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High on God

As I write, this day the state of Washington legalised marijuana use. Predictably there will be a whole host of commentary about it, both from the secular media, and also from Christian pundits. What does the Bible have to say? I suppose we must be honest and say that, taking a strict literalistic approach, the Bible says nothing at all about smoking pot. That said, there are certain obvious principles that clearly apply which cannot (or at least should not) be gainsaid. After all, the Bible also says nothing whatsoever about getting drunk on Martinis or vodka, but there are certain texts (Ephesians 5.18 springs to mind) that most pastors would not find too difficult to apply. The difficulty here is whether marijuana use always creates a comparative situation of being intoxicated or whether (as no doubt someone somewhere will argue) it is instead comparative to a nice chardonnay on a summer’s evening....

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Caesar Salad: How can Christians negotiate the current cultural landscape?

‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…’ This is the famous pronouncement of the Master in response to a particularly intense period of Pharisaic grilling. But what precisely does it mean as Christians in America negotiate a cultural landscape that appears less friendly to traditional Christian values and the message of the gospel than in the recent past? The blogosphere is not short of answers, but I suggest that 1 John, in particular, provides a compelling look at the right way to respond. In the context in which John was writing, there was an incipient ‘Gnosticism’ that was advocating a toned down spirituality, denying that Jesus was the Christ in ‘flesh’, and therefore that it was possible to be spiritual without actual practical commitment to the local church or, indeed, without practising righteousness. In other words, in response to pressures from a pagan environment, the church was susceptible to a...

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Goodbye 2012: Living with the End in Mind

One of the opportunities that a year end brings is to focus on The End. At some point or other we will all have to say not ‘goodbye to 2012′ but goodbye to life in this world. Jesus is coming back. Life is short. It is this sense of ‘ending’ which is what fuels even secular attempts to focus upon fresh goals for the New Year. If this year has gone like this, we are saying to ourselves, I had better make sure that next year goes like that. Before it is too late. One text in the Bible that brings into sharp focus that sense of living with the end in mind is 1 Peter 4:7-11. 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show...

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A Christmas Response to Newtown

Unspeakable horrors have been visited on a small town in Connecticut. Our hearts break for all concerned. We long that in the end healing would be found. Surprisingly, Christmas may be the place to begin to find answers. With Christmas around the corner, the events of Newtown are not only horrific, they also seem hardly seasonal. But in some ways it brings into stark relief the need to recapture a full orbed vision for the meaning of Christmas. And in that there is hope for those in Newtown and all affected by that tragedy. To begin with, the Christmas story has a devastating tragedy close to its center. Herod, duped by the Magi, angrily lashes out at the children in Bethlehem and kills them. You can find the story in Matthew 2:16-18. Matthew quotes from Jeremiah to dramatize the event as “Rachel weeping for her children.” This is not the story you...

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The Courage to Encourage

Is everything wrong with practically everything these days? You can hardly turn over a blog page, or flip through a list of scrolling tweets, or listen to some startling statistic, without being given the impression that this is the case. The economy stinks, the politicians are up to their usual tricks, the celebrities are vain, the media are corrupt — in short, we are in terminal decline. Chicken Littles are everywhere declaring that the sky is about to fall on our heads. Not so fast. Perhaps the quickest growing churches are no longer in Europe or America, but from where I sit there is plenty of health, and also plenty of growth. It is — certainly, indubitably — startling to hear that Protestants in America now number just a smidgen below 50% of the population, rather than just an inch above 50%. But really, without examining at great length all the assumptions behind...

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Five Reasons You Should Pray for the Government

Many at this stage in the election cycle are cynical of the motivations of our elected leaders. Some may despair of finding effective (let alone godly) government. Yet, here are five reasons why you should pray for the government. 1. We should pray for everyone. Given that our leaders share our common humanity, and given that Jesus urges us to even pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5.44), praying for our leaders reminds us that they need it. Leadership is a tough job. And our leaders are people like us doing a difficult job. They require prayer. Plus Paul tells us to pray for ‘everyone’ (1 Timothy 2.1), and that even includes whichever politician it is that most infuriates you. 2. We should pray specifically for ‘those in authority’ (1 Timothy 2.2). Sometimes we may be tempted to pray less, or not at all, for those whose authority we deem to be illegitimate, or who in some way...

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Good Habits for Theological Thinking

Keith Johnson is Assistant Professor of Theology at Wheaton College and a member of College Church. He is the author of the forthcoming book Thinking After God: The Method and Practice of Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press). I am glad to have Keith guest blog for me today on the subject of theological thinking. Theology is the task of figuring out what must be true about God, creation and humanity in light of everything Scripture says about them. Here are two habits we can seek to develop that will help us perform this task more faithfully. First, we can be intentional about cultivating our love for God and others. The goal of theological thinking is not merely to acquire and organize information about God, but to know God as he is. The Bible connects this kind of knowledge with the act of love, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8). If we want to think theologically in a manner that...

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Advice for Collegians

Greg Hendrickson is the pastor for staff coordination, member integration and college ministry at Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven near Yale University. I’ve known Greg for many years and delight to introduce him to you with this excellent piece on being a student in a secular university setting: When I left home to be a freshman at Yale in 1999, my dad urged me to delve into the book of Daniel. After four years in college and eight years as a campus minister in the Northeast, I am still struck by the parallels between the challenges and opportunities that Daniel faced in Babylon and those of a Christian student at a secular university. Daniel was suddenly transplanted from his “Bible belt” home in Jerusalem (which, despite its reputation, had become quite compromised spiritually) to the pagan capital of Babylon. He was enrolled in a three year training course along with other elite students...

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Sink, Splutter or Swim – Student Survival 2012

I am pleased to have Dave Gobbett guest blog for me today. Dave is the associate pastor with responsibility for students at Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge, in England. Sink, splutter or swim? The opening weeks at university can be a challenge of Olympic proportions. And while three or four years on everyone can see the difference between a now thriving spiritual Michael Phelps and a barely surviving spiritual also-swam, back on day one, everyone looked the same. Same bright eyes full of opportunity, same anxious anticipation at the prospect of leaving home, same exhilaration at being let loose in a kitchen for the first time. For the Christian student, additional early emotions await. Excitement: how might God use me this year to be salt and light for him at college? Nervousness: how will my faith survive the belligerent attacks from lecturer or roommate? Realism: how will I resist the varying temptations in...

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The Gospel in Contexts

“What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Tertullian’s famous question has remained relevant through the years as the church has grappled with how to respond to the pagan academy. As someone who has spent most of his life in “Athens” (most recently near Yale University), I now find myself in a sort of “Jerusalem.” Four years ago, I moved to a “Jerusalem,” a culturally Christian environment (across the street from Wheaton College). That journey has afforded me the opportunity to compare the experience of communicating the gospel in two distinct contexts. Continue reading article at Leadership Journal....

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