why is it?


Now this is odd.

Or is it?

In 35 years of preaching I’ve never once had anyone complain to me saying …

“In your sermon Sunday I noticed you didn’t mention _______. I don’t like that. You need to mention _______ every time without fail. And I’m listening to see if you do.”

Fill in the preceding blanks with any of the following:

  • attitude
  • brotherly love
  • church
  • civility
  • communion
  • community
  • compassion
  • confession
  • contentment
  • contrition
  • courage
  • courtesy
  • covenant
  • cross
  • devotion
  • discernment
  • discipleship
  • empowerment
  • encouragement
  • endurance
  • enlightenment
  • eternal life
  • faith
  • faithfulness
  • fellowship
  • forbearance
  • forgiveness
  • gentleness
  • generosity
  • God the Father
  • goodness
  • grace
  • holiness
  • honesty
  • hope
  • hospitable
  • humility
  • idolatry
  • intercession
  • Jesus
  • joy
  • justice
  • kindness
  • kingdom
  • Lordship
  • love
  • mercy
  • morality
  • ministry
  • mortification
  • non-violence
  • obedience
  • peace
  • peaceable
  • praise
  • prayer
  • purity
  • reconciliation
  • reflection
  • repentance
  • reputation
  • respect
  • resurrection
  • righteousness
  • sacrifice
  • salvation
  • sanctity
  • self-control
  • service
  • sin
  • submission
  • temperate
  • thankfulness
  • the Holy Spirit
  • transformation
  • unity
  • wisdom
  • worship

But, I guar-an-tee you, if I don’t specifically mention the word “baptism” in one Sunday’s sermon, and likely repeatedly, despite the fact ….

  • I have been immersed myself …
  • have assisted with many dozens (hundreds) across the years …
  • and I mention it 90+% of the time …

will hear about it.

And I know I’m anything but alone in this experience.

So … what’s up with that?

Just let me ask you to think about it.

And then … don’t stop thinking about it.

putting skin on the sermon: walk in the light


Sunset-2013-11-11Yesterday morning’s sermon worked out of John 12.35-36. In that passage, Jesus paints a mental picture for the crowd:

“The light is with you for only a little while. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going. As long as you have the light, believe in the light so that you might become people whose lives are determined by the light.”

The image is of someone walking with purpose, and perhaps with a bit of hustle, trying to get to their destination, before nightfall (“walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you”). Their way may not be familiar to them and could even hold any number of problems that could leave them vulnerable. Such a person has one objective in mind: to avoid the delay and the possible dangers that would come from getting lost (“those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going”). Consequently, every decision they make, every step they take along the way, they make on the amount of light they still have at the moment. They are “people whose lives are determined by the light.”

Jesus claimed to be the light in our life:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12)

There is no time for delay in choosing to believe him and walk with him, in his light. Time is not our friend and neither is darkness. He urges us to “… believe in the light so that” so that we will “become people whose lives are determined” by him. If we do so, he will bring us safely to where we belong: home with him.

So how can we walk daily, and all day long, with such clear purpose and determination? Here are three things that can assist you in your journey.

1. Start each day well in your heart. That is, start with Christ your Lord clearly in focus. Get your mind right and the rest will follow. One way to do this is to make a portion of Scripture a point of reflection and meditation as soon as you get up in the morning. Here’s an exercise to get you started with that habit: take a few minutes to watch the day dawn, moving from darkness to light, meditating on Ephesians 5.8-9 as you do so. Do this every day for a week. This passage reads:

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth.”

2. Take a few moments throughout the course of each day to deliberately recall the true Lord to whom you belong. Think of such as something like a soft reset or reboot of your operating system, your spirit.

“All of you are children of light and children of the day. We don’t belong to night or darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5.5)

Remember some of the horizontal blessings you enjoy because of your walk with the Lord and thank him for such.

“… if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other …” (1 John 1.7a)

Pray a brief prayer of thanksgiving as well for the ultimate vertical blessing we have because of our Savior:

“…  and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.” (1 John 1.7b)

3. End the thoughts of each day well. Consider your last conscious thoughts of the day as your way of preparing and supplying your mind for it’s effort and rest while you sleep. You might do this by going for an evening walk with someone. Try deliberately walking toward the setting sun and discussing John 12.35 as you go. Remember it?

“Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness don’t know where they are going.”

links: this went thru my mind


Attention, focus, health, noise, stress & thinking: I’m Thinking. Please. Be Quiet.

“… there is no physiological habituation to noise. The stress of audible assault affects us psychologically even when we don’t consciously register noise.”

Health care, health insurance & Obamacare: What You’ll Actually Pay for Obamacare

“Millions of Americans won’t have to pay full price for their Obamacare health insurance next year. But just how much they’ll have to fork over depends on a couple different things.”

Injustice, racism & white privilege: Cracking the Codes: Joy DeGruy, A Trip to the Grocery Store [4 min. video; essential viewing]

“… she used her white privilege to educate and to make right a situation that was wrong. That’s what you can do, every single day.”

Maps: World Maps That Make You Go, “Hmm.”

[The world's major religions ... more than half the world's population live inside this circle ... where Google Street View is available ... global internet usage based on time of day ... map of contiguous United States overlaid on the moon ... worldwide annual coffee consumption per capita ... and more.]

Parenting, safety & social networking: Your Kids Can Be Social, But They Need to Stay Safe [infographic]

“Here are the five rules … * Ask your child to show you the sites they use. * Ask your child to set profile settings to private. * Ask your child about their online friends. * Ask your child to only share photos that wouldn’t mind showing you first. * Ask your child to tell you if they are worried about something online.”

Weddings: Weddings: Too Expensive?

“On March 7, 2013, XO Group Inc. released results of their annual Real Weddings Study … This report surveyed over 17,000 brides to find out how much they spent on their weddings. Here are some highlights …”

this went thru my mind


Awareness, focus, inattentional blindness, & thinking: Why Even Radiologists Can Miss A Gorilla Hiding In Plain Sight [required reading]

“… what we’re thinking about — what we’re focused on — filters the world around us so aggressively that it literally shapes what we see.”

Books & bookstores: Buying is a Hard Thing for Bookstores to Do Effectively, and That Becomes an Increasingly Important Reality for Publishers

“As the shelf space for books being managed by retailers that accept the high cost of managing book inventory and commit to doing it effectively continues to decline, publishers need to understand that it will be really hard for non-book retailers to replace them.”

Churches of Christ: “Why Churches of Christ are Shrinking” Blog – More Thoughts by Joshua Tucker

“Lord, help us not to be bound by personal preference, but by an overwhelming desire to please You and see Your Church grow. Help all of us to be selfless, full of Your Love, and the ability to judge things objectively.”

Civil War & Les Miserables: In Camp, Reading ‘Les Miserables’

“Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” was published in 1862 and English translations of the five parts that constitute the novel began to appear in America by year’s end. … While Hugo may not have had the Civil War in mind, American reviewers certainly did and many viewed the novel through the prism of the war.”

Death & fear: America’s Culture of Death by Ben Witherington [required reading]

“When a culture replaces the value of everlasting life, with the value of this life extended as far as possible, the culture has become totally myopic, unable to see beyond the immediate, the tangible, the empirical. And oddly enough when the lie that ‘this life is all there is’ is believed, it makes it much easier to allow death to rule one’s mind, one’s fears, one’s behavior. Death simply becomes the price of doing business, or surviving. A culture becomes fear based and makes decisions on the basis of fear, rather than faith and a belief in the life to come.”

Millenials: FactChecker: Are Millennials More Self-Sacrificing and Community-Minded Than Previous Generations?

“For those who pay attention to the different opinions and declarations on how the various generations are different than the ones that came before, you have no doubt heard that while Generation X was the slacker generation, Gen Y, or the Millennials, are very different, the most community service-minded, action-oriented, let’s change-the-world-generation alive today, perhaps in the history of our nation. Generation We. It’s taken as a nearly uncontested reality. Except it’s not true. The best research on this topic, relying on nationally representative research by the leading scholars on the issue comes to essentially the very opposite conclusion.”

Small groups: Small Groups for the Rest of Us by Chris Surratt

Parts one [introverts], two [guys] & three [anyone].

Submission: The Most Offensive Word in America [required reading]

“The most offensive word to Americans is a simple, two-syllable word that insults our beliefs and violates our value system: submit. We inherently believe no one has the right to tell us how to live, where to go or what to do. We are our own masters.”

devoted: the eyes have it


NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Nov. 4. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled Devoted: The Eyes Have It. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture quotations below are from the Common English Bible (CEB)


To explore what it means to devote our eyes, our vision, to God.


• The woman saw that the tree was beautiful with delicious food and that the tree would provide wisdom, so she took some of its fruit and ate it, and also gave some to her husband … (Gen. 3.6)

• Lot looked up and saw the entire Jordan Valley. (Gen. 13.10)

• Then he brought Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you think you can count them. He continued, “This is how many children you will have.” (Gen. 15.5)

• Don’t take a bribe, because a bribe blinds the clear-sighted … (Exodus 23.8)

• How is it that I’ve found favor in your eyes, that you notice me? I’m an immigrant. (Ruth 2.10)

• I’ve made a covenant with my eyes; how could I look at a virgin? (Job 31.1)

• Those who look to God will shine; their faces are never ashamed. (Psalm 34.5)

• Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things. Make me live by your way. (Psalm 119.37)

• There are six things that the Lord hates, seven things detestable to him: snobbish eyes … (Prov. 6.16-17a)

• The poor and their oppressors have a common bond—the LORD gives light to the eyes of both. (Prov. 29.13)

• An eye that mocks a father … may the ravens of the river valley peck it out … (Prov. 30.17)

• The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. (Matt. 6.22-23)

• No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom. (Luke 9.62)

• No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God. He has seen the Father. (John 6.46)

• … why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God. (Rom. 14.10)

• We always carry Jesus’ death around … so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. (2 Cor. 4.10)

• I’m happy to see the discipline and stability of your faith in Christ. (Col. 2.5)

• Let’s … get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer … (Heb. 12.1-2)

• Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone—and holiness as well, because no one will see the Lord without it. (Heb. 12.14)

• Everything that is in the world … the craving for whatever the eyes see … is of the world. (1 John 2.16)

• … if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him? (1 John 3.17)


Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. When you first meet someone and you’re trying to “get a read” of them, what visual clues do you look for?

2. What things do you have an eye for? That is, what things will cause you to give a double-take?


These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. Job says he “made a covenant with his eyes” (Job 31.1)? Of what might such a covenant consist?

2. Luke 9.62. What happens to the crop row when you look back while plowing? What is Jesus’ point here?

3. What sort of things depict “discipline and stability” of “faith in Christ” in a church’s life (Col. 2.5)?

4. Heb. 12.1-2. What all might the author of Hebrews meant for the original audience by the phrase “Let us … fix our eyes on Jesus?” Consider similar statements the author makes (e.g. – Heb. 2.9,12-14; 4.13-16; etc.).


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

1. What events do you recall in Christ’s life where the Gospels explicitly mention Jesus looking at someone?

2. What have others told you about your eyes (and/or how you use them) that has affected your use of them?

3. What do you see that consistently brings peace to you? What do you see often that disturbs you?

4. Our habits of prayer affect the way we talk with people. What habits of sight affect the way we see people?

5. We think about training our ears as to how, and to what, to listen. How can a person train their eyes?

6. Someone asks your advice on defeating a visually-activated sin (covetousness, porn, etc.). What do you say?

this went thru my mind


Brain, depression & stress: Brain Scientists Uncover New Links Between Stress And Depression

“… stress caused by everything from battlefield trauma to bullying can alter brain circuitry in ways that have long-term effects on mental health.”

Church, evangelism, outreach & unchurched: Why You’re Not Reaching the Unchurched by James Emery White

“How can it be that so many are still operating with a 1980s/1990s approach when it is 2012? Here’s the essence of the mistake: ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Or in the case of this mailer and scores of others like it I’ve received: ‘If you offer it, they will come.’ Meaning that if you spruce church up a bit, musically and stylistically, the unchurched will suddenly stream in your doors and fill your seats. No, they won’t.”

Claustrophobia: How Claustrophobia Nearly Grounded Supersonic Skydiver Felix Baumgartner

“He’d never worn a pressurized space suit before, and he felt the claustrophobia — which … was so severe it brought on panic attacks — threatened to bring the mission to a screeching halt.”

Complaining & complainers: Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain by Minda Zetlin

“… being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity–including viewing such material on TV–actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. ‘That’s the part of your brain you need for problem solving,’ he says. ‘Basically, it turns your brain to mush.’”

Evolution: Animated Crash Course in Evolution [10 min., 48 sec. video]

“There are many reasons it’s important to understand evolution …”

Facebook: The Church of Foreigners by K. Rex Butts [required reading]

“Does our social persona depict us as foreigners among the world? … Will people get the sense that there is something very different about us or would we appear to mirror one of the many nations and tribes of this world, or one of the many sub-cultures within the world? … Are we the church of foreigners?”

Focus: What are You For? by Rachel Stone

“In the (sometimes-exhausting) world of social media and blogging–especially in an election season!–it can seem like everyone is always talking about what they are against: what they fear will happen if the other party wins, why the other side is so wrong, why parenting/worshiping/eating/living in a particular way is destructive and bad and so on. Without trying too hard, I can think of a number of bloggers and authors and TV and radio personalities who have made names for themselves largely by asserting what they are against. …  Truth is, there are plenty of ideas that a person may be justified in being ‘against.’ But I tire of writing like this, and also of reading writing that is relentlessly anti-. What seems to center and ground me, instead, is to focus on what I’m for–what do I want to lift up as good, as true, as right, as exemplary, as worthy of attention and praise?”

History: * Google Brings History to Life With Online Exhibitions; * F.D.R.’s Message to B.H.O.

* “Today you can discover 42 new online historical exhibitions telling the stories behind major events of the last century, including Apartheid, D-Day and the Holocaust. The stories have been put together by 17 partners including museums and cultural foundations who have drawn on their archives of letters, manuscripts, first-hand video testimonials and much more. Much of the material is very moving—and some is on the Internet for the first time.”

* “In 1936, Franklin Roosevelt was faced with a vicious re-election campaign. He was vilified for the New Deal reforms. The word ‘boondoggle’ was popularized in the U.S. the year before to describe alleged abuses of the New Deal. Opposition politicians and critics compared F.D.R. to Lenin. … What Roosevelt had going for himself was a real set of policies and the capacity to speak on their behalf—a willed capacity to state things plainly, forcefully, and effectively. Never more so than on September 29, 1936, at the New York Democratic State Convention, in Syracuse. … F.D.R. sounds as if he is sending a message in a bottle (a YouTube bottle) to Barack Obama as he prepares for the second debate with Mitt Romney on Tuesday.”

this went thru my mind


Boredom & youth: Engaged in the Fascinating by Terry Rush

“… as a kid I wanted nothing to do with churches when I got older because of one thing; superficially boring. What has changed my perspective?”

Facebook: Facebook May Let Kids Under 13 Join With Parent’s Help by Ruger Yu

“Facebook is really going after the youth market.”

Frisbee: Frisbee – God’s Favorite Sport by Jon Acuff

“You’ve had that same thought too right? I’m not the only one am I?”

Preaching: If I Could Just Preach What I Really Believe … by Dan Bouchelle

“One of the secret dreams of many preachers and missionaries is having the freedom to preach exactly what they believe about every subject. Because few of us started a work from scratch, almost all of us find ourselves in a community of faith with some deeply ingrained beliefs and practices with which we disagree.”

Productivity: Five Ways to Cope With the Productivity Squeeze by Glynn Young

“The reality is that virtually all of us work jobs that used to be done by at least two or three people.”

Resurrection of Jesus: Things Which Ought to Be Better Known about the Resurrection (video)

“The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the central tenets of Christian faith. Yet Dr. Peter Williams is concerned that there are some important details the average Christian doesn’t understand very well. So, in this video lecture, he walks us through some of those issues.”

Sermons: 3 Questions to Ask When You Hear a Sermon by Wayne Stiles

“Even Jesus had listeners who missed it.”

Standing desks: * Best Standing Desks by Mark Lukach; * Ernest Hemingway’s Standing Desk [I use the exact same arrangement as Hemingway; now if I could only write like him]

* “… why would I want to buy a standing desk at all?”

* “Other famous users of standing desks included Winston Churchill, Lewis Carroll, Donald Rumsfeld, Charles Dickens, Otto von Bismarck, Henry Clay, Thomas Jefferson, John Dos Passos, and Virginia Woolf.”