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  1. Your Role in the Greatest Journey

    Posted on July 29th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    Last week you learned about how Operation Christmas Child is more than just a shoebox full of goodies. Each child who receives a shoebox also has the opportunity to take part in what Samaritan’s Purse has titled The Greatest Journey (TGJ). In partnership with local churches, this interactive, 12-lesson discipleship course is aimed at teaching children what it looks like to faithfully follow Christ. TGJ has only been around for about six years, but its impact has already been felt, both deep and wide.

    As you can imagine, this sort of follow up is both difficult and costly. That’s where you come in.

    Below, we’ve listed some ways that you can get involved in supporting this invaluable disciple-making endeavor.

    1. Host a shoebox packing party this year for Operation Christmas Child. As a part of that gathering, spend some time praying together for TGJ…
      • That a local church is able and willing to facilitate TGJ for the children who are receiving the boxes you are packing.
      • That TGJ would expand beyond the 74 countries in which it is currently offered.
      • That as a result of TGJ, millions of children around the world would place their trust in Christ.
      • That TGJ graduates would faithfully share Jesus with their friends and family (as they are challenged to do at the close of the course), and that even more would come to faith in Christ as a result
    2. Skip one meal every month. Instead buying a meal, donate $6 to TGJ. This monthly gift “will give 12 children study materials, a New Testament, and the opportunity to learn what it means to devote their lives to sharing the Good News of eternal grace through Jesus Christ.” Spend time you would have spent eating praying for children and who are going through TGJ. Consider committing to this with a small group of people who can keep you accountable and pray with you.
    3. Feeling ambitious? Sponsor an entire country for TGJ. Obviously, this can get costly. So you’ll have to be creative. Host a group garage sale. Coordinate a fundraiser (a garage sale, a tournament, a 5K, etc.). At just $3,000, your small group may be able to handle Seychelles (an island country off the coast of East Africa). Your entire church may be able to sponsor Nepal.

    There are any number of ways to continue this list, but maybe it’ll get you thinking in the right direction. As a Counter Culture ministry partner, we highly commend Samaritan’s Purse to you as way to engage in meeting not only physical needs around the world, but also, through The Greatest Journey, spiritual needs. Yet another way to be part of making disciples of all nations.

  2. That They Might Feel Their Way Toward Him

    Posted on July 28th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    You may have heard about the suicide bombing that killed 31 people in Turkey last week (Yahoo News). Those attacked were part of an activist group that had gathered to prepare an aid mission to the Syrian city of Kobane, just across the border from where they were in Suruc. The group’s aim was to help rebuild Kobane, war-torn after multiple advances from ISIS. Indicators suggest that the man who carried out the deadly attack had links to ISIS.

    Such tragedies merit the attention of the Christian community as we seek to love our neighbors well. But the closing few lines of the Yahoo News article cited above, easy to gloss over, deserve our attention as well:

    Suruc, once a centre of silk-making, is home to one of the biggest refugee camps in Turkey housing Syrians who have fled their country’s bloody four-year conflict.

    The camp shelters about 35,000 refugees out of a total of more than 1.8 million refugees taken in by Turkey since 2011.

    A steady exodus of refugees fleeing a four-year long civil war doesn’t naturally lend itself to headlines, but such numbers are alarming. We’ve talked before about the Syrian refugee crises, but let’s focus in on Turkey for a moment.

    In large part due to the Syrian war, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, the population still rising. There are over one million Syrians now in Turkey, and, as we’ve discussed, there are 18 unreached people groups in Syria. But this is a case of need on top of need, because, percentage-wise, Turkey is the least reached country in the world.

    The weight of need in Turkey grows with each new refugee that’s registered there. Meanwhile, ISIS continues its advance along the Turkish border. Might it be that God is at work in the hearts of people there, using their sense of physical peril to open their eyes to the imperiled state of their eternal soul? In Acts 17, Paul says of the nations that God has “determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (vv. 16-27). God is sovereignly orchestrating the migration of people groups that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Many of them are now in Turkey; who there will tell them what they’re looking for?

    As Syrian refugees in Turkey lose their homes and their sense of safety, who will tell them of the divine comforter? As Turkish nationals anxiously peer into Syria, the rumblings the terror now at their doorstep, who will tell them about the reigning Prince of Peace? As ISIS militants visit the Turkish border, will they see anyone bearing witness to the God who is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26)?

    At the bottom of it all, the question is this: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14)

  3. The Child Yet Unborn: New Radical Together Podcast

    Posted on July 28th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    You’ve probably seen the recent videos exposing the sale of body parts of aborted babies by Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion provider. These undercover videos put out by The Center for Medical Progress offer a disturbing, yet vivid reminder of the evil of abortion.

    Because the two major political parties in the U.S. are typically on different sides of the abortion issue, it’s all too easy to forget that abortion is not primarily a political issue. In fact, it’s not fundamentally a women’s or children’s issue. In the latest Radical Together podcast episode, “The Child Yet Unborn,” David Platt argues from Scripture that abortion is first and foremost a God issue. He points to Psalm 139:13-16 to make this very point,

    For you formed my inward parts;
    you
    knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

    My frame was not hidden from you,
    when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in
    the depths of the earth.
    Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
    in your
    book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

    Regardless of what our society calls the unborn–a fetus, a clump of cells, or merely tissue–it is God’s view that matters, and his intimate relationship with the unborn is clear from Scripture. Believers must, therefore, speak and work for truth and justice on this issue.

    This week’s podcast is the first of two episodes dealing with the topic of abortion. Be sure also to check out our Counter Culture ministry partners to see how you can engage this issue–to speak with courage for the unborn and to reach out with compassion to those who feel as if abortion is their only option.

  4. What If I Don’t Learn Anything In My Quiet Time?

    Posted on July 27th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    You pick up your Bible in the morning, grab the ribbon coming out the bottom, and flip open the thin pages to where you last left off in 2 Thessalonians… only to find that the next section heading reads “The Man of Lawlessness.” Arghh, you groan, though not out loud of course. This isn’t going to help me with that deadline I’m so stressed out about. Your eyes slide down the page to the next heading – “Stand Firm.” There it is. That must be what I’m supposed to read today. You quickly read the first part of the chapter so that when you get to “the good stuff” you can really slow down and take it in.

    Inspired, Living, and Powerful

    Perhaps more often than we’d like, we come across passages of Scripture that seem fairly irrelevant to us. Leviticus is a prime example. But these sorts of difficult passages are all over the Bible, and on a daily basis, we don’t know what to do with them. How can our stressed out families meaningfully “put feet” to the stories of atrocious sin in Judges? Can the frequent “everything is meaningless” refrain of Ecclesiastes do anything to help us get through Monday morning? Is it possible for our problem-riddled small groups to edify one another with Paul’s letter to Philemon about his slave?

    Especially when it comes to our daily devotions, much to the neglect of other inspired passages, we naturally gravitate to the seemingly more practical sections of Scripture.

    Such an approach is easy to have, and sometimes we don’t even realize we have it. But it’s obviously lacking, because “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16). We also know that the Bible is more than ink on a page aimed at relaying information, but rather, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). In Christ, the Word has power to cleanse (Eph 5:26).

    That in mind, what do we do with Leviticus, the man of lawlessness, and everything in between?

    The Right Questions, The Right Focus

    It’s been said that Scripture doesn’t render its fruit to the lazy. So quiet time means work. When our Bible reading for the day doesn’t seem to apply to our life, we don’t give up the fight. We wrestle with the difficult texts, reading them and re-reading them. We utilize the cross-references in the margins of our Bibles to get the bigger picture. Like reporters, we ask ourselves question after question about what’s going on and what it means.

    We may need to first make sure that you’re asking the right questions, though. If our main questions are centered around what facts we can learn, where we can grow, which promises apply to our needs, and how we should change, we’re being short-sighted. Those questions are all good and necessary, but they aren’t enough. Topping our list of questions should be what the passage teaches us about God. He is, after all, the reason we read in the first place.

    In fact, focusing most on God might be the fundamental paradigm shift our quiet time needs. Explanations of ceremonial law in Leviticus might not be the most instructive passages for us if we’re struggling with a difficult boss at work, but what do those passages tell us about the God we serve? What does the imagery in Revelation reveal about the God of creation and how he sees things? Who is God revealing himself to be? Just as our relationships with people cannot grow if we ignore them when they speak, our relationship with God can only flourish through hearing his Word. This – not mere learning – is the highest goal of Bible study. We don’t consuming the Bible like a Happy Meal; we commune with God through the feast of his Word.

    Trust the Author

    As we meet with God in Scripture, we must remember when we get to a difficult or seemingly distant text: all Scripture is God-breathed, inspired by him. He’s given it to us for a reason. Even if we can’t always articulate its implications for our daily living, we can trust that, over time, the Spirit is using it to transform us more and more into the image of its divine Author. We must have a higher view of the living Word than we do of our sin-sick intellectual capacity.

    All this means that we should not view the Man of Lawlessness section of Scripture as a waste of time. Instead, we should prayerfully dive in, trying our best to understand it, but with a focus on knowing our great God more. And if, when we close our Bible, the man of lawlessness hasn’t “wrecked” us like we hoped, we can still smile and trust God’s living Word, thankful for his grace-filled promise regarding it: “It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is 55:11).

  5. wellsaidlonelygirl

    1. 10 Numbers You Should Know about Planned Parenthood: As videos continue to come out about Planned Parenthood, Joe Carter has put together some (troubling) numbers to keep in mind as you think about and engage others on the issue of abortion.

    2. Who Pours into You?: While some Christians feel that another person, usually older, must be “pouring” into them, Christine Hoover talks about why this good desire can be taken the wrong way. She encourages us not only to “pour” into others, but also to look to the church body for mutual encouragement.

    3. The Sunday Worship Killer: Here’s some good counsel on the dangers of a critical spirit as we gather with God’s people on Sunday. Jason Helopoulos suggests some ways to prepare our hearts for this great privilege.

  6. How to Make a Pro-Life Argument in Two Minutes

    Posted on July 23rd, 2015 by Jonathan

    Over the weekend, in the wake of the first gruesome Planned Parenthood video (the second one has since been released), Justin Taylor posted the above video on his blog. Its aim is to help you defend life as the national conversation about abortion is brought back to the forefront.

    In it, Scott Klusendorf shows you how to establish a clear, concise, and compelling defense of the pro-life stance, one that would be useful even in conversations with unbelievers. In sum: “Use science to show that the unborn are human; use philosophy to show that there is no relevant difference between what we were in the womb and what we are today that would justify killing us.”

    For a full written version, go here.

    (HT: Justin Taylor)

  7. You may already know that Samaritan’s Purse sends shoeboxes full of supplies to children in need each Christmas through Operation Christmas Child. But did you know that those shoeboxes are only one part of a much bigger strategy of making disciples in places where there are great physical and spiritual needs? Watch the video above to learn more about The Greatest Journey.

    Samaritan’s Purse is one of our Counter Culture ministry partners on the issue of poverty, and they have designed The Greatest Journey Bible study course in order to teach children, and then hopefully their families, what it means to follow Jesus. Children who get a shoebox also get a presentation of the gospel in their own language. Then they have the option of being a part of The Greatest Journey Bible study. This course teaches children about the gospel and about the basics of the faith, including how to share their faith with family and friends. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches, so children who want to follow Jesus are connected with a local body of believers.

    Samaritan’s Purse is seeking to introduce the gospel to children, families, and entire villages. The Greatest Journey is a great of example of meeting both physical and spiritual needs. To learn more about The Greatest Journey or to give a gift, go here. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we highlight other aspects of this ministry, as well as personal testimonies from those who have been impacted by it.

  8. Mutual Brokenness Over Sexual Sin

    Posted on July 20th, 2015 by Radical

    “The culture doesn’t listen to us on issues of sexual immorality and impurity, not only because their hearts are hard and they don’t want to believe the truth, but also because Christians have had a nasty little habit of talking about sexual issues from a standpoint of arrogance and superiority instead of mutual brokenness. The reality is every single Christian – every single Christian – has sinned sexually, and every single Christian will sin sexually again.”

    Dr. Heath Lambert goes on to talk about why it is so important for the church to begin with humble introspection when it comes to addressing issues of sexual sin.

    Heath Lambert serves as Executive Director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, a Counter Culture ministry partner. ACBC is the largest biblical counseling organization in the world with certified counselors and counseling training centers in 17 countries. He is also the author of Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace (Zondervan, 2013). Learn more about Lambert here.

    Sexual immorality is one of the most pervasive issues covered in David Platt’s latest book, Counter Culture. Learn more at CounterCultureBook.com.

  9. This is Impossible for God to Do

    Posted on July 17th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    It may surprise you to learn that there’s something God can’t do.

    Of course, Jesus tells us that with God “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), and we certainly don’t want to deny that God is all-powerful or that he has all authority. No one can thwart his purposes (Daniel 4:35). Still, according to Scripture, there is something that God can’t do, but it turns out that it’s actually for our good—he cannot lie. This attribute of God, his faithfulness, is the last of several snapshots we’ve taken of his character (see also God’s holiness, mercy, and wrath). To know that God “never lies” (Titus 1:2) should change the way we think about and respond to him.

    Lies and Truth

    It goes without saying that human relationships are often marked by unfaithfulness. Marriages, friendships, and businesses suffer as a result of dishonesty and deception. When it comes to our political leaders, we don’t even expect them to fulfill their campaign promises. Sometimes our unfaithfulness is intentional, but often we simply forget to do what we said, or else we are unable to keep our word due to circumstances or limitations. Whatever the case, we are often wary of placing too much confidence in people or institutions. Thankfully, we don’t need to be skeptical when it comes to God.

    When God makes a promise, there is no chance that he will fail to make good on it. This is the assurance we are offered in Hebrews 6:18, where we are told that it is “ . . . impossible for God to lie.” This is obviously good news for those who belong to Christ, since Scripture is filled with God’s gracious promises to us. This is the God who makes himself known to us as the covenant-keeping Lord; faithfulness is foundational to who he is. Nothing short of our salvation and our eternity are dependent on God keeping his word. The psalmist reminds us,

    “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” (Psalm 33:4)

    The Bad News

    There is a negative side to God’s faithfulness. Those who rebel against God can rest assured that his promise of judgment will be kept. If he says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), then we don’t have to guess when it comes to the consequences of disobedience. Remember, this is the God who never lies. He promised Israel that they would be kicked out of the Promised Land if they disobeyed him, and, sure enough, when they turned to idolatry and injustice, he sent them into exile. This is what it means to be faithful.

    What This Means for Us

    For believers, God’s faithfulness is our security and hope. We know he will take care of us both now and in eternity, because he said he would (Romans 8:38-39). Our forgiveness, our righteousness, and our final reward are dependent on his truthfulness. Perhaps a few more takeaways will motivate you to hold fast to this aspect of God’s character.

    • God’s faithfulness means that we can have 100% confidence in Scripture. “Every word of God proves true,” we are told in Proverbs 30:5. [1] Every time we open up our Bibles we are reading the words of the God who cannot lie. His ways may not always seem best, particularly if we’re listening to the culture around us, but we can trust him nonetheless. He will be faithful to act on what he has said.
    • God’s faithfulness means that we should be faithful in our words and actions. As those who want to reflect the character of God, we must be people who keep our promises. Paul tells the believers in Colossae, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9). We should never mislead others with our words. Our integrity, though it will never be perfect in this life, should bear witness to the God who can be trusted in every situation.
    • God’s faithfulness means that we don’t have to panic over evil. Because we know God will be faithful to punish works that are evil (Romans 2:6-10), we don’t have to wring our hands over the latest disturbing headlines. Sure, we should be compelled to act and to speak for truth and justice, but not in some kind of panicked way that shows a lack of faith that God will, at his appointed time, judge every sin.
    • God’s faithfulness means that our call to others to repent and believe in Jesus is not empty. Salvation is available to “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” (Romans 10:13), so we can tell unbelievers with confidence that forgiveness and eternal life are available in Christ. God’s truthfulness should lead us to urge people to turn to Christ, for we know that, like us, they too will find him to be sufficient.

    — For more on God’s character, see Secret Church 4, “Who is God?”

    [1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 196

  10. Exposing and Engaging Planned Parenthood & Abortion

    Posted on July 15th, 2015 by Radical

    Below is the disturbing video that’s been going around in which a Planned Parenthood doctor talks about the organization’s practice of selling the body parts of the aborted babies. It is horrific on a number of levels, shedding even more light on the evil of Planned Parenthood and abortion.

    We hope you’ll be helped by the responses of some Christian leaders:

    Planned Parenthood and the Atrocity of Corpse Selling – “Is it not clear that these are not health-care providers but pirates and grave-robbers of those who have no graves?” (Russell Moore)

    Outraged at Planned Parenthood? Here are 6 Things You Can Do Now – “What should you do with the outrage you feel at the abortion industrial complex, the wicked conglomerate, Planned Parenthood, that targets vulnerable young women for profit? Here are [six] things we can do, right now…” (Daniel Darling)

    Planned Parenthood: How Much Longer? – “Mind-changing momentum is beginning to build, and to our surprise, it’s not so much from the direct work of pro-life advocates, but from the unmasked mishaps of abortion activists themselves.” (Jonathan Parnell)

    The sale of fetal body parts: gruesome–and shockingly legal – “The discussion in the video is graphic, gruesome, and disturbing. What’s even more shocking is that this practice may actually be legal under current federal law.” (Joe Carter)

    This Kind Cannot Be Driven Out by Worldview Training and Legislation: The Place of Prayer and Fasting for the Pro-Life Movement – “What looks foolish to the world (forgoing food to pray for the protection of the unborn) may look utterly foolish to the world, but it will be pleasing to the God who sees and rewards in secret.” (Justin Taylor)

    We Know They are Killing Children–All of Us Know – “We have killed fifty million babies. And what increases our guilt as a nation is that we know what we are doing. Here’s the evidence that we know we are killing children.” (John Piper)