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This week I was struck by a realization: for many, the debate about same-sex marriage is not a political issue or moral issue; it’s a worship issue.

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One week has passed, and still Sandy Hook pervades the news. Interviews with locals, eulogies for the deceased, and constant updates regarding this formerly unknown community fill the airwaves and online news sources. Our nation is grieving in a manner it has not done since 9/11. And as with the tragedy of that day, here we find tear-filled, angry questions echoing all around, and even within us: Why? How could this happen?

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(Guest Blogger: Brian Dennert)

The title of this online article caught my eye: “How to Guard Sabbath for Your Children”. While primarily directed towards aiding parents in teaching the practice of Sabbath in their children (and one that we recommend parents read through), I think it’s an article that has relevancy for every Christian in the suburbs of Chicago, whether single, married without kids, married with kids at home, or an empty nester, as it reminds us about the importance of Sabbath. With the Sabbath command (one of the 10 Commandments!), God teaches us that we aren’t created simply to be busy. Rather, we are to enjoy God and his creation through regularly taking time to rest.

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(Guest blogger: Brent Stutzman)

The season of Advent is designed to cultivate our sense of expectancy and hope as we wait on our promise-fulfilling God. In Advent, we hear the prophecies of the Messiah’s coming as addressed to us - people who wait for the second coming. 

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Every year around this time I’m reminded that a better way of living lies before me. 

The apostle Paul describes this new way of life: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
 
Did you notice how Paul repeats himself? “Be thankful… with thankfulness… giving thanks.” In the span of one paragraph Paul feels the need to tell us three different times that living as a Christian involves thankfulness.

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Do we need to rethink our view of voting?

This question formed in my mind as I skimmed responses to a recent blog post a friend of mine wrote about her decision to abstain from voting this election season. The comments overflowed with concern, describing this choice as irresponsible and unethical. Voting, many reminded her, is a sacred duty.
 
What is the source of this rather stern passion?

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Revival has been on my mind lately.

Scripture and history show us that there are certain times in the life of the church when God chooses to pour out his Spirit in dramatic ways. Believers suddenly become starkly aware of God’s presence and of the greatness of his gospel of grace, and their lives noticeably bear the spiritual fruit of love and joy and faith. Outsiders find themselves drawn to the gospel and church as they witness inexplicably changed lives and compellingly real community. And as the power of God’s grace takes hold of many people, the neighborhoods and towns themselves in small, yet real, ways begin to look a little more like the coming kingdom of Jesus.

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How should we deal with tough questions about God?
 
Last week, during our lively and always unpredictable Adult Sunday School discussion, our attention focused on the themes found in Peter’s sermons of God being in control of his mission in the midst of human sinfulness. Our heads began to hurt as we (not entirely successfully) tried to understand how humans can be responsible for their actions and yet God be sovereign.
 
As a follow-up to our discussion, I wanted briefly to suggest 3 practices I’ve found useful when thinking about hard questions like this.

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Are you overwhelmed by the idea of being on mission?
 
When I began my Ph.D. program a number of years ago, I was rather daunted as I tried to figure out how in the world I could write a 350-page dissertation. What I eventually discovered was that I couldn’t—few people, if any, can just sit down and write something 350 pages long. Rather, what I could do is write 3 pages, and then another 3 pages, and then another, and if I did this long enough, and if each step built on the one before, I eventually would find that I’d constructed something much bigger.  
 

I suspect something similar holds true when it comes to mission and evangelism.

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Is it ridiculous that I was inspired by the most recent Batman movie?
 
Actually, don’t answer that; let me just try to explain.

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In the past couple of years there has been a fair bit of healthy discussion among pastors and teachers about the topic of sanctification—about how we grow as Christians. Some emphasize the pivotal role that grace has: we grow not because we are told to do, but because we are told of what God has done for us. Others, while wanting to maintain the centrality of grace, are also concerned to recognize the important place of human effort: growth happens in the midst of our striving to “put on” Christ.

Recently I was struck by how both of these themes are prominent in the opening verses of 2 Peter.

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Sinclair Ferguson, in my mind, is one of the finest preachers alive today. He’s warm, pastoral, deeply biblical, and his Scottish accent doesn’t hurt either. I often listen to him both as a means of shepherding my own heart and as a mentor for what Christ-centered preaching can be.

 
I was struck, listening to a recent interview, by how he attributes his initial interest in Christ to Sunday School. He speaks of how God put him under the care of two “quite outstanding Sunday School teachers as a youngster who made a deep impression on me”; their commitment to Christ “overflowed in an interest in me.”  
 

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As Christians we are called to reflect the heart of our God by being hospitable, to, as the literal meaning of the word suggests, show kindness to strangers and newcomers. I’m grateful for how much our own church community seeks to live this calling out. Many of you, I’ve noticed, make a concentrated effort to reach out to first-time visitors and make them feel welcomed right after the service.

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Earlier this week, an article by Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter entitled "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” made waves in the blogosphere, setting off a discussion about the difficulties of work-life balance for the modern woman. Whereas the article itself argued that societal changes should be made to allow career and family demands to coexist more harmoniously, others questioned whether the idea of “having it all” was even realistic for women (or men, for that matter).
 

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Have you noticed that “rule” has become a four-letter word in contemporary Christian circles?
 
Perhaps one of the most marked trends in Western Christianity is a movement away from rules. Previous generations of Christians saw them as a key part of following Christ: always go to church on Sundays, give a tenth of what you earn, do your quiet times in the morning, keep your clothing modest and only watch movies where people do likewise. Today we look at such strictness and seeming inflexibility with disdain, describing such a lifestyle as “legalistic” and “joyless.”

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