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    Iron Sharpens Iron

    Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” In reflection on our many years in ministry, I am drawn to the truth of this proverb. I have seen it play out in my own life more times than I can remember. We usually think of ministry as investing our lives through serving others, as we hopefully “sharpen” them through discipleship, worship and community. However, I have recently given some thought as to how often others have sharpened me in the past, when I didn’t even realize it. What does this proverb mean, exactly? Most commentators see it as a statement of how people affect, or influence, one…

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    Christian 12-Step: A Path to Maturity

    This week I’m happy to have as my guest columnist Patrice Oakley, who describes herself as “a grateful believer in Jesus Christ and a Spiritual Formation leader.” Next month she graduates with her Master of Arts in Christian Education (MACE) degree from Dallas Theological Seminary:   I first became attracted to Christian 12-step recovery, a grace-based, scripturally grounded ministry, because of a painful past—my family’s legacy of alcoholism. My mother lived disconnected, mentally ill; and my alcoholic father worked excessively. Neither knew Jesus. Consequently, I developed a “heart disease.” I’ve struggled with the hole in my heart—not physical, but an emotional and spiritual vacuum.  The Holy Spirit drew me to…

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    “Act Like Men”: What Does Paul Mean?

    A few weeks ago I received an announcement that an organization committed to teaching what the Bible says about being masculine and feminine had published an updated guide available for free. Because the history of ideas about gender, especially within Christendom, is one of my fields of academic study, I eagerly downloaded and began reading. But only a few pages into chapter one, “Being a Man and Acting Like It,” an alarm went off. Here’s what I read: “Paul writes to the leaders in the church at Corinth, ‘Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love’ (1…