links to 10 items worth your time

1. The Humble Origins of ‘Silent Night’ [required reading]

“One of the world’s most famous Christmas carols, ‘Silent Night,’ celebrates its 200th anniversary this year.”

2. Christians Sing Together

“From the very beginning of the church singing was important to the fellowship. Though many have unbounded confidence in their theories of what happened in local church gatherings, it is wiser to say ‘we don’t know precisely what happened, but we do are pretty sure about some things.’ One of the elements we are sure of is singing.”

3. The Strange Journey of Christian Rock and Roll

“… Christian rock has had a strange and circuitous journey back to the center of American culture.”

4. Compliments and Criticism – The Difference May Surprise You

“… in the end, only God changes people.”

5. Our Obsession with Imitating the Early Church and Another Way Forward

“… the early church wasn’t trying to be the early church. They were trying to be Jesus.”

6. A Tale of Two Mennonite Pastors and How to Disagree

“Theological (or political) disagreements matter, but need not be toxic to relationships. There are stronger ties that bind us together. … how George II and Ruth chose to relate to each other still proves instructive. As we spend this holiday season among family and friends with whom we might disagree, it’s helpful to remember that, though we maintain legitimate differences, there are things that matter more.”

7. A Different Kind of Christmas Story (for Kids)

“The book is entitled, ‘The Third Gift,’ by Linda Sue Park (Boston: Clarion, 2011).”

8. Church is Hard

“I’ll remember, He has never failed to meet me there.”

9. Max Lucado Reveals Past Sexual Abuse at Evangelical #MeToo Summit

“Now is the time for across-the-coffee-table conversations that begin with the words, ‘Help me to understand what it’s like to be a female in this day and age,’ he said. ‘Help me to understand what it’s like to never go on a jog without carrying a canister of mace. Help me to know what it’s like to overhear guys chuckling about weight or bust size. Help me to understand what it’s like to always be outnumbered in the boardroom. Help me to understand what it’s like to be hugged chest to chest, unable to break free. Help me to understand what it’s like to fear filing a workplace complaint because my supervisors are all male. Help me to understand what it’s like to be the brunt of catcalls, whistles, and dirty jokes. Help me to understand.’”

10. Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Awards

“During book awards season, at least, the answer to ‘Do I need more books?’ is always yes. That applies whether you’re someone who likes to read a reasonable amount — or someone who also likes to read a reasonable amount, but more.”

links to 10 items worth your time

1. Now Streaming: The Entire Catalogue of ‘Sesame Street’ Songs

“… new ‘Sesame Street’ music will soon be released on a consistent schedule, for the first time in more than two decades.”

2. I’ll Have Consequences

“… I have no magic formula for dealing with disobedient and unruly children, and certainly in a world where some children’s behavior has been malformed almost from the very start, we should not underplay the difficulties and frustrations parents face. But surely we also want to place the bond between parents and children within that circle of deeply personal relationships.”

3. Why you need a little resistance in your life

“We need the rain and the occasional storm.”

4. Why Did Early Christians Prefer the Codex to the Bookroll

“When we say ‘book’ today, we generally mean a tome of bound pages. Known as the ‘codex,’ this common book form has always (over the past two millennia, anyway) looked the same — like any book on your desk. While the origins of the codex are not sufficiently explained, evidence shows that the preserved early Christian manuscripts are more often codices (plural of codex) than the then-established bookrolls. Why?”

5. Science and Theology: Two Witnesses to Reality

“… we generally have it backwards in how we think the reasoning process works. We tend to think that we work out our conclusions through the process of reasoning about the topic. But the controlled studies show pretty clearly that most of the time we already have a conclusion based on our instincts and that our process of reasoning is employed to justify what we already think. And it’s not like the smarter you are, the more open you are to other possible conclusions. The higher your IQ, the better you are at producing reasons to support your views; you’re no more likely to change your views than people with lower IQs. This might be depressing to those who have an exalted view of the human intellect, but it sure explains the inability for rational discourse to move us closer together, even when the facts are overwhelmingly on one side.”

6. Archaeologists map centuries of history beneath world’s oldest cathedral

“So far, that data has helped create a 3D digital reconstruction of what the basilica would have looked like in the 4th century. And Haynes and his colleagues are also trying to understand what it would have sounded like. Using the laser scans and information from earlier excavations, they created a simple 3D model to reconstruct the acoustics of the original cathedral.”

7. The Costs of the Confederacy

“‘It was like we were not even there,’ she said, as if slavery ‘never happened.'”

8. ‘Prosperity preachers’ like Joel Osteen can cause risky financial behavior, university report says

“The University of Toronto recently released a report saying preaching the ‘prosperity gospel’ — which centers around the belief that material wealth is part of God’s will — can lead to unrealistic optimism and risky financial behavior. The report used Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church as an example of a televangelist who touts this belief.”

9. The 25 Healthiest Foods You Can Buy for $5 or Less

“… cooking your own meals and having snacks on-hand will drastically cut the amount of money you spend on food throughout the week.”

10. The Steward of Middle-earth

“Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision [J.R.R. Tolkien]. It is the concluding public act of … the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings. It is the end of an era.”

links: this went thru my mind

Baptism, Carrie Underwood, joy & music: The Truth Behind This Song Had Me Yellin’ ‘Amen!’ You’ll Love This Super Star’s Song About Baptism [4 min. video; essential listening]

“I don’t know that there is anything better than hearing a song about baptism coming through my speakers! Preach it, Carrie!”

Choice, focus, mindset, mission, perspective, productivity & vision: 3 Mindsets You Must Conquer to Live Your Mission Each Day

“Jesus’s lived his mission each day by conquering three mindsets.”

Christian faith, evil, Hitler, martyrdom, Nazism, nonviolence, pacifism & WWII: The White Rose Martyrs

“I don’t know about you, but I always get a bit depressed when I think about the lack of Christian resistance to the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the main figure who comes to mind here. But were there any others? Any other heroes of the faith? Christians who pushed even harder than Bonhoeffer?

“Yes there were. The White Rose.”

Conflict, history & war: The Greatest Buildings You’ll Never See: 19 Priceless Monuments Lost in Conflict

“It is a cruel irony that a region so blessed with the treasures of early human civilizations is also among those most troubled by conflict. As the violence threatens to annihilate some of history’s greatest monuments, we count the cost of our irreplaceable losses.”

Prayer: Encountering God in Prayer

“If we are going to be imbalanced, better that we be doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.”

links: this went thru my mind

Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, veterans & war: The Truth About the Wars

“If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I think we’re there.”

Church, expectations, inclusion, mission, perceptions & welcome: 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

“Churches — like individuals — are called to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and discern a clear and specific mission to where Jesus is calling them to act. Many times churches actually do have in mind a particular subset of people with whom they’d like repopulate their congregation. Many times this particular subset looks an awful lot like the current membership of the church, albeit 20-30 years ago. Often, though, neighborhoods and needs have changed. And a vital ministry — perhaps to immigrant workers, to retired folks, to single adults — is forgotten in light of chasing the ever-elusive ‘young families.'”

Corporate worship, hymns, music & singing: My Journey Away from Contemporary Worship Music

“I make this plea to my fellow ministers, do not neglect these milestones from ages past.”

Economics, income inequality & politics: A Change That Isn’t Coming

“…  until the two parties put forward lasting and structural fixes for these problems the pain and outrage are only going to intensify. And as the pain grows the American electorate will continue to lash out blindly and schizophrenically, alternately punishing the party in power and hoping for a change that isn’t coming.”

Joseph Smith, Latter-Day Saints, Mormons & polygamy: It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

“The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.”

LIFE group guide: covering the Spirit’s medley

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 16) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Covering the Spirit’s Medley”) works out of Ephesians 5.18-21 and is the third 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.

• 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. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 NRSV)

• Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, 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. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 NIV)

• Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. (Ephesians 5.18-21 CEB)

• Don’t destroy yourself by getting drunk, but let the Spirit fill your life. When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart. Always use the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to thank God the Father for everything. Honor Christ and put others first. (Ephesians 5.18-21 CEV)

Relation

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

1. Music is on that you like. And so, you [choose one]: (a) bob your head, (b) tap your foot, or (c) drum your fingers?

2. Name a song you think has been “covered” better than it was performed by the original band.

Research

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

1. Using the translations above, what are synonyms for “debauchery” (vs. 18)?

2. Using the text above, in what four specific ways are Christians to be “be filled with the Spirit”?

3. Using the text above, ID: (a) what Christians do to each other and (b) what they do to God.

4. Describe the roles (a) God our Father, (b) Jesus Christ, and (c) the Spirit play in the text above.

Reflection

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

1. How is being “drunk with wine” and “filled with the Spirit” similar? How do they differ?

2. Your life is a song. How does the music you’ve made the week before affect Sunday singing?

3. Over the long haul, which most powerfully influences your personal faith: sermons or songs?

4. How can you use Christian music/spiritual songs to reach out to those who are yet to believe?

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. Learn a new, spiritual song. Learn it so well you can easily sing all of it by memory. Repeat.

2. Carefully consider the words of several songs in our hymnal. Use such as prompts for prayer.

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.

this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceChild abuse: When the Abuser is Your Parent

“Karly, however, our guest blogger suffered at the hands of her own father. Such is the case for many children whose parents abuse them, or allow them to be abused, creating forever a complicated relationship. Toss into that mix the expectation that an abused child is thus ‘obligated’ by their own theological leanings or social mores to  forgive their abusers and life grows even more hair-pulling complex.”

Faith, music, peace, violence & weapons: Imagine There’s No Weapons by Ben Witherington

“Over 1,057,000 people have been killed by guns in the U.S.A. since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980. … Here’s a little lyrical tribute I’ve written to John [Lennon], to be sung to the tune of his classic hit— Imagine.”

Fear, Jesus, Mark’s Gospel, retribution & vengeance: Easter Shouldn’t Be Good News [essential reading]

“Why is there fear on Easter Sunday? The oldest gospel we have, the gospel of Mark, ends in the most curious of ways … Why is there fear on Easter Sunday? … Easter is not Good News for the guilty. It is not Good News to find out that your victim is alive. We know what’s coming. We’ve seen the Hollywood movies where the victim comes back from the dead to seek revenge. So if Jesus is alive, if the victim has come back, we had better hide in fear. Judgment day is coming. That is how we expect the story to go. As did, it seems, those who first encountered or heard about the resurrection. And we can understand why they jumped to this conclusion. Every story we know works this way. The victim comes back, kills the bad guys and the moral calculus of the Cosmos is balanced again. This is the Hollywood Ending.”

Film & violence: The Ends of Violence: The Conclusions of Clint Eastwood [a very interesting (and surprising to you?) 18 min. video; too bad it doesn’t include Gran Torino]

Unforgiven gave me a chance to to sum up what I think violence does to the human soul. … In A Perfect World … violence wipes out the possibility of forgiveness, because it wipes out the possibility of meaning.”

Gun violence & race: Juan Williams: Race and the Gun Debate

“One thing you don’t hear much about in the discussions of guns: race. That is an astonishing omission, because race ought to be an inescapable part of the debate. Gun-related violence and murders are concentrated among blacks and Latinos in big cities. Murders with guns are the No. 1 cause of death for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34. But talking about race in the context of guns would also mean taking on a subject that can’t be addressed by passing a law: the family-breakdown issues that lead too many minority children to find social status and power in guns. … The statistics are staggering. In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 54% of all murders committed, overwhelmingly with guns, are murders of black people. Black people are about 13% of the population. The Justice Department reports that between 1980 and 2008, “blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide.”

War: Experts Defuse Unexploded WWII Bomb in Central Berlin

“It happens more often than you might think: Streets cordoned off and bomb disposal experts called in to deal with unexploded bombs that were dropped on Germany nearly 70 years ago.”