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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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    • Amazing: Poll Finds 0% Of Christian Men Are Addicted To Porn

      Brought to you by: The post Amazing: Poll Finds 0% Of Christian Men Are Addicted To Porn appeared first on The Babylon Bee. View the original full article

      in Christian Satire

    • The Amazing Opportunity for Church Planting in the ‘Migrant Crisis’

      In last few years, the so-called migrant crisis has dominated the news. Millions of people have been displaced from their home countries, primarily due to war or economic trouble. Given the sheer scale of this phenomenon, it’s right that it be labeled a crisis. But, as we ought to do with all cultural phenomena, the church must ask: How should we respond? Regardless of your political views, in light of the mandate to take the gospel to the nations, the church ought to see the so-called migrant crisis as an amazing gospel opportunity. It’s a chance to display the kind of hospitality and welcome that the King has extended to us. In the gospel, we were the stranger with no homeland, but Jesus made us citizens of his glorious kingdom—all by his grace and mercy. As Christ’s people, we should be marked by that kind of love. A number of churches in Italy are responding as such. Today, I have Rob Krause with me on the podcast to talk about church planting and ministry among migrants in Italy. You can listen to this podcast episode here. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • The Amazing Story of Frank Barker and Campus Outreach

      More than 20 years ago, Olan Stubbs was trying to share his faith with two guys in his freshman class at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. It wasn’t working. One sat on the dorm steps outside and smoked weed. When Stubbs attempted to explain verses to him, he said he didn’t believe the Bible. The other was a football player “who could articulate the gospel better than I could. But he was often coming in late at night, drunk. Obviously there was some kind of disconnect.” Stubbs didn’t know what to say or do. Then he heard about two RAs on the second floor who were leading a Bible study. They’d led someone he knew to Christ. “I’d love to learn how to share my faith like you guys are doing,” he told them. They handed him a booklet by Navigators founder Dawson Trotman and told him to “get involved in Campus Outreach.” Campus Outreach was famous for its evangelism, founded by a church famous for its evangelism, planted by a man famous for his evangelism. Stubbs was hooked. Today, he’s one of nearly 750 Campus Outreach staff serving on 122 campuses in 11 countries. In its 40 years, Campus Outreach has seen 55,000 students at evangelistic events. Staff and volunteers have discipled 15,000 students over weekly Bible studies and worship times—1,447 of them have gone on to serve in ministry or missions. Over the last 12 months alone, 712 students have professed their faith in Christ. Stubbs works at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, where Campus Outreach began. The church was planted in 1960 and grew to 4,000 members largely on the strength of personal evangelism. “The Great Commission has been our heartbeat,” the website says, and it’s not kidding: Briarwood partners with more than 100 mission boards and organizations and more than 300 ministry staff. Briarwood got that heartbeat from its founder. “If you meet a Christian in Birmingham who is 60 or older, and you ask them how they came to Christ, I’d bet my money that at some point they’ll mention Frank Barker,” Stubbs said. The 86-year-old Barker has led many thousands to Christ—his daughter Peggy Townes estimated 10,000 personally and hundreds of thousands through his ministries. But it wasn’t because he loved talking to people. He’s not a gregarious personality or even a compelling speaker. “I’d like to just settle in and read a book,” he said. “But the Bible tells us to reach out to others, so I had to discipline myself to do that.” Turns out, that was catching. Later to Faith than to Ministry Barker came to ministry late, and to faith even later. Beginning in high school, “I was living a pretty wild life morally,” Barker told TGC. From lying to his parents to throwing eggs at people to drinking too much (and then driving), Barker knew he wasn’t living a good life, but couldn’t pull himself out of it. Playing tennis restricted his rowdiness, but not a lot and not for long. He went to college on an ROTC scholarship, then became a jet pilot in the United States Navy. One weekend, while in flight training school, “I came back up to Birmingham and had a wild weekend,” Barker said. Barker spent four years as a jet pilot in the United States Navy. / Courtesy of Peggy Townes On his way back to Pensacola, he fell asleep at the wheel, and when the road curved, his car sped onto a rutted-out dirt road. When he finally got the car stopped, the headlights picked up a sign nailed to a tree: “The wages of sin is death.” “I thought, You know what? I think God is trying to tell me something,” he said. “I started trying to straighten up. I felt I’d been so bad that if I was going to get to heaven, I was going to need to be a preacher.” Barker kept swinging between resolving to do better and partying until one night, when he felt God was actually listening to the rote prayer he tossed up. He told God he wanted to follow him. Barker began to stay home from the wild nights with his friends; after his tour of duty, he enrolled at Columbia Theological Seminary. A month in, he inherited from his roommate a preaching gig at an Alabama church. “The first year, nothing particularly good happened,” he said. “At the end of that year, I thought, Something’s wrong. I wonder if I’m really a Christian.” It was an awkward question to ask his professors or congregants, but he knew an Air Force chaplain, and asked him. (“Joe, how can I make sure I’m a Christian?”) The chaplain gave Barker a tract and told him to put his trust in Jesus and receive salvation as a gift. “That’s wrong,” Barker told him. “God’s not going to just give this thing away! You’ve got to work for it.” The chaplain insisted, and Barker began to realize “I had totally missed that salvation was about grace. I surrendered my will and transferred my trust from me to Christ. When I did that, life began to change dramatically.” Storefront Church Among the first people Barker tried to evangelize were his parents, who were already saved. Then he told his sister, who accepted Christ. He told the handyman. He told his friends. He told his congregation, which began to grow. After seminary, the Birmingham presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States asked Barker if he’d organize a new church in the rapidly developing area of Cahaba Heights. Intent on a PhD, he told them no. They asked for the summer. Just the summer, he agreed. Barker knocked on doors and found so much interest in a new congregation that he skipped the Bible study stage of church planting and went right to the rented building, setting up in an old barber shop in a strip mall. That first Sunday, 70 people showed up. Three months in, Briarwood Presbyterian Church was chartered with 90 members. Barker packed out the storefront church. Three years in, with 290 members, Briarwood moved into its own facility that could fit 400. A few years later, a 1,000-seat sanctuary was added. In 1988, Briarwood moved into a facility that could fit 4,000. By the time Barker retired in 1998, membership had grown that large. But they weren’t necessarily drawn in by the preaching. ‘Kind of Boring’ “My father was not a dynamic orator by any means,” Townes said. “He’d shuffle up to the pulpit and say, ‘Uh, turn in your Bibles to 1 John 3,’ and then quietly read it and start preaching. There was nothing dynamic or big about it.” “When I first visited Briarwood as a freshman in college, I was like, ‘This guy’s kind of boring,’” Stubbs said. But Barker had the zeal of a new convert and the discipline of a Navy pilot. “I had to train myself” to evangelize, Barker said. “You know, you get on an airplane thinking about the person you’re going to be sitting next to.” At first, he didn’t know how to share his faith—“I didn’t learn it in seminary”—so he just kept telling the story of his own conversion. “A lot of people in the 1960s could really identify with that, because they had a religious worldview: ‘There is a God, and I’m supposed to be a good person,’” Stubbs said. After Briarwood packed out the storefront, the church moved to its own facility. / Courtesy of Peggy Townes “Religion was very accepted, but such a private thing,” Townes said. “And then all of a sudden there were people who had grown up in religious homes and religious society saying they’d become Christians. . . . Adults who’d always thought they were Christians because they were moral people were suddenly being transformed by the gospel. It was an explosion.” Though some who came to Briarwood were already Christians, most “joined because Frank led them to Christ,” said National Christian Foundation Alabama president Tom Bradford, who has been friends with Barker for 50 years. (They still play tennis together three days a week.) “He was not only evangelistic, but real strong in Bible teaching and small groups,” Bradford said. “He was teaching probably five or six Bible classes a week himself.” (At one of those Bible studies, Barker led Bradford to Christ.) Two nights a week, the Bible studies were at Barker’s house. “I’m talking anywhere from 15 to 60 people,” Townes said. “People were everywhere—sitting on the floor.” Barker would lead the Bible study; his wife, Barbara, would sing; and someone would share their testimony. “We trained people to do that using Campus Crusade and Evangelism Explosion,” Barker said. “Every Wednesday night we would have evangelism training, and then go out and call on people.” The conversions built on each other—as nonbelievers came to Christ, excitement grew. “I was 29 when I came to Christ, and so excited about my newfound faith that it was easy for me to talk to people about it,” Bradford said. As he and others watched Barker—and then each other—share testimonies and talk about the gospel, they began to do it too. “There was just a culture at Briarwood that if you came to Christ, you started sharing your faith,” Stubbs said. Barker’s testimony, in particular, kept growing. 50-50 Rule Barker grew up in an influential Birmingham home, but decided before he was married that he’d make “what any financial adviser would say were very foolish financial decisions,” Townes said. “He decided he would give in such a way that he had to live by faith. We grew up knowing we didn’t go to Mom or Dad for our needs. We went to the Lord.” Every year, Barker increased the percent of his salary he was giving to God. His stories of financial providence—the gift of a car when his broke down, checks arriving in the nick of time—sound like those of George Müller, who cared for thousands of orphans in 19th-century England without ever asking for money or going into debt. Frank and Barbara Barker / Courtesy of Peggy Townes Barker told those stories to Briarwood, which thrilled to God’s providence and followed Barker into radical giving. The church set up a 50–50 rule, where every dollar spent on Briarwood would be matched by another spent on outside ministries. It took them seven years to get there. But since then, Briarwood has hit that goal almost every year. Some years, it even exceeds it. (“We don’t do a savings-and-loan thing and carry money over to the next year,” current Briarwood senior pastor and TGC Council member Harry Reeder said. “Instead, we take any excess giving and do special outreach projects.”) In addition, Barker began taking an annual global mission offering. Last year at Briarwood, that $2.7 million offering funded about 250 missionary families and agencies in 68 countries. Those missionaries shared the gospel more than 182,000 times, led almost 40,000 people to Christ, and planted or worked to revitalize almost 700 churches. The global missions offering is on top of the regular tithing, which supports local, regional, and national missions. Staff used to joke that “the strength and weakness of Barker is that anybody could walk into his office with any vision to reach lost people—say, to reach left-handed people—and Rev. Barker would say, ‘Great. Let’s get you some money and try it,’” Stubbs said. That’s how Briarwood ended up with more than 120 ministries, Stubbs said. “Some exceeded expectations, some didn’t.” A handful were enormously successful—the ballet school started by Barbara, a Christian school, a seminary, a summer camp for children, a medical professionals ministry, a business leaders ministry. And Campus Outreach. 40 Years Old Campus Outreach was born out of answered prayer—but not Barker’s. Uncharacteristically, he had no faith that God would save Tom Caradine. “I was disgusted with [Tom],” Barker said with a small, self-deprecating smile. “But my wife really cared for him.” Barbara would buy handkerchiefs once a month from the clothing store where the teen worked; he’d call her to talk about girlfriend problems. “Only problem was, it would be 2 a.m. in the morning and he’d be drunk,” Barker remembered. “When are you going to quit wasting time with that no-good bum?” Barker asked his wife. “He’s going to become a Christian,” she told him. “No, he’s not.” “I’m praying for him.” “That one will not be answered,” Barker recalled saying, chuckling at himself. “How’s that for spiritual attitude?” Caradine did become a Christian—and let the Barkers know with a late-night phone call. His senior year, he began reaching out to his classmates at Samford. After graduation, he and classmate Curtis Tanner came on staff at Briarwood as pastors to the campus. They called it Campus Outreach. The two branched out to other schools in Alabama; in 1988, they left the state and started a franchise in Georgia. Now Campus Outreach is as far north as Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis and as far east as Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; its 18 international campuses stretch from New Zealand to Peru. Campus Outreach Diversity Summit 2016 / Courtesy of Campus Outreach “Personal evangelism is what made Rev. Barker so effective, and by God’s grace we’ve been able to maintain that in Campus Outreach,” Stubbs said. He ran into that as a freshman, when he got on the bus for his first Campus Outreach conference and the student next to him immediately began sharing his faith. “I was like, ‘Hey, that’s great. The whole reason I’m here is to learn how to share my faith,’” Stubbs said. He and the other student spent their free time at the conference practicing sharing their faith with strangers. Another way Campus Outreach looks like Barker is its commitment to the local church. The chapters of Campus Outreach aren’t formally connected; each does its own work completely under the authority of a local church near a university. Campus Outreach Birmingham starts new chapters with seed money and staff, then backs itself out as the church gradually takes over. Barker did the same thing, but with people. “Mrs. Barker used to get frustrated because Rev. Barker would lead people to Christ, and then they’d go to a different church,” Stubbs said. Barker told her, “I’m not trying to build my church. I’m trying to build the kingdom.” Barker was also generous with finances and access to donors. Often, when parachurch organizations approach pastors for help, most “don’t want to lose the time and money of their leaders,” Bradford said. “Frank would say, ‘Oh, man, that’s great. Let me give you some names.’” Harry Reeder took over at Briarwood in 1999. / Courtesy of Peggy Townes Barker was even open-handed with Briarwood itself. “He stepped down at 68 years old, when he was at the height of his ministry,” Townes said. “He saw other large churches where the senior pastor stayed a little too long. He said, ‘I don’t want to do that to Briarwood.’ A transition team was formed, and he completely submitted to them.” Briarwood called Reeder, who had planted Christ Covenant Church in Charlotte out of Briarwood in 1983. Happy where he was, Reeder said no seven times before he said yes. “Frank called me and said, ‘We want you to know that Barbara and I would be willing to move away from Birmingham’” if it would make the transition easier, Reeder remembers. Instead, Reeder asked him to stay as pastor emeritus. “I’ve always told everyone, ‘If the Lord did not bless the transition, it would not be Frank’s fault,’” Reeder said. “Frank’s character and humility are such that I had no doubt he’d be supportive and encouraging. Not only has his presence not been a liability—it’s been an asset. I’ve always been grateful for that.” Meat and Potatoes Barker has “a genuine gospel-driven humility that is combined with an unrelenting trust in Jesus Christ to do the work,” TGC Council member emeritus Sandy Willson said. Willson discovered the secret to Barker’s ministry when rooming with him in a hotel once. “When you’re his roommate, you see he’s a man of prayer,” Willson said. “If you want to know how a person who puts everything on the lower shelf, a person who doesn’t seem to be a sizzling orator, is used to grow a 4,000-member church—it’s God. It’s a man who knows God.” Barker now leads Bible studies in his retirement home. / Courtesy of Peggy Townes When pastor Randy Pope was heading to Atlanta to plant Perimeter Church in 1977, Barker pulled him aside. “He gave me some strong marching orders: ‘Don’t ever let a year in the life of your church go by that you are not personally equipping the people of your church to share their faith,'” Pope said. “It is the greatest advice I could have ever received.” Willson also remembers getting counsel from Barker decades ago. “The advice he gave me was basically: ‘Just have people over to your house for a covered-dish dinner and share the gospel with them and teach them the Bible,’” said Willson, chuckling at the simplicity. “A covered-dish dinner!” It’s the advice Barker still gives. “I would tell [young pastors] to begin to train [their congregations] in personal evangelism,” Barker told TGC this fall. “You can start small groups and meet in homes for Bible study, that type of thing. . . . Have everybody invite somebody. We did that for many years, and it worked pretty well.” “There’s nothing exotic about Briarwood,” Reeder said. “We’re just meat-and-potatoes.” And yet—there is a little bit of secret sauce. Reformed Theological Seminary chancellor emeritus Ric Cannada has been watching Barker since Cannada first entered the ministry. “I think it’s his example,” Cannada said. “You can teach evangelism, but it’s largely caught. When you’re around Frank and seeing how he does it naturally and easily—it’s catching.” View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • Grace re-defined - it is truly amazing

      Grace re-defined - it is truly amazing   1 Tim 1:14 The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (no grace, faith or love apart from Jesus Christ). John 1:14-16 The Word (Jesus Christ)...from (or out of) His fullness we have all ESV  received, grace upon grace. (Jesus, the word, is the grace of God, hence:)   We are being saved, initially by being born again, from sin’s penalty and power, by grace:   Eph 2:8 For by grace you are (being) saved (from sin’s penalty and power) through faith…(since it is through faith that we are being saved by grace, then grace must be something we can believe – yes, it is the word of God – hence:) KJV Acts 20:24 ...Testify to the gospel of the grace of God (God’s words are His grace, so:) 1 Pe 1:23 Being born again (initial salvation)…by the word of God…(by grace) KJV   Once born again we Christians are intended to, and need to, continually grow in grace:   2 Pe 3:18 But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (how do we grow in grace?) 1 Per 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, (we grow in grace by believing more of the word of God) Acts 20:32 Now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, KJV which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (freed from sin, made holy, like Christ - by His word)   Grace is multiplied to us, how, through our increasing knowledge, better knowing, of God:   2 Pe 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God... KJV (What exactly is the knowledge - the increased knowing - of God?) Prov 2:1-5 My son if you receive my words…then you will...find the knowledge of God (we increase in knowing God as our hearts receive, that is believe, more of His words - in other words by receiving more of God’s grace. Therefore grace is multiplied to us as our hearts receive more of God’s words).   Grace literally means “The gift of God” as in “God giving the gift of Himself”:   Eph 2:8 For by grace you are (being) saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (but isn’t Jesus the gift of God?) KJV John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you…” (here Jesus identified Himself as the gift of God) Rom 5:15 But the free gift…the grace of God…Jesus Christ…(Jesus, the Word of God, the nature of the Father, is the free gift, that is, He is the grace of God). Titus 2:11 For the grace of God (Jesus) has appeared bringing salvation to all men, Eph 4:7 But unto every one of us grace is given according to the measure of (in KJV direct proportion to our willingness to receive) the gift of Christ (God’s word). Rom 5:17 ...Those who receive abundance of grace (God’s words - Christ) and (abundance) of the gift of righteousness (God’s words - Christ) will reign in life (over their three enemies) by the One, Jesus Christ (God’s word).   Where do we receive this gift of the grace, the word of God, Jesus Christ? In our spirits:   Gal 6:18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philem 25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. 2 Tim 4:22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen. Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...with grace in your hearts...   Who brings us more of the grace of God, the word of God, Jesus? The Spirit of grace:   Heb 10:29 ...The Spirit of grace. John 16:13 ...The Spirit of truth... Your word is truth (Jo 17:17) The Spirit of the word. Rom 8:9 ...The Spirit of Christ...(God’s Spirit brings us the grace, word, Christ of God)   Based on this can we now re-define Grace? Yes, and it is way more than unmerited favor:   Grace is God’s progressive gift of Himself to us, brought to us by His Spirit in His living words as our hearts believe them. And since Jesus Christ is the living word of God:   Jesus Christ is God’s Grace, the ongoing free gift of the nature of God, to anyone whose heart believes more of His Holy Spirit breathed words.   God’s First Covenant with the Human Race:   LAW is the word of God - without the Holy Spirit: It is understandable by the human intellect. But it is the strength of sin (1Co 15:56) because human nature can’t keep it.   God’s New Covenant with the Human Race – and which replaces the First Covenant:   GRACE is the word of God (as law is) – but now made living by the Holy Spirit: It is understandable first, only by the re-born human spirit, that is, the heart. It is the impartation of the Divine Nature of Jesus Christ needed for salvation.   Eph 2:8 For by grace (living words, the nature of Christ) you are (being) saved (made like Christ) through faith (as we believe them in our hearts, our spirits) Eph 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but only such words as are good for building others up (spiritually, in the knowledge of God) that they (your words) may (by God’s Spirit) impart grace (Christ) to the hearers.   God bless you, and may…   The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all… (2 Cor 13:14)

      in Devotionals

    • Crowd Sings 'Amazing Grace' After Trump Stops Rally, Urges Prayer for Woman Who Fainted

      President Donald Trump stepped away from his microphone and remained silent except to urge calm and prayers Monday after a woman fainted at a rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. His supporters responded by singing "Amazing Grace" and many are now praising him for the tender moment. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

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