Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category
Posted on December 2nd, 2014 by David Burnette
A great resource is now even better. Scott James’ Advent guide, The Expected One: Anticipating All of Jesus in All of Christmas, is now available from B&H as a hardcover book. David Platt writes in the foreword,
“Jesus has come, Jesus has died, Jesus has risen, and Jesus will forever reign! Certainly these themes are worthy of our reflection. For this reason, I enthusiastically recommend The Expected One . . .”
In this devotional guide Scott leads us through Old Testament prophecies and expectations leading up to Christ’s first coming. Discussion questions as well as foundational biblical themes are woven throughout these lessons to make this resource perfectly suited for families with children, though it will be helpful for anyone who wants to focus on the significance of Christ’s first coming.
Scott James is an elder at The Church at Brook Hills, and last year he was kind enough to answer the following questions for us about this Advent guide:
A lot of Christians have heard of Advent, but what exactly is it?
Advent comes from the Latin word meaning coming, and it refers to the weeks leading up to Christmas when we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of Jesus. Various traditions (e.g. wreaths, candles, Jesse Trees, etc…) have been established to help us focus on Christ during this season and, depending on how you use them, these can be very beneficial. The Expected One devotional is not tied to any particular Advent tradition, but it simply uses the weeks leading up to December 25th as a time to call families and friends together to glory in our great Savior.
How do you hope that people will use this resource?
My hope is that this devotional will be a user-friendly resource for a broad range of people. As a family worship resource, I think that parents who already have an established worship time in their home will find that it fits seamlessly into their routine. Parents not familiar with the practice of family worship (or those just struggling to actually pull it off) can use it as an easily accessible starting point. As a father leading worship in my own home, my biggest struggle is biting off more than I can chew—or more precisely, more than my kids can chew. With that in mind, I purposefully wrote these devotionals in a simple and straightforward fashion. Concise but impactful.
Although the primary audience is intended to be families with young children, the themes and discussion questions in this devotional are edifying for older audiences as well. Each day has a final, open-ended question that is specifically included to engage the adult mind as much as the kids’. I believe that teenagers and adults will benefit from it just as much as young families.
How might these Advent readings help us better understand not only the Christmas narrative, but the entire Bible?
That really is the goal of the whole devotional—to celebrate the nativity story within the larger context of the story of redemption. Even for those of us seeking to “keep Christ in Christmas,” it is far too easy to focus on the manger scene to the exclusion of all else. By compartmentalizing the amazing truth of the Incarnation, we actually diminish its brilliance. The nativity is best celebrated when it is found in the shadow of the Cross. These devotions use Old Testament Scriptures to highlight the multi-faceted promises that God gave His people concerning the person and work of His Son Jesus. By tracing out the bigger redemptive picture, my hope is that our hearts will be all the more prepared to find deep satisfaction in Jesus during Advent.
— You can pick up the The Expected One wherever books are sold.
Posted on November 27th, 2014 by Jonathan
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.
Since David Platt became president of the IMB, many people have been wondering if he’s going to continue teaching. He’s not stepping into the pulpit on a weekly basis anymore… so is his preaching ministry coming to a close?
In a word, no.
We’re excited to announce one of the ways he’ll continue preaching. On Monday, November 3, Radical will be launching a new podcast series from David called Radical Together. Regularly dive into God’s Word as David shares some biblical insights and calls us to action. These messages will serve as a good supplement to the teaching you already receive at your local church… and so that you can more easily utilize them on your commute, they will be a bit shorter than his usual sermons.
Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes for free HERE. Access the audio files on our website. For non-iTunes and Android users, we’re working on getting an RSS feed going, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
However it works best for you, we hope you’ll join us for Radical Together.
Posted on October 22nd, 2014 by David Burnette
David Platt encourages you to consider how you might be involved in reaching those who have never heard the gospel, whether that’s by going or giving. Reaching the unreached is at the heart of the mission of the IMB.
Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks and months as we highlight a number of practical and creative ways you can participate in giving. Your giving will go directly to help support IMB workers who are taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. You can give by going here.
Posted on October 15th, 2014 by David Burnette
We’re excited to announce that Early Registration for Secret Church 15 is now open!
Simply go here to register for SC15 as a church, as a small group, or as an individual. The last day to get early registration pricing is January 25th. For those who have participated in Secret Church in the past, please note that this year’s gathering will not take place on Good Friday. Instead, the date for this upcoming gathering is Friday, April 24, 2015. Beat the end-of-year busyness by registering now.
David Platt will be speaking on “Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action.” In case you missed the topic announcement earlier this year, here’s a summary of what you can expect followed by a video that talks about the purpose behind Secret Church:
The culture around us is constantly changing, and successive changes are often accompanied by significant challenges. So how does the call of Christ compel us to respond to these challenges? How does a Christian respond to the rapid rise of so-called same-sex marriage and the increasing acceptance of homosexuality? How does a Christian live in a world of sex slavery and rampant pornography, a world where babies are aborted and widows are abandoned? How does a Christian think in a culture of pervasive racial prejudice and limited religious liberty? What does a Christian do in a church that exalts prosperity amidst a world of extreme poverty? During this Secret Church, we will explore biblical foundations for answers to these questions and come to significant conclusions regarding how Christ calls every Christian to engage culture with a firm grip on the gospel in the church and a fervent passion for God’s glory in the world.
When we think of mission work, our minds may most naturally go to the African bush, the Indian slums, or the Arabian deserts. We probably don’t think of Tokyo high rises.
At less than one percent evangelical Christian, Japan’s 120 million natives make up the second largest unreached people group in the world. Don’t be fooled by the neon lights illuminating the bustling streets – Japan is a dark country. Some have even dubbed it “the missionary’s graveyard,” not because violent persecution is common there, but because ministry burnout is. In Japan, after spinning their wheels for years, many missionaries find themselves stopped dead in their tracks.
One reason that ministry there has been so difficult is its material excess. Contrary to the hunger, sickness, and poverty that so often opens doors for ministry in developing nations, Japan seems to have it all. Blinded by worldly ambition and distracted by excessive busyness, the Japanese obliviously wander on, “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
At the same time, they may soon be ripe for a huge harvest. Their immense spiritual need is starting to come to a head as they work themselves to death (literally – they call it karōshi), fight a losing battle with depression and suicide, tragically give themselves to sex trafficking, and realize that their advanced technology and infrastructure is no match for nuclear disasters, typhoons, and earthquakes.
Pray for the Japanese. Pray for the worn out missionaries among them. Pray for a massive harvest. And pray for more laborers to go to this forgotten field.
Posted on September 25th, 2014 by Jonathan
To acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with David Platt’s teaching on missions, here is a collection of videos in which he talks about different aspects of it. While these videos do not offer a comprehensive theology of missions, we hope they will compel you to go to God in his Word and to the lost in the world.
Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Jonathan
As many of us are leaving summer behind to return to school or get back into a regular routine at work, Matt is doing no such thing. Life is different for him. Matt lives in Central Asia and was sent out to serve mid-term by The Church at Brook Hill. Mid-term is described as a period of anywhere between two months and two years. For him, school looks more like learning a foreign language, and monotonous routine . . . well, there’s not much of that.
We asked Matt some questions about his life in Central Asia. Our hope is that his words might challenge those of us tempted to simply survive the next test or deadline. Our lives are intended for more than intention-less routines driven by purposeless attitudes. When we realize that God desires to use us to bring the nations to Himself, and when we hear of brothers and sisters whose devotion to Christ means harsh persecution, we see everything differently. The reality is, we have so much more to live for than the weekend.
Here’s what Matt had to say . . .
What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?
Time and time again, my team and I have been surprised at how quickly God answers the prayers of us and our supporters back home, and His answers to these prayers are often even better than we knew to ask for! We shouldn’t be afraid to ask Him to act in big ways to help us reach lost people. He desires and is worthy of the worship of all peoples and is actively working in hearts and lives all across the world.
What has been the most difficult part of your time there?
It has been difficult being part of a new team re-engaging a minority people group that has not been worked with for several years. Due to the difficulty of gaining access to our people’s homeland, we are in the process of establishing a business in a nearby country where there is a significant population of our people. This poses many challenges such as learning a minority language with few immersion experiences, balancing business and ministry responsibilities, and justifying to the community why we as Western businessmen spend so much time with this minority people and are learning their language.
Can you give us your highlight of the trip?
One of the biggest highlights so far has been growing closer as a team and becoming more like a family. Being part of such a small team, we spend a lot of time together, and the Lord has used that in teaching us more of what it means to be the body of Christ. Praying, worshiping, and having fun together, holding one another accountable, and being united in a common vision has helped us to encourage one another during the difficult times and overall thrive in our first year on the field.
What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?
Utilize the time before you leave the U.S. to establish routines of engaging lost people where you are currently. Often times, we get caught up in enjoying the benefits of Christian community so much that we rarely put ourselves in places where we are surrounded by the lost. Going mid-term is a weird balance between a sprint and a marathon; the routines you are able to establish before arriving on the field will help you to make the most of the time you have in your new context.
What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?
The way that is most obvious and yet often over-looked is to actively pray for that person, their ministry, and their people. Be proactive in asking for ways to pray for that person and in regularly praying for their boldness and evangelism opportunities. Also, we love hearing from friends, family, and supporters about what is happening back home and how we can be praying for them.
What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?
I often feel like I am sitting on the front row watching Him prepare the harvest of these people in a way in which only the Creator of the universe is able! In our first month on the field, He answered our prayers by providing a language teacher, national believer, and friend all with a single person whom He had burdened to return to his family and country (at the risk of his life) to help reach his people with the gospel of Christ. The things we’ve seen happen over the past year are more than coincidences; no doubt the Lord is doing the same type of things in unreached people groups all across the world!
What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?
Extreme persecution is normal, expected, and worth the risk for the believers in this part of the world. Coming from a place, like the U.S, where it is “safe” to be a Christian, it is still difficult to fully understand what these national brothers and sisters experience everyday in living and dying for Christ. That being said, the Lord is using these terrible acts to bring others to faith, grow the church, and advance the gospel of Christ to the most difficult to reach people and places in the world.
Posted on September 16th, 2014 by David Burnette
It may sound like a contradiction, but it’s true: serious theological errors usually contain a good dose of the truth. That’s why we fall for them.
Most Christians know to reject a teaching that openly rejects God’s Word, but when the truth is slightly twisted or simply downplayed—maybe even with Bible verses attached—it’s easier to get caught off guard. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to Scripture’s foundational teachings, like Christ’s atonement. Your answer to the question, “What did Christ accomplish by his death on the cross?” has massive implications.
In Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, you can see a list of some of the most influential theories of the atonement in church history (SC 6 Study Guide, 14-15). One of those theories is called the Moral Influence Theory, which is the idea that Christ’s death on the cross was primarily a demonstration of God’s love intended to move sinners to repentance. So what could be wrong with that? Isn’t the cross supposed to demonstrate God’s love to us? Well, yes, but that’s not the whole story when it comes to Christ’s atoning work. Consider just a couple of the problems with the Moral Influence Theory.
God’s Word clearly teaches that we have sinned against a holy God, and the penalty for that sin is death (Rom 3:23; 6:23). However, if we subscribe to the Moral Influence Theory, it’s not clear how our sin gets dealt with. The cross may deeply affect us, even moving us to change our behavior, but that won’t remove our guilt before God. We have sins that need to be forgiven (Eph 1:7) and a debt that needs to be cancelled (Col 2:14). A Righteous Judge cannot simply overlook this. It’s no surprise, then, that the Moral Influence Theory rejects the idea that our sin requires a payment, thus calling into question God’s perfect justice. Also, as Michael Horton observes, “A moral example or influence need hardly be God incarnate” (1). Clearly another atonement theory is needed.
If we want to be made right with the holy and just God who is revealed in Scripture, our sin debt must be paid. Gratefully, Christ’s atoning work has done just that. Peter tells us that Christ died in our place, “the righteous for the unrighteous” (1 Pet 3:18). The name of the theory that best accounts for this view of the atonement is sometimes called the Penal Substitution Theory. As the name suggests, Christ’s atonement paid sin’s penalty (Penal) in our place (Substitution). God is both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in his Son (Rom 3:26).
To be clear, seeing Jesus as our substitute doesn’t mean his atonement is not also a deeply moving demonstration of God’s love, nor does it mean that there weren’t other purposes for Christ’s death (like disarming the “rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15). But unless a sinless, sufficient sacrifice is made for our sins—something only the divine Son of God could do—our guilt remains and none of the other benefits of Christ’s death will work for our eternal good. No mere demonstration of love, however great, will wipe our record clean.
Not even if it moves us to tears.
– For more on Secret Church 6: The Cross of Christ, go here.
(1) Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, 504.
Posted on September 8th, 2014 by David Burnette
If leading others through Secret Church material seems intimidating, or if you’re looking for a Bible study to do with your small group, we’ve designed a simple resource to help. Check out the new Small Group Discussion Guide for Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life (SC 14).
The Small Group Discussion Guide breaks down 4.5 hours of teaching from SC 14 into a 6-week study that is designed to be used along with the video and Study Guide for SC 14. The Discussion Guide is free for anyone who purchases 5 or more SC 14 Study Guides or a SC 14 DVD. (The cost is $5.00 to order the Discussion Guide by itself.) To get those resources, you can go here.
To download a free sample of Week 1 from the Discussion Guide, go here.
You can use this resource to lead another individual, a small group, or a large class through the material in Secret Church 14. Each week contains the following sections:
This Discussion Guide breaks the Secret Church 14 study into six sessions. The Watch/Fill In portion will tell you how much of the video to watch during each session and what portion of the study guide will be used during that session.
Week at a Glance
The Week at a Glance section will give you a general overview of the material you will be studying each week.
Key Takeaways and Verses
Every week, the Discussion Guide will provide a few key takeaways from the study as well as key verses to help you guide the discussion following the video portion of the study.
Explaining Terms and Concepts
This section of the Discussion Guide is a resource to unpack terms and concepts used during the Secret Church study.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
Questions for discussion and reflection are provided to help your small group think through and apply the concepts studied each week.
For Further Study
Each week a list of resources is provided for the leader and participants for further study on the content covered in that session.
— To learn more about Secret Church 14: The Cross and Everyday Life, go here.
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