The Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Be a Christian in 2020

Around the world, more than 260 million Christians—one of every eight believers—experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus. For the past 28 years, the Open Doors World Watch List has offered a global indicator of countries where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization. During the 2020 World Watch List reporting period, in the top 50 countries, a total of 9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked; 3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; and 2,983 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. On average, that’s eight Christians killed every day for their faith. 1. North Korea Persecution type: Communist and post-communist oppression Estimated number of Christians: 300,000 How Christians are suffering: “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot. Driven by the state, Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy.” Prayer point: “Pray for endurance and courage for Christians who are suffering right now in labor camps across North Korea.” 2. Afghanistan Persecution type: Clan and ethnic antagonism Estimated number of Christians: Thousands How Christians are suffering: “Afghanistan is a tribal society, and loyalty to one’s family, clan and tribe are extremely important. In an Islamic society, it is illegal for an Afghan person to leave Islam. The country is increasingly challenged by Islamic militants, the Taliban controls or contests more and more areas, and an ISIS-affiliated group also targets minorities. Those who decide to follow Jesus do so in secret.” Prayer Point: “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not allow conversion from Islam. Please pray for a softening of the country’s leadership and local rulers.” 3. Somalia Persecution type: Islamic… Read More

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Weekly Recap, January 18, 2020

Book Summary: DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, by Michael Reeves A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance By Jenny-Lyn de Klerk   Table of Contents Introduction: Here Be Dragons? 1. What Was God Doing Before Creation? 2. Creation: The Father’s Love Overflows 3. Salvation: The Son Shares What… Book Review: Gary Steward’s Review of THE GREAT AWAKENING: A BRIEF HISTORY WITH DOCUMENTS, by Thomas S. Kidd A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Gary Steward   Thomas Kidd calls the Great Awakening “the most significant religious and cultural upheaval in the history of colonial America” (vii). As such, this subject merits the attention of… Michael A. G. Haykin’s Review of THEOLOGICAL RETRIEVAL FOR EVANGELICALS: WHY WE NEED OUR PAST TO HAVE A FUTURE, by Gavin Ortlund A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Michael A. G. Haykin   From small beginnings with Roman Catholic scholars like Jean Daniélou and Henri de Lubac in their determination to engage in ressourcement in the 1930s, theological retrieval… Ryan McGraw’s Review of THEOLOGICAL RETRIEVAL FOR EVANGELICALS: WHY WE NEED OUR PAST TO HAVE A FUTURE, by Gavin Ortlund A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Ryan McGraw   Retrieval theology has become increasingly important in recent years. The idea behind theological retrieval is to engage with the entire Christian theological tradition with an aim to apply… Our Blog: Book Notice: A HEARER OF GOD’S WORD: TEN WAYS TO LISTEN TO SERMONS BETTER, by Brian G. Najapfour A Brief Book Notice from Books At a Glance Fred G. Zaspel   I have long had sympathy for Christians who complain that they are not profiting from their pastor’s preaching. I am of course aware that some people are… ~ The Books At a… Read More

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50% Off New Sproul Book Plus Free Tabletalk Subscription

50% Off Plus Free Tabletalk Subscription The Westminster Confession of Faith is one of the most precise and comprehensive statements of biblical Christianity, and it is treasured by believers around the world. Dr. R.C. Sproul has called it one of the most important confessions of faith ever penned, and it has helped generations of Christians understand and defend what they believe. In Truths We Confess, Dr. Sproul introduces readers to this remarkable confession, explaining its insights and applying them to modern life. In his signature easy-to-understand style and with his conviction that everyone’s a theologian, he provides valuable commentary that will serve churches and individual Christians as they strive to better understand the eternal truths of Scripture. As he walks through the confession line by line, Dr. Sproul shows how the doctrines of the Bible–from creation to covenant, sin to salvation–fit together to the glory of God. This accessible volume is designed to help you deepen your knowledge of God’s Word and answer the question, What do you believe? About the Author: R. C. Sproul (1939-2017) served as Senior Minister of Preaching and Teaching at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, and was Founder and President of Ligonier Ministries. He was Chancellor of Reformation Bible College, wrote more than one hundred books, and was heard daily on Renewing Your Mind. He earned degrees from Westminster College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and the University of Amsterdam. Endorsements: “The Westminster Confession of Faith is the fruit of the Reformation century of biblical study, theological reflection, and pious experience. As a great confession, it summarizes essential biblical teaching, unites Christians in the truth, and testifies to the world what we believe. Biblical, faithful, mature, and wise—the Westminster Confession of Faith and Dr. R.C. Sproul! A superb theologian, teacher, and preacher leading us through the finest Reformed confession. Here is… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 17

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 7:1-14; Acts 10:1-23; Psalm 17, Genesis 37-38. There is a very timely lesson about Bible reading that emerges out of the reading in Acts today. It pops up in Acts 10:17 (ESV) — 17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate. Note first that even the great Apostle Peter, when confronted with this staggering vision – was perplexed about what it might mean. When we are handling the Word of God, we are being met by revelation that God has given to us, and sometimes, we don’t get what it means right off the bat. Don’t feel bad. Don’t be intimidated. It may take some thought, meditation, further study, prayer and consultation with other sources to get to the heart of a passage. You’re in good company. While the main message of the Bible is clear, and the chief facts accessible to most, there are parts and themes and connections that do not lie right on the surface and will require some significant digging to get to. Patient labor will yield rich rewards – but don’t think something is wrong if you have to work for it – we’re dealing with eternal and cosmic truths. In any other field of study, say engineering, mechanics, electronics, sales & marketing, history, mathematics, etc., each has its own unique vocabulary and structure. So does Bible study. Hand in there. You’ll get it. Note secondly how un-modern Peter is. And by his example exposes one… Read More

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Is a Similar Sense of Calling Required for Marriage?

Audio Transcript Will God give my future spouse a similar calling to the calling he has given me? Should we expect marriage to be a harmonizing of vocational passions? The question is from a listener named Arielle. “Hello, Pastor John! As I look forward to marriage, Lord willing, I wonder if the partner God has for me, my future husband, will have a similar calling for God’s specific purposes. For example, will he give my husband the same level of desire I have for missions? Is that what God designed for marriages to be: a union of purpose? Or is this naïve? Are marriages more likely comprised of a husband and wife who are on their own individual trajectory with unique and different callings? In your pastoral experience, how does this normally work?” Perhaps I should start with this sentence: Marriage is not fundamentally the linking of arms in the pursuit of an agreed-upon vocation. Now, here’s one of the ways to see why that is true. When you get married, you have no certainty whatsoever that the person you marry will not undergo profound changes. Your spouse may become an unbeliever in ten years. He or she may totally change his or her mind about what vocation they want to go after. They may experience deep depression. They may be in an accident and become disabled, and never be able to work a day in their life. They may turn to drink or drugs or sit in front of the TV every night or just become a lazy couch potato, doing nothing. When you get married, you take a huge risk and don’t have any way of predicting for sure how this will turn out. Commit to Your Covenant So Jesus — unlike our culture, even our church culture,… Read More

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What the Church Can Do About the Alcohol-Related Death Epidemic

The Story: America is in the middle of an alcohol-related death epidemic. And the church has something we can do to help that no other institution can. The Background: Last week the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research published a study reporting that between 1999 and 2017 the number of alcohol‐related deaths per year among people aged 16 and older doubled from 35,914 to 72,558, and the rate increased 50.9 percent from 16.9 to 25.5 per 100,000. During that period, nearly 1 million alcohol‐related deaths (944,880) were recorded on death certificates. (But because, as the researchers note, death certificates often fail to indicate the contribution of alcohol, the scope of alcohol‐related mortality is likely even higher.) In 2017 along, 2.6 percent of roughly 2.8 million deaths in the United States involved alcohol. According to the study, nearly half of alcohol‐related deaths resulted from liver disease (30.7 percent, or 22,245 deaths) or overdoses on alcohol alone or with other drugs (17.9 percent, or 12,954 deaths). Rates of alcohol‐related deaths were highest among males, people in age‐groups spanning 45 to 74 years, and among American Indians or Alaska Natives. Rates increased for all age groups except 16 to 20 and 75+ and for all racial and ethnic groups. The largest annual increase occurred among white females. Rates of acute alcohol‐related deaths also increased more for people aged 55 to 64. But rates of chronic alcohol‐related deaths, which accounted for the majority of alcohol‐related deaths, increased more for younger adults aged 25 to 34. Why It Matters: Over the past decade, American has been so distracted by the opioid crisis that we hardly noticed an even deadlier epidemic. Perhaps we pay attention to opioid-related deaths because overdoses are dramatic, while alcohol is often the cause of slower forms of dying, such as liver disease.… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 16

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 6:25-34; Acts 9:20-43; Psalm 16, Genesis 36. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” is one of the most recognizable and oft-quoted passages in the Gospels. And many have focused on the last phrase, while virtually ignoring the first part. But as is true with all texts, we need to take the whole to avoid making the part into something it is not. If we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – what things will be added to us? His Kingdom and His righteousness. Don’t think those small or inconsequential – they are the fullness of the riches He delights to bestow on us. Note: We do not seek righteousness generically, but rather HIS righteousness. remembering, that His kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, one that bears none of the ravages of sin whatever. So in the first place, we seek His righteousness to justify us. Each must put their trust in the Gospel to begin with. The religion of the Bible is not one of trying to establish our own righteousness, but of always seeking to be sure we are trusting in HIS righteousness. But in the second case – and here is an extraordinary insight into the Christian’s primary occupation – we seek His righteousness lived out in us. Victory over sin. Living in love toward the saints that they too might find victory over sin. To live as the righteous people we have been pronounced by Him to be in justification. As strange as it sounds, Jesus is calling… Read More

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The Best Kind of Mercy Ministry

Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches Transcript The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy. Tony Merida: Welcome to ”Churches Planting Churches,” a podcast on the theology and practice of church planting. I’m your host Tony Merida. There are no easy answers when it comes to how we should help the poor. Just look at how nonprofits and government organizations bound in poor communities across the world. Many of these groups do good work and we should thank God for his common grace where we see it helping to alleviate unjust suffering. But as Christians, we know that people’s deepest need transcend what can be seen. As John Piper aptly put it, Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. Therefore, we must prioritize gospel proclamation in poor communities and ongoing gospel proclamation happens best through local churches. Sadly, many poor communities lack healthy churches where this kind of gospel proclamation can happen. For us, we need to focus on planting and sustaining healthy churches in poor communities all over the world. This is no easy task. It will be costly. We’ll need God’s sovereign grace to sustain us every step of the way. Thankfully, that’s the kind of grace he delights to give. So to talk with us about planting and sustaining healthy churches in poor communities, I’m excited to have my friend Tyler St. Clair with me on the podcast today. Tyler is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Detroit, Michigan. He also serves as the network lead for Church in Hard Places in Acts 29’s US Midwest network. He is married to Elita, and they have five kids. Tyler, welcome to the podcast, my brother. Tyler St. Clair: Yeah, man. What’s going on?… Read More

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The Strangest Thing Jesus Said

“Why did you not bring him?” The Pharisees were exasperated that the officers had not arrested and delivered Jesus yet. How did the officers explain their failure? “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). By the time we get to John chapter seven, Jesus had made himself a serious religious and political issue in Palestine. Everywhere he went, he created controversy. Some people said he was demonized with paranoia (John 7:20). Some seriously wondered if he might be the Prophet Moses foretold (John 7:40; Deuteronomy 18:15–18), or even the Christ (John 7:31, 41). Others said the Christ hypothesis couldn’t be true, since obviously the Christ would come from Bethlehem, and Jesus was from Galilee (John 7:42) — and of course no prophet ever came from there (John 7:52). One thing that helped fuel the rumors among the crowds was the fact that, in spite of all Jesus was saying, the Jewish leaders had not arrested him yet. Was this a signal that even they thought Jesus might be the Christ (John 7:26)? When the chief priests and Pharisees caught wind of this, they decided to snuff out that rumor by arresting him, so they sent officers to do just that (John 7:32). The officers, however, returned empty-handed. When the Jewish leaders asked them why, the officers responded, “No one ever spoke like this man.” The Enigma of History The echo of that sentence has reverberated down through history. No one ever spoke like this man. The proof of its veracity is in the pudding of the historical result: the words of Jesus have shaped the course of world history more than any other human voice. Observed as a historical phenomenon, it is the strangest thing. How did Jesus get to be the most famous man in history? Two… Read More

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50% off The ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions

50% off The ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions Creeds and confessions have been used throughout Christian history to summarize the Bible’s teaching, distilling the key truths of Scripture into concise and succinct propositions. The ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions contains 13 important creeds and confessions from church history placed after the complete ESV text, including the Apostles’ Creed, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism. Introductions written by theologian Chad Van Dixhoorn explain the history and original purpose of each—helping modern Christians see how these historic documents were designed to faithfully teach the truths of Scripture—truths aimed at shaping and motivating the lives of all who follow Christ. 13 historic creeds and confessions placed in the back, including the Apostles Creed (ca. 200–400), the Nicene Creed (325), the Athanasian Creed (381), the Chalcedonian Definition (451), the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Articles of Religion (1563), the Canons of Dort (1618–19), the Westminster Confession (1646), the London Baptist Confession (1689), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) Introductions to each of the 13 creeds and confessions written by historian Chad Van Dixhoorn Smyth-sewn binding Ribbon marker Double-column format With Historical and Theological Introductions by: Chad Van Dixhoorn (PhD, Cambridge University), a Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary and Director of the Craig Center for the Study of the Westminster Standards. He also serves as an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. Buy the books THE ESV BIBLE WITH CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS, by Crossway Crossway, 2019 | 1424 pages From: Amazon ( Imitation Leather )From: WTS Books ( Cloth Board WTS Books Exclusive Edition ) Visit Books at a Glance

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 15

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 6:16-24; Acts 9:1-19; Psalm 15, Genesis 34-35. Psalm 15 is both delightful, and terrifying. Delightful in the picture it paints of one who would walk with God. Terrifying in how far short I fall in every respect.  Who indeed can dwell on God’s holy hill, when what it takes to qualify to do so, I’ve long since failed at? O that I would walk blamelessly. But even if I did from this moment forward, what about my past? That I would always do what is right – but I fail in that every hour. And falsehood still finds its way into my heart. I lie to myself about my own goodness; lie about others to feel better about myself; and worst of all, lie about God – failing to know the real truth of Him as fully revealed in Jesus. Still harboring the lies of Eden that God is not ALL good and has only my best interest at heart – without flaw. How I have slandered others – especially those with whom I disagree. And I’ve not always done only good to my neighbor – even my closest neighbor, my spouse, my child, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And there have surely been times when I’ve reproached my friend needlessly. I have often – and still have the tendency to be impressed and intimidated by the wicked as adding some perceived value to me if they are brilliant, talented, astute, accomplished, powerful, recognized, forceful, and attractive. And I have failed to honor those who fear the Lord regardless of their station. At times, when my promises appeared… Read More

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How Should I Parent My Non-Christian Teen?

Audio Transcript Pastor John and I recorded a handful of episodes live and in person in Nashville this summer. And we ended our live recording session with an audience question about parenting non-Christian teenagers. Here’s the question and Pastor John’s response. “We’ve got some really important, valuable emails from people in this room who are parenting non-Christian teenagers, teenagers who have not made a profession of faith. A number of questions have to do with enforcing church attendance. We heard from a woman named Angela who grew up going to Roman Catholic mass every Sunday. Her dad made her go. She started to resent Christianity. She later came to the faith, married a godly man, and is now involved in a wonderful church. But she looks back on that and wonders, as you’re parenting teens — especially in the mid- to late-teen years, and they have made no profession of faith, and don’t have any interest in the gospel or church — how much do you enforce church attendance? Where do you draw that line between expecting them to attend a church meeting on Sundays and being patient with them and not making Christianity come across as though it’s something being enforced upon them?” Parent from the Womb I can’t just jump in to 16-year-old, 17-year-old behavior without backing up a little bit. And I know that’s not the question being asked, but let me just say: We’re not God, and we do not create our teenagers completely — but partly we do. We start rearing teenagers when they’re in the womb — how we pray for them in the womb. We affect the behavior of a teenager when they’re 2 years old. I watch a lot of young parents today. They seem to believe you cannot control the behavior… Read More

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