links: this went thru my mind

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Application, Bible reading, interpretation, meditation, obedience & reflection: * Reading the Bible vs. Being Read by the Bible; * Asking the Bible to Do More Than It Does

* “I suspect it was for my failure that God had been waiting.”

* “According to Scripture we do not first know and comprehend the way and then decide to follow it; it is rather the one who is on the journey who knows that he is on the right way. Knowledge comes only in action and decision. Only he who is in truth will recognize the truth.”

Archaeology, credibility, discernment, hoaxes, reality & scams: Questions to Ask of Sensational Stories

“… I suggest that the following questions be asked as you read …”

Communication, literary devices, public speaking & writing: 10 Literary Devices that Actually Work

“If you want to become a better writer, using literary devices is a way to add spice.”

Government, politics & voting: Greg on Politics

“Think deeply about what it means to be a follower of Jesus and whether or not you should be having any allegiance to the politics of this world.”

the church Jesus goes to

 

I know where Jesus goes to church. Without a doubt. He goes to the church that lives deliberately, boldly, and consistently …

pursuing peace and reconciliation. Though it lives in a world saturated with anger, disrespect, snarkiness, and insult, with a will it refuses to go there. It’s done with living by rage, choosing righteousness instead. It’s not defined by its own insecurities and its ability to utter barbed wit in retort to those who mock it, but by its humble confidence in its Christ and its dependence on the provision of God’s Spirit in every situation, no matter how dark or difficult. Imagine: a church made distinctive to all by not being abrasive and hard to live with.

unruled by its wants. Though surrounded on every side by people chasing after every kind of lust and sanctifying all sorts of unfaithfulness in every relationship, it isn’t seduced to do the same. It doesn’t seek its own will, but whatever God’s will is for it. Instead of searching for meaning in whatever it perceives as sexy (not just sex itself, by whatever is “sexy”), it finds its meaning in its Lord and Savior, for he is enough, and more. Picture this: a church known to the world for its contentment and reliability.

by its words of honesty. Though the culture in which is resides is given over to dishonesty and deception, it quietly walks its talk. It practices what it preaches, not merely what’s “practical” in the moment. Its ways aren’t determined by always choosing what works out for its own best interest, but by going after the truth that true love can truly rejoice in always. Capture this vision: a church perceived as genuine and true by all who care to truly engage it.

extending mercy generously. Though its world is largely driven by retaliation and payback, fueled by fear and the never ending yearning for hard justice, it walks by faith on higher ground. It thrives on the Spirit of compassion, not the spirit of competition. Its life map is not of doing whatever would instill fear in others of it, but to do whatever would help install faith in others in the God it follows. Draw it in your head like this: a church characterized by selfless giving and costly care.

loving the unlovable. Though seemingly all of society continually calls it to elicit indifference, ill will, hate, or anything and everything else that dehumanizes, it chooses to love with the love of the divine instead. By so doing, it traffics in forgiveness, not fierceness or fighting. This is because it seeks its definition not in its enemies, but in him who allowed his enemies to spike him to a tree. Place this before your eyes: a church that will mount the cross with its Lord, and die with him. Daily.

After all, what else could a person honestly conclude after reading what Jesus candidly said in Matthew 5.21-26,27-32,33-37,38-42,43-48?

And so, I have to ask: what might a church become if it understood and made these matters its chief means of worshiping and following Jesus Christ? In a week? A month? A few years? Over the course of a lifetime? Or after several generations?

Would it not become more and more like the One it worshiped? And wouldn’t that be what both the Lord, and they, wanted most of all?

Let’s find out. Let’s go to church with Jesus!

golden nuggets from Sirach (1)

 

On of the things I’m about this year in my reading is working through the Apocrypha, paying special attention to the book of Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus). More and more so each year, Sirach becomes one of my favorite writings. It’s not a book for quick reading. To truly appreciate what’s being said in it, you must read it slowly and repeatedly, with reflection.

Following are five of the statements that have jumped out at me in my reading of Sirach this time through. Put them in your head and let them steep a bit.

“My child, if you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.” (Sirach 2.1)

“… conduct your affairs with gentleness, and you will be loved more than a person of good repute.” (Sirach 3.17)

“Don’t deprive a poor person’s life, and don’t avoid looking the needy in the eyes. … Listen to the poor, and reply with peaceful and gentle speech.” (Sirach 4.1,8)

“Don’t lower yourself before a fool, and don’t show partiality toward the powerful. Fight to the death on behalf of truth, and the Lord God will fight for you.” (Sirach 4.27-28)

“Don’t be preoccupied with your money, and don’t say, ‘I’m self-sufficient.'” (Sirach 5.1)

devoted: grow a spine

 

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Nov. 18. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: Grow a Spine. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides.

Aim

To explore what it means to develop a spine and to devote it to God.

Word

I’m writing these things to you so … you’ll know how you should behave in God’s household. It is the church of the living God and the backbone and support of the truth. 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 3.14b-16 CEB)

Open

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

1. Here’s a sanctified chance to moan a bit. Do you have back trouble? If so, tell us about it. What’s it like, how does it affect what you do, etc.

2. Tell us about some “aggie-engineering” (sorry Aggies; perhaps I should have said “a Rube Goldberg device”) you used to hold something together one time.  Think “over-abundance of duct tape,” etc. How’d that work out for you?

Dig

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

1. vs. 15 – Compare the wording here in several versions. Thoughts? What is the backbone and support of the truth?

2. vs. 15b – What is “the truth” Paul has reference to here? Answer in context.

3. vs. 15a,16 – How is it that the truths expressed in vs. 16 – “the mystery of godliness” – relate to our knowing how to “behave in God’s household?”

Reflect

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

1. If truth is truth, how is it truth needs any “backbone” or “support?”

2. What singular item of the six aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ – “the mystery of godliness” (vs. 16) – do you think of most often? Why? Least often? Why?

3. What does it do for you to know that God is counting on you to courageously and consistently support with your life what he defines as “the truth” in this world?

4. How have you seen the church powerfully living out some of God’s truth?

5. Someone tells you that all “truth” is subjective? How would you respond?

6. Pray together as a group for God’s people – yourself included – to have discernment for what truly matters, what does not, and to have a strong spine for the former.

this went thru my mind

 

Consumerism: Committed to Unhappiness: Consumerism is the Enemy of the Church by Tony Campolo [required reading]

“The truth is that secular humanism is not the primary enemy of the Church.  Instead, the enemy of the Church is consumerism.  We have made an idol out of the things that are being sold.  We bow down and worship the commodities that are paraded before us on television.  We are enslaved to a mindset that tells us that we must possess more and more because we can never have enough.  These are the things that are dragging us away from Jesus. Our inability to enjoy life without a continual sense of craving consumer goods and being continuously satisfied with who we are and what we have is good news for economic growth and, after all, economic growth is what both political parties are preaching these days.”

Elections: * A Post-Election Reminder by Rubel Shelly [required reading]; * David Lipscomb on Voting by Richard Beck

* “If your candidate wins, can you assume that his every promise will be kept promptly and without fail? … If your candidate loses, will you be demoralized with the thought that all is lost? … You know better. The election of neither candidate will destroy the country, shatter the global economy, or make it impossible for godly people to seek the Kingdom of God. … A believer’s ultimate allegiance – and hope – is in the reign of God. Her hope is not in a human system, political party, or leader; it is in Jesus Christ.”

* “May the voice of David Lipscomb be recovered and increase in the Churches of Christ. Our churches need him.”

Hurricane Sandy relief efforts: New Jersey Congregation Brings Hope to Beach Town Hit Hard by Superstorm Sandy

“Among the New Jersey congregations heavily involved in the relief effort is the Gateway Church of Christ … Carl Williamson provides a first-person account of his family’s experience during the storm and shares details on the Gateway church’s relief work in hard-hit Union Beach, N.J.”

Jesus, our conception of & culture: Oh Constantine by Greg Boyd [required viewing; 5:45 min. clip]

“When you pick up the sword, you put down the cross.”

Marriage: Marriage With a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse by Brad Hambrick

“We are all married to a self-centered spouse. That is what it means for us to be fallen people who are bound to experience life from within our bodies. But there are cases where this ‘general self-centeredness’ becomes chronic — severe to a point that it either results in a marital environment of abuse or neglect.”

Meditation: What Did the Psalmist Mean by “Meditation”?

“… neither of the Hebrew words translated as ‘meditate’ or ‘meditation’ refers to silent activities. … we should probably imagine him singing or reciting the psalm from memory.”

Truth: Our Glaring Obsession With Truth by Terry Rush

“Jesus is the train wreck that must happen to any tribe.  He will not let us continue to do church our smug and small ways.  Yes, narrow is the way; but narrow isn’t that we don’t allow much.  Rather, narrow is defined by one singular Son of God named Jesus….as the author of salvation….and no one else.”

U.S. culture & religious diversity: Map of Religious Diversity in America

“This gets at how varied, or diverse, religious affiliation is in different regions of the country. As you can see, the areas with the most diversity also tend to have the lowest rates of adherence.”