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A Brief Reflection on Facing Existential Threats

The story opens with terror: the Assyrian army laying siege against Jerusalem. The ancient Assyrians were a powerful, brutal people. They built their empire through violent conquest. And now, having just carted off the northern kingdom of Israel, they have come to Jerusalem.

As the spokesman for the king approaches the city wall, he speaks in Hebrew—the language of the city, so all can understand him—that the people should abandon their king (Hezekiah) and their God. It’s a terror tactic.

“Has any one of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my power? Who among all the gods of these lands ever rescued his land from my power? So will the LORD rescue Jerusalem from my power?” (Isa. …


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A Gospel Lens for Thinking Theologically About Justice

Recently, Neil Shenvi tweeted:

“Jesus devoted little if any of his ministry to dismantling unjust systems and structures. He spent nearly all of his time preaching the gospel, teaching, and doing good to individuals. We don’t live in 1st-century Israel, but his model is still relevant to us.”

I’m grateful for the above tweet. It got me thinking more deeply about Jesus’ interaction with unjust structures. It makes intuitive sense, but does it sufficiently account for Jesus’ ministry and calling for His people? The contemporary conversation about justice is a critical one, for without clarity we run the risk of becoming complicit through inaction, or even pursuing a justice shaped by the world rather than Christ. …


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Some Words Are Worth Fighting For

Let’s talk about three now famous words: “Black Lives Matter.”

What do we do with this phrase? What does it mean to say “Black Lives Matter?” The slogan is loaded with possible meaning: it’s the title of a very progressive global network, chanted in protest marches throughout the country, and used as a hashtag on social media. So what do people mean when they use it?

In recent weeks, I’ve received concerned questions about the phrase, especially as many are taking hold of it in solidarity with the Black community. But should we say it?

I will. And I believe it’s a phrase worth fighting for. …


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A Note on Learning About Racism

If you haven’t yet, it’s high time to learn about racism in the United States. The past few weeks have stirred up a lot of emotion, and a lot of rethinking in a lot of white folk. We’ve watched the video of George Floyd, listened to the cry for justice for Breonna Taylor, heard the testimony about Ahmaud Arbery’s killers. For the first time, many white Americans — and many white Christians — are awakening to the deep racialization of our country.

And along with that awakening comes the realization that we don’t know what we need to know. Some of us, filled with righteous zeal, have spoken up on social media — without knowing what we’re really talking about. …


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Photo by Eli Francis on Unsplash

A Reading List for White Evangelicals

After running across John Onwuchekwa’s important thread on Twitter recently (read it!), and writing about the importance of reading books to understand American racism, I realized it would be handy to have a reading list for my curious white evangelical friends.

White folks, we have an obligation to research and understand these issues. Because we didn’t get here overnight. We have 400 years of racial thought and racist action behind us. And the only way you can understand the now is by learning about the then.

After I began to read American history more fully, I felt robbed. I found myself asking, “Why didn’t anyone tell me all this?” …


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Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash

Slowing the Emotional Response to Think Better

Conflict is unavoidably emotional. Few of us take a hyper-rationalized Spockian approach, stripped of all feeling. And that’s good. We are created to feel. At the same time, conflict is more productive when we can slow down and process what’s actually happening.

I’ve been recently teaching a class on Disagreement and Conflict at Village. A few weeks ago, I gave the class five questions designed to help us assess the argument or fight at hand, to more productively engage the heart of the matter.

1. What’s at Stake?

First we can ask, “How significant is this argument? Why is it significant?” Some disagreements, if we’re honest, are inconsequential. You may have passionate convictions about whether dogs or cats make better pets, but such beliefs are unlikely to change the course of history. …


Moving On Without Burning Bridges or Grieving God

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Photo by Michael Jasmund on Unsplash

You finally drafted the email, polite and to the point. You scan the first line once more: We have decided to leave the church. It has been a long time coming. You’re confident it’s the right move. Time to pull the trigger.

But is it? Are you leaving for the right reasons? And are you leaving well?

Chances are, you will leave a church at some point in your life. You’ll relocate, have issues with the leadership or struggle to connect with other members. In church communities filled with fallible Christians, parting ways may be the most prudent option. But quitting a church is not the same as quitting the gym. …


Repentance is a Beautiful Thing

Repentance is a Beautiful Thing

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Repentance gets a bad rap. We don’t repent when we’re feeling fine; we do it when confronted with the grim reality that yes, we were in the wrong. It is a kind of turn — the choice to stop moving toward an illicit destination and start moving toward the right one. It is the prodigal son retracing his steps to the father (Luke 15:17–19); it is the sheep being returned to the sheepfold (Matt. 18:12–14); it is how we gain back our brother (Matt. 18:15). But through all the discomfort, repentance is lovely in a way that’s so easy to miss. …


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I stumbled across an oddly reassuring verse in Ecclesiastes: “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (7:10) I say reassuring, because really, who today believes we’re ascending toward some utopian ideal?

Instead, there’s a LOT of cultural anxiety spinning around. Especially in evangelicalism. The more I think about this verse, the more I think it gives important ballast for the cultural anxiety so many American Christians feel.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

(A) Don’t engage in angsty nostalgia that sees times past as better than the present.

(B) Why? This question doesn’t stem from wisdom. It’s foolish. …


Learning to See Confession as an Instrument of Grace

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Misunderstanding Confession

We regularly implement times of corporate confession in our services. But not everyone agrees it is valuable. I’ve received pushback along the lines, “You don’t know my heart; you can’t force me to confess to those things…” Such critiques are understandable, but they stem from a misunderstanding of the purpose of congregational confession.

When the church confesses sin corporately, we are not indicting every individual in the congregation with committing every one of these sins. It is not a blanket accusation. To be sure, there are some leaders whose modus operandi consists of accusing and damning their people. But that’s not gospel alignment; that’s the devil’s work. …

About

Bob Stevenson

The good news of Jesus is the best news. As a pastor, I think a lot about the ways church and society intersect and interact. Undeservedly loved.

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