Bob Stevenson

Pastor. Can’t get enough of the gospel.

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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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Eyes for Judgment

Ever struggle to see judgment as a good thing? It scares us, we fear it, and it feels antithetical to a “good and loving” God. But why is this? I would argue that we have a distaste for judgment because we are scarred by our guilt. Because our sin runs deeper than we wish it did. Because we are still influenced by the satanic doubt implanted in our flesh that causes us to question whether God is truly good after all.

Perhaps most poignantly, we have a distaste for judgment because we all know that, deep inside, we deserve it.

Yet. As people transformed by the gospel to see reality through God’s eyes, we are able to see judgment in a new light. But we can only see it once we are safely “outside” its reach; once we are declared “not guilty.” When this happens, however, we can understand that God’s judgment is precisely what gives us hope in this world. We live in a broken...

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Death, the Breach

Death is a terrible breach.

It upsets a fundamental expectation of our humanity: that we are linear creatures, meant to progress indefinitely along the line of time. Death cracks that line with its gaping jaws and swallows us whole. Death is the recurring wound in the history of humanity.

And so we exist as lines stretched betwixt two points:

Beginning. End.

But not willingly. If we were meant to be so bracketed, why does the endpoint feel so consistently inappropriate? Why does it rudely interrupt, rather than elegantly complete? Why does it send shrapnel of existential doubt tearing through our souls?

Perhaps, it could be said, that humans are incurable optimists who simply cannot bear that the party should end. Perhaps the noble course of action would be to bow to the inevitable as we step off the merry-go-round and give some other kid a go at it.

Perhaps. If...

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Ode to Marriage

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” (Song of Solomon. 8:6-7, ESV)

There is a sense in which love is profoundly misjudged. Like an iceberg, its full depth is rarely exposed. The cynic imagines that love is a mere chemical reaction, that the poet is excessive in his hyperbolic adulation of love’s qualities. The rom-com addict and lover of fairy tales narrows love’s core, imagining it lives on forever in the passionate first embrace of lovers united.

I say they are both wrong. Love is fierce and mysterious and, as Solomon’s song declares, “strong as death.” But it diffuses past...

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Why We Don’t Sing Patriotic Songs at Church

I was asked this week if we could sing a patriotic song at Village. To be honest, the question always makes me uneasy. However, I’ve not taken the time to really explain why. So here are three reasons for not singing patriotic songs at Village.

 1. The Center of Worship

The most basic question we need to consider is this: why do we gather on Sunday mornings? At Village, we gather to meet with, to encounter, the triune God. He lovingly and powerfully invaded history to save us for Himself and His kingdom. We gather weekly to corporately celebrate this good news, and to regularly orient our hearts to it. In other words, we worship.

We worship by submitting our hearts and ears to His voice (Scripture). We worship by talking to Him in dependence (prayer). We worship by thinking intentionally about how our lives should change based on His revelation (application). And of course...

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Two hundred and forty years ago, a gunshot ripped across a small stretch of grass. That shot changed the course of the world. Two hundred and thirty nine years ago, a document of defiance was authored and distributed.

Independence declared.

The world would never be the same. The reverberations of the event we celebrated yesterday with our own explosions in the sky have altered world history in tremendous ways – for good and bad.

All birth is accompanied by blood, and the birth of the American nation was no different. The blood of rage, the blood of sacrifice. Blood shed to forge a society which would be unlike any other in the world. A nation independent and free.

We naturally celebrate this independence. We rightly honor those who suffered and sacrificed for our sake. Independence is a precious gift that bestows freedom to worship, freedom to speak, freedom to...

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