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Activist Faith

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I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, America’s “most Bible-minded city” as well as the city with the nation’s highest percentage of church attendance. Yet these accolades offered little help to many of those struggling in the city’s urban center.

For example, during the same year the city was named “most Bible-minded,” public education struggled, gang violence grew and for cities of its size ranked tenth in criminal violence. Clearly, being “Bible-minded” does not quite solve social problems.

If Bible engagement isn’t the answer, what is? From Scripture, the goal is faith in action. Here are five ways our faith can be expressed in practical actions.

1. Be the Answer to Your Own Prayers

We often pray about the problems around us. What would happen if we asked God to help us be the answer to our own prayers?

If we wait for somebody to do something someday, it’s not likely to happen. I must realize I am somebody and I can do something to make a difference.

2. Just Do Something

Too much time is spent deciding how to help or in what area to serve. Instead, just do something. You might totally fail, but at least you are trying.

When the 2010 earthquake destroyed much of Haiti, I felt compelled to go and help. Why? I had just been there a few months earlier. These were people I had met.

I arrived, but really didn’t have any medical expertise. I didn’t have a pile of money to solve major problems. But I was there and I did whatever I could to help.

I ended up doing a variety of work, ranging from carrying the stretchers of amputee victims to sorting medical supplies to distributing aid. It wasn’t pretty, but it helped.

3. Don’t Wait for Permission

Many of our churches and other organizations are set up with far too many ways to tell you no. Instead, find something that does not require permission and start. You may not be able to preach the sermon on Sunday or turn your sanctuary into a homeless shelter, but you can feed one person in need or help a child after school with her homework.

4. Expect Trouble

If you dive in and do something and don’t wait for permission, expect trouble. Someone will tell you, “You can’t do that.” Others will complain about how you help others.

You can tell them, “I can and I will.” To those who complain about how you help, you can tell them, “When you help in this area, you can do it the way you want.”

It’s easy to get discouraged when the people you expect to help or at least support your efforts complain instead. The sooner you realize it’s going to happen no matter what you do and still make a difference anyway, the better off you will be.

5. Treat Everyone Like a Brother or Sister and Act Accordingly

This is my life goal: to view every person I meet as a brother or sister and act accordingly. If I saw my sister on the side of the road begging, I would stop to help. If my brother lost his job or home, I would do whatever I could to pitch in a do something.

People in need around us are exactly that–people. Too often, those in need are treated like projects or pets. Yet the love of Jesus compels us to stop and show compassion.

I love the story of the woman who poured perfume on the head of Jesus. Those around them complained that the woman had been wasteful with her resources. The money for the perfume could have been used to help others in need.

Jesus answered, “She did what she could.” He did not discourage her act of service, even if it looked odd to others. Instead, he encouraged her. The woman’s story is still told today.

May your service to others likewise lead to stories that impact lives today and for generations to come.

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Dr. Dillon Burroughs is one of America’s top communicators on today’s Christian issues. He serves as senior writer of The John Ankerberg Show and is author or coauthor of nearly 40 books. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He lives with his wife and three children in Tennessee.

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At one point in our nation’s history, being called a Christian was a good thing. At some point, the word “Christian” became less desirable for many, leading to alternative terms like Christ follower. Now the trend seems to be to add particular adjectives to define what type of Christian a person is.

For example, you can now be an evangelical Christian, progressive Christian, reformed Christian, mainline Christian, “one of those” Christians, a liberal Christian, or conservative Christian.

Ethnic adjectives are common as well. Typical ones include African American Christians, Hispanic Christians, Asian American Christians, Native American Christians, and even Muslim Background Believers (MBBs).

But such modified language has not always been the case. The origin of the word Christian actually occurs in the book of Acts: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). The word literally means “Christ like” in Greek (some have suggested “little Christ”).

The name arose from the church in Antioch. This location was led by Paul and Barnabas at the time. They taught large numbers of Jews and non-Jews who had believed in Jesus.

They could no longer called them Jewish believers in Jesus as the Messiah or Gentiles who followed Jesus. People from all kinds of backgrounds were turning to faith in Jesus.

The name “Christian” was originally associate with a diverse group of people who followed the teachings of Jesus. I like the sound of that.

Could it be possible to return to the name Christian as it was originally intended?

To do so would require three points of emphasis to fit the Bible’s early context.

First, a Christian is a person who believes in Jesus as the risen Son of God.

This may seem obvious, but is not completely accurate today. Far more than half of Americans claim to be Christians, but a much smaller percentage actually believe in Jesus as God’s risen Son and seek to live according to the New Testament’s teachings.

Second, a Christian is a person who seeks to grow in the teachings of Jesus.

The first Christians were known for gathering together to learn. They were not known for their concerts, food, special events, or service projects. They were known for their dedication to living like Jesus.

In the very first church described in Acts 2:42-47, the first trait noted is devotion to the “apostles’ teaching.” The apostles taught what Jesus had taught them. These principles informed and influenced everything else that took place in the early church–prayer, worship, service, evangelism, baptism, giving, and more. Without growing in the accurate teachings of Jesus, we are truly lacking to follow the original definition of a Christian.

Third, a Christian includes those who follow Jesus from any and all backgrounds.

This is critical to understand. Every white guy is not a Christian. Every Middle Eastern guy is not a Muslim. Every Indian guy is not a Hindu. Each person chooses whether he or she follows Jesus or something or someone else.

Despite the many warning in Scripture not to discriminate, as Christians, we often tend to do it through the very names we give to our particular movements. However, we are not ultimately Red-Letter Christians or progressive Christians or Baptocharismatoanglicanreformed Christians.

Each of us is either a Christian or we are not. Period.

The more we focus on who we are in Christ, the better we will be as Christians.

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Dr. Dillon Burroughs is one of America’s top communicators on today’s Christian issues. He serves as senior writer of The John Ankerberg Show and is author or coauthor of nearly 40 books. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He lives with his wife and three children in Tennessee.

“The God Who Speaks” is a 90-minute documentary released on Feb. 1, 2018, that traces the evidence of the Bible’s authority through interviews with some of the world’s most respected biblical scholars. This film answers common objections about the Bible’s reliability and equips believers to confidently base their lives on the power of God’s Word.

Director M.D. Perkins offered to share his thoughts on important aspects of this newly released documentary. This is part two of a two-part exclusive series. See part one here.

What are some ways Christians can use ‘The God Who Speaks’ to share their faith with others?

Many Christians hear skeptical objections to the reliability of the Bible and kind of lock up, embarrassed that they don’t have an easy answer and are really unsure of how to respond. It doesn’t have to be that way. We will need something more than a bumper sticker slogan if we’re going to give meaningful answers to those questions – and that’s where a resource like The God Who Speaks comes in. The documentary should give viewers a sense of confidence in the evangelical claims about the Bible, while also giving them some places to turn to for additional answers if they want to dig deeper. Confidence is always compelling. Whether you’re talking to a hardened skeptic or a student who has a bunch of questions, knowing more about the origins of the Bible is always helpful.

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Who are some of the experts featured in the documentary? Name a particular expert you really enjoyed interviewing and tell us why.

We talked with longtime pastors like Alistair Begg, Erwin Lutzer and Conrad Mbewe; we talked with top apologists like Josh McDowell, Alex McFarland and Frank Turek; we talked with brilliant Bible scholars like D.A. Carson, Darrell Bock and Ben Witherington III. If I were to highlight one name on the list, it would be Daniel Wallace. Dr. Wallace is perhaps the foremost expert in the world on the New Testament manuscripts, and his research only fuels his love of the Lord. His organization, The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org), is using high-resolution digital photography to document every known Greek New Testament manuscript in the world so that scholars, pastors or anyone with an interest will have the ability to trace the transmission of the New Testament with their own eyes. It is an enormous project and something that will surely be a great benefit to the church for generations to come.

The film was produced by American Family Studios. Tell us more about the studio’s work and why ‘The God Who Speaks’ was created.

American Family Studios is a division of the American Family Association, so we very much adhere to AFA’s mission to motivate, equip and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture and to aid the church in its fulfilling of the Great Commission. Both of those goals are met with a project like this. More personally, we love the Bible and we love the Lord, and we thought it was time that Christians had a resource that spoke directly to them about the reliability of the Bible. We’ve heard from the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Time Magazine, but what is the Christian response?

What will people take away after watching ‘The God Who Speaks’?

The Bible is the revelation of the Creator and a call to follow Him in obedience. At the very least, I hope viewers are encouraged and emboldened to seek the God who has revealed Himself in His Word. It isn’t enough for us to simply admire the Scriptures from a safe distance; God intended for us to take His words and live upon them. If we grow at all in our confidence in the Bible, it should lead us to humility, praise and joyful obedience.

What’s next for you and American Family Studios?

American Family Studios will continue in our mission of advancing the Christian worldview into an increasingly media saturated culture by creating The God Who Speaks: Sunday School Kit. This will be an eight-week curriculum developed especially for church classes and small groups, culled from the over 30 hours of interview footage from The God Who Speaks. It is quite unique in that the filmmakers are also responsible for the curriculum, so the Sunday School Kit should prove to be a wonderful continuation of the content from the documentary. In each 30-minute session, participants will learn about the Bible and its history from the 23 documentary contributors, along with a few comments from myself to help setup each section of clips. Those who watch will get more time in the material, more information overall and a fuller sense of the amazing story behind how we got the Bible and why it matters. Look for it in April or May of 2018.

(M.D. Perkins, director of ‘The God Who Speaks,’ is a filmmaker and writer with American Family Studios. ‘The God Who Speaks’ was produced by American Family Studios, a division of American Family Association. The mission of the American Family Association is to inform, equip and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.)

 

 

“The God Who Speaks” is a 90-minute documentary released on Feb. 1, 2018, that traces the evidence of the Bible’s authority through interviews with some of the world’s most respected biblical scholars. This film answers common objections about the Bible’s reliability and equips believers to confidently base their lives on the power of God’s Word.

Director M.D. Perkins offered to share his thoughts on important aspects of this newly-released documentary. This is part one of a two-part exclusive series.

In ‘The God Who Speaks,’ there is the mention of a battle for the truth. What does this mean? What kind of battle exists regarding God today?

There are and always have been battles for the truth, particularly for what the Bible is and what it claims. People are very comfortable with the idea of the Bible as an ancient text that describes how an ancient people thought about God and religion. They are not comfortable at all saying that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and has binding authority on us today. But that’s exactly what the Bible claims and what the Christian church – when she’s been healthy – has believed for generations. In many ways it is a spiritual battle – it isn’t purely intellectual – and it’s ultimately a battle over the foundation of truth. Am I the ultimate arbiter of truth and morality or is there an authority outside of me?

The question of God speaking to humanity is enduring and important. How does the documentary address how we can know there is a God who has revealed Himself to us?

The God Who Speaks doesn’t deal directly with the arguments for God’s existence – there are already some great resources by Frank Turek (www.crossexamined.org) and others that deal with that – but we do deal with questions about the knowability of God. If God is transcendent, eternal and bigger than even our highest thoughts of Him, can we legitimately claim to know Him at all? It’s false humility to think that God cannot be known at all because He’s transcendent. First of all, the whole notion of a transcendent Creator comes out of the Scriptures themselves. Furthermore, the existence of the Scriptures – if they are true – points out that God desires to be known. Even the existence of language testifies to that desire to communicate meaning and intention. Where does language come from and what makes it essential for human life? The Bible’s account of God as Creator gives a more consistent and, dare I say, reasonable answer to that question than naturalism ever could.

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The documentary mentions many churches have lost confidence in the Bible’s divine authorship. Why do you think this is the case? How does this film help?

Some in the church have lost confidence in the Bible because they have lost confidence in God. There are attacks from liberal theologians and attacks from skeptics – and those things are legitimately wearying and have done damage to the church. But underneath the church’s departure is a heart issue. Do we truly cherish Christ or do we love ourselves? Do we say, like the apostles, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life!” (John 6:68)? It’s no secret that the evangelical church has enjoyed many privileges in America. But in our privilege, we have become complacent in many ways, enjoying God’s blessings of financial prosperity, religious liberty and a general cultural acceptance of Christian values and moral standards. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying God’s blessings but when you cherish the gifts over the Giver of the gifts, spiritual drift has set in. And when we grow complacent, we grow cowardly and ineffective. The God Who Speaks is just a movie. It cannot bring lasting change to this situation. But hopefully what it can do is to remind Christians across the country of what we lose when we loosen our grip on God and His truth, when we trust ourselves over the proven faithfulness of our Redeemer.

What are a few of the common objections to the Bible’s reliability addressed in the film?

There are many common objections that get touted often on social media and the internet, objections like “How can we be sure the wording of Scripture hasn’t been changed over all these years?,” “Who is responsible for picking the books that make up our Bible?” or “What do we do with these other ancient works that claim to be gospels that aren’t included in the Bible?” There are legitimate, well-documented answers to all those objections that affirm what Christians have claimed for centuries and we talk about that in the documentary.

The God Who Speaks features interview footage with the late R.C. Sproul, perhaps his last recorded video. In what ways do you hope the film communicates his legacy of spiritual truth?

Dr. Sproul’s teaching has been such a help to me personally throughout the years and it was an incredible honor to get even a short snippet of time with him before he passed away. R.C. has always been very clear on the authority of God’s Word because he has maintained – throughout his ministry – such amazing reverence for God. But there’s something that was immediately evident when he sat down with us to be interviewed that day: R.C. Sproul had a deep love for the Lord. I know that part of the reason he agreed to participate in the documentary was because he loves God and he loves the church and he wanted to do everything he could to help the church be clear about the central role the Scriptures should have in our worship, in our apologetics, in our evangelism and in our personal lives. That certainly was our goal in making The God Who Speaks and we trust that the Lord will use it to that end.

(M.D. Perkins, director of ‘The God Who Speaks,’ is a filmmaker and writer with American Family Studios. ‘The God Who Speaks’ was produced by American Family Studios, a division of American Family Association. The mission of the American Family Association is to inform, equip and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission.)