Category Archives: Bible

Who is Jesus to you

 

 
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Who is Jesus? It’s a foundational question, and one many Christians struggle to answer.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

“Some say John the Baptist,” they replied, “others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But who do you say that I am?”

These days, increasingly odd and just plain wrong answers to Jesus’ question seem to be floating around everywhere, and churches are one of the easiest places to find them. This shouldn’t surprise us, however. As we’ve said before on BreakPoint, beliefs come in bunches. So when you see increasingly unorthodox and innovative ideas about sex, marriage, and the human person coming from religious leaders, you can bet they’re also entertaining increasingly unorthodox and innovative ideas about truth, the Bible, and even God Himself.

For example, Dr. Karen Oliveto, the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church, recently offered this message to her flock:

“Too many folks want to box Jesus in,” she wrote, “carve him in stone, create an idol out of him. [But] the wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting one, prince of peace, was as human as you and me. Like you and me, he didn’t have his life figured out.” Jesus had “bigotries and prejudices,” she added, even sins which He had to learn to overcome.

Wait, Jesus can be an “idol”? As John Lomperis with the Institute on Religion and Democracy remarked, “[A]n idol is something other than God, usually something created by human hands, improperly worshipped as a god.” But Jesus is God. For Dr. Oliveto to suggest that it’s improper to worship God is like suggesting it’s improper to love your spouse.

And a Jesus who sinned wouldn’t have been God, nor worthy of our worship. Ironically, this bishop’s imaginary Jesus would be the idol—along with the Jesus of the Arian and Unitarian heresies, which teach that Jesus was a good man but a created being, not God in human flesh.

But before we give Dr. Oliveto too much grief, we ought to ask where our own theology is.

A 2014 LifeWay Research survey of self-described evangelicals found that while nearly all profess belief in the Trinity, one in four say God the Father is “more divine” than Jesus. That’s similar to what the Arians believed, it’s the error the Nicene Creed was written to combat.

In another survey conducted last year, LifeWay talked only with those who held core evangelical and conservative beliefs. Yet an astonishing seven in ten said Jesus was the first being created by God—again, a defining feature of Arianism. And more than a quarter held that the Holy Spirit is not equal with either the Father or the Son.

This sad mess shouldn’t just bother theological eggheads. These errors strike at the heart of Christianity, giving fundamentally unscriptural answers to the question, “Who is Jesus?”

Answering this question correctly is itself an act of worship. It’s a vital part of knowing and loving our God as He is. And it impacts Christians’ lives at the most basic level.

For example, because Jesus is equal with the Father and fully God means He can truly pardon us. As the scribes in Mark 2 correctly observed, “Only God can forgive sins.”

Yet Jesus is also fully human. In order to serve as our High Priest, He became like us in every respect, as Hebrews 2:17 says. In order to redeem Adam’s race, the Last Adam had to belong to it.

This God-Man was not only sinless, He is entirely worthy of our worship. In reply to His question, “Who do you say that I am?” We should be able to say with Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and with Thomas, who fell on His knees before the risen Jesus and said, “My Lord and my God.”

Please come visit us at BreakPoint.org.We’ll link you to books and other resources that will help you and your family walk through these essential truths and answer the fundamental questions of the Christian worldview

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A death row inmate changed, and like him we all have a need

Listen to a commentary.

sin is not exclusive to one party or political persuasion. ( from Cal Thomas )

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (Proverbs 29:18)

Ancient wisdom from a Higher Authority, which is available to anyone who takes the time to consider it, was provided to constrain people like Harvey Weinstein from acts he has been accused of committing.

In an age when we have cast off most restraints — from restrictions on abortion, to sanctioning same-sex marriage, to normalizing the use of nudity, crude language and sex in Hollywood films, not to mention wisdom — why is anything off limits? Who decides where the limits are these days? And on what do they base their decision?

Haven’t some federal judges been eviscerating the U.S. Constitution for decades? Haven’t even some clergy made attempts to rewrite or ignore Scripture to conform to opinion polls and align themselves with contemporary trends?

 

Many Republicans and conservatives are joyfully berating and belittling Harvey Weinstein and his fellow leftists, but they should remind themselves that sin is not exclusive to one party or political persuasion. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) resigned his office last week after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained text messages between Murphy and his mistress in which he told her to have an abortion if she thought she might be pregnant. Murphy, who claims to be “pro-life,” co-sponsored a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

( Billy’s thoughts – Read the rest of this spot-on column from Cal Thomas. ) 

Mormons and Christians use similar language but are they defined the same

Listen to some commentaries on the Mormon Church, or read them here.

Mormons believe the death of Jesus made Salvation possible but his death alone is not the way to salvation

Read the commentary, or listen to it. 

TODAYS MOMENT DANIEL’S FOCUS

Listen to a Bible/doctrine commentary by Dr. Charles Standley, right here.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had freedom even though he lived in Germany under Hitler

Dietrich Bonhoeffer resisted Hitler because of his faith in Jesus Christ, and as a result of standing up for the Jews, he died in a concentration camp. His bravery left a legacy throughout the generations.  He spoke often about freedom, and he was living under one of the most evil, repressive regimes in all history. He knew that true freedom could only be found in one place- Jesus Christ.

He had an opportunity to flee to safety. When the Nazis were hot on his trail, he had a brief trip to America. He could have stayed. He could have “saved” his life. But he knew the words of the Scriptures to be true, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). He also knew that because of Jesus Christ he was, “free indeed.” So he was faithful to God’s direction- he knew he needed to lead his fellow Germans through their darkest hour. No matter the cost! He knew his freedom was in Christ- not in the safety of a free country. So he returned to Germany, and he would die, but upon his death he spoke these last words, “This is the end, but for me it’s the beginning of life.” What a testimony! His eternal perspective allowed him to absolutely change history. What about you, my friend? Are you free indeed? Are you eternity-minded? Just imagine how God could use you now.

 

This is Luis Palau.

Impacting the small places like Village Mission Pastor’s are doing

A lot of us want to do great things for the Lord. But great doesn’t necessarily mean big.

We’re all familiar with Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, in which a man leaves his 99 sheep to find the one that is missing. But a lot of pastors today, in their understandable passion to minister to the 99, have left the one all alone. I speak of the forgotten sheep of rural America.

The great missionary statesman William Carey once said, “To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map.” And the open maps of today are telling us that there is a massive shift to the cities from the countryside. Operation World points out that the global share of people living in urban areas has shot up from 13 percent in 1900 to above 50 percent today.

In America, the trend is even stronger. According to the USDA, overall, the country’s “non-metro” areas have lost an average of 43,000 residents every year since 2010. Job prospects in the countryside are falling, and poverty rates are rising. According to one report, deaths are now outpacing births in hundreds of rural counties.

So it’s hardly surprising that urban and suburban ministry is a focus for so many. But what about the lost sheep scattered in the countryside? Well, as you might expect, their churches are shrinking and their pastors are disappearing. The National Congregations Study finds that the percentage of rural congregations has plummeted from 43 percent in 1998 to 32 percent in 2012.

And what about the pastors? With so many churches struggling to keep their doors open, fewer and fewer can afford to pay a pastor, and thus many of them are going without.

Well, that’s where an innovative and yet back-to-basics ministry such as Village Missions comes in. Village Missions, which was founded in 1948 by an Irish Presbyterian pastor named Walter Duff Jr., has sent out hundreds and hundreds of what it terms “missionary pastors” to the lost sheep in America’s rural areas—places like Volga, Iowa.

According to a great article by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at the Gospel Coalition entitled “Reviving the Dying Small-town Church,” Volga, a farm community of about 200 people, has four churches. Jeremy Sarver, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, was sent by Village Missions to revitalize Volga’s Calvary Bible Church, which had 12 members when he got there. Zylstra says none of the other churches had a single full-time pastor at all.

Ministry in the countryside may be on a smaller scale than a lot of pastors are used to, but it allows them to really get to know their flocks. Village Missions requires its missionary pastors to invest about 20 hours a week getting to know the locals in order to become a part of these often tight-knit communities.

“I could put up office hours all day long in rural America, and nobody’s coming,” Sarver says. “But if I sit in the combine with them, or go to the coffee shop, or watch a volleyball game with them—they don’t want me to use the word ‘counseling,’ but we talk through things.” After this kind of slow relationship-building, the church doubled in size—to 30 members.

And each of these sheep is precious. Last year, Village Missions reported 459 salvation decisions, 179 adult baptisms, and 127 child baptisms.

 

For more information on Village Missions, come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We’ll also link you to Sara Eekhoff Zylstra’s outstanding article.

Bring your Bible to school is October 5th

 What book is most needed in our public schools, but least likely to bethere? I bet you can take a guess.

Not all that long ago, Teddy Roosevelt could say without fear of contradiction, “A thorough understanding of the Bible is better than a college education.” In more recent times, Ronald Reagan said, “Of the many influences that have shaped the United States into a distinctive nation and people, none may be said to be more fundamental and enduring than the Bible.”

Now aside from the Christian worldview it teaches and the moral lifestyle it commends, the Bible also tells us how to know and love God and how to love and serve our fellow man. No wonder it was at one time required reading in practically every school in America.

But today, this Book, which laid the foundation for modern science, political freedom, and Western culture, is seen as unacceptable in American education. Yes, politicians in both parties often selectively quote the Bible when it serves their purposes, and educational progressives will, reluctantly, allow the Old and New Testaments to be studied as an academic subject in our public schools.

But since 1963, if there’s even a hint of moral teaching or proselytizing, well, forget it. And yet we wonder aloud where the increasing levels of suicide, sex, and drug abuse in our young people have come from.

That’s why I’m thrilled to tell you about a growing movement to re-introduce the Bible in our public schools—not by teachers or administrators, but by the kids themselves. It’s called Bring Your Bible to School Day, and this year’s event is tomorrow, Thursday, October 5th.

With a tagline of “Bring It. Share It. Live It,” Bring Your Bible to School Day began in 2014 and is sponsored by our friends at Focus on the Family. Last year more than 350,000 young people participated. This year, they expect half a million public school students in all 50 states to bring their Bibles to school and tell their friends about the hope they have. And the best part is, it’s perfectly constitutional.

“Over the years,” says Focus President Jim Daly, “we’ve heard from many kids and teens who want to meaningfully engage in conversations with peers to share their perspective on important issues. The good news is—they can.

Daly adds, “The Constitution recognizes students’ rights to share their biblical viewpoints in a way that doesn’t disturb instruction time, and to exercise their faith at school. ‘Bring Your Bible to School Day’ celebrates these rights and gives Christian students a chance to share a bit about their faith, which is an important part of who they are.”

Indeed. To see what it’s all about, just go to bringyourbible.org for all the details. You’ll see testimonies there of students boldly standing up for Jesus at their schools. There are sections for parents, for pastors, and for teachers, plus vital information on what’s legally permissible. And an awful lot is permissible! As the Supreme Court has noted, “It can hardly be argued that students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate.”

Look, let’s be honest: a big part of the reason there’s so little Christian influence in our public schools is that, as our friends at Gateways to Better Education have argued for years, people on both sides of the argument simply don’t understand what’s legal and constitutional and what is not. But an even bigger part is because too many of us have become afraid or passive in the face of our culture’s growing unbelief. As Chuck Colson used to say, Christians need to courageously break the spiral of silence. Bring Your Bible to School Day—again, it’s tomorrow—is a great way do just that, winsomely, and completely legally.

 

For you and your children to learn more about how they can take important early steps in standing up for Jesus with their friends, visit bringyourbible.org. It has all the resources you’ll need to be a part of this superb movement.

 

BreakPoint: Mourning in the Wake of Las Vegas Weeping for the Suffering, Calling Evil by Name

 

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Our nation is faced with another act of horrific evil. This time, a mass shooting in Las Vegas. What do we say? What do we do?

For the third time—by my count—since Eric and I became the voices of BreakPoint, I find myself using the phrase, “the worst mass shooting in U. S. history,” this time to describe the massacre of—at the time of this recording—58 people, with an additional 500 people wounded, at a country music concert in Las Vegas.

It’s horrific. What can even be said?

In today’s politically divided landscape, we’re tempted to simply retreat to a standard list of explanations to try to explain what happened or to assign blame—like on guns or mental illness or “them”—i.e. those that are across the political or religious aisle from us.  But this gut level response misses the core issue at hand.

Back in 2007, after 32 innocent people were gunned down at Virginia Tech, Chuck Colson talked about the importance of acknowledging the reality of evil. He started by describing a visit to a prison in Norway:

I witnessed an extreme example of this therapeutic thinking during a visit to a Norwegian prison years ago. Throughout the tour, officials bragged about employing the most humane and progressive treatment methods anywhere in the world. I met several doctors in white coats.

That prompted me to ask how many of the inmates, who were all there for serious crimes, were mentally ill. The warden replied, “Oh, all of them.” I must have looked surprised, because she said, “Well, of course, anyone who commits a crime this serious is obviously mentally unbalanced.”

Stated differently, there’s no such thing as sin and evil, and the only reason why people might commit serious crimes is that they’re mentally ill. Thus the best—and perhaps, only—response to crime is behavior modification and all those other up-to-date psychological techniques.

While the Norwegian approach would strike most Americans as very naïve, the difference between them and us is one of degree, not kind. We also blame crime on external factors, like mental illness, culture, dysfunctional childhood, and the like.

We’re uncomfortable attributing events like this to human evil, much less to a kind of evil that seeks to undo God’s creation—what Christians call the demonic.

Yet without this idea, events like this massacre can never be understood.

You know, Chuck is right. Evil is real and it resides—not just “out there” in the world, or the culture—but “in here,” in the human heart. Seeing it played out so hideously in Las Vegas leaves us only at the place of saying, with other followers of Christ throughout history, “Kyrie Eleison,” or Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy upon us.

And how might we, as Christians, respond?

First, as Ed Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today, prayer is a powerful response to suffering and evil. So pray for the victims and their families, for civic leaders and first responders. Pray that Christians in Las Vegas will be effective in their ministry and service.

Second, God’s people must remember the exhortation to “mourn with those who mourn.” Facebook and Twitter might tempt us to forget that there are very real people mourning the death of real people, and to offer lines of political agenda or ideological simplicity or even to offer Bible verses wrapped up in a nice little bow. Better than all of that is that we join our tears with those who weep.

Third, we run into, not away, from this brokenness. Whether it’s in giving blood, providing care, or jumping into that conversation with our neighbors that we’d rather not, we emulate Christ by—like Him—joining the suffering of those around us.

And finally, we cry out with the Psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” Groaning together with all of creation for that day when God Himself will “wipe away every tear,” and “death shall be no more.”