sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: be strong in the Lord (3)


This is the essence of my sermon this morning.

Read Scripture. Often.

Not merely to read, but to hear God. Not merely to hear God, but to trust him. Not merely to trust him, but to do in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. Not merely to do in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, but to love God and others with the love his Spirit has poured into your heart. Not merely to love God and others with the love his Spirit has poured into your heart, but to revel in the hope you have in Christ your Lord. Not merely to revel in the hope you have in Christ your Lord, but to place your life in his hands and find your peace in him. Not merely to place your life in his hands and find your peace in him, but to know God and love him all the more.

Meditate on Scripture. Constantly.

LIFE group guide: what gives? the goal of our giving


NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Feb. 9) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon is the second in a four-part series entitled Giving.

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 sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To explore and emphasize the importance of our giving of our means.


These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon. Words underlined are stressed in the Greek.

• … we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8.1-9 NIV)

• Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9.7 CEB)


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

1. As a child, what was a toy you had that you never wanted to share?

2. Tell us of something you gave or shared one time that gave you great joy to do.


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

1. To whom were the Macedonian & Corinthian Christians giving? What was the need?

2. What is stated in the texts above as their source and their motivation of giving?

3. What exactly was God’s “grace” (2 Cor. 8.1) to the Corinthian Christians? What was Christ’s “grace” to them (2 Cor. 8.9)?


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

1. We think of prayer and Scripture reading as spiritual disciplines. How is giving such?

2. How is “overflowing joy” (8.2) and “cheerfulness” (9.7) connected with godly giving?

3. What can a Christian do to nurture their growth of a healthy, happy heart for giving?


This idea/suggestion is for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out this message in the coming days.

1. Thoughtfully and carefully review and evaluate the history of your giving through the years and where you currently stand in your participation and maturing in this grace.

this went thru my mind


Attitude, martyrdom & violence: Called To Be a Martyr? by K. Rex Butts

“We are all going to physically die one day any ways. The question is: what sort of story will we tell in our life and in our death? Will it be the story of God’s reign in Jesus, who though crucified by his enemies, was raised by God and exalted in victory as the Lord and Messiah? Or will it be a story that says death has not been defeated in Christ and therefore must still be resisted at all cost, even by violence if necessary?”

Children & poverty: Young Child Risk Calculator

“[Use this] Young Child Risk Calculator …  to see the following information for your state: the percentage of young children in a state, within a specified age range, who are experiencing selected risk factors [and] the percentage of young children in a state, within a specified age range, who are experiencing both selected risk factors (such as teen parent, residential mobility) and economic hardship at a specified level (extreme poverty, poverty, low-income).”

Children & violence: Welcoming Children: How Jesus Plans to Stop Violence in the World by Richard Beck

“All of these teachings of Jesus–“welcome children,” “do not cause a little one to stumble,” and “recieve the kingdom like a child”–may be less about Precious Moments and more about addressing the generational darkness within families that produces so much of the violence in our world.”

Evangelism & the unchurched: 10 Reasons We Have Not Reached the Unchurched by Ed Stetzer, parts 1 & 2

“We only reach one person for Christ each year for every 85 church members in the United States.”

Giving: Giving by Bruce Hulme

“Thinking about giving as a spiritual discipline might make us wince a little. …Giving is relational; as soon as it becomes merely functional in our lives, it has moved from mercy to sacrifice. ‘Discipline’ in proper perspective, however, actually frees rather than restricts.”

Identity theft: Warning About Online Fraud as Information Theft Rises

“Fraudsters traded 12 million pieces of personal information online between January and April this year … The figure represents a threefold increase on 2010.”

Immigration: Looking at Some Immigration Myths by Timothy Archer

“Christians have no excuses for any lack of hospitality toward immigrants. Let the politicians fight this one out.”

Journaling: The 7 Benefits of Keeping a Daily Journal by Michael Hyatt

“The main thing is I am writing for myself rather than an audience. I have found this tremendously liberating and deeply satisfying.”

Ministry & parenting: How Can a Pastor Help His Children Appreciate His Work, Not Resent It? by Brian Croft

“Pastors, teach your children how important your work is to God, how essential it is to the care of God’s people, and that it is worth suffering for it.  The question is…do you pastor, believe that, especially when our families suffer from it?”

Ministry & pettiness: On Christian Pettiness by Frank Viola

“I know we’re all different, but I cannot understand – for the life of me – how a Christian can hear a message on Jesus Christ, and when it’s all over, only hear one fleeting word from an illustration. To my mind, this is a case of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel . . . zeroing in on one insignificant thing and tuning everything else out. It goes along with my previous post that Christians are the most easily offended people on the planet.”

Prayer: How to Pray for Your Pastor by Trevin Wax

“… will you consider praying for your pastor the way I ask my people to pray for me?”

Sleep: You Can’t Do Your Job if You Don’t Sleep by by Tony Schwartz

“… the average American … gets between six and six and a half hours of sleep a night … thirty percent of working Americans … get less than 6 hours. And yet the research suggests that nearly all of us require between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested, and only a tiny percentage of us feel rested with less than 7 hours. The costs show up physically, emotionally, and cognitively.”

Small groups: Preventing Heresy in Your Small Group by Sam O’Neal

“Use the magic words. When most people hear the phrase ‘magic words,’ they think of please and thank you. And those certainly are good, useful terms. But for small-group leaders, the real magic lies in the ability to say, ‘I don’t know.’ … the worst thing a group leader can do is attempt to give an answer without really understanding the concepts or doctrines at stake. Sometimes the best thing a group leader can do is say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out.'”

Widowhood: What Took Me By Surprise–Widowhood by Bev Hislop

“What took me by surprise was the power, the all-consuming grip, the sudden shock of an emotion rolling over me, literally rendering me unable to function for a moment or sometimes longer.”

Work: Work is a Battlefield by Ed Cyzewski

“When you know that someone is trying to sabotage your job, negative thoughts and anger are tough to stop.”

this went thru my mind


Charitable giving: Giving is Up, But Not for the Church

“Giving USA, the leading authority on charitable giving, has just released its findings for 2011. Giving as a whole rose by roughly 4% to 298 billion dollars. This is about a 1% increase when inflation is factored in. … Giving to health, education, human services, arts, international affairs, environment, and animal organizations were all up. However; giving to religion decreased by nearly 2% and is now down to 32% of the whole, its lowest level on record.”

Church programming: * A Simple Exercise to Help Your Church; * Inconvenient Truth No. 1: Nothing Works by Dan Bouchelle [both posts are required reading]

* “Nothing works. At least in ministry and missions (which are one and the same), there is no magic formula, no methodological messiah, no fool-proof program, no golden tablet or holy grail. … The search for a surefire method is really a violation of our core beliefs as Christians anyway. It is a rejection of the spiritual, personal, and incarnate nature of the world God has made. … God did not send a method to save the world. He sent his son. He did not send a formula for evangelism or church planting. He sent his Holy Spirit. God did not give us a systematic theology or ecclesiology. He gave us a library of stories, songs, poems, wise observations, letters, and visions about the myriad ways he has worked throughout time to reclaim and restore his reign over humanity.”

* “Every church can learn a lot about the way it does ministry by doing this simple exercise: Take your church calendar and ask, ‘If someone or a family of four participated in everything our church offers, what would their day planner look like, and how much would it cost financially?'”

Facebook: * Facebook Just Switched Your Default E-mail Address; * Facebook Quietly Unveils ‘Stalking App”

* “Whether you’ve noticed or not, you have a new primary e-mail address listed as your Facebook contact, and most likely it’s an address you’ve never used.”

* “Facebook on Monday appeared to have quietly unveiled a new feature designed to let people see which Facebook users are nearby at any given time. By Tuesday, however, the feature seemed to have been pulled from the Internet.”

Grammar: This Embarrasses You and I* by Sue Shellenbarger

“Twenty-five years ago it was impossible to put your hands on something that hadn’t been professionally copy-edited. … Today, it is actually hard to put your hands on something that has been professionally copy-edited.”

Holy Spirit & the Christian: More Like Fruit that Grows than Fire that Falls

“… the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit is made evident in our lives not primarily through extraordinary divine manifestations but through the grace and strength of a Spirit-soaked inner character, which manifests Christ to others when we lay down our lives in love for their well being.”

Nonviolence & pacifism: A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Common Questions about Christian Nonviolence by Kurt Willems

“I believe that the New Testament clearly teaches that kingdom people ought to refuse violence in all its forms. … anyone on the spectrum between absolute pacifism and pro-militarism asks questions about how Christian nonviolence could actually make sense in situations that might arise. Common questions include: what about Hitler and what about defending the innocent?”

Parenting: Tools to Control a Child’s Technology by Somini Sengupta

“How you handle technology in a child’s life depends entirely on how you parent.”

Prayer: K. Rex Butts’ mini-series on the church and prayer is good stuff. Here are links: * Are We a Praying Church; * A Praying Church; * Becoming A Praying Church

* “… as heirs of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, we in the Churches of Christ have claimed to be patterned after the church we read about in scripture. Yet the church we read about in scripture was a church in which prayer was one of their four main practices (Acts 2:42).”

* “… these disciples went to God in prayer because they believed in the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them in the face of danger. It’s pretty simple. They prayed because they believed in God, not themselves. So this begs another question: When our churches are faced with challenges, is prayer the response? This is an important question because how that question is answered says a bunch about our faith and theology. … ministry that does not emerge out of prayer is an act of unbelief.”

* “So how do we become a praying church? … I would like to make a few suggestions.”

Rest: 7 Ways I Protect My Sabbath by Ron Edmonson

“… many pastors I know who would teach their church to observe the Sabbath, seldom do so personally. This fact alone is one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout, in my opinion.”

Senior adults: How To Tell The Senior Adult is Still Alive by Joe McKeever

“Here are my top five ways to keep yourself mentally alive long past the age when most people have stopped growing and begun vegetating.”

Silence: Of Sin and Salvation: Why I Went to the Cemetery During Five Days of Silence by Chris Altrock

“To deepen this experience, I decided to visit a nearby cemetery while practicing this somber exercise.”

Southern Baptists & United Methodists: Baptists Chasing Methodists

“This marks the fifth straight year the SBC has lost members. … the denomination is not only experiencing decline but an acceleration of decline. ‘Based on the trend of annual percent change in SBC total membership, we are catching up with the Methodists, and will match their decline rate consistently by 2018,’ said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, in his blog. ‘This trend points to a future of more and faster decline …'”