links: this went thru my mind


Age, Boomers, faith, mid-life, & generations: Aged Out of Church [required reading]

“… Boomers are leaving the church in numbers that we usually think of when we talk about the exodus of the Millennial generation: “‘…during the past 20 years the percentage of unchurched Boomers has risen dramatically, jumping up 18 points! At 41 percent, they are now the generation most likely to be unchurched, surpassing the 39 percent level among Busters.'”

Attitude, complaining & grumbling: Grumbling & Complaining

“My heart has been a grumbling one recently. I could give you a few reasons I think why my grumbling is necessary or warranted, but the truth is that even talking about those situations would invite more grumbling. People talk about it being necessary to say how we feel, but I usually think there is more merit to say less about how we feel, and more about who God is in spite of our feelings.”

Bible, literacy, Millenials & reading: American Bible Society Report: The Bible in America, 2014

“Now there are just as many Americans skeptical of the Bible as there are engaged with the Bible. According to the fourth annual State of the Bible survey, 19 percent said that they were skeptical of the Bible. This number is up from 10 percent in 2011. This trend is even more pronounced among the Millennial generation (who range in age from 18-29).”

Children, courtesy, manners & parenting: Ten Forgotten Ways to Teach Politeness to Children

“Not every day is going to be a rip roaring success when trying to teach our children politeness, but if we are consistent, we will eventually see them get it right more than they get it wrong.  And, when they have successful and pleasant encounters with others, we are setting them up to be more successful in life.  These ten skills will serve them well all through adulthood, too.”

Culture & sin: 5 Overlooked Cultural Sins Threatening the Church [essential reading]

“What if the biggest threats to the church weren’t the things we thought they were? What if the very foundation of our country’s culture actually resembles the culture of our churches? We may find that we’ve been blind to more subtle and subversive influences that are having a greater impact on the church than the issues that consume us. Here are just five overlooked cultural norms that are contrary to the Kingdom and are sinful within the Kingdom, unknowingly supported by many of us. …  Competition … Celebrity … Patriotism … Fear … Individuality.”

Gospel, moralism & preaching: Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think it Is) [required reading]

“… one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.”

Marriage, relationships, technology & Twitter: Frequent Twitter Users Are More Likely to Cheat on Their Spouses, Get Divorced: Study

“Comparing his two studies, Clayton was surprised to find that the length of time a couple had been together did not affect whether they would be negatively affected by one partner’s Twitter activity.”

putting skin on the sermon: shine the light


We camped out in Matthew 5.14-16 during yesterday morning’s sermon. However, before saying anything about it further here, I want to say “thank you” to my immensely helpful and bright assistant yesterday, Danielle Marshall. Your consistent eagerness to serve others with the true love and joy of the Lord never ceases to encourage and inspire me. It is easy to see the Lord in you, and so I thank him for all the good that he works in this world through you.

Jesus told his followers (us, you understand): “You are the light of the world.” While this is what he says, it’s equally important to grasp what he did not say. He didn’t say: “Aim to become the light of the world.” He didn’t say: “Someday you might be something like a hint of light to the world.” And he didn’t say: “Now what I’m about to say applies only to a few of you, so most of you can just let this one go: you are the light of the world.”

No, he declared: “You are the light of the world.”

His words point us in the right direction: outward, not inward. His words remind us of our great responsibility: our calling is to be what he says we are in fact. His words are energizing words of encouragement, for it is often difficult, can be dangerous, and is sometimes deadly to be light in the midst of darkness. We must not deny our Lord, but believe him when he tells us we are this world’s light, for in telling such he is emphatically telling us that what we think, say, and do makes a real difference in this world, even when our experience seems to tell us otherwise.

So, what to do with that? Here are three practical things you can do – along with some things to avoid doing! – toward your fulfillment of your reason for being, this world’s light …

1. Every day, pray early in the day for God to open doors of opportunity for you to give Christian witness. Then, work at developing an eye for recognizing opportunities. While it’s much easier to simply complain about or condemn and curse the darkness, choose the high road and set the light of God in the highest and best places you can to shine in all the darkness you encounter. Be willing to take God’s light into places where little or no light has been for some time. Open yourself up to the possibilities of God working things through you that you have never done before. He is able to do far more than what we can ask or imagine, and so, live out that belief in him.

2. Naturally, you can create a list of good things you can do that will “shine the light” and then go on to work that list. Perhaps that’s obvious. However, what might not be as obvious is the most critical thing about such a list: that you recall why you’re doing such. Make such a list to help you develop your eyes for opportunity and your habits. Don’t make such a list and then allow the list itself, or the attention you might receive from doing such things, to become your point of focus or reason for doing. The latter, in particular, would be precisely the sort of thing Jesus warned against (cf. Matthew 6.1-18). What you’re after is something like a “holy forgetfulness” where you remember God in what you’re doing and forget about yourself.

After all, such a list is only a means to the end, not the end itself. Nor are you the end; God is the end. Your relationship with the Lord is not about checking items off on a checklist or doing things so people will think highly of you. Your task is to allow God to develop your mindfulness and habits of behavior so that you come naturally think and do the sort of things you have on your list … without the list. Your desire should be to do such things while melting into the background of the doing of them so that people recall the good done and praise not you, but God, for what is done.

Now, go make your list and think of it as your exercise guide or manual of discipline.

3. Many recall “the mind of Christ” passage in Philippians 2.1-11. Many of them will also recall that what follows that magnificent passage is the marvelous statement for believers to “be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world because you hold on to the word of life.” (Phil. 2.15-16a) However, I suspect few recall what bridges those two texts: “Do everything without grumbling and arguing …” (Phil. 2.14) In fact, Paul says we take on and live by the attitude of Christ, doing things without grumbling and arguing “so that” we will “be blameless and pure,” and thus, enabled to “shine like stars” in this dark world.

You see, to grumble and/or argue is to hide God’s light from this dark world. Surely there are precious few things that extinguish Christian witness more quickly and effectively than for those yet to believe to overhear Christians grumbling and/or arguing about anything. Take note: a huge part of letting our light shine involves keeping our emotions in check and our mouths closed. And so, work at this. If you find yourself drawn to drama, work at this doubly hard. If you grumbling has become just a matter of course for you, make a maximum effort to repent of such, praying to God instead each time you’re tempted to grumble to others. If you think you are immune to these ways, ask those who know you best to speak candidly to you with love. And refuse to allow your time in prayer become a habitual gripe session with God. Too many disciples have become distracted through the course of life and taken this road. As a consequence, they have only put a cloak of Christianity around their relatively untouched and unchanged heart. Don’t go there. Remember who Jesus says you are – the light of the world – and so first, deliberately allow the light from the Lord illuminate the darkest parts of you.

You, Christ-follower, are the light of the world. Do not shirk your responsibility and hide your light in any way. Do not become deaf to the encouragement. Do not veer off the path and set your own direction. Shine brightly today. Let him shine brightly through you. To the glory and praise of God.

LIFE group guide: shine the light


NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Nov. 10). This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon tomorrow morning from Matthew 5.14-16. This sermon is entitled “Shine the Light” and is another installment in the Jesus: Master & Commander series.

To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues. All Scripture texts reproduced below, unless otherwise noted, are from the CEB.


Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of the sermon series, or this particular sermon in a series.

To call our attention, and our conscience, to some of our Lord’s direct charges to us.


These Scriptures form some of the foundation of the sermon. Underscored words are emphasized in the Greek text.

You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5.14-16)

Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world because you hold on to the word of life. (Philippians 2.14-16a)

… since you are immigrants and strangers in the world … avoid worldly desires that wage war against your lives. Live honorably among the unbelievers. Today, they defame you, as if you were doing evil. But in the day when God visits to judge they will glorify him, because they have observed your honorable deeds. (1 Peter 2.11-12)


These icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start thinking, talking, and relating to the topic or texts. Discuss one.

1. Tell us about someone you have had in your life as an example or model to follow.

2. Tell us of some situation or person where you know your ways had good influence.

3. What are some things that are a “buzz kill” for you as to a person’s credibility.


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

1. Where did Jesus speak Matt. 5.14-16? How does such help you picture its teaching?

2. In the three texts above, find all of the direct references to speech and words.

3. How does our being “immigrants and strangers” (1 Pet. 2.12a) highlight the need for believers to “live honorably among the unbelievers?”

4. In your own words, what is the last sentence in 1 Pet. 2.12 attempting to convey?


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

1. Instead of being a lighthouse, I sometimes find myself being a _______ (word picture).

2. How can you “let” your “light shine” without being ostentatious (cf. Matt. 5.3-12)?

3. How do I sometimes “hide” my light (Matt. 5.15)? Give some specific examples.

4. What does “grumbling” and “arguing” do to Christian witness (Phil. 2.14-16a)? What are the opposites of grumbling and arguing and how does such further our witness?

5. How does my light as a believer “shine” before unbelievers who live exemplary lives?


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

1. Create a list of good things you can do that will “shine the light” … then work the list.

2. Every day, pray early in the day for God to open doors of opportunity for you to give Christian witness. Then, work at developing an eye for recognizing opportunities.

3. Make “stop grumbling to people; talk to God instead” your first New Year’s resolution.