Category Archives: Family Issue

Nebraska 4th grader saves the life of another student

Read the story.

 

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Rachel Scott

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

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

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. )

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 

The Truth About The American Bar Association

The American Bar Association has recently tipped its hand, showing how very partisan it has become.
Joe Palazzolo, writing at the Wall Street Journal, reports that “tensions between Senate Republicans and the bar association, the largest organization of lawyers in the nation, have escalated in recent weeks after the ABA pronounced a Nebraska lawyer unfit to serve on the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

( More )

Is Average Good Enough?

Listen to what Dr. James Dobson thinks. 

Christmas film favorites

 

Nov. 27-Dec. 1
Christmas Film Favorites
by Todd Kappelman, read by Dr. Ray Bohlin
Nov. 27 A Christmas Carol Listen Online
Nov. 28 Miracle on 34th Street Listen Online
Nov. 29 How the Grinch Stole Christmas Listen Online
Nov. 30 It’s a Wonderful Life Listen Online
Dec. 1 A Charlie Brown Christmas Listen Online
Right-click to download the whole week as a single mp3 Podcast

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