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  1. How You Can Pray for David Platt, and Why He Needs It

    Posted on October 25th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Each weekday, Desiring God posts a feature on their website called Ask Pastor John. In it, John Piper addresses a wide variety of issues based on questions that people send in. The segments are short, interesting, and practical; we highly recommend taking advantage of this resource.

    In last Thursday’s edition, Piper talked about his reaction to David Platt recently becoming the president of the International Mission Board. It was a good reminder of the weight of the task before us, to say the least. We wanted to point it out to you as a motivator to pray for David and the missionaries of the IMB. Not only is the IMB an important organization with worldwide and eternal impact, but David’s appointment comes at an important time in the course of Christian missions.

    Join John Piper in praying that this transition “will have a global, God-glorifying, mission-completeing impact of historic scope, all out of proportion to [Platt's] limitations. May it be, indeed, an end-time move of the Spirit to hasten the Day of God.”

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  2. Pastoral Insights, Mission Trips, University, Sexual Sin

    Posted on October 24th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Ten Lessons I learned Pastoring the Same Church for Ten Years: For ten “particularly difficult and yet very special” years, Brian Croft has pastored the same church. Pastors and pastors-to-be will find the lessons he’s learned both encouraging and instructive.

    Eight Ways to Redeem That Mission Trip: “Being a good steward of the blessings God gives us includes that we reflect on and treasure them.” David Sills gives us eight ways to do just that on the heels of any mission trip.

    The Most Important Reality in Overcoming Sexual Sin: Heath Lambert says that “when we are counseling people who struggle sexually the most important thing we will help them do is to know God.”

    The University as a Cross-Cultural Mission: When it comes to sharing your faith, Scott James offers some practical help to those who live and work in a highly-academic, university setting . . . all stemming from a cross-cultural missions mindset.

  3. Can We Know God?

    Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Can we know God? The reality is, God is incomprehensible. Psalm 145:3 says, “His greatness no one can fathom.”… We can never fully understand any single thing about God. We can know something about God’s love, power, wisdom and the other attributes… But we can never know His love, power, wisdom or other attributes exhaustively. This is key for us to understand. We can know something about Him, but we can’t know Him exhaustively.

    Now some of you are thinking, “What about 1 Corinthians 13:12?” It says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully.” Well what Paul is saying is, there’s coming a day where our knowledge is going to be more complete, but he’s not saying there’s going to be a day when we are going to be omniscient. Paul doesn’t say in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that one day we’ll know all things. We have this idea sometimes. We think, and we even say, when we get to heaven we’ll know everything. I hate to break it to you, but when you go to heaven you’re not going to be God. It’s not going to happen. It’s not the purpose. You’re not going to know all things. His omniscience is an attribute unique to Him alone. So we can’t know God exhaustively.

    Two Reasons

    The reason is twofold. Number one, our sinfulness, and number two, His greatness. We can’t know God fully because of both our sinfulness and His greatness. We’ll unpack both of those. Because of our sin we are hindered from glimpsing the fullness of God. We know that. Every single one of us has sin in our lives that keeps us from knowing God as completely as we could. But even when all sin will be removed from us, we will still be finite and God will still be infinite. Even when we get to heaven we won’t be infinite like God. We won’t be God. That means that for all of eternity we will increase in our knowledge of Him.

    I want you to think about this with me. God is infinite in His love and His power and His wisdom… But if that’s true, and we are always going to be finite – not infinite – then the reality is, we will be learning more, and more, and more about His love, and His power, and His wisdom, and all that He is for all of eternity.

    Two Responses

    We can respond to this in two ways. If, in pride, we want to be equal to God in knowledge, this will depress us. Some people think, “I’m never going to get there? Never going to understand it all? I mean you think after a cool 400 billion years I might be closer.” But the reality is, no, we will not be any closer.

    However, if in humility we want to live to adore and worship God, this will delight us. I want you to let this picture soak in, that for all of eternity, day after day after day, we will never tire of learning more and more and more and more about the love, the grace, the mercy, and the power of God. And this is huge. Sometimes when people think about heaven, they say, “If heaven is going to be perfect won’t it be perfectly boring?” And some of you have thought that. We think, “That’s a long time – eternity. I mean, don’t you get tired of that?” The reality is, because of who we are going to see in God tonight, we’re going to realize that you cannot get enough of this God, and for all of eternity, we will learn more and more and more. We can know God.

    This is an excerpt of the transcript from Secret Church 4: Who is God. Check out all our Secret Church resources at Radical.net/media.

  4. Your Role in Sending

    Posted on October 22nd, 2014 by David Burnette

    David Platt encourages you to consider how you might be involved in reaching those who have never heard the gospel, whether that’s by going or giving. Reaching the unreached is at the heart of the mission of the IMB.

    Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks and months as we highlight a number of practical and creative ways you can participate in giving. Your giving will go directly to help support IMB workers who are taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. You can give by going here.

  5. Correctly Using a Good, Helpful, Biblical Category

    Posted on October 21st, 2014 by Jonathan

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    If you’ve ever taken a vegan friend to lunch, chances are your first suggestion was not Whataburger. You probably stayed away from all restaurants the fell under the “fast food hamburger joints” category. But not only did knowing your restaurant categories prove to be helpful; so did knowing the category your friend fell into – “vegan.” When used correctly, categories are good and helpful tools.

    People Groups

    One category that Jesus makes use of is ethne, translated “nations” in the Great Commission –  “make disciples of all ethne.” This command drives us to go and steers us toward our many destinations: the ethne of the world. But ethne doesn’t refer to nation-states such as Uganda, India, or China. Rather, it refers to categories of people (people groups) such as the Seminole Nation, the Yazidis, or the Kurds. Our desire to fully obey this command has led us to identify who these people groups are, and then to prioritize the ones that have little to no believers among them – unreached people groups (UPGs). We have a clear aim.

    Categorizing people into groups doesn’t just give us an aim, though; it assists us in attaining it. Knowing a person’s specific people group can help you prepare to share the gospel with him or her by indicating language, cultural customs, religious beliefs, social norms, assumptions, values, and more. The good news cannot spread where there is no understanding, and people group categories help us find some common ground so we can meet them where they are.

    For example, let’s suppose you meet an Afghan woman. Knowing that her Afghan people group is unreached, you decide to go out of your way to share the gospel with her. Based on her people group, you infer that she speaks Dari, practices Islam, is offended by women in shorts, and doesn’t talk directly to men. So you learn a few Dari words, study the basics of Islam, make sure you’re modestly dressed, and make sure there’s no one-on-one situation with a male.

    People Groups and the People that Comprise Them

    But what if the Afghan woman’s parents immigrated to America shortly after she was born and she grew up in the California public school system? Will she feel that you cared more about her than her Afghan-ness? Does your preparation allow you enough flexibility to still be an effective witness?

    What if people don’t always fit their people group mold?

    We must remember that individuals are not people groups. Though people from within the same group will necessarily share some characteristics, they won’t necessarily share all characteristics. In fact, chances are, you’ll find a whole gamut of differences within each group. Our mission is still clear: to make disciples of all of the people groups. And these people groups give us a huge jump start in knowing about a person so as to communicate with them well. But as we seek to share the gospel with individuals, we must learn to use people group categories as guiding tools rather than hard line rules.

    I have an Iranian friend named Ali. He came to the United States as a student in engineering. One night, a close friend and I were talking with him, and we began to steer the conversation toward spiritual things. I thought I knew how it would go: What do you believe? Islam? Great, let’s talk about the difference between Islam and Christianity. To my surprise, not only was Ali not Muslim… he was more interested in finding out where American guys go to meet American girls. In fact, according to him, the Iranian government was far more Muslim than the people they governed. He shared a heart language and cultural identity with the Persian people of Iran, but not the majority religious belief.

    Again, categories – including people groups – are good and helpful tools to utilize… when they are used correctly.

    There are more than 11,000 people groups, and well over half of them are unreached. Though the Great Commission demands we make disciples among each of them, we ought to be careful not to approach individuals mechanically with regard only to who their people group says they are supposed to be. In the end, all ethne will be represented around God’s throne in heaven. And the representatives will all be unique individuals. May our ministry reflect both these truths.

    Additional Resources

    WEBSITES: People Groups and Joshua Project

    SERMON: Our Obligation to the Unreached, Part 1 (and Part 2), David Platt

    BOOK: Let The Nations Be Glad (and related resources), John Piper

  6. How One Church is Engaging an Unreached People Group

    Posted on October 20th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Nearly a quarter of a billion people live in the 29 countries that comprise Southeast Asia. The region hosts 426 people groups, 343 of which are unreached. If you’re one of the 215 million people in these unreached people groups (UPGs), chances are, you live your entire life without ever hearing the good news of Jesus. That’s a sort of despair with which most of us are unacquainted.

    However, one North Carolina church is at work in the region, hoping to change the situation for the “T people,” as they affectionately call them. There are only a handful of known believers among the T, a largely Buddhist UPG. Why are they unreached? IMB writer Paige Turner – who lives in Southeast Asia – explains:

    The problem lies in getting to these people. It isn’t easy. Few outsiders make it to the remote villages nestled in the steep, wet mountains of Southeast Asia.

    Just to tell this one Bible story about creation, Harrison [a pastor from the North Carolina church that is engaging the T] and several local believers ride 45 minutes in a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, with little protection from the rain and wind. Along one road, the group walks while the taxi slowly maneuvers through the mud. Then, they ride motorcycles another 30 minutes straight up a mountain to the fishing village.

    The journey is even difficult for local residents to reach the remote villages. Khin and Thet [believers from a neighboring ethnic group] often walk three hours one-way during rainy season, when their motorcycle can’t make it up the mountain through the mud, to share the Gospel.

    Again, this is just one of 343 UPGs in Southeast Asia. Worldwide, it’s one of 6,565 . .  all of them without access to gospel. Though the reasons for these groups’ lack of gospel knowledge are varied, the fact they don’t have it should lead us to ask the same questions as Paul in Romans 10: “How 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? And how are they to peach unless they are sent?” (vv. 14,15).

    To read the whole story from which the above excerpt is pulled, click here. To learn more how your church can embrace an unreached people group like the T, click here.

  7. Sexual Purity, Ten Missions Excuses, & Male Body Hatred

    Posted on October 17th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Ten Reasons Why You Can’t be a Missionary: David Sills explores some of our most common excuses and concludes, “It is possible that you have a really good reason that is sufficient for not obeying a missionary call; but I doubt it.”

    Why Keep Sexual Boundaries?: Can our motivations for sexual purity be less than Christian? According to Ed Welch, yes.

    Seduction and the Cost of Saying ‘No: American teenagers who resolve to guard their sexual purity must count the cost, and it is high. Mark Howard says we shouldn’t minimize their suffering by comparing it to more extreme persecution.

    The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred: Some gospel encouragement from Paul Maxwell: “God has something to offer each aspect of a man’s hatred of his body, and he offers it through the five relational spheres of his self-hatred.”

  8. Old Testament Sacrifices As a Window to the Cross

    Posted on October 16th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    How can the Old Testament sacrificial system, which Christians no longer participate in, enrich our understanding of salvation in Christ?

    “This is the best news in the world: God invites humanity into relationship with Him. However, as God makes covenants with people, it creates a serious tension. After all, isn’t it impossible for a holy God to stay connected to sinful people? At this point in the biblical storyline some important questions develop. Will God need to lower His standards? (Could He lower His standards even if He wanted to?) Will God’s people be able to live sinless lives so they can enjoy God’s presence?

    Of course, the answer to these questions is no. God would never and could never lower His standards or diminish His holiness. And since the fall, human beings are incapable of living sinless lives and enjoying God’s presence on the basis of their own moral purity. So if God is going to bind Himself to human beings, something has to be done about the sin that inevitably enters the lives of the people of God.

    God’s solution for the problem of sin is sacrifice.

    Most Christians today understand that when Jesus died, He was serving as a sacrifice on our behalf. What many don’t understand, however, is the major role that sacrifice played in the Old Testament. Most Christians today understand that Jesus’s death on the cross paid for our sins and allowed us to have a relationship with God. But we rarely consider that Jesus’s death was the culmination of a larger story of sin and sacrifice that develops throughout the Old Testament. Only when we understand the Old Testament sacrifices can we see how the Old and New Testaments dovetail perfectly into one amazing story. Jesus didn’t decide on a whim that the problem of sin could be solved by dying on a cross; the Old Testament sacrificial system demanded a sacrifice for sin, and Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.”

    Multiply, 199-200 (Read the Multiply material for free by going here)

  9. 1 Comment

    Religious Liberty Under Fire In Houston

    Posted on October 15th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    As if we needed more troubling news on the religious liberty front, now comes word that pastors in Houston have had their sermons subpoenaed by Mayor Annise Parker and the city attorney. The subpoenas come in response to the pastors’ opposition to an Equal Rights Ordinance that concerns issues of gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations.

    A number of Christian leaders have spoken out against this quite brash move by the Houston mayor, as the request for these sermons is a clear violation of the First Amendment, and a reminder of how opposition from the culture is becoming more acute. The ERLC is offering suggestions for how you can stand with Houston pastors, which you can see here. In addition, here are several excerpts from Christian leaders reacting to Mayor Parker’s overreach:

    – Russell Moore (ERLC)

    “I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.

    The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.

    The churches, and pastors, of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi. After an earthquake, sent by God, upturned the prison where Paul and Silas were held, Luke tells us that the officials sent the police to tell Paul and Silas they could go. Paul replied. “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned men who are Roman citizens and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly. No! Let them come themselves and take us out” (Acts 16:37).” Read the rest here.

    – Jason K. Allen (Midwestern Seminary)

    “For the church, though, the mayor’s handling of the First Amendment is secondary. Our handling of the Bible is primary. Our indignation over the mayor’s boldness must be displaced by passion and resolve of our own. We are called to speak the truth in love; to preach the Word in season and out. Ordinance or no ordinance, subpoena or no subpoena, First Amendment or no First Amendment, God’s Word doesn’t change—and our convictions must not change either.

    That is why my concern is not so much Mayor Parker’s orchestration of velvet-gloved persecution. My concern is whether or not Christians will persist in having the courage of their convictions. This won’t be the last time the church encounters intimidation—for we are assured that all who desire godliness in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

    And Mayor Parker isn’t the first ruler to threaten the church either. Here we learn from our apostolic forebears. Just as when the Temple authorities threatened Peter and John in Acts 4, their response must now be ours, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Read the rest here.

    – Joe Carter (Acton Institute Power Blog)

    “Texas law makes it clear that the discovery process in a legal proceeding “may not be used as a fishing expedition.” Houston’s city attorneys are certainly aware of this fact, so why are they seeking the sermons and communications of pastors who aren’t even involved in the lawsuit?

    The apparent answer, as ADF notes, is that the Houston city government “has embarked upon a witchhunt.” They are trying to send a message to area pastors that criticism of city policies from the pulpit can result in their being dragged into court. This is a despicable display of government overreach and an attempt to stifle both religious freedom and political speech. If this violation of citizens rights isn’t checked in Houston, other cities will get the message that irrelevant legal actions can be used to harass church leaders who dare to challenge our “public servants.” Read the rest here.

    — For more on how followers of Christ should approach the issue of religious liberty, stay tuned in the coming weeks for posts related to David Platt’s upcoming book, Counter Culture, as well as posts and information related to Secret Church 15: “Christ, Culture, and A Call to Action.”

  10. Beat the Rush: Early Registration for Secret Church is Open

    Posted on October 15th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    We’re excited to announce that Early Registration for Secret Church 15 is now open!

    Simply go here to register for SC15 as a church, as a small group, or as an individual. The last day to get early registration pricing is January 25th. For those who have participated in Secret Church in the past, please note that this year’s gathering will not take place on Good Friday. Instead, the date for this upcoming gathering is Friday, April 24, 2015. Beat the end-of-year busyness by registering now.

    David Platt will be speaking on “Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.” In case you missed the topic announcement earlier this year, here’s a summary of what you can expect followed by a video that talks about the purpose behind Secret Church:

    The culture around us is constantly changing, and successive changes are often accompanied by significant challenges. So how does the call of Christ compel us to respond to these challenges? How does a Christian respond to the rapid rise of so-called same-sex marriage and the increasing acceptance of homosexuality? How does a Christian live in a world of sex slavery and rampant pornography, a world where babies are aborted and widows are abandoned? How does a Christian think in a culture of pervasive racial prejudice and limited religious liberty? What does a Christian do in a church that exalts prosperity amidst a world of extreme poverty? During this Secret Church, we will explore biblical foundations for answers to these questions and come to significant conclusions regarding how Christ calls every Christian to engage culture with a firm grip on the gospel in the church and a fervent passion for God’s glory in the world.