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Counter Culture

Counter Culture 01

Counter Culture
By: Erich Bridges, IMB’s Global Correspondent

It’s hard not to “offend” people these days, especially if you actually “believe” what the Bible says about “right, wrong, sin and salvation.”

Fearing the loss of friends, being dismissed as irrelevant, or worse, being called intolerant, many evangelicals jump on the bandwagon of popular social-justice causes, but lapse into uncomfortable silence on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Some quietly abandon biblical positions on controversial issues altogether.

That path eventually leads to a deeper surrender, however. Because the entire foundation of biblical morality, not to mention the biblical basis of Christian missions, rests on the most “offensive” claim of all: “the gospel itself.”

“The most offensive and counter cultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty,” writes IMB President David Platt in his new book, “Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans and Pornography. “

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Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that “God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before Him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in His love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from His lordship will suffer everlasting death.”

That claim, and the idea that God became a man, died on a cross and rose again to embody it, is foolishness at best, anathema at worst to postmodernists, atheists, secularists, Muslims and other subsets of humanity comprising billions of people. It is increasingly costly, even dangerous in certain places, to proclaim it. Some cultures consider it blasphemy; others call it hate speech. That’s really nothing new if you peruse church history.

The main question for self-proclaimed Christians, Platt suggests, is this: “Do we believe this gospel?”

If we don’t, we should reconsider whether we really follow the Christ revealed in the Bible. If we do, everything else we believe and do must flow from it. We don’t get a pass on the toughest issues engulfing culture today, nor do we get to pick which ones to address. We must counter them all with the revolutionary, uncompromising love of the gospel. Hence the title of Platt’s book.

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The gospel is an “equal-opportunity” offender, as Platt has discovered in his personal spiritual life. He says God convicted him of his own silence about racism and abortion, among other issues. That’s why he’s speaking to other believers now.

“I sense a trend in the church among evangelical Christians — particularly younger evangelicals, but really broader,” he observes.

We have this tendency to pick and choose which cultural issues we’re going to stand up and speak out on and which we’re going to sit down and be quiet on, usually based on those issues that are most comfortable and least costly for us to speak out on. It is right for us to speak out against poverty and sex trafficking, and I’m thankful for increased awareness of issues like that and the way people are speaking out on those issues.

“The danger, though, is if we speak boldly on issues like that, but then when it comes to issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage — issues that are much more likely to bring us into contention with the culture around us — we’re much more likely to be quiet. Before we know it, our supposed social justice actually becomes a selective social injustice. … The same gospel that compels us to combat poverty compels us to defend marriage. The same gospel that compels us to war against sex trafficking compels us to war against sexual immorality in all of its forms.”

That kind of consistency won’t win us many popularity contests, but if we back up our words with lives of grace, truth and loving action, we will change culture rather than surrendering to it.

Why court controversy so early in his tenure as IMB leader? Platt began writing the book several years ago, while he was pastor of “The Church at Brook Hills” in Birmingham, Ala. He submitted it to his publisher well before his election by IMB trustees last year. But he remains convinced the time is right for its message to an American church facing fundamental challenges.

“I trust that the Lord led me to write this and knew exactly where I would be when it came out,” he told IMB missionaries and staff in a recent message. “Further, I am completely convinced that these issues are not just American issues … these are global issues … . I want to use any platform the Lord has given to me to strengthen the church in this culture in order that we might send out and support brothers and sisters into other cultures with rock-solid confidence in God’s Word and with wisdom to apply the gospel to these pressing social issues.”

Only servants with that kind of confidence can make a real impact on the world’s lost, who suffer from the worst injustice of all.

“The greatest injustice in the world is the fact that a couple of billion people still don’t have access to the gospel,” Platt says. It is the gospel alone “that has the power not only to change cultures on this earth but to transform lives for eternity.”

“Let’s get down on our knees, then get up from our knees and do whatever it takes, no matter what that means, to set the sails for God to empower limitless missionary teams who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people for the glory of His name.”

Will you “fast, pray and give” to see this “vision” fulfilled?

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The Story of Jesus

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“JESUS” constantly “surprises and confounds” people, from His “miraculous” birth to His “rise” from the grave.

Follow “JESUS” life with all the “miracles, teachings and passion” as recorded in the book of “Luke” in the Bible.

In the greater story of the world, God “creates” everything and “loves” mankind. But mankind “disobeys” God. God and mankind are “separated.” God loves “mankind” so much, He arranges “redemption” for mankind.

He sends his Son “JESUS” to be a perfect “sacrifice” to make “amends” for us.

“JESUS” is the centerpiece in the larger story. Mankind’s redemption hinges on the “suffering and rejection” of the sinless offering of Jesus Christ.

In witnessing “JESUS” crucifixion and rise from the dead, we see God’s authority over “death and justification for all sin.”

Those who follow “JESUS”, confessing Him as “Savior” and leaving their “old” lives behind, are saved from God’s “wrath” against their sins.

When judged, “JESUS’s” blood will cover them so that they are “sinless” in the eyes of God. This is “demonstrated” story after story when “JESUS”  is able to declare, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

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You can watch the “JESUS” film in your very “own” language at www.JesusFilmMedia.org

Available in more than “1,100 languages” you can share the “JESUS” film with your “family and friends” across the world.

The response of those hearing “JESUS” in their own language is overwhelming.

Do you want to know more?
Do you want to know how to have a personal relationship with God?
Do you have some unanswered questions about your relationship with God?
Would you like to share your thoughts and/or questions with someone online?

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Chinese Jesus Film

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Why I am a Christian

Why I Am A Christian 02The Gospel Times recently re-posted a piece from a blogger, titled “Why I Am a Christian.”

In it the Chinese blogger gives ten reasons for being a Christian.

The structure is one commonly used in Chinese writing — “asking a question multiple times, then answering it multiple times.”

Like most Chinese people, I was born into a family with no Christian background. Up until now, we still live in a society that is quite unfriendly to Christianity. Our culture also has absolutely no connection with the Christian religion. However, like millions of Chinese young people of my generation, I have become a devout Christian. Why am I a Christian? I’d like to share a simple explanation, including my personal experiences and some objective facts of Christianity.

1. Christ chose me
Why am I a Christian? When we say we are Christians, this doesn’t mean we’ve entered some type of religious group, take part in some religious activities, or have been enlightened. Actually, I believe that Christ is my personal savior, and I’ve experienced His salvation, been born again, and have a relationship with Him. I may be imperfect in my personality and my actions, but I’m working hard to live according to God’s requirements, to become a person after His own heart.

Why am I a Christian? First, I believe that this was God’s choice. The Bible says that before the creation of the world, He had already chosen me. The Bible says it is not we who chose God, but God who chose us. His call and His election cannot be cast off (see Job 15:16-19, 2 Thes. 2:13). I didn’t know God before, and probably would not have proactively taken interest in a foreign religion. But looking back, in the process of becoming a believer, not one experience happened by accident. It was all according to God’s own perfect plan and will.

2. I want to believe in truth
Why am I a Christian? I believe this is not only because God proactively chose me, it was also my rational and conscious response. My rational side cannot deny the fact that He created the human race and redeemed us, a fact that has been confirmed not only by the highest level scientists and our spiritual forefathers. Besides, my conscience – my God-given ability to discern truth – makes it impossible for me to refuse the One who created me, the Savior who died for me. I am unable to refuse the truth I already know.

Why am I a Christian? Why would I trust in Jesus? Because He is the Truth. This is not just because Jesus said He is the Truth. The founders of Buddhism and many other religions have never claimed to be the Truth. It’s also that I have personally experienced God’s own absolute truth and unchanging love. I believe it is this type of actual experience that provides the deepest basis for faith.

3. I want to believe in a God who loves me
Why am I a Christian? If I had to choose a religion, I would definitely choose a God who is loving and personal, and one who feels. I wouldn’t choose to believe in someone who was fickle, lustful and tyrannical, who didn’t care whether people lived or died. That would be like the Greek Zeus, or the powerless polytheistic religions with all their capricious gods. Furthermore, this God loves me. Only through His love and my faith can I have a relationship with Him.

The Bible says God is love; in Him there is no darkness at all. God is the Father God who not only exists, but also has a relationship with us, and we can experience his loving kindness and guidance. We not only need God, but God also wants to be needed. I believe a man created in the image and form of his Creator will experience that Creator’s character in his spirit. Therefore, I can know Him through my conscience, reason, and experience, but especially through His own revelation.

4. I want to believe in a God who is holy and just
Why am I a Christian? If I believe in a God, I can’t believe one who is self-centered, who fulfills his own selfish desires, and who makes unpredictable changes in his requirements. I must believe in a God who is holy and just, carries out justice, has compassion on all, judges evil, and bestows blessing and benevolence. Only if God is just can he have principles. Only if a man has principles to obey can he have direction; only if a man has direction can he depend on truth.

The Bible says that our God is holy and just. The Bible mentions God’s holiness and righteousness more than 300 times. I believe that if God created man to be His children, it is as the Bible says. So, the depths of our hearts have the cognition to reflect God’s character, which means we have a resonance with the truth, goodness, and beauty of God. We thirst for holiness and righteousness. This shows that this God also loves holiness and righteousness; He Himself is the holy righteous savior. Since He gave us universal values, He will abide according to His own demands. Therefore, through yearning for holiness, righteousness, and love, I can better know a holy, righteous, loving God.

5. I want to believe in a God who can redeem us
Why am I a Christian? Because I am deeply acquainted with my own sinfulness. Relying on myself, I could never become a good person. Just like an apostle said: the resolve to do good comes from me; but actually doing it is beyond me. I need to be redeemed. Only if we are redeemed will we have hope in our lives. Only if my life has been redeemed can I have the restraint to overcome my sinfulness and feelings of gloom, in order to glorify God in my life and live a good life. I can’t believe in a god who can’t overcome my sinful spirit and actions. It is God who gave me life and breath, so He is able to save my life. It is God who sustains me every day, so He is able to save my life.

The God of Christians is the Creator and Redeemer. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why am I a Christian? Because this trustworthy God is the Savior who can save me. It is He whose presence my heart knows intuitively.

6. I want to believe in a God who never changes
Why am I a Christian? If I believe in a master, he can’t be a tyrant, who does whatever he wants, changing unpredictably according to His fleshly desires. God’s character cannot change. He puts up with and understands that my nature is capricious and liable to fall. He cannot change, so I can follow and abide by His will. He cannot change; He won’t discard me because of a temporary sinful weakness or impulse. After that period of weakness, I can still return to that salvation.

Our God is the God never changes. The Bible says, “can a woman forget her nursing child?” Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! (Is. 49:15) It’s true! I have been disappointed in myself time and again, but God has never been disappointed in me. Because of His unchanging nature, it becomes possible for weak sinners to repent.

7. I want to believe in a God who gives me strength and hope
Why am I a Christian? If I will trust a master, he must be able to give me strength and hope, not a God who intimidates me daily, deepening my fears and increasing my burdens. He must have personality, an independent will, an unchanging nature, and emotion, and He must love, teach, and forgive me. He must let me get close to Him, love Him, and fear Him. He must give me strength, hope, direction and a sense of responsibility. If the object of our faith was a negative force, it would be evil, and why would I believe in one who was evil? So I want believe in the master who gives people strength and hope.

The Bible says, “the Lord is my strength and my song, and he is become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Ex. 15:2). II Samuel 22:19 says “the Lord is my support.” Psalm 14:6 says “the LORD is my refuge.” Psalm 16:5 says “the LORD is my inheritance and my cup of blessing. He guards all that is mine.” Psalm 18:2 says “the LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.” He is my shield, my horn of salvation and my high tower.” Psalm 118:14 says the LORD is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation…….

8. I want to believe in a God proven to produce “good fruit” throughout history
Why am I a Christian? If I choose to believe in a master, He cannot be one who needs advertisements to promote himself; He must be a God proven to produce good fruit. I want to see whether He has brought the world is redemption or disaster.
Looking at the history of man and the modern world, you will see that it is the Christian faith that has brought the world civilization and hope. You will see that Christian countries and cultures that have been profoundly influenced by Christianity are wealthier and freer, with greater equality and democracy. The world’s earliest constitutional states were born out of the Christian faith. Early capitalism came from the Christian faith. From equality for women, to college education, to modern technology, to the modern health care and welfare systems, all these came from the Christian faith. Why are the governmental systems of Christian countries so good? Because they have the Christian faith.

The historian Toynbee said, “Religion is the essence of culture, while culture is the expression of religion.” As we can see, whatever religion you have, you have that kind of culture; whatever culture you have, you have that kind of system, and will produce that kind of society. Political systems under the influence of the Christian faith are generally more open, while their societies are more humane, and relationships between people more harmonious. Why do so many people want to immigrate to countries influenced by Christianity and be educated there? Psalm 33:12 says, “what joy for the nation whose God is the LORD, whose people He has chosen as His inheritance!”

9. I want to believe in a God who can take me to be with Him
Why am I a Christian? If I trust in a god, He must be understandable, and be able to understand me. He cannot be lofty, or exist in nothingness. He entered into human life, to understand people, to help people, to solve their problems, to bring them truth, direction, and the wisdom of practical truth. He is a God who could come close, who could receive love, and express love.

The Bible says that God’s name is Emmanuel – He is God with us, who lives amongst man. He is a God who observed and even experienced human suffering. Hebrews 4:15 says that “He is not a high priest who can not understand with our weaknesses.” He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin.

10. I want to believe in an Almighty God
Why am I a Christian? If I choose to believe in someone, He must be Almighty. If the object of my faith cannot fend for Himself, but needs human bribes, or thrives on intimidating or threatening others, He is not worth trusting. The One I believe in must be omnipotent. He must be unique and true, not overwhelmed by problems, but the God who can solve all problems. If He was not omnipotent, that would mean that in the face of difficulties, the difficulties may be bigger than him, so I would not be able to believe in him, which would mean there was no god. The One I believe in must be unique.

In Genesis 35:11 it says, “God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty.’” “Almighty” appears 62 times, all to describe the great power of God. The first sentence of the Apostles’ Creed says, “I believe in God the Father Almighty!” This means that God is Father – He loves us and wants to help us. He is Almighty – he has the ability to help us. This is the true and living faith of Christians.

Christ is everything listed here, and so much more. He is the only God who could cover such a religion as this. Why would I not believe in Him? As one brother said, there are many reasons not to believe in God, but believing in God doesn’t need any reasons. Because God is God, He is the Redeemer we must believe in.

Why am I a Christian? I believe that my faith comes from God’s choosing; “it is my rational and conscious response.”

Finally, I would like to quote a sentence from a youth group: “Believing in everything equals believing in nothing!” It’s true! The Truth is profound; He does not cease to exist just because man refuses Him. Truth exists independently – it is not dependent on the preferences of man. Truth is unique, so, of course, unique things are exclusive. 2+2 = 4, but we cannot, due to an attitude of acceptance, believe that it equals 6, 7, or 8. 2+2 equals 4, and that is the only true answer. Regarding religion as a form of culture, Christians need to be tolerant of and learn from all. But as a religion, you must and accept and submit to this “one and only” Truth.

Original Article in Chinese: “Why I am a Christian”

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December 2012 Update

Morning Prayer Wake Up Call

Morning Wake Up Call

At 4:45 A.M. the Muslim call to prayer outside my apartment window wakes me. As I lay in bed spending my own time in prayer these quiet times with the Lord give me the strength to prepare for the day ahead.

“Prayer is really helpful for actually getting out the door. If you spend time worshiping long enough, you remember that He’s sovereign,” no matter what occurs.

I am teaching in the Tibetan Highlands to reach a people group with a history of persecuting Christians. This region has been hostile to the Gospel since “proselytizing a non-Islamic religion” is prohibited  but I am here to share Christ’s love.

Living in a communistic government dominated culture I am building solid relationships and share the Gospel while teaching English to university students.

Although I am here only for a few years, the work has grown to include participating in house churches activities, hosting discipleship groups and seeker groups, training nationals to be trainers, strategizing with other Christian workers, prayer walking the city, distributing Bibles and participating in English Corner clubs.

Often during my two hour lunch time students will come and sit with me and chat, which are divine opportunities to ask “What’s going on in your life?” or “What do you know about God and the Bible“ or “Do you go to Church on Sundays” knowing full well that the majority of them have never heard of God, seen a Bible or a church from the inside.

Teacher Room

Faculty Teacher Room

I also spend every week considerable time in the teachers’ faculty lounge, drinking hot tea or coffee with co-workers who love to talk with a foreigner and practice their English.

These are special moments to ask questions, share personal stories  or comfort someone who carries a burden and pray for them.

Initially, I was hesitant to share my faith too openly for fear of being arrested or expelled from the country which are daily real concerns. But being discouraged by the lack of seeing people coming to know Christ I was tired of not seeing fruit.

Deciding to get bolder and bolder as time went by started to yield fruits despite the many oppositions and with the Lord’s protection I am going to continue to be bold.

People here are not accustomed to being loved by Westerners and are perpetually “on the defensive.” But their tough exterior is riddled with cracks.

They are very prideful and they are very good at putting up a good “front,” but the bottom line is they are just a “broken people.” They are not used to hearing about a heavenly Father who cares for them.

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Sharing with Students

In a recent discussion, I was sharing with three students from the Book of John about the Word becoming “flesh.”

The three young men were confused — why would God “care” enough to put on flesh and come to the earth? God doesn’t care about us, they said. Nobody does.

“Is it possible for someone to care about you by leaving his culture and family behind to come to Xining and tell you that God loves you?” I asked.

It was as if a light bulb turned on.

“If a human cares enough to come to you to tell you this, then surely God loves you enough to send me, and God loved you enough to meet with me,” I said.

There is a noticeable shift of attitudes amongst the younger generation in this country. People who were once closed to hearing anything about Christ are now more willing to listen. The window is open right now for abundant Gospel sowing.

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Chinese women sharing Bible

It is exciting to see how God is moving in mighty ways. Some government workers have accepted Bibles.

A young woman who cried in joy to receive a Bible continues to study it.

Women who hated men because of past abuse are learning about forgiveness and that the Lord is a loving Father.

“You just never know where God is working” when you are doing the “seed sowing.” It’s almost like a physical transformation happens.

You can see changing attitudes, burdens being lifted and hatred abandoned.

Yes, engaging people in hostile places comes with risk and sacrifice for all who obediently choose to be His heart, His hands and His voice.

Most of us aren’t threatened because of our faith, but we need to be in prayer for those who are.

Not that persecution will end but that believers in persecution will stay courageous and bold.

Pray the Lord will work miracles, that hearts will soften toward the Gospel, and that the suffering, especially of women and children, will diminish as the people of this land come to know the Savior.

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