Category Archives: faith

Plan, prepare, and change in 2018

Listen to a commentary about the New Year.

Finding peace during the holidays

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BreakPoint: The True Beauty of Women “I Will Do It for You, Baby

 

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You won’t believe what one lingerie company is doing to show what makes a woman truly beautiful. I’ve got a great story for you. Get a hankie.

When it comes to lingerie companies, we’ve gotten used to some pretty graphic ads. You know the kind I mean: ones that feature impossibly perfect, airbrushed models wearing frilly and revealing underwear.

But the other day I came across the most amazing lingerie ad I’ve ever seen. No, I was not reading a Victoria’s Secret catalog. I was watching an online ad created by the Thailand branch of Wacoal, a Japan-based lingerie company. It was part of a three-part series called “Beauty Inside.” And it magnificently depicts the true value of women.

The first ad opens with a married couple sitting nervously in their doctor’s office, holding hands. “After trying so hard for many years, she finally got pregnant,” the husband says. But today they’re getting some bad news.

“I know it’s hard,” the doctor says sympathetically. “But please make a decision as soon as possible.”

The couple, clearly stunned, drive home, hold one another, and cry.

“On that day at the hospital,” the husband relates, “the doctor told us that she’s got cancer. She has only two choices. First, she might be cured if she took chemotherapy. But that may cause our child a disability. Or we might lose our baby. The alternative is to keep our child. But she might have to fight the cancer alone, without any remedy.”

The woman cries as her husband holds her. The next morning, she gets up and walks to the living room, where the baby’s crib is still sitting on its box. She runs her fingers along the crib and makes a decision: “I will do it for you, baby.”

The mother begins putting the crib together and plays with a stuffed animal, anticipating her child’s birth. Now she is back in the hospital, in labor. When her doctor holds up her healthy baby, she cries with joy. After cuddling and kissing her child, the mother hands him to her husband. She smiles at her little family as a nurse takes her down the hall and into the chemotherapy room.

These ads—which are both profoundly pro-women and pro-life—have become a global phenomenon. Millions of people have watched them online. Clearly they’ve hit a nerve—and I think I know why.

First, most lingerie ads focus on women’s bodies, suggesting that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her. But these ads challenge young women to value themselves in other ways: To celebrate strength and sacrifice, courage and compassion.

They’re teaching women something else, as well: that a worthwhile man will value them, not based on outer beauty, which is fleeting, but on inner beauty, which is based on character. And when life throws them a curve ball—such as cancer during a pregnancy—a strong man will help his wife through it.

Finally, I believe modern young women may be getting tired of being encouraged to take the easy way out when they run into a problem—such as a problem pregnancy. Women are, I think, moved by the idea that self-sacrifice is noble, and can be the source of great joy.

It’s hard to watch this ad without crying, especially when you find out it was based on a true story. Whether it meant to or not, the Wacoal company gives us a perfect illustration of 1 Corinthians 13:7: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

I hope you’ll watch these ads, and share them with your friends, sisters, and daughters. Their positive messages will help cancel out the hundreds of negative ones that bombard young women every day.

And you just might consider buying the woman in your life some lingerie, not from Victoria’s Secret, but from the company that teaches that the value of women is in the nobility of their character.

 

(This commentary originally aired March 2, 2017.)

 

The Beauty of Women: I Will Do It for You, Baby

As Eric highlights, the true value of a woman is not found in appearance but in integrity of character. To see this demonstrated in the arts, watch the Wacoal “My Beautiful Woman” ad series. We’ve included the links below.

 

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Things You May Not Know About Christmas

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BreakPoint: It’s Not About the Manger Christmas and the Incarnation

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This is John Stonestreet. Merry Christmas! Today on BreakPoint, Chuck Colson shares his thoughts on the staggering implications of Jesus’s birth.

I hope you’re enjoying this holy Christmas Day in the company of your friends and family.  Today, Chuck Colson relates in a broadcast originally aired ten years ago how Christmas is a time to reflect on the babe in the manger and God’s wonderful love for us, but even more, it’s a time to reflect on the cosmic implications of the Incarnation of  God’s Son.

Chuck Colson: The manger scene inspires a sense of awe and comfort to the hearts of Christians everywhere. But we often forget the staggering implications of Christmas.

What image does the mention of Christmas typically conjure up? For most of us, it’s a babe lying in a manger while Mary and Joseph, angels, and assorted animals look on. Heartwarming picture, but Christmas is about far more than a Child’s birth—even the Savior’s birth. It’s about the Incarnation: God Himself, Creator of heaven and earth, invading planet Earth, becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

It’s a staggering thought. Think of it: The Word—that is, Logos in the Greek, which meant all  knowledge that could be known, the plan of creation—that is, ultimate reality, becomes mere man? And that He was not born of an earthly king and queen, but of a virgin of a backwater village named Nazareth? Certainly God delights in confounding worldly wisdom and human expectations.

Thirty years after His humble birth, Jesus increased the Jews’ befuddlement when He read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives…to set free those who are downtrodden…” Jesus then turned the scroll back and announced, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In effect, the carpenter’s son had just announced He was the King.

So yes, the birth of Jesus is a glorious moment, and the manger scene brings comfort and joy and Christmas cheer. But it should also inspire a holy terror in us—that this baby is God incarnate, the King who came to set captives free, through His violent, bloody death on the cross as atonement for us, His unworthy subjects.

It’s through the Incarnation God sets His grand plan in motion. He invades planet Earth, establishing His reign through Christ’s earthly ministry. And then Christ leaves behind an occupying force, His Church, which is to carry on the work of redemption until His return and the kingdom’s final triumph.

Do we get this? I’m afraid most of us are so preoccupied and distracted by last-minute Christmas shopping and consumerism, we fail to see God’s cosmic plan of redemption in which we, as fallen creatures, are directly involved.

Well, the average Christian may not “get” this announcement, but those locked behind bars do. Whenever I preach in the prisons, and I read Christ’s inaugural sermon, Luke 4:18, and when I quote His promise of freedom for prisoners, they often raise their arms and cheer. The message of Jesus means freedom and victory for those who once had no hope. They’re not distracted by the encumbrance of wealth and comfort.

People in the developing world get it, too. Whenever I’ve shared this message with the poor and oppressed people overseas, I see eyes brightening. Stripped of all material blessings, exploited by earthly powers, they long for the bold new kingdom of Christ.

Today is Christmas. Go ahead, enjoy singing about and celebrating the birth of the Savior. Set up a manger scene in your home. But don’t forget this earth-shaking truth: The birth of the Baby in the manger was the thrilling signal that God had invaded the planet. And that gives us real reason to celebrate Christmas.

 

(This commentary originally aired December 25, 2007.)

 

 

It’s Not About the Manger: Christmas and the Incarnation

As this commentary from Chuck reminds us, Christmas is a time for joyful celebration. But it’s especially a time to remember God’s Incarnation. So get your family together and celebrate the Advent of Christ and His kingdom come to earth.

BreakPoint: The Enduring Power of “A Christmas Carol” Hope, Redemption, Story

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“Ebeneeeeezer!” Today on BreakPoint, I’m going to talk about Charles Dickens’ great classic work“A Christmas Carol.”

One hundred and seventy-four years ago, a British writer was horrified at the conditions under which children were made to labor in tin mines. He decided to write a pamphlet exposing these conditions. His intended title: “An Appeal to the People of England on Behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.”

Thank heavens the writer changed his mind. Instead of a pamphlet, he decided to write a novel making the same points. It’s filled with colorful characters—including an old man who goes about snarling “Bah, Humbug!”

Those two little words instantly reveal what book I’m talking about: “A Christmas Carol,” by the immortal Charles Dickens. The book has never been out of print—and it illustrates why telling a good story is often the best way to communicate our beliefs.

Why does “A Christmas Carol” still resonate today? For the answer, I went to my friend Gina Dalfonzo, editor of Dickensblog. She told me “A Christmas Carol “is a book that “has everything: great sorrow and great joy, corruption and redemption, poverty and pain, hope and love.” And “it expresses the deep belief that even the worst person can change for the better.”

“A Christmas Carol” is not merely a magnificent story, and its message is not confined to a “social gospel” teaching: Dickens points directly to Christ throughout. For example, Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, suggests that perhaps nothing about Christmas can be “apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin.”

And Tiny Tim expresses the hope that when people saw his lameness, “It might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.” This is, Gina points out, “a wonderful example of the biblical idea of God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness.”

Dickens’ classic shoots down the idea—prevalent in some Christian circles—that reading novels is a waste of time. They seem to forget that Jesus Himself was a master storyteller. For instance, He didn’t just say, “Come to the aid of those who need help.” Instead, He told a vivid story about a Samaritan who rescues a wounded man.

Chuck Colson once said that when it came to learning moral lessons, he was “much more impressed by profound works of fiction than by abstract theological discourses.” Scenes from some of the greatest stories ever told, he said, “have etched moral truths deeply into my soul. Their characters and lessons are so vivid I can’t forget them.”

And that is likely why so many of us will never forget the moral truths told through Ebenezer Scrooge, Fezziwig, Tiny Tim, and all the other memorable characters that populate Dickens’ great Victorian tale. It’s why we reject pamphlets that say, “Be nice to the needy” in favor of a good strong character bellowing, “Are there no prisons? [Are there no] workhouses?” Or the ghost of Scrooge’s partner, Jacob Marley, howling, “Mankind was my business!”

Dickens’ Christmas classic is more popular than ever. There’s a new film about how he came to write “A Christmas Carol,” called “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” And a writer named Samantha Silva has just published a novel titled “Mr. Dickens and His Carol.”

I do hope you’ll take time out to read, or re-read, the original, or read it aloud to your family. Who knows what great good may come of it?

And so I end this piece by saying—and you probably knew it was coming—“God bless us, everyone.”

 

The Enduring Power of “A Christmas Carol”: Hope, Redemption, Story

As Eric mentions, a good story has the power to bring moral truths alive for daily life, and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a great example of that. Get the book for yourself or for a friend–it’s available at the online bookstore. And check out Gina Dalfonzo’s Dickensblog for more on the timeless works of this famous British author.

 

BreakPoint: Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah” Apologetics thru Art

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“Messiah” may be the greatest work in the canon of Western music. You know the composer—Handel. But do you know the author?

As one wag put it, “In the orchestra world, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah is just as much an annual Christmas tradition as eggnog and overworked shopping mall Santas.”

Handel’s magnum opus is one of the supreme wonders of human genius, especially if you keep in mind that the genius on display is not only Handel’s.

We’re so used to calling the work “Handel’s Messiah” that we fail to notice that he only wrote the music. And as good as the music is, what’s being said, or in this case, sung, is every bit as inspired and inspiring.

The text, or “libretto,” as it’s properly called, was written by Charles Jennens. Chances are you’ve never heard of him. And you’re not alone. Even in his lifetime Jennens was “utterly unknown” to most of his contemporaries.

But obviously not to Handel, who, in a letter to Jennens, referred to their collaboration as “your Messiah.” As the director of the Handel House said a few years ago, “Without Jennens there would be no Messiah.”

That being the case, it’s worth knowing more about Jennens. He was an English landowner and patron of the arts. He wasn’t only a patron: He collaborated with Handel on other works such as “Saul,” “Israel in Egypt,” and “Belshazzar.” As with “Messiah,” his contributions were anonymous.

As these titles suggest, Jennens’s specialty was librettos based on biblical subjects. This was the direct result of his devout Christian faith. And that brings me back to “Messiah.” Jennens was concerned with the emergence of Deism within the Church of England. Deism rejected the idea of God’s intervention in human affairs and, with it, the inspiration of scripture.

His response to the threat was what he called a “scripture collection” that demonstrated that the Scriptures had predicted the coming of the Messiah, which he desired Handel to set to music. Unlike his other “scripture collections,” every word in the Messiah’s libretto is taken directly from scripture. As Albert Mohler wrote a few years ago, “Jennens understood the Bible to reveal a comprehensive and unitary story of God’s salvation of his people.”

But Jennens knew that it would take more than a pamphlet to combat Deism. He had to appeal to people’s emotions and imaginations, as well as their intellect. In other words, he needed art.

Thankfully, he knew just the right man to undertake the challenge. In July 1741, he wrote a friend saying “Handel says he will do nothing next winter, but I hope I shall persuade him to set another Scripture collection I have made for him . . . I hope he will lay out his whole genius and skill upon it, that the composition may excel all his former compositions, as the subject excels every other subject. The subject is Messiah.”

A month later, Handel began work on the music and finished it in only twenty-four days. At the end of the manuscript, he wrote the initials “SDG,” Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone be (the) Glory.”

Since its first performance in Dublin in 1742, Jennens’ exercise in what can accurately be called scriptural apologetics has become the most beloved choral work in history. No one knows how many times it has been performed. Counting the recordings alone is exhausting.

And every time we listen, we are told “For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And that, as Mohler reminds us, was what Jennens wanted us to understand: God has spoken.

 

Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah”: Apologetics thru Art

Why not take advantage of live performances of “Messiah” in your area, or check out recordings of this “scripture set to music” collection. You’ll understand how Jennens and Handel used art to appeal to the imagination, and how the good news of the Incarnation is presented to all who listen to this magnificent work.

Resources

For the Mouth of the Lord Hath Spoken It

  • Albert Mohler | AlbertMohler.com | December 10, 2010
The Messiah: The Texts Behind Handel’s Masterpiece

  • Douglas Connelly | IVP Books | July 2014

O Holy Night

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This is Christmas week, and so I thought we might reflect on the hymn, “O Holy Night” by John Dwight.

“O holy night! The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

Jesus came into the world to save us and so we feel valuable and our soul feels its worth. Perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible is John 3:16. It tells us that Jesus came because “God so loved the world.” He came so that our souls would feel their worth to God.

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O Little Town of Bethlehem and Calvary go together

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This is Christmas week, and I thought it might be worthwhile to spend a moment to reflect on the words to the hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem. It was written in 1867 by Phillips Brooks (an Episcopal pastor from Philadelphia). He had been in Israel two years earlier and had celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem. He wrote this song to reflect on what the night of the birth of Jesus might have been like.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

While the streets of our cities are quiet on Christmas day, most likely that day was just like any other day for the people in Bethlehem. But as evening came, the town grew quiet and something remarkable took place.

In the second verse the hymn says, “While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.” This is just like today. Our world goes about its business, usually oblivious to the spiritual realities around it.

( Read the rest of this commentary, here. ) 

Rachel Scott

Listen to a commentary on why we should never forget her.