links: this went thru my mind

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Bible literacy & reading:*  Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge [required reading]; * 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible [essential reading]

* “Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. It’s obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture. Just as critical is the second word of the Bible literacy problem: literacy. Pew Research tells us that 23 percent of us didn’t read a single book in the last year. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978.”

* Read ‘King’ when you see ‘Christ.’ … read ‘you’ differently … if you see a ‘therefore,’ find out what it’s there for … realize that not all ‘if’ statements are the same … recognize that lamenting is OK … realize that prophecy is more often forth-telling than fore-telling … become familiar with the idioms of your King … remember what you learned in English class … read to study, but also, read to refresh your heart.”

College funding: A College Financial Aid Guide for Families Who Have Saved Nothing

“In just a generation or two, we’ve gone from students working their way through college without too much trouble, to many parents still being able to write checks to cover tuition out of current income, to sticker prices being so high that two decades of savings may not be enough to cover two children from relatively affluent families.”

Government, Houston, law suits, litigation & sermons: Victory Through Defeat

“As a matter of normal legal practice, I doubt that Mayor Parker, David Feldman, or anyone at the City of Houston read the subpoenas before they were sent, much less specifically ordered the discovery and confiscation of sermon notes and other communications involving homosexuality and gender identity. Typically in litigation lawyers will throw a bunch of jello at a wall and see what sticks, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, they’ll fill up the kitchen sink and see what takes. In other words, the lawyer drafting the discovery requests and subpoenas probably tried to think of every conceivable thing that could possibly be related to this lawsuit and asked for it. You don’t get it if you never ask, and litigation is all about being aggressive and taking anything that the other side will give you. Again, these are just requests (issued by a lawyer), and the judge can quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order for the pastors. …

“… the reality is that we are merely dealing with an overbroad discovery request from a zealous trial lawyer employed by the City. So the sky is not falling. This is not a government-wide ‘approval’ system of pulpit messages. The pastors aren’t being threatened with punishment merely for the contents of their sermons. But this is harassment, and the small things add up. A government that tries to intimidate pastors who would seek to employ the democratic process to repeal a morally questionable piece of legislation is no friend of liberty, religious or otherwise. The government answers to the people; the people do not answer to the government. Remember that. The subpoena is only step one in their 12-step program.”

Prayer: 5 Triggers to Grow Your Prayer Life

“For years, when I thought about prayer, I mostly felt guilty for my lack of a robust prayer life. Reading stories of great saints praying for two hours a day or more left me with a gnawing sense of defeat. I would often resolve to pray more. But the resolves didn’t last.”

Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23

“All of this comes from Yahweh’s ‘goodness and mercy.’”

Bruner on John 10.27-38

 

“My very special sheep are [doing three things:] listening to my voice, and I am getting to know them experientially [they are experiencing me], and they are walking around with me. And I am giving them, in turn, [three realities]: deep, lasting Life, and they will never ever perish, and no one will ever snatch these people out of my grip.” We learn, here, several characteristics of Jesus’ True-Church people from this two verse (3+3) description of them:

1. They are the people who, first and most fundamentally, listen to Jesus’ voice.
2. They are the people whom Jesus is getting to know, experientially.
3. They are the people who are starting to walk with and to follow Jesus.
4. They are the people, therefore, who are receiving deep, lasting Life from Jesus.
5. They are the people who are given the special assurance of an indefectible security.
6. They are the people (he repeats for emphasis) who are forever safe in Jesus’ grip. …

The Johannine Jesus’ present description of his special sheep – his true Church – is deceptively simple. These people “do” three things, which are really the inhaling and exhaling of a living faith in any relation: They listen to Jesus’ voice, he gets to know them (i.e., they experience him), and so they start to walk with him. To these simplest of human responses, Jesus promises his two most personal gifts – getting to know you (or what John’s Gospel calls “Life”) and keeping care of you (safety or, theologically, salvation). This proposal is hard to turn down. Who would not want to live with a friend like this?

Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Eerdmans, 2012), pp.635-636,638

not a flake; part of the flock (3)

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Sun., Apr. 29. This guide will enable your follow-up of the third (and final) installment in the sermon mini-series on some of what it means to be a sheep in God’s flock (Not a Flake; Part of the Flock). The primary texts for tomorrow morning’s sermon, and this discussion, are John 10:7-8,10,27-28 and John 21:15-17,19. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title “LIFE group guides.”

Aim

To lay down a basic understanding of the life and role of a person who is one of God’s sheep.

Word

… Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. … Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. … I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest. …

My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life. They will never die, and no one will snatch them from my hand. (John 10.7-8,10,27-28 CEB)

When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”

He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. … After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.” (John 21.15-17,19 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Complete this sentence: “I believe I’m the most useful and productive whenever I ______?”

2. What songs or movies, not specifically religious, reinforce the need to live a selfless life?

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. In John 21-15-17,19, what does Jesus specifically call for Peter to do?

2. Let the two texts above spark your recall of other Scriptures that speak clearly for us to live useful lives for the Master. What passages come to your mind? Why?

Reflect

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

1. What other animals convey to you a sense of “we’re here for the sake of others?”

2. What would a “full life” be like for a sheep?

3. What are some of the greatest hurdles you have to regularly clear in giving your life in service to others? What do you find helps you clear them?

4. Create a moment of specific affirmation and encouragement for each group member. As a group, affirm and verbalize something of the contributions you are aware of in each group member that honor’s God’s name and promotes the health of God’s flock. Afterward, pray.

5. With or without question # 3 in view, is there anything in particular you can tell us about that we can pray for in regard to you laying down your life more fully in service to others?

not a flake; part of the flock (2)

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Sun., Apr. 22. This guide will enable your follow-up of the second sermon in a series of sermons on some of what it means to be a sheep in God’s flock (Not a Flake; Part of the Flock). The primary text for tomorrow morning’s sermon, and this discussion, is John 10. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title “LIFE group guides.”

Aim

To lay down a basic understanding of the life and role of a person who is one of God’s sheep.

Word

[Jesus said:] “The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The guard at the gate opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he has gathered all of his sheep, he goes before them and they follow him, because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger but will run away because they don’t know the stranger’s voice.” Those who heard Jesus use this analogy didn’t understand what he was saying.

So Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.

… “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that don’t belong to this sheep pen. I must lead them too. They will listen to my voice and there will be one flock, with one shepherd. ” (John 10.2-10,14-16 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Tell us of a time you were able to pick out a loved one’s voice in a noisy place or crowd.

2. Complete this sentence: “I feel a bit sheepish (shy, timid, self-conscious) about _______.”

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. How do sheep learn the voice of their shepherd?

2. Working from this text, what is a sheep’s best defense against “thieves” and “outlaws?”

3. According to this passage, what is the shepherd’s ultimate goal for the sheep?

4. In context, who are Jesus’ own sheep (vs. 14) and who are his “other sheep” (vs. 16)?

Reflect

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

1. What do sheep who know the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, do? What do they not do?

2. How can we, as God’s sheep, learn to discern the voice of Jesus?

3. If we listen to Jesus, we will welcome the “other sheep” Jesus brings into the flock. What might this look like, and how might it even challenge or change, the ways we “do church?”

4. How would you rate or score the way you know and listen to Jesus? Why?

5. If you began to more deeply learn and listen to Jesus, how would your ways change?

not a flake; part of the flock (1)

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Sun., Apr. 15. This guide will enable your follow-up of the first sermon in a series of sermons on some of what it means to be a sheep in God’s flock (Not a Flake; Part of the Flock). The primary text for tomorrow morning’s sermon, and this discussion, is Ezekiel 34. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title “LIFE group guides.”

Aim

To lay down a basic understanding of the life and role of a person who is one of God’s sheep.

Word

I myself will feed my flock and make them lie down. This is what the Lord God says. I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak. But the fat and the strong I will destroy, because I will tend my sheep with justice.

As for you, my flock … I will judge between the rams and the bucks among the sheep and the goats. Is feeding in good pasture or drinking clear water such a trivial thing that you should trample and muddy what is left with your feet? But now my flock must feed on what your feet have trampled and drink water that your feet have muddied.

… I will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. You shove with shoulder and flank, and with your horns you ram all the weak sheep until you’ve scattered them outside. But I will rescue my flock so that they will never again be prey. I will even judge between the sheep! …

The nations will no longer prey on them, and wild animals will no longer devour them. They will live in safety, with no one to trouble them. …

They will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are my people. … You are my flock, the flock of my pasture. You are human, and I am your God. This is what the Lord God says. (Ezekiel 34.15-22,28,30-31 CEB)

Open

Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. If you chose an animal to depict or represent the people of God, what would it be? Why?

2. Life in the church for me has been like dealing with a _____. [name an animal]

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. What positive benefits of sheep do you see stated or implied in Ezk. 34?

2. What negative traits or actions of sheep do you notice, implicit or explicit, in Ezk. 34?

3. How do sheep relate to each other in Ezk. 34? What human behavior is God pointing out?

4. What does God promise to do with his sheep in Ezk. 34?

Reflect

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

1. Why do you think God emphasized this metaphor of his people as being like sheep?

2. What characteristics of sheep do you readily perceive in Christ’s church?

3. What animal would you say the world tends to view Christ’s church as being like? Why?

4. What traits of sheep do you most easily recognize in yourself?

5. What qualities of sheep do you think others see in you?

6. For the sake of the other sheep in the flock, I resolve to be a better sheep of God by ______.