… our life of faith consists in moving with God in terms of: (a) being securely oriented, (b) being painfully disoriented, and (c) being surprisingly reoriented.
– Walter Brueggemann –
Acceptance, evangelism, fellowship, forgiveness, hypocrisy, love, mercy, murder & outreach: He Befriended a Serial Killer, and Opened the Door to God [essential reading]
“Mr. Dahmer left behind confused parents, dozens of distraught relatives of the victims, the traumatized city of Milwaukee — and this white-bearded minister, struggling still at 60 with the sense that he, too, had been condemned, for having the audacity to grant God’s blessings upon the devil.”
Announcements & corporate worship gatherings: Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services
“I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations.”
Capital punishment, death penalty, payback & revenge: Don’t Give Tsarnaev Death Penalty [required reading]
“Should we kill Tsarnaev? And the answer, despite the abhorrent nature of the crime, is simple: No, we should not. We are better than that. The fact is that the death penalty isn’t justice, it’s revenge.”
Choices, farming, generations, life, lifestyle, Millenials & priorities: A Young Generation Sees Greener Pastures In Agriculture
“America’s heartland is graying. The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3 — and that number has been steadily ticking upward for more than 30 years. Overall, fewer young people are choosing a life on the land. But, in some places around the country, like Maine, that trend is reversing. Small agriculture may be getting big again — and there’s new crop of farmers to thank for it.”
ISIS, money, Muslim, power, stereo-typing, terrorism & violence: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion [required reading]
“When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising Mohammed or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims. It’s like bank robbers wearing masks of presidents; we don’t really think Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush hit the Bank of America during their down time.”
Bible classes, community, intergenerational faith formation & spiritual education: Why Bring the Generations Back Together in Churches [essential reading]
“… why did churches in the 70s, 80s, and 90s begin separating the generations by age and stage? … The move toward age segregation in society in general is one key factor that has contributed to age segregation in American churches. … Another factor, and from my perspective the main reason for age segregation in our faith communities, is that we have allowed educational and developmental psychology to influence our praxis too strongly. …
“Why bring the generations back together? … for the spiritual benefits of intergenerational Christian experiences and relationships. … ‘intergenerational relationships in faith communities are crucial.'”
Bible reading, community & interpretation: Misreading Scripture Alone
“Personal piety and a desire for truth are not guarantees that we always read Scripture aright. Consequently, we must rely upon our brothers and sisters in the faith to correct and rebuke us when we err, demonstrating our errors by Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). And this reliance on brothers and sisters refers not merely to those Christians who happen to be alive at the same time as us. Instead, it refers to the whole Christian Church, throughout time. We rely on those who have gone before us. They too get a say in the matter. As G. K. Chesterton has wonderfully put it, this sort of tradition is a ‘democracy of the dead.'”
Children, families, parenting & traditions: 3 Low Cost/High Impact Family Traditions
“Traditions are the building blocks for strong families.”
Focus, life, peace & stress: End Your Day Well to Start Your Day Well [essential reading]
“When you find the rhythm of evening and morning you will have good days.”
“What do you hear about great groups? Not that the members are all really smart but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic. And in our study we saw pretty clearly that groups that had smart people dominating the conversation were not very intelligent groups.”
Church, culture, demographics & multi-racial: The Changing Face of the American Church
“If you ask, would you like to have a multiethnic church, everyone says, ‘that would be wonderful’ … When you ask, what are you doing to make that happen—that’s when you hear the crickets.”
Contentment, life, meaning, significance & stimulation: What If Having an Extraordinary Life Isn’t the Point?
“What we are called to do every day, right where God has placed us, is rich and rewarding. … Sometimes, the best way to change the world is to live extraordinarily in what looks like an ordinary existence—to radically love and serve those around us every day, no matter where we are.”
“The tips and suggestions below are based on my research into cognitive psychology over the years as well as from reported experiences of men who have quit using porn. Again, there’s no silver bullet. What works for one man, may not work for you. You need to be ready to experiment and try different things.”
“Water has become a commodity …and the world’s poor are paying the price. … Twenty percent of the world right now does not have access to clean water. Twenty percent of the world also happens to live on less than a dollar a day. And it’s interesting to look at how much those two groups overlap.”
Church history: In Church Attics, Clues to the Private Life of Early America
“The historians are racing against inexorable church closings, occasional fires, and a more mundane but not uncommon peril: the actual loss of documents, which most often occurs when a church elder dies and no one can remember the whereabouts of historical papers.”
Cohabitation, marriage & Millenials: The Beta Marriage: How Millennials Approach ‘I Do’
“… almost half of millennials (43%, and higher among the youngest subset) said they would support a marriage model that involved a two-year trial — at which point the union could be either formalized or dissolved, no divorce or paperwork required. Thirty-three percent said they’d be open to trying what researchers dubbed the ‘real estate’ approach — marriage licenses granted on a five-, seven-, 10- or 30-year ARM, after which the terms must be renegotiated. And 21% said they’d give the ‘presidential’ method a try, whereby marriage vows last for four years but after eight you can elect to choose a new partner.”
Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Palestinians & war: What’s Really Going on in Israel?
“… why it matters and what we can do about it.”
* “Following the speed limit is FUN. This is counter-intuitive on every level.”
* “Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
To love what I ought to love,
To praise what delights thee most,
To value what is precious in thy sight,
To hate what is offensive to thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
Nor to pass sentence according
…..to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
But to discern with a true judgment
…..between things visible and spiritual,
And above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of thy will.”
* “The Bible calls for two things: We face the future waiting and praying.”
Manhood & masculinity: What is Biblical Masculinity?
“As I read the Scriptures I have a difficult time discerning what exactly the Bible says about ‘masculinity.'”
“There’s no doubt Texas has its own real life Lone Star ‘Forrest Gump’ – a man with humble roots, unexpected achievements and an extraordinary life that changed the world and embedded him in the annals of football, aerospace and religious history.
“Take a former Texas Aggie football player who was a ballistic missile experimenter, who became a Presbyterian missionary and college professor, put him in the wilds of Brazil, liberally add earth satellites and horseback treks among uncivilized Indians, then flavor the whole thing with two American Presidents and the first Bible to land on the moon, and you have the makings of a story on which any fiction writer would love to get his or her hands.
“But the Rev. John Maxwell Stout will tell you it’s all true.”
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 22) 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 note the company that baptism keeps, giving it meaning, as related by the authors of the Four Gospels.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• … Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20 NRSV)
• Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (Mark 16.15-16 NLT)
• He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. … Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … Change your hearts and lives! Turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped away. (Luke 24.46-47; Acts 2.38; 3.19 CEB)
• Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3.5-8 NIV)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. Tell us about your experience in the use of a compass. Did one ever help you get “un-lost?”
2. Tell us about someone’s baptism that was especially meaningful to you or deeply moved you.
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
1. How is it the rest of Matthew 28.18-20 flows into, and out of, the “due north” word “disciple?”
2. Mark 16.9-20 was likely not a part of Mark’s original Gospel, but is, nonetheless, ancient teaching. In several different English translations, note the explanatory footnotes of this text.
3. What words in the four sets of texts above stress how baptism is for all people, everywhere?
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. “Baptism is meant to be part of the beginning, not the end, of becoming a Christian?” How so?
2. What does it mean to be a “disciple?” Why do we tend to use the word “Christian” instead?
3. One person says baptism is a matter of immediacy and urgency. Another says it’s not to be rushed into, but must be approached with premeditation and preparation. Weigh in, allowing the four sets of texts above to determine and shape your perspective.
4. Which of the four main thoughts concerning baptism above is easiest for you to grasp? Most challenging? Most comforting? Why?
5. When is a person truly “ready” for baptism? When are they not ready?
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.
1. Are you ready right now to learn of Christ, lean on Christ, line up with Christ, and live by his Spirit? Well then, decide to be baptized into Christ today.
2. Compose a prayer that centers on how you will live out the meaning of your baptism.
Archaeology: Digging for The Past and Future
“In Jerusalem, the capital of a modern country enthralled by its past, a unique national archaeology campus is being built. The project—commissioned by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and officially named The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel—combines three major components: storage of the national archaeological treasures (some two million items); restoration labs for objects made of various materials, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, mosaics, and glass, textile, and clay finds; and a national archaeology library and archive. … Construction of the 350,000-square-foot project, which was funded mainly by private donations, began in 2012 and is to conclude in April 2016.”
Books, learning & reading: Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books [essential reading]
“Is the problem that kids don’t read books, or is the problem that nobody reads books because our culture has become anti-academic and anti-intellectual?”
Compassion, poor, poverty & social justice: Unconventional Ways to Fight Poverty [essential reading]
“Here are four ways you can fulfill your calling to care for the least of these that you may not have thought about before. … Change the way you talk about poverty. … Respect the dignity of the poor. … Do your job well. … Rethink ethical buying habits.”
Endurance, history, human dignity, life & resilience: The Symphony That Saved a City
“… the whole city had found its humanity.”
Fasting: Sharpen Your Affections With Fasting
“Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God.”
“… where is Pentecost in our churches? I have scratched my head trying to figure out why there is virtually no acknowledgement of Pentecost …”