Bob Stevenson

Pastor. Can’t get enough of the gospel.

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The Church, Society and Race: Part 1 (The Kingdom of God)

This is a multi-part series. Read part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, and parts 8a and 8b.

Every generation of Christians faces difficult often complex questions of how they should relate to the surrounding culture. As culture constantly changes and asks new questions, or issues new challenges to the unchanging gospel, Christians must do the hard work of thinking hard about how to respond faithfully.

And this is no mere academic exercise. Each of us lives one life, in a particular historical moment, in a particular location, called to live faithfully under the one God who transcends it all. We are given a charge, and if we would be faithful, we must wrestle through the difficult questions of how the culture-transcending gospel shines in the midst of our particular cultures.
It is important to consider cultural matters, as each culture contains unique expressions of...

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When Not to Email

How we communicate matters. My aim in this post is to commend to you, dear reader, the benefits of in-person conversations, over against our typical forms of communication : email and/or text. 

Now, let me say at the outset, this is not a unified theory of communication by any stretch of the imagination. I write as a pastor, in the context of Christian community — and here for those who who find themselves in contexts of conflict, or with criticisms to offer. I aim to see the church (and society at large) grow to be healthy humans who can say hard things in love, and not destroy relationships (or society) in the process. The following is but one step of many in that direction.

 Simple Ideas: The Limits of Email and Messages

First, let’s explore the inherent limits of text-based communication — particularly emails and texts. 

We communicate with words. Our words are symbols functioning...

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The Fearless Fear

It is axiomatic that the Christian must fear God. A cursory reading of Scripture makes this clear, without question. Though axiomatic, this doctrine is frequently misunderstood and unpracticed. In other words, fear does not always lead to knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:7), but often paralysis. Fear often causes us to respect the wrong subjects.

In Matthew 10:26ff, Jesus makes it clear that there is One we must fear: God. Not people. Now, there is justifiable cause to our fear of man: people hurt us. People can and do kill other people. To not possess a healthy respect for the damage people can do smacks of an innocent ignorance of the way things work.

Jesus, however, provides perspective. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” The best people can do is end our physical life. They can’t touch our soul.

“But that still seems rather bad,” you may...

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Why Missions?

At Village, missions support makes up approximately 25% of our church’s budget. Why do we invest a full quarter of all that we receive from the people in this church into work that is fully outside of this church? Why should we care about missions at all?

 1. The Glory and Goodness of God

The first and central reason must be the glory of God. If we treasure God in worship, then it follows we will eagerly seek to participate the spread of the knowledge of his glory. Think of what we see in Romans 15:8ff:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again,...

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Renewal and Prophetic Distance

Let’s consider an important question requiring a complex response for which I intend to provide a woefully brief answer: “how should the church engage culture?” It’s an important question because the culture is at war, and we’d better know where we stand when the roar reaches its fever pitch.

What follows is nothing new, but nevertheless important.

 The Church as Prophet

Let’s begin with the assertion that the church should maintain a prophetic stance in the world. Now, when we think about prophets, we typically think of those odd Old Testament fellows who dressed up in strange clothing and saw the future. That, of course, is only part of the picture. A prophet, at his core, was someone who authoritatively proclaimed the word of the Lord: “thus says the Lord.” Prophets revealed the transcendent truth of God to a culture constantly changed and confused by its own desires.


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When Christmas is On a Sunday

This Sunday, Village will celebrate the third week of Advent. One of our families will light the third candle out of four, and our corporate anticipation will deepen. We will strain forward a bit more for that day when we rejoice that the long expected One has come. And the expectation is especially sweet this year because Christmas falls on a Sunday.

But Sunday Christmases bring dilemmas: Will there be church on Sunday? Will we go to church on Sunday? These are fair questions, as Christmas is a special day, steeped in family traditions, and we’re not all that accustomed to spending time at church on Christmas day.

But, for good reasons, Village will be gathering together, and you should join your fellow saints. Here are four reasons why:

 1. Christmas Day is the Climax of a Long Season of Expectation

We don’t celebrate Advent because it’s just “what you do” this time of...

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Grieve and Stand

I awoke Monday feeling like I was stuck in a bad dream. After last week’s “revelations” and the debate, I found myself deeply troubled. Embarrassed. Baffled. Over the last few months, one thing has become clear: the future looks rather grim.

But it’s not just the future. This moment feels like a bar room brawl.

I look around and see a great deal of fear in the faces of Christians around me. I hear it in the blog battles and Facebook arguments. Fear of what may come. It tears at seams of trust between believers. It draws out bitter words between brothers and sisters. It is driving us into panic mode.

This breaks my heart. It should not be so.

I also see the gory political train wreck unfolding in grisly detail before our eyes. No wonder we have fear. Do we choose a progressivism that stands in opposition to so many of my convictions? Or a secular, angry...

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Voting When There’s Simply No Good Option

It’s been quite the election cycle. I began watching the preliminaries with interest, then amusement, then a sinking realization that the ironic prediction I made earlier this year the beginning was becoming reality. And I’m not alone. I’ve been asked a few times, “So…who are you voting for?” It’s a knotty one, to be sure. What do you do when there’s no good option?

There’s no quick and easy answer for this one. These are sticky questions that require wrestling down. I can, however, point out a few of the things you, as a Christian, need to wrestle to the floor.

 1. Recognize the Privilege and the Responsibility of Voting

The New Testament was written to people living in an empire that relied on social stratification and the subjugation of inferiors for its success. Guess which levels of society many Christians lived in? That’s right: the bottom. Which meant life was hard...

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Gospel Reverberations

There’s this interesting passage in Romans, where the apostle Paul writes, “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Rom. 1:11-12, ESV)

We fully expect the first bit; that Paul would be interested in imparting a gift to the Romans. His explanation takes us back, however. The gift he has in mind is not just a one-way bestowal. It is a mutual interaction. He wants to encourage the Roman Christians by his faith, and he is eager to be encouraged by theirs.

On one level, this is an astounding reality. Paul, the powerful apostle, author of much of the New Testament, worker of miracles, authoritative proclaimer of the gospel – this Paul, encouraged by the faith of a standard-issue, run-of-the-mill Christian? But on the other, it is not quite so surprising...

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Thoughts on Orlando

The recent mass shooting in Orlando is another dark mark in a long line of brutal current events. Many of us are wrestling with confusing (and sometimes conflicting) emotions as we try to sort through what happened, and what it means for us. This tragedy is especially poignant as it brings several cultural priorities to an intersection: terrorism, sexuality and national security. How should we, as Christians, understand and untangle this knot? Here are a few thoughts.

 Who’s to Blame?

Senseless tragedies are disorienting, because we are not wired to experience senseless suffering. We need to find meaning. It’s part of who we are. So it makes sense that, when a tragedy like this occurs, we scramble to find some meaning, to assign some kind of blame. If we can somehow peg responsibility somewhere, we can, perhaps, cope with the fact that it happened.

In this situation...

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