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 27 posts from the category 'Christian Resources.'

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On the Podcast with Sinclair Ferguson: Hidden Treasures in Jesus' Genealogy

The Good Book Company - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 06:00

In his new Advent devotional The Dawn of Redeeming Grace, Sinclair Ferguson opens up the first two chapters of Matthew's Gospel to help you arrive at Christmas Day awed by God's redeeming grace and refreshed by the hope of God’s promised king.

Categories: Christian Resources

The Women in Jesus’s Genealogy

The Good Book Company - Thu, 21/10/2021 - 06:00

“Cherchez la femme.” Literally, this French phrase means “Look for the woman.” But as an idiom it means, “If there’s a problem, then a woman will always be at the root of it.” That, of course, is more than a little unfair. No one ever said “Cherchez l’homme,” even though men constitute approximately half of the human race!

But when it comes to the genealogy of Jesus, “Cherchez la femme” is good advice. Women are mentioned only occasionally in biblical genealogies (as in 1 Chronicles 1:32, 50). Usually these family trees take the form “X [the father] begat Y [the son]” and make no mention of the mother. What sticks out in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy is that it mentions five women altogether. There must be a reason for this. And why only these women? After all, every man listed had a mother.

The question to ask is this: what do the following women have in common? Tamar (Matthew 1:3); Rahab (1:5); Ruth (1:5); and the wife of Uriah the Hittite (1:6).

"Jesus did not come into a squeaky clean world any more than we do."

These Women Were Outsiders

For one thing, they were probably all non-Israelites. They didn’t naturally belong. For another, there were question marks over their lives: Tamar gave birth to the twin sons of her father-in-law, Judah (the sad story is told in Genesis 38:1-30); Rahab was a Jericho prostitute (Joshua 2:1); Ruth was a Moabitess (Moabites and their descendants were permanently barred from the congregation of Israel, Deuteronomy 23:3); Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, was the object of King David’s adultery (2 Samuel 11).

Luke doesn’t mention these women in his genealogy of Jesus. So why did Matthew draw attention to these skeletons in the cupboard? I suspect he is giving us hints of three important biblical principles:

  1. God extends his grace beyond the chosen people and brings Gentiles into his covenant;
  2. God overcomes the effects of sin and shame as he works out his purposes; and...
  3. God keeps his promises in ways we could never have anticipated.
Purpose, Promise and People

The first principle is present in Matthew’s Gospel like a pair of bookends. He begins by mentioning these Old Testament “outsiders” who were brought into Jesus’ family history and goes on to tell us about more outsiders—wise men from the east—who visited him after he was born. Matthew concludes with Jesus commanding the apostles to go to outsiders—indeed to “all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The second principle reminds us that Christ understands what it means to have sin and shame in our family story.

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace

Advent devotional for Christmas that will stir hope and inspire worship.

Jesus did not come into a squeaky clean world any more than we do. He came into a fallen world, and into a family that had blots in its history. He did so out of love for us, and everything we learn about him proves that he is able to sympathise with us.

Whatever it is that causes us shame—from sin or abuse in our past to painful memories that continue to linger—the Lord Jesus understands. He does more than merely see the burdens we privately carry; he has experienced them himself. He was “made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a faithful and merciful high priest ... we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us in our weakness ... Let us then with confidence draw near ... that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15-16).

It was to save the kind of people who appear in his family tree that Jesus came. The apostle Paul learned that: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full assurance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).

The third principle reminds us that God never loses control of his purposes. True, like the psalmists, we sometimes feel that he has. But when we do, we need to say to ourselves, “Remember Jesus’ genealogy!”

He Rescues us from our Past

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba—and yes, eventually the young virgin Mary too—would not have been able to see what God would ultimately do through their lives. So it is in every age and for every believer. But God sees the end from the beginning.

If I had been with Matthew when he was writing his Gospel, I would have been tempted to say, “Matthew, please don’t begin with a long family tree. It will put most people off reading the rest of the story!” But I am glad that he did because written into his genealogy is this message: God keeps his promises; he knows what he is doing; he knows exactly where he is going; and he is able to rescue us even from past sin and shame.

In what corners of your heart and mind do you need to remember that today?

This article is adapted from The Dawn of Redeeming Grace by Sinclair Ferguson, an advent devotional for Christmas that will stir hope and inspire worship.

Categories: Christian Resources

We are Waiting People

The Good Book Company - Tue, 19/10/2021 - 13:13

They say time is relative, and it can certainly seem that way as Christmas approaches. To a busy parent—with presents to wrap, cards to send, meals to prepare, and spare batteries to remember to buy—time seems to fly. There is not enough of it—and there is simply too much to do.

But to a child, the days of December seem the longest in the whole year; they pass more slowly than the last few miles of a tedious journey. No wonder C. S. Lewis’s description of Narnia as a land where it was “always winter but never Christmas” resonates with children. They do not need to go through the back of a wardrobe to feel that—all you do is turn the calendar to the month of December!

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace

Advent devotional for Christmas that will stir hope and inspire worship.

Late In Time

Today’s children are not the first to think that Christmas can’t come soon enough. Indeed, that was the feeling of generations of Old Testament believers: a feeling picked up in the words of Charles Wesley’s hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.

Our own experience sometimes gives certain words an atmosphere unique to ourselves. Perfectly innocent words can have a chilling effect on our emotions! For me, “late” is one of them. I cannot hear it without feeling that I am being accused! Perhaps it is because I can still hear in my mind the shrill voice of one of my teachers shouting at me, “Ferguson, you’re late” (when I wasn’t!). With that kind of memory, it is hardly surprising that to me the phrase “late in time” has a somewhat negative ring about it.

Was Jesus also “late”? No, Wesley did not mean Jesus came at the wrong time. But since God’s people had been hoping for his coming ever since the divine proclamation of Genesis 3:15 had promised the arrival of one who would bruise the serpent’s head, it must have seemed a very long time. The believers of the Old Testament were often heard crying out, “How long, Lord?” Would it always be winter but never the long-promised Christmas?

"God may seem slow, but he is always on time."

Until the Son of God Appear

When it has been my responsibility to arrange the items of praise for the first Sunday in Advent, I have always chosen to begin with a 12th-century hymn that captures this sense of waiting and longing:

O come, O come, 

Immanuel And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell thy people save,

And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel. 

God may seem slow, but he is always on time. He has never been late. But if you read through the Bible from the beginning, there is something thrilling about turning over the blank page between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The first thing you encounter is Matthew’s summary of the long years of waiting (1:1-17). But now the snow is melting, and winter is giving way to Christmas (1:18 – 2:23). The arrival of the Lord Jesus is the dawn of a glorious new era.

Matthew’s Gospel begins with two chapters on the nativity. It may seem strange that he does little more than mention the actual event of that first Christmas Day. (“She had given birth to a son,” 1:25, and “After Jesus was born...”, 2:1; that is all he says.) But he has his reasons. Births take place every day of the year, ever hour of the day. But this birth was different, and Matthew wants to spend most of his time helping us to understand why it was.

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace

As this Christmas approaches, I invite you to join me in exploring what Matthew says about those days that marked the dawn of redeeming grace and about how Christ’s light breaks into our lives today.

I am grateful to The Good Book Company for allowing me the rare privilege of writing a book that perhaps many thousands of people in different parts of the world will read simultaneously, even reading the same pages on the same days. By doing so, we become a great company of individuals united by the shared experience of reflecting on Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus. It is the prologue to the greatest story of all—the story of Jesus. And it is one that will make many millions sing Joseph Mohr’s famous lines again this Christmas:

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light,
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth!

My prayer is that as you read, you will experience “the dawn of redeeming grace” because “Christ the Saviour is born.”

This article is adapted from The Dawn of Redeeming Grace by Sinclair Ferguson, an advent devotional for Christmas that will stir hope and inspire worship.

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Daniel Strange: The Longings Our Culture Just Can't Stop Expressing

The Good Book Company - Fri, 15/10/2021 - 06:00

As Christians we sometimes feel like we're on another planet to our unbelieving friends and family. Daniel Strange wants to show you that the connections are there—in fact, the longings that our culture cannot help but express are the very ones that Jesus fulfils.

Categories: Christian Resources

Christmas Cards in an Instant Age

The Good Book Company - Thu, 14/10/2021 - 06:00

When I was a child in the late eighties, every year our family used to receive literally hundreds of Christmas cards. Each December, the ceiling of the lounge was transformed into a display that resembled a carousel, as string was pinned into the wall from corner to corner and then, as the numbers grew, from more random points across the room. Every time the lounge door opened, a gust of air would be sent through the display, lifting them momentarily from their position, and leaving whoever had entered a little unnerved as to whether they were about to get a wave of cards, string and drawing pins landing on their head!

Just as the ceiling was transformed by the season, so too our dining room table was increasingly dominated by piles of cards and envelopes ready to be tasked with the job of sending personal greetings to everyone in our family address book. My mum would spend evening upon evening writing personal messages to those close to home, and to those whom she hadn’t seen for years. The task was monumental. And prioritised. The cards—both sent and received—symbolised relationships that had stood the test of both time and distance.

As the years have passed, things have really changed… but have they changed for the better?

"The time required to hand write, envelope, and send a card can seem, at times, unnecessary. But, arguably, much is lost when we neglect to send physical, handwritten signs of relationship to those we know and love."

 

Sending Cards in a Digital Age

Despite Royal Mail recording that more than 6 in 10 people like to receive a Christmas card over any other form of festive communication, the sending of personal, handwritten greetings seems to have waned. And, in an age where messages can be sent in an instant, the time required to hand write, envelope, and send a card can seem, at times, unnecessary. Other methods of communication are quicker, cheaper, and require less time and financial investment. But, arguably, much is lost when we neglect to send physical, handwritten signs of relationship to those we know and love.

There’s something wonderfully warming about receiving a handwritten card or letter. Having endured multiple lockdowns over the last 18 months, the importance of letters, parcels and personal signs of relationship over physical distance has been brought into sharper focus. Every card that was sent or received symbolised connection that couldn’t be expressed in other ways. The arrival of the postman was a moment that brought every family member to the door. Not only was the card or letter received with joy and expectation, but the physical place it then took on a mantlepiece or shelf was a constant reminder of the sender. The card itself stood as testimony to relationships that were enduring under life’s pressures.

Arguably, the same could not be said of digital greetings. 

While valued, text messages, emails and zoom calls were unable to take the place of physical human greetings, and so while appreciated, they quickly elicited fatigue and frustration in a way that the physical art of sending and receiving did not. Digital greetings were read and discarded; physical ones savoured and enjoyed long past the moment of receipt. 

The Importance of Physical Cards and Letters

Lockdowns aside, the physical permanence of written communications should not be underestimated. I have a memory box full of cards and letters that have been sent to me over the course of my life. Some of them squirrelled away because they serve as precious reminders of messages of encouragement and relationships that I have treasured. The handwritten words on the page have faded over time, but the sentiments they contain have lasted far longer than those contained in a text message or an email. At intervals throughout my life, it has been a joy to revisit them, to trace the handwriting, and to feel the personal connection, that though faded, has not been lost.

It seems that we have a lot to learn from children on this subject: While I have been slow to develop a habit of sending cards and letters, the inherent joy of the activity is not lost on my daughter. Each Christmas season, my 9-year old anticipates the thrill of sending and receiving cards—months before Christmas arrives—and each year a yearly pilgrimage is made to our local shops in order to purchase a collection of cards that she can send to those in her class. A list is drawn up, a collection of chocolate coins put aside as a sweet treat to include inside, and then the card-writing begins. She can see its value: she has benefited from the joy of partaking in the exchange, and so she is encouraged to do the same. 

With all this in mind, this Christmas season, rather than sending out a hurried text message or email, I’m going to endeavour to learn lessons from the year just past and take the time to put pen to paper (or card!) in a way that reminds people they are loved, cared for and remembered. It may only take a moment for me to write, but the words of encouragement could last a lifetime. 

Will you join me?

Categories: Christian Resources

Talking about Jesus in a way that connects with modern culture

The Good Book Company - Tue, 12/10/2021 - 06:00

The following is an adapted extract from Timothy Keller’s foreword to Making Faith Magnetic.

Dan Strange has written another terrific, down-to-earth book to help believers engage in fruitful conversations with friends about faith.

In an earlier book, Plugged In, Dan outlines a way to “enter” another person’s framework of beliefs about life, then to “explore” and “expose”—that is, to both affirm and yet challenge them—and finally to redirect their good aspirations away from idols toward Christ himself. This approach, called “subversive fulfillment,” is the essence of good apologetics in a post-Christian, post-modern society.

The magnetic points

In the present book, Dan briefly recaps the “subversive fulfillment” method, but his burden here is to show how this approach plays out specifically in five areas of human longing and need. Using the work of J.H. Bavinck, he argues that there are five fundamental things for which all human beings are searching and to which all of us are inevitably drawn “magnetically”.

The five points are:

  • totality (a way to fit into a larger whole)
  • norm (a way to live a moral and good human life)
  • deliverance (a way to fulfill and fix our incomplete hearts)
  • destiny (a sense of freedom and agency in the world)
  • higher power (a way to know transcendence and the sacred).

While Bavinck the missionary applied these “magnetic points” to the world religions, Dan helps us apply them to secular people, but that presents a challenge.

“With their ‘heads’ secular people declare that there is no larger transcendent realm to contact… Yet Dan shows that the ways secular people live, speak, and struggle reveal that they know better in their hearts.”

As he notes in passing, some have wondered if secularism eliminates these magnetic points. After all, the agnostic or atheist does not believe in any higher power. And in key ways secular culture resists the other four points as well. It tells us to not find our identity by “fitting in” but by looking inside and defining ourselves. It tells us there are no true “norms” or moral absolutes for human life. It insists that we don’t need anything to “fix” us—that we can fix and fulfill ourselves through self-realization. And it asserts that we are already free to live any way we want as long as we do not harm anyone. In all these ways secularism seems to refuse to pose the questions that the religions of the world are answering.

The secular religion

But in this case appearances are highly deceiving. With their “heads” secular people declare that there is no larger spiritual whole to fit into or transcendent realm to contact—that there are no moral absolutes, inner “God-shaped” empty spaces, or divine plans. Yet Dan shows that the ways secular people live, speak, and struggle reveal that they know better in their hearts. They are seeking these things—indeed they are assuming their existence—despite their protestations to the contrary.

To make this case to a secular friend requires great patience, gentleness and love, and a lot of time. But in each area Dan gives readers many cultural examples of these secular-yet- spiritual aspirations that will resonate. He provides tons of pointers on how to tease out and make visible the operation of these magnetic points in our lives.

Making Faith Magnetic

How to talk about Jesus in a way that connects with modern culture.

The magnetic person

Finally Dan turns to how Jesus fulfills each of these universal human longings in ways no other world religion can match.

Jesus gives us an identity that connects us rather than isolating us. He is the only one who can provide a moral norm (his own character) that doesn’t descend into moralism. He alone brings a finished, accomplished deliverance rather than one we must perform for ourselves. He is the one thing you can live for that does not enslave but actually liberates you.

And he is the Higher Power, the High and Holy One—who became a human being we can know and love personally.

This little book edified me. It made me keep asking: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2 v 3, ESV).

Thanks to Dan Strange for writing this! Read it to appreciate your own salvation and in order to better recommend it to those you love.

In Making Faith Magnetic, Dr. Daniel Strange reveals five recurring themes that our culture can’t stop talking about, or, as he puts it, the “five permanent ‘itches’ that in our work, rest, and play, we have to vigorously scratch.” From TV to books to social media, these are the questions we can't stop asking and the tensions we can't stop wrestling with—and Jesus speaks powerfully into each one.

Categories: Christian Resources

Christmas Cards in an Instant Age

The Good Book Company - Mon, 11/10/2021 - 06:00

When I was a child in the late eighties, every year our family used to receive literally hundreds of Christmas cards. Each December, the ceiling of the lounge was transformed into a display that resembled a carousel, as string was pinned into the wall from corner to corner and then, as the numbers grew, from more random points across the room. Every time the lounge door opened, a gust of air would be sent through the display, lifting them momentarily from their position, and leaving whoever had entered a little unnerved as to whether they were about to get a wave of cards, string and drawing pins landing on their head!

Just as the ceiling was transformed by the season, so too our dining room table was increasingly dominated by piles of cards and envelopes ready to be tasked with the job of sending personal greetings to everyone in our family address book. My mum would spend evening upon evening writing personal messages to those close to home, and to those whom she hadn’t seen for years. The task was monumental. And prioritised. The cards—both sent and received—symbolised relationships that had stood the test of both time and distance.

As the years have passed, things have really changed… but have they changed for the better?

Sending Cards in a Digital Age

Despite Royal Mail recording that more than 6 in 10 people like to receive a Christmas card over any other form of festive communication, the sending of personal, handwritten greetings seems to have waned. And, in an age where messages can be sent in an instant, the time required to hand write, envelope, and send a card can seem, at times, unnecessary. Other methods of communication are quicker, cheaper, and require less time and financial investment. But, arguably, much is lost when we neglect to send physical, handwritten signs of relationship to those we know and love.

There’s something wonderfully warming about receiving a handwritten card or letter. Having endured multiple lockdowns over the last 18 months, the importance of letters, parcels and personal signs of relationship over physical distance has been brought into sharper focus. Every card that was sent or received symbolised connection that couldn’t be expressed in other ways. The arrival of the postman was a moment that brought every family member to the door. Not only was the card or letter received with joy and expectation, but the physical place it then took on a mantlepiece or shelf was a constant reminder of the sender. The card itself stood as testimony to relationships that were enduring under life’s pressures.

Arguably, the same could not be said of digital greetings. 

While valued, text messages, emails and zoom calls were unable to take the place of physical human greetings, and so while appreciated, they quickly elicited fatigue and frustration in a way that the physical art of sending and receiving did not. Digital greetings were read and discarded; physical ones savoured and enjoyed long past the moment of receipt. 

The Importance of Physical Cards and Letters

Lockdowns aside, the physical permanence of written communications should not be underestimated. I have a memory box full of cards and letters that have been sent to me over the course of my life. Some of them squirrelled away because they serve as precious reminders of messages of encouragement and relationships that I have treasured. The handwritten words on the page have faded over time, but the sentiments they contain have lasted far longer than those contained in a text message or an email. At intervals throughout my life, it has been a joy to revisit them, to trace the handwriting, and to feel the personal connection, that though faded, has not been lost.

It seems that we have a lot to learn from children on this subject: While I have been slow to develop a habit of sending cards and letters, the inherent joy of the activity is not lost on my daughter. Each Christmas season, my 9-year old anticipates the thrill of sending and receiving cards—months before Christmas arrives—and each year a yearly pilgrimage is made to our local shops in order to purchase a collection of cards that she can send to those in her class. A list is drawn up, a collection of chocolate coins put aside as a sweet treat to include inside, and then the card-writing begins. She can see its value: she has benefited from the joy of partaking in the exchange, and so she is encouraged to do the same. 

With all this in mind, this Christmas season, rather than sending out a hurried text message or email, I’m going to endeavour to learn lessons from the year just past and take the time to put pen to paper (or card!) in a way that reminds people they are loved, cared for and remembered. It may only take a moment for me to write, but the words of encouragement could last a lifetime. 

Will you join me?

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Blair Linne: How the Gospel Heals the Pain of Fatherlessness

The Good Book Company - Fri, 08/10/2021 - 06:00

Blair Linne’s personal story of growing up without a father at home reflects the experiences of millions. In her new book, Finding my Father, she shows us that the gospel promises not just forgiveness but also a place in God's family, experienced in a local church, where we can enjoy the fullness of his fatherly joy, care, wisdom, provision, protection and security.

Categories: Christian Resources

Confronting the Truth of Fatherhood

The Good Book Company - Thu, 07/10/2021 - 06:00

The following is a sample from one of the chapters in Finding My Father by Blair Linne. This is one snipper of the author’s personal story of learning to trust our heavenly Father when you feel your earthly father has let you down. Grab a copy to read more of the story and helpful insights into how the Gospel heals the pain of fatherlessness.

I was 18 when I realized my backbone was no longer made for bending. Prior to that, fear had won for so many years. Now I finally pried off the muzzle from over my mouth and confronted my father’s scarceness during one of our sporadic phone calls.

But let’s back up to what led up to that call.

Within a two-week period at my “name it and claim it” church, three different guys had all said that God had told them they were to marry me. They weren’t at the point of getting down on one knee, but they were very clear about what they thought God was telling them.

I wasn’t dating any of these guys, and never would, and yet I remember racking my brain over this dilemma. The thought that God would tell these three friends the same thing and not mention any of it to me was strange. Yet I was a Creflo Dollar partner at the time, consumed with the mystical idea of man’s ability to speak things into existence—so I took their words to heart.

Finding My Father

A personal story of learning to trust our heavenly Father when you feel your earthly father has let you down.

And that made me consider, for the first time, what I should or shouldn’t look for in a husband. I had no idea. I was nowhere near ready to tie the knot.

God used those three guys to stir up in me the realization that not only did I not know what I wanted in a guy, but at the core I didn’t know who I was. In order to know who I should marry, I had to understand who God made me to be. This caused me to face another downside to growing up without a father: especially when it came to what to look for in a man, I had no one to model it to me or guide me through these things.

Growing up without a father is like this. We see the effects of not having our dad—the gash, the tears, the steady dribble of heartache inside of us; the slow, creeping onset of pain and grief as the breach of relationship begins to boil over into different areas of our life. But what most of us never do is to work our way back to find the original cause. Quickly bandaging the cut and moving on seems easiest. So we put on our “I’m ok” face and keep Pandora’s box sealed for fear of what may escape.

"I think I had a picture in my mind in which my dad could and should be like a superhero: that he would swoop in eventually to save the day with all the right words."

But now I was 18, and for whatever reason those three guys’ words meant I knew I couldn’t keep the box closed. As painful as what was potentially on the inside was, I had to pop the seal. So, on the phone with my dad, I did what I had wanted to do ten years earlier but hadn’t had the guts to.

I blurted it out before I could talk myself out of confronting the truth, again. I told him. Told him that I was hurting. That I had been affected by his absence. That I expected more from him than silence.

He listened, and said words to me that I never expected. That he was afraid too. That his dad had not been in his life, and now he had repeated the cycle.

I had not created a play-by-play for the conversation in my mind, but this was not panning out like I had thought. And it helped me see something about my dad I had never really considered before: that he was a man. He was just as broken and needy as I was.

I think I had a picture in my mind in which my dad could and should be like a superhero: that he would swoop in eventually to save the day with all the right words. That he wore an S on his chest. Maybe it was all the TV I was watching, my own unrealistic expectations carefully nurtured over the years, or the slick sayings I was used to hearing slide off his tongue like Jello. But he wore no cape.

He spoke no parables or metaphors. He couldn’t raise memories of what had not been and breathe life into them with his being there. He had no access to a time machine which would allow him to travel back in time to catch dreams before they shattered in a cacophony of fatherless pain on my stone floor. He couldn’t reshape what had already been molded like cast iron. He was simply a beautiful, flawed man. He let me see his frailty that day, and it’s something that has cuddled my story like a weighted blanket.

A father is a covering. He is a shield from danger. So where do you go when your dad needs a place to hide too?

Some have suggested that we simply do away with the idea of this kind of father, since it has been so muddied by sin. But our sin does not negate the truth God has established. And no sinner can dictate or destroy what God intends. We just need to lift our eyes a bit higher.

There is a true Father who is drastically different in so many, many ways. And he was not the man on the other end of the phone with 18-year-old Blair

Categories: Christian Resources

Pastors, Care for the Fatherless

The Good Book Company - Fri, 01/10/2021 - 06:00

Pastors, when you consider caring for orphans, please include the fatherless.

When we think of an orphan we may hold an image of Pip from Great Expectations, or Annie, or some other classic stray character we were raised on. To bring it into real life we may think only of the 400,000 children in foster care or the 120,000 children waiting to be adopted in the U.S.

The truth is that our view of the orphan is modest. Consider that these children are included in the 18.3 million children in the U.S. living without a biological father, step-father or adoptive father in their home. That potentially means that 1 in 4 children sitting in your pews do not have their father living with them.

Orphans struggle in insurmountable ways because of their fathers’ absence. God in his omniscience anticipates the needs of the fatherless. Not only does he express his heart towards the fatherless by declaring that he is a “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5), but he also tells the church to care for the fatherless as well.

I want to share with you three ways that you, as a pastor, can care for the fatherless.

"Our adoption has given us a Father. Not only do we have a Father in God but we have a family in the church."

1. Remind Fatherless Children Of Their Heavenly Father

We have a beautiful inheritance as children of God. God in his mercy has saved us and allowed us to have fellowship with him. Because of our brother Jesus' perfect obedience, sacrificial death on the cross, and resurrection, we have been declared righteous and brought into God’s presence. God the Father has adopted us into his holy genealogy through faith. Because of this every child of God has a Father. Please remind us fatherless children of that fact often. “(We) have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).

Fatherless children often project their feelings about their biological father onto God. When your earthly father is absent it is easy to think that your heavenly Father is too. When you emphasize that our Father is here, it helps us to grow in our understanding of him and shaves away the misconceptions, allowing us to worship rightly. Please pastor, point our attention to the beautiful family line we are a part of through our union with Christ. Our adoption has given us a Father. Not only do we have a Father in God but we have a family in the church.

2. Make Nurturing Whole-Person Discipleship a Priority

Discipleship is connected to the great commission of going out, sharing the gospel and teaching the convert all that Jesus commanded. What I think often happens is that discipleship is looked at in a general manner when it comes to spiritual concerns while many other pressing issues are overlooked. Think about how, for a fatherless child, there may be areas where they are lacking because there was no father around to teach them. Now that we are in Christ we are a new redeemed family (Luke 8:21; 1 Timothy 5:2).

Finding My Father

A personal story of learning to trust our heavenly Father when you feel your earthly father has let you down.

What would it look like to gather fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord and discuss the impact the scriptures have not only on their spiritual life, but on their physical, mental and emotional life as well? What would it look like to teach spiritual sons and daughters of God how to balance a budget, consider a career, or love their wife well? How beautiful if an older father in the faith pulled in younger men and taught them about the fatherhood they never experienced. What would it look like for godly men and women to create a small group for fatherless children to be taught about identity, true beauty, and faithful manhood?

These are just some of the ways that we can expand our idea of discipleship by being mindful of the pressing needs that the fatherless have. Invite fatherless children into your home for a meal, have family worship with them, and seek to build them up. Just as we would seek to fill in the gaps that we observe in our biological children, may spiritual fathers help fill in the gaps of the fatherless children they are now united with through Christ’s blood. May we not only engage in holistic familial discipleship but may it be done in a safe environment.

"Keeping oneself unstained from the world not only helps your own soul as a shepherd but the soul and body of the fatherless who God says to protect."

3. Seek to Create a Safe Church Environment for the Orphan

James 1:27 says that Christians should visit those who are fatherless and “keep oneself unstained from the world”. There have been several cases of spiritual, sexual, and emotional abuse in churches brought to light recently. I am glad they have been brought to light so that the sin of abuse can be exposed and repented of in order that the church be a safe place where those who desire to live a godly life can thrive. I am also sad that they have been brought to light because it shows how much of a problem this sin is in many of our churches.

Most times, an abuser is a person with power: an elder, pastor, or youth pastor. A fatherless child may have difficulty trusting a person in leadership to begin with, but when they open their heart up to those in authority and are taken advantage of, it's crushing and can be faith-crumbling. Unrepentant sin by someone you have esteemed as a godly pastor is a blemish that can take years to erase. It can hinder the church member and make opening up to the household of faith something they are unwilling to even gamble with in the future. If pastors would only take the pastoral qualifications seriously, then it will be a great start to ward off the temptation to snuggle up with sin behind closed doors.

Not only do we need pastors to be above reproach but also not to approve of others who are entangled in sin. When the shepherds of the church are living godly accountable lives, and also taking a stand for righteousness, it is a grace that trickles down to the other leaders and members of the church. When the sin of spiritual, sexual, and emotional abuse are called out rather than coddled, it will help in the formation of a healthy, thriving, safe community for the orphan. So then, keeping oneself unstained from the world not only helps your own soul as a shepherd but the soul and body of the fatherless who God says to protect.

Pastor, please do not forget that there are fatherless children in your midst. They are fatherless in the natural sense but not in the spiritual. There are countless scriptures which show God’s heart towards those who do not have their fathers in their lives. As we imitate our father's hearts, may we point children to their Father, make whole-person discipleship a priority, and make churches a safe place for fatherless children.

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Randy Newman: Learning from C.S. Lewis

The Good Book Company - Fri, 01/10/2021 - 06:00

At the height of his influence, C.S. Lewis was broadcasting his Mere Christianity lectures to almost 1.5 million people. There is so much we can learn from him. 

You may feel inadequate to the task of evangelism, but in his new book Randy Newman skillfully helps us to apply the methods Lewis used (storytelling, humour, imagery and more) in our own conversations.

Categories: Christian Resources

How C.S. Lewis Helped Lead Me to Christ

The Good Book Company - Thu, 30/09/2021 - 06:00

C.S. Lewis’ evangelistic influence has extended far beyond his own times. I know this firsthand: his words were instrumental in my own journey to faith.

Life Was Absurd

Growing up in a Jewish home, I heard very little about Jesus. Religion meant reciting prayers, participating in rituals, and celebrating holidays. To me, the Almighty seemed distant and alien.

So, in my first year of college—aided by existentialist writers, Woody Allen movies, Kurt Vonnegut novels, and parties with large quantities of beer—I decided life was just absurd; it would never really make sense.

But even though I believed life was meaningless, I desperately hoped I would find something to prove that theory wrong. I loved music: perhaps that could provide the link to the transcendent, a connection to something beyond the material world. But every piece of music disappointed, every concert ended, and every noisy subway ride back to my dorm room contrasted rudely with the splendors of Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, and Mozart.

Little did I know, however, that I was already on a journey to saving faith.

Mere Evangelism

Let C.S. Lewis inspire and equip you to share your faith.

But What If?

Back in high school, one of my drinking buddies had invited me to his church’s youth group because, he said, “the girls are cute.” He was right, and I became a regular, albeit non-Christian, attender of that youth group’s many activities.

Along the way, I heard the gospel—a message I promptly dismissed as “something Christians should believe” but irrelevant to Jewish people because “Jews don’t believe in Jesus.”

But people at that youth group displayed a kind of relationship with God that I found attractive. They prayed about anything and everything, and urged me to read the New Testament, as well as a book by some English guy named C.S. Lewis. I read neither. But I remembered the title of the book: Mere Christianity.

Oddly, several years later, as I got ready for my sophomore year of college, I shoved the New Testament into one of my packing boxes. It remained in my closet as I resumed my absurd-reading, beer-drinking, concert-attending rituals.

All that came to a screeching halt when a friend died in a tragic accident.

Sitting at his funeral, I realized that Woody, Kurt, and Heineken could not provide the answers I longed for. “If there is a god, how can I know him?” I wondered. I went back to my dorm room and started reading that New Testament. I also checked out Mere Christianity from the library.

"C.S. Lewis’ evangelistic influence has extended far beyond his own times. I know this firsthand: his words were instrumental in my own journey to faith."

Becoming Convinced

I read where nobody could see me. As I read Matthew’s quotations from the Old Testament and Jesus’ claims to be God, C.S. Lewis’s arguments stoked my searching. He eliminated one of my firmest convictions—that Jesus was just a good teacher.

I’ll never forget reading, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”

That convinced me that Jesus was the Messiah. But mere intellectual assent has never saved anyone. It was the other strand of Lewis’s presentation that pushed me over the line of surrender.

When I got to his chapter on hope, I saw why every concert left me feeling empty. After offering “two wrong ways” of dealing with life’s disappointments, Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

It was at the intersection of the intellect (Jesus was who he said he was) and imagination (I was made for another world) that the gospel became irresistible to me.

Sitting at my dormitory desk, I acknowledged that Jesus was not just the Messiah but my Messiah, the one I longed for in music and needed for atonement for my sins. Unlike Lewis, who said he came to believe in God “kicking, struggling, resentful ... perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England,” I rejoiced with singing.

It felt like a tremendous relief to receive music as a gift and not demand it be a god—and to have no need to perform rituals because I could rest in the finished work of the cross. I was overjoyed.

Learning from C.S. Lewis

It’s the intertwining of the two forces of mind and imagination that, I believe, made C.S. Lewis such a powerful evangelist, not only for me but for countless others.

An expert on medieval literature may not seem like the kind of person God would use for widespread evangelistic fruit. But Lewis saw himself as a “translator—one turning Christian doctrine ... into language that unscholarly people would attend to and could understand.”

People listened to Lewis not because of his impressive qualifications but because he spoke in ways that made sense to them. We read his fiction today because it takes us to a land beyond a wardrobe. He appeals to our whole selves.

Lewis firmly believed that most of his books are evangelistic. That’s why it’s not only Mere Christianity but also his many other writings that we can learn from as we seek inspiration for evangelism. As part of my work, I once conducted extensive interviews of students about their conversions. Unsurprisingly, Lewis’s writings were mentioned frequently: not only Mere Christianity but The Chronicles of Narnia and his other fiction, as well as apologetic works like Miracles and essays like The Weight of Glory.

All these helped nudge people out of skepticism into faith. In one instance, it was a movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader that ushered a theater major across the line of belief!

It’s with stories like these in mind that I wrote Mere Evangelism. By unpacking how this one far-from-ordinary evangelist did outreach, I believe we can equip ourselves in new ways for the extraordinary task of evangelism.

This article is adapted from the introduction of Mere Evangelism, by Randy Newman, which offers 10 insights from C.S. Lewis to help you share your faith. Through this book, you will be equipped to talk about your faith and engage with unbelievers wisely, whatever their attitude towards the Christian faith.

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Rebecca McLaughlin: Evidence for the Bible's account of Jesus' birth

The Good Book Company - Fri, 24/09/2021 - 06:00

Many people assume that the story of the baby in the manger at Bethlehem is just another made-up fantasy for kids.

In this episode we talked to respected apologist Rebecca McLaughlin about the evidence that Jesus was a real person, explaining the reliability of the Bible’s accounts of his life and why believing in a virgin birth is not as ridiculous as it might sound.

Categories: Christian Resources

A prayer for perseverance

The Good Book Company - Thu, 23/09/2021 - 08:56

I wonder why you clicked on this blog. What do you need perseverance for? Is there something you’re enduring that just won’t seem to end? Is there something in the future you’re reaching out for but fear you’ll never touch?

Sometimes we need someone else’s words, don’t we? When you’ve been praying a long time, or you feel so defeated you can’t muster up a prayer at all. Well, here’s a little idea of some words that could help when a prayer for perseverance is what you need.

I’ve been reading Hebrews 11 recently, helped by Richard Coekin’s new book Faith for Life, and it strikes me how much perseverance was needed by God’s people in Genesis and Exodus as they looked forward to the promised land. Verse 16 says Abraham and others like him “were longing for a better country”. That word “longing” literally means “reaching out for”: Abraham stretched out his arm and strained towards something. But he never grasped it in his whole earthly life. He just lived as a wanderer, enduring the desert, dealing with the disappointments.

So how did he persevere?

And how do you and I persevere, when what we're desperately stretching out our hands for is still out of reach? When life feels like a nomad life, full of stumbles and misdirection? When God doesn't seem to be keeping his promises?

Looking back

I like the way the people of Israel prayed when they got out of Egypt and made for the promised land. They weren't there yet, not by a long stretch; but God had acted, and they’d made the first step. So they praised him:

“The Lord is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15 v 2)

And only then did they speak of the future.

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. 
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” (v 13, emphasis mine)

They had a long way to go. But now that they had got this far, they knew the Lord would bring them through. So there's no pleading here. There’s just confidence.

Samuel expressed the same sentiment when he raised a monument in celebration of the Lord’s defeat of the Philistines. He called it Ebenezer (“stone of help”) and said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7 v 12).

“Thus far.” That's not saying Everything is sorted; it's saying We’re going to need help again pretty soon. Thus far—but there’s more to go. That means it's a prayer for perseverance, in a funny sort of way. “Thus far” acknowledges in one breath that perseverance is going to be needed and that it is completely possible. Just like in the exodus. Why press on through the desert? Because the Lord has brought us safe thus far. He’s the one who’ll lead us home.

A prayer for perseverance

What do you need perseverance for? Perhaps you’re in pain and you don't know how you can endure it. Perhaps you’re weary of the endless plod of work, home, school, church. Perhaps living a life of faith just feels impossible in and of itself.

Try praying a “thus far” prayer. Look back and praise God for his mercy in the past. Then ask confidently for his help in the future.

"Try praying a “thus far” prayer. Look back and praise God for his mercy in the past. Then ask confidently for his help in the future."

As I read the rest of Hebrews 11—and countless other Bible passages—I realise that this is what faith is. It's all about perseverance: persevering in obedience and in hope, because of our confidence in what Jesus has done and what he has promised. 

We stretch out our hands for a better country. One day, we will reach it. Till then we thank God for his help thus far. And we face the future with his strength.

For more on Hebrews 11, perseverance, and the life of faith, read Richard Coekin’s Faith for Life—a book written specifically to refresh and encourage Christians who need help persevering.
 

Categories: Christian Resources

A prayer for perseverance

The Good Book Company - Thu, 23/09/2021 - 08:56

I wonder why you clicked on this blog. What do you need perseverance for? Is there something you’re enduring that just won’t seem to end? Is there something in the future you’re reaching out for but fear you’ll never touch?

Sometimes we need someone else’s words, don’t we? When you’ve been praying a long time, or you feel so defeated you can’t muster up a prayer at all. Well, here’s a little idea of some words that could help when a prayer for perseverance is what you need.

I’ve been reading Hebrews 11 recently, helped by Richard Coekin’s new book Faith for Life, and it strikes me how much perseverance was needed by God’s people in Genesis and Exodus as they looked forward to the promised land. Verse 16 says Abraham and others like him “were longing for a better country”. That word “longing” literally means “reaching out for”: Abraham stretched out his arm and strained towards something. But he never grasped it in his whole earthly life. He just lived as a wanderer, enduring the desert, dealing with the disappointments.

So how did he persevere?

And how do you and I persevere, when what we're desperately stretching out our hands for is still out of reach? When life feels like a nomad life, full of stumbles and misdirection? When God doesn't seem to be keeping his promises?

Looking back

I like the way the people of Israel prayed when they got out of Egypt and made for the promised land. They weren't there yet, not by a long stretch; but God had acted, and they’d made the first step. So they praised him:

“The Lord is my strength and my defence; he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Exodus 15 v 2)

And only then did they speak of the future.

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. 
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” (v 13, emphasis mine)

They had a long way to go. But now that they had got this far, they knew the Lord would bring them through. So there's no pleading here. There’s just confidence.

Samuel expressed the same sentiment when he raised a monument in celebration of the Lord’s defeat of the Philistines. He called it Ebenezer (“stone of help”) and said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7 v 12).

“Thus far.” That's not saying Everything is sorted; it's saying We’re going to need help again pretty soon. Thus far—but there’s more to go. That means it's a prayer for perseverance, in a funny sort of way. “Thus far” acknowledges in one breath that perseverance is going to be needed and that it is completely possible. Just like in the exodus. Why press on through the desert? Because the Lord has brought us safe thus far. He’s the one who’ll lead us home.

A prayer for perseverance

What do you need perseverance for? Perhaps you’re in pain and you don't know how you can endure it. Perhaps you’re weary of the endless plod of work, home, school, church. Perhaps living a life of faith just feels impossible in and of itself.

Try praying a “thus far” prayer. Look back and praise God for his mercy in the past. Then ask confidently for his help in the future.

"Try praying a “thus far” prayer. Look back and praise God for his mercy in the past. Then ask confidently for his help in the future."

As I read the rest of Hebrews 11—and countless other Bible passages—I realise that this is what faith is. It's all about perseverance: persevering in obedience and in hope, because of our confidence in what Jesus has done and what he has promised. 

We stretch out our hands for a better country. One day, we will reach it. Till then we thank God for his help thus far. And we face the future with his strength.

For more on Hebrews 11, perseverance, and the life of faith, read Richard Coekin’s Faith for Life—a book written specifically to refresh and encourage Christians who need help persevering.
 

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Rebecca McLaughlin: Evidence for the Bible's account of Jesus' birth

The Good Book Company - Thu, 23/09/2021 - 06:00

Many people assume that the story of the baby in the manger at Bethlehem is just another made-up fantasy for kids.

In this episode we talked to respected apologist Rebecca McLaughlin about the evidence that Jesus was a real person, explaining the reliability of the Bible’s accounts of his life and why believing in a virgin birth is not as ridiculous as it might sound.

Categories: Christian Resources

4 ways to use Rebecca McLaughlin’s new Christmas evangelistic book

The Good Book Company - Tue, 21/09/2021 - 06:00

Here’s one way to divide people: did you know that there are only 95 days to Christmas? 

Some will hear this like the start gun of a race and will immediately begin compiling a mental list of essential items to purchase and jobs to do—wrapping, tape, batteries! (In all likelihood, they’re no longer reading these words because just the mere mention of Christmas has completely distracted them and.) 

Meanwhile, others will understandably recoil in disgust and mutter something about the “real meaning of the season” and how “it gets earlier every year”. 

However you feel about the festive period, we can all agree that despite the gradual, besetting commercialisation of our beloved Christian festival, it remains one of the biggest evangelistic opportunities in the year and we’d be foolish to ignore it. 

Don’t just take my word for it. Rebecca McLaughlin says that people’s apparent openness to tradition and the transcendent is one of her favourite things about the Christmas period, and she’s written a new evangelistic book to help us make the most of the opportunity it presents.

Is Christmas Unbelievable? outlines the evidence that Jesus was a real person, explaining the reliability of the Bible’s accounts of his life and why believing in a virgin birth is not as ridiculous as it might sound. It’s deliberately short and cheap so you can pick up a stack and give them away like Ebinezer Scrooge on Christmas morning.

So whether you love or loathe the chaotic run up to the big day, here are four ways you can use Rebecca’s book to show your unbelieving friends and family the life-changing truth of Jesus Christ this Christmas. 

Christmas outreach

These books are designed to be bought in bulk and given away during outreach events and carol services. You’ve worked hard to get people to your service and the speaker’s carefully crafted message has fused pop culture references with gospel hope. Job done. Now give them some further reading to take away with them by putting one on every chair in your church hall. 

We’ve priced 100 copies at just £1 each.

If you’re a church leader and would like to sample a copy before you make a big purchase, please give our friendly customer service team a call and they’d be happy to send you a free book. 

Personal evangelism pack

You don’t have to be involved in big outreach events to make use of these books. After all, each one of us is responsible for being a witness to the community God has placed us in. That’s why we’ve created a special personal evangelism pack price to make it as affordable as possible for folk to give copies to their friends and family. Pick up 5 copies for £10.

And, to help us reach out to friends, we’ve recorded some short Christmas apologetics videos to share on your social media. 

Find the rest here.

Stocking fillers

Worried that your own family Christmas celebrations are being overtaken by chocolate and toys? Why not pop a copy of Rebecca’s book in every stocking and provide them with something to read once all the toys have been played with and the liminal space between Christmas and New Years Day starts setting in? 

Buy a copy for yourself

It’s not often you get an apologetic for the Christmas story, but Is Christmas Unbelievable?  provides a brief argument for the reliability of the gospels and the deeper personal implications for the most famous story in the world. In her typically grabbing and winsome way Rebecca gently shows the reader how those events in history can infuse our lives today with meaning and joy. Why not grab a copy for yourself and be reminded about the true magic of Christmas? 

Categories: Christian Resources

The True Story of Betty Greene, the First Missionary Aviation Pilot

The Good Book Company - Thu, 16/09/2021 - 06:00

The following text is the full biography featured in the back of a new children’s book about Betty Greene’s inspiring life by Laura Wickham. This beautifully illustrated book can be read to young children aged 4-5 and read by children aged 6 or older.

1920:

Betty—together with her twin brother, Bill—was born in Seattle, USA on the 24th of June. Betty’s parents loved Jesus and often shared Bible stories with her and her brothers. They also ran a Sunday school for all the local children.

1927:

Betty was only seven years old when pilot Charles Lindbergh became the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic. This sparked an interest in aeroplanes in Betty, which became a real passion when her big brother, Joe, started to take flying lessons. Joe would tell Betty everything he’d learned, and Betty would listen, wishing that one day she too could fly.

1936:

A few years later, a generous uncle gave Betty $100. This was a lot of money back then. America was going through a long period of poverty called the Great Depression. Betty used some of the money for things she needed, like clothes and shoes, but the rest went toward flying lessons.

When World War II started, Betty used her skills to serve with the Women Airforce Service Pilots, also known as WASPs. She even became part of a research project that sent pilots way up high, through the stratosphere!

1944:

After WASPs were dissolved, Betty helped to set up a mission called CAMF, which is today known as MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship).

MAF’s goal was to send help to those parts of the world that were isolated or hard to reach.

1946:

On February 23rd, 25-year-old Betty took the first MAF flight on a four-seat cabin Waco biplane. After a little hiccup, she arrived safely in the remote Mexican jungle.

This was only the first of many incredible adventures. Throughout her life, Betty made over 4,640 flights and served in 12 countries, landing in around 20 more.

She was not only the first pilot to fly for MAF but also the first woman to fly over the Andes, the longest mountain range in the world, as well as the first woman to fly a plane to Sudan.

Betty Greene’s story has been turned into an inspiring children’s biography. The Do Great Things For God series, written by Laura Wickham, explores the lives of amazing Christian women and will enthuse young children about the great things they can do for God. The series also includes the stories of Gladys Aylward, Betsey Stockton and Corrie ten Boom.

Categories: Christian Resources

The True Story of Gladys Aylward, Missionary to China

The Good Book Company - Tue, 14/09/2021 - 06:00

The following text is the full biography featured in the back of the new children’s book about Glady Aylward’s inspiring life by Laura Wickham. This beautifully illustrated book can be read to young children aged 4-5 and read by children aged 6 or older.

1902:

Gladys Aylward was the daughter of Rosina and Thomas Aylward. They lived in north London, where they led a simple but happy life. While Gladys was attending church in her twenties, she felt called to serve God in China.

Determined to follow her dream, Gladys enrolled at missionary school. Sadly, she didn’t pass her theology exam and was told that she couldn’t go to China after all.

But Gladys knew in her heart that she had to go. When she heard that Jeannie Lawson, an elderly missionary in China, needed a young woman to help her, Gladys offered to go. Jeannie agreed, provided that Gladys would pay for her journey there.

Gladys worked as a housemaid and picked up any extra job that she could find: sewing, waitressing, cleaning and more. And every penny she got she would put towards her train ticket.

1932:

On October 15th Gladys packed two suitcases—one for her clothes and the other for tins of food, biscuits, tea, coffee and hard-boiled eggs. She also had a saucepan and a kettle tied to the bag. With a big smile on her face, she boarded the train.

After a long and rather scary journey involving trains, ships, wolves and angry men, Gladys arrived in China.

Though she wasn’t welcome at first, with time Gladys earned the trust of those around her. She helped Jeannie to run a guesthouse for tired travellers, where they would read them stories from the Bible every night.

The mandarin, a very important man, became one of Gladys’s best friends, and he offered her a job as “foot inspector”. The Chinese emperor wanted to put an end to the tradition of binding little girls’ feet in order to keep them small. Gladys was happy to help.

1938:

When the Japanese attacked China, Gladys worked very hard at keeping people safe. Her faith in God helped her on many occasions when it looked as if there was no hope.

Gladys adopted a few children and opened an orphanage—a home for children with no family. She looked after 200 of them!

1949:

Life in China had become very dangerous for Gladys, and she had to go back to England. But her heart was still beating for China, so, in her late fifties, she travelled to the island of Taiwan, where she opened another orphanage. She worked there until she died in 1970.

Gladys Aylward’s story has been turned into an inspiring children’s biography. The Do Great Things For God series, written by Laura Wickham, explores the lives of amazing Christian women and will enthuse young children about the great things they can do for God. The series also includes the stories of Betty Greene, Betsey Stockton and Corrie ten Boom.

Categories: Christian Resources

Preparing God’s People for Outreach (and Outrage)

The Good Book Company - Tue, 14/09/2021 - 06:00

If you look at a short bio on the back of one of C.S. Lewis’s books, you’ll see that he taught at both Oxford and Cambridge. He spent much more time at Oxford (29 years) and moved to Cambridge only for the last seven years of his career. You may wonder why he made the switch. If you read a fuller biography, you learn that it involved a fair amount of personal pain and no small amount of persecution for his faith.

His Oxford colleagues were not thrilled that he spent so much time speaking in public about religion, which was not his academic speciality. They would have preferred him to publish more academic works, like his magisterial English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama), instead of popular works like The Problem of Pain or The Screwtape Letters. They certainly frowned upon his writing of children’s books.

Lewis’s reluctant move from Oxford to Cambridge came after being passed over for promotions and feeling the snub of rejection from many long-time friends, even some Christians.

"One of the crucial lessons I’ve learned about evangelism is that if we tell people it’s easy, they’ll quit."

And if C.S. Lewis faced opposition for taking a public stand for the gospel, we should not imagine that we or the people in our churches will escape such treatment. In fact, I believe the climate in which we live out and share our faith has become palpably hotter in just the past decade. Thus, training God’s people for evangelism must include preparing them for opposition. Outreach may be met with outrage and we would be naive to think otherwise. 

I’ve served in evangelistic ministry for over 4 decades; much of that time with Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru) and most recently with The C.S. Lewis Institute. One of the crucial lessons I’ve learned about evangelism is that if we tell people it’s easy, they’ll quit. If we tell them it’s difficult, they’ll persevere. When we use words like “exciting” or “adventure” in our attempts to motivate people to share the gospel and their experience doesn’t line up with our advertisement, they’ll conclude they just “don’t have that gift” and rarely attempt outreach again. 

Don’t Be Surprised

The Scriptures give us ample warning of hatred and persecution. But still we are surprised by it. First, we must take careful notice of how people responded to Jesus. Some followed him and called him Lord. Others plotted to kill him and labeled him demon-possessed. When Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, “the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” (Mark 3v6). 

This hatred extended to Jesus’ followers—and continues to this very day. The book of Acts is filled with reports of persecution of the early church. Paul wrote several of his epistles from prison and spoke of being flogged, whipped, beaten with rods, and pelted with stones (2 Corinthians 11v23-25). Other writers of the New Testament urge us to anticipate persecution (e.g. Hebrews 10v33) and to “not be surprised” by it (1 John 3v13 and 1 Peter 4v12).

Mere Evangelism

Let C.S. Lewis inspire and equip you to share your faith.

Positive Preparation

A powerful antidote to opposition flows out of our acceptance in Christ. The love of our Saviour strengthens us to handle rejection from outsiders. Our sermons and teaching must flood people with reminders of all the riches we have in Christ. This can serve as armour against the pain of rejection, mockery, or patronizing dismissals like, “I’m happy for you. But I’ve got my own faith.”

Practical Suggestions
  • Share your own stories of attempts to evangelize but be sure to include the frustrations as well as the victories. If all your retellings always end with someone “praying the sinner’s prayer,” your people will think you live on a different planet. 

  • Don’t promise that “no one will give you a hard time if you simply invite them to church.” Sure they will. At least, some will. Dig deeply into Jesus’s illustration of the seeds and the soils. Prepare people to anticipate the full spectrum of responses from “Sure” to “Shut up.” 

  • Recount examples in church history when God’s people faced terrible opposition but the gospel went forth and bore fruit anyway. Validate the value of sowing as well as reaping. And remind people that the kingdom of God is an invisible kingdom. Frequent reminders of wheat and tares can also help tremendously. 

We know that, at times, C.S. Lewis got discouraged and wondered if his efforts to evangelize made any difference. He even predicted that his writings would all be out of print within five years of his death. Oh, how wrong he was about that. We can rely on God to use our efforts—in evangelism and in equipping the saints for outreach—to bear fruit that will last (John 15v16). 

Portions of this article have been adapted from Mere Evangelism: 10 Insights from C. S. Lewis to Help You Share Your Faith by Randy Newman. 

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