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Perspectives


The Colossians 1:9-12 Prayer for the Inner Person


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9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Paul begins this prayer with a statement of his faithful, continual intercession on behalf of the Colossians. Many people use continuous and continual interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. Continuous is something without interruption, such as the color spectrum. Continual is something over a long period of time that has interruptions, such as hammer strikes. Paul prays continually for the Colossians which means frequently as he moves through his day. How faithful are we in our prayers for others? Do we pray continually for people we know?

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When Our College Students Doubt,Part 3: Set on Fire


college_student_doubtIt might be tempting after the first two installments of this brief series to conclude that the answer to this problem of God’s absence is a rather cerebral approach to Christian faith that is congenitally suspicious of experience (or you might at least be tempted to think that it’s my conclusion). The answer for a misguided emotionalism isn’t an arid orthodoxy, but a life grounded in an experience of God rooted in Gospel soil.

Augustine, in his Confessions, says, “By your Gift, the Holy Ghost, we are set aflame and borne aloft, and the fire within us carries us upward.” Gregory of Nyssa memorably said, “Every delight in God becomes kindling for a still more ardent desire.” Resorting to a stripped-down intellectualism in order to avoid the dangers and excesses of untethered emotion is to fall off the other side of the horse. As Robert Louis Wilken notes, “Christian thinking, like all thinking, requires questioning, reflection, interpretation and argument. But reason has short wings. Without love, it is tethered to the earth.” If the goal of the Christian’s existence is to see the face of God, reason is essential but it is never enough. Knowledge must become love

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Laughing 'Til You Cry


cruise_life_perserverSo I’m looking at this commentary on a web site that I stumbled across the other day, “All Aboard the USS Persecution Complex.” At first I thought it was something like The Onion. It was a satirical send up of Christians (or, at least, some Christians). “Here we go again,” I thought, “God’s people taking a shot to the head again.” Admittedly the article is hilarious as it skewers a major Christian theologian and his fans as they go on a Caribbean cruise together to study “Christ’s call to endure suffering and persecution.”

Like lots of satire, underneath is biting criticism. “What better way,” the writer opines, “to meditate on Jesus’s suffering as nails were driven through his hands and feet than with a deluxe mani-pedi as you gaze out at the ocean?” The biblical “call to endure persecution”, he wryly notes, “probably didn’t have in view the lines at the midnight buffet.” Later he wonders “if the resources spent to explore the theme of enduring persecution couldn’t be redirected to actually help those who are enduring persecution.”

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When Our College Students Doubt,Part 2: The Not-So-Great Awakening


college_student_doubt“Ye must be born again.” Few phrases from Scripture have the kind of resonance with American Evangelicals than Jesus’ words from John 3. Countless tracts have centered their gospel appeal on these words and the need to be born again. How many baptisteries in churches have those words hovering above? Think of all the sermons preached in churches and evangelistic rallies that have unpacked Jesus’ penetrating message to Nicodemus.

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When Our College Students Doubt,Part 1: The New Shape of Doubt



college_student_doubtA couple years ago I was invited to speak at a meeting of one of the Christian student organizations on the local university campus. The program that evening was fairly typical. The leadership team planned an ice-breaker activity, a time of worship, and a testimony to precede my talk, which would be followed by lots of announcements about upcoming activities.

None of that was very out of the ordinary and yet a couple years later I still remember the testimony. In one sense it wasn’t really unlike other student testimonies I’ve heard over the years. And yet, there was something hauntingly different about it. It was sort of disjointed as he jumped from one describing one experience after another. But it was the last part of his presentation that still haunts me. Wound up with a lot of emotion, he described a small group meeting he attended that he left crying and feeling like he “was on fire.” And having described that wild ride of emotion, he said, “And that’s how I know God loves me.”

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Obedience Based Discipleship, Part 3


The previous articles in this series argued that American Evangelicals haven’t been teaching the Gospel that Jesus taught, and that we’ve misunderstood Paul’s teaching that we are saved by grace, not by works. The Gospel must include a call to repentance, which means among other things a change in attitudes and behavior, as well as the idea of discipleship, which Jesus defined as learning to obey everything that he commanded. Most American concepts of evangelism and of the Gospel bear little resemblance to the one taught in Scripture.

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