Jesus says, ‘Be good soil.’ And that means hold onto the Word in stillness. Get rid of the hardness and callousness. Don’t squeeze God into a few cracks and crevices of your day’s business. But give him a space of daily quiet and don’t avoid repentance. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For God cannot be had cheaply. You come to God only if you allow yourself to be mobilized, and and if you march. This is not easy, and it means saying good-bye to many things. But this is the only way to find his peace. No battle, no cross, no crown. He who does not toil and sweat, and does not daily fall in line for service to God is exposing his inner man to decay.
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (June 1) 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 sketch out practical steps we can take to improve our daily walk with God.
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• Teach me, Lord, the meaning of your laws, and I will obey them at all times. … I find my happiness in obeying your commands. (Ps. 119.33,56 GNT)
• When you search for me … with all your heart, you will find me. (Jer. 29.13 CEB)
• … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matt. 28.20 NIV)
• … to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1.74-75 NIV)
• You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. (Rom. 8.14 NCV)
• Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. (Gal. 5.16 The Message)
• Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise … (Eph. 5.15 NRSV)
• … just as you received King Jesus the Lord, you must continue your journey in him. (Col. 2.6 KNT)
• … earn the respect of outsiders … (1 Thes. 4.12 NJB)
• … with him will be his called, chosen, and faithful followers. (Rev. 17.14 NIV)
Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.
1. What is something you do every day with great joy?
2. Which occupies your mind most often: doing the right thing or avoiding the wrong?
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
1. According to Eph. 5.1-10, what do God’s children avoid? What do they do? Why?
2. With a different group member reading each verse, slowly read Col. 3.1-17 aloud.
These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.
1. Why do you think God cares about the “little stuff” of our daily life as well as the big?
2. What does it mean to be “spiritual?”
3. What does the word “obey” convey to you about your daily relationship with God?
4. One yet to believe asks: “You say: ‘Praise God.’ How does one do that?” You say ____.
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.
1. Imagine (specifically) how your daily walk with God would change if you knew you’d suddenly die six months from today.
2. Identify a persistent sin in your life. Make a specific plan as to how you will die to it.
Alzheimer’s, communication, compassion, respect & sensitivity: 5 Things to Never Say to a Person With Alzheimer’s
“When relating to a person with Alzheimer’s, there are many guidelines to follow. I’m going to discuss five of the most basic ones here: (1) Don’t tell them they are wrong about something, (2) Don’t argue with them, (3) Don’t ask if they remember something, (4) Don’t remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead, and (5) Don’t bring up topics that may upset them.”
Attitude, admiration, behavior, character & emulation: Five People I Admire [required reading]
“1. I admire people who are respectful and gracious in their speech. … 2. I admire people who are quick to say ‘I’m sorry.’ … 3. I admire people who build up instead of destroy. … 4. I admire people who don’t have to be the center of attention. … 5. I admire people who spread joy instead of cynicism.”
Awkwardness, friendship, generations & vulnerability: The Silver Lining of Awkwardness [required reading]
“An opportunity is buried inside each of your awkward moments. … Awkwardness is an invitation to vulnerability. And vulnerability is where friendship is born.”
Hispanics & politics: Finding a Place: Hispanic Faith, Work and Identity
“It’s the middle of another election year. And while midterms historically draw a smaller crowd of voters, they bring to the forefront of political conversation a variety of issues intended to energize voter bases and solidify party candidates. Predictably, one of those issues is once again immigration.”
“Hopefully some of these maps will surprise you and you’ll learn something new. A few are important to know, some interpret and display data in a beautiful or creative way, and a few may even make you chuckle or shake your head.”
Marriage & relationships: Eight Things Healthy Couples Don’t Do
“It’s often harder to see the good relationships, because they aren’t out slamming doors and stomping around and airing grievances on social media. Here are eight things healthy couples don’t do …”
Reflection, silence & spiritual growth: Screwtape and Silence
“Why we need times of quiet reflection — and why the devil hates them.”
20’s, choices, decisions & wisdom: 10 Ways to Ruin Your Life in Your 20s [essential reading; spot-on]
“No one ever plans to ruin their life. … but it does happen. It happens far too often. And it happens because of the choices we make, even though that is not a result that anyone would ever willingly choose. Most of those choices take place when people are relatively young—old enough to be making important decisions about their life, but young enough for those decisions to snowball and grow to have disastrous consequences. … How can we avoid making such mistakes? Below are 10 things people can do to ruin their lives while still in their 20s. It is a list of what not to do, or things to stop doing immediately if you don’t want to suffer the results.”
Beauty: The Race We’re All Losing
“If beauty is fleeting, why do we chase it? … Our clay will never turn into the beautiful clear glass we are wanting because it is meant to clay.”
Change, development, spiritual growth & spiritual maturity: Bearing Fruit in Old Age
“If I am the same person today I was ten years ago, I have stagnated.”
* “It’s easy to say that I’d like to start a new church that will ‘do things right.’ Or choose to withdraw from the gathered body all together, focusing on my relationship with God outside the confines of organized religion. So here are some tempering thoughts, presented in no particular order …”
* “With all of those caveats aside, I want to share 5 different sorts of churches that I personally would avoid if I were moving to a new city and were not a pastor of a church.”
Doubt & outreach: 3 Things to Remember in Discussion with Doubters
“Saying your church is a safe place for doubters doesn’t make it so. … Doubting is never just intellectual. … Strengthened faith should lead to the strengthening of other people.”
God, perception, understanding & worship: The Myth of Worshipping an Identical God
“… we worship our individual projection of God, not a perfectly identical God. And this projection is formed by hundreds, if not thousands, of individual experiences, lessons, traditions, people, and revelations we each have had. In a sense, our personal view of God is like a thumbprint. It’s that unique.”
Nonviolence: At Gunpoint
“Daniel told us he’d kill anyone who tried to come in and take his family away from him.”
Parenting: Teen Spirit
“Helicopter parenting has crippled American teenagers. Here’s how to fix it.”
Oral interpretation & Philemon: David Rhoads Performing Philemon [5 min. video; outstanding!]
“David Rhoads performing Philemon at SBL 2103 in Baltimore, MD.”
Teachers & teaching: What Can You Do?
“Do at least one thing really well, and that will mean doing at least a few other things barely adequately. As the saying goes, ‘If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly,’ and a lot of duties imposed upon many of us nowadays are worth doing … but just barely.
“If, instead, we try to do everything asked of us reasonably well–say, at a ‘B-‘ level–we’ll feel ‘B-‘ about it all. And exhausted in the process. And that’s a lousy way to live.
“Work at something, at least one thing, at an ‘A’ level. It might be small. It might not even be noticed by others. But you’ll know you did a great job of it, and the feeling of excellence you draw from that task will inspire you in the rest of what you do.
“Meanwhile, practice ‘prudent neglect’ of the stuff that doesn’t matter much.”
Bible maps & Israel: Touring Israel in Google Street View [very cool!]
“Google has rolled out a rather substantial Street View update this morning, covering hundreds of towns in Israel and updating various other cities across the world. Some of the highlights include the Sea of Galilee, the Western Wall …”
Capitalism, government, Jesus & socialism: Jesus, Socialism, and Capitalism by James F. McGrath
“… Jesus said nothing about implementing any Christian principles in government, unless one includes the future Kingdom of God he envisaged as involving ‘government.'”
Confession, pride, repentance & sin: Four Things Christians Can Learn from the Lance Armstrong Debacle by Ed Stetzer
“The rise and fall of Lance Armstrong should serve as a reminder for us all as to how easy it is for us to allow sin to destroy all that we have. The patterns evident in this story are not new.”
E-mail forwards: 3 Steps to Polite, Secure Email by Kim Komando
“I love my sister to death, but not when it comes to email. Every day when she gets off of work, I know I’m going to see a few dozen messages sent to me and everyone else she knows about some scam or some weird picture of a dog. Plus, my email address is visible to people I don’t even know. I hate to be mean to her, but I’d really like her to stop sending so many and so publicly! How should I break it to her?”
Gambling: I’m Losing Money. So Why Do I Feel So Good? by Randall Stross
“… Jon E. Grant, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago, says … ‘The gambling problems of the people who are coming in for treatment, or who we see in our research, appear to be more severe than they were 10 or 15 years ago’ … and the popularity of multi-line slot machines is one reason. Addiction specialists are concerned that the near-wins and false wins served up by digital gambling technology set off the same reward mechanism in the brain that is activated by actually winning a game.”
God, love & power: God is Love, Not Control by Mark Love [required reading]
“… when we say that God is in control, I think what that should mean to us is that there is nothing that can happen to us outside of God’s love for us. Neither famine, or nakedness, or sword. Not even death itself can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. And this love is not just God’s good feelings toward us. It is not primarily sentiment, but power. God puts this love to work in us, pouring it into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that no matter what our life’s circumstances are,we find our condition changed, our life transformed, our world more hospitable.
“And this allows us, I think, to picture God more faithfully when disaster does strike. Our picture of God in these moments should be less as the cause and more as the one who grieves with us, the one who bears our suffering, the one who will not let us go no matter what. This we can speak of confidently.”
Gold: A Rumble in the Jungle
“It is estimated that up to a fourth of global gold production now originates not from licensed, regulated and monitored mines, but from often illegal, unregulated artisanal, or informal, mines … “
Marriage & missionaries: Cinderella Lied by Dan Bouchelle [required reading]
“‘And they lived happily-ever-after.’ I don’t know whether to say ‘aaaawwww’ or throw up. Depends on how much pain I’ve been listening to lately. So, here is the true end of Cinderella …”
Spiritual growth & maturity: Fridays with Benedict: Chapter 4, What are the Instruments of Good Works? by Richard Beck
“What does spiritual growth and maturity look like? What’s on the syllabus of this spiritual education?”
Christianity: Christians First by K. Rex Butts
“… for Christians, our national/ethnic identity belongs to the old self that has been crucified with Christ in the waters of baptism. We may need to refer to our national/ethnic identities for legal and business proceedings in this world, but they should never be the identity we live out of. … it is no longer our national or ethnic identities that determine what we say and do. … Once we realize this, a world of missions opens up right in our very own neighborhood.”
* “… church is a movement and not an institution …”
* “My problem … was with my vision of the church. I saw the church as a means to an end, and that end was my own spiritual growth.”
Church membership: 40 Reasons to be Part of a Local Church by Jesse Johnson
“At the bare minimum, there are forty different commands in the New Testament to live life in some sense with other believers. While certainly it is possible to do some of these with Christians in general, the weight of this list should convince you of the necessity of having on going relationships with other believers.”
Speech & words: An Open Letter to Ann Coulter by John Franklin Stephens [required reading]
“Come on Ms. Coulter … why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?”
This is cool: Google’s Street View Goes Into The Wild by Steve Henn
“Google’s Street View maps are headed into the backcountry.”
Boasting & bragging: Are We All Braggarts Now?
“‘We’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.’ So why keep it up? ‘We brag because we can,’ says Julie Hanks, a licensed clinical social worker who has a therapy clinic in Salt Lake City. ‘And a lot more people are listening.'”
Church attendance & spiritual development: What Counts: Part 1 by Dan Bouchelle
“I think we should measure our members instead of just count them.”
Depression & technology: Turn Off the Computer or Turn On the Lights to Avoid Late-Night Depression
“… while there’s still research to be done, the preliminary response … to dim, unnatural light at night reflected previously observed changes in human behavior, and closely mimicked symptoms of depression … For the rest of us, the solution is simple: keep the lights on as long as the computers are on, or keep your computing to daylight hours.”
Listening, leadership & discernment: One Critical Leadership Error by Ron Edmonson
“Assuming what you’re hearing is all that’s being said.”
Violence: How Do We Stop the Violence? by Scott Elliott
“How can the Christian community help to prevent further acts of violence? How should Christians respond when violence grips our nation? I do not pretend to have all the answers, but here are a few suggestions.”
Welcoming guests & newcomers: Nine Questions Church Visitors Aren’t Asking (… but Churches are Still Trying to Answer)
“#8. I need more paperwork! Can you give me a folder filled with glossy pamphlets, old newsletters and denominational statements of belief?”