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

    Posted on November 21st, 2014 by Jonathan

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

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

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

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

    Posted on November 20th, 2014 by David Burnette

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

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

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

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

  3. What Jesus Removes from Our Prayers

    Posted on November 19th, 2014 by David Burnette

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

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

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

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

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

  4. Construction, Building Up Your Spouse, & Missions

    Posted on November 18th, 2014 by Jonathan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  5. Singleness, Marriage, and the Great Commission

    Posted on November 17th, 2014 by Jonathan

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

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

  6. Marriage and Hospitality

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 by Jonathan

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

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

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

  7. Who’s Missing a Meal #ForTheMission?

    Posted on November 13th, 2014 by Jonathan

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

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

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  8. The Right Kind of Fear

    Posted on November 12th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    Ask most Christians what it means to fear God and they will probably begin by telling you what it doesn’t mean.

    Fearing God doesn’t mean that we cower before our Maker, nervous that he might wipe us out simply because he’s in a bad mood. God isn’t a cruel and erratic despot. While that’s certainly true, there’s another error that we are probably more susceptible to in our day. We often need to be reminded that God deserves our fear.

    Steven Lawson talks about our “unhealthy casualness” toward God (1), a clear sign that we do not fear him rightly. Even if we prefer to use words like reverence and awe instead of fear, there’s a danger that those words will ring hollow if we don’t have a right view of God. To fear God rightly we must continually behold his majesty as it is revealed to us in the pages of Scripture. The result is what Lawson calls a “heart attitude of worshipful submission to [God]” (2).

    If the idea of fearing God seems like it’s only for super-Christians, consider Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” In other words, fearing God is Christianity 101—it’s the posture that every child of God ought to assume. Again Lawson notes, “At the very core of saving faith, there is always a healthy, holy fear of God that causes a believer to tremble” (3). Fear is the only proper response to the God who is unmatched in holiness and unlimited in his power. However, this kind of fear doesn’t mean that we downplay God’s grace and focus only on his justice, as if his attributes could be neatly separated.  Nor does it mean that we must always have a serious look on our face when talking about spiritual things.

    Fearing God isn’t joyless.

    The God we fear is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). This is why the Psalmist says, “But with you [God] there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps 130:4). This is the same God who is revealed to us in the message of Christ crucified, so fearing him necessarily involves an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Still, there’s a weightiness to this fear. The apostle John fell down “as though dead” (Rev 1:17) when he got the following vision of the exalted Christ:

    His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Rev 1:14-16)

    Like John, we too need to recognize the greatness of the One we’re dealing with. But Christ’s goal is not simply to intimidate us. His first words to John were, “Fear not” (Rev 1:17). God reveals himself to us so that we might run to him for refuge, that we might rest in his power and his wisdom. The fear of God leads to peace, not paralysis.  And when we reverence God like this, it’s only natural that we would cry out with the prophet,

    Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
    For this is your due;
    for among all the wise ones of the nations
    and in all their kingdoms
    there is none like you. (Jeremiah 10:7)

    –For more on getting a Scriptural view of the God we serve, see Secret Church 4: Who is God?

  9. Miss a Meal #ForTheMission

    Posted on November 11th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Thousands of missionaries are spreading the gospel among unreached people groups all over the world. They are able to live and labor in difficult circumstances because of the support they receive from believers like you and me. They need our prayers, our encouragement, and our generosity. So, to support missionaries on the field and send more their way, the IMB is kicking off a new campaign that encourages giving to missions.

    The idea is simple. Sometime this month, with Thanksgiving feasts on the horizon, skip a meal and give the money that you would have spent on it to missions. Go without that hamburger combo meal you’ve become so fond of. Or, skip your Friday night out. Whether you would have spent $10, $20, or more, missing that meal and instead donating that money to missions will serve our workers abroad. We would encouraging your giving here to be above and beyond what you already give to and through your local church.

    There are a couple ways to do this. The easiest way is to text your donation. By texting “4Mission” to 80888, you can instantly give $10 through your phone company. The next easiest way is to give online at IMB.org/meal. You can be sure that 100% of your donation will go to missionaries and their work in spreading the gospel around the world, particularly among unreached peoples. Hopefully, these convenient options will make missing a meal #ForTheMission simple, quick, and sure.

    That’s the other thing – the hashtag #ForTheMission. We want you to spread the word through social media. So, as you miss a meal and donate money, encourage others to do the same by posting pictures of yourself with an empty plate and using the hashtag #ForTheMission. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram . . . whatever you use, we want this thing to go viral.

    Join us this month, and miss a meal #ForTheMission.

    Feel free to use the below images for your social media avatars/cover photos.

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  10. 1 Comment

    Big and Small, God’s Mercy Abounds

    Posted on November 10th, 2014 by Jonathan

    It’s hard to imagine something more magnificent and grand than God’s mercy: the all-powerful Creator and sustainer of the universe meets people in their sin and forgives them.

    But that’s not where mercy ends.

    The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
    they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

    Yes, mercy continues. Unending, daily, fresh. We must not discount the ever-present hand of God in small things.  How small?  Arianna Shirk, a Samaritan’s Purse missionary with her family in East Africa, identifies a rather long list of what she calls God’s “small mercies.” Here are some examples of the places God’s mercy met her . . .

    . . . in a friend willing to fly to Baltimore to ease the exhaustion of our last 20 hour drive before our flight and reminding us of the love and care that surrounds us.

    . . . in each of our bags weighing exactly 49 pounds when we checked in at the airport.

    . . . in our curtains, carefully packed from home, being the perfect size for our windows despite my lack of foresight to measure.

    . . . in the bag of jumbo marshmallows left on the upstairs shelf that we ate while we unpacked.

    . . . in the ancient blinds we found in the back of our kitchen cabinet and in the tapestry needle I threw in our bag at the last minute to restring them so we have perfect light and privacy for our room.

    Such a God warrants our trust. His love is unceasing. His mercy is new every morning. His faithfulness is great. In big things and small, let’s recognize his hand.

    The above list and image is from the Samaritan’s Purse blog.

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