links: this went thru my mind


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.”

Church & spiritual health: * Pain, Relationships, and the Body of Christ [essential reading]; * 5 Church-Types to Probably Avoid

* “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.”

LIFE group guide: you ought to be teachers


NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church tomorrow (Dec. 1). This guide will enable your follow-up of Bill Ehlig’s sermon this 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 particular sermon.

To remind us of the Lord’s expectation, and our consequent responsibility, to be teachers of others.


This Scripture forms the foundation of the sermon.

• … you ought to be teachers. (Hebrews 5.12)


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

1. What have you learned most from others: what to do or what not to do?

2. Who have been some of the influential teachers in your life. What did they teach you and how?

3. When do you learn best on your own and when do you learn best from others?


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

1. With the aid of a reference Bible, locate texts elsewhere in the Bible that speak to the same thought addressed in Hebrews 5.12.

2. With the assistance of two quality commentaries, read up on the context of this verse we’re focused on (Hebrews 5.11-6.1).

3. How is one to reconcile Hebrews 5.12 with James 3.1?


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

1. Who learns more from teaching: the teacher or the student? Explain.

2. If teaching helps stimulate spiritual development and growth, why do so many Christians flee from the thought of being teachers?

3. What are some of the most common excuses offered for not teaching?

4. What happens when we do not do what we teach? What happens when we do not teach what we do?

5.  How is it that teaching requires at least as much from the one listening/observing as it does from the one teaching? What are some essential qualities for a healthy, growing student? Why are these critical? What happens if these qualities of a good listener/follower aren’t present?


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. Identify some you see influentially teaching others and determine a way to express your appreciation.

2. Pray for one Bible class teacher and their students in your church each week. The next week, pray for another, etc.

3. Volunteer to serve as a Bible class teacher, as a substitute teachers, or a teacher’s helper, whether you have ever taught before or not. Do so not only for the rest and relief of those who currently teach, but for your own growth.

this went thru my mind


Lots of “required reading” here today …

BurmaObama to Praise Burma’s ‘Progress’ During Historic Visit

“… President Obama will make history Monday by becoming the first U.S. president to visit the long-isolated Southeast Asian nation.”

Elders, leadership, ministers, shepherds,spiritual gifts & teachers: An Alternative Polity: Gifts by Tim Woodroof [required reading]

“Lacking an effective theology of spiritual gifts, Churches of Christ have been vague about the role those gifts play in our congregations—particularly leadership gifts. Does the Spirit still gift people to lead God’s church or are leadership gifts now synonymous with natural competencies, developed skills, and accumulated experiences? Do different kinds of leaders have different kinds of gifts? Or should we expect every leader to have them all?”

Food, food stamps & gluttony: * Thanksgiving on Food Stamps [required reading]; * Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Have We Always Eaten Them? by Denise Winterman

* “For the last few years, I’ve spent the full week before Thanksgiving living on the same budget someone on food stamps would have, which is about $1.25 a meal. You can get a lot of peanut butter, bologna and pasta, but fresh fruits and veggies? Don’t count on it. That’s tough, to be sure, but the hardest part is psychological.”

* “Breakfast as we know it didn’t exist for large parts of history. The Romans didn’t really eat it, usually consuming only one meal a day around noon, says food historian Caroline Yeldham. In fact, breakfast was actively frowned upon. ‘The Romans believed it was healthier to eat only one meal a day,’ she says. ‘They were obsessed with digestion and eating more than one meal was considered a form of gluttony. This thinking impacted on the way people ate for a very long time.'”

Liberation theology, poor & poverty: The Preferential Option for the Poor by Richard Beck

“The basic idea behind the preferential option for the poor is the observation that, within the biblical narrative, God sides with the poor against the rich.”

Militarism: Evangelicals, Militarism, and Romans 13 by Preston Sprinkle [required reading]

“If you miss this point, then you won’t understand what Paul is saying to citizens of God’s kingdom in Romans 13. When Paul says that God executes vengeance through Rome, it was to further prohibit, not encourage, Christians from doing so.”

Relationships: Two Preaching Giants and the ‘Betrayal’ That Tore Them Apart by John Blake [required reading]

“Andy [Stanley] didn’t know his parents’ marriage was in trouble until he was in the 10th grade. Before then, he never saw his father or his mother argue or even disagree. Charles and Anna Stanley seemed to have the perfect relationship.”

Social justice: What’s So Great About ‘The Common Good’? by Andy Crouch

“The common good can help us avoid two modern temptations—one on the left and one on the right.”

Thanksgiving: The First Thanksgiving – A Reason to Complain by Bob Russell

“Could you give thanks if you had prayed for a smooth journey and barely survived? Could you praise God for His goodness if half of your loved ones had died? Could you shout for joy if you were one of fifty people scraping to survive in a terrifying territory with no electricity, no cell phone, no television, no internet, no running water, no health insurance, no police protection and no guarantee you’d live through the next winter? They did.

“That made them so spiritually strong and mentally tough? They considered themselves stepping stones. With our consumer mentality we consider ourselves keystones. We assume we’re the center of the universe. It’s all about us – our needs, our comfort, our desires. But the pilgrims knew it wasn’t about them, it was about God’s will and it was about the welfare of their descendants.”

Women: 10 Lies the Church Tells Women by J. Lee Grady [required reading]

“For centuries, a patriarchal system of control has kept women in spiritual captivity through distortion of the Scriptures. It’s time to debunk the myths.”

this went thru my mind


Blessing: The Blindest of Blind Spots by Tim Spivey

“Are we blessable right now?”

Burnout: Pastor Burnout


Delaying judgment/present bias: Beyond the Blink by Frank Partnoy

“E-mail, social media and the 24-hour news cycle are informational amphetamines, a cocktail of pills that we pop at an increasingly fast pace — and that lead us to make mistaken split-second decisions. Economists label the problem ‘present bias’: we are vulnerable to fast, salient stimulation. Fortunately, there is an antidote: the conscious pause.”

Feelings: Burying Those Feelings Never Works by Jim Martin

“When you feel something, no matter how good or bad it is, feel it as deeply as you can. And remember it. Write it down.”

Grief: How Do You Encourage a Widow Whose Husband Has Been Gone for Many Years? by Brian Croft

“The best way to care for a widow of many years, is not to forget the loss they felt a long time ago is still real today.  The pain never goes away.”

Higgs-Boson particle: A Blip That Speaks of Our Place in the Universe by Lawrence Krauss

“It is natural for those not deeply involved in the half-century quest for the Higgs to ask why they should care about this seemingly esoteric discovery. There are three reasons.”

Humor, with teeth in it: “Jesus Take the Wheel” Day

“Someone has created a Facebook event that seems to be aimed at ridding the world of those Christians who are anti-intellectual, illogical and gullible …”

Jesus: Jesus Existed by Craig S. Keener

“What movement would make up a recent leader, executed by a Roman governor for treason, and then declare, ‘We’re his followers’? If they wanted to commit suicide, there were simpler ways to do it.”

Missional: What Kind of Church Would Meet in a Casino? by Tim Stevens

“A church that is more interested in reaching the not-yet-convinced than the religious. … A church that believes the telling of Jesus hanging with drunks, prostitutes and thieves wasn’t just a nice story. … A church that has stated, ‘We will exist for the unique transformation and elevation of the neighborhood, city, village or region where we are located.'”

Parenting & Internet privacy & safety: Yahoo! Digital Safety Kit

“The new Yahoo! Digital Safety Kit makes it easy to share information about guiding children and families in safe, responsible and ethical digital behavior.”

Teacher discounts: The Complete List of 66 Teacher Discounts

“While eligibility changes based on where you purchase, most offers are redeemable by kindergarten teachers and college professors alike.”

Words: Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use by Christian Piatt

“We Christians have a remarkable talent for sticking our feet in our mouths. … So in no particular order, here are ten phrases Christians should lose with a quickness …”

if I could read only 25 bloggers …

I would read, appearing here alphabetized by last name …

  1. Timothy Archer
  2. Richard Beck
  3. Todd Bolen
  4. Dan Bouchelle
  5. Mike Cope
  6. Matt Dabbs
  7. Rachel Held Evans
  8. Seth Godin
  9. Jay Guin
  10. Joshua Graves
  11. Michael Harbour
  12. John Mark Hicks
  13. Michael Hyatt
  14. Larry James
  15. Jim Martin
  16. Trey Morgan
  17. Deana Nall
  18. Terry Rush
  19. Rubel Shelly
  20. Tim Spivey
  21. Bobby Valentine
  22. Kurt Willems
  23. William Willimon
  24. John T. Willis
  25. Ben Witherington

These people make me think. They teach me. They sharpen me.

Who does these things for you? Who would you add to this list?

a humble lifestyle

Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13 CEB)

You need two legs to walk and anyone and everyone who would teach others of God needs two legs. One leg is about what you say and the other is about what you do.

The legs of the lame are unequal. They may talk a good game, but they don’t practice what they preach. They may do many good things, but their tongue is out of control.

Truly wise, humble people are the people fit to teach others of the Lord and are used by God to teach others about himself. They understand their servant-like place before God and others and they embody their understanding of God in their everyday actions.

Their wisdom doesn’t make them cocky or proud anymore than their humility prevents their engagement and involvement with life. They walk with God, inside and out. What they speak into creation with their words is what they sustain with their life’s ways – and both beat a path straight to the Lord.

Father in heaven, steer me down your right road and give me strength to walk it. I want to go the distance with you and walk it all well. All to your glory and praise. Amen.

If there are any who truly get it and know how to go with it among you, it will be obvious to all by the way they humbly live a thoroughly good life that finds its roots in God’s wisdom. (James 3:13 DSV)

journey through James (14): twenty questions on James 3:1-12

This coming Sunday morning (Oct. 23) at MoSt Church, most of our adult classes will study James 3:1-12. We’ll use this phrase to focus our mind on the meaning of this passage: becoming teachable as to the taming of your tongue. To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, here is the text and twenty questions with which to wrestle.


My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly. We all make mistakes often, but those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity. Like a bridled horse, they can control themselves entirely. When we bridle horses and put bits in their mouths to lead them wherever we want, we can control their whole bodies.

Consider ships: they are so large that strong winds are needed to drive them. But pilots direct their ships wherever they want with a little rudder. In the same way, even though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly.

Think about this: a small flame can set a whole forest on fire. The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell.

People can tame and already have tamed every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish. No one can tame the tongue, though. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we both bless the Lord and Father and curse human beings made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it just shouldn’t be this way!

Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? Of course not, and fresh water doesn’t flow from a saltwater spring either. (James 3:1-12 CEB)


1. List all the negative aspects of unChristlike speech noted in this passage.

2. List all of the positive things this text tells you can be done or accomplished with godly speech.

3. Which would you say is more often the case for us as Christians: (a) that we don’t really try to identify and eradicate evil speech from our habits or (b) we truly try but we just frequently fail?

4. Which of the seven images James uses to illustrate his point in this passage (horses, ships, fire, pollution, taming animals, water, and agriculture) speaks most powerfully to you and why?

5. Why do you think God will judge teachers more strictly (vs. 1)?

6. After reading vs. 4 tell us about a time you ran your “ship” aground, as it were, simply because you failed to think before you spoke.

7. Consider the statement “a small flame can set a whole forest on fire” (vs. 5b) and some of the causes of some of the fires that have wrought devastation and death this summer across the country. Make a list of some of the small sources of the real fires and then make a list of the types of small, but devastating acts of speech that you have seen wreak havoc among God’s people.

8. What does James mean when he says “the tongue … is set on fire by the flames of hell” (vs. 6c)? Is he saying “the devil makes me do it,” or what?

9. The evil from our tongue “… contaminates our entire lives …” (vs. 6b). You could say it is our planet’s greatest pollutant. Try to imagine our world and not a single evil word ever being said in it. How would the world be different?

10. What does vs. 7 tell you about interpreting Scripture?

11. Is James contradicting himself when he can say at the same time “those who don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity” (vs. 2) and “No one can tame the tongue” (vs. 8)? How can these two statements be reconciled?

12. In what specific ways do you audibly “bless the Lord and Father” (vs. 9a)?

13. If it’s true that “we all make mistakes often …” (vs. 2), then what is the most common way you “curse human beings” (vs. 9b)?

14. How is it we are “made in God’s likeness” (vs. 9c)?

15. The way James words vs. 9 reminds us that cursing people is kin to blasphemy. What subject do you recall being discussed already in James that is equated with blasphemy?

16. How does vs. 2-12 help you understand what James is after in vs. 1?

17. What is the most difficult battle you have fought and largely won in trying to bring your tongue into submission to God? How did you gain this victory in the Lord?

18. Go back through James 1-2 and find all the instances of “bad speech” James has directly confronted thus far in his letter. Hint: look for the statements that appear in quotation marks (“___”). Which statements in this text (3:1-12) directly address the statements in James 1-2?

19. “… not many of you should become teachers …” (vs. 1). In light of the context that follows this statement (vs. 2-12), would you say James was (a) attempting to limit the number of people who aspire to be teachers (period) or (b) trying to prevent the entry of immature disciples into the role of teaching? Explain.

20. This passage is an expansion of the thoughts James has already presented in 1:19-21. How is this text (3:1-12) something of a commentary on that passage (1:19-21)?