Posted on August 3rd, 2015 by Jonathan
As you watch the video above, released on June 18 from the UNHRC, think of the individuals that these staggering numbers represent. A child who is lonely, helpless, and scared. A young woman who is continually plagued by flashbacks to the horrific violence she endured. A father who doesn’t know where his family is. An elderly woman who is now facing the prospect of spending her final years in a crowded tent away from home. Each of these 59.5 million forcibly displaced people has a unique and heartbreaking story.
Enter the gospel. God sent his Son in the flesh to proclaim liberty to the oppressed, sight to the blind, and good news to the poor. Not of this world and hated by it, he endured suffering beyond what we can imagine, taking God’s just wrath on behalf of all who believe in him. One day he will return to fully redeem all who have trusted in him for righteousness. On that day, he will give evil people the judgement they are due while he personally wipes away every tear from the eyes of his saints.
This is the good news that refugees so desperately need. But unfortunately, the likelihood that they know it is low. Half of them come from the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia, where only 5.9%, 0.1%, and 0.3% of their respective populations profess to be Christians. Indeed, despite their dire physical circumstances, the eternal plight of these people is much worse.
Here is their glimmer of hope: many of these refugees no longer live in Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Outside the borders of their war-torn and/or closed countries, the opportunity we have to reach them is greater than it’s ever been. That is to say, we are their glimmer of hope. May we pray faithfully, give generously, and go accordingly.
Posted on July 31st, 2015 by Radical
How can a shoebox with a tiny stuffed lamb in it be used to make an eternal difference in the life of a child? This video of Luis is a moving reminder of how simple items like pens, crayons, and, yes, a stuffed lamb, in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox can communicate Christ’s love.
You can read the rest of Luis’ shoebox story here to learn how a young boy from Panama who grew up without a father and whose family never talked about God came to trust in Christ as Savior. These shoeboxes from Samaritan’s Purse are an easy and practical way that you can communicate the love of Christ to children in need around the globe.
In addition to shoeboxes, did you know that Samaritan’s Purse also uses Operation Christmas Child to introduce the gospel as well as ongoing discipleship in the lives of children and their families? This is what their discipleship material, The Greatest Journey, is all about.
The Greatest Journey is a 12-week course takes kids through the basics of the gospel and the Christian life. Samaritan’s Purse is a Counter Culture ministry partner on the issue of poverty that seeks to meet both physical and spiritual needs through a variety of ministries. Go here to find out more about Samaritan’s Purse.
Posted on July 31st, 2015 by Jonathan
Explainer: What you should know about fetal tissue donation: “The videos have caused many people to question the morality of a process they had previously been completely unaware even existed. Here is what you should know about the ethics and legality of fetal tissue donation…” (Joe Carter)
The Gospel is for Baby-Killers: “After the Lord saved me, it took me over a decade to speak openly about my abortion. For years the only friend who knew about it was my husband.… It’s been hard to be on social media for the last three weeks.” (Patti Withers)
10 Quick, Important Developments On The Planned Parenthood Scandal: “Whether or not the story generates major media attention, the Center for Medical Progress’ expose of Planned Parenthood’s participation in the harvesting and sale of fetal organs continues to feature major updates. Here are 10 of them.” (Mollie Hemingway)
Meet the Filmmaker Exposing Planned Parenthood: “Planned Parenthood doesn’t do shipping or packaging—all of that is handled by the middleman biotech companies that they sell to. And those groups sent all of their own people in to handle all the processing of the specimens.” (David Daleiden)
That Hand Was Made to Hold: “If that baby had been allowed to live for a few more months, it would have come out of the womb with a grasping reflex.” (Betsy Childs Howard)
Abortion, Weeping, and Hope: “As I opened the Word I discovered that what I thought was a bunch of cells in a petri dish was actually the created work of God knitting and molding into a mothers’ womb (Psalm 139:13).” (Trillia Newbell)
Looking Away from Abortion: “Dwelling on that content gets you uncomfortably close to Selzer’s tipping point — that moment when you start pondering the possibility that an institution at the heart of respectable liberal society is dedicated to a practice that deserves to be called barbarism.” (Ross Douthat)
Don’t Hate, Pray for Pro-Choice Champions: “As Christians, we must not give in to the cultural tendency to denigrate and demonize people on the other side of the political aisle. How can we make a stand for the unborn and yet also love our political opponents? By praying for them by name.” (Trevin Wax)
Is Our Stance on Abortion Too Flimsy?: “They — you? — have a conviction by association, a conviction that flakes the first moment the issue gets real for them, or requires that they actually do something about what they say they believe.” (Jonathan Parnell)
Is Cecil the lion more devastating than the Planned Parenthood videos?: “Both news stories offer — regardless of one’s views on either issue — an opportunity to consider the moral responsibility that comes with knowledge — and the moral responsibility that comes with willful ignorance.” (Karen Swallow Prior)
A Five Minute Video Overview of Abortion: Full of facts, figures, and – ultimately – clarity. (Abort73)
Straining Gnats and Siding with Pharaoh Over the Midwives: “Here’s my question: who’s the hero of the story? Or, rather, who’s the villain? What’s your instinctive answer? In your gut, who provokes your anger? Who do you judge to be of dubious character? Who is being wronged here?” (Derek Rishmawy)
Posted on July 30th, 2015 by David Burnette
Joaquín Guzmán, the billionaire head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, escaped from a maximum security prison on July 11th of this year, slipping out through a mile-long tunnel outfitted with ventilation, electricity, and a motorcycle on rails.
You may have seen the headlines about “El Chapo,” as Guzmán is known. His second prison escape highlights not only a weak justice system in Mexico, but also the level of corruption that exists in certain parts of Mexico due to influential drug lords . So, in addition to a general desire for justice, why should Christians care about El Chapo and other Mexican criminals?
A Surprising Ranking
Surprisingly, Mexico was ranked fifth on the list of most violent countries for Christians in 2014. This ranking was based on a seventeen-month survey of “persecution incidents” by Open Doors, and the anti-Christian violence can be attributed in part to the criminal organizations and drug cartels that have targeted Christians and churches. These churches are seen as revenue centers, and are therefore targets for extortion. Churches are also targeted, according to Open Doors, because they offer rehab and support services to drug users .
The violence in Mexico appears to be much greater in the southern states, where the traditional laws make it difficult for Christian converts. Those who do not accept the practices of the local community are ostracized and sometimes persecuted. Open Doors’ annual World Watch List, which ranks countries in terms of their persecution of Christians, has Mexico at #38 in 2015. This ranking is based on different types of persecution, including discrimination from the government, social pressure, or outright physical violence.
Closer Than You Think
The persecution of Christians in Mexico is a reminder that intense pressure and physical hostility aren’t just problems over there, far across the ocean on another continent. It happens right in our backyard, in the same country where many Americans choose to vacation. Of course, not every area of Mexico is hostile to followers of Christ, and we shouldn’t mistake the influence of organized crime as the attitude of most Mexicans toward Christians. After all, over 90% of Mexicans self-identify as Roman Catholic. Still, these realities remind us that opposition to Christ comes in many shapes and sizes, and that following him can be costly in many places around the world, even right next door.
Praying for Mexico
As you pray for persecuted believers around the world and for the spread of the gospel, here are some specifics on Mexico:
- Pray for believers to endure and bear witness to Christ in the face of pressure and persecution.
- Pray for the gospel to be proclaimed clearly. The overwhelming majority of Mexicans self-identify as Catholic (around 90%), while only around 8% identify as evangelicals out of a population of over 122 million people.
- Pray for the 32 unreached people groups consisting of over 1.4 million people.
- Pray for the 8 unreached people groups that are still unengaged, i.e., there is no church-planting strategy underway to reach them. This accounts for over 156,000 people.
- Pray for the reduction of organized crime and for criminals to be brought to justice.
Posted on July 29th, 2015 by Jonathan
Last week you learned about how Operation Christmas Child is more than just a shoebox full of goodies. Each child who receives a shoebox also has the opportunity to take part in what Samaritan’s Purse has titled The Greatest Journey (TGJ). In partnership with local churches, this interactive, 12-lesson discipleship course is aimed at teaching children what it looks like to faithfully follow Christ. TGJ has only been around for about six years, but its impact has already been felt, both deep and wide.
As you can imagine, this sort of follow up is both difficult and costly. That’s where you come in.
Below, we’ve listed some ways that you can get involved in supporting this invaluable disciple-making endeavor.
- Host a shoebox packing party this year for Operation Christmas Child. As a part of that gathering, spend some time praying together for TGJ…
- That a local church is able and willing to facilitate TGJ for the children who are receiving the boxes you are packing.
- That TGJ would expand beyond the 74 countries in which it is currently offered.
- That as a result of TGJ, millions of children around the world would place their trust in Christ.
- That TGJ graduates would faithfully share Jesus with their friends and family (as they are challenged to do at the close of the course), and that even more would come to faith in Christ as a result
- Skip one meal every month. Instead buying a meal, donate $6 to TGJ. This monthly gift “will give 12 children study materials, a New Testament, and the opportunity to learn what it means to devote their lives to sharing the Good News of eternal grace through Jesus Christ.” Spend time you would have spent eating praying for children and who are going through TGJ. Consider committing to this with a small group of people who can keep you accountable and pray with you.
- Feeling ambitious? Sponsor an entire country for TGJ. Obviously, this can get costly. So you’ll have to be creative. Host a group garage sale. Coordinate a fundraiser (a garage sale, a tournament, a 5K, etc.). At just $3,000, your small group may be able to handle Seychelles (an island country off the coast of East Africa). Your entire church may be able to sponsor Nepal.
There are any number of ways to continue this list, but maybe it’ll get you thinking in the right direction. As a Counter Culture ministry partner, we highly commend Samaritan’s Purse to you as way to engage in meeting not only physical needs around the world, but also, through The Greatest Journey, spiritual needs. Yet another way to be part of making disciples of all nations.
- Host a shoebox packing party this year for Operation Christmas Child. As a part of that gathering, spend some time praying together for TGJ…
Posted on July 28th, 2015 by Jonathan
You may have heard about the suicide bombing that killed 31 people in Turkey last week (Yahoo News). Those attacked were part of an activist group that had gathered to prepare an aid mission to the Syrian city of Kobane, just across the border from where they were in Suruc. The group’s aim was to help rebuild Kobane, war-torn after multiple advances from ISIS. Indicators suggest that the man who carried out the deadly attack had links to ISIS.
Such tragedies merit the attention of the Christian community as we seek to love our neighbors well. But the closing few lines of the Yahoo News article cited above, easy to gloss over, deserve our attention as well:
Suruc, once a centre of silk-making, is home to one of the biggest refugee camps in Turkey housing Syrians who have fled their country’s bloody four-year conflict.
The camp shelters about 35,000 refugees out of a total of more than 1.8 million refugees taken in by Turkey since 2011.
A steady exodus of refugees fleeing a four-year long civil war doesn’t naturally lend itself to headlines, but such numbers are alarming. We’ve talked before about the Syrian refugee crises, but let’s focus in on Turkey for a moment.
In large part due to the Syrian war, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, the population still rising. There are over one million Syrians now in Turkey, and, as we’ve discussed, there are 18 unreached people groups in Syria. But this is a case of need on top of need, because, percentage-wise, Turkey is the least reached country in the world.
The weight of need in Turkey grows with each new refugee that’s registered there. Meanwhile, ISIS continues its advance along the Turkish border. Might it be that God is at work in the hearts of people there, using their sense of physical peril to open their eyes to the imperiled state of their eternal soul? In Acts 17, Paul says of the nations that God has “determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (vv. 16-27). God is sovereignly orchestrating the migration of people groups that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Many of them are now in Turkey; who there will tell them what they’re looking for?
As Syrian refugees in Turkey lose their homes and their sense of safety, who will tell them of the divine comforter? As Turkish nationals anxiously peer into Syria, the rumblings the terror now at their doorstep, who will tell them about the reigning Prince of Peace? As ISIS militants visit the Turkish border, will they see anyone bearing witness to the God who is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26)?
At the bottom of it all, the question is this: “How then 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?” (Rom 10:14)
Posted on July 28th, 2015 by David Burnette
You’ve probably seen the recent videos exposing the sale of body parts of aborted babies by Planned Parenthood, the world’s largest abortion provider. These undercover videos put out by The Center for Medical Progress offer a disturbing, yet vivid reminder of the evil of abortion.
Because the two major political parties in the U.S. are typically on different sides of the abortion issue, it’s all too easy to forget that abortion is not primarily a political issue. In fact, it’s not fundamentally a women’s or children’s issue. In the latest Radical Together podcast episode, “The Child Yet Unborn,” David Platt argues from Scripture that abortion is first and foremost a God issue. He points to Psalm 139:13-16 to make this very point,
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Regardless of what our society calls the unborn–a fetus, a clump of cells, or merely tissue–it is God’s view that matters, and his intimate relationship with the unborn is clear from Scripture. Believers must, therefore, speak and work for truth and justice on this issue.
This week’s podcast is the first of two episodes dealing with the topic of abortion. Be sure also to check out our Counter Culture ministry partners to see how you can engage this issue–to speak with courage for the unborn and to reach out with compassion to those who feel as if abortion is their only option.
Posted on July 27th, 2015 by Jonathan
You pick up your Bible in the morning, grab the ribbon coming out the bottom, and flip open the thin pages to where you last left off in 2 Thessalonians… only to find that the next section heading reads “The Man of Lawlessness.” Arghh, you groan, though not out loud of course. This isn’t going to help me with that deadline I’m so stressed out about. Your eyes slide down the page to the next heading – “Stand Firm.” There it is. That must be what I’m supposed to read today. You quickly read the first part of the chapter so that when you get to “the good stuff” you can really slow down and take it in.
Inspired, Living, and Powerful
Perhaps more often than we’d like, we come across passages of Scripture that seem fairly irrelevant to us. Leviticus is a prime example. But these sorts of difficult passages are all over the Bible, and on a daily basis, we don’t know what to do with them. How can our stressed out families meaningfully “put feet” to the stories of atrocious sin in Judges? Can the frequent “everything is meaningless” refrain of Ecclesiastes do anything to help us get through Monday morning? Is it possible for our problem-riddled small groups to edify one another with Paul’s letter to Philemon about his slave?
Especially when it comes to our daily devotions, much to the neglect of other inspired passages, we naturally gravitate to the seemingly more practical sections of Scripture.
Such an approach is easy to have, and sometimes we don’t even realize we have it. But it’s obviously lacking, because “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16). We also know that the Bible is more than ink on a page aimed at relaying information, but rather, “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). In Christ, the Word has power to cleanse (Eph 5:26).
That in mind, what do we do with Leviticus, the man of lawlessness, and everything in between?
The Right Questions, The Right Focus
It’s been said that Scripture doesn’t render its fruit to the lazy. So quiet time means work. When our Bible reading for the day doesn’t seem to apply to our life, we don’t give up the fight. We wrestle with the difficult texts, reading them and re-reading them. We utilize the cross-references in the margins of our Bibles to get the bigger picture. Like reporters, we ask ourselves question after question about what’s going on and what it means.
We may need to first make sure that you’re asking the right questions, though. If our main questions are centered around what facts we can learn, where we can grow, which promises apply to our needs, and how we should change, we’re being short-sighted. Those questions are all good and necessary, but they aren’t enough. Topping our list of questions should be what the passage teaches us about God. He is, after all, the reason we read in the first place.
In fact, focusing most on God might be the fundamental paradigm shift our quiet time needs. Explanations of ceremonial law in Leviticus might not be the most instructive passages for us if we’re struggling with a difficult boss at work, but what do those passages tell us about the God we serve? What does the imagery in Revelation reveal about the God of creation and how he sees things? Who is God revealing himself to be? Just as our relationships with people cannot grow if we ignore them when they speak, our relationship with God can only flourish through hearing his Word. This – not mere learning – is the highest goal of Bible study. We don’t consuming the Bible like a Happy Meal; we commune with God through the feast of his Word.
Trust the Author
As we meet with God in Scripture, we must remember when we get to a difficult or seemingly distant text: all Scripture is God-breathed, inspired by him. He’s given it to us for a reason. Even if we can’t always articulate its implications for our daily living, we can trust that, over time, the Spirit is using it to transform us more and more into the image of its divine Author. We must have a higher view of the living Word than we do of our sin-sick intellectual capacity.
All this means that we should not view the Man of Lawlessness section of Scripture as a waste of time. Instead, we should prayerfully dive in, trying our best to understand it, but with a focus on knowing our great God more. And if, when we close our Bible, the man of lawlessness hasn’t “wrecked” us like we hoped, we can still smile and trust God’s living Word, thankful for his grace-filled promise regarding it: “It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is 55:11).
Posted on July 24th, 2015 by David Burnette
1. 10 Numbers You Should Know about Planned Parenthood: As videos continue to come out about Planned Parenthood, Joe Carter has put together some (troubling) numbers to keep in mind as you think about and engage others on the issue of abortion.
2. Who Pours into You?: While some Christians feel that another person, usually older, must be “pouring” into them, Christine Hoover talks about why this good desire can be taken the wrong way. She encourages us not only to “pour” into others, but also to look to the church body for mutual encouragement.
3. The Sunday Worship Killer: Here’s some good counsel on the dangers of a critical spirit as we gather with God’s people on Sunday. Jason Helopoulos suggests some ways to prepare our hearts for this great privilege.
Posted on July 23rd, 2015 by Jonathan
Over the weekend, in the wake of the first gruesome Planned Parenthood video (the second one has since been released), Justin Taylor posted the above video on his blog. Its aim is to help you defend life as the national conversation about abortion is brought back to the forefront.
In it, Scott Klusendorf shows you how to establish a clear, concise, and compelling defense of the pro-life stance, one that would be useful even in conversations with unbelievers. In sum: “Use science to show that the unborn are human; use philosophy to show that there is no relevant difference between what we were in the womb and what we are today that would justify killing us.”
For a full written version, go here.
(HT: Justin Taylor)
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