Blogroll Category: Christian Resources
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 269 posts from the category 'Christian Resources.'
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It’s an issue that has been much discussed among Reformed churches: what is the place of welfare ministries in the life of our churches? Some churches probably wouldn’t encourage their members to get involved in social initiatives at all, in case they’ll be distracted from evangelism—even if they aren’t actually doing much of either. Other churches approve of these ministries for individuals but not for churches. Still others would encourage their members to get involved in social-welfare ministry of every kind and, whether or not there is any gospel conversation, call it mission. But we’d do well to remember these words from John Piper:
“In all the attempts to alleviate suffering, we must not forget to alleviate eternal suffering by the proclamation of Christ.”
This rightly prioritizes evangelism. But does that mean that church members shouldn’t get involved in social justice at all? How can churches maintain Jesus’ priority of Word ministry, while obeying Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbor?
I’ve been wrestling with these questions in the two decades since we set up the Co-Mission church planting initiative in London. I’ve noticed that, while each church plant has been focused upon evangelistic outreach, as they’ve grown, they’ve attracted new church members with the skills to be active in a range of social ministries, such as our crisis pregnancy ministry, prison visiting, debt counseling, and outreach to the homeless.
Social justice and evangelism are both ways of loving our neighbors. The first has great but temporary benefits for this world, while the second has glorious benefits both now and in the world to come. So, in understanding how they relate, we’ve found three enormously helpful principles that are illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. The key for focusing our priorities lies in this one word: “Especially.”
1. Especially the needy (Luke 10:30)
Jesus pictures a man being mugged on the notoriously dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. We might have said, “They bashed him over the head with a baseball bat, stabbed him in the back with a beer bottle and kicked him to the ground, took his phone, wallet and sneakers, and left him unconscious in a pool of blood.”
Jesus describes something that could happen to any of us. We could be mugged by thieves or by redundancy, by a cancerous lump or the death of a child, by a creeping addiction to gambling or pornography. Many of us already have been. We could self-righteously enquire what this man was doing traveling alone. But Jesus doesn’t bother with blame. We all make bad decisions and do stupid things. It’s ugly when the well and wealthy criticize the poor and sick because of contributory foolishness; and it’s particularly ugly in Christians, for Christ saved us despite the stupidity of our own sin. Jesus is plainly telling us to be concerned for those in need. We need to gradually reach all the communities of our cities, and not just attempt to reach the elites in the name of strategically accessing leadership potential.
2. Especially our neighbours (Luke 10:31–32)
God commands us to love our neighbors as generously as we love ourselves. Jesus was not limiting those we help to those who are closest to us; rather, Jesus was expanding our definition of neighbours to include anyone we come across in need, whatever their race, religion, class or kind of problem! But Jesus wasn’t suggesting that the priest and Levite who passed by should have abandon their ministries to search the roads of Palestine for battered travelers (and the Samaritan went on with his life after caring for the injured man). And Jesus wasn’t telling us to help everyone, for we all feel bewildered by the scale of need even in our own neighborhood, let alone the world. He’s telling us to help the one person we can all help—the needy person we come across in daily life.
"Jesus tells us to help the one person we can all help-the needy person we come across in daily life."
Jesus doesn’t for a minute suggest anyone should abandon gospel work for social justice. But none of us are doing gospel work all the time. Jesus wasn’t telling churches to divert resources from gospel preaching into poverty relief. He was telling individual disciples to put ourselves out for someone in need. We can each help one elderly lady in our block of flats, one distressed colleague at work, or one migrant family in our area trying to find work. For we were all lying in the spiritual gutter when Jesus found us.
3. Especially with the gospel (Luke 10:33-35)
Rather than abandon the man as soon as possible, or just call an ambulance, the Samaritan drove him to the hospital and covered the costs. This was practical love—involving costly self-denial. Samaritans were generally hated by the Jews. But this Samaritan didn’t allow his own experience of prejudice to become an excuse to neglect a foreigner in need. He didn’t offer help in order to earn favor with God, nor in the hope that the wounded man would be grateful and join his church! He just did it for the man’s sake, out of compassion; he “took pity on him”.
When we get involved in compassionate care, we shouldn’t do so just to gain evangelistic opportunities. This can easily become manipulative subterfuge. We should offer our works of compassion as simply the justice and righteousness in which God delights. But opportunities often do arise when people wonder why we help them, and the gospel is the most precious gift we can offer—for evangelism is compassionate care to relieve eternal suffering.
But let’s also welcome opportunities to help a needy neighbor—because Jesus says bluntly in verse 37, “Go and do likewise”! In all of life, we are to live compassionately like the good Samaritan… especially towards the needy, especially towards our neighbors, and especially with the gospel… pointing people to the Greatest Samaritan of all, who came to us in our desperate spiritual need and rescued us from dying in the gutter of sin—to Jesus.
This article is adapted from Richard Coekin's new book, Gospel DNA: 21 Ministry Values for Growing Churches, which is available to pre-order now.
"Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!"
These, of course, were the last reported words of William Tyndale who was strangled and then burnt in 1536.
Here are is an exhortation from David and Sally Michael from their conference message, “A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation”:
Children need to learn how to rightly handle the Word through incremental age-appropriate instruction in studying Scripture through the use of inductive Bible study skills.
Exposure to the whole counsel of God is vital, but children must also be taught to rightly understand the Word. Our children and young people need the same prodding that Paul gave to his spiritual son:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15
In a postmodern culture where it is acceptable to define your own truth, children must realize that truth is not “what a Bible verse means to me,” but rather that truth is found in discovering the author’s original intent interpreted in light of the whole message of the Bible, leading to the God-given meaning of the text. Therefore, we must guide the next generation to be students of the Word who have the necessary tools to interpret Scripture correctly, as Paul did for Timothy:
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.—2 Timothy 2:7
Start with simple questions about texts as children are young, and give them more tools as they mature. This is in direct opposition to what is happening in our culture as we move from a language-based system of learning to an image base.
It will be very difficult for children to become serious students of the Word if they are used to a steady diet of sound bite technology. Over exposure to sound bite technology will reap a crop of students who are incapable of serious, careful Bible study, who will not be equipped and competent for every good work.
We must impress on the next generation the discipline of Bible study—careful observation of the text; thoughtful, objective interpretation; and appropriate life-application—as well as the value of meditating on the Word “day and night” and memorizing Scripture.Questions to Think About
- Are we careful to emphasize and use “the Book” in our teaching rather than media and “sound bite technology”?
- Do we have age-appropriate goals and measures in place for assessing our students Bible study skills?
- Does the curriculum we use encourage and help students to interact with the text?
- Are we providing our students with resources that will instruct them in proper Bible study skills?
- Are our teachers adequately trained in the use of inductive Bible study methods?
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave every Christian in every century a commission with eternal significance:
…”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:18-20, ESV
Our calling is very clear—to “make disciples.” This is the greatest work in which to invest our lives! Christ’s mandate to us is to see spiritual interest awaken, new birth come forth, and then foster steady steps toward maturity in Christ…but it is a mandate wrought with privilege and true joy.
Sadly, in this century we have somewhat lost the meaning of “disciple” and “discipleship.” Churches talk about discipleship. We even have discipleship programs…but there exists only a vague notion of what a “disciple” is, and little tangible evidence that we are “making disciples.” This is especially true among the children’s programs of the church. Materials are often aimed at conversion, a worthy and necessary part of discipleship, but an inadequate fulfillment of Jesus’ commission to us.
In his book, The Disciple-Making Parent, Chap Bettis enlightens us with these words:
Disciple means learner, a person who wanted to learn from and take on the pattern of his rabbi. Interestingly the word Christian only occurs three times in the New Testament, while the word disciple occurs 269 times. Unfortunately, today the word Christian has the connotation of a status our children hold, a card they carry, disconnected from their daily activities. Disciple, on the other hand, implies a lifelong commitment to seek after, learn from, and stay close to our rabbi, Jesus.
Too often perhaps, we encourage our children to be “Christian” and fall short of encouraging lifelong true discipleship. Are we raising disciples who stand firm in the face of ridicule, temptation, or persecution? Do our children daily, consciously live to bring glory to Jesus Christ, ignoring the pull to be conformed to this world? Can we say that our churches are raising a generation that is faithful to the Word, “rightly handling the Word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) unwavering in their commitment to defend the Gospel? Will this generation be committed to please God by their words, actions, and heart attitudes, brokenly confessing when they fail to do so? In short, will they be true disciples, or merely identify themselves as “Christian” in name?
Though we must preach and teach the Gospel faithfully and fully, which is the primary means by which the Holy Spirit converts the soul, we must aim beyond conversion. So, aiming beyond conversion or, as Jesus put it, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” how does Jesus tell us to make disciples? By “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The word “all” makes this sound like a daunting task, but even more daunting is the word “observe.” It implies that a person not only is taught the truth, but that he agrees with, embraces, and lives out the teaching—involving the mind, the heart, and the will. It defines a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
The primate of the Church of Nigeria has urged members of the Diocese of Sapele who have rebelled against their bishop to repent and submit to his lawful authority
The Church of Nigeria cannot be held to ransom by any group; the Anglican Church belongs only to those who can operate within and submit to its constituted authority and structures.
After a vote in the House of Commons last week in favour of decriminalising abortion, Regan King analyses the Johnson bill and urges us to be pro-life.
"We must cultivate a helpful and hope-filled willingness to not only call people away from what is bad, but to simultaneously point people to what is good and make adequate provisions to accomplish that good," he says.
Andrea Williams comments on a BBC Radio 4 programme discussing last week's 'headscarf ruling' by the Court of Justice at the European Union. She says that "the integration of new faiths cannot result in the undermining the Judeo-Christian foundations of our free society".
But this is exactly what is happening, and the experience of the Christian Legal Centre proves it. "We must not ignore this reality which has brought great life and flourishing to our nation," she says.
Tim Dieppe comments on the attack in Westminster this week. He points out that the Islamic State have been encouraging this kind of attack for some time, and that there have been a number of similar attacks across Europe in the last year.
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Tim Dieppe reviews Dr Joe Boot's The Mission of God.
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The Creature Conference heralds a growing recognition that concern for animals is an important matter of Christian faith.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has finished its investigation of the Anglican Church, with a summary hearing in Sydney that revealed some statistics on offe