Monthly Archives: October 2017

BreakPoint: The Reformation Turns 500 How Luther Shaped Our World

( Billy thoughts – A warning before I post today’s Breakpoint commentary. The late Chuck Colson who I very much respect I think he along with some other evangelical leaders compromised too much when they wrote and said all Catholic’s are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Are there Catholic folks who follow the Jesus of the Bible yes. ( The key word is they said all.) But there are many others who are basing their salvation on being Catholic just as there are other folks who are basing their salvation on being a good a Lutheran. God wants us to know him based on what he did for us through Jesus.The  Roman Catholic leadership teaches things that goes against the Bible. ) 

If someone bangs on your door tonight, they probably want candy. Five hundred years ago, someone banged on a door for a very different reason.

On this day in 1517—at least according to tradition—a German monk-turned-Bible-professor nailed a list of debate topics to a church door, altering the course of history.

Now, we don’t know the exact date when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses, although he did submit them to his archbishop on October 31. What we do know is that Luther never intended to defy the church or split Western Christendom. When he challenged all comers to a debate on the sale of indulgences—which were essentially a way to buy into Heaven—he wanted to call God’s ministers back to Scripture.

But those ministers resisted. Luther wouldn’t budge, and the result was what we now know as the Protestant Reformation.

Historian Philip Schaff writes that next to the beginning of Christianity, the Reformation was “the greatest event in history.” That may be hyperbole, but not by much. If you worship in a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, non-denominational, or—of course—Lutheran congregation, you’re directly affected by Martin Luther. Anglicans have been affected too, and even Roman Catholics saw reforms within that communion that came about because of Martin Luther.

And the Reformation’s influence goes far beyond the church doors. Luther’s appearance before the Diet of Worms—that famous moment when he reportedly said, “Here I stand, I can do no other,” has been called “the trial that led to the birth of the modern world.”

Our ideas about free inquiry, democracy, education, and capitalism can all ultimately be traced back to the Reformation.

And the Reformation also reemphasized ideas like the sacredness of all callings, and spheres of authority in human society. In Luther’s mind, individuals and civil magistrates, as well as the clergy, were responsible to read, understand, and obey the Bible.

As Eric Metaxas and I discuss on this week’s BreakPoint podcast, Luther came to personify the power of Scripture. In his outstanding new biography on Luther, Eric tells how this bold reformer stood at the intersection of the Middle Ages and the modern world, insisting that there is “daylight between truth and power.”

And it was this idea—that God’s written word is the highest authority in the Christian faith, available to everyone—that birthed a still more revolutionary idea: that God Himself admits us into His kingdom by grace alone.

“The Reformation,” wrote the late Episcopal priest Robert Capon, “was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace—bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us singlehandedly.”

Now the fallout of the Reformation wasn’t all good, and even today Christianity is plagued with divisions, disagreements, and distortions of Luther’s project. Luther, himself, was far from perfect.

But I’m a mentee of Chuck Colson, who together with Father Richard John Neuhaus brought evangelicals and Catholics together over common cause. I pray and believe that the divisions of the 1500s—which remain real and significant to this day—can be addressed without sacrificing truth, and yet in the meantime, we can treat each other with love and grace, and should work together whenever and wherever we can.

As we mark 500 years since Luther’s initial protest, it’s clear there’s more reforming to be done on both sides of the Wittenberg door. But that’s why Reformation is not just a moment in history. It’s a posture. During the next 500 years, the sound of Luther’s hammer should call us as the people of God to conform ourselves to the Word of God, and ultimately to the Person of God in Jesus Christ.

 

The Reformation Turns 500: How Luther Shaped Our World

Delve further into the history of the Protestant Reformation by checking out the resources at the Colson Center online bookstore. One great suggestion is Eric Metaxas’s latest book “Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.” Get your copy now. And listen to thepodcast of John talking with Eric about Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the modern world by clicking here.

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Three Reasons You Should Go Trick or Treating Halloween can be a time to be on mission and build relationships that will deepen throughout the year.

This holiday has sparked quite a bit of controversy in Christian circles over the years. Halloween, as most know, has a mix of origin stories, some of them Christian, some pagan, and some occult. Its dark history certainly should concern us as believers and factor into our decision regarding how we and our families plan to engage in the festivities on the night of October 31st.

And it’s just that—your family’s decision. My family does not promote holiday myths (as in, our kids did not believe in Santa Claus), but we do participate in trick or treating.

Let me explain why.

To Trick or Not

Many believers feel that they can faithfully don their creative costumes and pumpkin-shaped candy buckets without violating the tenants of their Christian beliefs. Others feel that this holiday’s emphasis on all things spooky and scary, coupled with its complex past, should motivate us to steer clear of any Halloween related events.

For me, the question we really have to answer here is this: As Christians, what does it look like to engage culture in a Christ-like manner?

Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 to never conform to the pattern of this world, because we serve a God who frees us from all its burdens and baggage. But, interestingly enough, Jesus—during a prayer to his Heavenly Father in John 17—acknowledges that “they” (the disciples) are “not of the world” but also adds that he isn’t asking the Father to “take them out of the world.”

So, it looks like even amidst this earth’s real dangers and difficulties, Jesus still wants us here. Furthermore, he doesn’t just ask us to sit around lazily waiting in anticipation for his second coming, but instead gives us a Great Commission: to make disciples of every tongue, tribe, and nation.

When it comes to Halloween, trying to live in the tension between our earthly bodies and heavenly homes can be difficult. Some believers will feel compelled to bring their faith to bear amidst all the Reese’s and Gummy Bears, while others might decide to abstain from the festivities altogether.

Right now, I want to make the case for the latter decision. I am going to argue that Christians not only can but should put on their costumes, pass out candy, and greet guests at the door each time Halloween rolls around.

Here are three reasons you should plan on trick-or-treating tomorrow.

First, this is likely the only time all year when neighbors will flock from near and far, ring your doorbell, and want to have face-to-face interaction with you.

When guests arrive at your porch, take time to let the conversation go past celebratory exclamations of ‘trick or treat.’ Remember their names, take down their numbers, and convey your interest in being a part of their lives. This night is a once-a-year opportunity to do something so simple, yet so critical: get to know your neighbors.

We are planning a bonfire for our kids’ friends even while we pass out candy to the neighbors.

 

Of course, you can meet your neighbors any time—but on this day, they are coming to your door.

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BreakPoint: Discovering Naboth’s Vineyard Another Find of Biblical Proportions

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Sometimes I wish I’d become an archaeologist. Imagine discovering something like, oh, I don’t know, Naboth’s vineyard from 1 Kings.

Here at BreakPoint, we love to tell you about the ways that archaeology is confirming the biblical narrative, and, judging by the response, you love to hear about it.

Well, the latest discovery is one of the coolest yet. It’s possible confirmation of one of the most memorable stories in the Bible: Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard.

First Kings 21 tells the story of Naboth the Jezreelite who had the misfortune to own a vineyard near king Ahab’s palace.

Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard and offered to either buy it outright or exchange it for what he deemed a “better vineyard.” When Naboth, in keeping with the Law of Moses, refused, Ahab sulked, “lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.” You gotta chuckle at Ahab’s reaction. My goodness.

At any rate, his Phoenician wife, Jezebel, then hatches a successful plot to kill Naboth and seize his land. But their triumph is short-lived: Elijah pronounces God’s judgment on them and their dynasty, which will end in a gruesome fashion.

Since 2012, a team led by Norma Franklin of the University of Haifa and Jennie Ebeling of the University of Evansville in Indiana have led an excavation in the Jezreel Valley, which lies south of our Lord’s native south Galilee.

It’s a region that figures prominently in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. It’s where Gideon defeated the Midianites and the Amalekites in the book of Judges. It’s where Meggido, from which we get the word “Armageddon,” is located.

And it’s the site of the vineyard Ahab coveted.

Five years ago, Franklin and her colleagues, using what’s known as “LiDAR,” a surveying “method that measures distance to a target by illuminating that target with a pulsed laser light,” discovered “several features that had remained hidden for centuries.” These features suggested the presence of an “early winery installation.”

Excavation revealed “several wine and olive presses, including the largest ancient winepress in Israel found to date.” They also found “over 100 bottle-shaped pits carved into the bedrock,” which Dr. Franklin theorizes were used to store wine.

How did they know where to look in the first place? Well, they used the biblical text itself. Writing in Biblical Archeology Review, Franklin said that the details provided in the account of Naboth and the subsequent fall of Ahab’s dynasty at the hands of Jehu provided “valuable information regarding the vineyard’s location.”

In fact, it was the correspondence between the physical evidence and the biblical account that led Franklin and her colleagues to ask if they found evidence of Naboth’s vineyard.

Her answer is a lightly-qualified “yes.” As she told Breaking Israel News, “the story as described in the Bible quite probably could have occurred here in the Jezreel.”

Stories like this should not come as a surprise. A year ago, John Stonestreet told you about evidence that lent historical credence to the Bible’s account of Jehu and the fall of Ahab’s dynasty: a toilet used to desecrate what the Bible calls “the high places.” As 1 King 10 says, Jehu “demolished the pillar of Baal, and destroyed the temple of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.”

As we never tire of telling you, “the Bible is the best-attested book of antiquity. Nothing else comes close. That’s as it should be because our faith is firmly rooted in history, not some “once upon a time.”

And that’s something we can say with complete certainty.

 

Discovering Naboth’s Vineyard:  Another Find of Biblical Proportions

As always, it’s interesting to note the archaeological discoveries that just happen to reveal the trustworthiness of the biblical text. Read more about this particular find by clicking on the link in our Resources section.

 

Resources

Proof of Biblical Naboth’s Vineyard Discovered in Jezreel Valley

  • Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz | BreakingIsraelNews.com | July 13, 2017
No Pooh-Poohing Biblical History: The Lachish Latrine

  • John Stonestreet | BreakPoint.org | October 13, 2016

The Martyr’s Oath

The plight of persecuted Christians is worse than ever. That is the conclusion of a recent report by Aid to the Church in Need. It documents that persecution of Christians today is worse than at any time in history. “Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith groups. But ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

In some countries the situation was already so severe, it is hard to imagine how it could be any worse. Other countries, like China, have seen intolerance on the rise, as evidenced by a clampdown on dissent clergy and the destruction of churches.

 

In light of this, I was deeply convicted by my recent interview with Johnnie Moore. He came on Point of View to talk about his new book The Martyr’s Oath. He begins the book and began our interview by talking about attending a Bible school graduation ceremony. The students repeated this martyr’s oath in which they pledged their lives and death to Jesus. He felt like he was standing in the book of Acts, witnessing “a raw, first-century Christianity” that he had been shielded from in America.

( Read, or listen to the rest of this commentary. ) 

Know the spiritual dark side of Halloween and then stay away from it, or use it to point souls to the light of Jesus

Listen to a commentary.

China Cracking Down

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China wasn’t kidding. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

Last month the Chinese government announced new crackdowns on religion in order to, so they say, fight extremism and protect national security.

A house church pastor, her daughter, and her toddler grandson have been arrested for singing and preaching in a public park. No one knows their whereabouts.

According to Christianity Today, local officials are already cracking down in several areas around the country, even though these new regulations don’t go into effect until February. In one province, authorities are warning Christian parents not to send their kids to Christian summer camps or even to Sunday school. Missionaries are being expelled “in record numbers.” And virtually all religious activities—publishing, accepting donations, religious education—are coming under intense scrutiny.

Eric Metaxas and I have told you before that within the next couple of decades, China is on track to have the world’s largest population of Christians.

But it’s clear that this miraculous growth of the Church there will be accompanied by severe growing pains. So please, pray for the Church in China.

 

Resources

Red Tape: China Wants to Constrict Christian Activities with 26 New Rules

  • Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra | ChristianityToday.com | October 3, 2016

A Mom Looks at Halloween from a Christian Perspective

Sue Bohlin takes at hard look at Halloween celebrations, applying a biblical worldview. As Christians, we cannot shield our children from this popular cultural event, but Sue provides some ideas on bringing a Christian perspective to this time of year.

A number of articles are available advising Christians to have nothing to do with Halloween. And I do agree that Christians have no business celebrating a holiday that glorifies something that delights the enemy of our souls. And potentially opens us up to demonic harrassment, to boot!

But if we’ve got kids, especially kids in public school or who hang around other kids in the neighborhood, it’s entirely possible that parents can feel pressured to do something about Halloween. After all, it’s pretty hard to hide under a rock for the whole month of October. A number of houses on our street are more decorated for Halloween than for Christmas!

It seems that the costume manufacturers have really cranked up production of all sorts of costumes to a degree we’ve never seen before. Gone are the days of burning a cork to blacken a face, put on some thrift-shop oversized clothes and dressing up as a hobo. (There’s probably some politically-correct term for “hobo” these days anyway. . .)

Is there anything intrinsically wrong with dressing up in a costume and getting a bunch of candy from consenting adults? I don’t think so; hey, the Bible tells us that God instructed the children of Israel to ask their neighbors for silver and gold their last night in Egypt in a VERY early version of “Trick or Treat” (Exodus 11:2). But we can cooperate with the forces of darkness, however unwittingly, by participating unwisely in Halloween festivities.

 

It is essential to exercise discernment in how we handle Halloween. If you can get away with ignoring it, wonderful! That would be the best solution. But you may find yourself in a place where you want to provide some way for your kids to have fun in a Halloween-immersed culture without compromising on our Christian values and beliefs. For instance, your child’s school may invite all the students to dress up in a costume on October 31. I know a number of Christian schools that do this. May I make these suggestions:

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Why the shock When Ministers Go Wrong

Listen to the commentary here.

The Legacy of Chuck Colson

 On what would have been Chuck Colson’s 86th birthday, our hosts look back on an incredible conversion, a historic life of ministry in prisons and the culture. They explore the ways in which Chuck’s work is still impacting the Church and guiding the mission of the Colson Center.

John and Ed also discuss the #MeToo campaign, which saw countless women from all walks of life publicly identify themselves as victims of sexual harassment or assault in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. They call it an eye-opening moment and an opportunity for men everywhere, especially in the Church, to call themselves to protect, value, and respect women.

 ( Listen to the radio program here. )

No true sorrow from cop killer to the end or is it

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Strapped to a gurney, defiant cop-killer Torrey Twane McNabb raised both middle fingers and unleashed a profanity laden curse at the state of Alabama before falling unconscious and succumbing to the executioner’s deadly cocktail of drugs.

McNabb, who had challenged the state’s execution drug method, was put to death Thursday night for killing a police officer in 1997.

It was Alabama’s fifth execution since January 2016 and took place almost exactly 20 years after McNabb shot and killed Montgomery Police Officer Anderson Gordon III. 

McNabb expressed defiance shortly before the grim ritual began at 8:56 p.m. Thursday night, addressing family members through a glass window.

“Mom, sis, look at my eyes,” he said. “I’ve got no tears in my eyes. I’m unafraid . . . to the state of Alabama, I hate you m—–f—–s. I hate you.”

 

McNabb raised his middle fingers toward witnesses galleries as the execution began. He appeared to be breathing for the first 20 minutes of the execution and moved slightly.

( Billy’s thoughts – Well this killer sadly has now found out this life is not the end. Read the full story from USA Today newspaper. )