Christmas is about why you should never call yourself a Just- a

MAKE SURE YOU’VE GOT THE RIGHT SIZE – #8068

 
 
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One of the amusing sides of Christmas is people shopping in departments they never otherwise shop in – generally clueless. Let me give you an example that I can relate to-men shopping in the ladies clothing department. Oh, we’re a mess. Now, if you need a good laugh; you’re feeling a little down, you ought to go to the ladies garment department somewhere; especially the more personal the item is, the funnier it is to watch men shopping. They’re slightly embarrassed, generally incompetent at what they’re doing, and it’s very important if you’re going to go shopping for a woman during the Christmas season that you get the woman’s size: your wife, your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, or whatever. And you trust that the tags are right, of course, on the size. You know that a small had better be a small, because you don’t know anything. A large had better be a large. Now, you want to know how to sow some confusion and have some fun? (Don’t anybody do this, please.) Imagine if someone snuck into that store late one night and just changed the tags around. Well, people would make a lot of wrong choices, all because the sizes were wrong. Now, that doesn’t happen to clothes, but it does happen to people, and it takes the Christmas Story to straighten out small and large.

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The Joy of Anticipation

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Advent has been buried under a pile of twinkle lights, plastic reindeer, and the Grinch. Here’s why.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted it to be Christmas every day of the year. A fairy granted her wish: every day, for a whole year, it would be Christmas Day.

And what that little girl learned in this funny story by William Dean Howells, is that you really can have too much of a good thing—way too much.

The little girl had a wonderful Christmas, filled with presents and turkey and plum pudding. And the next day, it was Christmas again! The gifts, the turkey dinner, and all the rest of it. After a few months, the little girl, seeing “those great ugly lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents . . . burst out crying.”

By then, writes Howells, “people didn’t carry presents around nicely any more. They flung them over the fence, or through the window.”

Joseph Bottum relates this amusing tale in his book, “The Christmas Plains,” drawing a parallel between the story and the way we celebrate Christmas today.

Even before Thanksgiving, Christmas songs blare from our radios; catalogs arrive even earlier. Department store Christmas trees often go up right after Halloween. After weeks of carols and cookies and parties, Bottum notes, Christmas “arrives as an afterthought: not the fulfillment, but only the end, of the long yule season…”

In effect, we are celebrating Christmas every day, just like the little girl in the story. And many of us get just as sick of this daily “Christmas” as she did, although we don’t fling gifts at people, I hope.

Now how on earth did this happen? Well, as Bottum notes, “every secularized holiday tends to lose, in public contexts, the meaning it holds in the religious calendar.”

Advent—the traditional lead-up to Christmas—has vanished, culturally speaking. Its disappearance has left “a hole, from Thanksgiving on, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas,” Bottum writes.

Sadly, he’s right. If we want to celebrate Christmas properly—with “disciplined anticipation” as Bottum puts it–perhaps we need to cut back on all the secular celebrations (if we possibly can—they won’t go without a fight), and make the observance of the days of Advent front and center in our celebrations.

Advent “proclaims an advent—time before, looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas” at the end of it, Bottum explains. Christmas, “in turn, lacks meaning without the penitential season of advent to go before it.”

This is why Advent celebrations, both at home and in churches, focus on scriptures that anticipate the coming of Christ.

In Micah, we read, “But you, O Bethlehem . . . from you SHALL come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel…”

And in Matthew, Joseph is told that Mary “WILL bear a son, and you SHALL call his name Jesus . . .”

Things like Advent calendars and crèches that remain empty until Christmas Eve “give a shape to the anticipation of the season,” says Bottum. And “a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives.”

Why not try an Advent devotional to guide you, such as ones by Tim Keller and John Piper? Or check out John Stonestreet’s “He Has Come” talks at the BreakPoint podcast. Make an Advent wreath with your children. And take time every evening to gather your family around, light the Advent candles, read the scriptures, pray, and sing some Christmas hymns that anticipate the coming of Christ.

And then when Christmas Day does arrive, we can greet it, not with a sense of relief that the Christmas “season” is almost over, but with joy for the great gift of Christ.

 

(This commentary originally aired December 7, 2016.)

 

 

Too Much Christmas, too Little Advent?: The Joy of Anticipation

Eric has presented some great suggestions to help re-focus us on the season of Advent. Click on the links below for resources to help in the observance of Advent and for teaching and reading materials during this special time of year.

 

Resources

The Christmas Plains

  • Joseph Bottum | Image Publisher | October 2012
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

  • John Piper | Crossway Publishing | August 2014
Hidden Christmas

  • Timothy Keller | Penguin Random Publishing| October 2016

The Point: Leave the Little Sisters Alone

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Leave those poor nuns alone. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

It was a big win for religious liberty when the Trump administration rolled back the infamous HHS mandate, which would have required religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide insurance covering contraceptives and abortifacients.

No doubt the Little Sisters rejoiced and felt they could start concentrating on their ministry instead of lawsuits. But that would only be in a sane world. The attorneys general of California and Pennsylvania are suing to strip the Little Sisters of that exemption. The hearing is, in fact, today.

The Becket Fund, which represents the Little Sisters, calls the move “political grandstanding.” I’d call it anti-Christian ideological tyranny.

Mother Lorraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters had this to say: “We just want to be able to continue our religious mission of caring for the elderly poor as we have for 175 years. We pray these state governments would leave us alone and let us do our work in peace.”

Let’s all pray the same thing for them today.

 

Resources

Little Sisters of the Poor Are Returning to Court

  • Rachel del Guidice | The Daily Signal | November 21, 2017

God can bring walls down

 

 
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If there was one symbol of the Cold War years and a world divided between Communist and free, it had to be the Berlin Wall, of course. Some of the most dramatic images of the last half of the 20th Century involve that wall – the wall the Communists built to divide East Berlin from democratic West Berlin. There are pictures of the barbed wire along the top of the wall, the armed guards, the people who risked everything to try to escape from behind that wall, and the people who died trying. I think I was like most of the people on this planet to be honest. I mean we pretty much kind of thought that Berlin Wall would always be there. We couldn’t imagine how it would ever be taken down. But go to Berlin today. The wall is gone, and it came down almost overnight. The wall we thought would always be there – gone.

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Cal Thomas says EVANGELICALS are wrong to support Roy Moore ( he is spot-on )

SUPPORTERS OF MOORE SAY HE IS PRO-LIFE AND JONES IS NOT, AND THAT IS A LITMUS TEST FOR MANY. BUT A MOORE VICTORY WILL NOT AFFECT ABORTIONS IN AMERICA, WHICH ARE DECLINING THANKS IN PART TO THE EXCELLENT WORK PERFORMED BY PREGNANCY HELP CENTERS.

         THE LEFT PLANS TO COME AFTER PRESIDENT TRUMP, USING HIS SEXUAL HARRASSMENT ACCUSERS TO GAIN TRACTION IN NEXT YEAR’S CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS.

 

         ARE REPUBLICANS AND ESPECIALLY EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS, WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO STAND FOR FAMILY VALUES, WILLING TO MAKE THIS KIND OF BARGAIN TO WIN A SENATE SEAT? JUST ASKING. I’M CAL THOMAS IN WASHINGTON.

( Read the whole commentary by Cal Thomas , or listen to the audio of it. )

You can know the Christian Faith, and not know Christ

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A friend of ours is an avid hunter. In fact, so much that he’s been known to skip church occasionally during duck hunting season. He’s well known in the church, so the pastor notices when he’s not there. With a twinkle in his eye, our friend explained recently how he’s prepared to handle pastoral questions like, “Where were you on Sunday?” He said he’s actually named his duck blinds where he hides to hunt those birds. One he has named “The Word.” The other is named “Prayer.” So when the pastor asks where he was on Sunday, he simply answers, “I was in ‘The Word,'” or, “I was in ‘Prayer.'” That’s messed up!

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A Date of Infamy

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Today is December 7 – a day that President Roosevelt said would be “a date which will live in infamy.” On that fateful morning of December 7, 1941, America was attacked without warning. More than 2,400 Americans died and 1,100 were wounded. Our country was changed forever. This attack led us into war, and the citizens of America responded with courage and resolve. So it may be well to reflect on what took place and how we today must also rise to the occasion of the attacks on America by Islamic extremists.

Today is known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. It is a day when we honor the lives lost in that attack on Pearl Harbor and also honor the veterans of World War II. But it can also be a day in which we pay tribute to the men and woman who are currently serving in the armed forces in an effort to promote freedom and justice around the world.

( Read the rest of this spot-on commentary. )

Christmas gifts something more than socks ( books ) from Breakpoint

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Looking for Christmas gifts for Christian parents, kids, or history buffs? I’ve got three solid ideas for you.

You ever rip open that package on Christmas morning and find…socks? Now, maybe somebody out there genuinely enjoys getting socks on Christmas. That person, like Saint Paul, has apparently learned the secret to being content in all circumstances.

But when you go shopping for all other members of the human race, think beyond the old standbys. This year, why not give the gift of engaging, exciting, and worldview-enriching reading?

I’ve got a few recommendations—a sort of BreakPoint shopping list for the readers in your life—one that emphasizes the importance of standing for the truth of our faith in a time when it is under attack.

First up, something for parents who feel lost trying to raise their children and teenagers in an age of smart phones, social media, and everywhere-all-the-time connectivity. My BreakPoint cohost, John Stonestreet, and Brett Kunkle of Stand to Reason, have written a manual for befuddled parents, grandparents, teachers, and pastors who are trying to understand that bewildering and ever-changing thing we call “culture.”

Their book, “A Practical Guide to Culture,” charts the treacherous waters surrounding your home and church, into which you and your kids venture every day: It explains the powerful influence of things like pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation, consumerism, addiction, entertainment, and racial tension.

More importantly, the book is exactly what it claims to be: practical. John and Brett provide specific strategies, discussion questions, and action steps.

Next, something for the kids, themselves—especially the 8-to-12-year-olds who are just beginning to make their parents’ Christian faith their own. It’s a time in life they need to learn not just what they believe, but why they believe it. How do they know the biblical accounts of Jesus, His life, miracles, death, and resurrection really happened? How do they talk about their faith to others? And most practically, how do they stay interested in a book long enough to learn more about the faith at all?

Well, longtime Los Angeles cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace, along with his wife, Susie Wallace, take a brilliant and truly original approach. Jim, a former atheist and now a Colson Senior Fellow, has written several other books for older teens and adults, including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith. Like these, “Cold-Case Christianity for Kids” applies the skills he learned as a criminal investigator to Christianity.

It turns out evaluating the claims of the Bible is remarkably similar to evaluating testimonies about a crime. For instance, kids will learn how to recognize and rule out a conspiracy theory, how to test the reliability of witnesses, and what constitutes compelling evidence in a courtroom. The Wallaces teach all of this with surprising depth and accessibility. This book will keep young readers riveted.

Last, but I’d like to say not least, there is my new book, “Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.” This one is for history and theology buffs on your list. But I like to think anybody who cracks it open will be as captivated as I was by the character and faith of this gutsy German monk who sparked the Reformation. And on this 500th year since Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses, there’s no better time to learn about the figure behind not only Protestant Christianity and its re-emphasis of the Gospel, but much of the world as we know it. And of course, Luther’s courage in standing on the Word of God no matter the consequences is precisely what we need in a culture increasingly hostile to our faith.

Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll tell you how to pick up copies of all of these great books, so those hard-to-shop-for loved ones can find more in their stockings this month than more stockings.

 

Season’s Readings: BreakPoint’s Christmas Shopping List

There’s sure to be a book for everyone on your list from the selections Eric highlighted. These titles, and many more, are all available at the Colson Center online bookstore. So why not give the gift that keeps on giving!

Resources

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World

  • John Stonestreet, Brett Kunkle | David C. Cook Publishing | June 2017
Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World

  • Eric Metaxas | Viking Publisher | October 2017
Cold-Case Christianity for Kids: Investigate Jesus with a Real Detective

  • J. Warner Wallace | David C. Cook Publishing | October 2016

BreakPoint: Jack Phillips Before the Supreme Court “Tolerance Is a Two-Way Street”

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I was honored yesterday to rally in support of Jack Phillips on the steps outside the Supreme Court. Now I’d like to tell you what went on inside.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Eric Metaxas and I have given you the details before, of Colorado master cake designer Jack Phillips who declined to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

As David Brooks wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “Phillips is not trying to restrict gay marriage or gay rights; he’s simply asking not to be forced to take part.”

Neither the couple or the state of Colorado saw it that way. Phillips was found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination law, and forced to choose between his convictions and losing forty percent of his business. Phillips appealed to the Supreme Court.

While Phillips’s actions were grounded in his religious beliefs, the legal argument was primarily about whether Colorado had violated his right to free speech.  Unlike those commentators who disparaged the idea that creating custom cakes constitutes a form of speech, yesterday the Court took the question seriously.

Phillips’ lawyer, Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, argued that “the first amendment protects bakers such as Mr. Phillips against being forced to express any belief, and that as a custom-cake maker, he sketches, sculpts and hand-paints—in other words, he’s an artist.”

Waggoner had barely gotten started when the questions began.

Responding to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she reiterated that neither she nor her client were challenging his obligation to sell his ordinary wares to everyone. In fact, he offered to sell the couple any already-made cake in his store.

Custom cakes, Waggoner told the Court, were a different matter. The use of writing and symbols convey a message in a way that a cake off the shelf does not.

Inevitably the comparison to race came up. The best answer was given by U. S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Francisco, in response to several justices, argued that discrimination on the basis of race, such as refusing to serve an interracial couple, was different than refusing to participate in a ceremony.

He also argued that upholding Phillips’ free speech rights would not damage civil rights protection because it would only apply to “a small group of individuals” in “narrow circumstances.” However, Justice Breyer disagreed.

But the roughest treatment was reserved for Colorado’s Solicitor General Fred Yarger because of Colorado’s treatment of Phillips throughout the whole ordeal. Justice Kennedy—likely the swing vote in this case—told him that tolerance must go both ways, adding that, “It seems to me the state has been neither tolerant nor respectful” of Jack Phillips views.

He cited a comment by a member of the Civil Rights Commission, who called Phillips’ religious beliefs “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric.” He then asked Yarger to disavow the comment. After Yarger lamely replied that he wouldn’t counsel a client to say a such a thing, Kennedy pressed him, and Yarger disavowed.

It’s never a good thing when a judge asks you to disavow your client’s statement.

So where are we? Justice Kennedy definitely seems troubled by the way Phillips was treated, and it’s encouraging that he insisted tolerance is a “two-way street.”

Heartening as well was Justice Breyer’s asking Yarger if some kind of compromise might be possible. Whatever else Breyer is thinking, he seems to be concerned that Colorado didn’t make sufficient allowance for people with dissenting views.

I can’t tell you whether Phillips will prevail, but there’s reason to be encouraged. It’s also possible that Kennedy could side with Phillips, but in a narrow opinion that would open the floodgate for future cases. Even then, that better, far better than a Phillips loss.

So let’s continue to pray earnestly that Phillips, and freedom, prevails.

 

Jack Phillips Before the Supreme Court: “Tolerance Is a Two-Way Street”

As both John and Eric have stated, this free speech case is extremely important. So continue to pray for the justices of our Supreme Court, that God would guide them in their deliberations and decision in this free speech and religious freedom case.

Resources

Kate Shellnutt | Christianity Today | December 5, 2017 

8-year-old girl continues mission to hug law enforcement officers in US

The story is here.