Ike Paulk, one of MoSt Church’s shepherds, washing dishes last Sunday during the Impact Houston Church potato lunch.
Ike Paulk, one of MoSt Church’s shepherds, washing dishes last Sunday during the Impact Houston Church potato lunch.
1. Psalm 23 Pt 6: Rod and Staff (and Sling) [22 min. video]
“The rod and the staff, they comfort David. And likely the sling too! These are what the shepherd carries for various situations. Learning about these alone is utterly fascinating, especially when you find out how David uses them against lions, bears, and Goliath (which we discuss). But how these translate into what God does for us in in the midst of our deep valleys is where the power lies. And once we understand that, we’ll find comfort, courage, and hope just like David did.”
“The genesis of Paul’s apocalyptic–as we see it in Galatians–lies in the apostle’s certainty that God has invaded the present evil age by sending Christ and his Spirit into it. There was a “before,” the time when we were confined, imprisoned; and there is an “after,” the time of our deliverance. And the difference between the two is caused not by an unveiling, but rather by the coming of Christ and his Spirit.”
“Dr. Waziry described the discovery that it is of a great importance as it is the first time to discover a system to move and transfer blocks from quarries and how the ancient Egyptians lifted the multi tons blocks off coarse ramps during the era of building the Great Pyramid which changes our understanding of how the pyramids were built.”
“What should nonprofits and donors take away from our study? We conducted this experiment with just one organization, but the preponderance of the evidence from our work and the findings of others suggests that unconditional premiums are not worth it. These trinkets may have been a good idea when they were novel and unusual, a few decades ago. But they are so common now that many donors probably don’t even notice them.”
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 22) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of this morning’s worship gathering. 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 service.
To help us focus on the character of our Lord as the tireless, benevolent servant-leader of his people.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s service.
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
“‘As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.
I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.
“‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations.
Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34.11-31)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump for group conversation.
1. What does “peace” look like to you? Tell us of a place of unusual tranquility & harmony for you.
2. The pic here is of God/his people as shepherd /sheep. What would be a modern, urban metaphor?
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this service.
1. Underline each occurrence of the phrase “I will.” Circle every use of the words “Lord” & “shepherd.”
2. Make two columns; one for all the good God will give and one for all the bad things God defeats.
These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.
1. Given what’s said about how “sheep” act & what they experience, what are people really like?
2. Who are we that the Lord should care for us this way? Why would he expend himself so for us?
3. The God who depicts himself as he does here is clearly a ____________ God.
4. What can you do to make life better for the other sheep in the flock? What habits can you develop?
These ideas/suggestions are for use beyond the group meeting; to aid your living out today’s gathering.
1. Develop a servant spirit & helpful habits for the sake of God’s under-shepherds. Answer their calls.
2. Pray daily for God’s under-shepherds & your openness to their direction for your maturity.
Bible literacy & reading:* Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge [required reading]; * 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading the Bible [essential reading]
* “Study after study in the last quarter-century has revealed that American Christians increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles. It’s obvious: We are living in a post-biblically literate culture. Just as critical is the second word of the Bible literacy problem: literacy. Pew Research tells us that 23 percent of us didn’t read a single book in the last year. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978.”
* Read ‘King’ when you see ‘Christ.’ … read ‘you’ differently … if you see a ‘therefore,’ find out what it’s there for … realize that not all ‘if’ statements are the same … recognize that lamenting is OK … realize that prophecy is more often forth-telling than fore-telling … become familiar with the idioms of your King … remember what you learned in English class … read to study, but also, read to refresh your heart.”
College funding: A College Financial Aid Guide for Families Who Have Saved Nothing
“In just a generation or two, we’ve gone from students working their way through college without too much trouble, to many parents still being able to write checks to cover tuition out of current income, to sticker prices being so high that two decades of savings may not be enough to cover two children from relatively affluent families.”
Government, Houston, law suits, litigation & sermons: Victory Through Defeat
“As a matter of normal legal practice, I doubt that Mayor Parker, David Feldman, or anyone at the City of Houston read the subpoenas before they were sent, much less specifically ordered the discovery and confiscation of sermon notes and other communications involving homosexuality and gender identity. Typically in litigation lawyers will throw a bunch of jello at a wall and see what sticks, so to speak. Or, to put it another way, they’ll fill up the kitchen sink and see what takes. In other words, the lawyer drafting the discovery requests and subpoenas probably tried to think of every conceivable thing that could possibly be related to this lawsuit and asked for it. You don’t get it if you never ask, and litigation is all about being aggressive and taking anything that the other side will give you. Again, these are just requests (issued by a lawyer), and the judge can quash the subpoenas or issue a protective order for the pastors. …
“… the reality is that we are merely dealing with an overbroad discovery request from a zealous trial lawyer employed by the City. So the sky is not falling. This is not a government-wide ‘approval’ system of pulpit messages. The pastors aren’t being threatened with punishment merely for the contents of their sermons. But this is harassment, and the small things add up. A government that tries to intimidate pastors who would seek to employ the democratic process to repeal a morally questionable piece of legislation is no friend of liberty, religious or otherwise. The government answers to the people; the people do not answer to the government. Remember that. The subpoena is only step one in their 12-step program.”
“For years, when I thought about prayer, I mostly felt guilty for my lack of a robust prayer life. Reading stories of great saints praying for two hours a day or more left me with a gnawing sense of defeat. I would often resolve to pray more. But the resolves didn’t last.”
Psalm 23: The Lord is My Shepherd – Psalm 23
“All of this comes from Yahweh’s ‘goodness and mercy.'”
Do you have a deliberate, regular plan you work as to how you pray for your church’s shepherds and staff? Or if you’re a church leader, how would you like fellow church members to daily pray for you?
I recently noticed that Thom Rainer relates in his fine book I Am a Church Member (p.51) that he has for many years regularly asked church members to deliberately pray five minutes a day, every day, for their leaders. Imagine every church member praying daily for their church’s leadership. Amen!
But if you were to start praying for shepherds and staff, what would you pray about each day? If you don’t already have a plan, let me suggest a plan I follow whereby I talk to God about seven specific matters regarding our church family’s leaders. To keep it simple and steady, each day of the week has a specific point of focus. Pick up this plan – or let it spark one of your own – and run with it!
Lots of “required reading” here today …
“… President Obama will make history Monday by becoming the first U.S. president to visit the long-isolated Southeast Asian nation.”
Elders, leadership, ministers, shepherds,spiritual gifts & teachers: An Alternative Polity: Gifts by Tim Woodroof [required reading]
“Lacking an effective theology of spiritual gifts, Churches of Christ have been vague about the role those gifts play in our congregations—particularly leadership gifts. Does the Spirit still gift people to lead God’s church or are leadership gifts now synonymous with natural competencies, developed skills, and accumulated experiences? Do different kinds of leaders have different kinds of gifts? Or should we expect every leader to have them all?”
Food, food stamps & gluttony: * Thanksgiving on Food Stamps [required reading]; * Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Have We Always Eaten Them? by Denise Winterman
* “For the last few years, I’ve spent the full week before Thanksgiving living on the same budget someone on food stamps would have, which is about $1.25 a meal. You can get a lot of peanut butter, bologna and pasta, but fresh fruits and veggies? Don’t count on it. That’s tough, to be sure, but the hardest part is psychological.”
* “Breakfast as we know it didn’t exist for large parts of history. The Romans didn’t really eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon, says food historian Caroline Yeldham. In fact, breakfast was actively frowned upon. ‘The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day,’ she says. ‘They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time.'”
Liberation theology, poor & poverty: The Preferential Option for the Poor by Richard Beck
“The basic idea behind the preferential option for the poor is the observation that, within the biblical narrative, God sides with the poor against the rich.”
Militarism: Evangelicals, Militarism, and Romans 13 by Preston Sprinkle [required reading]
“If you miss this point, then you won’t understand what Paul is saying to citizens of God’s kingdom in Romans 13. When Paul says that God executes vengeance through Rome, it was to further prohibit, not encourage, Christians from doing so.”
Relationships: Two Preaching Giants and the ‘Betrayal’ That Tore Them Apart by John Blake [required reading]
“Andy [Stanley] didn’t know his parents’ marriage was in trouble until he was in the 10th grade. Before then, he never saw his father or his mother argue or even disagree. Charles and Anna Stanley seemed to have the perfect relationship.”
Social justice: What’s So Great About ‘The Common Good’? by Andy Crouch
“The common good can help us avoid two modern temptations—one on the left and one on the right.”
Thanksgiving: The First Thanksgiving – A Reason to Complain by Bob Russell
“Could you give thanks if you had prayed for a smooth journey and barely survived? Could you praise God for His goodness if half of your loved ones had died? Could you shout for joy if you were one of fifty people scraping to survive in a terrifying territory with no electricity, no cell phone, no television, no internet, no running water, no health insurance, no police protection and no guarantee you’d live through the next winter? They did.
“That made them so spiritually strong and mentally tough? They considered themselves stepping stones. With our consumer mentality we consider ourselves keystones. We assume we’re the center of the universe. It’s all about us – our needs, our comfort, our desires. But the pilgrims knew it wasn’t about them, it was about God’s will and it was about the welfare of their descendants.”
Women: 10 Lies the Church Tells Women by J. Lee Grady [required reading]
“For centuries, a patriarchal system of control has kept women in spiritual captivity through distortion of the Scriptures. It’s time to debunk the myths.”
* “Thus, the solar system, including the Earth, is about 4,560,000,000 years old.”
Friendship & ministry: Ministry Inside.84 by Jim Martin
“In some churches, a kind of uneasiness exists between ministers and elders. Or, sometimes the uneasiness exists among the ministry staff or within the elder group. In far too many instances, the relationship between these leaders has been reduced to an awkward superficial coexistence. I am not talking about situations where there is open conflict and quarreling. Rather, I am thinking about congregations where the relational investment by leaders into one another’s lives seems to be at a minimum.”
Healthcare: Christians and Healthcare by K. Rex Butts
“… I would like to make a few suggestions about the way Christians engage in the ongoing conversation, should we choose to do so.”
Justice: Speaking Up When It’s Too Late by Timothy Archer
“What would it take to get us to say ‘No’ to wrongs committed against those without power in our society? Or will we do content ourselves to let future generations lament our mistakes?”
Leadership: Four Secrets to Connecting with Old Leaders by Dan Rockwell
“Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all.”
Learning: 4 Reasons They Don’t Want to Learn … and 5 Suggestions by Ron Edmonson
“You can’t teach someone who doesn’t want to learn.”
Ministry & shepherding: Calm Your Storm by Tim Spivey
“The two most important things any pastor can give their church is to stay close to the Lord Jesus and to seek personal emotional health.”
Note-taking: How to Take Notes [infographic]
Same-sex couples: God Bless You vs. God Blessed You – Blessing Same-Sex Couples by Chris Altrock
“While a committed and monogamous relationship is a good step in the right direction (away from sexual relationships with multiple partners). What the church should unleash unreservedly might be called the ‘God Blessed You’ blessing.”
Spiritual abuse: Spiritual Abuse by Roger Olson
“… spiritual abuse is the control of people by manipulation of their religious needs or sensitivities by means of shame.”
Time: Jesus’ Invitation to the Discipline of “Wasting Time?” by John Huckins
“You have to listen. Drop your agendas and allow the stories of the inhabitants of the neighborhood to inform how you engage and participate. Simply be present.”