a word for that community. It’s called church. So, let the church be the church.”

Burnout, discouragement, leadership & ministry: * Ten Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly [essential reading]; * A Cure for Ministerial Burnout: Contemplative Prayer; * Don’t Make Your Pastor a Statistic?

* “My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this: Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges; Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations; People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.”

* “If, each day, time had been set aside for the spiritual renewal that contemplative praying can provide, there probably would have been the kind of revitalization of mind and spirit that could have maintained their enthusiasm and commitment to ministry.”

* “Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute …”

Church, church attendance & expectations: * #1 Reason Why Church Attendance is Down – Really? [required reading]; * Disillusionment With the Church [essential reading]

* “Take me for example, for a number of reasons, I am very close to burnout.  When I hear words like ‘active’, ‘committed’, ‘involvement’, and ‘monitor attendance’, it is going to produce the opposite of the intended effect in me.  If I hear these words from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, I am going to be less likely, not more likely,  to attend the following week.  I am burnt out and you want a larger commitment from me?!?

“Seven years ago, when we searching for a new pastor, our church surveyed our community.  When asked the number one reason why they didn’t attend church, the top two responses could be summarized as:  ‘Too tired’, and ‘not enough time.'”

* “I would contend that many of our disillusions with the church are based upon a wrong ethic. We misunderstand the true nature of fellowship in the gospel community. And therefore, we wrongly apply the ethic of other communities to the church.

“The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be. Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else.”

Israel: * The Pilgrimage: Israel (a 25-part series by Ben Witherington; superb); * Gaza is in the News Again

* “I was fortunate enough to lead a tour to Israel and Turkey for two weeks in May with 29 hearty souls on pilgrimage, and we had a blessed time and a blast as well. It was all good. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the pictures and experiences from this trip and we will be talking about.”

* “Gaza is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Here is a summary of these references.”

Listening, preaching & sermons: How to Get More from a Sermon [essential reading]

“Let’s talk about people who do not get full value from the sermons they hear.

“These people may be taking SERMON-BLOCKERS. When the pastor gets up to preach, they … nitpick him … plan the week ahead … shift into neutral and become passive. … send their mind off on a mini-vacation. … listen with their ears but not their hearts … do not bring faith to what they are hearing.

“These people may hear thousands of sermons, but they do not benefit from them because they are resisting them, not listening to them, and not believing them. Such people are literally wasting their time by coming to church.”

Learning, online & reading: Being a Better Online Reader

“… we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper.”

Population density & the United States: Half of the United States Lives in These Counties

“… half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Archaeology: Digging for The Past and Future

“In Jerusalem, the capital of a modern country enthralled by its past, a unique national archaeology campus is being built. The project—commissioned by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and officially named The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel—combines three major components: storage of the national archaeological treasures (some two million items); restoration labs for objects made of various materials, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, mosaics, and glass, textile, and clay finds; and a national archaeology library and archive. … Construction of the 350,000-square-foot project, which was funded mainly by private donations, began in 2012 and is to conclude in April 2016.”

Books, learning & reading: Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books [essential reading]

“Is the problem that kids don’t read books, or is the problem that nobody reads books because our culture has become anti-academic and anti-intellectual?”

Compassion, poor, poverty & social justice: Unconventional Ways to Fight Poverty [essential reading]

“Here are four ways you can fulfill your calling to care for the least of these that you may not have thought about before. … Change the way you talk about poverty. … Respect the dignity of the poor. … Do your job well. … Rethink ethical buying habits.”

Endurance, history, human dignity, life & resilience: The Symphony That Saved a City

“… the whole city had found its humanity.”

Fasting: Sharpen Your Affections With Fasting

“Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God.”

Pentecost: Did You Miss Pentecost Last Sunday?? Do You Know Why?

“… where is Pentecost in our churches?  I have scratched my head trying to figure out why there is virtually no acknowledgement of Pentecost …”