May the Gates of Hell Crumble Before Them

Jul 20, 2014 | Trevin Wax

missionary1Dear Lord,

We thank you
for those who have fought the good fight,
who have finished the race,
who have kept the faith.

Now, Lord, my heart is full
as I see those who have stepped forward to say,
“We will take their place.”

The harvest is plentiful,
but the workers are few.
So thank you for answering our prayers
to raise up more laborers for the harvest field.

We ask, Lord,
that You give them everything they need for what lies ahead.

When they are called to step out of their comfort zone, give them the faith of Abraham.
When they face temptation, give them the integrity of Joseph.
When they face hard decisions, give them the wisdom of Solomon.
When their hearts are filled with fear, give them the courage of Esther.

Lord, they will face trials, so give them the perseverance of Job.
When life gets busy and they are surrounded by distractions,
sit them at your feet and give them the listening ears of Mary.
Wake them up every morning with the missionary urgency of Paul,
and through it all, above all, give them the heart of Christ.

And now, oh Lord, send them out.
Go with them, we ask,
as they go to Kansas and Kentucky,
to Kenya and Cambodia,
to the four corners of the earth.

May they go with a Bible in one hand
and a basin and towel in the other,
with your grace and truth.

May they go with the gospel on their lips,
the church at their side,
and the power of the Holy Spirit coursing through their veins.

Go with them
because we know there are evil forces arrayed against them.
March them into the very heart of Satan’s territory.
Use them as the tip of your spear,
to pierce the darkness until it bleeds light.
May the gates of hell crumble before them.

And Lord,
may the gospel be preached
and sin confronted
and sinners loved
and souls saved
and marriages mended
and children taught
and the grieving comforted
and the lonely welcomed
and the hungry fed
and the wounded healed
and communities transformed
and the nations reached with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Use them mightily for Your glory
and for the world’s good,
and keep them faithful until the day they hear You say, “Well done.”

We pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Mike Proctor (HT)

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Laughter and Holiness

Jul 19, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Laughter2Helmut Thielecke:

Should we not see that lines of laughter about the eyes are just as much marks of faith as are the lines of care and seriousness?

Is it only earnestness that is baptized?

Is laughter pagan?

A church is in a bad way when it banishes laughter from the sanctuary and leaves it to the cabaret, the nightclub and the toastmasters.

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Know Your Southern Baptists: Kevin Ezell

Jul 18, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Kevin EzellName: Kevin Ezell

Why you’ve heard of him: Ezell leads the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Position: Ezell is the president of NAMB, the SBC mission agency tasked with reaching North America with the gospel through evangelism and church planting.

Previous: For 14 years, Ezell was the senior pastor at Highview Baptist in Louisville, KY. He also pastored churches in Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas.

Education: Ezell has a bachelor’s from Union University, an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Why he’s important: Born in Germany where his father was serving in the Air Force, Ezell and his wife have six children, the three youngest of whom were adopted from three different countries.

A former megachurch pastor and now president of the SBC agency focused on the churches of North America, Ezell plays a vital role in the convention and larger evangelical life. In his work, he has displayed a passion for church planting, and he has made planting one of the focal points of NAMB. Through the Send North America strategy, the mission agency wants to help churches plant other churches in every region of the continent.

The goals of Ezell and NAMB’s Send are to:

  • Mobilize churches, church planters and other missionaries to penetrate lostness and connect unchurched people with a local congregation.
  • Equip church planters and sending churches for evangelistic church planting.
  • Plant churches within defined regions, people groups and large populations centers (cities).

Notable Quotes:

“We want to be about building the greatest church planting network in the world.”

“I am not going to approach our work in a territorial way, but in a kingdom-minded way.”

“Every mission effort we do in North America and internationally should ultimately be to reach someone so they come to know Christ.”

“The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is to plant churches.”

“Success cannot be defined based on how many people a church keeps, but on how many it sends.”

Others in the “Know Your Southern Baptists” Series:

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Telling the Ragamuffin Story of Rich Mullins: An Interview With Director David Leo Schultz

Jul 17, 2014 | Trevin Wax

David Leo SchultzLast week, I wrote a review of the new movie, Ragamuffin, on life of Rich Mullins. I appreciated the honest look at Mullins, his music and his walk with God.

I had the privilege of talking with David Leo Schultz, who wrote and directed the film. David is an actor, comedian, writer and director. This was the first time he stepped into the role of director for a feature film.

Ragamuffin was a labor of love for David, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the film and the legacy of Rich Mullins.

Trevin: Telling the story of a any man’s life in a couple hours would be a difficult task, but the difficulty is magnified with someone like Rich Mullins. There are so many different angles you could have approached. How did you decide what parts of Rich’s story to focus on and which parts to leave on the editing room floor?

David: One thing I learned from a church I used to go to is that a testimony shouldn’t make yourself the hero; it should make God the hero. If you are the centerpiece of your story, then it’s a biography. So, from the beginning I knew that in terms of doing a bio-picture, I wanted to flip the model on it’s head, and make God the hero of story.

Rich had a fascinating and recklessly ambitious life pursuing Christ, but I also wanted to explore how God was pursuing Rich. Like with Paul in Acts, we see how God pursued Paul. He blinded the guy. If God is after us, he will do whatever it takes to get a hold of and transform our hearts.

Jesus said “Come to me you who are heavy burdened.” Yet in the story of the the prodigal son (or as Tim Keller would probably say “Two Lost Sons”), we see a picture of the Father chasing the son. He was filled with compassion and ran to his son.

Rich was a follower of Jesus, yet he was also a prodigal in many ways, and we wanted to show the story of a God, filled with compassion, pursuing Rich. And for us through the research, once we discovered that it seemed God was chasing Rich through father figures to ultimately point to Himself, we decided, ”OK, that’s our story!”

Some people watch the movie and get really fussy because we didn’t show all the fun and funny parts of Rich, but it’s not so much a story about his joy, but about his pain. Ultimately, I believe his joy came from Christ, but sometimes you need to see the the pathway of pain that brought him to that joy.

Trevin: I thought it was interesting that you chose to include non-actors in the film who were close to Rich. (His brother, David, plays the radio interviewer, and his good friend Sam plays the role of Sam’s father in the film, his nephew plays Rich as a teen.) Why do you think the movie was enhanced by having friends and family of Rich involved?

David: At first, I felt like nobody would watch the movie. I just sensed I was supposed to make this thing, and was going to try to do the best I could with what I had. Like the old hymn says “my heart is prone to wander,” and for whatever reason, God has continually used the life, words, and story of people like Rich Mullins, King David, and my Grandma to draw my heart back to him. So this story, this movie, and ultimately the gospel of Jesus is important to me.

I made the decision to use non-actors for two reasons.

One, this wasn’t just my movie. I made the movie with Dave Mullins, his family, and some of Rich’s close friends, and I wanted them to be apart of it. I wanted it to be special for all of us.

Secondly, in terms of directing a small budget movie, finding great actors can be a challenge, so you just try to find the most honest people you can find. What I discovered is that sometimes normal non-actors have an easier times being truthful in their dialogue than the typical struggling actor looking for their next gig. I’m not bashing on those actors, though. (I’m one of them!)

I hope the film was enhanced by the friends and family being in there. But while I’m biased, I do think the film is stronger in a subliminal way, not in just being special for them. Because Rich’s friends and family were in it and a part of it, it wasn’t just me telling the story; it was “us” telling the story.

Hopefully, people can see it’s not just me as some crazy guy making stuff up, but it is actually Rich’s ups and down, vices and virtues, struggles and victories. These things are still remembered and they echo through the hearts of his friends and family, but the most important truth echoes even louder after all these years: Jesus loved Rich.

Trevin: Some of the Christians watching this film are going to say that you went too far in showing Rich’s sin and selfishness, while other Christians are going to think you didn’t go far enough. Why was it important for you to show the complexity of this Rich’s walk with God, a walk that displays both signs of spiritual life and signs of spiritual struggle?

David: Well, I was trying to follow the rules of storytelling (with the key word being “trying!”) that I learned in Scripture. God wrote the Scriptures and told the story of His glory through the lives of sinners redeemed.

The Scriptures don’t pretty the heroes up or give us a false picture of who they were. We see King David committing adultery, Moses committing murder, Peter cutting off a man’s ear, and Paul being a coat rack for the stoning of Stephen. Some of the saints in Scripture did some horrible things, and yet God left those details in there. Again, I think it’s because God’s the hero of the story.

I don’t know if it’s an American thing or the root of religion that makes us want to craft others into a flawless image, even when it’s not the truth. And praise God, because the more open we are that we have sin and need Jesus, the more God gets glory.

All that to say, we wanted to make an honest movie. No, we didn’t go as far as we could have, because we didn’t want to alienate everyone and hinder the message from spreading. Yet if we didn’t show any of Rich’s problems, we would have falsified his story. That would have caused viewers to ask why Rich even needs Jesus.

I fear we tend to gloss over sin in our faith-based movies. We’ve taken cues from Disney. We paint a picture of falsehood to satisfy viewers, but people want honesty. Interestingly enough, the most common compliment we have received is from viewers thanking us for making a Christian movie that is honest.

Trevin: Rich considered himself a “ragamuffin” – just a beggar at the door of God’s mercy. He also loved the church. One of the impressions Rich made on me when I first discovered him was his willingness to let the Scriptures stand over us and judge all of us. The grace of God both levels and lifts us. How did Rich communicate both his frustration and his love for the church in his music?

David: I’m not exactly sure how he did that. But I can tell you that in both of the concerts I went to and in all of the taped concerts I’ve listened to, Rich always talked about his love for the church.

On the flip side, he had no problem bashing people’s sacred cows. From what I’ve been told, he had this great ability to tick you off at the beginning of a concert, but by the end of it you’d come up and thank him for it because you needed it. You needed to see that all these sacred cows, somewhere along the way became idols, and you need to lay them down and worship Jesus.

In terms of music, Rich always encouraged his audience to return to the old hymns. This was in the 80′s and 90′s. He had a hard time with the modern worship music then. He felt it was just fluff, often theologically empty.

One of the reasons I love Rich is that he always challenged folks, even those burned by the church, to be in the local church community and not be a church hopper. He said, “Church is not a man made invention, it’s a God made invention.”

Trevin: For those who have never listened to Rich Mullins, which album would you recommend to start with? And just out of curiosity, what is your favorite Rich Mullins song, and why?

David: Good questions. For those looking to start listening, I’d probably say Liturgy, Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band. But I’d also encourage them to not stop there. There is a gold mine of Rich Mullins songs out there.

My favorite would probably be “The Color Green.” It’s the first song of Rich’s I ever heard, and it’s been symbolic for a lot of what God has done in my journey. But right after that, I’d say, “Elijah,” “Creed,” “Hold me Jesus,” and “Peace,” just to name a few.

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Worth a Look 7.17.14

Jul 17, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: One of my all-time favorite commentaries - The Message of Acts by John Stott. $2.99.

John Inazu – Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It’s More Complicated:

Unkind words have emerged from almost every corner of the public discourse. Christians should not be bullied or silenced by careless language. But neither should they engage in it. Advocacy for Christian witness must itself demonstrate Christian witness. In this way, our present circumstances provide new opportunities to embody tolerance, humility, and patience. And, of course, we have at our disposal not only these aspirations but also the virtues that shape our lives: faith, hope, and love.

Chris Martin – Independent, Liberal, or Just Selfish? Politically Confused Young People:

Yesterday, I came across a fascinating article on Millennials’ political views in The Atlantic. Are Millennials as liberal as the statistics report, or is there potentially a deeper factor at play in Millennials’ political motives? Let’s play a game! *cue Price is Right music*

Are Millennials Independent, Liberal, or just Selfish when it comes to politics, particularly regarding economics?

Interesting insight into where online traffic is and the dynamic of mainline Protestants identifying with evangelicalism: Ellen Painter Dollar - When I Wanted More Traffic, I Went Evangelical:

Controversy may drive traffic, but more perennial and necessary topics drive conversation. It is conversation, not squabble-generated quips, that inspires thought and sustains faith, even on an average day free of news hooks and provocative tweets.

Todd Benkert – 5 Specific Prayers for the Unsaved People in Your Life:

There are people all around you who need Jesus. He wants to use you to reach them. Here are some of the specific ways you too can pray for people the in your life who need Christ.

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The Missional Church Is Pointed in 5 Directions

Jul 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

Missional-Church-2The unhealthy church is too inward-focused, some will say. Unless a church looks outside itself to its kingdom mission, it will shrink and die.

Wise counsel, of course. Just as Christians are to put others before themselves, churches are to put their mission ahead of their own comfort.

But missional churches are not called to only look outward. The biblical position is more robust (and beautiful) than the inward / outward dichotomy. In fact, one of the directions a missional church should look is inward, as long as it is being pointed in the other directions as well.

Adding to Michael Goheen’s three-directional church in A Light to the Nations, Bruce Ashford sees five aspects of a church’s missional calling. The quotes below are from Ashford’s chapter in The Community of Jesus:

1. Looking Upward (to God as the source of mission)

“Just as Israel was called to gaze upward toward God, and just as Jesus modeled that upward gaze, the church must allow worship to be both the fuel and the goal of her mission.”

2. Looking Inward (to themselves as those who manifest God’s mission)

“As God’s people love one another, they display God’s love to a watching world. As their inner life is marked by grace and mercy, they provide the world with a tangible picture of God’s grace and mercy. The church is a shop window for God.”

3. Looking Backward (to God’s creational design for the world)

“Although God’s creation remains structurally good, since the fall it is directionally corrupt. The church’s mission includes discerning God’s creational design in every area of life, ascertaining the idolatrous misdirection in those areas, and seeking renewal and restoration.”

4. Looking Forward (to the coming of God’s promised kingdom)

“As the church brings all of life into submission to Christ’s lordship, she points simultaneously back to God’s design in creation and forward to the consummated kingdom. Her life is a sign of that kingdom, a foretaste of the feast, a preview of the new heavens and new earth.”

5. Looking Outward (to the nations as they proclaimed and promoted God’s salvation)

“In the consummated kingdom, God will be given his due honor and glory by worshippers from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. The multinational nature of God’s kingdom proclaims to the world that the God of Israel is not a tribal deity. He is the Creator, King, and Savior of the nations…”

To sum up, then, the missional church is not merely outward focused. It looks outward to the nations at the same time it looks in multiple directions. Ashford writes:

As the church worships God instead of idols (upward), she declares to the nations that God alone is worthy of worship.

As the church proclaims and promotes the gospel through her inner life (inward), she provokes the nations to jealousy so that they also will embrace the Savior.

As the church lives every aspect of her social and cultural life in accordance with God’s creational design (backward), she shows the nations the nature of God’s shalom.

As the church proclaims and promotes the gospel as a sign of the kingdom (forward), she gives the nations a foretaste of the future banquet and a preview of the new heavens and earth.

As the church takes God’s gospel to the ends of the earth (outward), she does so by drawing on the upward, inward, backward, and forward dimensions of her life before God.

What about you? What directions do you find your church to be strongest in? Where are the weaknesses?

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Worth a Look 7.16.14

Jul 16, 2014 | Trevin Wax

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKindle Deal of the Day: Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs. $2.99.

Studying Jesus’ conversations with diverse people in his day, Jerram Barrs draws lessons and principles for attractively communicating the gospel to unbelievers in our day.

Michael Bird is writing a commentary on Romans. Here are some of his reflections as he reaches the midway point:

Let me say that it is jolly hard work. Romans is, after all, the magnum opus of the Pauline corpus, with disputed purposes, some curious text-critical problems, a plethora of exegetical problems, covering wide ranging themes, weaved together with a rich tapestry of intertextual citations and allusions, with huge theological capital, and rich rhetorical technique too.

Chuck Lawless – Why Church Members Don’t Invite Others to Church:

The problem is not the attitude of the unchurched; rather, it is often the failure of church members to invite others. When my church consulting teams have asked church members about their reticence to invite others to church, here are ten responses we have often heard (listed in no particular order)…

Becoming a “Remnant Church” in the PC(USA):

In a time when many churches are seriously considering their denominational futures, an Illinois congregation is calling for others in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to join a movement and declare themselves as a “remnant church in the PCUSA.”

This may be the coolest Kickstarter campaign for a Bible production I’ve seen. Compelling for a number of reasons: recapturing the sense of the Bible as a library, the immersion experience of reading the Bible without distractions, the classic design. Bible publishers, take note.

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The Progressive Appeal to an Imaginary Calendar

Jul 15, 2014 | Trevin Wax

3315887620_5a70f1ff63Are you conservative?

Or are you progressive?

Both terms bother me.

To be a “conservative” implies that your primary impulse is to conserve something valuable from history or tradition. But not everything from history or tradition is worth “conserving.” Much of the past has been relegated to the dust heap, and deservedly so.

To be a “progressive” implies that your primary impulse is to progress beyond the present and lead the way toward better days. Sounds great. But not everything we foresee in the future is worth pursuing. Much of what society considers progress today could one day be tossed aside as ridiculous.

So, conservatives appeal to the past, and progressives appeal to the future. And since the problems of the past are on full display and the problems of the future are often unknown, the conservative task is difficult in every generation, for the conservative must make a careful case for retrieving and cherishing good aspects of the past without wanting to “go back.” The progressive has an easier job, since the term itself implies growth toward the common good.

But when we take a deeper look at how the progressive label is applied, we often see people appealing to an imaginary calendar instead of providing sound argumentation.

The Imaginary Calendar

There’s no reason to assume that the position we hold to is right because it’s Tuesday and not Monday. And yet, that’s the kind of ”appeal to the calendar” we often witness in popular progressive circles.

To paraphrase our secretary of state’s warnings to Russia: “We’re living in the 21st century now! You just can’t do that anymore.” To which the Russians giggle and proceed to defy the calendar we have imagined into existence.

“I realized it was time,” politicians say about why they are now in favor of redefining marriage. “It’s time” may be rhetorically powerful to some, but it shouldn’t be confused with actually making a case.

  • N. T. Wright calls vague appeals to “the future” a smokescreen.
  • C. S. Lewis believed it was chronological snobbery to appeal to progress as if the future is assured and the past is irrelevant.
  • G. K. Chesterton believed that democracy means listening to the dead, not just the living. Dissenting is a sign of life, for ”a dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

Progressives want to be bold and courageous, to take their place at the vanguard of the future, but there’s nothing particularly world-changing about seeing where the train of history appears to be chugging, throwing yourself on top of the engine, and then imagining you’re the one making the train go.

Besides, if the past is any indication, the history train makes plenty of unpredictable turns.

Progressives and Eugenics

100 years ago, progressives were falling all over themselves to affirm eugenics. Sterilizing people from unwanted groups would purify the gene pool and lead to a better society. Who could be against that? 

Most people today, thankfully.

Those who dissented from the cultural orthodoxy surrounding eugenics a century ago were seen as hopelessly backward, but it was their position that stood the test of time. The “progressive” eugenicists eliminated themselves from the pool of popular opinion, although remnants of eugenic thought still persist in institutions of higher learning.

Progressives and Abortion

One of the most contentious issues facing our nation today is that of abortion. Views on abortion that get called ”progressive” always seem to be in favor of relaxing restrictions. Why is that so? If we see the abortion debate from the standpoint of protecting humans from a violent demise, then shouldn’t the protective measures enacted in the last decade be seen as “progressive?”

Flash back 200 years ago. “Progressive” doctors like Horatio Storer were rallying to expose abortionists, shut down abortion mills, and protect women and children. All their work was later undone by a “progressive” Supreme Court decision that sanctioned the slaughter of fifty million little human beings. See the problem? The label of “progress” lets us down.

Progressives and Divorce

When it comes to marriage, somehow it’s “progressive” to relax divorce laws and make it easier for a couple to abandon their covenant commitments and walk away from their children.

But has no-fault divorce led to “progress” for the family? It’s only progress if you see marriage as a commitment based on romantic feelings, and the needs of children as second to our emotional unions. Today, the world is full of children who know firsthand the pain of broken families, who, when grown, often repeat the cycle in their own lives.

Progressives and Sex

It’s “progressive” to say that all consensual sex between adults is acceptable. But has this led to progress for women? Is cohabitation without marital commitment “progress” for the family? Whatever one thinks about sexual morality, is it accurate to call the sexual brokenness and female degradation we see today “progress?”

It’s “progressive” to argue for sex-change operations, as if we are purely spiritual beings whose physical bodies are irrelevant to who we really are inside. But what if, a century from now, people look back at today’s “progressives” with horror: How could they celebrate the mutilation of their bodies? They thought this was progress?

Progressives and Marriage

It’s “progressive” to be for same-sex marriage, overturning the male/female definition of marriage that has been supported by every civilization for thousands of years. But just how is it progress to envision a family unit where a child is denied the blessing of a mother and father?

In the past, we’ve mourned the tragedy of a child losing a mother or father to death or divorce. Today, we’re seeking to enshrine such a vision into law, to celebrate a family where gender is irrelevant. Is this progress? Or is the bandwagon trampling common sense?

The Myth of Progress

The list could be multiplied. A century ago, the progressives were the ones smashing saloon windows and pushing Prohibition. Today’s progressives look back at such antics as antiquated and backward.

All this to say, progress and progressivism are powerful myths, but they remain just that – myths. Just as the conservative needs to carefully consider what in the past should be “conserved,” the progressive needs to think deeply about how we define “progress.”

After all, totalitarian regimes from Nero’s Rome to Hitler’s Germany have always claimed their policies will usher the world forward in a utopian state, and they use both “conservative” and “progressive” arguments to make the case. The Russians thought they were pushing progress during the Cold War, with Kruschev saying “History is on our side and we will bury you.”

Today, the United States imagines a calendar of progress solidified by our military and economy, with our way of life responsible for spreading freedom to the world and overcoming evil. But not everything we view as “progress” is worth spreading.

Progress must always be measured by a standard.

We make progress as we work hard and move toward an ideal. The temptation, however, is to change the ideal. And that’s why we’d rather trade the ideals of heaven for the shifting sands of popular opinion. To exchange God’s design for human flourishing with our paltry human inventions.

So take note. What passes for “progress” today is often just a slow and steady burrowing into the ground. And the minions below don’t care what we call ”progress,” as long as we are in descent.

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Worth a Look 7.15.14

Jul 15, 2014 | Trevin Wax

WorthALook1Kindle Deal of the Day: To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain by Matt Chandler and Jared Wilson. FREE.

In this disruptively inspiring book, Chandler offers tangible ways to develop a faith of pursuing, chasing, knowing, and loving Jesus.

Church of England Votes to Approve Female Bishops:

Today’s vote was widely expected after the General Synod took a procedural poll last year that set the stage for the measure’s final approval. Church leaders faced pressure over the issue for years, with Prime Minister David Cameron even threatening to get Parliament involved if the Church didn’t allow women in its top leadership ranks soon. The Church of England is a state church, and 24 of its 108 bishops hold seats in the House of Lords.

Gordon College Loses City Contract, Gets Accreditation Scrutiny:

A Massachusetts town cut short its contract with Gordon College after the school’s president asked President Obama to exempt religious institutions from an expected non-discrimination order.

Bruce Ashford – Balancing Justice and Mercy in Immigration Reform:

Americans are faced with the choice between a simplistic and reactionary solution which would undermine Christian wisdom and love, and a more complex and constructive solution which upholds wisdom and love while at the same time being more difficult to implement.

Thinking about starting a blog? 4 important questions to ask yourself first:

If you have the blogging itch, and are thinking about giving it a scratch, here are some things to think about before you do.

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