Engage Culture

Changing Your Life

February 14, 2017:

Life is on the wrong track. Many people today feel that way for one reason or another. Whether it be politics, cultural issues, moral matters or more prosaically economic realities, much of the Western world senses that times are not so much a’changing as a’worsening. Trusting God Writing long ago, the prophet Isaiah faced situations where the society around him was moving from a time of relative prosperity to increasing pressure from neighborhood superpowers. Isaiah’s message was, broadly speaking, quite simple. Trust in God. Do not fear. As Alec Motyer put it, “Justification by faith is not a Sunday truth bearing only on our relationship with God but also a Monday truth for the conduct of life in all its challenges.” Unfortunately, King Ahaz did not listen to this counsel. Instead of trusting God, he trusted in an alliance with Assyria—and the Northern Kingdom went into exile, the Southern Kingdom…

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February 06, 2017:

Sometimes Facebook juxtaposes just the right pair of posts, just the right images to startle me awake, to catch a new glimpse of truth. Today I saw a such a pair. Post #1, a video: colorblind people see color for the first time with innovative new glasses. Now, I’m going to let you roll that around in your mind for a minute before I hit you with Post #2. A stream of people unable to distinguish red from green, trapped in a world where everything is a muted, muddy brown, suddenly seeing all the great glory of a simple garden, overwhelmed. You see them see colors and suddenly you’re seeing color through their eyes, and you realize how much we take for granted, how much beauty overload we live in all the time. You wonder what else we can’t see, what else is hiding in plain sight. Now. Post #2:…

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Why I Wrote “7 Days to Change Your Life”

January 05, 2017:

Why another book? Because it isn’t just another book. 7 Days to Change Your Life represents two experiences in my personal life. One is wrestling with God over the challenges that came into our family’s life when one of our children was diagnosed with severe autism. This book is not about autism: it’s about finding that God is there when you thought no one else was. It is written out of the experience of thinking that I was at a crossroads in my life, and realizing that I wasn’t really at a crossroads. I was at a cliff’s edge. And then I found that His Son, who suffered for me, was my redemption in that moment of deepest darkness. The other experience built over many years, being in conversation with someone in my study, scanning along my bookshelves for a book to give that person, and not finding quite the…

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A Look at Notable 2016 Publications

January 02, 2017:

“There is no end to the making of many books,” says the author of Ecclesiastes. In the United States alone, there were close to one million titles published during the past year, with revenue approaching $1.8 billion. Hundreds of titles competed for our attention during 2016. I offer the following observations with the recognition that I have no doubt missed several important works that some of you would have included in such a survey. The books noted in this article are those that I think are worth noting, particularly for those who pay attention to the GCL website. Books make a difference for all of us. They shape our thinking, inform our perspective, expand our understanding, illuminate our world and our context, influence the way we encounter ideas, and touch our hearts. A New Start for a New Year As we conclude one year and turn the page to another,…

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Joy to the World

December 25, 2016:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." What better summary of the meaning of Christmas could there be than Christ’s own summary of the significance of that first Christmas Gift, and its resulting life, death, and resurrection! When I was on the mission field—my very brief foray into residential mission work and a slightly longer ensuing oversight-coordinating role of some pioneer mission opportunities in the same region of the world—a team member of ours from Denmark said that the Danish Christians called this verse “the little Bible.” Whether or not that is true, and I have no reason to doubt it (perhaps Danish friends will write and tell us otherwise!), it is a great explanation of the significance of this very well-known verse. In its brief statement, it encompasses…

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The Scandal of Christmas

December 22, 2016:

The infancy narratives in the Gospels proclaim Jesus as the fulfillment of messianic hopes and expectations. God, however, didn’t do things the way most people expected. Our familiarity with the Christmas story may cause us to miss the unexpected wonder, shock, and newness accompanying these events. In our book The First Days of Jesus, Alexander Stewart and I discuss a series of scandals: the virgin birth, the incarnation, Jesus’s lowly birth, and the scandal of the cross. At the root of these scandals is the virgin birth, so let’s take a moment to reflect on this remarkable event and its implications as we prepare to celebrate the “scandal” of Christmas. The Scandal of the Virgin Birth Matthew tells us that when Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, became aware of her pregnancy, he was planning to divorce her, apparently because he assumed some form of infidelity, an assumption that would have been shared…

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

December 21, 2016:

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining…” Sometimes a moment is so powerful that a hush falls over the crowd. Sometimes a whole throng of people turns, as one body, to stare slack-jawed at the sky. Christmas is such a moment. It’s a simple story, quickly sketched in just 3 chapters of Matthew and Luke—147 verses in all. And yet, 2,000 years later, we still catch our breath to hear it told. Embedded in the little tale is enough to ponder annually for millennia. Here are a few takeaways from the greatest story ever told. See Eternally. Christmas is a mystery play. Like the medieval acting troupes who traveled town to town and performed stories from the back of a rickety wagon, all of the characters in the drama are humble folk—their costumes tattered, their astonishment not eloquent, but too stunned for words. It’s not sophisticated, it’s hardly Shakespeare.…

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Thanksgiving: Comparison or Cruciform?

November 23, 2016:

I’ve noticed something about Christians and their approach to Thanksgiving. They embrace this very biblical practice in a very pragmatic way. They seek to count their many blessings, naming them one by one, to create a mound of thanks that outweighs the mound of disappointment and regret that every one of us faces every day. It goes something like this, “I’m depressed and struggling with finances but really grateful that I have my physical health!” I imagine myself finding someone who is sick and asking them what they are thankful for. The sick person says, “I’m sick, but at least I don’t have cancer.” Then I find someone who has cancer, and they say, “I have cancer, but at least it’s not pancreatic or at least I have health care," or, or, or.  This bizarre game of comparison could go on forever. I’ve even heard some Christians use this to…

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Ora et labora. Pray and Work.

November 17, 2016:

Ora et Labora. Latin for pray and work. A young man sits scribbling on a manuscript lit by candlelight. Above him are the cool walls of his monastery, the only home he has known since he was seven. He will die here. Outside the walls, men and women walk in uncertainty regarding their government, their livelihood, and even their national identity. Everything has changed seemingly overnight. Fear quickly leads to anger and then despair. But inside the priest keeps writing. Doesn’t he get it? Doesn’t he care about the people’s needs? Yes, yes he does. He’s changing their world one word at a time. He is changing the shape of history itself. The man is Bede and the book, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, is his record of how the gospel of Jesus Christ went forth from Rome and came to the shores of England, Ireland, and Scotland—ultimately…

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Ministry Spotlight: Scarlet Hope

November 09, 2016:

Today, God Centered Life Ministries is excited to spotlight the work of Rachelle Starr and the ministry of Scarlet Hope. Their mission is to share the hope of Jesus with every woman in the adult entertainment industry. Visit www.scarlethope.org to find out more about the ministry and to get involved.   In my early twenties I felt God calling me to share the hope and love of Jesus Christ with women in the adult entertainment industry.  I grew up a pastor’s kid and had never stepped inside a strip club before, and I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do this.  But I knew I couldn’t just sit inside the four walls of a church building, waiting for women working in the adult entertainment industry to come to me.  I knew God was calling me to go, to meet the women where they were and to share the gospel with them.  If I wasn’t…

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