links: this went thru my mind

Benevolence, compassion, grace, judging & need: Wasted Grace [essential reading]

“How do you help healthy beggars on the road you cannot know?”

Existence of God: Is God a Hoax?

“Is God real? Or, is this a figment of man’s needy imagination?”

Gossip & prayer requests: Gossip & Prayer Requests [essential reading]

“At what point do those prayer requests become sinful gossip? … It’s complicated. … Here is a mental checklist that I have developed for managing prayer requests in a careful, godly manner. Before you pass on that request, make sure to check your facts, your role, your audience, and your heart.”

Human life, martyrdom, nationalism, pacifism & respect: Blood Trumps Everything: Why the Church Needs Her Martyrs

“My point in all this is that debates about things like nationalism or pacifism aren’t simply abstract theological discussions. These debates need to, but often fail to, take into consideration the sacred element of human blood. These debates need to reckon with the face that blood is the most sacred thing we know, more sacred, even, than God. Emotionally, where this argument will be won or lost, blood will trump theology. Always. And this is why the church needs her martyrs.”

Sexuality & virginity: When Guys Found Out I’m a Virgin

“When it comes to my decision to stay a virgin until marriage — to hold out for that one-time-only chance to fully connect with and know and love another person — I want to make sure it’s the right man. Until then, bring on the squirmy no-sex chat.”

links: this went thru my mind

Action, application, relevance, theology & thinking: 4 Ways Theology Is Practical for Everyday Life [required reading]

“Teach theology long enough and you’ll face countless forms of the same basic question: What does this have to do with real life? Will it affect the way we do ministry, how we share the gospel, or what we do every day? How is it relevant to the problems and challenges the average person faces? You know, is it practical? And the deep suspicion lying behind such questions is that most theology is rather impractical. “

Church attendance, corporate worship, duty, sacrament & worship: The Lord’s Day as a Sacrament [required reading]

“So here’s the crazy thing. I’ve found my way back to seeing the wisdom of church as duty. But less as a duty and more as a sacrament.”

Courtesy, etiquette, manners & respect: Church Conference Etiquette

“… here’s a rundown of some folks you’ll find at every conference and hopefully how not to become one.”

Income inequality, money, poverty & wealth: 40 Years Of Income Inequality In America, In Graphs

“Hover over each line to identify household income, and click through to see the percentage growth over the past 40 years.”

Ministry & the preacher’s wife: Behind the Smile: 6 Things Every Church Needs to Know About the Preacher’s Wife

“I want to love you. Please don’t make it harder. … I wish you saw the man I see.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible class, children, church & Sunday School: Sunday Schooling Our Kids Out of Church

“… churches creating Sunday School experiences for kids that ran concurrently with their parents’ worship service.  In other words, kids and parents were separated from each other, having different Sunday experiences. … But there was (and is) one huge unintended consequence:  We have raised the largest unchurched generation in the history of our country.”

Churches of Christ & religious debates: Debates

“No person and no church will ever agree on all topics. It is good to discuss many biblical and religious concepts, but all in love and in full fellowship with God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all godly people through Jesus Christ.”

Encouragement, grief, mourning & respectTo Mourn, or Not to Mourn [required reading]

“When someone dies our first response should not be to condemn the life that has been lost or those who are mourning. The world needs to see compassion from us. They need to know we care. There are people struggling with depression and drug addiction all around us and to dismiss these diseases is to show a lack of compassion. The way of Jesus is not to condemn people who are hurting, but to come alongside them and to help them in their time of trouble. To help, show compassion, or mourn the effects of drug addiction or depression is not to approve of them. When we do these things we are showing empathy. We are trying to understand and help people escape the darkness they feel encompassed by. To fail to act in this way is to turn our backs on people who desperately need help.”

Generations & Gen Z: Coming Soon to a Workplace Near You: Generation Z

“… the most common definition of Gen Zers as being born after 1996 …”

Ministry: * The Two Times the Pastor is Most Vulnerable; * Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy

* “The minister is most vulnerable at two times: in the few minutes before the morning service begins and in the half hour after it ends.”

* “There is certainly a growing trend towards bi-vocational ministry in both mainline and evangelical churches … This trend dovetails with other recent developments that are troubling to many religious communities. Not only is church attendance in long-term decline, but financial giving by church members is at Depression-era lows. Meanwhile, seminary students are taking on ballooning debt for a career that may not exist by the time they graduate. This trend began before the Great Recession, and has only worsened since then.”

LIFE group discussion guide: the how of unity

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (July 13) 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 consider the heart of our role in maintaining the unity we experience in Christ Jesus.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

•  Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets. Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it. (Matthew 7.7-14 CEB)

•  I pray … for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17.20-23 NIV)

Relation

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

1. Tell us about an experience, silly or serious, you’ve had with glue or duct tape.

2. What speaks to you most powerfully of Christian unity?

Research

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

1. Matthew 7.12 is the heart of 7.17-14. How does vs.7-11 relate to vs.12? Vs. 13-14?

2. Read John 17.20-23 closely. How many times is God the Father referenced?

Reflection

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

1. Treating others as you’d want to be treated is easily forgotten and can be hard. Why?

2. Which affects the unity of believers most: your private or your public actions? Explain.

3. How is disunity among disciples most obvious to those yet to believe? And unity, too?

4. What can a Christian do to increasingly incline their heart to treating others well?

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. Pray through the church directory, promising God to grow in respect for each person.

2. Deliberately do something for another that you know would bind love’s bonds tighter.

links: this went thru my mind

 

American history, church, civil rights, culture, discrimination, government, legislation, politics, religious rights, state & violence: * The Origin of “Separation of Church and State” in America; * A Deeper Look at the Politicians Who Passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964; * Five Takeaways From the Hobby Lobby Case

* “… I called the place Providence, I desired it might be a shelter for persons distressed for conscience.”

* “… the passage of the bill required the political machinations of an assortment of Republicans, Democrats, Northerners and Southerners, congressmen, senators, presidents and activists. … The debate over the Civil Rights Act is still, to this day, the longest debate in Senate history.”

* “Also unclear, legal experts say, is how this decision is going to affect religious non-profits and religiously affiliated schools and hospitals that want the same sort of exemption the justices awarded to Hobby Lobby.”

Christianity, civility, courtesy, culture, humility, influence, respect, speech, wisdom & witness: Civil Religion: Seeing Neighbors [required reading]

“In a pluralistic society, one of the greatest gifts the Church can give the world is to keep humanizing people and reminding the world that no one is exempt from being made in the image of God. From Donald Sterling to Jesse Jackson, from Rush Limbaugh to Hillary Clinton.”

Christianity, nationalism, patriotism & the United States: Christians and July 4th: Celebrate with Kingdom Lenses – Not Americanized Ones

“… how much the story of Christianity has been prostituted to the story of Empire. … At the same time, I think there is much about this country to celebrate. … So, let’s celebrate together on July 4th, but let’s do so with Kingdom lenses on. Enjoy the lights in the sky and the wonderful food. Enjoy the wonderful people of America. But, for those who follow Jesus, how can we subvert tendencies like the idolatry of flag pledges with humility? This, and many other questions that this day raises, will need to be handled with generous love towards those who disagree with us, while not compromising our true Kingdom allegiance.”

Facebook: Five Easy Ways to Customize Your Facebook News Feed

“If you’re tired of trying to find the things you want in your news feed, try these five customization options. They’re extremely easy to setup and you just might fall in love with your Facebook news feed again.”

Gossip, listening, slander, speech & words: When in the Company of Gossips

“When you find yourself in the company of gossips, Solomon says the best thing to do is get away!”

Parenting, role models, Super heroes, Wonder Woman & youth: 11 Reasons Wonder Woman Is a Good Role Model for Christian Girls

“Like Wonder Woman, we have a belt of truth, our best defense against the deceptions of the dark one and of everyone else, including ourselves.”