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The Jeremiah Johnston Show

The Importance of the Pro-Life Movement

December 7, 2019

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The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Your Unanswered Questions: Part 2

 

Professor Craig Evans joins us in answering your collection of sent in questions and ones we have gathered at Christian Thinkers Society events. We continue to discuss Biblical archeology, the historicity of Jesus, the crucifixion, resurrection, and more.

How often do you give thanks, and in what situations? Dr. Jeremiah Johnston says being thankful should be habitual for Christians. He refers to the Roman philosopher, Cicero, who expressed that gratitude is the parent of all virtues. Jeremiah says Christians should remain in wonder of their salvation through Jesus Christ.

“Let us never stop being thankful people. A great barometer of your mental health is your ability to personally experience gratitude. Did you know gratitude will strengthen your immune system, it will lower your blood pressure, it will make you stronger and healthier?”

Thankfulness is also a mark of wisdom because it confirms that we did not accomplish anything on our own. Ingratitude, on the other hand, is the first step toward apostasy, according to the Apostle Paul, who warned in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Grateful attitudes are exhibited by many exemplars in the Bible, from King David in the Old Testament to James in the New Testament. One of the greatest things Christians have to rejoice over is access to the Word of God.

Scholar and author, Dr. Craig Evans, describes the value of biblical prophecies foretelling the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that prophecy, giving us a right relationships with God, for which we can be forever thankful. Jeremiah reminds listeners of the story in Luke 17:11-17, in which only one of 10 healed lepers came back to thank Jesus.

“I pray that you and I are thankful people. When I think about the fact that Jesus has forgiven us of our sins, wow, that makes me full of gratitude. I never want to lose my awe of my salvation in Christ.”

Dr. Craig Evans is the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University. He is a sought-after biblical scholar and New Testament expert. His books and teaching have encouraged many.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Your Unanswered Questions: Part 1

 

Answering your questions on Biblical archaeology, the historicity of Jesus, the crucifixion, resurrection, and more with Professor Craig Evans. In this collection of questions you have sent in to the show and gathered at Christian Thinkers Society events.

No matter how much you know about Christianity or how long you’ve adhered to the faith, you should remain inquisitive and be open to growth, says New Testament scholar, professor, and author, Dr. Craig Evans.

“Questions are important. They are wonderful because, when you ask an honest question, you’re open to new information and the truth.”

Whether one is a skeptic or devout, understanding the need for Jesus’ crucifixion can be bewildering. Addressing the argument that Jesus’ violent death was gratuitous, Craig sets the scene of the crucifixion within its historical context. And he explains that the message of the cross begins at the dawn of humanity.

“From the very beginning, there are some ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts.’ The law is for our own good. God doesn’t just revel in rules, but things are there for our benefit. Humanity has turned its back on God. There are consequences; the beauty is, God said, ‘I will share the consequences.’”

Rather than show cruelty, the violent death and ensuing resurrection of Jesus demonstrate God’s love in a dramatic way in allowing His Son to suffer for us. Craig describes the love of God as a radical concept in the ancient world.

“What God was saying is, ‘I love humanity, and I want to redeem humanity, and I will take risks. If it means Jesus dying on the cross, I will go that far.’ No god outside of the God of Scripture believed that people were made in God’s image – gods in antiquity would not go that far. It’s only in the Judeo-Christian tradition that God speaks of humans with love and speaks for their benefit.”

While God set laws in place, He still came down to help struggling humanity, and to restore us to Himself. That is the message the world needs to hear.

Dr. Craig Evans is the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University. He is a sought-after biblical scholar and New Testament expert. His books and teaching have encouraged many.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

The Infancy Narrative and Unlikely Characters

 

Danial Darling discusses the group of misfits, societal outcasts, and overlooked characters in the Nativity story. God used each one of them for his divine plan and why is worth thinking about more than once a year. A look at Daniel’s new book “The Characters of Christmas.”

Daniel Darling has authored books on practical faith and relatable theological issues. His latest book, “The Characters of Christmas,” focuses upon the everyday people of the Nativity story. He talks with Dr. Jeremiah Johnston about the work.

“I loved working on all my books,” he says. “This last one was really fun and I enjoyed being able to dig into the Gospels and the story of the incarnation of Christ, and the ordinariness of the characters and how they were part of God’s sovereign plan for history.”

Like many people, Darling enjoys the Christmas season. “We have a whole month to soak in the beauty and the wonder of the coming of the Son of God,” he says. “If you think about it, it’s what separates Christianity from other religions. He is not a distant, angry deity. He visits humanity in Jesus. He loves His image-bearers.”

In “The Characters of Christmas,” Darling takes a closer look at teenage Mary, her betrothed, Joseph, her cousin, Elizabeth, Zechariah, the shepherds, and more. “Each character points us to Jesus and tells us something about who God is, and the Kingdom of God,” Darling says.

While Christians rightly focus upon the story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the story of the manger has its own rich, theological implications, Darling says. The announcement of the long-awaited Messiah came in a shepherd’s field among some of the simplest people in the culture, demonstrating God’s humble heart. The wise men represent generosity and going anywhere to follow Jesus. The genealogy of Jesus demonstrates that God values and uses women for His purposes, and He redeems stories. The coming of Jesus into Mary and Joseph’s lives shows that Jesus sometimes interrupts our plans.

“One of the things Christians need to do is meditate deeply on the story of Christmas and who Jesus is,” Darling advises. “Let’s be so overcome with the joy of Christ, people will ask, ‘Why is it you love Christmas and why should I care about it?’”

Daniel Darling is the vice president for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a pastor, author, speaker, and columnist. His latest book, “The Characters of Christmas,” was released in 2019.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

The Power of the Gospel

 

With a vision for 1000 church plants, we talk to JD Greear about the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church, and suggests the key to our christian lives is a 24/7 lifestyle we need to embody.

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston introduces pastor, author, and Christian leader, Dr. J.D. Greear. “The Gospel invigorates us,” Johnston says. “It’s not just the diving board, it’s the swimming pool. The Gospel is the key to our Christian life and the constant presence in our lives.”

Greear remembers a time when he went through tremendous doubt about his salvation. The period of doubt ultimately paved the way to a greater understanding of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Greear has spent his life spreading the message of salvation. Through his mission work and studies, he has gained valuable insight into methods of sharing the Gospel and answering the questions people groups have. He notes that his book, “Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim,” offers insights.

“No matter what I’m talking about, nothing takes the centrality away from the first place of the Gospel,” Greear says. “Christianity is not good advice; it is good news. It’s not just the way you get saved; it’s the power to live it out.”

In responding to questions from believers who waver in their trust for God’s saving work in their lives, Greear encourages them to put their faith in God’s promises rather than in their own feelings. “Our Heavenly Father wants us to know the certain promises of the Gospel. God’s Word is stronger and His promises are stronger,” he says. “Salvation has everything to do with the One that faith is in. Faith is not a savior; Jesus is the Savior. What we find in Scripture is that Christian growth is really growth deeper into the Gospel. The New Testament speaks about the blood of Jesus – not just paying the sin debt but washing away the sin of our heart that keeps us separated from God. What matters is: are you leaving your hope for salvation on the finished work of Christ? Go and embrace what He’s done for you.”

Dr. J.D. Greear is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church. His book, “Above All: The Gospel Is the Source of the Church’s Renewal,” was released in 2019.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Why God Loves Cities and What It Means For You

 

People are looking for interactive compassionate community members. Chris Brooks, host of the Equipped with Chris Brooks radio show, discusses what it looks like for us to embody faith and live out the implications of the Gospel in front of a watching world.

The Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:16-20 means being around people is necessary, points out guest Chris Brooks. He disagrees with a call to separation from the world when it means disengagement. Brooks is eager to see urban areas transformed with the truth of the Gospel. “The Bible never calls us to cut ourselves off from society,” he says. “We have to live our lives. We also have to understand that we are His ambassadors. We trust the Gospel and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”

ProfileGod has placed believers in different places, and we each have a calling and a destiny where we are, Brooks says. “Everyone needs to find their ‘where.’ God wants to do a phenomenal work,” he says. “I want us to see broken but beautiful cities as gold mines for Jesus. The Gospel works regardless of zip code. Our homes are lighthouses in this dark world.”

In reaching other people, effective ministry is made possible by the richness of one’s own relationship with God, says Brooks. “The fruit of the Spirit is far more important than the gifts of the Spirit,” he says. “I want people to know this Jesus that changed my life. I Corinthians 10:31 says ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ That’s my heart, my passion, my desire.”

Christianity has accomplished great good in the world, Johnston and Brooks emphasize. “The ethics of the Gospel include that every human being carries value,” Brooks says. “We need to pray for the welfare of the city we’re in and embrace the call to creative evangelism. God’s called us to create and not just consume culture. This generation is looking for people who embody the ethics of the Gospel – being committed to not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, and living out the implications of the Gospel in front of a watching world.”

Chris Brooks is the senior pastor of Woodside Bible Church, a multisite congregation across the metro-Detroit area. Brooks hosts “Equipped with Chris Brooks” on Moody Radio. He is the author of “Kingdom Dreaming” and “Urban Apologetics.”

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Finding Your Calling with the Kendrick Brothers

 

How did film directors Stephen and Alex Kendrick find there calling? A great discussion answering your questions as well as what God has called them to do and where their journey has brought them.

The Kendrick brothers discuss their latest film, “Overcomer,” and their path to becoming celebrated filmmakers with Dr. Jeremiah Johnston. Stephen and Alex Kendrick began their path to becoming influential Christian filmmakers as children when they filmed scenes played out in their backyard. As adults, the men entered youth ministry before embarking on their first film project, “Flywheel.”

The initial project was planned as a community outreach that would show in a local theater. The outcome far exceeded the brothers’ expectations, however, and the DVD has sold 1.2 million copies to date. After “Flywheel” came “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof,” “Courageous,” “War Room” and “Overcomer.”

As a practice, the pair have made a film about every two to three years, spending time praying as they prepare for the next one. Their creative process has often been that God inspires Alex with film scenes, and at the same time, Stephen is studying Scriptures that relate. The writing of the film then unfolds, with collaboration together and review from others.

“God puts us in synch in different ways,” Stephen says. “Ultimately, we want God’s fingerprints on everything. We seek to please Him and to tell stories that are relatable.”

Stephen says, “We realized that telling stories – especially if it connects with the audience – is a wonderful form of ministry.”

For “Overcomer,” the brothers explore what it means to have one’s identity rooted in Jesus Christ. They were particularly inspired by Ephesians 1 and 2, in which the Apostle Paul concludes, “In him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

The brothers say their passion remains the Great Commission, and inspiring the Church through their films and accompanying materials to live according to her calling. “It’s been harder super fulfilling and harder than I thought,” Stephen says. “In the end, if we can help people and encourage them with relatable stories, that is success for us.”

Stephen and Alex Kendrick write, produce and direct inspiring, Christian-based films. Their latest film, “Overcomer,” was released in 2019.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Open Doors, Smuggled Bibles, and The Persecuted Christian

 

What are the most dangerous countries for the persecuted Christian? David Curry, CEO of Open Doorslegacy of the book God Smuggleshares what we can learn from oppressed Christians across the world, immediate steps you can take to help, and how Bible smuggling plays into it all.

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston discusses the persecuted Church throughout the world with David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors. The ministry began through a man known as “Brother Andrew” who smuggled Bibles into regions hostile to Christianity.

“We want people to have freedoms and to have a Bible and to decide what they think,” Curry explains. “It makes for a wide-ranging ministry because we’re in 60 countries-plus that have high levels of restriction, and we’re trying to answer the question of what the Church needs in order to be salt and light.”

Johnston and Curry reflect on President Trump’s address to the 74th Assembly of the United Nations in September 2019. Curry confirms the statistic that approximately 250 million people live in areas in which they are persecuted.

“The reality remains this president is speaking out forcibly. Never in my knowledge has a US president spoken at the UN about religious liberty. It is a real issue right now,” Curry says. “It just so happens that Christians are the largest group that is persecuted for their faith.”

Curry illustrates the life of a Christian in North Korea, for example: “Many followers of Jesus Christ in North Korea – if they’re caught with a Bible, sharing about Jesus, singing a song – at a minimum they probably spend the rest of their life in prison, and sometimes worse.”

Curry is inspired by the faithfulness of such believers who remain steadfast, and even joyful. “What I have, they need, but what they’ve learned, I need,” he says.

While many Christians in the West remain unaware of the plight of other members of the Body of Christ, Curry and Johnston invite them to become involved through prayer, giving, volunteering, advocating, and even writing letters of encouragement.

“You can be part of it,” Curry says. “From the very spiritual to the very practical, there’s a lot to do. I stay encouraged because I see a lot of answers to prayer. I know the people and I am excited about what Jesus is doing.”

David Curry is president and CEO of Open Doors. The organization helps further the Gospel message around the world and assists persecuted believers.

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Unanswered Prayers

Unanswered Prayers

September 28, 2019

Dr. Jeremiah Johnston brings up an important issue faced by believers: unanswered prayer. “What about the tension of those who have been walking with the Lord, and yet, their prayers have not been answered, or answered in the way they thought they should have been answered?” he asks.

Johnston notes that the issue of the silence of God is the second most common question he receives. “Many of us have struggled with this concept,” he says. “What does the Bible have to say about the silence of God?”

There are 651 prayers in the Bible, Johnston says, along with commentary about how to pray effectively. Johnston first suggests praying Scripture back to God, as demonstrated by Corrie Ten Boom. He also emphasizes praying in the name of Jesus Christ, and relying on His righteousness.

Some reasons why Christians may experience unanswered prayer include unconfessed sin, lack of faith, wrong motives, pride and selfishness, lack of compassion, lack of marriage/family unity, lack of obedience, and a lack of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Johnston references each reason’s biblical basis.

Johnston says, “There is no such thing as unanswered prayer – just different answers. God always knows what He’s doing. Often, God’s answers are ‘no’ for the bigger ‘yes’ in my life.”

To illustrate, Johnston points to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus asks, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

“The bigger ‘yes’ was the salvation of humanity,” Johnston points out. “Do you see how, sometimes, God is up to something so much bigger? Sometimes, God’s answers are not at all what we would expect. God’s silence for us is real, it’s biblical, it’s personal, it’s common, and it’s not always a bad thing. If you feel God’s silence, you’re not a second-rate Christian. It really comes down to: are you going to trust God to be God in your life?”

The Jeremiah Johnston Show

Is suicide the unforgivable sin?

Is suicide the unforgivable sin?

The number one question Dr. Jeremiah Johnston has received in his ministry is regarding suicide and mental health in the Christian life. “Suicide is in a 30-year high in our nation – we’ve never been more connected but we’ve never been as lonely or isolated,” he says.

Suicide has become the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 19, he says. Rather than avoiding the topic, Johnston urges parents, caregivers, and mentors to address it: “Speaking intelligently about suicide to children and teenagers doesn’t cause it to happen; it prevents it.”

While issues on the mental health spectrum vary, most people will either personally deal with a mental health issue or have a close loved one who does. Handling mental health issues is a conundrum for many Christians, but the Bible has much to say about thinking correctly. “It’s a great book on mental health,” Johnston says. Its most important human subjects confess deep struggles, including Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul.

Adding to the personal anguish many people go through are feelings of guilt that they don’t feel better. It helps to remember “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). In dealing with others who suffering, Johnston reminds listeners not to discount the power of their own words and involvement. “Nonexperts are just as important as experts,” he says. Christians would do well to approach suicide with a spirit of humility, an awareness of false teaching, and a remembrance of God’s great love.

More and more believers are beginning to understand the vital nature of the mental health issue, Johnston says. “When God puts a message on your heart, don’t ever take no for an answer. The church can’t be behind the times on this issue,” he emphasizes. “I truly believe this is a word from God. We don’t have to have a spirit of fear to address any subject.”

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.