How do we combine truth with love in a post Christian culture? Evangelist, social media guru, and rock-star Dad, Matt Brown, joins us to discuss how to influence the Jesus way. Jeremiah answers your unanswered questions, too!
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston hosts evangelist and pastor Rick Renner to discuss knowing and walking in God’s will. Renner describes how he was ultimately called to be a minister in Russia. It was a journey which began with Renner studying classical Greek as a teenager, and culminated with a specific calling to move his family across the world.
In knowing God’s will, obedience at each point is vital, Renner says. “There are no shortcuts. Every step is important. Where you are right now is what’s going to prepare you for the next phase,” he says.
Renner uses the biblical story of Abraham as an illustration of someone who didn’t obey fully at each step, but who eventually surrendered to God’s plan. “The good news is, even if you’ve made mistakes, you can still get where you’re supposed to be,” Renner says.
For many people, God’s will is found in the desires and interests they already have. God awakens and utilizes the gifts for His glory. Like a shepherd guiding his sheep, the faithful often only receive direction for small distances at a time. “Sometimes God doesn’t reveal His full will to you,” Renner says. “Sometimes it’s just enough to keep you moving.”
While the Bible doesn’t promise a trouble-free path, there is a measure of protection when one is walking courageously in God’s will. “If people get a word from God and stand by it, they can change the time in which they live,” Renner says. “That’s what God has called all of us to do.”
Apart from individual callings, the Bible remains the central source for knowing God’s will. Johnston says, “There is power and authority in the Word of God. We need to speak it, know it and share it. The will of God for my life will always be found in the Word of God.”
Rick Renner is known for his ministry in Russia and throughout the former USSR. He leads the Moscow Good News Church and has written inspiring books including the “Sparkling Gems from the Greek” series and “The Will of God: The Key to Your Success.”
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston hosts Curtis Wallace and Brian Paradis, authors of “Lead with Imagination: Regaining the Power to Lead and Live in a Changing World.” Drawing from his experience in ministry domestically and abroad, Wallace says leadership development programs are critical.
“One person can’t do it all,” Wallace says. “Every individual has their own ministry capacity and has limits as to what he or she can do. What really separates the great ministries from the not-so-great is the ability to build a team and develop leaders on that team.”
Johnston and Wallace emphasize the importance of accountability in Christian ministry. “We need to be able to have vigorous debate and an environment where people feel safe to share ideas,” Wallace says.
Brian Paradis joins the conversation and shares wisdom from his and Wallace’s latest book. “When you can’t see what it is you want to take place, it’s hard to create it,” Paradis says. “The first step in any leadership journey is knowing where you want to go or seeing what nobody’s seen before, or understanding what the vision is.”
Part of following a vision is avoiding distractions, especially as a church leader, Wallace says. “You should do those things that only you can do because, as the pastor, you have to be freed to be effective,” he says. “If you don’t have time for prayer, study, and spending time with God, you cannot be the best that you’re going to be on Sunday. Our churches need to understand that they need to invest in teams to free the pastor to be the pastor.”
Other important concerns of leaders include acting with a loving motivation, incorporating lighthearted humor, and looking at things from others’ perspectives.
Wallace encourages individuals to not try to take on big callings alone. “If you don’t have the expertise, you need to have someone who does, and you’ve got to be willing to invest in that expertise,” he advises.
Curtis Wallace is an attorney known for assisting church and ministry leaders. Brian Paradis is a senior partner of CSuite Solutions. Together, they authored “Lead with Imagination: Regaining the Power to Lead and Live in a Changing World.”
The Holy Spirit can be sometimes be overlooked in the Christian life, says Dr. Jeremiah Johnston. “The Holy Spirit should not be the forgotten member of the Trinity,” he says, “There’s so much confusion when we bring up the topic of the Holy Spirit, and yet there shouldn’t be. The Holy Spirit is very clearly articulated in both the Old and New Testament.”
Johnston points to verses including Galations 5:16,“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh,” and Ephesians 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
“The Holy Spirit prays in us, for us and through us,” Johnston says. He works with our minds, and helps direct our steps and determine decisions in areas ranging from education to relationships.
“If you will ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, what can you expect?” Johnston asks. “He will strengthen you. He will immediately assist you in your prayer life and will give you discernment in your life. If you need more inner courage or fortitude, more spiritual stamina, we can persevere because of the Holy Spirit. He will lead you into truth, not confusion, and into holiness. You will know the will of God for your life. He will always give you hope.”
He advises taking a blank piece of paper, writing one’s name at the bottom, and asking God for directions. “Too often we want to see the will of God before making the decision to do it, but that attitude won’t work,” Johnston says. “We need to present ourselves to the Holy Spirit.”
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston and Dr. David Dockery discuss the intersection of education and the Christian faith. Dockery, who has written extensively, never thought he would be a university president. As the first person in his family to attend college, he grew to love the furtherance of education.
“Unfortunately, there is a sense in which people think of the Christian faith as being anti-intellectual, somewhat mindless and totally experiential in approach,” Dockery says. “The Christian faith has produced some of the great thinkers in the last 2,000 years. We believe all knowledge, truth and understanding finds its source in God.”
As a leader in higher education, Dockery speaks to the relevant issues facing students: “Being a Christian in today’s context requires some conviction and courage so it’s not just a cultural Christianity,” he says.
Christianity is not antithetical to education; in fact, the opposite is true. “There is this body of truth that is the Christian faith that has been passed along – people have thought deeply about it and it has led to this great Christian thinking that has become the foundation through which we address issues of the liberal arts, humanities, politics, philosophy, the arts, social sciences, natural sciences, media, journalism and music – the whole spectrum,” Dockery says.
Johnston offers evidence that the Bible encourages careful contemplation in Proverbs 14:15: “The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” He points to other passages as well in which examination of the Scriptures is taught.
“As Christians, we’re not meant to be credulous, easily led astray and gullible,” Johnston says. “In the era of fake news and social media education, there is so much bad information.”
Johnston recommends studying the Bible and investing in tools such as a biblical dictionary and commentaries to supplement one’s study. “You can decide, ‘I’m going to be a critical Christian thinker,’” he says.
Dr. David Dockery is a longtime university administrator and is president of Trinity International University. He has served in Christian leadership roles and has authored and contributed to numerous works.
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston welcomes Dr. Craig Hazen, known for his program leadership at Biola University and his books including “Fearless Prayer: Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should.” The two discuss Hazen’s take on Jesus’ words in John 15:7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
“The passage captured my attention,” Hazen says. “I realized, ‘I’m not sure I really believe that.’”
Exploring the passage led Hazen to rediscover what prayer means. “Some people think that asking for things is a very low-level conception of prayer – that really what you want to aim for is some higher, mystical level where you’re not really asking for things, you’re just having a kind of communion with God,” Hazen says. “But the idea of asking things of God is actually central to biblical prayer. That kind of came as a shock to me.”
Hazen refers to the Lord’s Prayer in which Jesus models prayer to the Father including requests. “I think asking is not a low-level spiritual enterprise,” Hazen asserts. “It puts us in a position of depending on God. That really puts us just where God wants us. Through my study, I think we need to pray about everything – even if we think it’s a very selfish prayer. At least people are getting in front of God, and the Holy Spirit gets a chance to tinker with their soul and make it more in line with God’s Kingdom and God’s purposes. So, I say pray with abandon.”
Hazen encourages Christians to keep a journal and make note of answered prayers. “I think they need to write down their prayers every day and look back to see how God does fulfill those things,” he says. “It really is a miracle when you’re asking God the Father for something and He provides it.”
Hazen references the following verse, John 15:8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
“If we’re tightly plugged into the vine, we will bear fruit,” Hazen says.
Johnston concludes, “Whatever you’re facing, God can meet you in prayer.”
Dr. Craig Hazen is the founder and director of the master’s program with a concentration in Christian apologetics and director of the master’s program with a concentration in science and religion at Biola University. His recent book, “Fearless Prayer: Why We Don’t Ask and Why We Should,” explores the truth of Jesus’ promise about prayer.
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston discusses life and ministry with Angie Smith, a writer who is known for illustrating relevant truths for women and girls. Smith details the story of losing her daughter, Audrey, shortly after birth. The grief of losing an infant is unique to the mother who carries the child, Smith says.
She encourages believers to take their pain and doubts to God. “God is not intimidated by you being angry; He knows how you feel,” Smith says. “You might as well bring your feelings to Him.”
To deal with one’s own trauma, Smith counsels others to take the time needed, and say “no” to additional responsibilities as necessary.
In comforting those who have suffered loss, Smith advises against pat answers. It’s okay to say you simply don’t know why something happened, she says. “What we do know is that we live in a sin-filled world,” she says. “There is so much freedom in knowing you don’t have the perfect answer. I know every single thing that comes to me has been sifted through God’s hands.”
A thinking faith is one that allows believers to ask questions and to exist in the tension between the known and the unknown. “In my mind, I always picture myself being in front of God in heaven and praying that He will say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ And then I’ll ask, ‘Where is she?’” Smith says. “For me, it’s accepting the ‘why?’”
Johnston then answers a question from Rick through AskJJJ.com about the books he reads. Johnston shares his latest reads entailing habit formation, Bible study, wealth-building and biographies.
Angie Smith is a writer and wife of Todd Smith, lead singer of Dove Award-winning group, “Selah.” She is the author of several books including, “I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Joy and Grief,” “What Women Fear: Walking in Faith that Transforms,” and “Mended: Pieces of a Life made Whole.” She holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Vanderbilt University and lives with her husband and daughters in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston welcomes guest Warren Cole Smith, vice president of Mission Advancement at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. A seasoned writer and Christian leader, Smith shares what he’s learned by working in publications and ministry, and as a husband and father.
Reflecting on his career path, he reminisces about educational and vocational choices along the way. He advises, “Go through the door that’s open in front of you. Every step of the way I was learning, growing, and developing. Praying and getting counsel has been really important in helping me know what the right next step was.”
Smith says he pursued his passions and found that doing what God put on his heart was a blessing to others too. “Books had an impact on me; they moved me, instructed me, and discipled me,” he says. “You really have to be discerning about what God is calling you to and match that up.”
In his book, “Restoring All Things: God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People,” Smith and his co-author, John Stonestreet, give examples of God working through regular people in extraordinary ways.
“Someone once told me that the Bible was written by three murderers: Moses, David, and Paul,” Smith says. “You might think that what you’ve done makes you unfit for service, but listen, God only uses broken vessels. We wanted to motivate an army of little platoons – men and women in their local communities who are doing work for the Kingdom. We are all called to some aspect of God’s great restoration work in the world.”
With other people and with one’s family members, Smith says that humility goes a long way. “Don’t be afraid to say you’re sorry,” he says. “I think it enhances our credibility when we’re able to say, ‘I don’t have all the answers.’”
Warren Cole Smith is vice president of Mission Advancement at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. An inspired writer, he is an author, co-author, and editor. Smith is also a speaker and radio personality.
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston hosts special guests, the author and contributor of “Dead Sea Rising: A Novel,” a fictional story with a backdrop of accurate archeology. Dr. Jerry B. Jenkins collaborated with Dr. Craig Evans, a New Testament scholar, in the telling of the story.
Jenkins says, after becoming a Christian at an early age, he felt a calling for Christian ministry. He thought initially it would be in a traditional role such as a pastor, but he used his writing expertise instead to tell the story of the Gospel in untraditional ways. “Dead Sea Rising” is his 195th book; his titles have been on the New York Times bestselling list more than 20 times.
“I can exercise my gift and see results that evangelists and pastors see,” Jenkins says.
Although he has been broadly successful, Jenkins notes that his measure of accomplishment is different than it is for most authors. “It’s not about good reviews, sales and royalty checks,” he says. “To me, success is obedience. I obey by fulfilling that call.”
Jenkins says, “People listen to stories; they might or might not listen to a lecture or read an academic book, but they’ll read a story. I always teach writers that an article or a book should always be more than just about something – it should have a purpose – and the purpose is to see the truth.”
Jenkins says his work with Dr. Evans on the recent story was especially meaningful because Evans was able to provide solid, historical information and contextual guidance for the adventure story.
Evans emphasizes, “Real archeology is exciting too. You don’t have to distort it. It involves all kinds of crazy things. You can tell exciting, fictional stories and yet still be accurate.”
In the show, Dr. Johnston answers several questions through AskJJJ.com from listeners about the nature of God, the afterlife and even about having curiosity as a Christian.
“God loves you, and you can stand blameless because of the work Jesus did for you on the cross,” Dr. Johnston says.
Jerry B. Jenkins is a renowned Christian novelist, celebrated for books including the “Left Behind” series. As a New York Times bestselling author, he also helps aspiring writers become successful. Dr. Craig Evans is the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University. As a New Testament scholar, he has been called upon to contribute in many and academic projects.
Dr. Jeremiah Johnston broaches the sensitive topic of suffering in his message. “All of us have had experiences of suffering in our lives,” he says. “How do we even begin to understand all the promises that God has made to His people, and then we see all the problems God’s people experience?”
He points to Paul’s heart outpouring in 2 Corinthians 1. Paul writes in verses 8 and 9, “We do not want you to be uniformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.”
Johnston says the takeaway for modern believers is:
- I can and should be honest about my problems and pain
- I come to know God better through my pain and suffering
- My response to suffering determines my future
- I do not suffer in vain; God’s plan and blessings are not cancelled by my trials
“God works in different ways; it’s our job to trust Him,” Johnston says. “Only when our circumstances exceed our ability to handle them do we really trust God.” As Paul concludes in the passage, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
Johnston continues the conversation with Dr. Craig Evans, the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University. Evans, a distinguished scholar and author, contrasts the pre-Christian and post-Christian worlds. “Where faith takes hold, societal standards go up. That’s the change that Jesus brought,” he says.
While the Bible does not promise deliverance from every dark situation, it does offer assurance of God’s presence, the two men conclude. Ultimately, suffering with the knowledge of God’s goodness and in dependence upon him is more meaningful than living on one’s own apart from His divine grace.