Category Archives: Teaching

How to keep from being grounded

HOW TO AVOID BEING GROUNDED 

 

 
 
 
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When our son entered high school, he carried with him the study habits that had served him well in junior high. They didn’t serve him well in high school. He learned a whole lot about studying his freshman year. His grades weren’t awful-they were just, you know, like below his potential. So the last part of the year, we resorted to, uh, martial law. We enforced three hours of study nightly and we allowed no calls…no going out until his homework was done. Now, turn the page to his second year in high school. I’d go into my study at night and I’d find him with these books and notebooks all spread out across my desk. Sometimes I’d tell him there was a phone call for him. And he’d answer, “Tell them I’ll call them back later. I’m not getting on the phone, Dad. Not his year; not till my homework’s done.” I didn’t have to discipline my son. He was disciplining himself.

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  • Sin
  • distractions
  • temptation

 

 
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The Iranian Protests and the Church

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The protests currently shaking Iran have enormous implications for U. S. foreign policy—and for the Church.

Iranian citizens are rising up against their oppressive Shiite government. They shout, “Death to the Dictator!” while enduring tear gas, water cannons, arrest—and death.

The demonstrations initially had to do with the sagging economy, high unemployment, and the increased cost of basic foods. As one protester quoted in the Washington Post said, “When we don’t have bread to eat, we are not afraid of anything.”

But these protests may have evolved into “an open rebellion against Iran’s Islamic leadership itself.”

The outcome of these protests of course will have enormous implications for the Middle East and for U. S. foreign policy. The Iranian government is a staunch ally of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, supports Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorist group and arch-enemy of Israel, and is fomenting unrest (and that’s putting it mildly) throughout the Middle East.

And no doubt you’ve heard about the Iranian government’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

But there’s another reason Americans—and especially American Christian—should be following events there: the growth of Christianity in Iran.

In the online journal “The Stream,” my friend Michael Brown writes that Iranian converts, Christian leaders, and missiologists all tell him the same thing: “Iranian Muslims are converting to Christianity at an unprecedented pace.” Indeed, according to the Iranian Christian News Agency, Islamic clerics are alarmed at the growing number of Iranian youth who are abandoning Islam, converting to Christianity, and joining house churches. That despite the enormous risks of conversion in a country that openly suppresses the Christian faith.

The news comes as no surprise to Reza Safa, a Muslim convert to Christianity and the author of “The Coming Fall of Islam in Iran.” Safa, who now lives in the U.S., notes on his website that “Despite severe persecution by the Iranian government against underground churches, God’s Word is spreading like a wildfire all over Iran.”

That’s exciting news. And the protests against the regime raging across Iran may be a sign of hope for Christians, according to Iranian journalist and Christian convert Sohrab Amari. Amari told the Catholic News Agency that “the Iranians who are pouring into the streets have had it with an ideological regime that represses them.” Many are even chanting “nostalgic slogans” about pre-revolutionary Iran—a time when religious minorities like Christians, Jews, and Bahai’s could live well enough alongside their Islamic neighbors.

The outcome of the protests remains to be seen. Will they lead to more freedoms, or to even worse repressions?

And as the number of conversions continues to rise, will the government target churches even more fiercely, or will those who have tasted the freedom to become children of God through Jesus Christ act as leaven in Iranian society, inspiring more people to seek freedom from their authoritarian overlords?

We don’t have to look far back in history to see epoch-shaking movements of God’s people. As Chuck Colson documented masterfully in his book “Being the Body,” the fall of communism in Poland, in Romania, and throughout eastern Europe was fueled by Christian faith—and the human desire for freedom kindled by that faith.

At one time, those of us old enough to remember the Cold War couldn’t have imagined the demise of European communism. But it happened. The fall of an authoritarian Islamist regime should not be beyond our hopes and prayers.

So please, join me in prayer for our brethren in Iran—for safety, for wisdom, and for the conversion of many more to freedom in Jesus Christ.

 

The Iranian Protests and the Church: Bread, Freedom, and Faith

As events are unfolding in Iran, believers everywhere have the opportunity to intercede for Christians and new converts in that country. Read more about this critical news and its implications by clicking on the links in our Resources section.

Resources

What No One Is Telling You About Iran

  • Michael Brown | Townhall.com | January 2, 2018
Could Iranian protests bring religious freedom for Christians?

  • Michelle La Rosa | Catholic News Agency | December 29, 2017
Christianity is Rapidly Growing in Iran

  • CBN News | August 15, 2017
Being the Body: A New Call for the Church to Be Light in Darkness

  • Chuck Colson and Ellen Santilli Vaughn
  • Thomas Nelson
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Treating People with Intrinsic Worth

Posted by Ravi Zacharias, on January 3, 2018
Topic: Human Worth

Peter Singer, a well known philosopher, has declared that babies with Down Syndrome should be eliminated and has no value. Ravi Zacharias warns of how this type of thinking is dangerous and that there is a much different view of the worth of humanity as found in the Bible.

 

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What God wants to do in you, and through you in the new year

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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.

 

Find a BreakPoint radio station in your area–Click here.


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.

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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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