on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: May 10-16

Among the things that happened this past week in the American Restoration Heritage history:

May 10

Today, death is close at hand. Very close, indeed.

* May 10, 1816 – Having made a recent trip to Kentucky, eighteen year old Thomas Miller (“T.M.”) Allen and a young female friend are making their way back to Virginia on horseback. However, they are caught out in the open as a storm envelops them. The storm’s strong winds blow over a large tree which lands on them, killing Allen’s friend and the horse. Allen escapes death, but suffers injuries to an arm that will leave that arm crippled for the rest of his life.

Seven years later, Barton W. Stone, Sr. will baptize Allen into Christ and he will come to be used as a mighty instrument of God for the advance of the Restoration Heritage in the state of Missouri. [cf. the entry for March 24 in this series for more information on Allen]

* May 10, 1863 – With his army outnumbered two-to-one near Chancellorsville (Spotsylvania County), Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee risks all and defies conventional military wisdom by dividing his troops in the face of his foe, Union General Joseph Hooker. Sending many of his men out on an attempt to outflank the Union Army of the Potomac, Lee selects Lieutenant General Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson to lead the effort. Jackson’s attack is more than just a little successful and the Union Army is served one of its greatest defeats of the entire American Civil War.

However, the victory comes at great price to Lee and the Confederacy for Jackson himself is one of the battle’s casualties, suffering three wounds, all of them from a volley of friendly fire. In efforts to save his life, surgeons amputate Jackson’s left arm, and though the surgery is a success, the doctors are no match for the case of pneumonia that follows. Still, death does linger long enough in claiming its victim for Jackson’s wife to arrive and be at her husband’s side at his passing. Jackson’s last words are: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” Upon learning of his friend’s death, Lee says: “I have lost my right arm.”

Jackson’s deathbed is on Fairfield Plantation, the property of a man by the name of John Chandler .. and Chandler is one of the elders of a nearby Restoration Heritage church in Guinea Station. Just before what was to become known as the Battle of Chancellorsville, Chandler, sympathetic to the Confederate cause and having sons in Confederate service, had offered his home to Jackson to use as his headquarters. Jackson graciously declined that offer, but he now has no say in the same serving as his deathbed. Ironically, the following spring (1864), this same elder’s home is taken over by the staff of Union General U. S. Grant for use as their headquarters during the Battle of the Wilderness.

To this day, the National Park Service maintains John Chandler’s home, Fairfield Plantation, as a shrine to Stonewall Jackson. The property is located just south of Fredericksburg.

May 11

May 11, 1800 – Today, William P. DeFee, the first Restoration Heritage preacher known to regularly minister in Texas, is born to William & Delilah DeFee in Darlington County, South Carolina. He will labor hard for Christ’s kingdom for several decades among people who are largely unreceptive, his most effective sermon being his godly life.

We know precious little about DeFee’s youth; however, we do know that at the young age of fourteen he serves with General Andrew Jackson’s army in the Battle of New Orleans. He marries Nancy Ann Partee in 1820 and he determines to become a doctor, and so, enters a medical school in Tennessee. And it is there, in Dyer County, Tennessee in 1827, that a man by the name of “Goodman,” an elder in a Stone-Campbell Movement church, baptizes DeFee into Christ.

Making his living now as a travelling physician, DeFee’s growing family (William and Nancy will come to have at least fourteen children) move to east Texas in 1833. As DeFee travels and treats people’s physical ills, he also seeks to address their spiritual health through sharing Scripture and preaching in homes. And it is somewhere in the region we know today as Sabine, San Augustine, and Shelby counties in Texas that DeFee takes a moment to pen an ever so brief report of his ministry for publication in Barton W. Stone’s Christian Messenger. The note reads:

“I have started a society on the Christian doctrine.”

We would likely refer to such today as a “community Bible class.” Three years later (1836), in Rhoddy Anthony’s home just a few miles outside of San Augustine, DeFee gathers enough members together so as to organize a church known as “Antioch.”

DeFee continues to practice medicine and preach throughout the area. In Shelby County in 1847, DeFee and W.K. Withers plant a church in the home of Richard Hooper in Shelby county. The little flock of eight charter members put forth the following statement of their intent (church covenant):

“We, the Christians of the church called Zion, have met together this day, the 18th of July, 1847, and give each other our hearts and hands and all agree to take the Bible as the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

However, not everything is roses. In brief reports through the years during this time, DeFee communicates to the brotherhood that the work in east Texas is more than just a little difficult. Preachers are exceedingly few and far between and DeFee describes Christian faith in general as being in a “cold state” in that portion of the world. Indeed, if one judges by the number of Christians of the heritage and the number of congregations, east Texas lags behind any other portion of Texas in terms of growth even as late as 1860, and the coming of the Civil War decimates what is found there. In the words of one preacher, J.H. Cain, in 1866:

“Our churches in East Texas, most of them, have come to nothing.”

The following year (1867), DeFee concurs, once again using the word “cold” to describe the difficulty of the field and the state of the churches in East Texas.

But, DeFee is made of tough material and he soldiers on, sowing the seed of the kingdom until his dying days. J.A.A. Hemphill authors Defee‘s obituary notice that appears in the Nov. 4, 1869 issue of the Gospel Advocate. In it Hemphill notes:

“Never, perhaps, at least not in modern times, has any man lived nearer the cross, for near a half century than did Father Defee. Always hopeful and cheerful, he went forth battling for the cause of his blessed Redeemer. When he began preaching he was completely alone in contending for the faith and for the Gospel as the power of God to salvation. He lived to be able to count good and true brethren by hundreds among his acquaintances. He was possessed of a piety that put scorners to the blush, and, though not eloquent as a preacher, his influence as a Christian was great, owing to his orderly walk and Godly conversation.

“About a year before he died he was stricken with paralysis, and for the remainder of his life had but little use of one arm and leg, and was almost wholly unable to ride on horseback. Yet, so earnest was he for the perseverance of the Saints that he would walk for miles around in his neighborhood, encouraging the brethren and sisters to be faithful. When death came he was ready, and by his words and acts showed that he desired to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. An aged wife, the companion of his youth, and a numerous offspring join his spiritual brethren in mourning his loss.”

May 12

Today, we (A) hear a careful scholar make a grand boast and (B) play “name that county and church” (though precious little “play” ever happened there).

* May 12, 1863 – A writer, editor, publisher, and book lover gushes praise today for a book that is about to come from the press. Speaking in regard to J.W. McGarvey’s forthcoming Commentary on Acts, Benjamin Franklin writes in his paper, the American Christian Review:

“It is a commentary on the part of the New Testament most needed and one of the kind demanded. We are satisfied this work will meet the expectation of the brotherhood as fully as any book that has appeared for many years.”

Just a few days earlier, in an article in the Gospel Advocate, McGarvey himself had written about the making of his commentary. Aside from his most pressing work related to ministry, the research and writing of this commentary has been his point of focus during the past three-and-a-half years. He penned his work so that it would be “a book to be read, and not merely a book of reference.” And, he sees it as a work “adapted to circulation among sectarians and the unconverted” as well as “for the edification of the brethren.”

However, it is McGarvey’s claim for his brethren, not his commentary, that is perhaps most interesting (amazing?) of all. In his words – and McGarvey, if anything, is a man not prone to exaggerate anything in the slightest degree and of a deliberate habit of stating matters precisely as he believes them be – his commentary on Acts:

“… presents the real meaning of the text, as developed in the writings and teachings of our brotherhood, the only people of modern times who have understood and appreciated this book [the book of Acts].”

One hundred and fifty two year after its initial publication, McGarvey’s commentary on Acts is still available, now in both paper and electronic formats. However, McGarvey’s boast that we are “the only people of modern times who have understood and appreciated” the book of Acts is a bit … suspect.

* May 12, 1864 – It’s now time to play “name that county and church.” You’ll receive six clues as to the identity of both.

(1) This church was begun in 1832, rather early on in the Restoration Heritage. Eighty-one year old Samuel Alsop led the design and construction of the existing church building.

(2) On several occasions before the American Civil War, Alexander Campbell himself preached in the county where this church is situated.

(3) The county in which your church building is located is the setting not only for a great deal of all kinds of fighting throughout the course of the war, but serves as the battlefield for four – yes, f-o-u-r – major battles.

(4) During the course of one of those major battles – the last of the big four and one in which there are over thirty thousand casualties – your church building is made use of as a hospital for Confederate soldiers. The Zion Methodist Church will serve as a hospital for Union troops.

(5) What is agreed on by many veterans, both Union and Confederate, as being truly the most horrific hand-to-hand combat of the entire war, not just in this particular battle, goes on rather close to your church building, some of it as close as half-a-mile away.

(6) And as a part of that battle, today, a cannonball flies through the front doors of your church house/hospital, lodges in a wall … and by the grace of God, does not explode.

Name that county and church building. Five bonus points will be rewarded if you can name the specific battle referenced; ten points if you can identify the battle and the scene of the battle’s most gruesome combat.

The answer? That would be the Berean Christian Church in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Whether Alexander Campbell ever preached in Spotsylvania, I don’t know, but it is known that he preached a number of times in nearby Fredericksburg. The four major battles fought in Spotsylvania County are Chancellorsville, the Battle of the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania Court House. Some of the war’s most gruesome fighting takes place at what becomes known as the “Bloody Angle” portion of the “Mule Shoe” (about four miles from Berean Christian Church) and at “Heth’s Salient” about a half-a-mile away from Berean Christian.

Today, the Bearean Christian Church building serves as the Spotsylvania County Museum.

May 13

May 13, 1846 – A preacher confesses his deep regret over having left some things unsaid.

Today, war between the United States of America and Mexico begins. And two years later, Alexander Campbell expresses the trouble in his heart over having not spoken more freely and fully against Christian participation in warfare before the Mexican-American War began. Indeed, Campbell fears that his relative silence may have cost some young men their very lives. Campbell poignantly writes in an 1848 issue of the Millenial Harbinger:

“I must confess that I both wonder at myself and am ashamed to think that I have not spoken out my views, nor ever before written an essay on this subject … I am sorry to think, very sorry indeed, to be only of the opinion, that probably even this much published by me some three years, or even two years ago, might have saved some lives that have been thrown away in the desert—some hot-brained youths. We must create a public opinion on this subject. We should inspire a pacific spirit, and show off on all proper occasions the chief objections to war.”

May 14

May 14, 1861 – Today, while one man helps steer men toward heaven, his nephew helps lead the way to the creation of (what John Denver famously styled) “almost heaven” here on earth.

Less than one month ago (April 17), a convention assembled and voted for the secession of the state of Virginia from the United States. The matter is anything but unanimous with over one-third of the delegates present voting in opposition to secession (55 of 143). Those on the losing end of the vote now schedule their own convention and meet today in Wheeling, Virginia for the explicit purpose of condemning the recent vote to secede. By means of a referendum a little over one month following (June 20), the dissenters announce that the western portion of Virginia is now separate and apart from the rest of the state. It is decided that the city of Wheeling will be the seat of government for this new “state.” Two years later, to the day (June 20, 1863), West Virginia is admitted into the union of the United States of America.

A leading figure in all of these doings toward the formulation of the new state of West Virginia is the editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer, Wheeling’s newspaper: Archibald Campbell, Jr. Archibald is a nephew of Alexander Campbell, a son of Alexander Campbell’s younger brother, Archibald, Sr. In fact, a letter Archibald penned to President Abraham Lincoln is considered by some to have played a significant part in tipping the scales in favor of West Virginia’s admission to the Union.

At the time of today’s dissenter’s convention, Archibald, Jr. is twenty-eight years of age and his uncle, Alexander Campbell, Sr., is seventy-two.

There is no shortage of abolitionists in the immediate, and extended, family of Alexander Campbell; however, there are others, such as Alexander Campbell, Jr., who serve the Confederacy. As one might imagine, the relations between all of the Campbell family members are, as we are apt to put it today, “complicated.” Following the war, the strained relations between Archibald, Jr. and Alexander, Jr. eventually heal, with Alexander, Jr.’s wife, Mary Anna, being the prime mover for their reconciliation.

May 15

May 15, 1896 – Death knows no bias today as a preacher and his wife – James Daniel & Martha Frances Shearer – are among several dozen killed by the effects of a rare F5 tornado that cuts a twenty-eight mile long swath of destruction through north-central Texas. An obituary notice in the Gospel Advocate (June 11, 1896) reads:

“Shearer, J.D.

“Brother J. D. Shearer and Sister Shearer (“Nee” Taylor) [Martha Frances (Taylor) Shearer] were both killed by a cyclone that swept away their house in the suburbs of Sherman, Texas, May 15, 1896. Mistaking the noise of the cyclone for a passing train, there was no effort to escape until it was too late. Two of their sons were with them in the same room, and were badly bruised, but not seriously. Brother Shearer was instantly killed. Sister Shearer lived a few hours, and, it is supposed, died of the shock. Almost everybody was wild with excitement. What words could describe the feelings of the son who were away from home when they heard that their father and mother were thus taken away? One of the sons was so far away that he could not come in time to see the remains. The hearts of the entire community went out in sympathy toward the distressed ones; and one of the largest audiences ever assembled in Grayson County at a funeral gathered around the grave, where I tried to say some fitting words in memory of my schoolmate and fellow-laborer, J. D. Shearer.

“Brother and sister Shearer had struggled hard to rear their large family, and had seen them grow up to be useful and honored citizens, a happy family. The sons great desire was to see their parents comfortable in their declining years. Alas, how bitterly disappointed! Brother Shearer had spent his life since he was a student at Kentucky University in preaching and teaching, and Sister Shearer has toiled faithfully by his side. The mother’s life seemed wrapped up in the lives of her boys. To care for them and to help them was her sweet joy, and to dote upon and care for their mother was happiness itself to these sturdy young men. Responsibility was thus suddenly removed, but there came the greatest of all earthly affliction. May the Father of the fatherless comfort and help them to bear their heavy burden, and may they be brought at last to their Fathers house on high.

“O. A. Carr”

The man preaching the funerals and writing this obituary notice is Dr. Oliver Anderson (“O.A.”) Carr, considered to be “perhaps one of the best known educators in the South” at the time. O.A., and his wife, Mattie, former missionaries to Australia, had recently (1894) founded Carr-Burdette College, “a school for young ladies” in Sherman. Mattie raised the money to build the school by selling two hundred and fifty $200 lots in the rapidly growing city. The school continued until the onset of the Great Depression (1929) brought its work to an end. O.A. Carr and the deceased preacher, J.D. Shearer, were the same age (both born in 1845) and, as noted in the obituary, were both graduates of Kentucky University.

May 16

May 16, 1811 – Today, a twenty-two year old preacher by the name of Alexander Campbell embarks for the first time on what will become a very common thing in his life: a preaching tour. He journals his experience and in the course of reading over his shoulder we learn of the connections he makes, where he preaches, what Scriptures he preaches from, and how he is received.

“I set out from my home on Thur., May 16, 1811, and stopped first evening at Lutham Young’s. Conversed upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. Next morning, accompanied to the river by Mr. Young, I crossed [into eastern Ohio] opposite Steubenville. Introduced myself to Mr. James Larimore and Dr. Slemmons, and was received with courtesy. Was introduced by Dr. Slemmons to Mr. Buchanan, lodging at the Doctor’s. After dining, reasoned with Mr. Buchanan on the general state of religion, and argued the principles with him which we advocate; but he would not see. In our discourse a Mr. Boyd, of Steubenville, interrupted by vociferously taking Mr. Buchanan’s side of the argument. Finished in a disorderly manner. Appointed to preach in the courthouse, Sabbath day [Sunday], at 12 o’clock. Proceeded to James McElroy’s, where I tarried till Friday morning, hospitably entertained. On Sabbath day, I preached, according to appointment, in Steubenville. Had a crowded house, notwithstanding Messrs. Buchanan, Snodgrass, Lambdin, Powel, etc. I had a mixed audience of Presbyterians, Unionists, Methodists, etc. Mr. Lambdin, the Methodist preacher, was present. I was introduced to a Mr. Hawkins, a most respectable citizen, and a Methodist. Sabbath evening, preached at Mr. McElroy’s, among whom was Mr. McMillan, with whom I sojourned that night at Mr. Thompson’s. Reasoned with him upon our principles. He granted me three things of magnitude.: 1. That independent church government had as good a foundation in Scripture as the Presbyterian. 2. That the office of a ruling elder was not found clearly in the Scriptures, but was a human expediency. 3. That he did not believe that the Confession of Faith was the system, that is, the precise system, the whole system, or the only system of truth contained in the Bible. Preached on Monday, at the McElroy’s, to a respectable assembly, from Gal. iv. 15,16 – On the Sabbath at Steubenville, my text was Heb. ii.3. In the evening, Mark xvi.15. On Wednesday morning, left McElroy’s, and arrived at Cadiz. That evening lodged at Squire McNeeley’s. Thursday morning, proceeded to Dr. McFadden’s; tarried with him until Sabbath morning. Preached, Sabbath day, two sermons, to a large audience – one from John v. 39, and the other from Acts xi.26. Sabbath evening, lodged at Samuel Gilmore’s. Monday evening at James Ford’s. Preached at James Ford’s, Tuesday, two discourses – one from Rom. viii.32, and the other from 2 Tim. 1.13. Tuesday evening lodged at a Methodist exhorter’s. Wednesday at James Sharpe’s. Preached, Thursday, at William Perry’s. Stopped all night. Friday, stopped at Samuel Garret’s. Preached, Saturday, at Samuel Patten’s, in Wheeling, from Phil. iii.8. Lodged with him, and preached, Sabbath day, June 2, at St. Clairsville, from Rom. viii. 32, and secondly, from Isa. lxvii. 14, with lxii.10, and lodged at Mr. Bell’s.”

How I wish now that I had established such a habit of journaling so early in ministry and had faithfully kept up with such through the years! If you are “in ministry,” let me encourage you to “just do it.” And if you do have such a habit, exactly how do you do it: on paper or electronically?

links: this went thru my mind

Here are several links I found to be interesting and helpful.

Choices, decisions, discernment, intuition, morality, rationalization & thinking: Your Mind is a Spin Machine

“… usually, the rider is the servant to the elephant.”

Cinema, faith, film, forgiveness, hatred, movies, torture & war: The Power of Forgiveness [essential reading]

“How does a man forgive what is seemingly unforgivable? In search of the answer, I began a seven-year journey through his life, a journey that culminated in my book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

Feast of Dedication, Feast of Lights, Hanukkah, Jesus & Jerusalem: * Jesus Visited Jerusalem During Hanukkah; * Hanukkah: When Jesus Claimed to be God

* “The Gospel of John records more visits to Jerusalem by Jesus than any other of the Gospels. John is the only one to record the visit during the Feast of Dedication.”

* “Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.”

Israel, roads, the ascent to Jerusalem & travel: New Video: The Modern Ascent to Jerusalem

“Bill Schlegel, author of the Satellite Bible Atlas, has just posted a video showing the ascent to Jerusalem from the Shephelah. The 6-minute video uses drone footage to show the modern highway’s route and the new construction. In antiquity, travelers followed the natural routes along the ridges. Today when we deviate from those ridges, we spend billions to destroy the landscape in the construction of passes, bridges, and tunnels.”

Prison system & teens: End Solitary Confinement for Teenagers

“That the practice is widespread remains a disturbing indicator of how poorly we treat the hundreds of thousands of minors arrested each year in the United States.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Anger, faith, outrage & righteous indignation: A Handy Guide To Christian Outrage

“I fear we are so focused on defending the Bible that we have lost sight of Christ.”

Church: 6 Things the Church Can Learn from Jimmy Fallon

“The Church could learn a few things from Jimmy Fallon, the new host of the “Tonight Show.” And it’s no surprise, really. Jimmy has said in interviews he once wanted to be a priest in the Roman Catholic Church and was influenced early in life by his experiences as an altar boy. But he never felt he could really be a priest because he couldn’t keep a straight face. As a priest myself, it’s always good to be reminded that our image in culture is often a dour one when it should be a joyful one.”

Cinema, film, movies, Noah & the Great Flood: Noah’s Co-Writer Explains the Film’s Controversial Theology

“What we want the film to make you think about is the core question of Genesis: The nature of goodness and wickedness in men’s heart, and whether that should be responded to with justice or mercy, the relationship between mankind and the world around him to the sacred. Those are the questions we grappled with.”

Creation, interpretation, new heavens and earth & re-creation: Guest Post: A New Earth or a Renewed Earth? Reflecting on a Theology of the Last Things

“From the words of the prophets in the Old Testament leading up to and culminating in the teachings of Jesus and then passed along through the writings to the early Church, there is a sense that God isn’t giving up on the creation that was called “good” from the very beginning.  In fact, there is very clear Scriptural evidence that God has always had every intention of renewing and restoring the entire created order, rather than destroying it. This is a strong assertion, being that it contradicts the teaching and understanding of many Christians who believe that God will one day destroy the heavens and the earth…and then take them away to a spiritual heaven to live for eternity.”

Forgiveness, photography & reconciliation: Portraits of Reconciliation

“Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers. In another, a woman poses with a casually reclining man who looted her property and whose father helped murder her husband and children. In many of these photos, there is little evident warmth between the pairs, and yet there they are, together. In each, the perpetrator is a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.”

Nonviolence, pacifism, personal security & police protection: Non-Violence and Police Protection

“… while I believe I am called to swear off all violence, I don’t believe it would be hypocritical for me to call the police if someone were to break into my house, even though I know that these police carry guns and may perhaps use them against the thief.  Consider that immediately after Paul told Christians to love enemies, to never retaliate, and to leave all “vengeance” to God  (Rom.12:17-21), he went on to teach them that one of the ways God “exacts vengeance” is by using the sword of government, which is why Christians are to “submit” to it  (Rom.13:1-7).”

Success: The Intoxication of Success

“In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things the figure of Him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger and is at best the object of pity. The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. … The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard.” [quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

links: this went thru my mind

 

Abuse, atonement & God: Atonement and Divine Child Abuse

“About a decade ago it became avant garde theology to contend the classical Christian theory of atonement was nothing less than divine child abuse. That is, the image of a Father punishing a Son, or exacting retribution at the expense of his own Son, or punishing a Son for the good of others — each of these became a way of deconstructing classical atonement theory. … this approach … abuses the Bible’s image.”

Boredom, happiness, technology & wonder: Everything’s Amazing And Nobody’s Happy [required reading]

“Simply put, we bore easily. Once, when giving a radio address (an older technology which once seemed like magic), Albert Einstein looked straight into the muzzle of our dilemma: ‘Everybody should be ashamed who uses the wonders of science and engineering without thinking and having mentally realized not more of it than a cow realizes of the botany of the plants which it eats with pleasure.'”

Behavior & habits: 36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits

“I’ve learned these lessons the hard way.”

Blessings, money, possession & prosperity: The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

“So my prayer today is that I understand my true blessing. It’s not my house. Or my job. Or my standard of living. No. My blessing is this. I know a God who gives hope to the hopeless. I know a God who loves the unlovable. I know a God who comforts the sorrowful. And I know a God who has planted this same power within me. Within all of us. And for this blessing, may our response always be, ‘Use me.'”

Church, humility, pride, relationships & self-esteem: * Sean Palmer, the Church [essential reading]; * Civil Religion: Better Than You [essential reading]

* “Reconciliation is what it means to be church; to go “to church.” It’s what Jesus intended our gatherings to be and to produce. I can’t be reconciled alone. I can worship alone, but I can’t do and be church alone. And I can’t be reconciled with people who are already just like me. Church is more than a gathering of my friends. It’s the differences, the tensions, the partisanship, the space between that creates the opportunity for God to transform my heart from what it is not to what God created it to be.”

* “Christianity is not about being better than someone else, it is among many things, the recognition that we are better than no one else. This is not a rhetorical move, it is reality.”

Cinema: Casting the Devil Out of the Jesus Story

“Why the ‘Son of God’ film excludes Satan from the Christ story—and what’s at stake.”

Nationalism: Which Country Does God Really Love the Most?

“Sometimes we Americans think that God is an American and that He loves all the other countries, but just wishes they were like His special country!”

Parenting, technology & teens: Tips for Parenting Middle School Kids Using Texting and Social Media

“The biggest concern parents have is the undue influence texting and social media has on their children. The best way to counter undue influence is to provide quality attention and take an active interest in what is happening with your child (beyond sports and grades) and help them put the texting and social media apps in proper perspective for their lives.”

Politics & religious liberty: How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

“… no matter what soundbites you hear this election year, remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Beggars, the poor & the marginalized: Beggars in Mark

“The stories that end this chapter are about beggars, people who in desperate need. They are angry with life or with Satan, but not with Jesus. Life has not followed the rules with them—it has treated them and those they love unfairly—and they are not particularly concerned that Jesus doesn’t always color within the lines. In fact, they are quite hopeful that (with those they love) Jesus can stretch outside of normal boundaries and accomplish something beyond the ordinary.”

Bible reading: How the World’s Top 10 Countries Search the Bible Differently

“Two of the four ‘implications of the search for truth’ noted in the study: Are pastors and missionaries preaching too much from Paul? Too little from the Old Testament?”

Idolatry: If Daniel 3 Were Written Today

“Beloved countrymen, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can sustain us in the event we are being marginalized, cast aside, and silenced, and He can rescue us from craving approval from the rest of our society. But even if He does not protect us from your penalties and fines, we want you as a society to know that we will not serve your gods or celebrate the gold statue you set up.”

Ministry: Just What Does a Minister Do Anyway?

“I don’t suppose there is an easier target for criticism or maybe jokestering than that of a minister.”

Parenting: 7 Ways Parents Injure a Child — Without Even Knowing It

“… looking back, I can see some of these we were guilty of doing — and I remain thankful for God’s grace in spite of me.”

Racism & reconciliation: Ok, White Folks, Here’s How You Can Really Help! [required reading]

“Young man we appreciate your support and energy but really the best thing you can do for our movement is to go back to your churches, families, communities and friends and share the truth you have heard today.  It is the education of your own race, which will be the biggest catalyst for change in reconciling all races and bringing the kingdom value of racial unity and harmony into existence.”

LIFE group guide: be merciful

 

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Dec. 22). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon marks the conclusion of the Jesus, Master & Commander sermon series.

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

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon.

• She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1.21)

• Mary said … “In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. … He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God.” (Luke 1.47-48,50)

• … Zechariah … prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us … to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember … the oath he swore to our father Abraham: … to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1.67-69,72-75)

• Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.36)

• For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. (Romans 9.15-16)

• … he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3.5a)

• … judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2.13)

• … await our Lord Jesus Christ’s mercy. … In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering (Jude 21-22)

Relation

These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all just start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. In your own words, define “mercy.” What is it? What is it not?

2. Tell us of an instance in which you know you were the recipient of great mercy.

Research

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

1. As you read Jesus’ birth narratives (Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2), make a list of every act of mercy.

2. Go through the headlines of today’s news. How could mercy be shown in each event?

Reflection

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

1. How is forgiveness and mercy linked? Why is it often quite difficult to be merciful?

2. How sick is it to expect mercy and not be merciful? Define the elements of the disease.

3. What are some very specific ways in which we can extend mercy to others?

4. What happens inside us, to God, and to others, when we are merciful to others?

5. What essential steps must be taken after extending mercy? After receiving it?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid you in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Visualize specific instances and ways in which you will be merciful throughout a day.

2. Pray for someone you need to forgive. Make a decisive and direct action plan to do so.

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceChildren, toy guns & violence: Children Steamroll Weapons in Iraq

“… hundreds of toy weapons collected by children in Iraq.  With the help of some big people, the kids drove a steam roller over the pile weapons smashing them to oblivion.”

Christian martyrdom & persecution: The War on Christians [essential reading]

“The global persecution of churchgoers is the unreported catastrophe of our time.”

Forgiveness & murder: Forgiving (and Loving!) Your Only Son’s Killer

“Mary Johnson’s only son, 20 year old Laramiun Byrd, was murdered during a fight at a party by 16 year old Oshea Israel. Mary visited Oshea in prison and they experienced a miracle of forgiveness and healing that is evidence of divine grace.”

Pacifism & Revelation: * Greg’s Response to Driscoll’s “Is God a Pacifist” (parts 1, 2 & 3) [required reading]; * If Jesus is a Pansy, I Want to Be One, Too – Reflections on Christlikeness

* “I’m sure many of you have read Mark Driscoll’s recent blog titled “Is God a Pacifist?” in which he argues against Christian pacifism. I’ve decided to address this in a series of three posts, not because I think Driscoll’s arguments are particularly noteworthy, but because it provides me with an opportunity to make a case against what I’ve come to see is probably the most common way that Christians try to get around the pacifist implications of Jesus’ (and the rest of the NT’s) teachings on loving enemies. It centers on the allegedly violent Jesus of the book of Revelation.”

* “… when we think of Jesus, we have a choice to make if we are truly committing our lives to follow him. Either he taught nonviolent resistance or he did not.”