Monday, 31 July 2017
Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.
Episode Twenty-Four | Where Are You Opening Your Umbrella?
Christina Walker, Associate Director of Academic Programs at the Billy Graham Center, talks about what she recently learned from a cohort of pastors from Every Nation. One story in particular stuck out; it was about a man from China who was changed by an encounter which began with an umbrella. We never know what role we will play for the kingdom as we meet people on the street. Where are you opening your umbrella to invite someone in for a conversation?
Episode Twenty-Three | Evangelism Companions
John C. Richards, Jr., Managing Director at the Billy Graham Center, talks about ‘evangelism companions.’ What character companions do we carry with us as we carry the gospel? Truth? Mercy? Goodness? Love? Scripture teaches us that the way we act and live is critically important. This is true even more so as we engage others with the good news of the gospel.
Episode Twenty-Two | Are You Prepared for a Gospel Conversation?
Laurie Nichols, Director of Communications at the Billy Graham Center, shares about a recent gospel conversation and what she learned about the importance of being prepared. Without the armor of God’s word in our hearts and minds, we likely don’t have the full toolkit necessary for when the hard questions arise in a conversation. This week, prepare yourself for evangelism opportunities by immersing yourself in God’s word.
Episode Twenty-One | What Does Research Say about Our Prayers and Our Actions?
Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, discusses the correlation between prayer and action. Research has shown that many people pray that they would see others come to faith, but fewer are actually mobilized to put ...
No less than Jesus in the wilderness, we need every word that comes from the mouth of God.
What do Christians do with the Old Testament, with its weird laws, brutal violence, and unpredictable God? Some are confused by it, some are afraid of it, and some simply ignore it. Our confusion, fear, and avoidance of the Old Testament has led to a severe problem. Like a doctor examining a patient, Brent Strawn examines our Old Testament habits and makes a dire diagnosis that supplies the title of his new book: The Old Testament is Dying.
Strawn’s analysis is divided into three sections. The first two focus on the problem (Part 1: “The Old Testament as a Dying Language” and Part 2: “Signs of Morbidity”), while the final section offers a solution (Part 3: “Path to Recovery”). Strawn’s grave assessment should cause great concern to any who believe, along with Paul the apostle, that all Scripture is divinely inspired and profitable for teaching (2 Tim. 3:16). But his suggested treatment should be a source of great hope.
A Disappearing Language
Strawn bases his diagnosis on empirical data from a 2010 Pew Forum survey (inspired by Stephen Prothero’s 2007 book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—And Doesn’t). In addition, he draws on patterns of Old Testament usage in popular sermons, hymns, and songs, and in the Revised Common Lectionary (a daily Bible-reading plan used by certain Protestant denominations). Despite widespread claims of religiosity among the US population, Strawn’s evidence strongly suggests that most American Christians are relatively ignorant of basic truths about the Bible, particularly the Old Testament—and that trends in sermons and worship are contributing to the problem. For the most part, the Old Testament is ...
Become an advocate for people in your city who don't have hope.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Randy Frazee. Randy is the founder of a new work based out of San Antonio, Texas called Hope4RCity.
Ed: You grew a church from 4,000 people to over 10,000. But you've left to focus on city reaching movements. Why did you make this transition?
Randy Frazee: I've been a pastor now for 28 years. My biggest vision when I was 15 years old was to pastor a church of 500 and then die. At the age of 28, I became pastor of a church of 500. Rozanne and I made a deal with God: I'd already checked off my vision, so we’d live out His vision for the rest of our lives.
That's taken us on a 28-year journey. I’ve been pastor of three churches, and the past nine years I’ve been at Oak Hills, where we've experienced that tremendous growth. I started waking up every day with a stirring that I should give more of my life to the big social issues in our city. I tried to become involved as a senior minister, but I found that to be very difficult because of a lack of margin and focus.
This change is causing a lot of people to shake their heads; but at the same time, I’ve talked to many pastors who are inspired by the idea of focusing less on the levels of sound in worship and instead becoming an advocate for people in the city who don't have hope.
Ed: What is the project you’re now developing?
Randy: The non-profit is called Hope for Our City. Our goal is not to create anything new, but to bring a robust network together, focused on the needs of families and children, bringing the love of Christ. We have a partnership of churches, Christian CEOs, more than 400 non-profits and foundations, and even the government, coalescing to see if we can all point in the ...
A new focus on the family is changing how Christians care for abandoned and neglected children.
One night in 2001, a prostitute in eastern Ukraine propositioned a preacher.
Peter Dudnik turned her down and told her he worked at Good News Church. She asked him to take her 11-year-old son, Sergey, to the church’s orphanage.
Good News’ ministry to orphans was well known; two years earlier, Dudnik had found four street children sniffing glue at a train station. Good News began serving them meals, and the number of children grew from 40 to 60, and on into the hundreds.
One rainy evening, several of the children begged to stay the night. Church workers decided to let them sleep on the tables where they had eaten. And from that grew the You Shall Be Found Orphanage.
Over time, however, children who left the orphanage at age 18 weren’t faring well. Without the support of a family, they fell into drugs, prostitution, and suicide. The church asked God what to do, and he gave them Malachi 4:6: “He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.”
Good News began efforts to strengthen biological families, accepting children only as a last resort. It also worked to remove any parental rights over abandoned children, enabling them to be moved into foster care or adopted. With the church’s encouragement, families from churches in and around their city have adopted more than 100 children. (Dudnik and his wife, Tamara, adopted Sergey.)
What happened at Good News is a microcosm of the worldwide shift in orphan care.
After horrifying reports of neglect and abuse in Romanian orphanages in the 1980s and ’90s, governments in the West began to veer away from institutional housing.
“I was running a large orphanage in Dallas in the early ’90s,” ...
Sunday, 30 July 2017
On the anniversary of her accident, Joni Eareckson Tada reflects on God’s faithfulness.
On July 30, 1967, a teenage girl went with her sister to a beach on the Chesapeake Bay and suffered a diving accident that rendered her quadriplegic. Today, Joni Eareckson Tada leads an international ministry, advocates for those with disabilities, and is a sought-after speaker, best-selling author, and radio host. This weekend marks the 50-year anniversary of the accident, and CT connected with Tada to discuss how God has worked in and through her life over the past five decades.
At the time of your diving accident, you were just 17 years old. If you could speak to the young woman you were at that age, what would you most want to say?
As a young girl I was so distracted, enamored, fascinated, infatuated. The world was before me and I had so many options. If I could go back, I’d take myself by the shoulders and shake them and say, “Look at me, Joni, listen: Love Jesus more, obey him more. Follow him more closely—not at a distance. Don’t second guess the Holy Spirit’s whispers and convictions in your heart. Don’t make your own decisions without checking in with God—follow him much more closely.”
How do you feel as you reflect back over the past 50 years?
Just the other day I was reading 1 Peter 5:10 [ESV], where Peter says, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” Honestly, I’m amazed that the last 50 years feel like only “a little while.” Maybe God does that when we finally do love Jesus more, when we finally do follow him more closely. Maybe he erases all the horror, all the despair, all the depression of the past when we learn how to trust God. He pushes ...
Missions Sunday: The Missing Key to the Refugee Crisis: Christian Hospitality towards Muslims (Part One)
A biblical view of hospitality can offer a corrective to the current view of refugees.
We live in a rapidly changing world in which massive amounts of people move from one place to the next. Many people who have come from other places live on the margins of society as socially excluded international refugees or immigrants.
One out of every 122 people worldwide has left their home (Johnstone and Merrill 2016, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 195). Globally, this movement of migrants makes up 3.2% of the world’s population (Jackson 2016, 13). These refugees are often seen as marginal strangers and off limits to normal interaction within society.
More than one million refugees poured into Europe in 2015. According to the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM), “1,005,504 migrants… entered Europe during the year—more than quadruple the number of the year before” (Johnstone and Merrill, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 174-175). The panic and confusion caused many Europeans to lose sight of important political, social, and religious issues that come with this expansive migration (Legrain 2007, 298).
Unfortunately, this has also affected the attitude of many Christians who, due to fear and distrust, refuse to share their lives in any meaningful way with these refugees. The current reality means that “some people—including some Christians—have allowed fear to dominate the refugee conversation” (Bauman 2016, 179).
In our ministry in Spain, as we embrace refugees in our home and ministry, our lives daily become enriched by them. For example, on May 11, 2016, I had a knee replacement in Madrid. When I went into surgery, my wife sat alone in the hospital waiting room. Suddenly, some of the refugees we work with showed up to wait with her. When ...
God tends to our hurting hearts.
I was recently on a long car ride with my husband and two kids from Illinois to the northern woods of Minnesota. Anyone who has traveled that kind of distance with younger children before knows it can be rather challenging to find fun ways to break up the ride, without extending the road time.
I had recently learned an idea from another mom that I was eager to try. I had wrapped some coloring books, crayons, sticker books, toys, and foam airplane kits, and handed them out to my two boys along the way. They quickly became newfound treasures.
As my 4-year-old graciously shared one of these treasures with his 2-year-old brother, I unfortunately (or not) had the opportunity to teach them about Ephesians 4:26 (“Be angry and do not sin”) and Ephesians 4:32 (“Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”) as his younger brother tore his treasured foam airplane in half right before his eyes.
Of course, my 2-year-old did not do this maliciously—it was an accident—but nevertheless, the tears welled up and overflowed as my eldest son took in the sight of his treasure being destroyed. My mommy heart broke for him. He had entrusted something he treasured with someone he loved, and instead of this treasured gift (and trust) returning to him in the same condition he had shared it in, it was destroyed.
I can’t help but think that God feels the same way when believers share our “treasured” truth of Jesus’ love with others, and sometimes it doesn’t return to us in the same way.
Sometimes it is accepted, and sometimes it is ripped up—like that foam airplane—with rejection from that person’s past hurts or broken trust. And just as my heart broke with my son’s, ...