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  1. At Christmas, Joseph Adopted Jesus by Faith

    Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by Radical

    Our contemporary cartoonish, two-dimensional picture of Joseph too easily ignores how difficult it was for him to do what he did. Imagine for a minute that one of the teenagers in your church were to stand behind the pulpit to give her testimony. She’s eight months pregnant and unmarried. After a few minutes of talking about God’s working in her life and about how excited she is to be a mother, she starts talking about how thankful she is that she’s remained sexually pure, kept all the “True Love Waits” commitments she made in her youth group Bible study, and is glad to announce that she’s still a virgin. You’d immediately conclude that the girl’s either delusional or lying.

    When contemporary biblical revisionists scoff at the virgin birth of Jesus and other miracles, they often tell us we’re now beyond such “myths” since we live in a post-Enlightenment, scientifically progressive information age. What such critics miss is the fact that virgin conceptions have always seemed ridiculous. People in first-century Palestine knew how babies were conceived. The implausibility of the whole thing is evident in the biblical text itself. When Mary tells Joseph she’s pregnant, his first reaction isn’t a cheery “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” No, he assumes what any of us would conclude was going on, and he sets out to end their betrothal.

    But then God enters the scene.

    When God speaks in a dream to Joseph about the identity of Jesus, Joseph, like everyone who follows Christ, recognizes the voice and goes forward (Matt. 1:21-24). Joseph’s adoption and protection of Jesus is simply the outworking of that belief.

    In believing God, Joseph probably walks away from his reputation. The wags in his hometown would probably always whisper about how “poor Joseph was hoodwinked by that girl” or how “old Joseph got himself in trouble with that girl.” As the states get higher, Joseph certainly walks away from his economic security. In first-century Galilee, after all, one doesn’t simply move to Egypt, the way one might today decide to move to New York or London. Joseph surrenders a household economy, a vocation probably built up over generations, handed down to him, one would suppose, by his father.

    Again, Joseph was unique in one sense. None of us will ever be called to be father to God. But in another very real sense, Joseph’s faith was exactly the same as ours. The letter of James, for instance, speaks of the definition of faith in this way: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27). James is the one who tell us further that faith is not mere intellectual belief, the faith of demons (2:19), but is instead a faith that works.

    James show us that Abraham’s belief is seen in his offering up Isaac, knowing God would keep his promise and raise him from the dead (2:21-23). We know Rahab has faith not simply because she raises her hand in agreement with the Hebrews spies but because in hiding them from the enemy she is showing she trusts God to save her (2:25). James tells us that genuine faith shelters the orphan.

    What gives even more wight to these words is the identity of the human author. This letter is written by James of the Jerusalem church, the brother of our Lord Jesus. How much of this “pure and undefiled religion” did James see first in the life of his own earthly father? Did the image of Joseph linger in James’s mind as he inscribed the words of an orphan-protecting, living faith?

    The above excerpt is from Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches, by Russell Moore.

  2. Movies, Viral Mormon Music Videos, and More Movies

    Posted on December 19th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Moses Without the Supernatural: Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings”: “The entire narrative does not match the actual story. It fails as a whole even more than it fails in its parts.” Albert Mohler identifies what is missing.

    Bilbo’s Last Goodbye: “Say what you may about Jackson, he has done Tolkien and us a great service. Whatever disappointments we may have with the details, he has introduced millions of new readers, and a whole new generation, to Middle-earth.” David Matthis goes on to tell us why that’s a good thing.

    Maroni From the Realms of Glory: You may have seen (and enjoyed) the viral video of these popular Christmas hymns… but did you realize it’s part of a Mormon campaign to spread their religion? Tim Challies offers some help on how we ought to think of this as Christians.

    How to Ruin a Moses Movie: Needless to say, Joe Carter was not a fan of the latest cinematic telling of the Exodus. “In the future, this movie should be taught in film schools to show all the ways a movie based on a Bible story can go wrong.” He tells us all the ways Scott’s film fell short.

    Franklin Graham: Movie ‘Unbroken’ Omits ‘Most Important Part’ of Louis Zamperini’s Life: Louis Zamperini may have been physically unbroken during his time as a POW, but his life started spiraling out of control when he got home. “The broken man became whole in 1949, when Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles.”

  3. Word of the Father Now in Flesh Appearing

    Posted on December 19th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    When people uses the term “incarnational ministry” today, what do they mean? Most likely, they’re referring to patterning our lives after Jesus, who came to us as a servant, lived among us (in our flesh and on our turf), and made disciples. In these ways, yes, may we all be incarnational ministers.

    However, there are some things we should never mean when using the word incarnational. Jesus literally condescended to us, a vertical move from heaven above. As humans moving laterally to one another, we are all beneficiaries of this amazing grace: the one, true God became flesh, lived a perfect life, and made a way for mankind to be saved through his death and resurrection. So, unlike Jesus’ ministry, which was centered around being crucified, our ministry is centered around proclaiming Christ crucified.

    We can physically go to a particular group of people, we can dwell among them as servants in their community, and we can stay there, making disciples until we die. But we cannot redeem. As God, Jesus’ blood – and only his blood – atoned for our sins and reconciled us to himself. In that sense, he’s the only to whom we can attribute the (capital I) Incarnation.

  4. ANNOUNCEMENT: The SC 15 Prayer Focus is . . .

    Posted on December 18th, 2014 by Jonathan

    Pray for Vietnam Logo Trans Background… the Peoples of Vietnam! That’s who we’ll be learning about in the coming months, who we’ll pray for together the night of Secret Church, and who we’ll pray for throughout the month of May and beyond. There is much more to be said about the people groups in Vietnam and why they’re worthy of our collective focus, but for now, pray about how you might involve your small group and/or church in supporting the work there.

    Be sure to keep your eye on the blog (as well as Facebook and Twitter) in the coming weeks and months as we learn and pray together… because you don’t have to wait until April 24th to start praying.

  5. Something From Nothing

    Posted on December 18th, 2014 by Jonathan

    ‘Tis the season for charitable giving. This month, more than any other, people are prone to sit down and write checks for churches, non-profit organizations, and ministries. But here’s a question worth asking: When’s the last time giving has actually cost you?

    Here’s a short story about a community whose sacrificial giving clearly shows that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

    And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.'” – Mark 12:41-44

  6. Week 3 of Advent: Hope and Expectation

    Posted on December 17th, 2014 by David Burnette

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    It seems natural as we hear the Christmas story each year to try and imagine how we might have responded had we been Mary, Joseph, or even one of the shepherds.

    Of course, there’s a danger in focusing on these characters if we lose sight of the central point of the nativity scene – Christ and his salvation. And we can’t forget that any faithfulness on the part of these individuals is owing to God’s grace. Still, there is much to imitate in their examples. Mary gives us a picture of humble submission. Joseph puts selflessness and courage on display. The shepherds, at least in the few words we have about them, model an implicit trust and an eagerness to proclaim the good news. There is, however, a man who held the child Jesus but who is often left out of our Christmas stories.

    His name is Simeon, and he provides for us a beautiful picture of what it means to embrace the Messiah.

    Luke’s Gospel tells us that Simeon was righteous and devout, and that he was waiting for the consolation of Israel (Lk 2:25). But that wasn’t the only distinctive thing about him. Simeon was given a supernatural guarantee about the length of his time on earth. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die before he had a chance to lay his eyes on the Lord’s Christ (Lk 2:26). We can only imagine what ran through Simeon’s mind as he waited expectantly. When Mary and Joseph brought their eight-day old son into the temple, Simeon, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, took the child and blessed God saying,

    Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
    for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)

    Simeon had held the hope of the world in his arms.

    In one sense, Simeon’s actions and words can’t be imitated. The baby he held is no longer a baby – he is the crucified, risen, and exalted Son of God. But the question at Christmas still remains: Will we see in this child what Simeon saw? Will we look with the eyes of faith to an unimpressive manger, and beyond that to a cruel cross and an empty tomb, and find rest for our souls? Can we, like Simeon, “depart in peace” (Lk 2:29) because we have embraced the incarnate God by faith and found salvation in his name? Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us such eyes. And may we rejoice with the Puritan who prayed,

    Let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart, embrace him with undying faith, exulting that he is mine and I am his. In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more. (1)

    If you haven’t already, go back and read Advent Week 1: Lament and Longing as well as Advent Week 2: Repentance. Advent Week 4: Thanksgiving will be posted on Christmas Eve.

    (1) – “The Gift of Gifts,” Valley of Vision, 29

  7. More That’s Happened in 2014

    Posted on December 16th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Last week, we thanked you for giving to Radical and highlighted all the ways your generosity has sustained the ministry of Secret Church. But in a lot of ways, Secret Church is only the tip of the iceberg. Here are a few of the things God has allowed us to be a part of this past year. Thanks, again, for giving. We literally couldn’t do this without you.

    • Resource Library: Providing audio, video, and transcribed teaching from David Platt, along with accompanying resources (message notes, family worship guides, small group guides), FREE of charge
    • Radical Intensive: 96 leaders from 39 different churches studying The Local Church and Global Disciple-Making
    • Radical Together Podcast: a free podcast from David Platt every two weeks
    • Translated Resources: Added Thai, French, Farsi, Amharic, Vietnamese, bringing the total to 12 languages
    • Websites: Utilization and maintenance of Radical.netSecretChurch.orgMultiplyMovement.com, and their respective blogs and social media outlets.
    • Moody Radio: A daily message broadcast called Radical with David Platt

    “He commands us to follow Him everywhere, and sometimes that means getting into the terrible, disgusting places where the lost are. Your messages help us focus on God’s work and following Him into those places in people’s lives. So, I guess, I just wanted to say thank you and to encourage you to continue to air the Radical Together podcast, as many of us ‘on mission’ still need the daily reminder to stay ‘on mission’ because the fields are indeed white for harvest. Thank you and may God bless you and your family as you transition to your new role.” – Sarah

  8. Santa, Preaching, Torture, Ferguson, & Homosexuality

    Posted on December 12th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    The Santa Question: John Murchison contends that there is freedom in deciding how your family handles “the Santa question”… as long as you follow two guidelines…

    Expositional PreachingSam Allberry highly recommends David Helm’s new book, Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today. His thoughtful and clever review is worth reading in itself.

    7 Things Christians Should Know About Torture: In the wake of this week’s scathing report on the CIA from a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Joe Carter helps shed a bright light on the shady practice of torture.

    Why We Fail to Progress Past Ferguson: J.D. Greear weighs in on the racial problems made prominent in recent months. “Both ‘sides’ have points that need to be heard.”

    Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew About My Homosexuality: “Knowledge and truth can help us both stand against the growing tide of moral capitulation,” says Jean Lloyd. “In light of this, here are seven things I wish you knew about homosexuality.”

  9. Reflecting on the Incarnation

    Posted on December 11th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    This time of year, the Incarnation is brought from its mysterious shadow into the Christmas spotlight. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still mysterious. In fact, it’s plain mind-boggling. God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The King of the universe was born to a teenage woman. Immanuel, God with us. Although never fully fathomable, this is the glorious good news of Christmas. We would do well to contemplate and treasure this doctrine, especially during a season in which it is assailed by the incomparably lesser allure of a certain red-suited gentleman’s presents. Here are a couple points to ponder.

    The Incarnation is the amazing gift of God’s love. In Colossians 1, Paul says of Jesus that “all things were created through him and for him” (v. 16). However, “though he was in the form of God, [Christ Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7). The Creator became like his created. Dwell on that. Our nativity scenes pretty-up the picture; Mary gave birth to Jesus in a dirty, crowded stable and placed him in the animals’ feeding trough.  The author of the story stares into the eyes of the characters he created. Never has there been, nor will there ever be, a more humble act.

    Why did our majestic King leave his heavenly courts above for the sinners’ fallen world . . . where his subjects would ultimately murder him? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son . . .” you know the rest. God doesn’t need our approval or our company, but so that we might experience eternal life with him, he sent us his Son. On our behalf, in the greatest act of love known to man, Jesus came.

    The Incarnation is the glory of God. Isn’t this the refrain of the herald angels? Glory to God in the highest! Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and subsequent death in Jerusalem was, at once, the ultimate act of condescension and the supreme display of God’s glory. Such is the dumbfounding wisdom of God, whose foolishness is wiser than men and whose weakness is stronger than men (1 Cor 2:25).

    This Christmas, may our hearts be glad as we think about our loving Creator taking on the humble robe of his creation; and may we extol Jesus in the surpassing glory of his condescension. The Incarnation is literally gospel truth, the Word made flesh.

  10. Week 2 of Advent: Repentance

    Posted on December 10th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Though it may not be the theme that first comes to mind when you think Christmas, repentance and Advent go hand-in-hand. If God’s people were marked by lament and longing before Christ’s coming, his arrival should incite repentance.

    Remember John the Baptist? Scripture speaks of him as the one who would “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matt 3:3). He did this in two ways.

    1. His words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2).
    2. His baptism: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am unworthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11).

    In essence, John was beckoning people to repent because the Messiah was coming.

    Think of it this way. There’s a line in “Joy to the World,” that says, “Let every heart prepare him room.”  Repentance is the way we make room for Jesus in our hearts. We don’t clean ourselves up for Jesus in some kind of self-righteous Spring cleaning. That’s not what I’m saying, and that’s not what John the Baptist was saying. In fact, self-righteousness is exactly what we need to repent of. When Jesus comes, we lay aside that notion along with every other sin that clings so closely and look to him for salvation. This is an appropriate posture before the Savior, and required if we truly want him in our lives. This is repentance.

    And at the heart of repentance is humility, because in turning from our sins, we essentially declare that our way is not best and that God’s is. That’s why Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount with a list of what are famously called “The Beatitudes,” showing the value God places on humility: the poor inherit the kingdom, the mourners will be comforted, the pure in heart will see God. If we want to take part in the kingdom (“at hand” in Jesus), if we want true and lasting comfort, and if we want to see Christ, we must be poor, sorrowful, and genuine – we must repent.

    This Advent, let’s not discard repentance with the list of angry words used by overbearing megaphone preachers. Let’s see repentance as the merciful summons that it is.

    Jesus is here. Prepare him room.

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