The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.
Here are links to five articles that I’ve found to be interesting and helpful reading.
Achievement, expectations, humility, service, success & the will of God: God’s Not Looking for Heroes
“We don’t all need to be heroes. Jesus is the Hero. The Hero came 2000 years ago. So He’s already the Hero. He’s not looking for heroes, He’s looking for co-laborers. The challenge is, most people want to be co-stars, not co-laborers. If you actually understood what it was to be a co-laborer, you could labor wherever you are.”
America, culture, individualism, materialism, nationalism, patriotism, values & war: American Values Are Not Necessarily Christian Values
“… [there can be] no excuse for conflating country and church. We can appreciate and even respect the nation in which we reside, but we must not forget that our status is as foreigner and exiles. (1 Peter 2:11)”
American Sniper, cinema, deception, distortion, evil, film, movies & payback: Clint Eastwood’s Sniper, and the American Messiah [essential reading]
“This is the problem with the white-hat black-hat narrative of Hollywood: when ‘they’ do what ‘we’ do (though ‘they,’ of course, poor saps, are just not as efficient in their killing as ‘we’ are) it is evil, but when Americans do it, it is heroic. Eastwood’s Kyle insists he is doing what he does because he does not want terrorists in our neighborhoods here. Yet he participates in the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11; a country who was headed by, no doubt, a despot but a despot who had furthered his hold on power by the support of our own country; and when those people fight back because they don’t want foreign invaders in their streets, it’s ‘evil’ like Eastwood’s Kyle has never yet imagined.”
Anger, bitterness, forgiveness, hatred & resentment: A Holocaust Survivor, Spared From Gas Chamber By Twist Of Fate
“Anger doesn’t get you anyplace. Hate doesn’t get you anyplace.”
Attention span, authority, church, commitment, Facebook & social media: 5 Ways Facebook May be Harming Your Church
“What effect does ‘social media’ technology have on the way we view church? What effect does it have on the way we conceive of life in the body of Christ?”
Church attendance, commitment, culture, time & trends: The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 and What to Do About It [essential reading]
“Specifically, in the last 2 years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. It’s presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work. (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations. What is the one trend? Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015.”
Caricature, hatred, Islam, Muslims & stereotyping: How Not to Kill a Muslim [essential reading]
“The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.”
Cinema, Exodus, film & movies: Three Takeaways from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’
“Whatever one might think about the explicit divergences from the biblical story (e.g., the conversation at the burning bush is too limited in the movie, the omission of the opening confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, absence of Pharaoh-Moses interaction about the plagues, etc.), the story is told to make a point(s) for contemporary audiences. I heard several points, but here are my major takeaways. 1. Israel wrestles with God. … 2. Jewish Holocaust Relived. … 3. Not by Israel’s sword, but by the Lord’s right hand.”
Conversion, conviction, discipleship, gospel, kingdom & transformation: Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot? [essential reading]
“Why does being ‘Christian’ in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? … people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a ‘kingdom’ that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before. “All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. … It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge.”
Desensitization, humanity, killing, military, violence & war: The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill
“In my project Targets I look at the present day. I visited 30 countries to document the appearance of the targets with which soldiers today are conditioned to shoot, or as one trainer said: ‘They are supposed to learn to hit, not shoot.’ Another said, ‘It sounds cruel, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.’ “How is he represented today – the enemy that soldiers are later expected to kill? Is he an abstract figure? Does he have a face, and if so, what kind? Has the image of the enemy changed?”
“So, you’re new in the ministry? And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend. Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.”
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 15) 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.
Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.
To hold up the ways of God our Father before all who seek to be like Him when they grow up.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122.1 NRSV)
• … and the Lord … said, “This is what you are to … tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” … The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” (Exodus 19.3-6,8a NIV)
• … watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children. (Deuteronomy 4.9-10 NIV)
• In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established … Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2.2-3a NRSV)
• … you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice. (Romans 15.6 CEB)
• Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Ephesians 6.4 The Message)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. Tell us of something important you saw modeled by your father, a parent, or guardian.
2. Complete this sentence as you understand him now: “God is ____.” What makes you think so?
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
1. Read Deut. 4.1-40 aloud with each group member reading a single verse. What’s emphasized?
2. Read Ps. 122. What emotion is noted in vs.1-2? What action (v.3-5)? What expectation (vs. 6-9)?
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. If a man is a Christian father, what are his highest priorities before the Lord to his children?
2. Name some society/”life” barriers to more involvement on your part with our church family?
3. Name the greatest barriers within you to greater/consistent participation in church life?
4. What benefits and blessings accrue to children when Christian parents are sold out to Christ?
5. List your priorities based on your beliefs. Then list your priorities based on time spent. Pray.
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.
1. Consider what your current level of interaction and service with our church family is conveying to, and doing for, yourself and others. Maximize your committed involvement.
Authority & personal experience: Sola Experienca is For Real. [essential reading]
“There was a time when experience saluted Scripture.”
* “Choosing a church (or non-church) where we ‘fit,’ may be the strongest guarantee that we will never be asked to change. This, I suspect, is why we do it. In church, as in the rest of life, we don’t want transformation as much as we say we do. We’d rather have comfort. The best thing many of us could do is envisage church as an opportunity to embrace that which is outside of us, that which does not – at least on the surface – appeal to what we already are.
* “The documents of the NT, with a few exceptions, are addressed to communities and not to individuals. Many of us know this and it may not be too shocking, but the significances of this reality must continue to transform how we envision Christian identity.”
Commitment, endurance, faithfulness, love, selflessness & vision: Father-Son Duo, Team Hoyt, Celebrates 37 Years of Inspiring Teamwork With One Last Boston Marathon
“In 1962, Dick and Judy Hoyt welcomed their son, Rick, into an unsuspecting world — a world that would forever be changed by their presence and sacrifice. Because of complications with his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. … Dick remembers the advice of the doctors who suggested that his son would essentially be non-functioning, and that he should place him in an institution. Dick refused.”
Gossip: Gossip is a Spiritual Issue
“Whether it’s cloaked in a prayer request, ‘concern’ for another or simply news from the grapevine, Christians have a problem with gossip. I have yet to find a place where gossip isn’t present on some level or another.”
Hearing, listening, preaching, responsibility & sermons: When Hearing Fails
“We can control what we preach, but we cannot control how the message is heard. This is frustrating, but it is also something we need to come to grips with. We have no power or control over how another person hears our words.”
Jesus, sacrifice, & suicide: Did Jesus Commit Suicide?
“So Jesus did not kill himself, but he did act in such a way so as to bring about his death. In some extraordinary way he seemed to control those final hours and what ultimately happened to him.”
Marriage: Letter to Our Grandsons on Choosing a Wife [essential reading]
“The typical thinking has always been that the main issue for marriage is ‘do we love each other?’ It isn’t.”
Aging & maturity: Maturing vs. Growing Older [required reading]
“Crotchety and complaining or positive and adoring? Grumpy or cheerful? Age; natural age takes us one direction and spiritual age leads us into the marvel of another way. One spreads death; the other … life.”
“… church membership is becoming less and less meaningful in many churches. As membership becomes less meaningful, commitment naturally wanes.”
Dental care, expectations, Jesus, perception & toothbrushes: Did Jesus Have All His Teeth?
“I’m wondering whether Jesus had all his teeth when he left behind his private life in Nazareth for the more public life of an itinerant preacher and healer. According to Luke, he was ‘about 30’ at the time.”
* “… I am not against pastors using a tablet in the pulpit for, say, sermon notes. Rather, I’m concerned about replacing the physical Bible with a tablet in the pulpit. As the pastor enters the pulpit to bring the Word of God to the people of God, no hard copy of the Bible is to be found in his hand, gracing the top of the podium, visible to the entire congregation as the book at the center of attention. Instead, the congregation sees a tablet. While this may seem harmless enough, I believe there are several potential dangers this subtle shift generates.”
* “… we discovered an as yet unpublished letter from a certain Roman Presbyter “Maximus the Cantankerous” to “St. Callistus I” dated ca. 220 AD. In this fragmentary letter, Maximus complains to Callistus about the introduction of codices in churches to the exclusion of the scrolls. What follows is based on my own translation of the Latin.”
Giving thanks: The Serious Business of Giving Thanks [required reading]
“… for Paul giving thanks is nearly revolutionary. It’s quite subversive in the first century. Rather than naming all the parts of one’s life as good gifts provided by the Roman gods, early Christians named the various aspects of their lives as good gifts from God who is the Father of Jesus Christ, the one who gave up everything that God’s people might have everything.
“In this sense, giving thanks is strategic truth-speaking. When we give thanks, we regard the world rightly, reckoning it as God’s world, and reckoning ourselves as recipients of God’s overpowering goodness.
“Further, giving thanks reckons rightly with how we live and move and have our being in God’s presence and in God’s hands. …
“Beyond this, giving thanks to others helps us remember that we carry each other in our hands. We belong to each other, we are in one another’s hands to do good and to receive good gifts from one another.”
Humor in the Bible: Laughter in the Bible? Absolutely!
“As I study and teach, I find I read the Bible ever more slowly, and as I do, I smile more and more frequently. I listen for its humor. My emotions span sorrow, understanding or joy as I empathize with the characters who cross its pages. I chuckle at many passages, even while acknowledging the sadness they may contain. Consequently, I believe it’s possible to read many verses, stories and even books through the lens of humor, indeed to see portions of the Bible as intended to be very funny. An appropriate response is laughter. I’ve come to this conclusion: Humor is a fundamental sub-theme in both testaments.”
Old Testament: Paul and the Unquestioned Authority of the “Old Testament” [required reading]
“… the sad fact remains for most in Churches of Christ the Old Testament is simply irrelevant to their faith. Outside of the sermons I have personally preached or lessons I have taught I know of only a handful of sermons in my life from the first 76% of the Bible. …
“Growing up, I had no idea how absolutely, and completely, contrary to the apostolic example of Paul our contemporary practice was regarding the ‘Scripture’ (Paul never uses the phrase ‘Old Testament’). Paul’s entire framework for understanding God, Christ, the Gospel, redemption, faith, and yes even the church/people of God comes from the ‘Old Testament.'”