Blogroll Category: Christian Resources
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“It seems to me that doubt is worse than trial. I had sooner suffer any affliction than be left to question the gospel or my own interest in it.” – Charles Spurgeon
Perhaps you’d be inclined to agree with Spurgeon on that one. Few things are as miserable as going through the motions while quietly wondering whether any of it means anything. It’s one of those things that we don’t tend to talk about much as Christians. Yet Jude tells us to “be merciful to those who doubt” (v 22)—clearly there’s an expectation of gentle engagement with those who are suffering from this particular spiritual ailment.
At the same time, doubts are not morally neutral. That means that they shouldn’t be cuddled or accommodated, or left in the corner in the hope that they’ll go away—they need to be contended against. And one of our most powerful weapons in the fight for faith is prayer.
On one level, this seems counter-intuitive. But a spiritual sickness needs a spiritual weapon—it cannot be defeated by logic alone.
But how do you pray when it’s the last thing in the world that you want to do? What do you say to the God that you’re not sure is there? To give you a hand, are five things to pray when doubt sets in, all based on 1 John 5 v 9-15 and taken from Five Things to Pray for Your Heart. Bookmark them or print them out, and use them to pray for yourself, or for someone else, next time doubt sets in.1. Trust your testimony
“We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son” (v 9).
Thank God that he has given us the testimony of his word in the Bible and his Spirit in our hearts. Say sorry to God for doubting it, and ask him to help you to trust his testimony above all “human testimony”.2. Keep it simple
“Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony … And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (v 10-11).
We might have lots of unanswered questions, but the only thing that ultimately matters is what we think of Jesus: that we believe that eternal life is found in him, the Son of God. Talk to God honestly about what you think of Jesus—tell him now what you believe.3. Rejoice in eternal life
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (v 12).
Maybe you sometimes daydream about what life would look like if you gave up on Christianity. But that life would be no life at all. Ask God to give you a real, deep sense of joy in the eternal life he has given you.4. Listen to you
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (v 13).
Thank God that he wants us to be certain, and he caused the Bible to be written so that we can be. Ask for discipline to keep reading it on your own and meeting with others to hear it taught, however you’re feeling. Pray that as you hear God’s word, he would grow your assurance that in Christ you have eternal life.5. Speak to you
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (v 14).
Sometimes praying is the last thing we want to do—but take heart; God hears you. Ask God to keep you making the effort to speak to him in prayer—and pray that as you do so, he would increase your confidence that he hears you.
Find help to pray through many of life’s joys and trials in Rachel Jones’ new book: Five Things to Pray for Your Heart: Prayers that Change You to be More Like Jesus. Available now.
The preconceived notion the British and Australian press brought to the story was “look at those funny foreigners."
A move by the Anglican Church in New Zealand to allow for the blessing of same-sex unions has led to a strong statement from the Diocese of Sydney.
A former Sussex vicar has been sentenced to 38 months imprisonment after admitting sex assaults on a young girl almost 40 years ago.
“Arise and shine for Jesus Christ,” the Province said this week as it launched a decade-long focus on evangelism and renewal.
The Anglican Archbishop of South Sudan has led five days of mediated peace talks between the warring parties in South Sudan.
Have you ever looked at a Magic Eye picture? The page is covered with repeated designs that are very apparent to any viewer. But, for those who have eyes to see in a new way, you can also see a three-dimensional hidden picture. Many people never see the hidden picture. They only see the surface picture and never really understand that there is a more beautiful picture within the easily seen picture.
So it is with Jesus’ parables. Beyond the mere words of the parables are deep, hidden spiritual truths—truths like the Kingdom of God is a treasure worth more than all we have, God welcomes repentant sinners with great celebration, and God seeks the lost.
These truths are hidden truths unless one has been given the spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear them. Their beauty and worth are denied, misunderstood, or rejected by those whose eyes are blind and ears are deaf to spiritual truth. To see and hear the hidden things of God requires spiritual eyes and ears. Hunger for spiritual truth requires awakened senses, and to love the things of God requires a new heart. (See Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26.)
God alone is the source of spiritual eyes and undivided hearts. Only He can make blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, dead taste buds hunger, and hardened hearts soft.
It is my prayer and desire that through this brief study of some of the parables of Jesus—earthly stories with hidden meaning about the Kingdom of God— God may be pleased to open the eyes of the blind, heal the ears of the deaf, and soften the hearts of the hardened.
The thoughts above are expressed in the preface of the Backyard Bible Club/Vacation Bible School curriculum, Things Hidden. Perhaps you have taught the material and have seen the power of the Word of God to open a child’s eyes to spiritual truth. Perhaps you have had the privilege of seeing God at work through His Word to create spiritual hunger in a child… or the unparalleled joy of seeing a child’s heart respond in simple faith. If so, you know that the parables in the Bible are powerful. Might you want to be part of imparting these great spiritual truths to a group of children in your neighborhood or your church? If so, you may consider exploring the newly revised version of Things Hidden.Discover the Revised Things Hidden Curriculum What’s new about it? Reformatted lessons
Lessons match our Sunday school curriculum format to make it easier to teach. Page flow has been improved with clearly indicated visuals and easy to follow teaching instructions and text. In addition, lesson concepts are more clearly explained and the application section has been expanded and improved.All new visuals and additional resources
New student project
The visuals for Things Hidden are all new designs with original illustrations. Several additional resources are also included such as a puppet show script and promotional posters and postcards to invite people to your VBS or Backyard Bible Club.
The student project for the curriculum is now a treasure box with images of parables on the inside for children to color. Once it’s colored, students can fold it into a box. The box is full color (wood grain) on the outside and black and white on the inside for kids to color.
Each lesson has 4 Treasure cards children can fill out and add to their box:
- Memory Verse Cards – children can decorate with stickers or draw pictures on to remind them of the lesson
- Lesson-Specific Treasure Cards – children may attach a treasure to remind them of the parable in the lesson (a seed, a pearl, etc.)
- Reflection Cards – children think about an application question and write a response.
- Additional Treasure Cards – children can look around their everyday surroundings and collect things from nature, wisdom from parents, or Bible verses and share what they’ve found on the card.
To assist leaders in discussing the Gospel at a deeper level with the children they interact with, the booklet Helping Children to Understand the Gospel is included in the kit.What hasn’t changed?
The rich five-lesson content remains the same as well as the intentional use of Bible verses and passages.
In first-century Israel, wedding parties would last seven days. They knew how to have a party. So the village would gather for this great celebration, a great highlight in the calendar.
It is an obvious thing to say, but notice this: Jesus was invited to the party, and was happy to be there. I wonder if that fits with your concept of Jesus. Sometimes as we think of Jesus, we construct a kind of very “religious” Jesus who would never be seen at a party. Many of us dismiss him altogether, because he seems to have nothing much to do with our reality. Others of us go to church for a bit of Jesus, and then we go off and get on with real life. But Jesus came to be in, and to enjoy, real life. He was happy to be at the party.
I’ve never been to a Jewish party but I’ve seen films of Jewish parties, and I’ve seen how the guys very often lock their arms around one another and dance away—and I can’t imagine Jesus was in the corner looking down on the other guests. I’m pretty sure he would have been linking arms and joining them. It’s really striking that in the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life he seems to have spent more time at parties and feasts than in religious buildings. He once said to those around him, I've come that you might have life, and have life abundantly (John 10 v 10). He didn’t say, I’ve come so that you might have meetings and have them abundantly. He didn’t say, I’ve come to shrivel up your life but, I’ve come to fill up your life.
Jesus came to be in, and to enjoy, real life. He was happy to be at the party.
Where does the idea that Jesus should be a dull, religious figure, doing religious things in religious buildings, come from? Well, not long before Jesus attended this wedding, he’d spent time in the wilderness and was tempted by the devil, Satan—and Satan had a different idea about what he should be like (you can read about it in Luke 3 v 9-13).
Why don't you do a sign, Satan said to him, so that everyone believes in you?
Throw yourself down from the temple. Let the angels save you. Let that be a sign.
That’s very religious. But Jesus said no. He wouldn’t do that kind of sign in that kind of place. That wasn’t his agenda. Instead, he showed up at a party and did the first of his signs there. Indeed, the first time John tells us of him visiting the temple—the very next episode after this wedding party in Cana—we find Jesus driving out the people who were using their religion to get rich (John 2 v 13-22). Far from fitting in with the religious ways of his nation, Jesus started a one-man riot in the most religious place in that nation!
Isn’t that great? Jesus came into real life, and he wants to come into our real lives to be involved in the whole of our lives. He was happy to be at somebody else’s party, and to do his first sign there, to serve them. It’s amazing that Jesus did that.The surprising truth
Many people have a negative view of the Christian faith. They think that following Jesus will cramp their style, ruin their fun and generally make life worse, not better. Perhaps you know someone who thinks like that. Perhaps you sometimes think like that yourself. Well if that’s true, I would love you to take another look. Because Jesus wasn’t a dull, boring, religious figure.
I want to show you the perhaps surprising truth that life tastes better - and we can enjoy life more - when we let Jesus deal with our deepest needs. When you invite Jesus to your party, he doesn't just rescue it, he transforms it, and makes it the best party ever.
This is an adapted excerpt from Terry Virgo’s evangelistic resource Life Tastes Better. Bulk orders can be purchased at 67p each.
Netflix have released a film about about Carlton Pearson, the famous pentecostal evangelist from the 90s. Come Sunday stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as the influential preacher from Tulsa, Oklahoma whose life takes a dramatic turn when he begins to question the existence of hell.
Pearson was a successful minister of the gospel and at the peak of his influence he received what he believed to be a direct revelation from God—a revelation about "the gospel of inclusion."
As he observed the news coverage of the evil and senseless suffering of the genocide in Rwanda, along with with the death of some of his close family members, Pearson began to rethink the orthodox theology of hell he had been preaching his whole life.
The film portrays the uncomfortable unravelling of Pearson's ministry as he rapidly lost his congregants, ministry peers, the support of high-ranking clergy in The Church of God in Christ, and eventually his closest friends.
Reflecting on the depressing episode, Pearson himself said during an interview, "I went from hero to zero, and lost it all."Deconstructing orthodoxy
The filmmakers do a fair job of depicting a man who hasn't just crumbled under the usual pressure of secular conformity. Instead, we see a man who deliberately goes back to the scriptures to question the foundations of his new revelation and ends up doubling-down on his new universalist belief.
In the days between church services we see him face increasing pressure to recant his heresy. He doesn't. He comes back harder the next Sunday. The scriptures, he says, confirm that, through Jesus, God has forgiven every single person and proceeds to preach a message of total inclusivity. To quote him in the film, "I'm not rewriting anything, I'm just re-reading it."
Perhaps the most powerful and emotive argument he articulates is this: if we, in our limited capacity to love, can accept our unsaved friends and family then why can’t God, who possesses an unquestionably greater resource of love than we do? He poses the question that the whole film gradually leads us towards: are we more merciful than God?
It’s a provocative question. Why is there such a grinding mismatch between our affection and love for unbelievers, and God’s vast mercy?A common objection
You may not have heard the question articulated exactly in this way, but you’ve probably heard someone object to the notion that a God worthy of our full trust could really send someone to hell, forever.
I've encountered this objection myself in my interactions with Christian universalists and I'm grateful for Erik Raymond’s careful response in his book Is Hell For Real? He says that hell is the essential response of God’s character to sin. And when we struggle with the idea of hell, it is because we have misunderstood either God or Sin. He goes on to give a telling illustration.Why sin is so bad?
"Imagine walking down the street and you notice someone sitting on a bench focused on what’s in his hands. Unable to see, you peer in closer and observe that he is pulling the legs off a grasshopper. How would you respond?
“Other than thinking him to be a bit strange you more than likely wouldn’t confront him about what he is doing. It’s cruel, sure, but we swat insects every day without much of a second thought. But what if it wasn’t a grasshopper but a frog? You would likely be a bit more disturbed, but perhaps also reluctant to stop and confront the stranger.
“And what if it was a bird? Would you say something then? Would you call the police? How about if it was a puppy? Sensing the instability and malevolence of the man, you might refrain from confrontation but you would definitely call the authorities.
“Finally, what if it was a human baby? Would you stop him? Would you intervene? No question. At risk to yourself you would intervene and physically fight him to protect the child.
"What is the difference in each of these scenes? Why would most people keep walking if they saw a grasshopper, but stop if they saw a child being assaulted? What prompts a different reaction? In each case the act is the same—pulling off legs. What’s the difference? It’s the one who is sinned against.
“Your response would be different in the face of the same action depending upon the value of the one who is being sinned against. The more valuable the creature, the more serious and reprehensible it is to assault them. If God were a grasshopper, then eternal, conscious punishment would be an overreaction. But God is not a grasshopper.
“The God of the Bible is perfect in holiness, righteousness and love. There is no one who compares with him in terms of his beauty. In fact, his beauty is an infinite beauty. His glory is of infinite worth. He deserves perfection. He is worthy of this. Anything less than this perfection is not a misdemeanor but a capital offense. Eternal hell corresponds with the nature of God and the nature of sin. Since God is the highest good, then sin against him is the highest form of evil. The punishment of an eternal hell corresponds with the worth of an infinitely glorious God.
“Misconceptions about hell will always err on these two points: the worth of God and the sinfulness of sin. God’s worth corresponds with sin’s punishment. Nobody gets upset over the loss of something of little value, but if those things are of high value, then everyone can see their importance. If we don’t see sin as an attack on God’s infinite worth, then we will not see hell as a just response to it. The punishment does indeed fit the crime.”
Is Hell for Real is a thoughtful and accessible guide to the Bible's teaching on God's judgment and hell. You can read chapter 1 for free here. If you have Netflix I encourage you to invest the time in giving Come Sunday a viewing. Chances are, people you know are asking the very same question.
After an unusually long, cold winter, it’s finally summer! But churches are already thinking ahead to the fall. What will they teach the students next year; the current curriculum or something new? There are many varied reasons for choosing one curricula over another. Here are 12 reasons why you should consider teaching the Truth78 curricula:
- Vision-Oriented—our philosophy, methodology, scope and sequence, and lesson content all are aiming toward one main goal: That our students may know, honor, and treasure God, setting their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God. (Download our Truth78 Viewbook for a more thorough introduction to our vision, mission, and curricula.)
- Whole Gospel-focused—Our hope and prayer is that every student will come to salvation in Christ and live as faithful disciples. Therefore, we believe that great care must be exercised in communicating the Gospel. Our students need the whole, rich foundation of the Gospel taught to them. A foundation which honors and exalts Christ by inspiring love, trust, obedience, and worship of Him as the essence, means, and goal of the Gospel is explained precept-by-percept. While each curriculum, as a whole, presents the Gospel message, not every lesson presents an “explicit” Gospel summary.
- Written by teachers, within the classroom setting—Sometimes a lesson looks great on paper but teaching it in a classroom with a live audience of students can be a very different experience. Our lessons have been developed and taught in the classroom and have been reviewed by other teachers and small group leaders before being published.
- Encourages both teacher and students to study the Bible—We place a very high premium on biblical literacy. Therefore, as soon as children are able to read, we believe they are ready to interact with the text of Scripture, using their own Bibles. Our curriculum helps teachers guide students in developing essential Bible study skills.
- Nourishes teachers—It’s hard to teach something that hasn’t enriched you first. Though our lessons are written for children and youth at age-appropriate levels, they are meaty with theological truths. This isn’t because we are especially clever, but because the lessons focus on revealing and explaining the Word of God. The Word provides teachers with spiritual food as they meditate on the lesson throughout the week while preparing to teach.
- Trains children and youth to think—It’s one thing to give children information to recall. It’s entirely different to engage their minds in critical thinking – the kind of thinking that prepares them to truly understand, embrace, live out, and defend the Christian faith for a life-time. Our interactive teaching style (asking questions, posing scenarios, etc.) helps train students to think critically and biblically.
- Aims for heart transformation—The mind is a conduit to the heart from which springs genuine faith and love for Christ. Too often children’s and youth curricula fail to engage the heart in any deep and meaningful way. Our curriculum has been designed to spend a significant time engaging students’ hearts in responding to God’s truth. While it is only by God’s sovereign grace that true heart transformation happens, we give teachers a variety of suggestions for leading discussions that prod students to sincerely and personally respond to God’s truth.
- Serious joy—We would never use the word “fun” as one of our curriculum distinctives. However, we offer something better than fun: Serious joy. We study the most important truths in the universe: The truth of God in the Word of God. God is holy and so is His Word. That’s why there is a certain demeanor and serious tone to our lesson content and format. But that doesn’t mean that the lessons are dry and boring. Our God is NOT boring. Therefore, when appropriate, there is plenty of room for creativity, laughter, excitement, colorful imagery, loudness, etc. But it’s all meant to point toward the majestic and awesome glory of God, where we find true, lasting, all-satisfying joy.
- Great customer service—Switching to a new curriculum can be a daunting task. There are a variety of issues to address and “one size fits all” in children’s and youth ministry. Truth78 is blessed to have an experienced team of people who have decades of experience in classroom ministry with our curriculum. They love serving people and finding answers to your questions and solutions to your concerns.
- Keeping the main thing the main thing—Unfortunately, for an increasing number of children, the Sunday school hour is one of the few times during their week that they receive formal Bible instruction. We want to use that limited time in order to focus on the main thing: Making them wise for salvation in Christ by acquainting them with the Scriptures. Therefore, our curriculum maximizes spiritual instruction and makes other activities secondary.
- Theological balance over the course of the entire scope and sequence—If our students are to be taught the whole counsel of God, they need to see and understand the Bible through a variety of disciplines: Bible survey, biblical theology, systematic theology, moral and ethical teaching, and an explicit Gospel presentation. Our scope and sequence has been carefully designed to introduce these disciplines in balance, not neglecting one for another. All serve in helping children and youth develop a robust faith.
- Gives parents “meat” to feed their children—Each lesson is accompanied by a GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) page. Not only do they give parents a summary of the lesson, they also give various ideas for follow-up discussion, helping parents discern their child’s spiritual condition and encourage faith in Christ and loving obedience to His Word.
Michael Curry is a superb preacher and a delightful man. And if everything wrong in the world could be put right by charm and beauty and wit, we would have nothing to worry about.
Sermon preached by the Most Rev Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on 19 May 2018 at St George's Chapel, Windsor
Funerals have been held for some of the victims of those killed in last Sunday’s suicide bomb attacks on three Christian churches in Surabaya.