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The Jeremiah Johnston Show

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September 14, 2019

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Intersecting Faith in Our Culture Work, and Politics

Intersecting faith in our culture, work, and politics

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston discusses problems and possibilities for modern Christians with Dr. Bruce Ashford, provost of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Christians must have deep faith roots in order to survive and thrive. One of the ways that facilitates growth and maturity is church involvement. “Church needs to be more than the Sunday morning hour,” Ashford explains. “We’re going to have to find ways to help build strong relationships and hold each other accountable.”

Ironically, the Church has often been strongest when it has been persecuted. While believers enjoy great freedoms in the United States, culture has changed, and hostility toward the message of the Bible is commonplace.

“We need to embrace the moment and strengthen ourselves as Christians – no matter who opposes us,” Ashford says.

As they immerse themselves in Scripture, Christians should not detach from cultural issues. “We are God’s agents for this era in the U.S.,” Ashford says. “We have to let the Bible narrative of the world be the true story, and we need to soak ourselves in that narrative. We are actually an act in the biblical play.”

Each form of entertainment, news, and input is important for believers, since their thinking is influenced by what they consume.

Jesus made a difference in His world, bringing the Father’s will to Earth by healing illness, preaching truth, and ultimately providing for the forgiveness of sins. Likewise, Christians should actively seek to change the world around them, rather than withdrawing from the disappointing parts of society.

“Christianity makes enormous claims. They’re true claims. When I first became a Christian I grappled with the fact that, if Jesus is Lord, how does it affect my life going forward?

Why does He matter for art or science, politics, economics, business, and entrepreneurship?” Ashford asks. “To the best of our ability, we ought to carve out a society where people can live freely and where people can seek to persuade everyone in society toward a better way.”

Bruce Ashford is the provost of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a professor of Theology and Culture. He writes about the Church and its mission, politics, family issues, work, leisure, culture, and education.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Greatest Interviews: A Best-of Show

On episode 52 of The Jeremiah Johnston Show, Dr. Johnston looks back with fondness over the year and thanks listeners for their support. “Every broadcast has been powerful and poignant,” he says.

In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the Faith Radio program, Johnston replays clips from several of the recent, moving episodes.

Guest Alister McGrath emphasizes that the Christian faith is meant to be lived with other Christians. “All of us need to ask, ‘Are there people who can help us grow in our faith?’ And ‘Can we help others as well?’ A mentor is someone who helps you see things in a different way,” he says.

The Bible is applicable today, and it’s important that Christians seek to offer meaning to the culture around them, McGrath says. “We listen to Scriptures for the answer and listen to our culture for the questions. We need to figure out how to do it,” he explains. “The real problem is people see Christianity as the answer to questions of the past. We need to answer the questions people are asking.”

David Limbaugh says that the Bible is self-proving. For him, the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament clarified the divinity of Jesus Christ. “It’s amazing,” he says. “You begin to see the Bible as integrated.”

Ronnie Floyd and Angie Smith talk about the devastating effects of loss of life, and how believers can remain open-hearted toward God and others. Rick Renner shares his story of God’s guidance in his life. “Sometimes it’s a process,” Renner describes. “God doesn’t always reveal His full will to you. Sometimes, He just gives you enough to keep you moving.”

Shelia Walsh focuses upon passionately following Christ rather than strict legalism. When Christians seek to obey Christ, they naturally are convicted to walk in His ways. Walsh says, “There’s never been a better day to be the fragrance of Christ in a broken world.”

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Unanswered Questions: A Best-Of Show

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston looks back at guests’ unanswered questions from The Jeremiah Johnston Show’s history as the program reaches its nearly one-year anniversary. Johnston talks about the early days of his ministry organization, Christian Thinkers Society.

Reflecting on the success of his goals is reminiscent of Acts 14:27, when early believers reported on what God had done among them, he says. “Little is much when God’s in it,” Johnston says.

At the encouragement of his wife, Johnston welcomed questions from the audience during the early days of ministry. That set the tone for much of his focus going forward, and paved the way for the book, “Unanswered: Lasting Truth for Trending Questions,” as well as a study and tour.

From the inception of his ministry until the present time, Johnston became known for welcoming and addressing controversial and difficult queries. He encourages people to ask meaningful questions. “It is not ungodly to ask God ‘why?’” he says.

Out of thousands of questions, the top topics Johnston has received have been 1) suicide and mental health, 2) the silence of God, 3) the paranormal, 4) the resurrection of Jesus, 5) the Bible, and 6) evil, suffering, and pain.

Through his radio program, Johnston has welcomed pastors, speakers, writers, scholars, professors, and professionals who share their own unanswered questions. Knowing that others with powerful faiths have struggled is an encouragement to anyone who might be tempted to feel isolated in his or her pain or doubt, Johnston says.

Among the guests unanswered questions were sentiments surrounding loss of loved ones, God’s lack of interference, suffering, unfairness, expressing the Gospel, healing, pain in children, the creation story, waiting, reaching loved ones, and the fragility of life.

In each of these matters and more, Johnston reminds listeners that it’s not a sin to ask God questions. In doing so, believers learn more about God and His Word, and deepen their relationships with Him.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Mental Health, the Most Important Question in Apologetics

 

Issues of mental health and wellness are not generally well-addressed in the church setting across the board, says Dr. Jeremiah Johnston. He believes questions surrounding mental health are some of the top apologetics needs of our time.

“The Christian truth should be able to withstand the most difficult questions,” he says. “The job of apologetics is answering questions people have about the faith today.”

A secular worldview that espouses no life purpose and design leads to horrible results, Johnston says, including devaluing human life. “If there is no God, there is no humanity and it becomes law of the jungle. I can walk by this ‘animal’ not created in God’s image. I can walk by them and feel no shame if they end their life. That’s what fills the void if there is no Christ,” he says. “Most people find it difficult to believe that God really loves them. We must remind people that God loves them.”

Johnston discusses mental health needs in the workplace with John Gibson, an experienced business leader. “You just have to teach people that caring about people should be the number one issue,” Gibson begins.

Gibson relays stories about his work experiences, and says helping create a successful workplace environment is paramount. Caring about one’s employees or coworkers comes from a faith-filled life, he says. “That kind of love and caring comes from a heart that loves our Lord and serves Him,” he says.

In addressing mental health in the workplace, Gibson advises work leaders to educate themselves, establish processes for handling issues, and care about employees. Finally, he reminds employers to look after their own needs as well. “Ask for help,” Gibson concludes. “The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation.”

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

‘The Dark Side:’ What to do in Spiritual Battles

 

The story of the fallen angel, Lucifer, who set out on a path of rebellion against God, is central in Genesis and Revelation, book-ending the Bible. Dr. Jeremiah Johnston explores the antagonist of the Christian faith.

“If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re in a battle,” Johnston says. “No one wants to be in a battle, but let’s face it, as Christians, we’re in a spiritual battle.”

Revelation 12 describes Satan as a dragon, a serpent, as an accuser, as the devil, and as someone who leads the whole world astray. 2 Corinthians 11:14 describes Satan as a being who masquerades as an angel of light. John 8:44 says he was a murderer from the beginning and a liar. In John 10:10, Jesus describes the devil as a thief who steals, kills, and destroys.

Thankfully, believers know that Satan is a defeated foe whom God threw out of heaven and whom Jesus conquered. The Bible promises in James 4:7 that if Christians submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee. Furthermore, the devil’s accusations against believers are countered by God’s grace because there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1).

During his earthly ministry, Jesus encountered and healed the demonically possessed. His ability to exorcise became well-known in the region. “It was known that if you invoked the name of Jesus, the demons ran,” Johnston explains.

I John 4:4 further illuminates the victory over darkness Christians have because of Jesus: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

While Scripture records that Jesus was tempted by Satan, Jesus overcame the trials. “Anytime you move for God in your life, anytime you take a step of faith, reach someone, or shine the light of Jesus Christ, you can immediately expect demonic opposition. Spiritual attacks are going to come, but we can be victorious. Make sure you pray, study Scripture, and never forget who you are in Christ,” Johnston advises.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Virtuously Integrating Faith with Culture

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston discusses culture and reaching others with Dr. Karen Swallow and Dr. Josh Chatraw. The guests recently authored, “Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues.” The book provides a panoramic view of Christian responses to the pressing issues of our time. The writers explore aspects of culture including formal ideas and worldviews that are passed on, precognitive assumptions, and social and physical dimensions of life.

“We’re all swimming in this thing called culture,” Chatraw explains. “Culture is inevitable. It’s the phone I use, this radio podcast. We can’t jump out of culture; we can jump out of particular parts of culture.”

To have a historical, ideological, and intellectual framework for current cultural issues, Christians do well to educate themselves by reading. “All that good books can do for us, and even truth itself, is something we still have to receive and apply,” Swallow says. “Good books can expand our understanding and knowledge, but only if that’s what we are really pursuing. When we read good literature, we express the image of God in us. We understand ourselves and our world through language. We are narrative creatures who live our lives with an understanding of story. We are expressing our humanity and expressing God’s image within us.”

Not only reading, but listening well, is imperative in order to understand and converse regarding other perspectives. Of course, knowing Scripture is the basis for our beliefs as Christians.

As Chatraw points out, I Peter 3:15 says we should have a conversant faith that hinges upon gentleness and respect.

Johnston says, “Are you a good listener? If we’re not good listeners, we’ll never be good at evangelism. If I’m not a good listener, I’ll never be good at witnessing. I want to empathize. When you look at the episodes in the gospels, in these long conversations that Jesus had with individuals, notice what a great listener He was. What a great reminder to us today.”


Dr. Joshua D. Chatraw and Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, authors of “Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues,” address hot-button issues including sexuality, gender roles, immigration, and more. Prior is a professor of English at Liberty University, and Chatraw is the director of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement for Liberty University.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Dr. Carol Tanksley on Fear, Anxiety, and Grief

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston welcomes Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley, a physician and author known by many as “Dr. Carol.” They discuss the emotional health and the value of life. Dr. Carol Ministries reaches people with a holistic approach gained through her experience as a physician and her theological education, earning her the moniker, “Doctor-Doctor.”

Rather than viewing people as comprised of different facets, Tanksley views humans as holistic beings. “The way some groups in Christianity talk about our humanness is that I am a spirit, I have a soul, and I live in a body. Not that that’s wrong, but God didn’t create us as separate pieces,” she says. “You can’t separate the different parts of our humanness from each other – the physical, emotional, relational, spiritual parts – any more than you can separate the flour, sugar, eggs, and salt in a loaf of bread. We are baked together into an integrated whole. Because we are integrated, whole human beings, God’s best for us demands that He has access to all these other areas of our lives.”

Christians find that their physical actions, their relationships, and their mental focus all play an integral role in their faith walks. When facing anxiety, Christians do well to remember that they can choose their focus to a great extent. “If you want positive resilience, it’s important to keep the bad stuff out and keep the good stuff in,” Tanksley says. “We have a choice about the food our minds take in. We have a choice and it makes a difference.”

Since grief is unavoidable in life, people are served by learning how to manage it. “Healing doesn’t just drop on you. For me, I didn’t want to work on the grief, but I realized that was the thing that would help me go through it,” Tanksley says.

In helping others through their pain, Johnston and Tanklsey emphasize the ministry of presence. Johnston recounts a time when he simply read in the Psalms and prayed over a suffering person. “I want to say this to those who may be suffering: know that your profound grief is never wasted. God will and can bring good from it. God will restore your joy,” Johnston says.


Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley (MD, MDiv and DMin) is an OB-Gyn, a speaker, and an author. Her books include, “Overcoming Fear & Anxiety Through Spiritual Warfare,” “Live Healthy, Live Whole: Your Prescription for Healthy Living, Loving Relationships, and Joyful Spirituality,” and the recent, “The Christian’s Journey Through Grief: How to Walk Through the Valley with Hope.”

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Mark Lanier on Justice and Evidence

 

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston welcomes Mark Lanier to the show. Lanier is well-known for his work as an attorney, but it is his love for the Bible that led him to establish the Lanier Theological Library, an exquisite facility with about 17,000 square feet of literary resources, artifacts, and study space in the Houston area.

Lanier originally felt he might serve the Lord as a vocational minister. “I thought I’d love to be a preacher. I love the Lord,” he says. “It occurred to me, I really ought to pursue a legal career but continue to serve the Lord bivocationally. So I became a lawyer really just to pay the bills, but my passion has always been trying to teach people the Word of God and trying to help the Kingdom of Christ.”

In his theological study, Lanier has been a student of Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Syriac. “Language is a deep love of mine. It unlocks Scripture,” Lanier explains. Much of Scripture is understood more deeply with an understanding of the original language and civilization. “Today we know the brain cells process thought. In the Old Testament mindset, they thought the seed of thought was the heart. When you read all of these passages in the Psalms that talk about getting your heart right before the Lord, we tend, in 21st-century America, to think that means to get your emotions and feelings right before the Lord. It’s not talking about emotion; it’s talking about thinking and using your thoughts to focus on God and what God wants you to do. It’s not talking about emotional religion first and foremost.”

Rather than simply being a personal choice, Christianity has served to form the basis for the Judeo-Christian legal system. It is a truth that Lanier, as a law professional, greatly values. “If you remove God, at the end of the day, law is what people say instead of what God says. God told Israel, ‘I’ve created male and female in my image. All people have equal dignity and rights and access to justice and all basic core human principles,’” Lanier says. “That’s different than anything else we find culturally then and now.”

To be kept from becoming swept up in the tide of popular beliefs, Christians should renew their minds with the truths of the Bible. “If we remove God from our system, we have removed the bedrock foundation and our system is shifting sand,” Lanier says. “We all need to be before God on a daily basis.”


Mark lanierMark Lanier is an attorney, teacher, and author of books including “Christianity on Trial,” “Psalms for Living: Daily Prayers, Wisdom, and Guidance,” and “Torah for Living: Daily Prayers, Wisdom, and Guidance.”

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Is Christianity Still Good for the World? & Bob Sprotte’s Great Story

 

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston talks with an everyday follower of the Christian faith who decided he wanted to do more to reach his community. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based businessman, Bob Sprotte, is furthering the Gospel in his area in a creative way through the Great Lakes Symposium on Christian Worldview, to be held on Thursday, August 1, 2019, in Bay Harbor, Michigan.

In our Christian walk, as in business, Sprotte has learned that faithfulness is essential. “All the little things we do matter,” he says.

Johnston shares insights from his speech during Wilberforce Weekend in Washington, DC. “It’s an exciting time to be a Christian,” he says.

While the majority of growth in the faith is not currently coming from the Western world, it means that Christians based in the West have an untapped mission field all around them.

Johnston cites a Pew Research study in which most atheists and agnostics believe the Church contributes little or nothing to the world. Johnston refutes this notion in his book, “Unimaginable: What our World Would be Like Without Christianity.”

“Christianity has been a force for good in our world,” Johnston says. “The evidence is simply overwhelming.”

Paul’s words in Galations 3:28 were revolutionary in the culture in which he lived: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Christianity, wherever it takes root, influences culture. It heals racism, promotes charity and justice, supports gender equality, and embraces the value of life. The opposite is also true. Where Christianity has been unwelcome, people are dehumanized, society becomes nihilistic, and there is no clear purpose for life.

“Every time history repeats itself, we pay a higher price,” Johnston says. “Yet, we are living in the golden age of Christianity. There is more evidence for our faith than at any other time. My challenge and my prayer for all of us is that we will apply John 1:5: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’”

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Jeremiah Johnston: Truth is Under Attack

If truth is a foundation, then the structures of society can only hold together properly if the truth remains stable. Show host, Dr. Jeremiah Johnston says, “You don’t have to go far to see that truth is under attack. People say, ‘That’s your truth, not my truth,’ or ‘I don’t believe in good and evil.’ You need to know as a Christian thinker: ‘Does absolute truth exist?’”

While Christianity is the object of widespread scrutiny, Johnston points out that somewhere around 70,000 people per day come to faith in Jesus Christ. “I’m here to tell you the Christian faith has never been more popular or prominent or influential around the world,” he says.

Thankfully, Jesus made the truth of His nature and of God’s character very clear in Scripture. In the book of John, the Son of God’s appearance in the world is described as “full of grace and truth.” In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

As followers of Christ, we are to worship God “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). At the conclusion of his earthly ministry, Jesus tells Pilate, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me” (John 18:37).

In pointing out these passages, Johnston says, “One of the most dangerous places to be is when we don’t seek truth. The easiest way to eliminate confusion is to know the truth.”

Even if people do not acknowledge certain truths, they continue to exist. Christians should not be afraid of challenges to their faith by skeptics. A winsome approach can make people wish Christianity were true, and then realize it is, as Blaise Pascal wrote.

Without truth as an underpinning, and when Christianity is diminished in society, there is room for inequality, slavery, eugenics, dehumanization, and moral relativism, Johnston says. “These are very real concepts that impact our daily lives. Please be a person who lives by absolute truth in your morals, ethical decision-making, and your Christian living,” he says.