links to 7 items worth your time

1. Yes, You Can Be an Ethical Tech Consumer. Here’s How [essential reading]

“Products that we enjoy continue to create privacy, misinformation and workplace issues. We can do better at getting the industry to do better. … We are the buyers, users and supporters of the products and services that help Big Tech thrive. … So what do we do at this point to become more ethical consumers?”

2. In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books [required reading]

“Do not quit before you start. … Do the simple math. … Find the time. … Execute.”

3. How Cancer Changes Hope by Kate Bowler

“Much of Christian theology rests on the image of God as the ultimate reality beyond time and space, the creator of a past, present and future where all exists simultaneously in the Divine Mind. But where does that leave the bewildered believer who cannot see the future and whose lantern casts light only backward, onto the path she has already taken?”

4. The Virtual Commentary on Scripture

“The Visual Commentary on Scripture (VCS) is a freely accessible online publication that provides theological commentary on the Bible in dialogue with works of art. It helps its users to (re)discover the Bible in new ways through the illuminating interaction of artworks, scriptural texts, and commissioned commentaries. The VCS combines three academic disciplines: theology, art history, and biblical scholarship. While the project’s main commitment is to theology, it is responsibly informed by the latter two disciplines.”

5. The Otherworldly Beauty of a Dying Sea

“The Dead Sea is falling by more than a meter a year, and paradoxically, its destruction is revealing an eerie, enchanting world below the waters.”

6. Let Winter Do Its Work

“Winter has important work to do. Let winter do its work.”

7. Bono’s Testimony [11 min. video; essential viewing]

“… he [Jesus] was the Son of God or he … was nuts. … I find it hard to accept that wholly millions and millions of lives, half the earth, for two thousand years, have been touched, have felt their lives touched, and inspired, by some nutter. I don’t believe it.”

it is the day after Easter

And the most convincing evidence that Jesus has been raised from the dead is about to go to work. Or school. Or the coffee shop. Or the store.

Because you, believer, are Christ’s most compelling evidence of himself.

You.

You are his compassionate action. His wisdom embodied. His good news fleshed out. His ways on display.

You are a member of the body of Christ.

So, rise up! Rise up, get on your knees, and pray in his name today. Rise up, stand up, and determine to represent him well today. Rise up, walk, and be his wherever he would lead you today. Rise up, lay down, and fall asleep with the calmness of spirit that you lived for him today, that you are firmly in his grasp, and that even death itself has no hold on you.

You are a blood-bought believer in Christ.

For you have been chosen in him. Rescued through him. Adopted because of him. And are inhabited by his Spirit.

You.

You he chose and empowers to make a difference today. Whether it is the change you would have first willed or not. Whether you feel essential or adequate to the task or not. Whether you fully understand your role in it all or not. Whether you live to even see how it matters or not.

For it is not about you. It is about the Christ who is living in you.

So, with the help of his angels, his ministering spirits, roll the stone away today – every day – and let anyone and everyone see the wonder of the empty tomb of Christ in you. The Spirit-filled and fruit-bearing you. The loving and loyal you. The humble and bold you.

That is, the Christ. In. You.

Amen. And amen.

LIFE group discussion guide: strength

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 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.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To call us to never forget the ultimate source and shape of our strength in the Lord.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to possess eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you understand it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, his heart went out to him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two day’s wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10.25-37)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. Tell us of a trip you made which simply didn’t even begin to turn out like you’d planned.

2. Tell us of a time someone was a Good Samaritan to you in some big or small way.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this sermon.

1. Read 1 Cor. 16.13-14. What would it look like to be “courageous” and “strong” in the context of the life of the church in Corinth, knowing what we know from 1 Corinthians?

2. Read Eph. 6.10-18. What exactly are some of the “flaming arrows” the “evil one” shoots at us? Hint: consider some of the exhortations of the immediately preceding context (cf. 5.1-2,15,21; 6.9 – especially 5.1-2).

Reflection

These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.

1. Does giving strength to others increase, or diminish your own? Explain. (cf. 2 Cor. 9.8)

2. What are some the barriers/challenges to giving compassion and mercy? Which is biggest?

3. Discuss: “To demonstrate mercy is to simply reveal God’s strength to another.” (cf. Heb. 13.20-21a)

4. A disciple wants to “build muscle for mercy.” What habits will they do well to adopt?

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

1. ID and face your deepest fears and sources of hesitation that cause you to withhold mercy.

2. Deliberately and regularly put yourself in situations where you’re near folks in deep need.

links: this went thru my mind

Agreement, disagreement, listening & understanding: Steps You Can Take to Listen More Deeply [required reading]

“What if, instead of having to agree or disagree, like or dislike, you could learn to understand and be understood? What if you learned to just listen?”

Blessings, gratitude, prayer & thanksgiving: Thank You for Blessings Unknown to Me

“For all Your blessing, Heavenly Father, known to me, and for all unknown, accept my thanks.”

Christianity, Christian nation, courage, faith, ISIS, misunderstanding, persecution & witness: ISIS and “the Nation of the Cross” [essential reading]

“I’m a part of this “Nation of the Cross” and it doesn’t have a nation, it is an international, world-wide community of people who believe that this is actually not the worst thing you can do to us. Terrorism and acts that are designed as symbolic fear-driven aggressive acts of bullying only strengthen our resolve to lay down our lives. You may denounce some of our culture, and there are plenty of us that wish that the Christians in America didn’t participate as readily in consuming some of the same culture you denounce, but you have woefully misunderstood who you are talking to.

“If you want to talk to America than call it by it’s proper name, if you want to talk to the Church than this is our response for over 2000 years.

“You can’t kill people who have already died. That’s who you are talking about and who you are talking to when you address “the people of the Cross.”

Government, history, Lipscomb, Restoration Heritage, & voting: Voting More Evil than Dancing, says David Lipscomb

“One gets a sense of how important this is to Lipscomb. The kingdom of God stands in opposition to all human institutions, and the most powerful, violent and coercive of institutions is civil government.”

Morality, reason, secularism & spirituality: Building Better Secularists

“Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.”

links: this went thru my mind

Here are links to five articles that I have found to be interesting and helpful reading.

American history, corruption, fear, hate, hysteria, intimidation, lynchings, racism, revenge, rumors, social memory, suspicion, terrorism & violence: Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror [essential reading]

“Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. These lynchings were terrorism.”

Bible study, humility & reading: How to Make the Most of Your Bible Study [essential reading]

“We are pulled in many directions: work, family, ministry, fitness and many other activities tug at our schedules. The more we are tugged, the more we have to work to guard the time we give to personal study of our Bibles. When we are at last able to sit down to read, we want every precious minute to count. Whether we have 15 minutes or two hours, we want our efforts to yield the most benefit possible. But how can we make the most of the time we have to read and study?”

Community & forgiveness: The Act of Rigorous Forgiving

“There’s something sad in Brian Williams’s need to puff up his Iraq adventures and something barbaric in the public response. … the larger question is how we build community in the face of scandal. Do we exile the offender or heal the relationship? Would you rather become the sort of person who excludes, or one who offers tough but healing love?”

God, non-violence, violence & witness: Why NO Violence in Jesus’ Name is Justified

“The character of God is manifested when instead of employing violence against enemies to crush them, Jesus loves his enemies in order to redeem them. The kingdom is revealed when instead of protecting himself, Jesus allows himself to be murdered. God’s love is marvelously put on display when instead of clinging to his perfect holiness, Jesus puts himself in the place of sinners. And the nature of the rule of God shines radiantly in Jesus’ final prayer for the forgiveness of those who moments earlier mocked him, spit on him, whipped him, and crucified him (Luke 23:34).

“This is simply who God is and what God is up to in the world, and so living consistent with God’s character, reflected by the cross and the teachings of Jesus, is simply what it means to submit to God’s reign. In sharp contrast to the kingdom-of-the-world thinking, therefore, disciples of Jesus aren’t to act first and foremost on the basis of what seems practical or effective at securing a good outcome. We are to act on the basis of what is faithful to the character and reign of God, trusting that, however things may appear in the short term, in the long run God will redeem the world with such acts of faithfulness.”

Judging, judgment & love: Judgment: Isn’t Judging Others Healthy?

“Isn’t it time to for us to ruthlessly cut out judgment of one another from our sermons, conversations and mindsets? Isn’t it time for us to address personal and social change with long suffering love and when that doesn’t work—doesn’t transform ourselves and those we ought to care for—shouldn’t we try long-suffering love again?”

links: this went thru my mind

Archaeology, Assyrians, Iraq, Isis, Ninevah & terrorism: ISIS Threatens to Blow Up the Historical Walls of Nineveh

“Residents of the Bab Nergal area of Mosul said ISIS has informed them that it will blow up the walls of Nineveh with the start of operations to liberate Mosul by the Iraqi army. In the last month ISIS has seized the content of the cultural museum in Mosul as well as destroyed Assyrian monuments in the city, which ISIS claims “distort Islam.”

Blessings, communication, humility & witness: The One Things Christians Should Stop Saying [required reading]

“I’ve noticed a trend among Christians, myself included, and it troubles me. Our rote response to material windfalls is to call ourselves blessed. Like the ‘amen’ at the end of a prayer.”

Christianity, faith, government, kingdom & politics: 12 Reasons for Keeping the Kingdom of God Separate from Politics (parts 1 & 2) [essential reading]

“Jesus came to establish a kingdom that was not of this world.”

Evangelism, humility, listening, missions & outreach: Reverse Evangelism

“I really do believe that the Gospel is good news for everyone.  I just don’t think we know how good the news is until we do the hard work of listening and learning about what people’s hopes and dreams are.  And I have noticed that whenever I enter another culture, and understand it, even (or especially) when they don’t believe what I believe, that the Gospel just gets bigger for me.”

Marriage: Study Finds More Reasons to Get and Stay Married

“Social scientists have long known that married people tend to be happier, but they debate whether that is because marriage causes happiness or simply because happier people are more likely to get married. The new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, controlled for pre-marriage happiness levels.

“It concluded that being married makes people happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who remain single – particularly during the most stressful periods, like mid-life crises.”

LIFE group guide: light

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 30) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. This sermon (entitled “Light”) works out of Matthew 5.14 and 1 Peter 2.9.

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 particular sermon.

To consider what it means to be this world’s light, with the aid of photography as a metaphor.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this morning’s sermon.

•  You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5.14 NIV)

•  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. (Ephesians 1.18 NLT)

•  … once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5.8-9 NRSV)

•  … be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. (Philippians 2.15 NRSV)

•  … you are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2.9-10 CEB)

Relation

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

1. You’ve snapped a photograph or two before. Tell us about one of your favorites.

2. Some photos have seemingly been seen by all; they’re “common knowledge.” Describe one.

3. Which best describes your picture-taking style: [a] “spray and pray” (take lots of pics with the hope of getting a good one) or [b] “one shot, one kill” (take a few, carefully thought out pics)?

Research

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

1. “You are the light of the world.” What other “you are” statements do you recall in the NT?

2. “… a people who are God’s own possession.” Compare this rendering in other translations.

3. Both photography and Christian faith (a) see things ________ [understand light], (b) pull back the ________ [capture and use the available light], and (c) tell a ________ [give/share light].

Reflection

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

1. What are some unhealthy ways of interrupting what it means to be “the light of the world?”

2. How can faith show up as a bit “underexposed” or “overexposed” in a Christian’s life?

3. “… let your light shine in front of others.” (Matthew 5.16) How to do that and not be “glare”?

4. True or false: to be “an exceedingly dim Christian” is worse than being no light at all. Explain.

5. What are some things you’d say Christian faith and photography have in common? How so?

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. Think of a co-worker, school mate, or neighbor. Make a list of specific ways you can be Christ’s light to the person. Similarly, what available light might you be unwittingly blocking?

2. Snap a few pictures this week. A you do so, pay special attention to what the light is doing in terms of the composition and exposure of each photo. Let this exercise prompt you to pray about your role as a part of “the light of the world.”