Bob Stevenson

Pastor. Can’t get enough of the gospel.

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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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Rhythms of the Word

This is a follow-up to our conversation on disciplined spiritual rhythms this Sunday. I will be posting more on the rhythms of prayer at a later date.

When we think about developing disciplined rhythms of the Word, we should keep three ideas in mind: encounter, internalize and apply. Let’s briefly revisit each.

Encounter the Word

This is the first step. If we are not encountering the word regularly, we’re effectively cutting ourselves off from God’s voice. But there are multiple levels of encounter.

Hear. We hear the Word when we listen to a sermon or attend a Bible Study. Hearing requires the least amount of engagement with the text because we are listening to someone unpack the significance and meaning of the text for us. But this doesn’t mean hearing is unimportant. We need to listen to those who have studied deeply. And if we are not regularly joining the saints in...

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Light Breaks

It was dark. In so many ways.

Those who have experienced sudden and tragic loss know the feeling: numbness; a leaden heart; anger. The ambush of tears. The growing realization of loss – oh the loss!

What did the disciples feel on that Friday? After the shock wore off? What did they awake too? The terrible sinking reality that their beloved friend was gone. But He was more than a friend – they had hung their future, their identity on Him. They believed in Him.

But all these dreams, hopes, expectations, yearnings, joys were wrapped up in grave clothes and entombed in blackness. Blackness like their future.

And yet, they could not see what Jesus had been telling them for so long. He entered that darkness for them. He took their hopes, expectations, yearnings and joys into the grave – not to bury them, but to bring them to life.

On Sunday, Mary goes to grieve...

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How We Talk to God

In some ways, prayer is rather intuitive. We talk to God. God hears us. That’s prayer. And in some ways, we’re all pray-ers. Most of us are accustomed to petitioning God when stuck between a particular rock and knobby hard place. All good Christians know they must give the “food prayer.” Goodness, even the most ungodly human being may cry out to God in a moment of panicked distress. It seems to be a ready reaction, built-in to the human psyche.

And more could be said on that, but not here. I am more interested in the normative question: what should prayer be? That is, how should we pray?

“How? What does it matter how?” someone may ask. After all, if prayer is our talking to God, who is all-knowing and all-seeing, then why care about delivery method?

In Luke 11, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. No doubt we scoff (just a little?) at their childish...

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Mercy Blindness

There was, recently, some hullabaloo about James Harrison, the Steeler who returned his kids’ participation awards. He wanted them to learn to “earn a real trophy.” Fair enough.

Then I was handed an opinion piece which celebrated this move as a critique of the American entitlement culture. I can also live with that.

The piece ended, however, on a disturbing note. The author admitted that we live in an unequal society, but never stopped to address the glaring questions of “why?” or “of what kind?” so critical to these discussions. And yet, perhaps it is not all that surprising that these questions were left out. It seems to me there is a startling mercy blindness in political conservativism. Here’s what I mean.

Sinners and Saints

I grant that our culture has this weird obsession with “fairness,” and that it needs correction. Fairness-obsession produces a bland and...

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Beauty and the Beasts

The other night, as I drove on some errand, I was flanked by a molten sunset. Each time I surveyed the sky, the palette shifted. The textures of the clouds created a rich surface, refracting light with that tenderness sunsets have.

I was caught still.

Something in me sang. I was drawn in. I needed to capture, to remember, to register this moment in whatever creates memory.

But, why? It was nothing more than light. The inconsequential rays of a relentless star beating down upon our pale blue dot. It was nothing more than a chance intersection of water molecules and light and my vantage point. Nothing more than atoms and energy. Et cetera. If so, then what made me stop in my frantic, suburban tracks?

The beauty, of course.

Do the beasts perceive beauty? Do the wild things drink in the setting sun? Can they? What utility is offered by beauty? What survival benefit is...

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