Is Christianity On The Verge Of Extinction In The Middle East?
Christianity faces permanent extinction in Iraq the Middle East, as 1.3 million Christians have been displaced, murdered or taken prisoner since 2003.
ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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God Is Not Fair and Christmas Proves It (Part 2) – “From an early age, we learn to spot hypocrisy—especially in the lives of our parents, teachers, and any other authority figures we hope to undercut. It’s a childish tactic for avoiding rules we don’t like and consequences we don’t want, and it’s one that many grownups still employ. Especially when it comes to God. One of the world’s primary means of escaping God’s authority—besides denying His existence—is to rhetorically point out seeming inconsistencies in His character. If your God is so loving, why does He send anyone to hell?”
Book Review: Do More Better – A Practical Guide to Productivity – “Getting more done. Siggghhhh. Bring on the low-grade guilt, memories of shipwrecked New Year’s resolutions, and the “I-am-so-lame” feeling as we watch productive people owning their to-do lists.”
Book Review: Do More Better – “Maybe you’re like me, and you’re one of those people who seems to do a lot. Like a lot a lot. Like, you don’t know you’re doing too much until you suddenly realize you’re doing too much a lot. You’ve got a system to keep yourself organized (kinda sorta maybe). You get what you need to done, but if you’re being honest, you know you’re not as efficient as you could be. You could be doing better—a lot better.
The Doctrine of Scripture: Defining Our Terms – “The doctrine of Scripture is foundational to the Christain faith. But there is more to say about Scripture than simply, ‘The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.'[ If you don’t grasp what the Bible is and how it came to be, you’ll never fully grasp its meaning. Since the meaning of the Bible is vitally important to our faith and life, we will here briefly define a few key terms that relate to the doctrine of Scripture as the study of God’s Word written.”
Worshiping Angels – “Twice toward the end of Revelation, John falls down to worship an angel. Both times, the angel redirects his worship from himself to God. The two scenes look the same, but Austin Farrer notes a progression (A Rebirth of Images). In the first instance, John falls to worship, and “immediately the heavens open, and he appears in whom God must be worshipped, riding the white horse, and called Faithful and True” (p. 73; Revelation 19:11). In the second instance, there is no Christophany. Instead, the angel speaks with the voice of Jesus (22:3-5).”
John MacArthur – Christians and Alcohol
What Does the Bible Say About Tithing?
Is Heaven Is For Real for Real?
“All death can do to the believer is deliver him to Jesus. It brings us into the eternal presence of our Savior.” – John MacArthur
Calvin College features gay alumni in school paper | Denny Burk
“Calvin College recently published an article featuring to gay alumni who were the first couple in the county to receive a legal gay marriage.”
“The Gospel Coalition just released the December 2015 issue of Themelios, which has 193 pages of editorials, articles, and book reviews. It is freely available in three formats: (1) PDF, (2) web version, and (3) Logos Bible Software. A print edition will be available for purchase in several weeks from Wipf and Stock. ”
How Twitter Helped Fred Phelps’ Granddaughter Walk Away from Westboro | TGC
“Social media deserves much of the criticism it receives. I’ve written about the uselessness of Twitter battles and I dread the black hole of some Facebook comment streams. But in the case of Megan Phelps-Roper, Twitter opened the world up to a cult member. And when she saw the humanity of her opponents, her hate melted away.”
The Moody Bible Institute, Business, and the Making of Modern Evangelicalism | Justin Taylor
“From my Themelios review of Tim Gloege’s Guaranteed Pure: The Moody Bible Institute, Business, an d the Making of Modern Evangelicalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015):”
Responding to the MTV Report on Our Abortion Data: A Guest Post by Scott McConnell
“When MTV published their article last week on our abortion research, the article was forwarded to me, and I was a bit taken aback. The headline is certainly a shocking one, and it makes Christians out to look like the hypocrites many non-Christians see them to be.”
8 Tech Trends to Watch in 2016 | Harvard Business Review
“At the end of each year, I apply my forecasting model to surface the most important emerging tech trends for the months ahead. My 2016 trends offer early warnings and opportunities for managers in all industries. Here are eight to note for 2016.”
Who Was Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones?
As he always told his family, he was a “Bible Calvinist not a system Calvinist,” and, at a time in which the glorious doctrines of grace are being found by large generations of young people, the need to rediscover Martyn Lloyd-Jones increases in importance.
Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament by David Murray $1.99.
Already Gone by Ken Ham $2.99.
131 Christians Everyone Should Know by Mark Galli $2.99.
What Sen. Ben Sasse said about the San Benardino attack is spot on
Sen. Sasse previously served as Acting Vice President for Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA.
Today’s Kindle deals include Faithful Preaching by Tony Merida ($2.99); Text-Driven Preaching by David Allen ($2.99); The Peacemaking Pastor by Alfred J. Poirier ($1.99); Real Christianity by William Wilberforce ($1.99); But Don’t All Religions Lead to God? by Michael Green ($0.99); Already Gone by Ken Ham ($2.99).
Almost all of The New American Commentary volumes are on sale with each volume just $2.99. I have marked with an asterisk the volumes that are considered top-5 on that book of the Bible. New Testament: Matthew*, Mark, Luke*, John 1-11, John 12-21, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians*, Galatians*, Philippians/Colossians/Philemon, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy/Titus, James, 1&2 Peter/Jude*, 1&2&3 John, Revelation. Old Testament: Genesis 1-11, Genesis 11-50; Exodus, Leviticus*, Numbers*, Deuteronomy, Joshua*, Judges/Ruth*, 1&2 Kings*, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah/Esther*, Job, Proverbs/Ecclesiastes/Song of Songs, Isaiah 1-39, Jeremiah/Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea/Joel, Amos/Obadiah/Jonah, Micah-Zephaniah, Zechariah, Haggai/Malachi.
Josh Buice takes on a difficult topic and does very well with it. I take a very similar view to the one he arrived at.
Eric Geiger offers 5 reasons that burnout is so prevalent for those in ministry. I think #2 is especially prevalent: “The work (even the overwork) can feel holy.” The hardest things to say “no” to are the things that are just so good.
Randy Alcorn lays out some of the serious consequences of allowing yourself to get into debt. Here’s food for thought: “The more you’re inclined to go into debt, the more probable it is that you shouldn’t.”
Christian Audio is having their twice-yearly sale. You can get most of their products for just $7.49.
Ted-Ed covers a few of the ethical dilemmas related to self-driving cars.
This Day in 1608. 407 years ago today, English poet John Milton is born in London (most famous for his epic Paradise Lost). *
If you are joining in with the 2016 Reading Challenge I posted the other day, be sure to check out this group at Goodreads.
The B-52 bomber is an incredible piece of military technology that is still going strong, even thought it was supposed to retire decades ago. And it has no natural successor. “Today, there is a B-52 pilot whose father and grandfather flew the plane.”
Scripture discourages debt. It condemns the misuse of debt and the failure to repay debts (Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 3:27-28). If we take God’s Word seriously, we should avoid debt. In those rare cases where we go into debt, we should make every effort to get out as soon as possible (2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 5:25-26; 18:23-24). The question isn’t, “Why not go into debt?” but why? Unless the answer is extraordinarily convincing, we shouldn’t do it.
What are some of the consequences of a debt-laden lifestyle?
1. Debt lingers. The new boat is fun for a while, but two years later, when it’s sitting in storage, the motor needs repair, and the kids don’t want to ski anymore, we’re still paying for it.
2. Debt causes worry and stress. Stress experts say that the bigger a person’s mortgage (or any debt), the bigger the stress. Debt is a serious enemy of mental health.
3. Debt causes denial of reality. We drive our bank-financed cars, running on credit card gas, to open a department-store charge account so we can fill our savings and loan-funded homes with installment-purchased furniture. We’re living a lie and hocking the future to finance it. When creditors call many people won’t answer, believing that somehow they can go right on spending money they don’t have. One day it catches up—but by then integrity, relationships, and credibility have been ruined.
4. Debt leads to dishonesty. “The check’s in the mail” isn’t funny when you’ve heard it repeatedly from a Christian brother who is enslaved to debt—and now to dishonesty. Some people lie on credit applications, not revealing debt for fear they’ll be disqualified for further loans. Others desperately resort to criminal acts to try to keep up with their debt payments.
5. Debt is addictive. There are striking comparisons between debtors and drug addicts. The way out of both addictions can be very difficult. Those in debt with one income will almost always go into debt with two incomes, just as they will if the one income is doubled. Ninety-eight percent of the time debt is an internal problem, not an external one. It isn’t a matter of insufficient funds but insufficient self-control.
6. Debt is presumptuous. Scripture says the just shall live by faith. The borrower, however, lives by presumption. Undertaking any debt is a gamble that our future income will be sufficient to make payments. The Bible says we don’t know what a day may bring forth and we should not presume (Proverbs 27:1).
7. Debt deprives God of the chance to say no or to provide through a better means. God can give us direction either by providing funds or withholding them. When we borrow, we eliminate that second option and thereby blur God’s leading. If we really need something, there are alternatives to debt. One of them is to accumulate savings that will allow us a margin on which to draw when needed. But if the money for a need isn’t there, our first course should be to seek provision from God, not the banker (John 14:13-14).
8. Debt is a major loss of opportunity. Our loss isn’t simply the interest we’re paying. Our true loss is the difference between the money we’re losing and the money we could have earned with it. Worse yet, debt is a loss of opportunity to invest in eternity. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of debt is that it results in diminished giving, loss of opportunity to help others, and loss of eternal rewards.
9. Debt ties up resources and makes them unavailable for the kingdom of God. Whenever we’ve taught on giving at our church, many people say: “Now that I understand God’s principles of giving, I’d love to double or triple our giving, or even more. But we’re so strapped with debt, it’s just impossible.” Past unwise decisions inhibit present and future generosity. The solution is not to shrug our shoulders helplessly, but to give as much as we can now and commit ourselves to get out of financial bondage so we can give more in the future.
Without a firm conviction against going into debt, people will inevitably find the “need” to borrow. Those with convictions against borrowing will always find ways to avoid it. (In other words, they’ll choose to spend less money.) The more you’re inclined to go into debt, the more probable it is that you shouldn’t.
The basic question is this: Is the money I will be obligated to repay, and the bondage it will create, worth the value I’ll receive by getting the money or possessions now?
I made spritz cookies the other day — those beautiful cookies that look like Christmas trees and taste like almonds and butter, sprinkled with colored sugar on top. For those of us of Scandanavian or Germanic background these cookies have been a holiday tradition for generations.
However, spritz cookies are also notoriously difficult to make. The butter in the dough (and there is a lot of it) must be neither too warm nor too cold. The dough cannot be refrigerated, the old-fashioned metal press is challenging to work, and the new plastic press can (apparently) break if used with dough that is too cold, or if the press dial isn’t turned the correct direction while pressing the cookies.
Why do I keep making these cookies? I thought to myself, after purchasing a new plastic press. I realized the answer was deceptively simple: It’s a family tradition. Year after year, my mother made these difficult, delicious delicacies at Christmas. Every. Single. Year. My usually patient and gentle mother would mutter something about that silly press, whack her sturdy metal press against the sheet in an effort to get the too-soft dough to stick to the pan, then jimmy the cookies off the press with a knife.
My brothers and I would vacate the kitchen and quickly occupy ourselves because “mom’s making the spritz cookies.” Not wanting to leave my mom alone in the kitchen with only that press, I’d usually return to help mom “decorate” those ridiculous cookies.
I’ve decided that some traditions deserve to be abandoned.
Jesus Taught About Traditions
In Mark 7, the Pharisees and scribes confronted Jesus because his disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating and didn’t keep “the tradition of the elders.” Hand-washing, Mark explains, was only one of many traditions that the Jewish elders established — above and beyond the Old Testament law — to maintain ritual purity (Mark 7:3–4).
Jesus had sharp words for them: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mark 7:6–7). Their traditions did not honor God at all because their hearts were far from him.
What does God want from us this Christmas? Our hearts. Because, as Jesus goes on to explain, it is not dirt entering our bodies that makes us spiritually unclean, but it is “what comes out of a person is what defiles him.” Traditions can never cover a heart that is dirty, or far from God.
Now, I doubt many of us would say our yearly Christmas traditions are on par with Scripture. However, how we approach our own man-made traditions can help us gauge whether or not our hearts are near or far from God this Christmas.
When our traditions help our hearts to draw near to the living God, they are a tool functioning rightly. But when our traditions distract our hearts from the true purpose of Christmas — adoring Christ the Lord — then it is time to reevaluate and perhaps to repent.
Evaluating Our Traditions
So, if our primary goal at Christmas time is to worship Christ from a pure heart, which traditions deserve to be kept or started? And which deserve to be trashed?
Each family will need to determine what works best. Some complicated or time-consuming traditions may be worth keeping, if they increase our joy in Christ and help us spread that joy to others. Perhaps other traditions that we take for granted serve more as distractions. Here are the kinds of questions regarding our traditions that can help us to evaluate our hearts this Christmas.
- Does this tradition help us to value Jesus as the Greatest Gift ever given, or does it turn our hearts toward seeking lesser gifts at the expense of celebrating the Giver?
- Does this tradition cause us to spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, or money on ourselves, and in doing so deplete our joy in Christ?
- Does this tradition increase stress and decrease holiness in our family, or does it increase our joy in God and the relationships we have with those around us?
- Does this tradition turn our hearts in thanksgiving to the God who made us and gave us all things through Christ?
- Does this tradition help us to spread the love and joy of Christ and the gospel to fellow believers and to neighbors who don’t yet know Christ? If not, could it?
- Do my family’s cumulative traditions allow me time for serving and bringing joy to those in the church or neighborhood who are hurting, suffering loss, or lonely during this season?
These questions helped our family have meaningful Christmases during two years of transition. One year we didn’t have a tree or gifts to exchange because we were living out of suitcases preparing to live overseas for a season. The next Christmas, we didn’t decorate the house or even make cookies, since we moved ten days before Christmas.
During these years, the traditions that mattered really stood out: our weekly worship with our church family, our celebration of Jesus through reading Scripture and setting up a small Jesse tree, and singing Christmas hymns (our favorite being “Joy to the World”). Last year, we added two new traditions: a Christmas cookie open house for our neighbors and handmade gifts to pass out in person to friends.
So, where is your heart this Christmas? How full is the measure of your joy in the midst of this season that celebrates his birth? It may be time to abandon an old tradition, or add a new one that will help spread your love for and joy in the Greatest Gift.
Our Time is Short
What is The Gospel?
God made everything out of nothing, including you and me. His main purpose in creation was to bring him pleasure.
The chief way in which we as humanity do this is through loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.
Instead of this, we have sinned against our loving Creator and acted in high-handed rebellion.
God has vowed that he will righteously and lovingly judge sinners with eternal death.
But God, being merciful, loving, gracious, and just, sent his own son, Jesus Christ, in the likeness of man to live as a man; fulfilling his perfect requirements in the place of sinners; loving, obeying, and enjoying him perfectly.
And further, his son bore the eternal judgment of God upon the cross of Calvary, as he satisfied the eternal anger of God, standing in the place of sinners. God treated Jesus as a sinner, though he was perfectly sinless, that he might declare sinners as perfect.
This glorious transaction occurs as the sinner puts their faith (dependence, trust) in the Lord Jesus Christ as their substitute. God then charges Christ’s perfection to the sinner, and no longer views him as an enemy but instead an adopted son covered in the perfect righteousness of his son.
God furnished proof that this sacrifice was accepted by raising Jesus from the dead.
God will judge the world in righteousness and all of those who are not covered in the righteousness of Christ, depending on him for forgiveness, will be forced to stand on their own to bear the eternal anger of God.
Therefore, all must turn from sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord.
There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the gospel.
The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it –or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith–and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
If you picked up a hitchhiker (not that I recommend doing that) and he saw a Bible on your car seat and said, “I’ve heard about this thing called the Gospel – can you explain it to me before you drop me off in one minute up the street?” What would you say?
Can you explain the gospel in 30 seconds? In one minute? In five minutes?
Here’s one way I have found helpful. The five main components of the gospel can be remembered on 5 fingers of one hand. Here they are:
1) Jesus’ birth
2) Jesus’ life
3) Jesus’ death
4) Jesus’ resurrection
5) Jesus’ ascension
Obviously each point can be elaborated on depending on how much time you have. Here’s the short version:
1) Jesus’ birth – Jesus, God himself, the creator of the universe, the Messiah, became a human being – took on flesh, and was born of a virgin.
2) Jesus’ life – Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to his Father. Though he was tempted in every way as we are, he never once sinned.
3) Jesus’ death – on the cross, Jesus himself took all our sins and paid for them. God the father counted all our sins to Jesus as if he himself had personally committed them. Then Jesus bore God’s wrath towards sin – the punishment we deserved – as a substitute for us.
4) Jesus’ resurrection – within 3 days, Jesus rose physically from the dead, proving that his sacrifice for sins have been accepted by God, since the punishment for sin was death. Jesus was seen by numerous people after he rose including 500 at one time (1 Corinthians 15).
5) Jesus’ ascension – Jesus ascended physically into heaven where he reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords. And someday he will return to the earth.
That’s the gospel, the good news, and if we believe in Jesus Christ and this good news and call upon him he will save us from our sins and give us eternal life.
That’s a simple way to remember the gospel – five fingers. Even a child can do it. So ask God to give you opportunities to share his good news today.
Ready to start your new life with God?
Who do you think that I am?
With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.
Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.
Consider what the Bible says about Him: Read more
CanIKnowGod.com is a website inspired by LifesGreatestQuestion.com, with new content, images, audio and video that will help you understand more about who God is and how to know Him. The site is mobile responsive and has an infinite scroll which makes for a very user-friendly experience. After you indicate a decision on CanIKnowGod.com, you are directed to a page that details what it means to have a new and transformed life through Jesus Christ. There’s even a Facebook page for daily updates, encouragement and scripture sharing.
Look to Jesus
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!
30 Day Next Steps
John Beckett, a leading Christian businessman, has written a series to read over 30 days for new believers.
New Believers Guide
The New Believer’s Guide is a series of articles designed to show you how to walk in the new life Christ has given you— a life of faith and freedom.
Jesus is the Savior of the world. Discover who Jesus is today in this series.
Know Jesus Christ and your life will be transformed
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