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What Jonah teaches us about evangelism

International (MNN) — Too often, the Old Testament is treated as though it has little to say to Christians today. But Chris Lang of Frontiers USA says these stories can actually teach us a lot about ourselves.

Photo courtesy of Frontiers USA.

(Photo courtesy of Frontiers USA)

Lang is the Director of Mobilization for Frontiers. His job is to bring people together who have a heart for reaching Muslims with the Gospel.

Muslims are more open to the Gospel now than they ever have been. Lang shares the rate at which people have been coming to Christ in the last few decades is unlike anything we’ve seen in history. Some of it is due to the harsh realities of the last few years. Refugees are coming from closed countries to escape violence and are hearing about Jesus for the first time.

Obviously, not everyone feels specifically called to be a part of what Frontiers is doing. Yet, all of Christ’s followers have been called to share the Gospel with the lost. If we are reluctant to reach out to certain people who cross our paths, we need to ask ourselves, why?

This is where Jonah’s story comes in. Lang says his story might help us see why Christians, particularly in the United States, are reluctant to reach out to their Muslim neighbors.

Photo courtesy of Frontiers USA.

(Photo courtesy of Frontiers USA)

Lang says, “I think many of the idols Jonah was wrestling with in his own day are the same idols we’re wrestling with in America today.”

God calls Jonah to preach a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was a great city of the Assyrians — Israel’s enemy. As we know, he’s against the idea.

“Most people assume it’s because he’s afraid — he’s afraid of losing his life. He was afraid, but it wasn’t for his own safety. He was afraid he would succeed — he was afraid that God would be gracious toward his enemies and he didn’t want to see that happen.”

Through a series of events, Jonah finally arrives at the city and tells them to repent.

“Jonah is concerned with his national identity and his national security. So, Jonah doesn’t want to speak to the Ninevites for fear that Israel would be overtaken by them. He wants to protect Israel and he feels that if he does not speak this message, that God will have to judge them.”

The point is Jonah valued these things over the salvation of lost people. At the end of this story, God’s will is done, and Jonah is very bitter. He’s not the greatest role model when it comes to missions.

Lang points out some similarities between Jonah and Jesus. Both are from Galilee. Both are Prophets. And yet while Jonah goes outside the city gates and waits for three days to see if God will destroy Nineveh, Jesus goes out of the city gates to suffer for our sins.

The startling conclusion?

“The Gospel does not call us to look to our own safety or security. The Gospel consistently calls us to model our lives on Jesus, and Jesus’ life was not a life of security and safety, but just the opposite. It’s a life of sacrifice and suffering.”

Photo courtesy of Frontiers USA.

(Photo courtesy of Frontiers USA)

Lang reminds us that the things we care about — safety and security — can be entrusted to God even when His plans are scary. It’s part of prioritizing God’s values above our own.

This isn’t a call to hardship, but a call to bleed compassion and gratitude. That is why Lang does what he does:

“God sacrificed everything to have a relationship with me. And He asks me to follow Him and to give my heart to Him. And that’s what I want to do, I want to follow Him and I want to be obedient to what He’s calling me to do. And He’s calling me to serve the nations and to see the Gospel move forward specifically in Muslim nations.”

According to Frontiers USA, there are about one billion Muslims who are considered unreached with the Gospel. There are over 1,000 Muslim people groups that have no Christian witness in their midst.

Pray for Zero is an initiative with Frontiers to have zero unreached and unengaged people groups by 2025. It’s an easy way for you to get involved with what Frontiers is doing. Click here!

There are many other ways you can get involved, just take a look at their website. But Lang says the most important thing is to be a good neighbor.

“The thing I would like to encourage people to do is simply walk across the street and meet a Muslim neighbor. So just reach out on a personal level and get to know the people.”

Chibok school girls and what’s ahead

Nigeria (MNN) — Nigeria is abuzz with excitement over the 21 Chibok school girls who were returned to their families earlier this month. But after two and a half years, there are still over 200 girls in captivity and many questions about the future.

Open Doors workers brining hope to the persecuted Church through Psalm 23 bracelets (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Open Doors workers bringing hope to the persecuted Church through Psalm 23 bracelets. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Open Doors USA has been working with the families of the missing girls for the last couple of years. Emily Fuentes of Open Doors says the families who’ve been reunited with their girls are grateful to have them home again. Many of them are thanking God. However, they recognize that there is a long road ahead.

Fuentes says just as faith in God sustained many of these families during this time, it is key to helping the girls in the future.

“Meeting with Christians like this who know this is a reality, we’ve heard from them just how the actual persecution refines their faith. Going through something like this, really having to make a choice for their faith, has caused them to think deeply about how they’re living their faith in their daily lives.”

But just because they’re leaning on their faith does not mean there won’t be trials ahead.

Fuentes says, “Untreated, a traumatic situation like this can cause a lot of harm down the road. So that’s why Open Doors is such an advocate and provides resources for trauma counseling after horrific incidences like this, or church attacks, or other violent attacks.”

This counseling is vital for their spiritual journey, she says.

Nigeria is number 12 on the World Watch List for persecution. Fuentes says these violent attacks take place all the time. That’s why counseling is one of their focuses in the country.

The attack in April 2014 caught the world's attention. (Photo courtesy of Michael Fleshman via Flickr:

The attack in April 2014 caught the world’s attention. (Photo courtesy of Michael Fleshman via Flickr:

While most Boko Haram activity fails to catch the attention of the West, the 2014 kidnapping of 276 girls did.

“It really touched the hearts of Americans and many others throughout the world when it first happened. But, as any tragedy that goes on for years, it’s not at the front of our minds anymore,” Fuentes says.

But these types of kidnappings and violent attacks are really quite common. Fuentes says Christian girls who are going to school are a huge target. First it’s because their religion is abhorred by Boko Haram as being Western-based. Second, they are women pursuing an education.

So, what can we do?

*Hannah was kidnapped by Boko Haram and escaped. Her story reminds us that these attacks are very common. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA).

Hannah was kidnapped by Boko Haram and escaped. Her story reminds us these attacks are very common. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA).

One practical thing, Fuentes says, is to contact our elected officials and urge them to pressure the Nigerian government to work to prevent these attacks. Open Doors often has petitions for this reason, so check back with them often.

But more importantly, we can pray — for the girls who have been returned, for the girls still in captivity, and the families who are still waiting.

“It is important for us to be praying for them daily — to be praying for families who saw the other families reunited with the girls, but still don’t know the status of their own daughters.”

Audio Bibles critical for spiritual growth among the Blind

India (MNN) — The month of October is associated with a myriad of things, from pumpkins and apples to stockings and sweaters. But did you know October is also Blindness Awareness Month?

Taylor Ely with Audio Scripture Ministries (ASM) explains the history behind the designation: “Blindness Awareness Month came about through a nonprofit called The Little Rock Foundation. It’s a nonprofit that’s dedicated to improving the lives of the Blind. So they initiated a bill that would establish October as Blindness Awareness Month.”

(Photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)

(Photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)

For Audio Scripture Ministries, part of their outreach is distributing audio Bibles to oral communities, especially in India, and that includes giving audio Bibles to the Blind. In light of Blindness Awareness Month, ASM is highlighting a current audio Bibles campaign.

Ely shares, “We have a campaign, the Ron Beery Memorial Fund, which is basically dedicated to having audio Bibles sent. One hundred percent of the funds go towards audio Bibles. So we’re raising money for that campaign, and though it’s not directly focused on just reaching the Blind, the Blind are a large population we do reach as a ministry.”

ASM’s goal is to fund 18,000 audio Bibles within the next year. It costs $35 for each audio Bible player to be purchased, formatted, and shipped. So to cover 18,000 audio Bibles, it will require raising $630,000.

The need for audio Bibles in India, especially for the Blind population, is great. After all, India has one of the largest populations of Blind people in the world.

ASM’s JP Sundararajan says when the ministry first started working with the Blind in India, they learned a lot about the unique needs of the Blind community.

“We were always curious about the plight of the visually impaired and the Blind in India, but I was not aware that a lot of the Blind we work with, they were not born that way. In India, oftentimes health concerns, diabetes, and a variety of other issues cause people to go blind in later stages of life, so middle age and onwards. So in some cases, people basically are able to see one day, and then they wake up the next morning unable to.”

Learning to read Braille later in life is difficult, and even if you can, the Braille Bibles are inconvenient. JP Sundararajan with ASM gives the example of the Indian Tamil Bible.

“The Tamil Braille Bible is about 40 volumes thick, and if you were to stack it, it’s about seven-feet tall. Most often, people who are unable to see are unable to read. And if, perchance, you are able to read, you probably don’t have enough money to buy the Bible. And if you qualify on both those accounts, you don’t have room to store those Bibles. So the Blind have been contacting our office in India and saying, ‘Could you do a distribution amongst us?’”

(Photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)

(Photo courtesy of Audio Scripture Ministries)

A few years ago, Sundararajan experienced his first distribution of audio Bibles to the Blind with ASM, and it was a moving experience. They traveled to a small town in southern India.

“We gathered with about 50 or 60 of our Blind brothers and sisters and it was amazing because they had their entire community. They had a praise and worship team that was completely visually impaired; they had a pastor who held this event in his church, also visually impaired.

“You would call their names out and they would stand up and then you would go and give them the Bible. And we had explicit instructions stating that as soon as you get your Bible, please don’t turn it on yet, because when you have a room full of people who cannot see you, everything you do has to be done in a choreographed fashion.”

He continues, “After everybody has gotten their audio Bibles, we invite them to take the Bibles out of their boxes…. We invite them to find the top left corner where the power button is, and we say, ‘Okay, do you find it? Now press and hold it down for three seconds until you hear a tiny little beep.’ And then this room is just dead silent. And then you hear this series of beeps just ripple through the room.”

“Then we invite them to turn their audio Bibles on. And in one fell swoop, the entire room is filled with Scripture.”

While Sundararajan’s initial distribution was on a smaller scale of 50 to 60 people, the next week ASM’s team went back to a nearby town. He says that time, around 1,500 Blind people had gathered for a chance to receive and hear God’s Word.

In addition to giving a Blind person access to Scripture, audio Bibles also represent a chance at greater independence and human dignity in their journey of faith.

Sundararajan explains, “More often than not, they do want to read Scripture. A lot of them are Christian brothers and sisters who come from churches who now cannot have access to God’s Word. So they have to invite parents or other people, inconvenience the others — or at least they feel that way — to sit next to them and read Scripture.


(Photo courtesy of ASM)

“When you give them God’s Word in this form, they now have access to it anytime they want and they don’t feel like they’re a burden to anyone else. So for me, it was just beautiful to see these beautiful people come.”

Click here if you’d like to give to the Ron Beery Memorial Fund with ASM! Just $35 makes sure someone, like the Blind in India, gets their personal copy of God’s Word in audio.

In addition to giving, Ely shares how believers can pray during Blindness Awareness Month:

“I think a great way that people could pray is for awareness. Since working with ASM, I’ve gotten to learn so much about oral cultures and just the storytelling that has to take place for a lot of people to even come to know the Gospel, or hearing the Gospel through an audio Bible…but also the Blind — just the people that are really on God’s heart, to be reached.”

If you’d like to learn more about ASM online, click here. You can also follow ASM on Facebook for ministry updates!

The Importance of Voting

Radio host John Stonestreet and public policy analyst Carrie Gordon Earll discuss our civic responsibility to make our voices heard in the upcoming elections.

IRS to give account for targeting conservatives

A Christian legal group recently scored a legal victory against the IRS, which was ordered to issue outstanding determinations and answer for its political targeting of conservative groups and citizens to whom it unjustly denied tax exemptions for years.

Superintendent: Illegal for homeschoolers not to register

IndianaHomeschoolers in Indiana were taken back after discovering that a local public school superintendent publicly announced to the community that homeschoolers must register in her school district – and that failure to do so was unlawful.

Survey split on most ‘presidential’ candidate

Trump and Hillary waving post-debateEven though most conservatives and progressives have their definite favorite in the 2016 presidential election race, a recent poll shows that most Americans are torn over who is the most “presidential” candidate – Republican nominee Donald Trump or his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Proverbs 9:10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

The Year of Living Hopelessly

2016 tempted us toward nihilism. We don’t have to go there.

A cartoon of a dog sitting in a room, calmly declaring “This is fine” while engulfed in flames, has circulated widely on social media and become the symbol of 2016.

Our public discourse has often included hand-wringing and outrage, but these days, we’re tempted to despair more than ever. As the US presidential campaign took a series of particularly absurd turns, the #lolnothingmatters hashtag rose to prominence among journalists, political operatives, and Christian leaders alike. One writer looked back on the 2016 Republican National Convention as a “raging dumpster fire,” that is, an irredeemable situation.

The metaphor was co-opted by up-and-coming Nebraska senator Ben Sasse in a press release: “Sen. Sasse will not be attending the convention and will instead take his kids to watch some dumpster fires across the state, all of which enjoy more popularity than the current front-runners.”

Meanwhile, the candidates model the worst of political discourse. Trump is largely known for his name-calling, while Clinton lobs Twitter taunts like “Delete your account.”

CT readers may not be immersed in the world of Twitter or glued to 24-hour news channels, but we can nonetheless be shaped by these media. In an election with Twitter as its backbone, existential angst has become a national posture. Every day a new headline proclaims some gaffe, tragedy, or scandal, free of foresight or historical context. Breathing in this nihilistic pollution day in and day out can inadvertently cause a kind of cancer in us as well.

How are Christians called to breathe in this atmosphere?

To begin with, we’re not called to pretend things are better than they are. The nation’s negative tone …

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PP: Husbands no part in abortion decision

Planned Parenthood building 2The scandal-plagued Planned Parenthood announced its extremist pro-abortion stance last week by aggressively condemning a rule proposed by South Carolina’s health department that requires a husband to have a say in his wife’s decision to abort their preborn child.