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  1. The Horn Project: Reaching Somalis Through YouTube

    Posted on August 31st, 2015 by Jonathan

    Social media is a two-edged sword. At its worst, it preoccupies us with ourselves and the things of this world. At its best, it is an avenue for the gospel to penetrate unreached people groups.

    We’re excited to tell you about a specific initiative aimed at helping you do the latter.

    The Somali people are located in the Horn of Africa, our Secret Church 9 prayer focus. An unreached people group, there are nearly 17 million Somalis. War and famine has led many of them outside the borders of Somalia, yet they remain unreached with the good news of Jesus. Thankfully, there are some invaluable efforts currently underway to change this. But we’d like to add one.

    We’re calling it The Horn Project. It’s creative, unconventional, and cutting edge. And it’s dependent on you. Here’s how it works:

    Below is an animated video in the Somali language. In under ten minutes, the history of sin and the need for a blood sacrifice is traced all the way from Adam to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. Now it just needs to be viewed by Somali people.

    This is where you come in. You can actually help us get this video in front of Somali people. In two weeks, Somali-speakers will be targeted with a Facebook add for this video. These adds will be much more effective if the video is highly viewed.

    So we need you to view it. A lot.

    And not just you, but your family, your church, your friends, your small group, and your co-workers, too. The more views it gets, the higher the chance it’s seen by Somali eyes.

    We know you probably don’t speak Somali, and that’s okay. We simply need the number of views to increase. So over the course of the next two weeks, get to watching (and re-watching) and sharing. Post it on your Facebook page, tweet it from your Twitter account, pin it on your Pinterest board, and employ any other social media accounts at your disposal.

    The Horn Project is an easy way to help make disciples of all nations. As you participate, pray that this video would ultimately be seen by the right people, that the Lord would transform hearts, and that God would then bring believers to follow up with them. Pray that the Somali people would put their trust in the one true Savior.

  2. Religion 101, Neighbors, Being Black & Pro-Life, Manhood

    Posted on August 28th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    How to Survive World Religions 101: A six-minute-long video that offers five excellent pointers in how to deal with intellectual challenges to Christianity. (Michael Kruger)

    Loving the Neighbor We Didn’t Choose: “Sometimes it is these neighbors we find most difficult to love. As G.K. Chesterton said, ‘We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor. . . .'” (Jon Bloom)

    Christian, pro-life and black: Advocating for all of life: “While the contribution of certain individuals and organizations during the Civil Rights Movement should never be forgotten, this advocacy is no reason to ignore the contra-biblical practices of abortion providers.” (Jeramy Tisby)

    Four Americans in France Show the World What it Means to be a Man: “Instead of thinking only about their own security, they acted to help others. In a flash, out of the fog of a much-needed nap on a train, they woke up and ran down the aisle toward a killer with a gun.” (Owen Strachan)

  3. What is Lacking in Christ’s Afflictions

    Posted on August 26th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    Before you wave your red heresy flag and warn all your friends to never read the Radical blog again, let me be clear where I’m coming from with “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” I’m not saying anything should be added to the gospel; it lacks nothing. But in Colossians 1:24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”

    It’s a striking phrase, one which, if read wrongly, may seem to contradict verses like Hebrews 10:10, which speak of the finished work of Christ on the cross. If Christ’s blood is completely sufficient to save sinners, and it is, then how can there be anything lacking in his suffering for them? John Piper has a helpful explanation:

    In his sufferings Paul is “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for… the church.” What does that mean? It means that Paul’s sufferings fill up Christ’s afflictions not by adding anything to their worth, but by extending them to the people they were meant to save.

    What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is not that they are deficient in worth, as though they could not sufficiently cover the sins of all who believe. What is lacking is that the infinite value of Christ’s afflictions is not known and trusted in the world. These afflictions and what they mean are still hidden to most peoples. And God’s intention is that the mystery be revealed to all the nations. So the afflictions of Christ are “lacking” in the sense that they are not seen and known and loved among the nations. They must be carried by missionaries. And those missionaries “complete” what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others. (Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ, 22)

    David Platt agrees. In Secret Church 12: The Cross and Suffering, he asserts that Colossians 1:24 is referring to Christ fulling his mission through us. Here’s how he expounds:

    • Christ suffered to accomplish salvation.
    • We suffer to spread salvation.
    • God’s strategy for redeeming the world to Himself has always been a suffering servant. that strategy has not changed.
    • So we gladly embrace the cross of Christ so that others might eternally enjoy the Christ of the cross.

    “Christ’s cross was for propitiation; ours is for propagation.” – Josef Tson

  4. Arian’s Heresy

    Posted on August 24th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    It’s not every day that someone gets a lot of publicity for believing that the universe came from nothing.

    After all, there are plenty of Americans who are thoroughly secular in their worldview. But when you’re Arian Foster, the four-time Pro-Bowler from the Houston Texans and one of the top running backs in the NFL, you can get a lot of attention for not believing in God, particularly when you agree to be the spokesperson for a national campaign led by the nonprofit group Openly Secular. Foster’s goal is to “increase awareness and acceptance of nonbelievers” according to Tim Keown’s recent article in ESPN The Magazine. There’s a lot to say about a national campaign that celebrates unbelief, but it’s the tone of Arian Foster’s brand of secularism, at least in the way that it comes off in this article, that presents a special challenge for believers.

    Unlike the well-known comedian and talk show host Bill Maher, who is also part of the Openly Secular campaign, Foster doesn’t come across as brash and combative. He says he wants to be a “happy human being and continue to learn.” Foster doesn’t like being “judgmental and aggressive,” and he even called the New Testament an “awesome story.” Nevertheless, Foster prefers the explanations of science rather than the exclusive claims of religion. Oddly enough, it’s this “open-minded” approach that can blind us to the spiritual condition of Foster and those like him. It sounds humble, but as Psalm 10:4 reminds us, failing to acknowledge God’s authority is arrogant and wicked:

    In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
    all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

    Regardless of whether someone is openly hostile to God or whether he simply shrugs and claims to be undecided, it is rebellion not to submit to the One who rules over heaven and earth. Neutrality is not an option. Jesus put it this way: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). We either confess that Jesus is Lord, or we shake our fist at him.

    Sadly, there are countless individuals in our culture who, like Arian Foster, have rejected God but don’t think of themselves as hostile toward him. They want to be known as thoughtful and accepting of others. You probably work with such individuals or live beside them. They might not call themselves atheists or secular, but make no mistake: they have rejected the one true and living God. In fact, this is true for all who are outside of Christ, regardless of their religious affiliation (or non-affiliation). Thankfully, their situation is not hopeless.

    God can save Arian Foster and every other individual who now opposes him (Romans 1:16). That’s why, regardless of outward appearances, we need to recognize secularism as outright rebellion against God. This will help us see the need to engage such individuals with the gospel, a gospel that saves all kinds of sinners. Even those who are openly secular.

    — Image Credit: Paul Sancya/AP Images via ESPN

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    The 7th video exposing Planned Parenthood drops: Newborn children killed while their hearts are still beating. The 7th video put out by The Center for Medical Progress is too awful for words, as the evil of abortion and Planned Parenthood’s practices continue to be exposed. See also the 4 FAQ’s from Justin Taylor.

    How Love Shelters Us in a Cultural Crisis: Trevin Wax looks at 1 Peter and talks about love–God’s love for us in Christ and our love for one another–as the shelter we need in a cultural storm.

    Winning the church to mission: Remind the church of the gospel, help them see from Scripture that they possess the Spirit, and celebrate what God is doing through them. J.D. Greear talks about three ways to lead the church to obey the Great Commission.

    Responding to Muslims with the gospel, not fear: Ayman Ibrahim encourages us to engage Muslims with the gospel rather than fearing or stereotyping them.

  6. 1 Comment

    Tell Brandon to Follow Jesus

    Posted on August 19th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    You remember Brandon? That church friend from middle school?

    That guy never missed a Sunday. The adults never said it, but you knew they all wished that everyone else in the youth group was a little more like Brandon. The crazy part was, Brandon wasn’t a teacher’s pet. He was the real deal. At school, he never cheated, avoided gossip, worked hard, joyfully engaged others, and even shared the gospel on occasion. That one night at summer camp, when he was crying… turned out that he felt called to ministry.

    What ever happened to Brandon?

    Unfortunately, like so many of the Brandons in our lives, Facebook betrays him. Based on the language he uses, the places he visits, and the pictures he takes, he isn’t living up to his “Most Likely to Be a Missionary” superlative. Frankly, it’s confusing. What do you make of Brandon?

    You’ve probably wondered this, at one point or another, and it’s a question worth asking (we’ve considered it before). Is Brandon a believer or not? Quite literally, it’s a life or death matter of eternal proportions.

    Thankfully, we don’t have to answer the question with 100% certainty in order to help Brandon. Whether the answer is He’s an unbeliever or He’s just going through a rough patch, our essential message to him is the same. Because…

    If he’s an unbeliever, then we call him to repent and believe in Jesus. We urge him to answer the initial call of Christ to his disciples: “Follow me” (Matt 4:19).

    And if he’s a genuine believer entangled in a cycle of sin, though knowing this may alter our starting point a bit, then we still call him to repent and believe in Jesus. Keep following him.

    We know this from the contents of Paul’s New Testament letters, addressed to believers then and applicable to believers now. Time and again, he qualifies our salvation with phrases that encourage us to persevere in the faith:

    • “If indeed you continue in the faith” (Col 1:23)
    • “Provided we suffer with him” (Rom 8:17)
    • “If we endure” (2 Tim 2:12)

    This does not mean that we could lose our salvation. Rather, it’s God’s gracious means of preserving it. In Jesus’ own words,

    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (Jn 10:27-29)

    In Christ’s pasture, we are completely secure. He’s the one that sought us out and brought us there in the first place. But as his sheep, we hear his voice… and follow him.

    So consider messaging Brandon. Tell him to follow Jesus. You don’t have to figure out the eternal state of his soul before you do.

  7. Three Characteristics of False Doctrine

    Posted on August 17th, 2015 by Jonathan

    Here is the great evangelical disaster – the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this – accommodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.… Truth carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation: loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.
    – Francis Schaeffer 

    Francis Schaeffer knew that having sound doctrine was not only crucial, but also difficult. We live in a time and place where the conveniences of accommodating falsehood far outweigh the inconveniences of holding to what the Bible teaches – in the short run, at least. The reality is that our doctrine has eternal implications. When Paul warns Timothy of false teachers, he explicitly ties sound doctrine to the gospel (1 Tim 1:10-11). This is because the gospel requires faith and repentance. If we distort Jesus, then the object of our faith is not the Savior, and if we distort his commands, then God-honoring repentance is impossible.

    We should be wary of false doctrine for these three reasons:

    1. False Doctrine is Subtle

    There are two types of teachers in the world: true teachers who teach true things, and false teachers who teach false things. Both claim to tell the truth. Jesus said that despite their sheep-clothing cover-up, we’d know them by their fruit (Matt 7:15). Listen to these striking words from Jeremiah:

    An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? (Jer 5:30-31)

    When our ears are tickled and our hearts are preyed on, do we reject it or do we “love to have it so”?

    2. False Doctrine is Powerful

    Good doctrine saves souls. Once again, we look to Paul’s admonition to Timothy:

    Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim 4:16)

    Bad doctrine is powerful too, but in an opposite way. That’s why condemning false teaching is not a matter of winning arguments or feeding egos, but clearly (and lovingly) warning people. Do we treat false doctrine like lethal poison?

    Here’s why we ultimately should…

    3. False Doctrine is Dangerous

    Any doctrine that is contrary to the gospel is damning. If we buy into it we will spend eternity in hell. That’s a watery paraphrase of what Jesus told the Pharisees for promulgating a false doctrine of works:

    Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matt 23:15)

    Does the prudence with which we guard ourselves against false doctrine reflect the eternally serious implications of straying into it?

    The three warnings above are expanded on from Secret Church 7: Angels, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare.

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    Beggars, Ferguson, Sex, Abortion, Back-to-School Moms

    Posted on August 14th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    What to Do When Met with a Beggar: “A hand is outstretched before you. Do you put money in it or do you decline? Most of us at that point begin to measure up the man (or woman) before us….” (Jarred Wilson)

    A year after Ferguson, have white Christians learned anything?: “Some would dismiss structural injustices by saying, ‘It’s not a skin problem; it’s a sin problem.’ Well, yes, as an evangelical Christian, I believe everything apart from Jesus is a ‘sin problem.’ But that shouldn’t lead us to avoid questions of public justice….” (Russell Moore)

    Sex is More and Less Important Than You Think: “Our Christian witness must ‘put sex in its place’ – meaning, we will need to take sexuality more seriously and less seriously than the rest of society.” (Trevin Wax)

    A Back-to-School Letter to Weary Moms: “Today, I am looking back to those intensely full days with four children in school and thinking about how much more restful I could have been…So today I am writing a letter to my younger mom self and moms who are in the throes now.” (Elizabeth Turnage) (here’s part 2)

    The sixth video and the need for visionary prolife leadership: “I do not believe that being right on any single issue qualifies a candidate for office. But I do believe that being wrong on certain issues can disqualify a candidate.” (Denny Burk)

    Free Three-Part Series on Effective Disciplemaking: “It’s a 3-part video series we created for you that lays out a blueprint for effective disciplemaking.” (Verge Network)

  9. 3 Comments

    Dear Birthmother of My Daughter

    Posted on August 13th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    Dear Birthmother of My Daughter,

    In this instance, the word dear is not throwaway. I use it very intentionally. For without you, one of the dearest people in my life would not be in my life at all. In fact, without you, my daughter would not have life at all. Thank you for choosing life.

    I don’t know you or the circumstances of your pregnancy, but your decision not to abort was a heroic answer to prayer. Childbirth certainly isn’t easy. Neither are the social inconveniencies of an unexpected pregnancy or the judging eyes of others. Yet you endured all this, and in so doing, you grew our family. In choosing life, you’ve made it clear how tragic a choice abortion would have been: the death of our daughter.

    Maybe you hadn’t planned on getting pregnant, but your pregnancy was not unplanned. God was acting in accordance with the marvelous plans he had already made. Whatever factors led you to protect the life of the baby you carried, whatever motives were at play, be encouraged. God used you.

    Like you, my wife and I also had other plans. We set out to adopt internationally. Convinced of the need for some more “us time” and financially unprepared for a child, we were in no hurry to shorten the three-year process. At the end of it all, we would bring home a little boy from Ethiopia.

    We’re now smack in the middle of that three-year journey… and it’s no longer just my wife and me waiting for a son. Our daughter is now also waiting for her brother.

    Our expectations were upended. Instead of three years, we had three months. Instead of an Ethiopian, we had an Alabamian. Instead of a toddling boy, we had a crawling girl. It was, all of it, unplanned.

    And it was all of grace.

    If you’ve failed to see that grace, the life-giving grace of a God who is sovereign over both good and ill, I pray that the Lord will show it to you. I pray that the Lord will continue to use your beautiful life to impact other beautiful lives as you have ours and hers. And if you haven’t already, when you’re faced with the choice of abundant life in Christ or eternal death with the world, I pray you will, again, choose life.

    We named our daughter Eden after the garden where life began. Our prayer for her – and for you – is that God would, through His Son, take her from the desert wilderness of this world and bring her into the eternal Eden of His presence. May she one day walk in perfect communion with her heavenly Father, alongside you and me, her brother and sister.

    Together, we are part of a beautiful story, one that’s much bigger than a unplanned pregnancy and an unexpected adoption. We’re part of a gospel story in which God makes the broken whole, the bad good, the orphan a son and daughter, the dead alive. The desert Eden.

    With love and gratitude,

    An Adoptive Father on Earth
    An Adopted Son of Heaven

    For the LORD comforts Zion;
    he comforts all her waste places
    and makes her wilderness like Eden,
    her desert like the garden of the LORD;
    joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the voice of song. (Isaiah 51:3)

  10. 1 Comment

    College: “The Greatest Mission Field in the World”

    Posted on August 12th, 2015 by Lee Sullens

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    As a ten-year veteran of college ministry, there are two main assertions that have formed the basis of my ministry philosophy and have driven my methodology:

    1. The university campus is the greatest mission field in the world
    2. Your four years in college are the most formative and strategic years of your life.

    Both assertions provide a jumping off point for me as I make disciples within this demographic. Over the years I have seen hundreds of students come to the realization that they are living among people they would have never chosen to live among. They are studying with people who look and think much differently than themselves. They are joining organizations and playing sports with people from different cultures, religions, and worldviews. One of my greatest joys is when students recognize the incredible opportunity at hand and begin to strategically live their lives to impact those around them.

    A Microcosm of the World

    I believe the university campus is a microcosm of the world. Within the proverbial “4 walls” of a campus are dozens, if not hundreds, of affinity groups, people with varying interests, backgrounds, and philosophies. These are students from all over the world, many of whom will return to their home countries upon graduation to take their seats as people of great influence. The nations have literally come to us. The starting point for global influence is vastly simplified for a student viewing life through these missional lenses. It simply shifts from an 18 hour plane trip to a roommate, a classmate, a teammate. The university campus provides a natural environment to live life among those who have not yet tasted the sweetness of the Gospel.

    Within this diverse landscape lies the microcosmic slice of humanity’s fundamental need. We need to be fixed. It’s not hard to see that the world, the culture, and the campus is broken. The disagreement rests in the solution to this obvious brokenness. There are those who purport that social reform, higher fitness levels, and more education will provide the solutions but that is simply not the case. The harsh reality is that we are all dead and we need someone to make us alive again. Only the Gospel will transform our campus, our culture, and our world. To enter college is to step onto the greatest mission field in the world.

    Four Years of Purpose

    When this reality is embraced, a paradigm shift occurs. I refer to this shift as four years of purpose. Students begin to see that their purpose in college is not primarily to obtain a piece of paper that will facilitate their pursuit of the American dream. Rather, they understand that a Sovereign King has strategically placed them where they are primarily to impact people for His name’s sake. A college degree and career prospects are just icing on the cake. He cares deeply about those things and wants us to strive for excellence in those areas, but he has a much greater purpose for college students. That purpose is a little thing I like to call global impact. Throughout history God has used young people, full of zeal and passion, to impact the world. Every 18 year old who enters college, no matter the location, has the same potential. I often tell my students everyone is going somewhere, let’s go somewhere on purpose. Let’s see our four years not only as formative but strategic. There’s a reason one lands in a particular city, on a particular campus, rooms with a particular roommate, and chooses a particular major. God wants every believer to live on purpose and invest their lives in other people. Typically every student has four years in this incredible microcosm. Four years of purpose, four years to make disciples who will turn the world upside down.

    I see the university campus as a river that leads to a greater body of water. As college ministers and missional college students we have the opportunity to inject the river with a sort of theological antivenin, the Gospel, that will not only heal the river but will travel the currents to a greater body of water and infuse it with glorious transformation. In a phrase, “change the campus, change the world.”

    Lee Sullens serves as the college minister at The Church at Brook Hills. Previous to that, he spent seven years doing discipleship-based college ministry on campus at UNC Chapel Hill.