A House of Prayer for All Nations
God is calling us to be A House of Prayer for All Nations. What exactly does that mean? The phrase occurs in Isaiah 56:7–“for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples [nations].” The context gives us three beautiful descriptions of God’s house of prayer:

Christ and Power
Two more stories of men misusing power have hit the news today. Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor join the flood of men–from sophisticated journalists to crude comics–to be outed for abuse of power after the accusations against Harvey Weinstein broke a cultural dam. How do we think of these issues of “power differentials” biblically? How do we respond? Let me offer a brief overview of the biblical story of power then suggest what we should do.

Celebrating 500 Years of Reformation
Hebrews 11 chronicles the spiritual “Hall of Faith”—the radical lives of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and other faithful Israelites that resulted from their faith in God. Toward the end of the chapter, the author begins summarizing the exploits of leaders and prophets, such as Daniel, who “stopped the mouths of lions” (33). Then the text begins to list stories that we may not remember from the Old Testament.

Adoption, Abortion, and the Savior Who Enters Our Mess
About halfway through our adoption training in 2005, Rachael and I ran into another couple from our class. They had news. A birthmother had chosen them to adopt her baby. We instinctively rejoiced, an exultant reaction that met sober eyes and strained smiles. They continued the story, sharing that the pregnant mother had conceived the child in an adulterous relationship with a man in her church. The decision to make an adoption plan was mired in questions about whether her husband would divorce her and, if not, whether he would raise another man’s child. This took us on an emotional ride from 0 to 60 to a screeching halt–all in a few seconds–as we realized that adoption is a messy business all around.

Abortion: Redemption above the Rhetoric
The political debate over abortion may be the most depressing example of intractable partisanship today. Since the 1980s, the Right has focused almost exclusively on the plight of the unborn, resulting at times in a harsh, callous tone toward women in excruciating circumstances. Meanwhile the Left frames the issue exclusively as “women’s health” and “reproductive justice,” refusing to acknowledge the existence of another human being in the equation. So the party that most frequently champions science in other debates pleads ignorance about what exactly resides in a newly-pregnant mother’s womb, while the party that rarely builds their platform with concern for the most vulnerable pleads the cause of the voiceless million who are aborted every year.

iPrayer X
Now that I have been here at Groveton Baptist Church for a year, it’s time to tell you something: I am an Apple admirer. Not apples (though I love those too, especially when they’re made into a pie), but Apple, as in the computers. From my wee years in the early ‘80s, I remember playing pixelated games on my dad’s Apple II and Macintosh computers.

A House of Prayer for All Nations
When I was in high school, our English teacher gave a writing assignment to discuss the sentence, “The good is the worst enemy of the best." Because it was English class, I’m not sure if there was a right or wrong answer. But I think the idea of the statement is that we often fail to pursue excellence because we are satisfied with the decent job we are doing. We need what Bill Hybels calls a “holy discontent."

After Charlottesville, What Can We Do?
Imagine the befuddlement you would see on the young Judean’s face at such a question. Daniel was a man in exile. He was not in Babylon to take sides or play partisan politics. He had an allegiance to Yahweh, the one true God, and God’s message to Daniel and his fellow exiles was to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to Yahweh on its behalf” even as they waited for God to “fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to [Jerusalem]” (Jeremiah 29:7, 10).

Nurturing Unity as One Family in Christ
We have spent the first four months of 2017 exploring in Ephesians what it looks like to be One Family in Christ. This summer, we have some fresh, practical opportunities to experience increased unity. On June 25th, we will all worship together at the 11 AM service. That Sunday will be unique, as we will be hosting more than 125 Mission Serve students for the week. About 20 of the students will be in the worship service with us, and the student praise band will lead the worship in song that morning.

Please Adjust The Volume
American followers of Jesus Christ have dual citizenship as citizens of the United States and citizens of heaven. Both of these identities are important and give us much reason for gratitude. Yet one is temporal and one is eternal, which means that we must ensure that our engagement with American issues does not compromise our heavenly priorities.

Darren Carlson grew up down the street from our church, off Popkins Lane, and graduated from West Potomac High School. He reached out to me over Facebook when he saw through mutual friends that I was moving to Alexandria to pastor Groveton Baptist Church. Darren leads an exciting ministry called Training Leaders International that equips church leaders in parts of the world where theological and ministry training are not available.

Why Didn’t Paul Work to Abolish Slavery?
On Sunday, one of the household relationships we will explore is that of slaves and masters. “Slaves,” Paul writes, “obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ” (Ephesians 6:5, CSB). It is nearly impossible for us not to see this command in Ephesians through the lens of slavery in the American South. If you have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin or watched movies set in the antebellum South, images of shackled Africans, slave ships, harsh whippings, and perpetually splintered families rightfully cause us to question how Paul can address slaves without challenging slavery as an institution.

How I Pray for the President
When Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” he affirmed that he is a political figure while relativizing the politics of his day. Whether Pharisaical scuffles or Roman intrigue in high places, Jesus refused to get sucked into the whirlpool of outrage and dissent. Like the parent whose answer to “whose block tower is better?” is “I have to make lunch,” Jesus transcended the squabbles. He had bigger fish to fry—a divine, eternal kingdom to display and declare.

Maturity and Missions
On Sunday, our time in Ephesians 4:7-16 focused on the issue of church growth—how we grow into a mature body by speaking gospel truth to one another in love. Whenever we spend time looking inward regarding church health, it is necessary to remember how this affects our call to look outward regarding our world that needs Christ. To use the language of Jesus’ Great Commission, how does our work of making disciples within the church (teaching one another to obey Jesus’ commands) affect our work of making disciples outside the church (baptizing new believers)?

Ask the Pastor
C.S. Lewis opens his preface to The Screwtape Letters–a worthy and imaginative read on this topic–“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Take Heed to Hetty and Spread the Wealth!
When I was in grade school, one of my favorite books to mine for its oddities and curiosities was the Guinness Book of World Records. I cringed at the long, curly fingernails, marveled at the “time standing on one leg” record, and felt pity for the world’s tallest man, whose great height meant a short life. But no figure in the Guinness Book captured my imagination more than Hetty Green, dubbed the “World’s Greatest Miser.”

Today is my birthday, and I feel great. I woke up in our new house after a good night’s sleep, and I feel every bit of the 39 years young that I am. Rachael made me a nice breakfast, Samuel called me “Dada” for one of the first times, and I know there will be an apple crisp–my favorite dessert–at the end of the day. Life is fantastic.

The SBC Pastor's Conference
Before the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting each June, many pastors and church leaders gather on Sunday night and all day Monday for the SBC Pastor’s Conference. High-profile authors, speakers, and pastors are brought in to encourage those invested in the life of the church. 

Facing Death, Anticipating Christ
“In this world,” Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1789, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I cannot help much with taxes, but it is within the purview of my ministry to help God’s people think about death. On Friday I will be part of the fifth funeral in as many months at Groveton Baptist Church. Whether we live to be 30 or 90, death is inevitable, and it does us little good to ignore that reality.

Question: How can I have assurance that I will have eternal life with God? - Posted 1/18/2017
This is one of the core questions believers have wrestled with throughout church history. Depending on what church you attend today, you will find a spectrum of views about assurance. On the extreme of too little assurance, I have friends who grew up in traditions where “losing your salvation” was believed to happen with a few sins.

Chief Wahoo and the Question Jesus Asks - Posted 10/26/2016
I am a sucker for good sports stories. So when I heard the story of Carlos Baerga during the 1992 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, it shifted my sporting allegiances. According to the commentator, Baerga’s father recognized his son’s immense baseball talent and told him, “If you continue to hit this well, you will play in the Major Leagues.

Making Time for Family - 10/19/2016
Jesus consistently referred to God as “my Father” and declared, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). As the early church grew, Jesus’ followers adopted this family language, such that references to “brothers and sisters” permeate the letters concerning church life.

Salt, Light, and the Election - Posted 10/12/2016
For all that could be said about the presidential election—and so much could be said—it is clear that many people will be voting reluctantly. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have favorability ratings in the mid-30s to low-40s, not the percentages either of their campaigns want to see.

Sharing Our Story - Posted 9/28/2016
Rachael and I have been delighted to get to know you over the past 5 weeks and we look forward to getting to know you more as the months go by. One way we can share more about our lives is through telling stories of God’s work in our family over the years.

Mourning in Real Time - Posted 9/21/2016
On Sunday I will preach on “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We have opportunities right now to put Jesus’ teaching into practice as we watch the news. First, some background.

Foyle's Brits and Jesus' Followers - Posted 9/14/2016
Rachael and I have started watching Foyle’s War, a British detective drama set in the Second World War. The episodes we are watching now are set in 1940, when the possibility of German invasion loomed large over the Brits who tried to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Inviting Others into an Inviting Family - Posted 8/31/2016
This Sunday we will address the idea of engaging in the mission of God for the glory of God. We will cover the story of God's glory from Genesis to Revelation and see how our call to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19) fits into that sweeping narrative.

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