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God can bring walls down

 

 
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If there was one symbol of the Cold War years and a world divided between Communist and free, it had to be the Berlin Wall, of course. Some of the most dramatic images of the last half of the 20th Century involve that wall – the wall the Communists built to divide East Berlin from democratic West Berlin. There are pictures of the barbed wire along the top of the wall, the armed guards, the people who risked everything to try to escape from behind that wall, and the people who died trying. I think I was like most of the people on this planet to be honest. I mean we pretty much kind of thought that Berlin Wall would always be there. We couldn’t imagine how it would ever be taken down. But go to Berlin today. The wall is gone, and it came down almost overnight. The wall we thought would always be there – gone.

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You can know the Christian Faith, and not know Christ

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04:27
 

 

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A friend of ours is an avid hunter. In fact, so much that he’s been known to skip church occasionally during duck hunting season. He’s well known in the church, so the pastor notices when he’s not there. With a twinkle in his eye, our friend explained recently how he’s prepared to handle pastoral questions like, “Where were you on Sunday?” He said he’s actually named his duck blinds where he hides to hunt those birds. One he has named “The Word.” The other is named “Prayer.” So when the pastor asks where he was on Sunday, he simply answers, “I was in ‘The Word,'” or, “I was in ‘Prayer.'” That’s messed up!

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  • Salvation
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8-year-old girl continues mission to hug law enforcement officers in US

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Cake Case goes to high court

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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

Cowboys RB Alfred Morris shares Bible verse on cleats, leads Cowboys to win

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The Point: Where is Our Faith?

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 Our hope lies elsewhere. For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet with The Point.

As I said recently on BreakPoint, Christians can’t be selective about holding our leaders accountable for improprieties.

Ignoring or dismissing misconduct by a leader who’s “on our side,” shows a lack of faith. No election can alter the rock-solid truth that Christ is risen, Christ is Lord, and He will restore all things.

In a recent WORLD Magazine article, Marvin Olasky rightly said that “if we act (selectively)… as feminists acted toward Bill Clinton, we need to think about the message we’re sending our children: Some are concluding that conservative evangelicals care more about political power than anything else . . . what if we win an election but lose a generation?”

Olasky concludes, “More important than any particular election, more important even than our cultural direction, is the gospel . . . Our goal should be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, not to abandon central Biblical principles regarding women’s worth, or to glorify a politician and win a Senate seat.”

Amen to that.

Resources


The Roy Moore moment 

  • Marvin Olasky | WORLD magazine | December 9, 2017

If Roy Moore cares about his faith he should drop out of the US Senate Race

The accusations against Roy Moore are credible and Moore should step down. If he continues to maintain his innocence, he should still step down so he can fight to clear his name, for the good of his state, for the success of his party, and to end the embarrassment he is causing evangelicals.

Now, what Moore is credibly accused of is horrific. Christians need to avoid even the appearance of ambivalence towards sexual assault and child molestation. The world is watching and the gospel demands us take a stand against such sin and to stand with the victims.

That should be, and has been for me and many others, our primary focus.

Yet, in addition, as an evangelical and a researcher, that damage to evangelical reputation also needs some fair-minded discussion.

The Backdrop

Just this past Sunday, Kayla Moore, wife of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, shared a letter on her Facebook page signed by 53 Alabama pastors wishing to pledge their support for his candidacy. In the letter, the signees told of their confidence in Moore’s character—namely, his love of God’s word, care for others, and defender of just causes.

Last night, Sojourners shared an article entitled “More Than 50 Pastors Sign Letter of Support for Roy Moore” and alongside it, they simply tweeted “Forgive us, Lord.”

But why? Why does Sojourners want us to repent?

The Narrative

Since the release of this letter, countless news outlets have jumped at the chance to cast criticism on these pastors. These critiques worsened after a recent Alabama state pollasked evangelicals in Alabama how the recent allegations affect their willingness to vote for Moore in the upcoming election; 37% of evangelicals said they were more likely to support him.

In light of these results, recent article titles have included “Alabama Evangelicals More Likely to Support Roy Moore After Sexual Assault Allegations” in Newsweek and “Roy Moore’s Supporters Stand by Their Candidate, Despite Sexual Assault Allegations” in The New Yorker. All seem to be insinuating the same thing: Christians now prefer Moore as a candidate because of the recent accusations.

So, in other words, the implication is that these pastors (some of whom have now stated that they did not agree to this or any statement after these allegations surfaced) and those responding to a poll are doing so knowing he molested a child, something he denies.

Many are convinced—and now try to convince others—that Christians are somehow not bothered by a politician and U.S. Senate candidate engaging in child molestation.

But is this really the best reading of the situation and the data?

History Reveals Something Similar

Turns out, we’ve seen similar patterns.

In examining the Democratic reaction to President Clinton’s affair (and long accusations of harassment and more), it is important to recognize that it was not that Democrats likedthe notion of sexual indiscretions of their President. Rather, they doubted the accusations (at first), trusted in his denials over his accusers, and resolved to continue their support of him as a leader and party member.

At a more base level, many endured in their support in part due to their belief that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” had come against Bill Clinton. Democrats’ support for Clinton and approval of his leadership was still much higher than both Republican and Independent support even after the news of his involvement with Monica Lewinsky broke loose in the late 1990s.

Were they all supportive of a 49-year-old president’s sexual involvement with his 22-year-old intern? I never assumed so.

 

However, when people feel someone is unjustly attacked, they double down. This is in part why the biggest scandals in American political history have never been able to substantively kill party loyalty.

( Read this whole column, Roy Moore’s Evangelicals May Say More about You than the Actual Data )

BreakPoint: Scandals, Politics and Faith In Whom Do We Trust

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For Christians, selectively holding our political and prospective leaders to high moral standards reveals in us an unsettling lack of faith.

The past few months have been dominated by an endless parade of revelations about the sexual misconduct and predations of powerful men. From Hollywood to New York and from Minnesota to Alabama, and just about everywhere else in between, the depths to which fallen human nature can sink have been laid bare.

While these revelations are dismaying, they aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be, surprising. But what is both dismaying and surprising is the willingness of too many people to deny, excuse, overlook, and even dismiss wrongdoing when it’s committed by someone on “their team.”

Thus, one elected official, whose Christianity is well-attested, told the press that she was “troubled” by the accusation of sexual misconduct against her party’s candidate and that she “certainly had no reason to disbelieve” the candidate’s accusers. And yet she announced her intention to vote for that candidate because, in her words, “the United States Senate needs to have in my opinion, a majority of Republican votes to carry the day.”

It’s difficult to see what distinguishes this sort of reasoning from Gloria Steinem’s infamous defense of President Clintontwo decades ago. Steinem urged feminists to defend Clinton because he was “vital” to “preserving reproductive freedom.”

Steinem concluded by writing “What if President Clinton lied under oath about [his sexual misconduct]?  . . . There seems to be sympathy for keeping private sexual behavior private.” To do otherwise, Steinem concluded, “will disqualify energy and talent the country needs.”

Now someone who disagreed with that kind of rationalizing back then and would, I’m confident, disagree now, was Chuck Colson.

At the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandals, he called the sympathy Steinem alluded to “completely wrong-headed.” He went on to say that “In a democracy, character and leadership are inseparable.”

He then told the story of how George Washington defused a potential mutiny by unpaid Continental Army veterans. Meeting with his officers and urging them to give Congress more time, Washington paused to put on his glasses, and said “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself going blind.” The soldiers began to weep. Mutiny was averted.

As Thomas Jefferson later wrote, “the moderation and virtue of a single [man] probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.”

As Chuck said, “What the Founders understood is that character is the first requirement of leadership,” because “a nation whose leaders do not lead through their own example of virtue and character cannot inspire sacrifice for the common good.”

One of the things I respect most about Chuck is that he did not apply these principles selectively. Those of us who knew him are aware of the pain that he felt when prominent Christian elected officials, some whom he regarded as sons, succumbed to temptation and saw their moral failings exposed in humiliating fashion.

Chuck stood by his friends but he never excused their actions. He told them that they needed to resign their office and get their lives in order. Character wasn’t a partisan issue for him.

Based on recent events, it’s reasonable to wonder if the same thing is true of us. Now let me be clear; due process is due to the accused.  However, too many are justifying the well-documented 180-degree turn Christians have done on the importance of character in public office by appealing to some overriding, political concern.

But if it was wrong 20 years ago, it’s wrong today. And it’s a terrible witness.

In the end, where do we place our trust? We do not have to sacrifice our principles or our witness on the altar of political expedience—precisely because of the ultimate Truth we believe in and live for: that Christ is risen, that He is Lord. And that He ultimately will restore all things. No election can ever change that.

 

 

Scandals, Politics and Faith: In Whom Do We Trust? 

As John, and Chuck, have reiterated, the character of our elected officials matters, no matter what their political party. When our leaders demonstrate virtue and integrity in their personal as well as public lives, they provide an example for future generations.

 

Resources

Washington’s Spectacles: Why Character Matters

  • Chuck Colson | BreakPoint.org | February 24, 1998
The Conviction to Lead

  • Albert Mohler | Bethany House Publishers | October 2014
Redefining Leadership: Character Driven Habits of Effective Leaders

  • Joseph Stowell | Zondervan Publishing | March 2017

Christmas 2017 is cancelled

Read the story here.