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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
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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
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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

How not to respond to those who attack you

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President George W. Bush provides a good example of how to respond. You might remember that he was the target of a Gold Star mother by the name of Cindy Sheehan. Instead of opposing her or reacting to her, he allowed her to make harsh political statements and did not respond.

It is worth remembering she alleged that Bush went to war for oil. She said that Bush sent her son to die to make his oil friends rich. She even camped out near his home in Crawford, Texas to protest him. He showed character and restraint.

 

( Read the rest of this commentary. )

Those who honor me, I will honor


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Mike is a follower of Jesus Christ, and he’s an executive with a large printing company founded on Christian principles. They had worked for two years to land this contract with a major publisher, and they got it. Mike told me about the day when their new client brought in their first job. It was exciting until he saw what it was about. It was all about horoscopes. Mike looked at his Sales Manager who had worked with him so hard to sign up this big company. Then he slid the manuscript back across the desk and said to his client, “I’m very sorry, but we can’t print this. See, we try to run our business by the Bible, and this would go against what the Bible says.”

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  • faith
  • temptation
  • righteous living

LESSONS IN LEVITICUS

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The Point: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

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Charlie Brown didn’t get much right, but Charles Schulz did. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

We’ve all seen “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” in which Charlie Brown messes up the Christmas play and Linus reminds everyone what Christmas is all about.

Another of my favorites is “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” Poor Chuck’s friends show up expecting a feast, but he and Snoopy serve them jelly beans and popcorn.

Thankfully, Linus is there again to tell the true story of Thanksgiving.

But it’s Marcie who reminds Charlie Brown that the Pilgrims at Plymouth didn’t come to dinner expecting to receive something. They were there to commemorate what they’d already received—life, provision, and friendship with the Wampanoags.

We’re better off today than they were, yet many of us will sit around the Thanksgiving table grumbling and fighting about politics. If Linus and Marcie were thankful for Charlie Brown’s leftover Halloween candy, can’t we take one day to thank God for our blessings?

Hopefully you won’t have jelly beans and popcorn for dinner, but I do hope you enjoy some Peanuts this Thanksgiving.

BreakPoint: Thanksgiving 2017 Squanto and the Providence of God

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Hi, I’m John Stonestreet. Today, we want to share a classic Chuck Colson BreakPoint commentary on Thanksgiving, Squanto and the providence of God.

Chuck Colson: Most of us know the story of the first Thanksgiving; at least we know the Pilgrim version. But how many of us know the Indian viewpoint?

No, I’m not talking about some revisionist, politically correct version of history. I’m talking about the amazing story of the way God used an Indian named Squanto as a special instrument of His providence.

Historical accounts of Squanto’s life vary, but historians believe that around 1608, more than a decade before the Pilgrims arrived, a group of English traders sailed to what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts. When the trusting Wampanoag Indians came out to trade, the traders took them prisoner, transported them to Spain, and sold them into slavery. It was an unimaginable horror.

But God had an amazing plan for one of the captured Indians, a boy named Squanto.

Squanto was bought by a well-meaning Spanish monk, who treated him well and taught him the Christian faith. Squanto eventually made his way to England and worked in the stables of a man named John Slaney. Slaney sympathized with Squanto’s desire to return home, and he promised to put the Indian on the first vessel bound for America.

It wasn’t until 1619, ten years after Squanto was first kidnapped, that a ship was found. Finally, after a decade of exile and heartbreak, Squanto was on his way home.

But when he arrived in Massachusetts, more heartbreak awaited him. An epidemic had wiped out Squanto’s entire village.

We can only imagine what must have gone through Squanto’s mind. Why had God allowed him to return home, against all odds, only to find his loved ones dead?

A year later, the answer came. A shipload of English families arrived and settled on the very land once occupied by Squanto’s people. Squanto went to meet them, greeting the startled Pilgrims in English.

According to the diary of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Squanto “became a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . He showed [us] how to plant [our] corn, where to take fish and to procure other commodities . . . and was also [our] pilot to bring [us] to unknown places for [our] profit, and never left [us] till he died.”

When Squanto lay dying of fever, Bradford wrote that their Indian friend “desir[ed] the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven.” Squanto bequeathed his possessions to the Pilgrims “as remembrances of his love.”

Who but God could so miraculously convert a lonely Indian and then use him to save a struggling band of Englishmen? It is reminiscent of the biblical story of Joseph, who was also sold into slavery, and whom God likewise used as a special instrument for good.

Squanto’s life story is remarkable, and we ought to make sure our children learn about it. Sadly, most books about Squanto omit references to his Christian faith. But I’m delighted to say that my friend Eric Metaxas has written a wonderful children’s book called “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving.” I highly recommend it because it will teach your kids about the “special instrument sent of God,” who changed the course of American history.

How great to hear again from Chuck Colson. I know that I and my colleagues at BreakPoint are so thankful to God for all that He accomplished through Chuck’s life.

And this Thanksgiving on behalf of Chuck and Eric Metaxas, I want you, our BreakPoint listeners, to also know how thankful to God we are for you—for all the encouraging words, and prayer and financial support you’ve provided this ministry over the years. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

And before I go today, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my friend Eric Metaxas wrote a great children’s book about Squanto called Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving. We have it for you at the BreakPoint bookstore online.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 

(This commentary originally aired November 26, 2015.)

 

Thanksgiving 2017: Squanto and the Providence of God

Get your copy of Eric’s book “Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving,” available at the online bookstore.

Resources

The Miracle of Squanto’s Path to Plymouth

  • Eric Metaxas
  •  

  • Wall Street Journal
  •  

  • November 25, 2015
 
Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving

  • Eric Metaxas
  •  

  • Thomas Nelson Publishers
  • August 2012

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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