toward a stranger Thanksgiving

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NOTE: The following is a guest post by a dear friend of mine, Bill Ehlig. Bill happens to be one of my shepherds at MoSt Church and I can assure you, he, more than anyone else I know, “practices what he preaches” in this post. Enjoy, and be challenged!

- Our President took the liberty to refer to a concept from the Bible last night. It is not all that well known, but ignorance of the concept cannot be attributed to the concept being unmentioned. In fact the concept of care for strangers is fairly basic in the Bible from beginning to end. The President said, “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.” He was nearly quoting from Exodus 23.9:

“Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

This is a theme in the Law [Genesis – Deuteronomy] and also the Prophets [Isaiah – Malachi, the Jews adding most of Joshua – 2 Kings]. Have a look if you wish: Ex. 22.21 (20); Lev. 19.33, 34; Deut. 10.18,19; 24.17,18; Jer. 7.6; 22.3; Ezek.  22.7,29; Zech. 7.10. If you looked at these, you may have noticed that the concern is not only negative [don’t oppress], but also positive [take care of the stranger]. The 3rd or 4th commandment [depending if you count the Catholic or Protestant] refers to the same concern [Deut. 5.12-14; Ex. 20.8-11]. Also, Israel was supposed to be somewhat careless regarding the harvest and leave some in the field for the strangers and others [Deut. 24.19-22; Ruth 2.1-23]. The Law took all this one step further regarding taxes in Deuteronomy 14.28-29:

“At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.”

Israel paid for assistance whether they got taxes from the stranger or not! This was in their budget. Not too surprisingly Jesus took up the same line as Moses. An example: the commandment he called ‘The Second’ [Matt. 22.34-36; Mark 12.28-34; Luke 10.25-28] “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The story of the Good Samaritan is downstream of this commandment in Luke. Jesus was quoting from Leviticus 19.18. I would add from the same chapter verses 33 and 34.

“And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

A last note from Jesus; he defined the differences between sheep and goats on how they cared for the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned [Matt. 25.31-46]. He set the bar high, much higher than our discourse has generally been. Earlier, I wrote ‘beginning to end’. Let me add Genesis 15.13 and Hebrews 13.2. That would be about 92% of span of the whole Bible. There is plenty more between these about caring for others, even strangers.

There is something which should be added to all this: The President used the word ‘stranger’ for his speech. That would be from the King James Version. He could have used other words instead. Other translations do not use ‘stranger.’ They use foreigner, alien, immigrant, and more. Generally the point can be made with a little more umph from these other translations.

I wonder how much the President’s citation from scripture was noticed. I wonder how much hearers realized just how rich the concern for strangers is in Scripture.

There will be those who would prefer the President kept out of religion. Fine, I suppose. But I hope these abandon the song of “our Judeo/Christian heritage”. If we can’t get “the heart of a stranger” right, we might want to avoid other subjects where Scripture is not so clearly represented. Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving. Let us not forget the ‘stranger’ part of that celebration.

Bill Ehlig

LIFE group guide: sing: when we sing, we …

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 9) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the second in a three-part series entitled Sing!

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon, in a series.

To stress the significance of singing in our life together as seekers of God.

Revelation

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

• May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice. So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory. (Romans 15.5-7 CEB)

• … be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5.18b-20 NRSV)

• Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3.16 NRSV)

• So let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise through him, which is the fruit from our lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13.15 CEB)

• Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. (James 5.13b NLT)

• … before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. … They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. (Revelation 14.1-3,4a NIV)

Relation

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

1. Name a song that never fails to makes you smile whenever you hear it.

2. You’re stranded on a desert island. You have only one song recorded to listen to. What is it?

Research

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

1. Read Rom. 14.1-4,13,19; 15.2. What enables disciples to glorify God “together with one voice”?

2. In the texts above, what is specifically connected with “Christ”? What does he do or have?

3. Read Ps. 40.1-3; 96.1-2,13; 98.1; 144.9-14; 149. What prompts God’s people to sing a “new song”?

Reflection

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

1. If our singing is a “sacrifice of praise,” what does it “cost” to praise God? Cost you? Cost us?

2. Choose. “My favorite church songs have (a) God or (b) others as the primary audience?” Why?

3. “I tend to pay very close attention to the words and meaning of a song whenever _________.”

4. How exactly do we “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom” through singing?

5. What happens when we sing together that can’t/doesn’t happen any other time?

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. Select one song of praise to deliberately put in your heart and sing to God each day this week.

2. Compose a short, simple “new song” expressing thanksgiving for God’s victory in your life.

LIFE group guide: sing! with a song in your heart

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 2) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the first in a three-part series entitled Sing!

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon, in a series.

To stress the significance of singing in our life together as seekers of God.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon. Words underlined are stressed in the Greek.

• When they had sang a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Mark 14.26 NIV)

• Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise … Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5.15,18-20 NRSV)

• Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3.16 NRSV)

• Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3.16 CEB)

• So let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise through him, which is the fruit from our lips that confess his name. Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices. (Hebrews 13.15-16 CEB)

• Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. (James 5.13 NLT)

Relation

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

1. What are some of your all-time favorite songs or artists, Christian or otherwise.

2. Tell us of a song or album that has made a significant impact on your life. How so?

Research

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

1. Ps. 118 could be what was sung in Mk. 14.26. Read Ps. 118. How does it fit the context?

2. Scholars think 1 Tim. 3.16 is a part of a hymn. What other parts of Scripture are song?

Reflection

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

1. One might have legitimate reasons not to sing, but what are some common excuses?

2. Why is it that words sung to music often touch us more deeply than unsung words?

3. “The Christian songs I enjoy singing most are about ___. They have ___ in common.”

4. Who receives the most good from singing: the singer or the one sung to? Why?

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. Every day this month, use the song CD provided for our upcoming praise workshop.

links: this went thru my mind

 

Cats, language, learning & Spanish: I Can Haz Spanish Lessons: Cat Pictures Now Have A Purpose

“It’s no secret cats rule the Internet. Now, just flipping through cat pictures can be an educational experience. A new iOS app called teaches 1,000 basic phrases by showing you flash cards of cute cats. ‘It’s the most ridiculously silly, but yet ruthlessly effective way of learning conversational Spanish,’ says , founder of , the group behind Cat Spanish. For example, when learning the phrase ‘I need help,’ the app shows a cat tangled in a tree. Users memorize the phrases through repeated tests.”

Children & parenting: To The Mamas of Littles During the Holidays

“Lower your expectations for what is humanly possible in one day. Now think about how many toddlers you have and lower them again.”

Civility, disability, respect, sensitivity, speech & words: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair

“Most people definitely mean well, but some sentiments aren’t received the way many able bodied people might expect. In the disabled community, it’s not uncommon for us to joke with each other about some of our interesting conversations with family, friends and strangers that often involve some off putting statements.”

Culture & family: The Changing American Family

“American households have never been more diverse, more surprising, more baffling. In this special issue of Science Times, Natalie Angier takes stock of our changing definition of family.”

Pope Francis: * Ten Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Read Pope Francis; * Evangelii Gaudium [essential reading]

* “While evangelicals and Catholics will continue to have their theological differences — differences that stem back 500 years or more — we just might find some common ground in the words of Francis.”

* “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”

Self-deprecation: The Trouble With Self-Deprecation [essential reading]

“… all of us are good at something and lousy at something. And if we could only get that through our skulls, we would be freed once and for all to speak comfortably of our strengths and faults, and those of our brothers.”

Thanksgiving: * Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So; * When I Had Beans for Thanksgiving; * Thanksgiving By the Numbers [infographic]

* “The Lord is good. His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations. So, let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

* “Am I really thankful? Can I be thankful even for what I don’t have? Can I be thankful even when it’s not what I asked for? Can I be thankful in all circumstances, as the Apostle Paul commanded us?”

* “What was the menu for the first Thanksgiving? How many turkeys are consumed each year at Thanksgiving?”

on giving thanks; a very brief sermon

 

Give thanks.

This is good. Very good. May we only grow in the practice of it.

But, let us always remember that giving thanks is not an end in itself.

Our giving thanks to God is meant to move us toward giving grace to others.

For while God does not need our thanks (he is not “in need” of anything), he does desire his creation to be good to the rest of creation.

To live in harmony, peace, and blessing.

To love as he loves.

And so today, if you are thankful you have …

* food … then pray for the hungry and seek to feed others;

* clothing … then petition God for those who are without and clothe others;

* a place out of the elements … intercede for those who are homeless and support low-cost housing;

* a legal and ethical means of making a living … pray for the unemployed and the wrongly employed, work hard at your job, and assist others as you can;

* family and friends … talk with God for the lonely and abandoned, caring for them with your time and attention.

* freedom to worship without persecution … plead with God for the persecuted and love your enemies.

Give thanks. This is good. May such grow daily all the more in us.

In terms of expression, and not only emotion. In ways of action, and not merely intention. In means of care, not just concern.

For our God is good.

And so, let us be good to all.

All the time.