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The Plot to Kill Hitler; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero by Patricia McCormick; HarperCollins, 192 pages, $18.99. Ages 8 and up.

28594377Patricia McCormick, a two-time National Book Award finalist, tells the fascinating true story of the German pastor and theologian who was executed for his role in the plot to kill Hitler in this suspenseful, beautifully written and meticulously researched book. McCormick paints a vivid picture of “a big rambunctious family,” a happy household of eight children, in a home in Breslau, the family’s pet goat with free run of the house. Dietrich was the dreamer in a family of overachievers (his father was a psychiatrist, his oldest brother a genius at physics).

The death of his brother Walter in World War I was the driving force in Dietrich’s interest in theology and big questions about Christianity and the meaning of life. McCormick offers a clear explanation of Bonhoeffer’s theology and his belief that the church was not a building or a dead institution but a living force for good in the world, a belief that would later involve him – despite his pacifist beliefs – in the conspiracy to kill Hitler.

McCormick brilliantly combines the “big picture” historic and political backdrop with the anecdotal, as Bonhoeffer struggles in vain to convince his fellow Lutheran pastors of the threat posed by Adolf Hitler and then his role in establishing the breakaway Confessing Church. A particularly interesting chapter documents Bonhoeffer’s study at Union Theological Seminary in New York and his friendship with African-American classmate Frank Fisher, who took the young German to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. (McCormick notes that Winston Churchill, alerted to the possibility of an effective plot against Hitler, dismissed Bonhoeffer with “I see no reason whatever to encourage this pestilent priest.”)

For the rest of the review…

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“Just as surely God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together26-27.

This holds true in America today, given our own holocaust of abortion, where 60 million innocent babies have been destroyed in gas chambers called abortion clinics.

Like Bonhoeffer, we can’t turn a deaf ear to the cries of the innocent among us. We must speak up!

Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (NLT).

The only way those who cannot speak for themselves will get justice is if those of us who can speak actually speak.

A report last week by National Public Radio highlighted the importance of this. It was headlined, “Down Syndrome Families Divided over Abortion Ban.” The report discussed a bill in Ohio that would ban selective abortions for Down syndrome babies.

Of course, destroying innocent life in any situation is wrong, but what caught our attention was a comment by the mother of a Down syndrome child who said she never even considered ending her pregnancy when she found out.

She told NPR: “He’s still a baby. He’s still worthy of life just like everybody else.”

To that we said, “Yay and Amen!”

But this mother went on, speaking of the Ohio bill that would ban abortion for children like hers, saying: “I try not to bring this up, just because people are so passionate. And I value my friendships with people.”

So, on the one hand, she said Down syndrome children are “babies deserving life just like everybody else.

And on the other hand, she said she doesn’t want to talk about a law that would protect them “because she values friendships with people.”

OK, we value friendships with people, too. But it’s the height of apathy (perhaps selfishness) to value personal comfort over protective care. It doesn’t matter how much social pressure you might receive.

To refuse to speak is to speak. Bonhoeffer was hanged by a piano wire for speaking up. Today, we might get a nasty tweet or an angry Facebook post.

Big deal.

The prophet Amos spoke about times like this, saying, “Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time” (Amos 5:13).

When the times are evil, it’s natural to want to keep silent. But it’s supernatural to speak up in the face of evil

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2017/12/lets-break-americas-shameful-silence-in-face-of-evil/#78XUImldCmZmW2jD.99

 

Article by David Mathis

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

For years, our three stocking holders each brandished a letter: J O Y. It’s common Christmas decor. Joy in Christmas lights. Joy on banners. Joy in frames.

This year, as we unpacked our Christmas boxes, and did our annual purge, the JOY stocking holders wound up in the pile for the thrift store. The immediate cause was the advent of baby Mercy, born in April. Three letters are inadequate to hold four stockings. But perhaps we have a theological reason as well to let the JOY holders go.

Plain old joy undersells the glory of Christmas. Matthew and Luke accent different aspects of the birth story, but they sing this note in unison: Christ’s coming is not simply an occasion for joy, but great joy.

God’s World of Joys

In the beginning, the God of joy made a world of joys — a creation full of good, altogether “very good,” and primed to delight his creatures (Genesis 1:31; 2:9). As the work of his hands, we know joy. We have tasted his goodness in his world, even on this side of sin’s curse. We have experienced, however meagerly or infrequently, the blessed emotional surges of God-made delight — in a kind word, in a friend’s hug, in our team’s victory, in a cool breeze, in good food and drink. We know normal joy.

But Christmas is not normal joy. Christmas, the Gospels say, is great joy. Christmas is not natural joy, but supernatural. God set Christmas apart. He himself has come down in the person of his Son. The Word has become flesh. The long-awaited Savior is born. When the angel heralds his arrival, he says, “I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10). And when pagan astrologers traverse far and find him, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).

God gave us a world of joys to get us ready for this moment when announcing “joy” no longer would be enough. God gave us joy for Christmas joy to surpass it.

God’s Words of Joy

But not only did God fill his world with joy, but also his word. The Bible is replete with “joy” — more than two hundred times in an English translation — but “great joy” appears in single digits. “Great joy” is rare and climactic. At the anointing of David’s own son as his successor, at the height of Israel’s kingdom — “great joy” (1 Kings 1:40). At the restoration of the Passover after generations of neglect — “great joy” (2 Chronicles 30:26). At the dedication of Nehemiah’s rebuilt walls after the return from exile — “great joy” (Nehemiah 12:43). Joy is the stuff of every day; “great joy” is kept for the highest of moments.

For the rest of the post…

 Dec 21, 2017 by Alyssa Duvall

In a challenging editorial for The New Yorker, acclaimed Bible teacher Tim Keller asks evangelical readers if the movement, or at least its reputation for morality, can survive having supported controversial figures such as President Donald Trump or Senate candidate Roy Moore. “People who once called themselves the ‘Moral Majority’,” Keller suggests, “are now seemingly willing to vote for anyone, however immoral, who supports their political positions.”

Noting the evolution of the term “evangelical” and its connotations throughout history, the Redeemer Presbyterian church founder shares that when he first became a Christian “in the early nineteen-seventies, the word ‘evangelical’ still meant an alternative to the fortress mentality of fundamentalism,” while still rejecting the divergence in mainline Protestantism from core doctrines of the faith.

Today, however, Keller observes that the label, mostly through the interference of political pundits and pollsters, has taken on a drastically different meaning. “More than eighty per cent of [self-identified evangelicals] voted for Donald Trump, and, last week, a similar percentage cast their ballots for Roy Moore, in the Alabama Senate race. So, in common parlance, evangelicals have become people with two qualities: they are both self-professed Christians and doggedly conservative politically.” Essentially, Keller explains that evangelicals have allowed themselves to be defined by outside secular sources: “…Evangelicalism is defined not by a political party, whether conservative, liberal, or populist, but by theological beliefs.”

Keller notes the difficulty many within the Christian community have with reconciling Christian values and beliefs with the seemingly questionable character of the Conservative candidates they are expected to support: “‘Evangelical’ used to denote people who claimed the high moral ground; now, in popular usage, the word is nearly synonymous with ‘hypocrite.’ When I used the word to describe myself in the nineteen-seventies, it meant I was not a fundamentalist. If I use the name today, however, it means to hearers that I am.”

So, what is a true evangelical? According to Keller, who cites evangelical historian David Bebbington, evangelicals are best defined from beliefs that set them apart from the rest of the Christian community: They believe the whole of Scripture is inspired and authoritative, unlike mainline denominations who believe much of it to be obsolete. They also regard it as the ultimate authority, unlike Roman Catholics who add church tradition and papal infallibility to the mix. In evangelicalism, defining creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed are accepted “without reservation”. And, unlike a surprising number of mainline Protestants, “evangelicals believe that Jesus truly did exist as the divine Son before he was born, that he actually was born of a virgin, and that he really was raised bodily from the dead.”

Keller continues, “…another defining evangelical quality is the belief in the necessity of conversion, the conviction that everyone needs a profound, life-changing encounter with God…through faith in Christ’s sacrificial death for sin.” Finally, evangelicals are “bound by both desire and duty to share their faith with others in both word and deeds of service.”

Do politically-driven, “capital-E” Evangelicals meet these criteria? Recent studies suggest that they largely do not. According to polls conducted by LifeWay research, only 1 in 100 Americans would call himself “evangelical” if the label had nothing to do with politics. “Meanwhile,” as Christianity Today reported, “the label is primarily a political identity for only about 1 in 10 self-identified evangelicals,” revealing a “gap between who evangelicals say they are and what they believe.”

Keller explains that there is a much larger evangelical community, in America and worldwide, which holds true to its faith roots independently of politics and secular influence. Whether this rising movement, and the churches it spawns, will continue to use the co-opted Evangelical label, Keller is uncertain–but he is sure it doesn’t matter: “The movement may abandon, or at least demote, the prominence of the name, yet be more committed to its theology and historic impulses than ever.”

For the rest of the post…

“Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a  Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace  speedily shatters such dreams.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together26.

“In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality. Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual  and not a psychic reality.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together26.

Unashamed Allegiance

Article by John Piper

The impact of R.C. Sproul on my life and ministry is owing to an incomparable combination of his unashamed allegiance to the absolute sovereignty and centrality of God, his total devotion to the inerrancy and radical relevance of the Christian Scriptures, his serious and rigorous attention to the actual text of Scripture in shaping his views, and his jolting formulations of biblical truth in relation to contemporary reality.

Let me illustrate. I can remember the very room in which I was standing when this incomparable combination landed on me for the first time. It was a back room of our house, listening to a cassette tape on a Walkman, while doing some chores. The text that R.C. was preaching on was Luke 13:1–5.

I had chosen to listen to it because I was struck by the title of the message printed on the cassette: “The Misplaced Locus of Amazement” (re-preached in recent years as “The Locus of Astonishment”). I had no idea what he meant. Even when I thought about the content of Luke 13:1–5, I didn’t have the wisdom to discern what he would be getting at. Then I began to listen. And as so often happens in listening to his expository messages, I was riveted.

Our Misplaced Amazement

Some people had come to Jesus and confronted him with the horror that Pilate had slaughtered some Galileans and mingled their blood with their own sacrifices. Interestingly, those who came to Jesus didn’t ask any questions. They simply expressed amazement. But inside their amazement was a question: What horrible sin had these Galileans committed that brought down such a judgment?

“This was R.C.’s goal: a heart stunned and humbled by the transcendent greatness and purity of God.”

Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2–3). And to make sure they knew he saw such horrors in the world, he added this: “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

Then R.C. made a devastating — jolting — observation. He said that these crowds, who were so amazed that some people had been judged for their sin, had put their amazement entirely in the wrong place — “a misplaced locus of amazement.” They were amazed that something horrible had happened to a few Galileans. What they should have been amazed at was that something equally horrible hasn’t happened to everybody in Jerusalem — indeed, R.C. added, everybody in the world.

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2–3)

The meaning of these calamities that happened to others is that I should repent. The amazing thing is that I am not now, at this moment, in hell for my sin. Jolting.

Incomparable Combination

As time went by, I came to realize that the impact of such preaching was owing to R.C.’s incomparable combination of allegiances.

First, he had a serious and rigorous attention to the actual text of Scripture. He was not making his points in general, as his sermon floated in a fog above the text. He was reading the text. He was pushing my nose into the clauses. He was showing me what is really there. The shocking realities were real because they were really in the text.

Second, over time, when you heard R.C. do this kind of thing repeatedly, you realized such serious and rigorous attention to the text was owing to his total devotion to the inerrancy and radical relevance of the Scriptures. He didn’t believe that the message of biblical texts was innocuous and unexciting, and therefore in need of artificial verbal boosters to make the thunder crack. Oh no. If you take the text seriously, and you realize this is the very word of God, you may expect that its relevance will be repeatedly shocking.

Third, therefore, the jolting formulations of biblical truth that were sprinkled so liberally through R.C.’s preaching and writing were not artificially concocted to add effect, but strategically chosen to express reality. And he would say that the jolting expressions, if anything, fall short of, rather than exaggerate, the reality of the text.

Fourth, emerging from the exegesis, and rising in my heart, was an unashamed allegiance to the absolute sovereignty of God to show mercy or to judge according to his infinite wisdom. This was R.C.’s goal: a heart that is stunned and humbled and captivated by the transcendent greatness and purity of God.

Holy God, Humble Man

Consider one other illustration of this kind of jolting exposition. King David decided to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the city of David. But contrary to the law of God, it was carried on an ox-drawn cart, not on poles by the priests (Numbers 4:15). The oxen stumbled, the ark tipped, Uzzah put out his hand to steady the ark, and God struck him dead (1 Chronicles 13:10).

“If you take the Bible seriously, you may expect that its relevance will be repeatedly shocking.”

R.C. suggested that the issue here was deeper than a failure to follow Mosaic stipulations. It was a failure to see the depth of human defilement. Why, he asked, should Uzzah presume that his hands were cleaner than the soil on which the ark was about to fall? Soil is only ceremonially unclean. The hands of sinful men are morally and spiritually unclean — a vastly more serious uncleanness.

To the objection that this seems harsh, R.C. answered that there are, according to Jewish tradition, 23 breaches of the law that receive capital punishment in the Mosaic law. This is an absolutely astonishing and merciful limitation on God’s part since, at the beginning of human history, allsins were punishable by death!

Again and again, I heard him draw out such jolting observations from Scripture — all of it in the service of magnifying the holiness of God, and the humility of man. I marveled. The effect was to make me want to handle the Bible with blood-earnestness, to submit to it absolutely, to preach it faithfully, and to unashamedly herald the greatness of God’s sovereign grace.

For me, it was this faithfulness to biblical texts, and this high view of God’s sovereignty and holiness, that made R.C.’s fight for the imputation of Christ’s righteousness so credible and compelling. The bigger and more central and more sovereign and more holy God is in our eyes, the more clearly we see our desperate need for justification by faith alone.

Someday, when the official biography is written, and the best studies of his life and ministry are done, there will, I believe, emerge a remarkably coherent body of truth and devotion. He never allowed himself to go down marginally important rabbit trails (excluding aberrations like a devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers!). He stayed close to the great doctrines of Scripture and their profound impact on life and ministry and church and missions. These have been the girders from which he has built a coherent, God-centered worldview.

“I Love the Chair”

For the rest of the post by Dr. Piper..

“When we received forgiveness instead of judgement, we, too, were made ready to forgive our brethren. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more meager our brotherly love, the less were we living by God’s mercy and love.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together25.

“Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ. On this proposition rests everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together24.

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