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Ender's Theology

Ender is confronted by a gang from school. At first, I couldn’t discern the fault in his thinking; it was completely logical: “I will have to face these bullies every day. No one will help me. Therefore, I must help myself. I will beat them at this game so badly they will never fight me again.” I realized that Ender’s decision was completely logical only if one believes that one is truly alone...

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Playing with Hebrew Word Usage

Perhaps in some of your studies you have found, probably through the help of commentaries, how a Hebrew prophet plays with words in order to communicate his message. The way in which the narrator of the Jonah story has crafted this book is indeed exciting. A variety of words are sprinkled throughout the book to give it a hidden and enriching unity. I can only...

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Listening to God Through Reading

I recently attended a conference on spiritual leadership. The conference teacher encouraged us all to read many books on leadership. But he also encouraged us to spend considerable time reading books spiritually. So what does this mean? Spiritual reading is about quality, not quantity. It is to read a book with this question in mind...

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Always Saying Yes

"Just because someone asks doesn't mean you should do." I heard Mark Cuban say this during a recent episode of Shark Tank. In a show where entrepreneurs try to get funding from a panel of successful business leaders to jumpstart their company, Cuban, the well-known owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was trying to figure out why someone wanted to take their business in a certain direction...

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We Believe. Help Our Unbelief.

I still cannot comprehend these facts three weeks after it all began. They've been playing in my head like a wicked song I can’t turn off. My response is not unique. Why does this young man’s death and his family’s grief make such a deep impact on so many who never knew Tim Bosma?

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Counting What Counts

It was the third evening in a row I had heard the steady hum of amplified music reverberating through the night air. In North America, I would have imagined the source to be a group of teenagers grinding out their favorite tunes in a garage. But in Nicaragua it is not teenagers who make the racket. “It’s the churches,” my host explained. “We’ve got five of them in this neighborhood. And they have services six nights a week.”

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An Open and Shut Case

In the forum regarding Overtures 3 & 4 for this year’s Synod, Meg Jenista quoted Augustine of Hippo, who said: "In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty and in all things, charity." So what’s the question? The question is: what are the essentials, and what are the non-essentials when it comes to our faith?

Pastors
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Dealing with Death and Dying

In two years I’ve done 24 funerals. Three of which have been for someone under the age of 70. One was for a baby. Each time, no one knew how to deal with death and dying. They kept going back to praying for the miracle. Praying against hope that things will not end in the inevitable. As pastors, ours is the calling to...

Pastors
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Christians as Athletes and Fans: Double Vision-Single Focus

Because of the radical changes in the sporting world, some rather difficult issues face any Christian believer or institution involved in competitive sports. To be honest, I think these changes have made it harder for the fan to keep a good Christian testimony than the athlete...

Pastors
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To Glorify God

What do the Scriptures mean when they refer to glorifying God? This teaching is, of course, a common one in Reformed circles. From childhood I have heard the exhortation, “Glorify God in all of life.” What this meant was that in everything that we do, we should reflect the glory of God—that we are children of God. People should be able to see from the way...

Pastors
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The Unnecessary Pastor

I am learning that being a pastor is not about having the perfect text picked out for the anxious soul, articulating with winsome ease encouraging words to the grieving, dying, depressed, and preaching sermons where riots break out in the parking lot because of the work of the gospel (think Apostle Paul in Ephesus). I am learning by God’s grace the role of the pastor is about becoming unnecessary...

Pastors
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The Holy Spirit and the Sermon – A Friendly Reminder For Those Who Preach

Among all too many of us there is a hidden, unspoken, forgivable kind of blasphemy. It is the protest of Jeremiah when the Lord appointed him a prophet to the nations: “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak” (Jeremiah 1:6). Unintended blasphemy – to preach, or refuse to preach, as if successful preaching depended primarily on me. The blasphemy is the implication that preaching is...

Pastors
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The Other Side of 'Quitting Time'

First it was a short article in Christianity Today, and then Sam Hamstra’s piece came in, and today I read that John Piper preached his last sermon Easter Sunday in his congregation in the Twin Cities.  Suddenly, everywhere I turn retirement is being written about, and I think that is good, although late for me since I retired in 2008...

Pastors
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What's a Preacher to Do?

It's difficult for me to believe that it's been now close to 8 years since I left my last congregation as pastor and weekly preacher. I like to think that my ability to draw on nearly 16 years' worth of preaching experience helps me in my job now training up a new generation of preachers via our students here at Calvin Seminary. But every once in a while I realize that maybe I've been out of the "game" just long enough that I have lost touch a little with the struggles of preachers today...

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Give Me a Break!

Why are we sometimes so hard on ourselves? Or, for that matter, hard on each other? Ever notice that? No wonder someone said recently, “Christians can sometimes be SO mean!” That hurt to hear. But I think he was more right than I might care to admit. We CAN be mean – to ourselves, to each other...

Pastors
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Sensible Shoes

Spiritual biographies can be compelling reading. But fictional treatment of the spiritual journeys of four women? What kind of book would that be? And why would I read it? I had heard such good things about Sensible Shoes. And I DO find it helpful to hear others reflect on their deepening walk with Jesus and how that relationship...

Pastors
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Moving Beyond Attracting the Dormant Zombies of Christendom

In the late 90′s I was a pastor reading business books with my missional cohort in our Sacramento mission field. We were attending conferences at Willow Creek and Saddleback trying to figure out how to “create a safe place to hear a dangerous message.” It wasn’t just seeker methodology we were mining. We were exploring cell churches, house churches, multi-site churches, and just about any methodology that ...

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Hallowed Be Your Name

I received a comment asking if I could verify “the apparent imperative in the Lord’s Prayer for the statements which are called the first, second, and third requests.” They stated, “It would almost seem possible that these three requests are praises to God as well, i.e., ‘hallowed be Your Name’ or ‘hallowed is Your Name.’” Great question, and I will address it on several different levels...

Pastors
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On KEZs, Urban Church Planting and the CRC

I have to admit that when I first heard that the CRC/RCA’s Church Multiplication Initiative had plans to develop a Kingdom Enterprise Zone in Detroit, I was excited but also very anxious. Excited because I think the Reformed perspective can speak so well to the city’s culture and needs, yet anxious because the very idea of a Kingdom Enterprise Zone seemed a little sketchy ...

Pastors
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I Don't Want to Be One of Those Pastors

I don’t want to be one of those pastors. I don’t want to be one who stays in a church even though it’s not a good fit, who keeps working just to get a paycheck, who refuses to retire even though the congregation is unhealthy and in need of new leadership. But I can see how I might just be tempted. Greeting at the local Wal-Mart just won’t pay the bills... 

Pastors
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Three Bits of Advice for New Pastors

When I met soon-to-be-retired Pastor Neil in the first community that I served as pastor, I saw a golden opportunity. “Pastor Neil, would you be willing to give me an hour of your time before you retire and give me some advice?” Perhaps he saw a golden opportunity, too, for he gladly agreed. The following headings highlight the three bits of advice that I received from Pastor Neil that day...

Pastors
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Bucket List Prayers

Been there, done that. In a world where we often have a particular life experience and then scratch it off our bucket list, it is always powerful to discover things you would do again and again. Things so wonderful that you would keep repeating them. Last year’s Prayer Summit was like that for me. It was a rich time...

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