Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

  1. Why Zeal is Not Enough

    Posted on January 27th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    Imagine being so motivated by your faith that you are willing to leave the comforts of home in order to travel over land and sea, all so that people will be converted. You refuse to be silent about what you believe, even if it means making a sacrifice. Then imagine your reaction when Jesus comes to you and, in light of all your efforts, calls you a child of hell.

    This is exactly what happened to some first-century missionaries – you may know them as the scribes and Pharisees. Here’s how Jesus responded to their disciple-making efforts:

    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)

    Condemned Converts

    The scribes and Pharisees illustrate for us why zeal, in and of itself, is not enough. They were willing to get a passport and jump on a plane, so to speak, but in the process they were making people “twice as much a child of hell” as they were (Matt 23:15). These hypocrites were zealous, but for the wrong, gospel-denying reasons.

    Religious groups that deny the gospel are still willing to travel across the world to make converts in our day. The Mormons are one of the more obvious examples. Admittedly, we can respect the commitment and the willingness of such groups to make sacrifices for what they believe, especially when they know their message won’t be well received. After all, we too should be zealous in our service to the Lord. But we don’t want to have the testimony of Israel in Paul’s day: “They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2). All the sincerity and passion in the world are not enough if we are not fueled by the truth.

    Gospel-Informed Zeal

    As Christians, our zeal has a very specific foundation, and it’s not simply a positive attitude or even a selfless desire to help others. No, our zeal is based on the gospel. It’s a Spirit-prompted response to God’s mercy in Christ, a response that includes submission, gratefulness, and a strong desire to obey. It’s what Paul meant when he said, “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor 5:14).

    Just to be clear: making sure that our zeal is motivated by the gospel is not a call to temper our excitement about Jesus. Rather, it’s a reminder to feed our affections for him by reflecting on his glories as revealed in Scripture. This helps us to obey Paul’s command, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Rom 12:11).

    So regardless of whether or not our service to the Lord requires traveling over land and sea, let’s make sure we have have the right kind of zeal – a zeal based on truth.

  2. Christians: Don’t Be Surprised by Cultural Opposition

    Posted on January 26th, 2015 by Jonathan

    John Stonestreet is a Speaker and Fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He is also co-host of BreakPoint and host of The Point, audio programs that help Christians think through cultural issues in a biblical way.

    This video is the first of many in which different people talk about various issues covered in David Platt’s new book, Counter Culture. Drawing heavily on Scripture and compelling personal accounts from around the world, Platt presents a pointed yet winsome call for readers to faithfully follow Christ in countercultural ways—ways that will prove both costly and rewarding for the contemporary church. Learn more at CounterCultureBook.com.

  3. Distinguishing Between “Lost” and “Unreached”

    Posted on January 8th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    It may seem like we’re splitting hairs to differentiate between “lost” and “unreached,” but we aren’t.

    In a previous post, we discussed unreached peoples, who they are, and what it practically means to be unreached. The definition we gave for unreached was: “people groups among whom there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage the people group with church planting.” In describing what it would mean to be in an unreached people group (UPG), David Platt illuminates the one factor that makes a UPG different than merely being lost:

    You don’t have access to the gospel. And this is key; this is why we don’t say, Well, I don’t know why we talk about unreached people around the world when there are unreached people who work at my office. Not true. Those people aren’t unreached. Why? Because they have access to the gospel. You are their access to the gospel!

    The people who don’t know Christ at your office are lost. For the salvation of their souls, they must respond to the gospel with repentance and faith. But because you are in their life (and, presumably, so are other Christians), they are not unreached.

    While an individual can’t be more or less lost (you either know Jesus or you don’t), an individual can have more or less access to the gospel. For this reason, we talk about UPGs a lot.

    We should always be sensitive to the lost, having eternity in our eyes and the good news on our lips. But when there are over 6,500 UPGSs comprised of at least 2 billion individual people… it’s safe to say that the unreached deserve our urgent attention.

  4. Responding to Persecution

    Posted on January 2nd, 2015 by Jonathan

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    “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:11-12

    For over two years, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been imprisoned in Iran for Christian activity. For over five years, Christians in Nigeria have suffered fatal attack after fatal attack at the hands of the terrorist group Boko Haram. For five and a half years, Asia Bibi has been awaiting execution in a Pakistani prison for supposed blasphemy against Allah. These are just a few of the known situations in which Christians are suffering violent injustice. So what are we, their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, supposed to do? Is Jesus suggesting that we smile and nod as if all is well?

    First, let’s shed some light on Jesus’ striking statement about persecution, above.

    Though not exactly parallel, consider exercise. There is a cost for getting fit. If you’ve ever had trouble walking down a set of stairs after doing squats or difficulty brushing your teeth after doing curls, you know what it feels like. It may be painful, and some instances may be worse than others, but it’s a good hurt. Your sore muscles prove that you’ve been using them and mean you’re getting stronger.

    Now think about persecution. In the terms of our exercise analogy, persecution isn’t the work-out… it’s the soreness. Just as people don’t go to the gym to get sore, Christians don’t share the gospel to get a violent backlash. That’s not the goal. You go to the gym to become stronger, and you proclaim the gospel that God may be glorified. That is the goal.

    When we don’t have this end goal in view, we can often have an improper perspective on the type of persecution (and subsequent rejoicing) Jesus talks about in Matthew 5. We can shortsightedly look at this passage, and others like it, and conclude that persecution is a “blessed” thing in itself. But that’s not what Jesus says – he blesses persecuted people, not persecution. And why? Because being reviled, persecuted, and slandered is simply evidence of acting on Jesus’ account. And just because he blesses them, doesn’t mean their aches and tears go away. There’s a subtle, yet key, difference between rejoicing in such suffering and enjoying it. Although people don’t enjoy sore muscles, they can be glad about sore muscles because it means they’re getting stronger. In the same way, although our brothers and sister don’t enjoy persecution, they can be glad about persecution because it means they’re proclaiming Christ.

    I think this is what Jesus is saying – we can rejoice in persecution even though it isn’t enjoyable. But this has more to do with the attitude and demeanor of the persecuted than it does our response. Are we supposed to do anything about it? Yes. There are at least three things we should do in response to the persecution of Christians, and none of them include passive smiling and nodding.

    First, we should be challenged to spread the gospel. The reality is, Christians are not persecuted for relegating their worship and witness to the home. Persecution occurs in opposition to gospel proclamation. When we hear of brothers and sisters being persecuted for boldly sharing their faith, we should ask ourselves, “Am I sharing my faith? Am taking advantage of my freedom?”

    Second, we should pray for the persecuted. We can’t overemphasize this response even though it is an obvious one. What may not be as obvious, though, is what to pray. Acts 4:24-30 provides a helpful starting point: pray for their continued boldness, the power of the Holy Spirit, and fruitfulness. But do we pray for their safety? Yes! That leads to the last response…

    Third, we should advocate for freedom and justice on behalf of the persecuted. As part of the body with them, we suffer when they do. Fighting for their well-being is part of loving our brothers and sisters well. Believers are to follow Jesus’ example of standing up on behalf of the oppressed, Christian or not. Where there is injustice, we labor for justice to reflect our just God. And on top of all that, we should fight for their freedom to proclaim the God-glorifying gospel, because, again, that is the ultimate goal.

  5. Good News for Anxious Souls in 2015

    Posted on December 31st, 2014 by David Burnette

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    The prospect of a new year can bring with it a new sense of purpose and hope, particularly if you’re naturally optimistic. If that’s you, then, by all means, harness this renewed energy for good, God-glorifying purposes.

    If, on the other hand, you’re default mode is to be more pessimistic, anxious, or downright melancholic, then staring down the barrel of a new year with all its unknowns can add weight to your already-heavy load. It’s this latter category of people I want to encourage.

    Of course, if you’re realistic, or better yet, if you know your Bible, then you know 2015 will have its share of struggles. You will face difficult circumstances (Js 1:2; Rom 8:23). You will face opposition for your faith (Jn 16:33; 2 Tim 3:12). And you will continue to battle sin (Js 3:2; 1 Jn 1:8-10). Go ahead and mark it down. However, these struggles aren’t the whole story.

    Hope for the New Year

    Regardless of how anxious you may be as you anticipate changes, decisions, diagnoses, or other stresses, I want to offer three reasons to be encouraged as you look to 2015. These aren’t so much predictions, because that would make them sound uncertain. Rather, these are rock-solid promises from God’s Word that you can rest in for the months (and years) ahead. If you’re a follower of Christ, here’s what you can be sure of in 2015:

    1. God will sustain your faith. Through difficult circumstances, temptations, and even failures, God enables his people to persevere in faith. He is able to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). You may feel weak, but rest assured that your faith is being upheld by omnipotent power.
    1. God will forgive your sins. Your worst sins in 2015 will be no match for God’s mercy. First John 1:9 says that God will forgive us and cleanse us if we confess our sin. What a joy to know that, as a believer in Christ, God knew the sins you would commit in this new year and he still chose to lavish his grace on you. This doesn’t mean that your sin isn’t a big deal, or that you don’t need to continually repent of it, but it does mean that it has been decisively dealt with in the death of Christ.
    1. God will use every circumstance for your eternal good. You may recognize this final point as a paraphrase of Romans 8:28. Nothing will happen to you in the coming year that your Heavenly Father will not use for your eternal good. You may not know why God brings certain things your way, or how they can be used for good, but you can trust God’s promises. He is faithful, wise, and good. We have every reason, then, to face the future with the humble confidence of the psalmist: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps 27:1)

    In the end, whether you’re naturally an optimist or a pessimist, as a child of God you can take an honest look at the new year, even with all its unknowns, and still know joy and peace.

  6. Thanks, and Happy New Year

    Posted on December 31st, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Radical has had a great year. We’ve continued much of the same (like daily maintenance of David Platt’s resources online), but 2014 has also seen a lot exciting growth and change (like the Radical Together podcast). Thank you for all your financial support, whether making donations and shopping in our store. We’re hoping that, with your continued generosity, 2015 will be even better!

    Here are some of the highlights from 2014:

    • Secret Church
      • Facilitated our fourteenth Secret Church gathering this past year, which was simulcast to 60,000 people from 80 countries.
      • Developed a new Small Group Discussion Guide to accompany Secret Church 14.
      • Continued to make Secret Church resources available in our Resource Library free of charge.
    • Resource Library: Continued to provide 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

    Have a great start to the new year. Blessings!

  7. Top Five Guest Posts of 2014

    Posted on December 31st, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Below are our five most viewed guest posts of the year. Most of them were interviews, one of them was an original post, and all of them were made possible by individuals who carved out time to help us put good, quality, helpful content on our blog. A big thank-you to each one.

    Enjoy . . .

    1. Lora Lynn Fanning: “This Parenting Gig is All about Making Me More Like Christ”
      “Every nose I wipe and every midnight puke-fest refines me a little more. And as He makes me more like Him, I learn to want what He wants–for myself and for my children. I am learning to want holiness for my babies over their safety or sleeping through the night. All my worries and fears as a mom fade in the face of my desire for my kids to love Jesus: To know how selfless and good He is, how much better at loving their every breath He is than their weak mama.”
    2. Ann Voskamp and Sophie Hudson: “On the Cross and Everyday Life” – PART 1 and PART 2
      “I need a cross-centered life if I am going to live the Christ-filled life. The cross is the sign of God’s lavish, unfathomable affection for us, and we need the cross daily because of these two realities: 1) How else can I remember that He loves me? 2) How else can I remember how to die daily? We need a place of execution in our lives if we’re ever to rightly execute a life of faith.”
    3. J.D. Greear: “On the Gospel and Everyday Routines”
      “True, devoid of the gospel, such disciplines will become legalistic and empty. But the entire purpose of daily disciplines is to give us an opportunity to think about, and meditate on, and move within the gospel. Practicing spiritual disciplines is like cutting furrows that faith in the gospel can fill with new life.”
    4. Anonymous: “He’s Got Missionary Wives in His Hands”
      “Would we, by faith, see the things Jesus has done in the past (1 Cor. 15:3), things he’s doing “above” even now (Heb. 8:1), and things he will do in days to come (Isa. 45:23). Let us take courage as we consider God’s particular, far-reaching, steadfast love, which he shows to us in these concrete ways . . .”
    5. Kevin DeYoung: “On Busyness and the Christian Life”
      “It’s no accident that Luke was inspired to put the Mary-Martha story at the end of chapter 10, after the sending out of the 72 disciples for powerful ministry and after the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s the Lord’s way of telling us: look, you can cast out demons, you can preach, you can heal, you can stop by the side of the road to help the sick and dying, but if you don’t spend time with me, you are neglecting the very thing I want most from you: to sit at my feet.”

    Honorable Mentions:
    Psalm-Shaped Parenting (by Scott James)
    Mack Stiles on Evangelism: Teaching the Gospel with the Aim to Persuade
    Gloria Furman on The Cross and Busy Moms
    An Intro to Spiritual Disciplines with Dr. Donald Whitney

  8. Being More About Missions in 2015 . . . Practically

    Posted on December 29th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Most of us would do well to be more involved in global missions. But it simply won’t do to make a New Year’s resolution to “be more missional” . . . you are likely already well aware that you should be praying more, giving more, and/or going more. Knowing how to do these things is another matter, and not knowing where to begin can leave you feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

    So, below are several starting points. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but practical and manageable. It may even get you thinking about other ways you can be more about the Great Commission.

    Write a Missionary Every Month
    There is little more encouraging to missionaries than genuine interest in their ministry from friends and family back home. When you take the time to sit down and ask them how they are doing, update them on what’s new with you, share what God is teaching you, and tell them how you are praying for them, your care is evident. You, too, will be blessed, encouraged, and challenged by this practice. Though emails are good, an occasional hand-written letter is a nice touch. And every so often, send a care package.

    Educate Yourself on Regions of the World
    Choose different areas of the world to learn about and pray for. The regions could be big (ex: Siberia) or small (ex: Lebanon), and you can shift your focus once a month, twice a month, or once a quarter. Learn about the area’s people groups, culture, government, economy, and history. Make it a family activity, and have fun with it. You can prepare a meal common to the region, listen the its traditional music, or play a game/sport that originates there. As you begin to appreciate the area’s people and culture, you will see it as less of an abstract shape on a map and more of a real place with real people who have real physical and spiritual needs.

    Serve International Students at a Nearby College
    It’s often surprising how many people groups are present when you look around you. What might be more surprising is the large number of them who are never invited into an American home. Try seeking them out. You might go to ethnic restaurants, markets, or other places where they gather, but one of the most natural channels is through your local college or university. Many of them have sizable populations of international students who are studying abroad in America, and some them even have programs set up to connect them to Americans. Ask if there’s any way you can get involved.

    Organize a Fundraiser
    The less missionaries have to worry about sustaining themselves, the more they can focus on the work at hand. Consider organizing a car wash, a tournament, a garage sale, or some other creative method of raising money for a missionary family, organization, or church fund. Whether or not you already give, a world missions fundraiser has several benefits. 1) They can be effective ways to quickly raise and give more money than a small group of individuals can give on their own. 2) Fundraisers also raise awareness – among both the people giving and the people you recruit to help put it on. This can often be more valuable than any monetary gain. 3) Going out of your way to set up a fundraiser helps create solidarity with missionaries in the field while greatly encouraging them at the same time.

    Serve Missionaries on Furlough
    If your church has commissioned missionaries, ask your church leaders if and when they’ll be returning on furlough, and find out what their needs are. Do they need a place to stay for a couple of months? Do they need a car? A cell phone? Once you know what their practical needs are, see if there’s anything you can do to help meet them, even sacrificially.

    Pray for the Persecuted
    Many of you already pray for unreached people groups with the help of resources like PeopleGroups.org, Operation World, or Joshua Project. As you continue this, remember that proclamation of the gospel to the least reached is often accompanied by opposition and persecution. Learn of specific ways to begin praying for persecuted Christians and the ones imposing it on them with the help of Open Doors or Voice of the Martyrs.

  9. Week 4 of Advent: Thanksgiving

    Posted on December 24th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    The coming of our Savior should ultimately lead to thanksgiving. So this Christmas Eve, we’ll wrap up our series of Advent posts (here are one, two, and three) with an encouragement to that end.

    Take a look at Zechariah’s beautiful words of thanks when his son, John the Baptist, was born:

    Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
    and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
    as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
    that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
    to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
    the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
    that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
    might serve him without fear,
    in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Lk 1:68-75)

    Though he prophesied this when John was born, it wasn’t primarily his son’s birth that he was thankful for here. He knew John was to “go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (verse 76), and that’s who he was ultimately thankful for – the Lord Jesus. During Advent, we remember that Jesus “has visited and redeemed his people,” and we thank him for it.

    Even so, for many, this time of year is darker and lonelier than any other, and thanking God for his goodness to you can be hard to do when you’re in pain. What if, during this supposedly special time for family and friends, you’re without either? What if there’s real strife among your family that makes being together nearly impossible? What if you’re still reeling from the loss of a loved one or dealing with old scars that no one else still feels? What if this time of year does nothing but remind you of the past – the loss, the poor decisions, the abuse?

    If you’re hurting, take heart. That’s why Jesus came . . . to heal hurt. Isaiah tells us that we are healed by Jesus’ wounds (53:5). In other words, it took hurt to heal hurt. Jesus knows pain and is fully able to sympathize with you in it.

    If you find thanksgiving hard to come by, know that the Bible speaks nothing of superficial, fuzzy feelings. In fact, a biblical idea of thanksgiving will tell us that it can sometimes feel more like a hard discipline than an overflow of emotion. This is the sort of thanksgiving that Paul is directing the Thessalonians toward, a church well-acquainted with suffering, to be sure (1 Thes 1:6). He told them, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes 5:16-18).

    Thanksgiving is not a response to circumstance. Instead of rejoicing over the highs and lamenting over the lows, we can use life’s dips and plunges to remind ourselves all the more of why we ought to be thankful. For when we respond to pain well, not only are comforted by the reality that Jesus knows pain and is fully able to sympathize with you in it (remember, it took hurt to heal hurt), but we are also prompted to remember that Jesus came and suffered for us so that, eventually, our suffering will end altogether. For this reason, in feast and famine, we thank Jesus for his first Advent . . . and we thank him in advance for his second.

    “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.'”(Rev 21:3-4)

  10. Four Missions Trends to be Thankful For

    Posted on November 27th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    This Thanksgiving, we wanted give thanks to God for four current trends in world missions.

    1. Disasters and Crises – This may seem like an odd way to begin a list of things we’re thankful for. We certainly aren’t suggesting that these situations are good or that there is no need for further help, but in all the bad, we have great reason for praise. In what seems to be an increasingly tumultuous world, God is working in amazing ways. The displacement of people in the Middle East is forging bridges between peoples that have long been opposed to one another. The Lord is using such moves toward unity to spread his gospel across ethnic divides. As Muslims see the extreme brutality of ISIS (which directly associates itself with Islam), many are beginning to question their faith and loosen their grip on what has for so long been the cultural status quo. This, coupled with their extreme need, has led to an increased receptivity to the good news of Jesus. This increased receptivity could also be the case in Ebola-striken West Africa, where people are in dire need of assistance and missionaries are sacrificially serving while giving public glory to God.

    2. Chinese Church Explosion – This is not a new storyline, but its steady continuation ought to give us even more reason for praising God. The church in China is rapidly growing. Many now believe that there are more Christians in China than registered communists (87 million), and based on current growth rates, there could be “250 million Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world.” Keep in mind that this is happening in a country governed by the Chinese communist party – the world’s largest atheist organization. The party is now being forced to adapt and/or change its strategy for “controlling” Christianity.

    3. Globalization and Business Initiatives – Fresh research on the migration of people groups has made individuals aware of unreached peoples next door. This is, in part, the result of increasing globalization. Also a result of globalization, growing foreign markets and overlapping international economies have given rise to a desire in Christians to reach the nations through global business opportunities. When combined with initiatives like Every Square Inch and The Gospel at Work, people are now eager to take advantage of their careers to make disciples near and far.

    4. Latin American Shift Toward Protestantism – Pew Research released a study this month showing a monumental shift in religious identity for a vast region of the world that has historically been majority Catholic. Latin Americans are converting to Protestantism at an unprecedented rate. Their number one reason: “seeking a more personal connection with God.” This has led Albert Mohler to attribute the shift to theology, not just culture or politics.

    When it comes to the spread of the gospel, let us remember that no matter the circumstance, we have much to be thankful for, because in Christ, the victory is already won. May our praying, giving, going, and thanking always reflect this reality.