links: this went thru my mind


Accountability, awareness, Christian faith, knowledge, social injustice & violence: We Cannot Say We Did Not Know [essential reading]

“The sage in Proverbs 24:11-12 warns us to rescue those being led away to death: ‘If you say, “We did not know this” – does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?’”

Children, parenting & sex: 7 Suggestions for Talking to Children about Sex

“I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.”

Church membership: The 7 Commandments for Choosing a Church

“If you don’t like the church where you are, the problem is probably you (or at least partially you… but probably mostly you).”

Forgiveness, intercession, love & ministry: The Chaplain from Missouri Who Tried to Save the Black Souls of the Nazis at Nuremberg

“… he would ultimately minister 13 of 21 of Hitler’s most malevolent Nazi leaders on trial in Nuremberg after World War Two for their heinous war crimes.”

Guests, visitors & welcome: 7 Ways to Connect with Guests Beyond the First Greeting

“Your God is awesome. Your church is wonderful. Yet guests who visit your church don’t often return. No true connection was made. A parking lot greeter in our church expressed that concern: ‘We’ve got to figure out how to actually connect every guest with another person. Our flippant hellos or glad-you-cames just aren’t adequate.’ Why not challenge every member of your church to use these seven tips to connect with guests.”

Youth ministry: Tribal Youth Ministry (Part 1): The Necessity of Age Desegregation in Our Churches [essential reading]

“This article is by Duncan Campbell and is the first of three outlining his approach to transitioning youth ministry toward a more intergenerational approach. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest questions facing churches today as we are beginning to see the connections between our traditional approaches to youth ministry and the disconnect from parents and other adults being a part of the faith development of our children, and the mass exodus from church by young adults.”

the 3 Rs: responsibility


NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Jan. 13). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning entitled The 3 Rs: Responsibility. Look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous discussion guides. All Scripture texts reproduced below are from the CEB.


To recall the fundamental truth that we are beings totally responsible to God.


• I’ll raise up a prophet for them from among their fellow Israelites—one just like you. I’ll put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. I myself will hold accountable anyone who doesn’t listen to my words, which that prophet will speak in my name. (Deuteronomy 18.18-19)

• As for those whose hearts continue to go after their disgusting and detestable things, I will hold them accountable for their ways. … the LORD God says! (Ezekiel 11.21)

• If I pronounce a death sentence on wicked people, and you don’t warn them to turn from their way, they will die in their guilt, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (Ezekiel 33.8)

• … people will have to answer on Judgment Day for every useless word they speak. (Matthew 12.36)

• When they opposed and slandered him, he … said to them, “You are responsible for your own fates! I’m innocent! From now on I’ll go to the Gentiles!” (Acts 18.6)

• Because it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. [Isa. 45.23] So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. (Romans 14.11-12)

• … everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of the one to whom we have to give an answer. (Hebrews 4.13)

• Rely on your leaders and defer to them, because they watch over your whole being as people who are going to be held responsible for you. (Hebrews 13.17)


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

1. What is something your parents/guardians held you consistently accountable for?

2. If I was being held accountable today for my New Year’s resolutions, I’d feel ________.


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

1. As a group, using the texts above, make a list of what God holds us responsible for.

2. What is the primary point of the verses immediately preceding (vs. 11-12) and following (vs. 14-16) the remark concerning our responsibility to God in Heb. 4.13?

3. How is it right for God to hold a person responsible for others (Ezk. 33:8; Heb. 13.7)?


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

1. What would life be like if there was zero accountability or responsibility to anyone?

2. Is accountability and responsibility the same thing? Explain.

3. Is holding others responsible judging? How does that with fit with “judge not?”

4. What does God holding humans accountable say to you about him? About us?

5. What happens to us if we are ignorant of, or numb to, our responsibility to God?

6. In light of my responsibility to God, I need to become more responsible for ________?

it’s time to be civil (34)


# 24. Don’t shift responsibility and blame. We are all familiar with the drill: Somebody at fault will try to minimise his or her responsibility by blaming someone else – quite often the wronged party. Thus the main characteristics of this exercise in rudeness are obfuscation and unfairness. …

… I simply cannot conceive of any circumstances in our own daily lives when it would be appropriate or advantageous to be rude or boorish. The powerful combination of self-respect and respect for others should make it almost impossible for us to choose incivility, if we manage to remain clearheaded even in challenging situations.

But what if we are dealing with somebody whom we don’t respect or who says or does something we believe to be wrong? The answer is simple: let’s not lose sight of our own standards of behavior, of our own rules of engagement. It is possible to be civil and true to one’s beliefs at the same time.

Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct by P.M. Forni (St. Martin’s Press, 2002); pp. 152,157

this went thru my mind


Aleppo: * Travelogue of the Aleppo Codex; * Brief History of Aleppo: A Great World City Now in the Grip of War; * A High Holy Whodunit

* “The Aleppo Codex has a history that is almost as dramatic as the Biblical events that it recounts. One of the most important ancient Biblical manuscripts, the Aleppo codex was … written … around 930 A.D. It became the version of the Hebrew Bible that was ultimately considered the most authoritative text in Judaism. … By the second half of the 15th century, the codex had somehow made it to Aleppo, Syria—the community that gave the codex its name. …  It remained in Aleppo for about 600 years. … In 1957, more than ten years after it was nearly destroyed in a riot, remnants of the king of ancient Biblical manuscripts were smuggled out of Syria by way of Turkey and brought to Jerusalem, where they remain today.”

* “In the city’s outskirts, sits the Church of St. Simeon, a 5th century Byzantine ruin built around the supposed site where Simeon, an ascetic Christian saint, perched himself atop a pillar for 37 years, choosing, as the 18th century British historian Edward Gibbon put it, ‘the celestial life.’”

“In Aleppo, Syria, where the codex was safeguarded for six centuries, it was believed to possess magical properties.”

Change: Change? Who? Me? by Karen Vestal

“We all want to change others, but is it even possible to think about changing ourselves?  Are we set and immovable, especially in those toughest areas?”

Church: * Is Your Church a Bad Hospital? by Tim Spivey [required reading]; * Do You Really Want to Be Part of a Second Chance Church? by Steve Ridgell; * Is Your Church Sound? by Chris Altrock

* “While no church wants to lose people, it’s a reality if you are healthy—not just unhealthy. If you don’t lose certain kinds of people, you will still lose people—just the healthy members of your church. You’ll be left with a bad hospital–lots of patients and no doctors. God will not bless such a hospital, for when the scarcity mindset trumps biblical instruction to correct, rebuke, etc., God’s Word is taking a backseat to feelings and fear.”

* “…  there are some conditions on accepting those sinners needing second chances.”

* “We can have correct creeds. We may perform worship wonderfully. Our rituals may be the best of any religion. Yet even with these we can be unsound. Even with these we can be unwell. The wealth of the church is one of the largest threats to the health of the church.”

Complaining & gratitude: Building Habits of ‘Simple’ Gratitude in a Consumer Culture by Patrick Mitchel

“So why is it that I moan so much? Why is it that I tend to focus on what I don’t have, or on what’s wrong (or might go wrong) rather than what’s right? Why am I so thankless?”

Culture & politics: Poll: Most Americans Would Vote Atheist for President

“The latest survey, from June, found that 54 percent of those asked said they would vote a ‘well-qualified’ atheist into the Oval Office—the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 1958, when only 18 percent said they would back a nonbeliever.”

Disability: Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S., Census Bureau Reports

“About 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe, according to a comprehensive report on this population released … by the U.S. Census Bureau.”

Gun control: I Carried a Gun, and It Was Heavy by Michael A. Black

“I spent over 30 years as a police officer in the Chicago area, and I was required to carry a weapon both on and off duty. … I’ve faced people with guns many times and arrested violent, armed offenders for such crimes as robbery and homicide. … The suddenness and confusion of that moment [the last shooting incident in which I was involved] points out the folly of the politician’s belief that an armed civilian could have easily taken out James Holmes.”

Humility: A Pencil in the Hand of God by Joshua Graves

“What is God’s greatest gift to you? … The poor people. … How are they a gift? … I have an opportunity to be with Jesus 24 hours a day.”

Olympics: * Religion At 2012 Olympics: From Ancient Greece To London; * Legally Blind Archer Sets World Record At London 2012 Games

* “The combination of Greek sport and worship led the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, to ban the Olympics in 393 A.D.”

* “His vision [Im Dong-hyun of South Korea] is now rated at … 20/100 in his right eye, and 20/200 in his left eye. … Olympic archers shoot at their target from a distance of nearly 230 feet — or, 70 meters, to be exact. The target has two center rings, which are 4.8 and 2.4 inches in diameter.”

Politics of every kind: Strip Clubs in Tampa Are Ready to Cash In on G.O.P. Convention

“Angelina Spencer, the executive director of the Association of Club Executives, which serves as a trade association for strip clubs, said an informal survey of convention business in New York and Denver had determined that Republicans dropped more money at clubs, by far. ‘Hands down, it was Republicans,’ she said. ‘The average was $150 for Republicans and $50 for Democrats.’ …

“As further evidence of the clubs’ nonpartisan appeal, Don Kleinhans, the owner of the 2001 Odyssey, said when the Promise Keepers, a male evangelical group, came to town years ago, business was rollicking. ‘We had phenomenal numbers all weekend, and they walked in wearing badges and name tags and weren’t shy at all,’ he said.”

Social networking: Guest Post: The Illusionary Nature of Online Friendships via Facebook & Other Social Media by Stephanie Bennett

“We may become adept at managing our hyper-organized lives, but none of it helps to nourish healthy, long-lasting relationships.  This may be particularly so when it comes to finding fellowship on Facebook and other computer networks that allow for social exchange.”

imminent domain (6)

… God is perfectly free to make up a plan for the salvation of humankind and execute it as he sees it. He does not owe salvation to anyone, unless he first promised that salvation to some person or persons. We must remind ourselves that the New Testament says that all human beings have sinned and fallen short of God’s best for us (Rom. 3:23). Salvation, then, becomes not a matter of something owed to us, but rather a gift of God’s unfailing grace. This means that whether or not everyone is saved is not an issue of justice or of God’s character. Rather, it is an issue of human character and human responsibility. While it is true that many today would like to live in a no-fault world, the New Testament is quite clear about human beings’ moral responsibility for their actions, including responsibility for responding to the gospel.

This entire approach to the issue of salvation inevitably leads to the question – What about those who have not heard the gospel? Are they eternally lost just because they have not heard? The answer to this question must be no. If the answer were yes, then indeed there would be an issue about the character of God and whether we could take seriously Scripture’s testimony that God is love and desires no one to perish.

Romans 1:18-32 deals with just this question. … No one is condemned for what he or she does not know. All people are judged by what they do with the life they have received. Thus Paul is able to conclude that “they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened” (vs.20-21).

Ben Witherington in Imminent Domain: The Story of the Kingdom of God and Its Celebration (pp.65-67)

fresh bread: if I want to hear him say “you are a good and faithful servant” …

Having heard my Lord speak straight to me through Matthew 25:14-30 I know …

I must seize this opportunity he has given me. No matter how many decades I might live, my life is short and the days fly by. I am here only for a little while so I must do more than dream and intend; I must act and act now.

I must not be paralyzed by fear. I dare not play it safe by making the avoidance of loss or embarrassment my objective in life. If I’m not taking risks for his glory now, I’m not living my life as my Lord intended for me to live it.

I must put to work what God has entrusted to me. My Lord knows me better than I know myself and he has given me what I have with that in mind. If I do not fully exert myself or try to make the most of his resources he has temporarily put in my care, then I am a lazy, foolish, unproductive person unworthy of the designation as “servant.”

I must not misunderstand the character of my Lord. If I mistake his expectations of me as hardness, I will never grasp, much less enjoy, the depth of his generosity. If I view his trust in me as an extension of his own trustworthiness, I will surely enter into the joy of my Lord.

I must live with my Lord’s pleasure as my goal. To do so will make my Lord happy and his pleasure will surely spill over onto me. To completely bless the Lord with my life here and now will lead to my total blessing there and then forever.

Heavenly Father, I long to hear you say to me “you are a good and faithful servant.” I know those who will have the ultimate regret over their life will be those who never really tried. So Father, in the name of Jesus, bring me to that servant way of life for you now. Break whatever is within me that mindlessly resists such a life and reinforce whatever good you have caused to be within me. May I wholly celebrate you by living my life in service to you and so avoid regret over the loss of what might have been. Amen.