Archive for the ‘Secret Church’ Category
Posted on April 9th, 2015 by Cassity
Lien quietly rolls up the mat she slept on and steps over her husband and children who are still sleeping. It’s 4:30 am, and like every day, Lien must prepare a meal before she goes to the fields for work at 5:30. She wonders if her husband even remembers stumbling up the stairs last night as she soothed her frightened children to get them to sleep.
When she arrives in the field, a few other women are huddled together whispering and shaking their heads. As she draws near to the hushed voices she hears what she felt was true, another friend has taken her own life. With knowing glances and pats of reassurance each woman walks into the field to begin the day’s work. Lien starts the methodical work and lets her thoughts drift to ask herself, “Could I be free?”
As the sun slips away behind the trees, Lien arrives at her home covered in dirt and sweat from a long day’s work. Her husband is gone, but he left a trail of empty rice wine bottles on his way out. Her children are off at the neighbor’s house. Today she doesn’t call them to eat. She simply climbs the wooden stairs, grabs the bottle she’s been hiding, and takes a big gulp of the same insecticide another lady gave her. She closes her eyes and hopes for the freedom her friend found the day before.
Life is hard for many women who live in the remote areas of Vietnam. Often they rise early and work late and bear the weight of responsibility for keeping their families going. Many of these women are without hope and some even resort to suicide. This is a fictional story, but the issue is very real for women living in rural Vietnam.
How can you pray for these women?
Pray for salvation. Ask God to send someone to share the hope of Christ with village ladies so that they can have true freedom and eternal life.
Pray for family life for these women. Ask that they would have husbands who love and care for them and their children.
Pray for their jobs. These women spend long hours doing tough work in fields. Pray for good harvests as a result of their long labors.
Vietnam is the Secret Church 15 prayer focus. You can learn more about Vietnam at PrayForVietnam.org and by following the Secret Church blog for stories, information, and ways to pray. You can also follow Pray for Vietnam on Facebook and Twitter.
Scripture clearly portrays homosexual behavior as sinful, but what about the orientation itself? Is it sinful to have an attraction to the same sex, even if that attraction feels ingrained?
Denny Burk tackled this question a while back over at the ERLC’s Canon & Culture blog. The article is worth reading in its entirety, but the following paragraph in which Denny answers a common objection is especially helpful for the questions raised above:
A common objection to the foregoing goes like this: “If a person cannot control whether they have same-sex attraction, how can that attraction be considered sinful?” This objection bases moral accountability upon whether one has the ability to choose his proclivities. But this is not how the Bible speaks of sin and judgment. There are all manner of predispositions that we are born with that the Bible nevertheless characterizes as sin: pride, anger, anxiousness, just to name a few. Why would we put same-sex attraction in a different category than those other predispositions that we groan to be delivered from and that we are morally accountable for? As we mentioned above, Jesus says that all such sins proceed from the heart and that we are therefore morally accountable for them (Mark 7:21). And this assessment is in no way mitigated by the fact that we come by it naturally or were born that way.
Denny rightly points out that both same-sex behavior and same-sex orientation spring from a sinful heart. The fact that we don’t choose our sins doesn’t mean they aren’t sins. Just like believers who are predisposed to other sins–anger, drunkenness, greed, etc.–those who experience same-sex attraction should continually fight against these sinful desires by trusting in God’s promises in the gospel (Romans 5:1) and by actively putting sin to death in reliance on the Spirit (Romans 8:13).
Finally, Denny also offers some wise counsel in terms of the implications of these truths for other believers in our midst. We should not be surprised that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who struggle with this very temptation.
This truth ought to strengthen our love and compassion for brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction. For many of them, same sex attraction is something they have experienced for as long as they can remember. There is no obvious pathology for their attractions. The attractions are what they are even though they may be quite unwelcome. It is naïve to think that these people are all outside of the church. No, they are among us. They are us. They have been baptized, have been attending the Lord’s Table with us, and have been fighting the good fight in what is sometimes a very lonely struggle. They believe what the Bible says about their sexuality, but their struggle is nevertheless difficult.
. . . One of the ways that we show love for one another is by bearing one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Can you bear this burden with your brothers and sisters who are in this fight? Is your church ready to offer help and encouragement to these saints for whom Christ died? If not, then something is deeply amiss. For Jesus has loved us to the uttermost, and he calls us to do the same (John 13:34).
You can read the entire piece here. Marriage and God’s design for sexuality are topics that will be covered in this year’s Secret Church simulcast on Friday, April 24th. To register or find out more, go here.
Posted on March 30th, 2015 by Jonathan
If you live in one of the states colored red, guess what… there’s a church in your state that’s hosting the Secret Church simulcast! If you’re not planning on participating in Secret Church on April 24, we encourage you to join one of these host churches. Of course, if you live in one of the following states, you’ll have more options. Here are our top six:
Alabama – 57
Tennessee – 57
Texas – 51
Georgia – 49
Florida – 35
Mississippi – 35
Regardless of what state you’re in, though, we welcome you to participate. If you can’t make it to a host church that’s already on our list, you can join us in one of two ways.
- You can host a simulcast at your church. There’s still time to do this (register before April 10), and we’ll even add your church to the list. If you’re in Hawaii, Nebraska, Massachusetts, or Rhode Island, we’d especially love your help to color in the rest of our map!
- You can host a simulcast as a small group. We have packages for groups as small as five people, and though we can’t publish the private addresses of small groups on our host list, we’d love for you and your friends and/or family members to join us on April 24.
For more about this year’s topic (Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action) and to register, go to Radical.net/SCsimulcast.
This year’s Secret Church topic will touch on abortion, immigration, same-sex marriage, pornography, racism, and more. So here’s the question: will it have any relevance outside America’s borders?
The Secret Church simulcast is international. Participants in countries around the world will be joining us on April 24. But it’s also more than that. One of our goals for Secret Church is to produce biblically sound teaching that we can translate into other languages, and thereby equip believers in churches overseas. In fact, we want Secret Church to be useful for believers in the very areas we highlight and pray for at our annual gathering… areas filled with ignorance of and opposition to the gospel.
So how does this year’s topic square with our aim of translating the teaching and equipping the church abroad? It seems that Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action simply dives into the American political conversation by taking on “hot buttons” that frequent our American news cycles. Is there any way that Vietnamese Christians could find teaching on racism helpful in their context? Or could the underground church in Saudi Arabia possibly benefit from an Arabic translation of how we American Christians ought to respond to same-sex marriage court rulings?
There’s a clearer link than it may seem. Part of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations including “teaching them to observe all that [Jesus has] commanded.” We cannot be faithful to the mission of God and neglect the full counsel of his Word. So when the Bible is clear, we must be too, even if a particular issue seems less relevant in certain cultural contexts.
On top of that, currently at the forefront of Christian higher education, America sends out thousands of missionaries. For the sake of gospel advance among unreached people groups, we need to get our theology right. If, for example, the American church decided that there was nothing wrong with abortion, the churches abroad that we help plant and train would likely also learn to devalue image-bearers of God in one way or another. Or take sexual sin. We can’t genuinely equip believers to combat sex trafficking overseas if we’re okay with pornography at home, because (aside from direct links between the two in many cases) the truth of the gospel should lead us to reject all sexual immorality: we are the bride of Christ!
In other words, any issue that’s a gospel issue is worth teaching. All these controversial “political” positions are actually gospel issues, and that is alway relevant. The specific application may differ from culture to culture, just as our application of truth in Paul’s epistles differs from that of the churches Paul was writing to. But gospel truth is always instructive.
The issues at hand in Christ, Culture, and a Call to Action may have more global relevance than you realized. For the sake of secret churches everywhere, we can’t afford not to speak up.
Posted on February 18th, 2015 by Jonathan
As followers of Christ, it’s difficult to know just how we ought to respond to the recent horrors displayed by ISIS. The Bible calls us to take an active stand against unjust abuse, oppression, and persecution; we’re called to defend the defenseless. And there is a place for government and even military action. However, the Bible is also clear that personally, our reaction should always be marked by love, mercy, and a desire for justice on behalf of those suffering. Everything we do (and everything we refrain from doing) should be because we love our just God with all that we are, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27), not because we hate evil people and want to personally “teach them a lesson.”
Here are some more specifics on how we should respond . . .
To Those Who Cause Suffering
- Bless them. (Luke 6:35)
- Pray for them. (Matthew 5:44)
- Forgive them. (Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 23:34)
- Do not seek revenge against them. (Matthew 5:38-42)
To Those Who Are Suffering
- Feed the hungry. (Matthew 25:34-35)
- Give water to the thirsty. (Matthew 10:42)
- Reflect the grace of God. (Matthew 18:35)
- Demonstrate the mercy of God. (Luke 10:27-28)
- Express the love of God. (John 13:34-35)
(from Secret Church 12: The Cross and Suffering, 122-123)
In submission to God’s Word, even as we call for justice, may we strive for loving hearts that are focused on God’s eternal kingdom.
Posted on February 5th, 2015 by David Burnette
Suffering is one of the most difficult and often perplexing realities that Christians must face. It comes in different forms and with levels of intensity. Suffering can either strengthen our faith, leave us disillusioned, or, tragically, it leads some to walk away from Christ altogether.
Thankfully, God has not left us helpless in our suffering.
Not only do we have God’s personal presence through the Holy Spirit, but we also have the truths and promises of his Word to help us. In Secret Church 12: The Cross and Suffering, David Platt walks us through what amounts to a biblical theology of suffering (75 key texts from Genesis to Revelation). Platt lands on five foundational conclusions, each of which could merit a separate book. In your own suffering, remember these five truths:
1. A high view of God – his sovereignty, his wisdom, his goodness, and his glory – is essential for understanding suffering in your life and in this world.
2. A humble view of man – his sinful depravity and small perspective – is essential for understanding suffering in your life and in this world.
3. The ultimate reason suffering exists is to exalt the glory of God’s grace through the suffering of God’s Son for the salvation of undeserving sinners.
4. God ordains suffering for the Christian in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes.
5. The completion of the Great Commission will include great suffering, but eternity will prove it was worth the price.
Rather than address your specific situation, something Scripture doesn’t necessarily do, these points give us a lens through which to see every trial through the eyes of faith. We may not always enjoy or even understand God’s purposes, but we can trust his wisdom, his faithfulness, and his goodness. That is our ultimate hope, regardless of what we suffer.
For more on Secret Church 12: The Cross and Suffering, go here.
Posted on February 3rd, 2015 by Jonathan
If you didn’t catch our previous announcement, Vietnam is our Secret Church 15 prayer focus. Why are we highlighting this area? Two reasons, both of which you’ll hear more about in the coming months on the Secret Church blog. Make sure you go there for regular posts and updates.
- Unreached People Groups – Vietnam has 74 unique people groups comprised of 93,530,125 individuals. Of those, 71 are unreached. Of those unreached groups, 23 are unengaged. Only three people groups in the country are reached with the gospel.
- Persecution – According to Open Doors’ World Watch List, Vietnam is the 16th worst country for Christians to live in, in terms of persecution. Much of the opposition comes from communist authorities. However, in a country that is overrun with various mixtures of Buddhism and animism, Christianity isn’t exactly welcomed by the friends and family members of believers.
As we’ve learned, persecution accompanies witness because the goal of persecution is to silence witness. This means we cannot simply pray for suffering Christians to endure and persecution to end; we must also pray for the gospel to increase and the number of UPGs to decrease.
On behalf the persecuted Christians and their persecutors, and on behalf of the unreached peoples and those trying to reach them, won’t you join us in praying for Vietnam?
Posted on January 28th, 2015 by Radical
If you knew that the Old Testament had one overarching purpose, would it change the way you handled it?
In Secret Church 1: Survey of the Old Testament, David Platt says that it was written to reveal how God redeems His people for His kingdom. Knowing that the Old Testament has one unifying storyline affects at least three areas of our lives.
It will affect the way we understand. It is going to keep us from fragmenting it. This is what we do: we take the Old Testament, and we fragment it into all kinds of different pieces. Then we can’t put it together, get frustrated, and we move on to the New Testament. That hampers our ability to understand what God desires to teach us. We need to know the story.
The beautiful thing is that as we look at God’s work in history, we realize that the God who was working in their life is also the God that is working in our lives. We also realize that, if there is a story that is begun in the Old Testament, then that story is still continuing today. We are a part of that story. We want to apply it to our lives. We want to know it. We want to be able to apply what God is doing in all of history. If God is doing something in all of history, don’t you want to know so you can apply it to your life?
There are all kinds of worldviews, ideologies, and world religions in our culture today that are teaching things that are false and against the story of God. If we know the story and we proclaim it, then we can show its beauty and its grace and its truth amidst all the diverse and competing worldviews that are present today.
For more on this, check out Secret Church 1: Survey of the Old Testament.
Posted on January 21st, 2015 by Radical
Favoritism first disrespects man. That word “favoritism” literally means “to receive according to the face.” In other words, to respond to someone based upon external factors, external appearance – to respond to them based on that.
Now, we have been talking about favoritism when it comes to the rich and the poor, and that’s exactly what this context right here [James 2] is addressing. But I want to encourage you at this point to think through if there are any facets of your life where you are showing favoritism – discrimination based on external appearance, based on external factors – for this is sin. And there are many ways that this may look. As I was praying for this, I was reminded again of the ways of the world that are so pervasive in our lives. I was reminded of this particularly when it comes to ethnicity.
I’m not going to use the term “race” here… I think we have to be careful when we talk about different races because we begin to divide up the theological reality that we are all a part of the race from Adam. And this affects how we view ourselves… our unity in Christ, our need for Christ. But when it comes to different ethnicities, you think about it.
Imagine yourself walking into a lunchroom and there are two tables. You’re by yourself, and there are two tables. At one table, there is a small group of people with an ethnicity like you, and at the other table, there’s a small group of people with an ethnicity not like you. What immediately goes through your mind? The reality is, we are drawn, naturally, to the table that is like us. What is the thought process that leads to that? Isn’t it something like – at the speed of thoughts, it’s not like we intentionally go through these stages – but isn’t it something like, “Okay, like me, not like me; like me, therefore safe; safe, therefore comfortable; comfortable, therefore beneficial to me,” and the converse, “Not like me therefore not safe, not comfortable, not as beneficial to me.”
And the challenge before us is to ask God in Christ to radically transform our thinking so that we do not live according to the pollution of the world, that even in the way we speak we are careful not to discriminate, not to show or point out how people are different from us based on external appearance, external factors. When someone says to me, “I was talking with a Korean guy the other day…” Why did you tell me he was Korean? “I was talking with a Hispanic guy the other day…” Why did you include that? Do you say, “I was talking with a white guy the other day? I was talking with a black guy the other day?” The reality is, we are constantly thinking in terms of what separates us from others, and the body of Christ changes everything. We are all in Adam’s race, in need of Christ. And with brothers and sisters, we are all unified in Christ in a way that transforms and transcends ethnicity.
And so we must be careful here to avoid favoritism that disrespects man – that always highlights our differences – because it not only disrespects man, but, ultimately, favoritism dishonors God Himself. We’re not just breaking a law, we’re offending a lawgiver. To show favoritism is to dishonor God.
– David Platt, Faith Loves, James 1:26-2:13
Ethnic discrimination is one of the topics that will be addressed in Counter Culture, available February 3rd wherever books are sold. Visit the book website for more info: CounterCultureBook.com.
Posted on January 13th, 2015 by Radical
The key to understanding how to interpret the Old Testament is to understand why God gave us the Old Testament. This is big…
Why do you think God gave us the Old Testament? Was it for historical information? We know that is not true because He doesn’t give us all the historical facts. He doesn’t fill in all the blanks. He definitely picks and chooses parts of history to give us. The purpose is not just so we would have a good history of the people of Israel that leads up to Jesus. That is not the point.
What about for moral lessons? Did He give us the Old Testament for character studies, to teach us about how to be courageous, wise, brave, or strong? Or, did He give us the Old Testament for examples in life? Is that the purpose of the Old Testament?
The last three encapsulate what are probably the primary reasons we give that affect the way we interpret the Old Testament. This is what I mean by that:
When we go to the Old Testament, most often we look at the stories, and we use them as moral lessons, character studies, or examples for our lives. It starts when we are children growing up in Sunday school, or Bible study, or whatever it may be. We learn the story of David and Goliath, and we learn to have strength in our battles. We look at Abraham and we learn to have faith. We look at these different characters and we say, “We need to be like them. We should learn from them.” As I mentioned earlier, I am not saying that it is not good to see some of these characteristics in these people, but I am saying we need to be careful not to make a quick jump from our lives to their lives. God was doing something much broader than just giving us some character studies. These people were playing a unique role in history.
What is interesting when we study the Old Testament and begin to look at characters is that we always identify with the hero in the story. Who studies David and Goliath and says, “Now we are the people who are scared to death in the background?” No one says that. You don’t want to be that group of people. We are going to study Cain and Abel – who are you going to choose? We always see ourselves in the role of the hero. Whatever applies to them also applies to us.
We look at Moses, in Exodus 1, and see this baby that is born and is saved from the destruction that is going on around him. We automatically think that God will take care of us, and we equate ourselves with Moses instead of equating ourselves with the countless other Hebrew babies that did not make it through the destruction. What right do we have to identify with Moses and not to identify with the others?
Here we begin to see how we can begin to misinterpret the Old Testament if we don’t have an overall picture of why things unfold the way they do.
– David Platt, Secret Church 1: Survey of the Old Testament
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