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  1. Too Overwhelmed for Jesus?

    Posted on November 26th, 2014 by Jonathan

    From time to time, everyone feels overwhelmed. Maybe it looks something like this . . .

    The squares on your calendar can hold no more writing, and you get a call from an old friend who’s coming through town. Right now. So you rearrange your schedule (i.e., resign yourself to the fact that something will go undone), and make plans to meet for coffee. On the way, your car decides to break down. With an upcoming business trip, car-lessness isn’t really a feasible option right now, nor is dipping into the already-in-the-red “car maintenance” category of your budget. You end up not seeing your friend and add a couple more expensive tasks to your to-do list while checking off a few less. Meanwhile, one of your kids is coming down with a highly contagious cold, you’re supposed to lead your weekly small group gathering tomorrow evening, and, with an empty pantry, you don’t have a plan for dinner tonight… which is about two hours away. As if this weren’t stressful enough, your upcoming business trip involves some unsettling employee changes that are happening at your company.

    Okay, that’s a lot. But most of us have had days when at least some of the types of predicaments above are added to your already full plate. Those days leave us physically, mentally, and emotionally tapped out. So our spiritual life follows suit: sparse and distracted prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling while occasional Bible-reading is unfocused and hurried. And we, in our shortsightedness, are often okay with this sort of lifeless relationship with God. That’s to be expected when I’m overwhelmed, we think. So we trudge on, resolving to renew ourselves in him as soon as we get through the sea we’re drowning in.

    But we forget that our Lord parts seas. He does not intend overwhelming times to make us feel distant from Him. On the contrary, he intends them to draw us to him all the more.

    We need passages like these to remind us to run to God during such times:

    Hebrews 12:7-11 –  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

    2 Corinthians 4:7-18 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. . . . So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

    Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

    How foolish of us to think that our walk with God should suffer during times of difficulty and strain! Feeling overwhelmed should lead us closer to God.

    These age-old verses sum it up well:

    What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

    Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

    Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

    “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Jo­seph M. Scriv­en, 1855

  2. Cyber Monday, AmazonSmile, & End of the Year Giving

    Posted on November 25th, 2014 by Brooke Miller

    With the holidays around the corner, we want to let you know of a few simple ways you can give to help support the ministry of Radical:

    Cyber Monday Discounts
    Radical will be discounting some of the items in our store for one day only (Mon, December 1), many of which would make great Christmas gifts. Every purchase from the Radical Store go to support our ministry and allows us to continue making the majority of our resources available for free through our website. This is a true win-win… you support us as a ministry, and we (hopefully) help you do some Christmas shopping!

    AmazonSmile
    If you use Amazon.com to do any shopping (whether during this Christmas season or throughout the year), we want to let you know about a fairly new initiative called AmazonSmile. AmazonSmile gives 0.5% of every eligible purchase to the charity of your choice, and Radical is included as one of those charities. Would you consider supporting Radical with your AmazonSmile purchases this year?

    Once you go to AmazonSmile.com, you can set “Radical, Inc.” as your charity of choice for any purchases made through your account. THIS is the direct link to our AmazonSmile page (you’ll have to sign in to your Amazon account). Go here for more details about AmazonSmile.

    End of the Year Giving
    As we close out this year, we know that many people will be making additional donations above and beyond their regular giving. We would be grateful if you would consider including Radical as part of your giving this year. You can send your donations online or by mail to our office (Radical, 5511 Highway 280, Suite 215, Birmingham, AL 35242).

    We are very thankful for the financial support we receive.  We could not do what we do without your generous and sacrificial giving.

    With great appreciation,

    The Radical Team

  3. Talking About Spiritual Warfare

    Posted on November 24th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    When it comes to the topic of spiritual warfare, some Christians seem to be all in.

    You know the person I’m talking about: he finds demons lurking behind common colds, transmission problems, and every other less-than-ideal circumstance. When any difficulty arises, you’re likely to hear him say, “I think it’s the enemy.” While this approach to spiritual warfare has its problems, there’s another perspective on the demonic that poses a danger for many of us, and it’s just as unbiblical. Practically speaking, we act as if Satan doesn’t exist.

    We would never say that, of course, but in reality Satan’s opposition to Christ and his people makes no difference in our thoughts and actions and prayers. A number of factors may be involved: maybe we’re reacting against that Christian friend who’s always convinced that Satan is sabotaging her life, or perhaps we’ve adopted a naturalistic, secular mindset without realizing it, or maybe, and this seems highly likely, we just don’t want to sound weird. Attributing something to demonic opposition can make you feel, well, pretty unintelligent. However, as Christians, we shouldn’t decide what we believe based on how it makes us look. After all, we claim that Jonah was swallowed and then regurgitated by a giant fish, and that Christ will return to earth to judge both the living and the dead—so much for sounding sophisticated. Reality for us should be shaped by the Word of God, not what we see or feel.

    The idea of a cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan may sound bonkers to a watching world, but that doesn’t make it any less real or any less serious. Yes, Christians are secure because of Christ’s death and resurrection, but that doesn’t mean Satan is idle in the meantime. He is described as a devouring lion (1 Pet 5:8) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). John goes so far as to say that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). Shouldn’t that affect the way we pray and fight sin and give for the spread of the gospel?

    In the end, the reality of spiritual warfare doesn’t mean we look for demons behind every turn, nor should it cause Christians to panic. We are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3), and the One who is in us is greater than “he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). However, Satan’s opposition should remind us of our total dependence on God. Gospel proclamation and Christ-like living will put us in the devil’s cross-hairs, which is why we must put on the “whole armor of God” (Eph 6:11). Although victory is assured, there is, at least until Jesus comes, a battle to be fought.

    – For more on what Scripture teaches about spiritual warfare, see Secret Church 7, “Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare.

  4. Christians in Kilns, Advent of Unity, Discerning God’s Will

    Posted on November 21st, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Refiner’s Fire: Christians in the Kilns: In Pakistan’s Punjab district, 13 out of 19 brick kiln workers are Christians. They are effectively slaves, overworked and mistreated. Tragically, Christians Shahzad Masih and his pregnant wife, Shama Bibi, were killed by a mob in the brick kiln in which they worked earlier this month.

    Advent of Unity: Peter Leinhart beautifully shows how the coming of Christ was the coming of unity. “Advent marks a ‘genesis’ because in Jesus the human race gets a fresh start. Advent celebrates the Advent of humanity’s reunion, the coming of what Paul calls ‘one new man.'”

    8 Essential Components for Discerning God’s Will: “I know that some people maintain that God doesn’t have a will for our lives beyond our sanctification,” says David Sills, “but He does.” These are the eight biblical considerations he offers to those who are eager to discern their role in God’s global plan.

  5. Why Defining Marriage isn’t Merely a Political Issue

    Posted on November 20th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    Why should Christians and churches speak to the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, or to marriage in general? Aren’t these just political and social issues? Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC, talks about why marriage is a gospel issue in his recent address to worldwide religious leaders at the Vatican:

    As an evangelical Christian, I come to this discussion with motivations about the common good and human flourishing, but beyond these merely natural goods to an even deeper concern for what I believe to be the purpose of the entire cosmos: the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of us must stand together on conserving the truth of marriage as a complementary union of man and woman. But I would add that with that there is a distinctively Christian urgency for why the Christian churches must bear witness to these things. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus that the alpha and omega of the universe is personal, that the pattern and goal of the universe is summed up in what he called “the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 1:10). . . .

           . . . we stand and speak not with clenched fists or with wringing hands, but with the open hearts of those who have a message and a mission. And, as we do so, we will remind the world that we are not mere machines of flesh, but rather, we are creatures, accountable to nature and to nature’s God. We must do so with the confidence of those who know that on the other side of our culture wars, there’s a sexual counter-revolution waiting to be reborn, again.

    For a full transcript of Dr. Moore’s address, go here. The fact that marriage portrays and bears witness to the gospel is one of the reasons we’ll be covering this issue in Secret Church 15, “Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.” For more info, go here.

  6. What Jesus Removes from Our Prayers

    Posted on November 19th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    Do you ever feel like your prayers are too flawed to do any good? Sure, God hears us when we cry out to him, but what about prayers that are stained with sin?

    For those who struggle to persevere in hope as you pray, which is surely every Christian at one time or another, Puritan pastor Thomas Watson offers encouragement based on Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17. Watson reminds us not to fixate on the imperfection of our prayers, but instead to take comfort in Christ’s intercession for us:

    “Christ’s prayer takes away the sins of our prayers. As a child, says Ambrose, that is willing to present his father with a posy, goes into the garden, and there gathers some flowers and some weeds together, but coming to his mother, she picks out the weeds and binds the flowers, and so it is presented to the father: thus when we have put up our prayers, Christ comes, and picks away the weeds, the sin of our prayer, and presents nothing but flowers to His father, which are a sweet-smelling savour.” (1)

    Take heart, Christian. You may feel weak and unworthy in prayer, but Jesus is praying for you. And his prayers are always accepted.

    — (1) Thomas Watson, All Things for Good, 23.

  7. Construction, Building Up Your Spouse, & Missions

    Posted on November 18th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    We grew quiet as we neared the construction site. I cannot remember if our steps quickened or slowed, because I cannot remember why my heart rate increased. Anxiety or anger? It wasn’t our first time to walk past the builders, and since this road was the only way in and out of the area we lived in, we knew it wouldn’t be the last.

    The construction site was directly to our right now, and we kept our heads down as we skirted around the men. I’m sure our steps had quickened at this point. I’m also sure why my heart rate was now higher; I was angry. It’s ridiculous that they think it’s okay to stare people down while talking about them in another language. Were they staring at my wife and talking about her? They must know how rude they’re acting. It was one thing for wide-eyed children to point at you and say, “Mzungu, mzungu!” as they laughed and giggled, but, to me at least, it was quite another for adult men to carry on in Luganda as they unashamedly stared at us walking by.

    The rest of our walk home was marked by venting. Me to her, her back to me. Maybe there’s an appropriate kind of venting, but this was not it. Little did I know of the detrimental effect this type of reaction could have on my wife and on our ministry. There is no one better suited to influence your spouse than you, and, as evidenced by my unfortunate reaction, that’s not always a good thing.

    Thankfully, the Lord was at work, teaching us about the power of our own marriage.

    Now before I go on, I should say that we expected to stick out in Uganda. My wife has fair skin and dirty blonde hair, and, even by American standards, I’m about as white as they come. What we did not expect, and what we did not prepare for, was how much our perpetually sticking out would weigh on us. After a week, we were fine. After a month . . . we were tired. Always the object of curious stares, always treated differently, never blending in. We were both feeling it, and we spoke of it often. Even when sticking out meant good things – like being the guests of honor in Uganda’s kind, hospitable, and warm culture – the spotlight was draining. All this contributed to the angry feelings I felt when walking past the construction workers and the negative reaction we fostered in one another. The more my wife and I fed each other our own frustration with sticking out, the more frustrated we became.

    By God’s grace, the cycle did not continue. The Lord taught us a lesson that I hope you will find helpful, too. Essentially, it is this: Because of the one-flesh-unity that exists in marriage, it’s extremely easy to drag one another down with negativity; that one-flesh-unity ought to be used to pull one another up with positive encouragement instead.

    Being mindful of the power we had over one another’s attitudes was a game-changer for us during the remainder of our two month stay in Uganda. Rather than becoming heated and bitter by validating one another’s frustrations, we would remind each other not to focus on the negative. And when one of us was tempted to give into a disparaging mindset, the other could reverse course with good attitude or a word of encouragement in the vein of Philippians 4:8. The unique union that we shared gave us unique power to encourage one another.

    Walking by the construction site still wasn’t fun, but when we resolved to speak positive truth rather than spew negativity, we helped each other to better reflect Christ.

    God intends our marriages to be an aid to our mission. If we aren’t vigilant to use them as such, our marital unity can easily drag our spouses down rather than bring them up.

  8. Singleness, Marriage, and the Great Commission

    Posted on November 17th, 2014 by Jonathan

    Last month, David Platt was able to speak at the Ethics and Religious Liberty National Conference. The conference theme was The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage. It effectively helped Christian think through an appropriate response to the growing trend toward homosexuality while holding firm to a biblical view of marriage. You can view all of the talks HERE. You won’t regret it. Below is David’s message.

    Marriage and Missions: How Singleness and Marriage Connect to the Great Commission

  9. Marriage and Hospitality

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    The King Who Never Married: “It’s an odd story when the king never marries,” says Petar Nenadov. This short post explains what, from an earthly sense, was so odd about the life of Christ. The wonder of Jesus’ singleness . . .

    Hospitality, Sacrifice, and Delight in God: “In the abstract, I cherish the idea of guests in our home. In reality, I always feel a little too busy and a little too tired. This makes hospitality, at least for me, a discipline, a theologically-driven practice.” – Jen Pollock Michel

    Showing Wedding Hospitality to Single Friends: “When we practice hospitality (I Peter 4:9), we invite others in to our space in a desire to show them they are loved and welcome. And a wedding is a wonderful chance to practice hospitality.” Catherine Parks’ post includes some really practical ways to do this.

  10. Who’s Missing a Meal #ForTheMission?

    Posted on November 13th, 2014 by Jonathan

    Below are some of the people who have taken the challenge to miss a meal #ForTheMission this month. Instead of eating a meal, they’ve chosen to donate the money they would have spent on it to the spread of the gospel among the nations. If you would like to do the same, you can text “4mission” to 80888 to give $10 or donate online at www.imb.org/meal. Then be sure to post a picture of your empty plate with the hashtag #ForTheMission to help spread the word!

    Miss a Meal Collage 1 Miss a Meal Collage 2 Miss a Meal Collage 3

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