Posted on May 22nd, 2015 by Jonathan
Freed from Self-Absorption: “[C.S. Lewis] helped me to see what is there in the world, things that, if we didn’t have them, we would pay a million dollars to get them, and having them, we ignore…” John Piper
When Hope and History Rhyme: “Christianity, paradoxically, is far more pessimistic and far more optimistic than any other worldview—simultaneously.” Tim Keller
The Weight of Two Worlds: “He lived for the moment, seeking contentment in money and sex, while displaying another life to his family and friends. For years, Shawn kept his two worlds apart.” Austin Stone Story Team
If-Only Discipleship: “I’d serve God much more effectively, if only I owned a home. Or if only I were in better health. Or if only I had fewer responsibilities with my children / parents. Or if only I were younger/older. Or if only I were in a bigger/smaller church. Or if only I were married. Or if only I were married to a believer. And so on.” Brian Rosner
When You Fear the Future: “Thankfully, God’s Word is packed with sweet promises that smash all our fearful thinking.” Trillia Newbell
Posted on May 21st, 2015 by Jonathan
Have you ever been totally overcome by an urge? Not just tempted, but literally unable to help yourself?
Say you have a weird (and totally made-up) condition in which you must always get eight full hours of sleep at night. I’m not talking about being cranky if you get less; I’m talking about not being able to wake up after being asleep for seven hours and 50 minutes because you’re ten minutes short. Like, if you went to bed at midnight and set your alarm for 7:15am, there’s no chance you wake up when it rings. If there was such a condition and you had it, would you describe yourself as free or enslaved? Obviously, you’d be a slave to your unyielding sleep requirement.
When we think about sin, we can liken it to this odd sleep condition. If we’re totally overcome by it, then we are enslaved to it. On top of that, we’re blind to it.
Second Peter 2:19 states it plainly: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
The sobering fact of the matter is that we are all naturally unable to stop sin from overcoming and enslaving us. What’s more, we dangerously deceive ourselves by explaining our sin in terms of personal autonomy. I can do whatever I want to, we think. No one’s giving me any orders. Maybe that’s not actually freedom, though. Maybe we’re actually freer when we’re able to not do whatever we want to.
It seems like that’s what Peter is saying here. If you are unable to resist sin, it’s got your number. You can’t overcome it because it’s overcoming you, making you bend to its will. You can’t not sin.
But here’s the good news. In Christ, we have been set free from sin.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:6-7). The gospel truth is that if we’re united with Christ, our old corrupted self has been brought to nothing and we are free from sin. And as we are formed more and more into the image of Christ, the less we’ll fall under the crack of sin’s whip and the more we’ll be able to practice self control (Gal 5:22-23).
In other words, believers can say no to sin. And that is true freedom.
Posted on May 20th, 2015 by Jonathan
Summer vacations are not the only trips in view when the last school bell rings and the neighborhood pool opens. For many of you, these things also mean that your summer mission trip is just around the bend. It’s good that you begin thinking about it now. You’d be well served not to wait until the week (or night) before to begin preparing for it.
So here are some simple ways to get ready, between now and the airport terminal.
Begin Praying Now. This should go without saying, but prayer must undergird any sort of ministry in which you engage. Why? Because you can’t change people; only God gives new birth. Your dependence on him for this should be evident in your prayer life. If you aren’t praying, not only may your missions goals be too low, but your trust may be misplaced.
Know Your Team. This may already be happening, but if you aren’t meeting with your team before you leave, try to get together with them soon. While praying together and planing together have enough merit on their own, meeting with your team will also help you discern personalities and roles. One of the greatest opponents to your effectiveness as a team is disunity, and spending some time together before you find yourselves in an unfamiliar and/or stressful context may help to prevent any potential quarreling.
Rehearse the Gospel. I was privileged to spend a summer on mission in East Africa. I had been warned that on-the-spot introductions to speak were common. As it turns out, that couldn’t have been more dead on. At one point I was actually handed a megaphone in a crowded market. Thankfully, part of that warning came with an encouragement to prepare a gospel presentation. I would encourage the same. Even if you’re not going to a culture where impromptu sermons and megaphone preaching is common, it would be still wise to prepare a clear and concise statement of the gospel that you could share at a moment’s notice.
Look to Local Partners. I doubt you are unacquainted with the mission of your local parters, but if you are, get to know their vision before you get there. Little could be more encouraging to a long-term missionary than showing genuine care for the ministry they’ve devoted their lives to. But more than this, doing your homework will also tell you how to best come alongside them in their work. On a short-term trip, your time is best spent serving the long-term partner since they’ll be there long after you leave. So take a back seat, follow their lead, and see what will actually serve them longterm (not just give your team the best experience). And as a side note, you can begin serving them before you go by asking them if there is anything you can bring them from home – like care packages from loved ones, books, and even snacks they cannot get in their local country.
Be Ready to Grow. Don’t substitute your personal walk with Lord for serving him on a mission trip. It’s incredibly easy to place all your focus on your team, the work you’re doing, the travel plans, and all the sights to see. In doing so, you neglect communion with the source of your power. You must proactively combat this tendency to forgo your daily devotions on the trip. So before you leave, come up with a basic plan for reading your Bible and prayer. Also, expect to learn and grow a lot through what you do and experience; it would be prudent to have some sort of journal in which to process your thoughts.
Plan for Change. Though flexibility is key on the mission field, being flexible is different than not having a plan. In fact, flexibility often requires more planning. When your in-country transportation is running two hours late, have a section of Scripture ready to begin (or continue) memorizing. If the ministry plans fall through for a day, have some sort of backup plan in place to encourage your teammates and/or local partners. If a more pressing need arises, don’t be so married to your original itinerary that you can’t adjust. Humbly serve according to the advice of trusted local leadership even if it diverges from your preconceived notion of service. And if something strange is placed on the dinner plate before you, it’s time for you to expand your palette.
Posted on May 19th, 2015 by Jonathan
Near the end of Paul life, he wrote the following words to Timothy:
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim 4:5-8)
Don’t you want to be able to get to the end of your life and speak with such confidence? I’ve done all that the Lord has called me to do.
Be encouraged by the fact that you don’ have to meet a souls-saved quota, give away a certain amount of money, or write a best seller. You have only to “fulfill your ministry” (verse 5). You’re free from comparing your ministry to others’. You’re free to simply trust God and obey his calling.
Still, that may leave you with the question of what your calling is. David Platt can answer you from Scripture: your calling is to proclaim the Word. The Word is able to make people wise for salvation (2 Tim 3:15), it is breathed out by God (2 Tim 3:16)… and it is therefore exactly what a dark world needs to hear. Platt elaborates:
Proclaiming this Word in this world will never be easy. On any level. But here’s the deal: whether it involves going to our neighbor next door, or to a nation on the other side of the world, or both… let’s speak this Word with a reckless abandon, doing all that God calls us to do in this world, knowing that it will be costly, but believing that it will be worth it. Or maybe better stated, knowing the He will be worth it.
While we cannot spell out the specifics of how you are to fulfill your ministry, we can give you a sure way not to fulfill your ministry: don’t proclaim the Word. If we were given the Word so “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” then we can’t teach disciples from all nations to observe all that Jesus has commanded without it (2 Tim 3:16-17, Matt 28:20).
Posted on May 18th, 2015 by Jonathan
Route1520 is a ministry that seeks to help people struggling with sexual addition with the grace of God. In their words, “Route1520 is built on the firm belief that individuals cannot change through mere willpower or simply learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. We believe that change takes place in community as we take the Gospel of Jesus Christ more deeply into our understanding and into our hearts.” So whether it be pornography addiction or any of the sexual sins to which pornography my lead, Route1520 is not content to simply say “try harder” or “do better.” That’s contrary to the gospel. Instead, they recognize that addiction has deep roots that must be addressed spiritually, therapeutically, and communally in order for individuals to have success in stopping their sinful behavior.
As one of our Counter Culture ministry partners, we are excited to point you toward their EMBARK Men’s Recovery Intensive which will take place next month (June 11-14). For any man struggling with pornography or sexual sin, this intensive will serve as an invaluable “jumpstart for the recovery journey.” It’s not a one-time, drive-thru fix for sexual sin. Rather, this long weekend is aimed at giving men the perspective they need to fight their problem while beginning the healing process.
The short video below may give you some insight into why EMBARK could be an important first step for someone drowning in the throes of sexual addiction.
Posted on May 15th, 2015 by Jonathan
Is Christianity Dying?: “The number of Americans who identify as Christians has reached an all-time low, and is falling. I think this is perhaps bad news for America, but it is good news for the church.” – Russell Moore, Moore to the Point
When God Interrupts Your Plans: “We often overlook these interruptions and inconveniences and instead expect God to work in our lives through huge life-changing circumstances. But the reality is, we won’t often have major events in our life that cause us to trust God and obey him in some deeply profound way.” – Christina Fox, Desiring God
Sorry, Progressives–Civil Religion May Be Dying Out, But Evangelicals Aren’t: “The future of Christianity belongs to those who don’t surrender the inconvenient, inexpedient truths of Christianity for the sake of secular pottage.” – Andrew Walker, Canon & Culture
Martyring the Layman: “In the West, we would call this kind of living ‘radical.’ Scripture calls this ‘normal.’ Normal people, amazing transformation, normal faith in Christ, normal endurance, powerful God, normal truth, unashamed outcome.” – Matt Taylor, To Every Tribe
8 Items for Christian Parents to Ponder: “[Puritan John Flavel] offers these 8 considerations, asking that you would ponder each one and allow them to motivate you to call your children to respond to the gospel.” – Tim Challies, Challiese Dot Com
How ISIS Helped Salmaa Become a Christian: “As Salmaa watched the news and saw the murder of 21 Ethiopian Christians by the hands of ISIS, she was strangely drawn to the peace she found on the faces of the men who knelt in honor of Jesus.” – Garrett Kell, For The Church
Kristen Powers: The Rise of the Intolerant Left: “Powers, best known among CT readers for her dramatic Christian testimony, recently spoke with print managing editor Katelyn Beaty about the rise of the ‘illiberal Left.'” – Christianity Today
Posted on May 14th, 2015 by Jonathan
Conrad Mbewe is the pastor of Katwaba Baptist Church in Zambia, Africa. In addition to his faithful ministry in his home country, he is a prolific writer and preaches all over the world. Below, he offers three helpful ways to pray for the continent of Africa.
In each of the three categories Pastor Mbewe mentions (especially the second – urbanized Africa), good theological training would be a huge help. There’s a great way to get involved in equipping Christians in Africa with just such resources. The Gospel Coalition International Outreach is producing a resource to combat a rampant problem throughout Africa: the prosperity gospel. Once the resource is complete (its contributors are Pastor Mbewe, Michael Otieno Maura, Ken Mbugua, Wayne Grudem, and John Piper), this book will be distributed for free throughout Africa and beyond.
You can help by donating here. A gift of $25 provides roughly 30 copies. The previous donation link includes a great information page featuring another interview with Conrad Mbewe, a video of John Piper on the prosperity gospel, an explanation of the resource they’re creating, a summary of English in Africa, and links to other related posts.
We’re thankful for the faithful ministry of TGC International Outreach in giving relief to Africa and other areas of the world suffering from a “theological famine.”
Posted on May 12th, 2015 by Radical
We are not saved from our sins because Jesus was falsely tried by Jewish and Roman officials and sentenced by Pilate to die. Neither are we saved because Roman persecutors thrust nails into the hands and feet of Christ and hung him on a cross.
Do we really think that the false judgement of men heaped upon Christ would pay the debt for all of humankind’s sin? Do we really think that a crown of thorns and whips and nails and a wooden cross and all the other facets of the crucifixion that we glamorize are powerful enough to save us?
Picture Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. As he kneels before his Father, drops of sweat and blood fall together from his head. Why is he in such agony and pain? The answer is not because he is afraid of crucifixion. He is not trembling because of what the Roman soldiers are about tot do to him.
Since that day countless men and women in the history of Christianity have died for their faith. Some of them were not just hung on crosses; they were burned there. Many of them went to their crosses singing.
One Christian in India, while being skinned alive, looked at his persecutors and said, “I thank you for this. Tear off my old garment, for I will soon put on Christ’s garment of righteousness.”
As he prepared to head to his execution, Christopher Love wrote a note to his wife, saying, “Today they will sever me from my physical head, but they cannot sever me from my spiritual head, Christ.” As he walked to his death, his wife applauded while he sang of glory.
Did these men and women in Christian history have more courage than Christ himself? Why was he trembling in that garden, weeping and full of anguish? We can rest assured that he was not a coward about to face Roman soldiers. Instead he was a Savior about to endure divine wrath.
Listen to his words: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” The “cup” is not a reference to a wooden cross; it is a reference to divine judgement. It is the cup of God’s wrath.
This is what Jesus is recoiling from in the garden. All God’s holy wrath and hatred toward sin and sinners, stored up since the beginning of the world, is about to be poured out on him, and he is sweating blood at the thought of it.
What happened at the Cross was not primarily about nails being thrust into Jesus’ hands and feet but about the wrath due your sin and my sin being thrust upon his soul. In that holy moment, all the righteous wrath and justice of God due us came down rushing like a torrent on Christ himself. Some say, “God looked down and could not bear to see the suffering that the soldiers were inflicting on Jesus, so he turned away.” But this is not true. God turned away because he could not bear to see your sin and my sin on his Son.
One preacher described it as if you and I were standing a short hundred yards away from a dam of water ten thousand miles high and ten thousand miles wide. All of a sudden, that dam was breached, and a torrential flood of water came crashing toward us. Right before it reached our feet, the ground in front of us opened up and swallowed it all. At the Cross, Christ drank the full cup of the wrath of God, and when he had downed the last drop, he turned the cup over and cried out, “It is finished.”
This is the gospel. The just and loving Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the Resurrection so that all who trust in him will be reconciled to God forever.
– David Platt, Radical, 34-36
Posted on May 12th, 2015 by Jonathan
Jackie Hill Perry offers some good advice for dealing with temptation. For more resources, go to CounterCultureBook.com.
Posted on May 11th, 2015 by Eric Parker
We’re well into May, and with it have come graduations galore! A time that so many have looked forward to for so long. A time filled with such hope and anticipation. A time where one season ends, and another begins. A time that, for many, is filled with as much anxiety as it is hope. For some, it’s questions about whether to go to college or begin a trade. For others, it’s where to go to college. For some, it’s who should I work for? Or, can I even find work?
No matter where you are, there is probably one question that sits under all of those other questions: what am I suppose to do with my life? For the third time in my life, I graduated earlier this month. And despite having gained a good deal more perspective, I still have the same basic question now as I did graduating high school and college. This question about what to do with your life can weigh heavy as one season of life literally reaches its end date, namely, graduation.
So many of us, however, make “self” the number one priority in answering that question. Above everything else, we are asking: what do I want to do? where do I want to go to school? who do I want to work for? And by asking questions, and making decisions that begin and end with me in mind, I have set myself up for the worst possible future: a wasted life!
Don’t Waste Your Life
You see, the reason that a wasted life begins and ends with me is because in reality, everything begins and ends with God. Continue Reading
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