Category Archives: church issue

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
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BreakPoint: Advent Jesus Is Coming, and This Time It’s Different

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TV commercials, radio stations, and shopping malls are all proclaiming that it’s the Christmas season! But actually, it isn’t.

Last Sunday, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, in churches all around the world, the Gospel reading was Matthew 25: 31-46.

The passage opens with words that should make our hearts soar, or, perhaps, shiver with dread: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

As the passage makes clear, Christ’s second coming will be very different from his first. He will return in glory, not obscurity. He will return as the King of the Universe, not as a nobody in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire. And this time, He will do the judging.

This, and not shopping, or who saw whom kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe, is what we’re supposed to be thinking about these next four weeks, the season known as Advent.

Now if you’re wondering, “Wait, isn’t this the Christmas season?” the answer is, well, “no.” Of course, we wouldn’t know that from watching television, where some networks have been running “Christmas” movies—none of which ever mention Jesus—since late October.

Beginning this Sunday, December 3rd through Christmas Eve, we’re in the season of Advent, according to the Church calendar. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “come to.” Thus, Advent is the season Christians anticipate the celebration of God’s coming to live and die as one of us. And to better appreciate the immensity of that gift, we are to put ourselves in the place of ancient Israel which yearned for the promised Messiah who would set things right.

One of the ways to do this is through hymns. The ancient Advent carol “Creator of the Stars of Night,” which dates from the 7th century, expresses this Old Testament yearning in a way that has literally stood the test of time.

“Thou, grieving that the ancient curse/ Should doom to death a universe/ Hast found the medicine, full of grace/ To save and heal a ruined race,” the hymn reads.

The “medicine” required to “save and heal a ruined race” was Jesus, as Paul told the Philippians, emptying himself and becoming obedient to death.

But that’s not the entire story. We also sing “At Whose dread Name, majestic now/ All knees must bend, all hearts must bow/ And things celestial Thee shall own/ And things terrestrial, Lord alone.”

That’s because Advent is not only a time of anticipating Christ’s first coming but also anticipating the next and final time Jesus comes to Earth. And, I repeat, this coming will be very different from the first: The same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus will return as the “judge of the living and the dead,” and “his kingdom will have no end.”

This makes Advent not only a time of reflection, but also a time of repentance. This season is a time to examine our lives and ask ourselves whether we are sheep or goats. Are we living, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, for ourselves or for Him who died for us and rose again?

Unfortunately, very little in contemporary culture, including both inside as well outside our churches, inclines us towards a proper observance of Advent. Thus, we have to be intentionally counter-cultural about it, and we must teach our children what the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be about.

A good place to start is “The Advent Project” from Biola University. I also love Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas,” which is available at the Colson Center online bookstore. And if you click on this commentary at BreakPoint.org, I’ll link you to other resources for Advent that will help keep focus where it needs to be this time of year: on Jesus’ two different, yet equally glorious, comings.

 

Advent: Jesus Is Coming, and This Time It’s Different

Be joyful, reverent—and intentional–as you and your family prepare to commemorate the incarnation of the  Son of God and His return in glory during this season of Advent.

 

 

Resources

The Advent Project 2017

  • Online Devotional Series | Biola University
God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Westminster John Knox Press
Too Much Christmas, too Little Advent?: The Joy of Anticipation

  • Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | December 7, 2016
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

  • John Piper | Crossway Publishers | August 2014

BreakPoint: Depression and God’s Grace You Are Not Alone

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If you’re dealing with depression, you might as well know there are no quick fixes, but there is always God’s grace.

Those who suffer from depression sometimes feel as if they’re all alone. Take it from me—I felt that way because I have struggled with depression for years.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about one in fifteen adults experiences depression each year. And one in six will be touched by the cold hand of depression at some point in life. Women are more susceptible to depression than men, with one in three expected to have a major depressive episode in her lifetime.

The APA calls depression “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. … Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”

Even Christians get depressed, of course; as I mentioned, I’ve dealt with it. It’s part of living in a broken and fallen world. For a woman named Lily Burana, bouts of depression, anxiety, and insomnia began when she was a toddler, and being raised in a church did not make them go away.

“My depression, still unnamed, deepened as I grew older,” she writes in a piece for Christianity Today. “I became less interested in church, and by adolescence, depression, sarcasm, and cynicism had become my holy trinity, which might sound impressively edgy if it weren’t so miserable.”

Eventually, Lily dropped out of school, and out of church, winding up in New York City’s East Village, where she hung out with an assortment of what she calls “freaks, losers, ragers, and least-of-these-ers.” Lily says she began a journey that landed her somewhere between “spiritual but not religious” and “New Age dilettante,” as she tried paganism, yoga, and agnosticism. But nothing satisfied her bright mind or tamed her gnawing depression.

“But a few years ago,” Lily writes, “when a dangerously deep and rocky depressive spell had me in its grips, I teetered on the brink of suicide. Even with the cosmetic appointments of a full and happy life—husband, family, health, career—I felt desperate, alone, scarred, stained, and worthless.”

That’s when God broke through—not by miraculously erasing depression as if it were a stray pencil line, but by gently speaking to her heart. Biblical teaching and fellowship reminded Lily that not only did God love her—He accepted her. Dialing back the self-condemnation, she began a process of being “restored by grace.” She’s on a journey of healing now, saying, “[I]t feels like comfort, acceptance, and resilience. A place to retreat, to just sit, breathe, and be.”

Lily still battles depression, and uses medication to help control the dark moods. “But I can’t lay full credit for my wellbeing at the feet of Big Pharma,” Lily says, “for nothing has helped me recover more than receiving God’s grace.”

Lily says that depression threw her into God’s arms, so let me ask you—has it thrown you into His arms? Let’s stop with all the facades. Depression is an unwelcome fact of life for many of us. But being depressed doesn’t mean your faith in the Lord is defective. It can be an invitation to present your pain as an offering to the One who understands that pain better than anyone.

As Marshall Segal of desiringGod.org writes, “While many are lost to their depression—helplessly wandering in their own darkness—Christians have somewhere to turn, truths to rehearse until our hearts catch up with the faith in our minds. Not only did Christ save and deliver the brokenhearted, but he experiences all the pains and temptations we face and more.”

So if you’re depressed, please, please remember you are not alone. It’s okay to show others your hurt. And hear me: There is no shame in seeking professional help. I certainly have. And know that God sees and promises to meet you in your hurt with His love and grace.

 

Depression and God’s Grace: You Are Not Alone

Depression affects people from all walks of life, as Eric points out. But help can come from many sources, especially the grace of God offered through the local body of Christ. Read more of Lily Burana’s journey by checking out the resources linked below.

 

Resources

A Punk Rock Rebel Returns to Church

  • Lily Burana| Christianity Today | October 20, 2017
What Is Depression?

  • American Psychiatric Association
Grace for Amateurs: Field Notes on a Journey Back to Faith

  • Lily Burana | Thomas Nelson Publishers | October 2017

When you hear, or see North Korea in the news you should be called to pray not to the spirit of fear

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The Point: What Constitution?

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It’s time for a civics refresh. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

A new study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center finds that Americans are woefully misinformed about basic constitutional provisions. More than half believe that illegal immigrants have absolutely no rights under the Constitution.

Three-quarters of Americans can’t name all three branches of government. And perhaps worst of all, over a third can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment, including freedom of speech, press, or religion.

This doesn’t bode well for public education, which began as a means of producing well-informed citizens. But Christians should be the first to insist on good civic education, because we stand to lose so much freedom.

In his book, “A Free People’s Suicide,” Os Guinness shows how modern views of freedom are incompatible with the views of the American founders, and argues that “the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans.”

He also sketches a plan for good civic education—a plan to implement if our Republic is to last.

 

 

Resources

Americans Are Poorly Informed About Basic Constitutional Provisions

  • Annenberg Public Policy Center | University of Pennsylvania | September 12, 2017

BreakPoint: Costly Views on “The View” Don’t Crack Under Cocktail Party Pressure

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You’re in the spotlight and you’ve just been asked about a controversial issue. What do you do?

Martin Luther, the Christian reformer who challenged the sale of indulgences five hundred years ago, is often credited with this stirring quotation:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him.”

Okay, well maybe Martin Luther didn’t actually say that. Nor did Abraham Lincoln say, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” But just because a quotation is mis-attributed doesn’t mean it’s an inaccurate summary of what the purported author believed. As a matter of fact, this passage not only closely mirrors something Luther wrote in a personal letter, but it’s consistent with the life he lived.

More importantly, this quote is true. The temptation is strong to faithfully proclaim every aspect of God’s Word except the one most controversial in our time.

We saw that recently when well-known pastor Carl Lentz appeared on ABC’s “The View.” Lentz spoke boldly and in no uncertain moral terms about the issue of racism. As well he should. Christians should condemn racism whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.

But when asked directly about abortion, and whether or not he considers it a sin, Lentz couldn’t give a straight answer. Instead, he spoke of having a “conversation,” of finding out a person’s “story,” where they’re from and what they believe. “I mean, God’s the judge,” he concluded. “People have to live by their own convictions.”

Predictably, the progressive studio audience heard this as an affirmation of the so-called “right to choose,” and rewarded Lentz with thunderous applause.

This upset a lot of pro-lifers who felt that this highly visible pastor had squandered a chance to speak up for the unborn. Lentz quickly took to social media to defend his word, but the damage was done. A watching world had heard a famous Christian pastor buckle on a crucial issue of our time, right after taking principled stands on other issues—issues, and this is key, that wouldn’t cost him anything with the ladies or audience of “The View.”

Now Lentz is not unique. He’s just the latest victim of what my friend Michael Miller calls “cocktail party pressure,” the urge to tone down or disavow Christian beliefs found to be distasteful in our culture. Typically, these are the so-called “culture war” issues like life, marriage, or religious liberty.

Watching Lentz on “The View” reminded me of the doctor-assisted suicide vote in Colorado last year. I was heartbroken when pastors of Colorado churches told me they didn’t want to take up the issue from the pulpit, because it was “too political.” But many of these same pastors have no hesitation whatsoever when addressing issues that are also so-called political ones, like racism or refugees.

Contrast this with someone like Ryan Anderson from the Heritage Foundation. Although not a pastor, Ryan is among the most articulate defenders of natural marriage even in the face of blistering ridicule. I’ll never forget the image of him on Piers Morgan’s show, banned from the stage, seated in a hostile crowd, graciously explaining the Christian view while the liberal hosts hurled abuse at him.

Folks, it’s so very easy to be courageous on issues where our Christian convictions are in agreement with talk show hosts and the larger cultural ethos. But we’re not just called to proclaim the truth when it’s easy. Faithfulness means standing up for what’s right precisely and especially when it’s unpopular—even when it will cost us, socially, financially, maybe even mortally.

And it’s all of us, including those of us not on television, who face this kind of pressure ourselves—the pressure to tone down or abandon what we believe. That’s why it’s crucial to decide ahead of time—before the talk show or the cocktail party—where we stand, and to always be ready to give an answer when we’re asked.

 

Costly Views on “The View”: Don’t Crack Under Cocktail Party Pressure

Check out the links in our Resources section for great materials that will help you be equipped to stand for truth, remembering the Apostle Peter’s words: “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. and do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. . . 1 Peter 3: 14-15 NASB

 

Resources

The Faith: Given Once for All

  • Charles Colson, Harold Fickett | Zondervan Publishing Company
How Now Shall We Live?

  • Charles Colson, Nancy Pearcey | Tyndale House Publishers | September 1999
 

Grace is more than a doctrine

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BP This Week: “We Don’t Have Answers; We Do Have Christ”

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John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer mourn yet another mass shooting, this time of brothers and sisters in Christ in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Even if Christians don’t know what to say, they can offer support and hope—just like other churches in the area are doing.

John and Ed also talk about the misguided effort to kill the adoption tax credit, and the continuing fallout and revelations stemming from Harvey Weinstein scandal. How should we respond?

Images courtesy of tillsonburg at iStock by Getty Images and Google Maps. Illustration designed by Heidi Allums.

Resources

How Christians can respond to this latest church shooting

    • Ed Stetzer

 

    • CNN

 

  • November 6, 2017
  • Listen to the program here.

Texas Church Tragedy

Listen to a spiritual thought.

The Point: History? What History?

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History, schmistory. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

Christians of all people should be good at remembering. Why? Because our faith is rooted in history.

We ought to remember those who have gone before us, warts and all. King David, for example, was a “man after God’s own heart.” And also a murderer and adulterer. Yet Israel didn’t write him out of Scriptures.

Tell that to Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, which will remove two plaques honoring former parishioners Robert E. Lee and George Washington.

George Washington? The church, as Rod Dreher notes, is on Washington Street. Washington’s picture is on the donations it receives. Throw a silver-dollar across the Potomac and you’ll hit the city that bears his name.

Neither Washington nor Lee were towering figures of faith, but they were towering figures of history—and significant members of Christ Church.

A church with “Historic” in the name should put history above political correctness. I’m not saying history should be whitewashed, but to rework a classic phrase, the best way to avoid repeating history is not to forget it.