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Finding Peace in Trouble by a Journey to Joy

As I write, the city of Boston – where I have many friends – is recovering from a horrific bombing. Questions are asked now that were not asked the week before: Where is God? What is the purpose of this event? Why did this happen to me? Why now? Who could do such a thing? As Christians we believe that God is sovereign over every single event, good or bad, small or massive, that has ever happened, ever will occur, from eternity to eternity. We know bad stuff happens. We know Romans 8:28 is still true. After all, if God can use a crucifixion to save, he can certainly use evil for good. That said, at a real personal level recovering from such events is not easy. Here is where the Psalms come in, and in particular the Psalms of Ascent. The Psalms have the aim of pointing us to Christ in the...

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Five Reasons to Come to Church Sunday

We’d love to have you join us at College Church this Sunday, April 7, during one of our morning services at 8:00, 9:30, or 11:00 a.m. We’ll be continuing in our series, “iTeach: Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount,” with a new sermon from Matthew 6:5-15 on “Understanding the Lord’s Prayer.” In follow up to yesterday’s post, “Why Go to Church?” I’m reposting a blog from last year with five reasons that can encourage us to come to church this Sunday: It is biblical. “Not neglecting to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25); “day by day” (Acts 2:46); gathered “on the first day of every week” (1 Corinthians 16:2). A Christian not in church is like a fish out of water. Church is not Starbucks and my two friends. It is the gathering of God’s people around God’s gospel. That is more than a campus group, or parachurch organization, healthy and helpful as they can be. It...

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Why Go to Church?

You are a Christian. Do you still need to go to church, let alone be heavily involved in the ministries of a church? The answer to that is yes. Here’s why: The New Testament nowhere even considers the possibility of a Christian who is not also a part of a local church. If you call yourself a Christian and you are not part of a local church, you fall into a category that is at least questionable, and to be avoided if at all possible. All other things being equal, given that there are churches nearby that you could belong to, not going to one may also put you in a category that is by definition outside of the New Testament norms of what is a Christian at all. Membership in a local church is a biblical category. Granted that membership rolls, computer databases of membership, and the other paraphernalia of modern...

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Good News for Orphans

The following article was written for Evangelicals Now and published in their news publication for March 2013. Recently I have been involved in an international conference in Kiev, Ukraine, seeking to develop a ‘Ukraine Without Orphans’. Why describe this, you ask, in ‘Letter from America’? Because American Christians, too, are becoming focused on adoption. Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, emphasises this point in his teaching. And recently Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, sparked no little controversy by banning adoption of Russians by Americans. What could be closer to God’s heart than orphans? I am enthusiastic about this movement for all sorts of practical, clear, and compassionate reasons. I also want to make sure that the Father heart of God, which is motivating these adoption movements, continues to have the power of the gospel as their foundation and inspiration. Gospel at the heart Church history is full of examples of good biblical action taken on the part of...

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Five Truths about the New Pope

Francis. The new pope has arrived. White smoke. Thousands running through the streets of Rome to greet the new pope as he is first presented. With all the hoopla here are five truths about the new pope. He is a man. Despite all the attendant fanfare, this new pope shares the same bodily and mental capacities as every other member of the human race, and is neither more nor less fully made in the image of God. He is fallen. Despite his white clothes and calm disposition, this new pope shares the same fallen nature as every other member of the human race, and is just as much a part of the fall as you and I. He needs Christ. Despite his Pontifex title and role, this new pope needs the atoning blood of Christ, the Supreme Ruler of the Church, just as much as anyone else. He asks for our prayers. Whatever our...

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An Update from Georgia

From 1992-1993, I served as a missionary in the Republic of Georgia, and from 1993-1996/7, I traveled to Tbilisi (in Georgia) and Baku (in Azerbaijan) about three times a year, sometimes for a month at a stretch. I was recently contacted by Tatiana Kopaleishvili, the General Secretary of the Christian Student Union, SKSK, in Georgia. Tatiana was trying to establish the history of their organization and find those who were involved from the very beginning. She has now updated me on the ministry today which has been of great interest. What follows is a letter from Tatiana to the church providing them with this information as well, which may serve as an encouragement to you in the work God has called you to do. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *...

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Inaugural Prayers

The following article was written for Evangelicals Now and published in their news publication for February 2013. Ah, wasn’t life easy when it was assumed that Billy Graham would give the inaugural prayer?! Non-political, widely respected, eminent, senior, an establishment figure who could also appeal across generations. Those dulcet Southern tones mixed with the gravitas of a man who had also prayed with everyone from the President of China, you would think, to the piano repair man next door. Jesus’s name Since Graham began to do fewer of these, life has not been so easy for those who try to pick inaugural ‘pray-ers’. His son, Franklin, did one marvelous prayer and then was criticised for praying in Jesus’s name, which for any right-thinking person is surely like criticising a Coca-Cola executive for drinking Coca-Cola. In whose name did they expect Franklin Graham to pray? Then, I remember, Rick Warren was criticised for being willing to do it...

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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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