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  1. A Thought Experiment for Those Asking, “Why One Way?”

    Posted on March 31st, 2015 by Radical

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    David Platt gives us a thought experiment to explain why the exclusivity of the gospel does not contradict the love and grace of God:

    Just imagine there is a God who exists and that this God is perfectly good, perfectly holy, and perfectly loving. All that is love is summed up in God. Imagine God created the world. He created a world in which he put mountains and seas and all the beauty we see in nature around us. But then, after creating all of that, he created man and woman as his prize creation—as a reflection of himself—for relationship with him. Imagine he created man and woman with a capacity to know him, to walk with him, to enjoy him. And he said to man and woman, “I want you to enjoy me and all my creation forever.”

    And then imagine that God, the Creator, said to his creation, “If you disobey me, if you turn away from me, you will die. I don’t want you to die; I want you to live with me forever.” Imagine the creation saying, “Yes!” But then one day, for no just reason, the man and the woman decide, “Our Creator doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t know what is best for us.” So they disobey their Creator.

    Then the Creator comes to them and says, “I told you that if you did this, that you would die.” Imagine the Creator still having in motion, even there, a plan to make it possible for his creation to live with him forever. Imagine that plan involves calling a people to himself from among creation (they’re called the people of Israel in the Old Testament), and he says to them, “I want to show my love to you as a people, to enter into a special relationship—it’s called a covenant in the Old Testament, but it’s like a marriage relationship. You will then show my love to all the other peoples of the earth.”

    And imagine this people saying, “Yes,” and they enter into that marriage relationship, that covenant, to enjoy God’s love and to make God’s love known to everyone else on the earth. But imagine, just days after entering into that covenant, them saying, “Our Creator is not worthy of worship. Let’s take gold and silver and put it together in the form of a cow, and we’ll worship that instead.” And imagine them continuing to do that in all sorts of other ways—all sorts of other idolatry and immorality.

    And imagine the Creator, in his love, sending messengers to that people, messengers that bring good news of the Creator’s love for them, telling them that if they’ll turn back from their sin and turn back to their Creator’s ways, that he’ll forgive them and restore relationship with him. And imagine the creation taking those messengers sent from the Creator and stoning them, sawing them in half, imprisoning them, persecuting them . . . killing those messengers.

    After centuries of messengers coming with news of the Creator’s love, imagine the Creator committing the ultimate act of condescension and coming to creation himself, taking on a robe of human flesh, and living among his creation, loving them, serving them, healing them of diseases, and bringing good news of the Creator’s love.

    And imagine the creation taking the Creator himself—in the flesh—and mocking him and beating him, scourging him and spitting in his face, and then nailing him to a cross in the most cruel form of murder imaginable. And imagine, in light of that whole story, the Creator saying, not just to his creation who did that, but to all people in all history, “If you will only believe in my love for you expressed on that cross, then I will forgive you of all your sins against me, and you can live with me forever.”

    If all that is true, do you think it would make sense to say to this God, “Couldn’t you be more creative? I thought you were loving!” Now, when we realize the whole story, we realize the question is not, “Why is there only one way?Instead, we realize that the question is, “Why is there any way at all?”

    And we recognize that this is really not a matter of how many ways there are: if there were a thousand ways, we would want a thousand and one. The issue is not how many ways there are; the issue is that we want to make our own way, and the God of the universe, in his grace, has said, “I have made a way.”

    – Adapted from David Platt’s sermon titled, “The Most Astounding Claim in All History.”

  2. New Challenges in Addressing an Age Old Sin

    Posted on March 31st, 2015 by Jonathan

    Heath Lambert talks about some of the new challenges we must deal with in addressing sexual immorality today.

    Sexual immorality is one of the pervasive issues covered in David Platt’s new book, Counter Culture. Drawing heavily on Scripture and compelling personal accounts from around the world, Platt presents a pointed yet winsome call for readers to faithfully follow Christ in countercultural ways—ways that will prove both costly and rewarding for the contemporary church. Learn more at CounterCultureBook.com.

    Dr. Heath Lambert serves as Executive Director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. 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 Heath here.

  3. Secret Church Simulcast Host Churches

    Posted on March 30th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    If you live in one of the states colored red, guess what… there’s a church in your state that’s hosting the Secret Church simulcast! If you’re not planning on participating in Secret Church on April 24, we encourage you to join one of these host churches. Of course, if you live in one of the following states, you’ll have more options. Here are our top six:

    Alabama – 57
    Tennessee – 57
    Texas – 51
    Georgia – 49
    Florida – 35
    Mississippi – 35

    Regardless of what state you’re in, though, we welcome you to participate. If you can’t make it to a host church that’s already on our list, you can join us in one of two ways.

    1. You can host a simulcast at your church. There’s still time to do this (register before April 10), and we’ll even add your church to the list. If you’re in Hawaii, Nebraska, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island, we’d especially love your help to color in the rest of our map!
    2. You can host a simulcast as a small group. We have packages for groups as small as five people, and though we can’t publish the private addresses of small groups on our host list, we’d love for you and your friends and/or family members to join us on April 24.

    For more about this year’s topic (Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action) and to register, go to Radical.net/SCsimulcast.

  4. Why Your Bible Study is Too Superficial

    Posted on March 30th, 2015 by Eric Parker

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    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. Despite his best efforts, Bob usually offers some odd interpretation or comment about the passage. In this series of posts, we are exploring some of the approaches to Bible study that David Platt identifies in this “Radical Together” podcast about studying the Bible.

    This week, we are looking at an approach to Bible study that tends to make a “Bob” out of all of us. This approach is what David calls the “superficial approach.” But you might just as easily call it the “relative approach,” because it comes out of a worldview often referred to as “postmodernism.” The fundamental truth of postmodernism is that there is no truth (think over that for a second!). Postmodernism’s mantra is, “What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.” And it is out of this basic thought pattern that the “superficial approach” arises.

    Asking the Wrong Question

    You know that your Bible study employs this approach when you hear someone ask the question, “What does this verse mean to you?” Now this seems like a perfectly good question to ask, so what’s the harm in asking it? Well it is a good question, but not in the way that it is normally asked. You see, the underlying thought of that question tends to leave room in everyone’s mind for different, if not opposing, meanings to the passage at hand. David gives the example in a recent podcast in which a group reads a chapter like Genesis 22, where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, and then God provides a ram for the sacrifice, with the group discussion being something like this:

    Leader: “Okay, what does this mean to you?

    (Narrator: Then, all of a sudden, people start saying all kinds of different things that this passage means to them. Bob speaks up…)

    Bob: “Well, I think this chapter means I need to go hiking with my son more, just like Abraham went hiking in the mountains with Isaac.”

    Leader: “Ah, okay Bob, anybody else?”

    (Narrator: Then Joe chimes in…)

    Joe: “Well I think it’s clear from this passage that it’s okay to sacrifice animals, which means that no one should be a vegetarian.”

    (Narrator: To which Joe’s wife, Mary, a vegetarian, replied…)

    Mary: “Well that’s not what this passage means to me Joe. Maybe this passage means I need to sacrifice you!”

    The obvious problem that arises out of asking this question is that it takes the authority out of the Word of God, and puts it into the opinion of man. Rather than asking what God meant when he inspired this passage, people are increasingly concerned with what they think this passage means to them, despite any obvious contradictions with other people’s interpretations, let alone the rest of the Bible.

    I Object!

    Now, you might object and say, “Well isn’t every interpretation just someone’s opinion about what a passage means? And aren’t there countless interpretations of the Bible even within historic Christianity? If so, then the Bible really is relative to what people think!” And this is partly true. People all over the church have differences in their theological positions that they derive from Scripture. The difference, however, is in how they arrive at their particular view. Rather than asking, “What does this passage mean to me?” as their starting point, they ask, “What did God mean in this passage?” And by asking the latter question, the interpreter employs an entirely different set of tools to answer that question.

    Not only that, but when people object on the basis of there not being theological consensus throughout the church, they often paint the picture so as to suggest that there is almost no agreement whatsoever. This is where Andrew Wilson’s recent comments are really helpful:

    All Christians, everywhere, believe in one church, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, one baptism, one God. Whenever I feel discouraged about the confusions and debates within the global church, I go and read the Nicene Creed, and it reminds me just how much we agree on.

    ….There are all sorts of things on our end—ignorance, hard-heartedness, sin, rebellion, unbelief—that might prevent us from understanding what Scripture says quite clearly. In fact, when Jesus interacted with people who had misunderstood something he’d said, either in Scripture or in person, he never blamed the Word of God for being unclear, confusing, or obscure. Instead, he always said it was something to do with the readers or hearers…

    … Ignorance. Traditionalism. Naïveté. Dullness, deafness, foolishness. Opposition to God. Fear. Sin. Stubbornness. When people don’t understand something God has said, Jesus assumes that the Scriptures are clear—“Haven’t you read in the Scriptures?!”—and the people are muddled.

    Frequently, in our arrogance, we assume it’s the other way round.

    Asking the Right Question

    The difference between the right question and the wrong question is not a matter of wording, per se, but of intent. The difference is the difference between hermeneutics and homiletics; between interpretation and application. So, if by asking “What does this verse mean to you?”, I am really asking, “How does this verse apply to you?”, then we are asking the right question.

    For instance, 1 Peter 1:14-15 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” The meaning is that we should live lives that are morally different than non-Christians, and even morally different than what are own desires sometimes tell us. More specifically, this moral difference should imitate our Father in heaven (see context). At the same time, the application of this meaning will look different for different people. For some, it means not watching TV because it causes them to waste time and ignore God. For others, it means putting in internet filters and blocks so they will not view pornography. In both cases, the vice is something the world does, and something the believer needs to change. But, the first person doesn’t struggle with pornography, and the second person doesn’t neglect his relationship with God because of TV. Yet they both pursued the command to be holy.

    So the real question for each of us is: what are we looking for when we study the Bible? A mirror to reflect our own opinions? Or a window to see God’s truth?

  5. Strike the Match with J.D. Payne

    Posted on March 27th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    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.

    You can access the podcast via iTunes or though J.D.’s blog by subscribing to the RSS feed.

  6. Dignified Death, Rejoicing in Persecution, Non-Lazy Rest

    Posted on March 27th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    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.”

  7. LifeSong for Orphans

    Posted on March 26th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    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…

    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.

  8. Fighting Fatigue in Your Daily Devotions

    Posted on March 25th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    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?

  9. 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.

  10. Why Your Bible Study is Too Emotional

    Posted on March 23rd, 2015 by Eric Parker

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    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.

    Emotional Approaches

    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?”

    Emotions Distorted

    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)

    Emotions Remade

    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.

    Emotions Renewed

    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.