Posted on March 27th, 2015 by Jonathan
We wanted to let you know about an exciting new resource on missions. Pastor and missiologist J.D. Payne has recently launched “Strike the Match,” a weekly podcast on matters related to missions, innovation, and leadership. Here’s how the podcast is described on iTunes:
Each episode challenges listeners to be students of both God’s Word and God’s world. Reflecting on his first transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh said, “I was astonished at the effect my successful landing in France had on nations of the world. To me, it was like a match lighting a bonfire.” While we are not in the aviation business, it is our hope each podcast will be transformational, informational, and inspirational as you labor for the four billion who have not heard of Jesus!
As you listen, may you be inspired and equipped to take the gospel to the nations in biblical and strategic ways.
In the most recent episode, J.D. talks with David Platt about his new role at the IMB and his latest book, Counter Culture.
Posted on March 27th, 2015 by Jonathan
Woman Who Wrote Pleading Letter to Brittany Maynard Has Died. With Dignity.: Kara Tippetts died this past Sunday, after a three-year-long battle with cancer. In stark contrast with the death of Brittany Maynard, whom she reached out to, Tippets fought for more time with her family, believing that “all our moments are precious gifts.” Tippetts walked closely with the Lord, and she suffered and died well.
Always Care, Never Kill: Ryan Anderson offers an academic and technical argument against physician-assisted suicide. His paper engages those who are proponents of it with excellent research and insight. If you’d like to listen to an interview with Anderson about his paper, Andrew Walker asked him about it here.
5 Reasons to Rejoice in Persecution: Tim Challies “was recently studying 1 Peter 4 and found 5 reasons that we can and should rejoice even now when we are persecuted, or even in that day when we face much greater persecution.”
Put Laziness to Rest: Continuing on from a previous post for Desiring God, Paul Maxwell shares five things we should rest from... all of which combat the inclination we have toward laziness. “Stop withdrawing from a world that doesn’t exist — one in which you think you have to control everything or else it crumbles.”
Posted on March 26th, 2015 by Jonathan
Mission: Bringing Joy & Purpose to Orphans
Method: We seek to mobilize the Church, His body, where each member can provide a unique and special service: some to adopt, some to care, some to give.
What They Do: “Our Children” will have:
- No want for food, clothing, medical care, or shelter.
- Fundamental Christian training and discipleship.
- A quality education to provide a foundation for the future.
- Continued love and support as they transition into adult living.
100% of all donations to Lifesong for Orphans will go to caring for orphans (no administrative costs will be deducted). All US based fundraising and administrative costs are paid for by TMG Foundation and other partners.
Get Involved: You can partner with Lifesong in caring for orphans in MANY ways. To name a few…
- Lifesong gives financial assistance to married couples who are adopting in the form of grants and loans. If money is holding you back from adopting, Lifesong can help.
- You can sponsor a child in Lifesong’s care.
- You can support those involved in foster care through the The Forgotten Initiative.
- You can give to Lifesong to support them in their many facets of ministry.
We are honored to say that Lifeline is one of our Counter Culture ministry partners.
Find out more about Lifesong by visiting LifesongForOrphans.org, from which all of the above information was taken.
Posted on March 25th, 2015 by David Burnette
It’s 7:03 am and you’ve got your Bible on your lap and a hot cup of coffee in your right hand. It’s time for your morning devotions. So far, so good.
It’s here, about the time you get five verses in, that it happens. Your thoughts start drifting. You begin to stare off into space. Instead of focusing on the Ten Commandments, your reading for the day, you’re thinking about an email you have to send at work, or the game you watched last night, or about how tired you are. Focus.
You start reading again, and then, five verses later, it happens . . . again. You’re starting to rest, but it’s not in the Lord. Sound familiar?
Whatever your morning (or evening routine) for your devotions, my guess is that you’ve had the frustrating experience of not being able to focus on the most important thing your soul needs for the day. You’ve got a limited amount of time before you leave for work, or before the kids wake up, but the Word of life seems to be going in one ear and out the other. It’s frustrating, but what can you do about it?
Of course, you probably need to get more sleep – as much as that’s possible for moms with young kids – but that may not solve everything. Whether it’s our hectic schedules or our reading comprehension level, there are a number of possible explanations for why we have trouble concentrating on God’s Word. Nevertheless, there are some things we can do to take better advantage of this time. Asking God to help you is a good first step, but sometimes prayer can be even more difficult at these times than reading.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer a few practical steps to jump-start your devotions, that is, to get your heart and your mind ready to hear from God’s Word. I know that schedules, preferences, and even your physical and mental wiring will affect what works for you. With all that said, have you considered that you might . . .
1. Start with an appetizer. By appetizer, I’m talking about reading something based on the truth of Scripture that will whet your appetite for Scripture. Here are a few ideas: a few pages from a trusted Christian author, a theologically rich hymn, or a prayer from some great saint of the past. Like stretching before a jog, it’s a way to prepare your mind for the mental and spiritual exercise ahead.
2. Get your blood pumping. If possible, take a short walk before you open your Bible. Or maybe it’s a jog, or hitting the elliptical, or whatever your workout routine is. Even light exercise can get your mental juices flowing. This won’t automatically remove your desire for sin, but it can help to break up the mental stagnation as you prepare to think about the promises of God.
3. Get less comfortable. That is, don’t set yourself up to fail by laying back in the recliner. Find a spot that’s comfortable, not one that’s conducive to napping. The goal is to be attentive and to stay engaged. Support your back, but don’t get horizontal.
God has created us in such a way that our hearts our affected by how our bodies feel (and vica versa). To put it another way, the spiritual is bound up with the physical. That’s why we shouldn’t be surprised that trusting the Lord is more difficult on fours of sleep. It’s also why we should take advantage of ordinary means to prepare our minds for the truth. Spurgeon’s counsel to his ministerial students would do us good: “A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”
What practical steps can you add to the list above?
Posted on March 24th, 2015 by Jonathan
This week, the ERLC is hosting their 2015 Leadership Conference on The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation. Be on the look out for resources from them on this timely and important issue in the days ahead. As David Platt contends in his latest book, Counter Culture, racism is a gospel issue.
In the video below, Trillia Newbell (consultant on Women’s Initiatives for the ERLC) talks about how ethnic diversity is tied to the gospel.
Posted on March 23rd, 2015 by Eric Parker
As noted in the previous post in this series, we’ve all been in that Bible study where we seem to be having a good discussion, people are engaged, the comments are insightful, and then Bob speaks up. And Bob, bless his soul, somehow always manages to provide some odd interpretation about the passage. We are exploring in this series of posts some of the approaches to Bible study that David Platt identifies in this “Radical Together” podcast about studying the Bible.
Have you ever been studying a particularly difficult passage of Scripture, on a particularly difficult aspect of God’s character or purpose, and heard someone say, “Well my God would never ______”? Or what about, “I could never serve a God who does _____”? These are common phrases that flow out of an “emotional approach” to studying the Bible. In his Secret Church study on how to study the Bible, David talks about the “emotional approach” saying,
This is a dangerous way to study the Bible. To go to a text of Scripture and say, “All right. What feels like it works best for me? What feels good to me when I walk away from this?” The only problem is, if you want to have what feels right, you will skip over all kinds of texts in the Bible because some kinds of texts just don’t incite the kind of good, mushy feelings that you desire from Bible study. You begin reading about the wrath of God in the prophets of the Old Testament, and you will not walk away feeling great. You read Lamentations, and you will just flat out be depressed. We can’t base our understanding of Scripture on what feels right to us.
Now, if the “emotional approach” is dangerous, then what do we do with our emotions? Do we just check them at the door of Scripture? Does God just want immediate, unequivocal submission, with no thought or care as to how we feel about this truth or that command?
These are good questions, but by asking these questions, we fail to ask better questions. You see, God cares deeply about how we feel, both in the trials of our lives and in our wrestling through what we see in Scripture about him and his purposes. He cares so deeply, in fact, that he gave us the Scriptures for this very purpose! So the better question is not, “Does God care about our emotions?” but rather “What is wrong with our emotions?” and “What has God done to make change possible?”and “What does God intend to do with our emotions as we study the Bible?”
Many of us do not realize the extent of the Fall on all of humanity. When Adam and Eve committed that first sin against God in the Garden, it brought distortion into all the world. Every man, woman, and child since has been born into this world as a sinner. Despite popular opinion, we are not born morally neutral creatures with equal ability to choose the good or bad. We are born woefully distorted people, with an utterly sinful nature.
So it’s not just that we do some bad things, but it is that we are born bad people . . . people who as a result, do bad things. This is the major point of all of Romans 1:18-3:23, as well as Romans 5:12-21. The implication, then, of us not being morally neutral creatures who choose to do bad things, but of being morally sinful creatures, is that actions arise from thoughts and emotion. So we do bad things because our hearts, along with the heart’s desires, are filled with sin, which in turn affects how we reason with our mind. (See Romans 1:21, 24, 28; 2 Corinthians 3:15; 4:4; Ephesians 2:3; 4:17; Colossians 1:21)
So if this is the situation, then what can be done? When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, he didn’t just provide salvation from sin and its judgment for everyone who believes in him. That would have been woefully inadequate for God’s ultimate purposes. You see, God isn’t content to just save you, and then leave you in the state in which he came to you. Christ’s death and resurrection began a whole new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:15-18)! Now, when anyone truly places their trust in Christ, they are brought into the new creation in, through, and with Christ (Eph. 2:15).
As a result, we can now say with Paul, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Not only that, but now Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17), and “the eyes of [our] hearts [have been] enlightened, that [we] may know what is the hope to which he has called” us (Eph. 1:18).
And its not just our hearts, but our minds too! As a result of being brought into this new creation, we have received the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and now that we live according to the Spirit, we can set our minds on the things of Spirit (Rom. 8:5). What this all means is that we now have new hearts and new minds that are capable of feeling the right emotions and thinking the right thoughts.
Yet, we are still in a fallen world in a not-yet fully redeemed condition where we still do not always feel and think as we should. But the difference between how we were and how we are is that who we are has now been fundamentally changed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Now as we read Scripture, we come with the ultimate hope of change. Change in how we think; change in how we feel (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-23). We don’t avoid hard passages because of how they makes us feel, but rather we run to Scripture and ask God to use it to continually change how we think and feel so that we are more like him. Ultimately, the best approaches to Bible study do not check emotions at the door, but rather they bring them through the door in the hope that God will change them by the power of the Holy Spirit as people study and meditate on his Word.
Posted on March 21st, 2015 by David Burnette
With World Water Day coming up this Sunday, March 22nd, it’s a good time to introduce you to a ministry whose mission is “to love and serve and walk alongside the poor with dignity while empowering people to gain access to clean water.” Meet Neverthirst.
Neverthirst seeks to provide clean and living water to those who need it most. This means serving people of all races, religions, ethnicities, and genders in order to bring clean water, health, and hope. Neverthirst aims to meet urgent physical needs, while partnering with like-minded churches and ministries to address the greatest need of every person on the planet – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Visit their website here to find out more.
Neverthirst is asking people to partner with them on this upcoming World Water Day (March 22nd) in order to provide 100 families in Cambodia with access to clean water. To find out more about how you can help, go here. Because poverty is one of the issues covered in Counter Culture, we’ve included Neverthirst as one of our ministry partners on the Counter Culture book site.
Here’s a short video about what Neverthirst does . . .
–Neverthirst is an international non profit Christian organization.
Posted on March 20th, 2015 by Jonathan
The Two Cups: Scott James has just published a new family Easter devotional: Mission Accomplished. This post (“Day 5″) will give you good taste for the format and focus of this valuable family worship tool. “To bless us with the cup of the new covenant, Jesus would take the painful cup of wrath.”
When orphan care goes bad: Russell Moore on why adoption is not for everyone: Contrary to what the title may lead you to assume, Russell Moore is arguing for adoption in this Washington Post article. He’s just arguing that it needs to be done right, by families who are aware of potential risks and well equipped to confront them.
Moms Need Theology Too: “If you had to choose between studying theology and reading a book on practical tips for your daily life, which would you choose?” Christina Fox clearly shows that theology is vital to the day to day tasks required of mothers.
Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting: “No matter how much the revolutionaries protest to the contrary, children do still need a mom and a dad,” says Denny Burk. He cites an article by Heather Barwick, who writes from experience.
You may or may not be aware of the ten Counter Culture booklets released in conjunction with David Platt’s latest book. Each booklet corresponds with one of the topic-specific chapters in Counter Culture, so they serve as great introductions to each of the issues covered in the book.
Here are some ideas for how you can effectively utilize the booklets.
- Small Groups: Many small groups like to serve their communities together. If that’s you, your group may benefit from going through one of the booklet to get acquainted with a specific issue. If, for example, your group is contemplating whether to serve at a soup kitchen or work with international students from a local college, reading the Poverty booklet and/or the Unreached People Groups booklet may help you understand some of the biblical motivations for such service.
- People on the Fence About Counter Culture: Not everyone is dying to get their hands on a copy of Counter Culture upon hearing about it. It could be that a few of the booklets, the first one in particular (Because We are Called to Counter Culture), help people like this decide if they’d like to read the full book. Some may have misconceptions about Counter Culture’s tone or overall direction, and the booklets may help to correct those errors.
- Someone Only Interested in One of the Issues: Maybe you have a friend who has focused all their attention on one of the issues covered in Counter Culture. They aren’t so concerned with racism and abortion as they are with sex slavery – that’s their thing. For folks like this, Counter Culture might not pique their interest… but a brief booklet on Sex Slavery may. What’s great about this is that in the process of reading about sex slavery, they may come to see how it is connected to the gospel, and in turn, be compelled look at other gospel issues in the culture around them.
- Local Church Ministries: Maybe your church has a ministry that you are involved in – perhaps a ministry to women who have had abortions, a pornography addiction recovery group, or a community center in a low income neighborhood. These booklets might provide you with a good, albeit brief, overview of your particular ministry’s focus for church members interested in getting involved in it. For instance, for the pornography addiction group, the Sexual Immorality booklet might remind you (and others in the group) of why and how people are prone to such sin and then point you to why and how you should combat it.
- A Sermon Series: The Counter Culture booklets could be great tools to pass out to a congregation that’s in the middle of a sermon series on one of the topics they cover. If your church happens to be preaching about homosexuality and same-sex marriage for a few weeks, church leaders could order copies of the Same-Sex Marriage booklet for everyone to read as a short supplement.
Of course, these certainly aren’t the only ways you can use the booklets. We hope these five ideas get you thinking about how you might take advantage of these great little resources as you counter the culture around you with the good news of Jesus.
This year’s Secret Church topic will touch on abortion, immigration, same-sex marriage, pornography, racism, and more. So here’s the question: will it have any relevance outside America’s borders?
The Secret Church simulcast is international. Participants in countries around the world will be joining us on April 24. But it’s also more than that. One of our goals for Secret Church is to produce biblically sound teaching that we can translate into other languages, and thereby equip believers in churches overseas. In fact, we want Secret Church to be useful for believers in the very areas we highlight and pray for at our annual gathering… areas filled with ignorance of and opposition to the gospel.
So how does this year’s topic square with our aim of translating the teaching and equipping the church abroad? It seems that Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action simply dives into the American political conversation by taking on “hot buttons” that frequent our American news cycles. Is there any way that Vietnamese Christians could find teaching on racism helpful in their context? Or could the underground church in Saudi Arabia possibly benefit from an Arabic translation of how we American Christians ought to respond to same-sex marriage court rulings?
There’s a clearer link than it may seem. Part of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations including “teaching them to observe all that [Jesus has] commanded.” We cannot be faithful to the mission of God and neglect the full counsel of his Word. So when the Bible is clear, we must be too, even if a particular issue seems less relevant in certain cultural contexts.
On top of that, currently at the forefront of Christian higher education, America sends out thousands of missionaries. For the sake of gospel advance among unreached people groups, we need to get our theology right. If, for example, the American church decided that there was nothing wrong with abortion, the churches abroad that we help plant and train would likely also learn to devalue image-bearers of God in one way or another. Or take sexual sin. We can’t genuinely equip believers to combat sex trafficking overseas if we’re okay with pornography at home, because (aside from direct links between the two in many cases) the truth of the gospel should lead us to reject all sexual immorality: we are the bride of Christ!
In other words, any issue that’s a gospel issue is worth teaching. All these controversial “political” positions are actually gospel issues, and that is alway relevant. The specific application may differ from culture to culture, just as our application of truth in Paul’s epistles differs from that of the churches Paul was writing to. But gospel truth is always instructive.
The issues at hand in Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action may have more global relevance than you realized. For the sake of secret churches everywhere, we can’t afford not to speak up.
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