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January 20 - 26, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pastor - Civil Rights Leader

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and social activist, who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968.

He was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King, both a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist, had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Among many efforts, King headed the SCLC. Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, "I Have a Dream."

Born as Michael King Jr., Martin Luther King Jr. was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. The King and Williams families were rooted in rural Georgia. Martin Jr.'s grandfather, A.D. Williams, was a rural minister for years and then moved to Atlanta in 1893. He took over the small, struggling Ebenezer Baptist church with around 13 members and made it into a forceful congregation. He married Jennie Celeste Parks and they had one child that survived, Alberta. Michael King Sr. came from a sharecropper family in a poor farming community. He married Alberta in 1926 after an eight-year courtship. The newlyweds moved to A.D. Williams home in Atlanta.

Michael King Sr. stepped in as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church upon the death of his father-in-law in 1931. He too became a successful minister, and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. In due time, Michael Jr. would follow his father's lead and adopt the name himself.

During his last year in seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. came under the guidance of Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays who influenced King’s spiritual development. Mays was an outspoken advocate for racial equality and encouraged King to view Christianity as a potential force for social change. After being accepted at several colleges for his doctoral study, including Yale and Edinburgh in Scotland, King enrolled in Boston University.

During the work on this doctorate, Martin Luther King Jr. met Coretta Scott, an aspiring singer and musician, at the New England Conservatory school in Boston. They were married in June 1953 and had four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott and Bernice. In 1954, while still working on his dissertation, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama. He completed his Ph.D. and was award his degree in 1955. King was only 25 years old.

By 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. was gaining national notoriety. He returned to Atlanta to become co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church, but also continued his civil rights efforts.

In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. organized a demonstration in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Entire families attended. City police turned dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators. Martin Luther King was jailed along with large numbers of his supporters, but the event drew nationwide attention. However, King was personally criticized by black and white clergy alike for taking risks and endangering the children who attended the demonstration. From the jail in Birmingham, King eloquently spelled out his theory of non-violence: "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue."

By the end of the Birmingham campaign, Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters were making plans for a massive demonstration on the nation's capital composed of multiple organizations, all asking for peaceful change. On August 28, 1963, the historic March on Washington drew more than 200,000 people in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, emphasizing his belief that someday all men could be brothers.

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The rising tide of civil rights agitation produced a strong effect on public opinion. Many people in cities not experiencing racial tension began to question the nation's Jim Crow laws and the near century second class treatment of African-American citizens. This resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorizing the federal government to enforce desegregation of public accommodations and outlawing discrimination in publicly owned facilities. This also led to Martin Luther King receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964.

On April 3, in what proved to be an eerily prophetic speech, he told supporters, "I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land." The next day, while standing on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel, Martin Luther King Jr. was struck by a sniper's bullet.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s life had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States. Years after his death, he is the most widely known African-American leader of his era. His life and work have been honored with a national holiday, schools and public buildings named after him, and a memorial on Independence Mall in Washington, D.C.

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Making God’s Grace Visible by Engaging With People Who Are Not Like Us

I recently was introduced to the term "PLU," which stands for "people like us." We all need a sense of community where we are with our PLUs, but not to the extent of isolation or exclusion.

If we do not become proximate with "people not like us," then we miss out on understanding the life and perspective of others. We are unable to connect with them, risk becoming judgmental and prejudice, and risk supporting policies which harm others. We risk keeping grace invisible when we only engage with people like us. Entering the world of "others" is a way of making grace visible.

If you understand the gospel, then you understand God’s grace. In a sermon, Martin Luther King Jr. describes the grace of God like this:

Have you ever done anything, and you felt that you had become a shame to yourself? You feel a sense of shame before your family and before society, and you felt that your integrity never would come back? That your life now was an endless process of meaninglessness and that everything had turned against you, and as you walked the streets you were ashamed to look at anybody, and you felt that everybody was looking at you with scorn? And you went to bed at night, and you tried to pray that you wouldn’t think about it or you wouldn’t dream about it, but even in the midnight hours you would wake up and discover that it was still plaguing you? And then, at that moment, you decided to try another method; you decided to turn this thing over to God and lay yourself bare before the Almighty God, and something happened to you, and you could walk out before life and before your family and before yourself and your friends with new meaning. Looked like life had taken on something new, and you wondered what happened. That was the grace of God. Something that you didn’t deserve, something that you didn’t merit, but something that you so desperately needed in order to live through the experiences of life.

I have seen grace made visible in prisons.

Recently, I saw it in the incarcerated circled around the handball court inside a prison for an evangelistic event. There was very little initial interaction between the volunteers and the incarcerated. The incarcerated kept a bit of distance checking out the volunteers, almost leery of them. It was up to the volunteers to step out of being with their PLUs and entering into the crowd.

"Hey, we are glad you are here!"

"What is your name, no…your first name!"

"Where are you from?"

The invisible but very apparent walls began to come down. Trust was built by showing acceptance and interest. Even with this progress, a sense of uncertainty could be felt to address the underlying "us versus them" in the air and to make it a "together we are here" celebration.

It is a scene that repeats itself. The incarcerated rarely experience a tangible sense of grace. Time behind bars makes them leery of connecting with people and less likely to reach out. Often, their pathway to incarceration was a result of dysfunctional families, choices, and behavior which are difficult to hear. Fatherlessness, trauma, poverty, and lack of opportunities are common themes. Stories of abuse and victimization are difficult to hear and imagine.

The experience of grace, mercy, and the concept of forgiveness are rare for the incarcerated. Instead, society has given themselves permission to judge and scorn this population.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable about the nations gathering before Him. He separates the people as one would the sheep and from the goats. He spoke of the need to visit him when he was sick or in prison (v. 36) and tells us how he would answer questions of the righteous very clearly by saying, "The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’" (v. 40).

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European Homeschool Ruling 'Ignores' Parents' Rights

A European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling to uphold Germany's homeschool prohibition has been called a matter of concern for "anyone who cares about freedom."

The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled Jan. 10 that Dirk and Petra Wunderlich's human rights were not violated when German officials forcibly removed their four children from the family home near Darmstadt, Germany, for three weeks in 2013. At issue was the Wunderlichs' refusal to stop homeschooling.

A German court previously determined the children's level of education "was not alarming" and they did not face a risk of physical harm at home, according to the ECHR's ruling. Still, the Wunderlichs have no right to homeschool under the European Convention on Human Rights, the ECHR said.

Paul Coleman, executive director of Alliance Defending Freedom International, a legal organization that represents the Wunderlichs, said the ruling "ignores the fact that Germany's policy on homeschooling violates the rights of parents to educate their children and direct their upbringing.

"It is alarming to see that this was not recognized by the most influential human rights court in Europe," Coleman said according to an ADF release. "This ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom."

The Wunderlichs may appeal to the ECHR's Grand Chamber, the court's highest level, their ADF International attorney Robert Clarke said.

Germany argues children must attend school to learn "tolerance" and how "to hold fast to their convictions against majority views," Clarke told The World and Everything in It podcast. Yet the ECHR's ruling suggests "the government is allowed to be utterly intolerant" and that "if you stand fast to your convictions against majority-held views, then your house is going to get surrounded by police officers and your children are going to get taken away."

Germany "really stands alone" among European nations in its level of resistance to homeschooling, Clarke said.

In a related case, the Romeike family fled Germany for the U.S. in 2008 amid mounting fines and risk of losing custody of homeschooled children. The Romeikes requested asylum in the U.S. and lost their court battle, but in 2014 the Department of Homeland Security allowed them to remain in the country.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Germany's homeschooling prohibition, according to DW.com, Germany's public international broadcast service. The only exceptions are for severe illness, children of diplomats and working children like child actors. Between 500-1,000 German families are believed to be homeschooling.

In the U.S., the federal Department of Education estimates there are more than 2 million homeschool students. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reports varying levels of regulation among U.S. states and claims homeschool families occasionally face unjust harassment from government authorities.

In December, a Massachusetts mother filed a lawsuit claiming law enforcement officers handcuffed her and took her to the police station over her decision to homeschool her son, Boston's WBUR radio reported.

In Puerto Rico, a mother's decision to homeschool her four youngest children eventuated in a court order to remove them from her home, HSLDA reported in November. Eventually, the mother was cleared of wrongdoing and the case was resolved without removal of the children.

When the Wunderlichs appealed their case to the ECHR in April, HSLDA's Mike Donnelly said, "Human rights experts at the UN and scholars worldwide have found that home education is a natural, fundamental and protected human right."

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Teens Who Attend Church Often Stop Going As Young Adults, LifeWay Study Finds

Two-thirds of American Christian teenagers who regularly attend worship at a Protestant congregation for at least a year quit going for at least a year when they become young adults.

According to a report by LifeWay Research titled "Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church as Young Adults," 66 percent of young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.

The major reasons respondents gave included "moving to college" (34 percent), "church members seeming judgmental or hypocritical" (32 percent), "no longer feeling connected to people in their church" (29 percent), disagreement with their "church’s stance on political or social issues" (25 percent), and employment obligations (24 percent).

The report drew from data collected from a survey done Sept. 15 – Oct. 13 of last year of 2,002 respondents who attended Protestant churches, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

The 2017 numbers were a slight improvement compared to 2007, when 70 percent of respondents reported leaving for at least a year between ages 18 and 22.

Alex McFarland, national talk show host and author who has hosted dozens of "Truth for a New Generation" apologetics conferences, said that he believed the LifeWay study was "accurate" and attributed the numbers ultimately to "issues of worldview."

"If they are taught the biblical worldview and the responsibility of every Christian to be a steward of their life and their influence and be a part of a church, really all of those things could ultimately be dealt with," said McFarland, who encouraged "teaching a more cohesive, consistently proclaimed biblical worldview."

Regarding the 25 percent of respondents who reported leaving over their church’s views on social and political issues, McFarland said that this should not lead a church to "abdicate its roll to be a voice for righteousness within the culture."

"Churches should speak to political and social issues," stated McFarland, who noted that at his conferences, young people normally make up 40 to 50 percent of the attendees.

"The number one voice they look to is their parents and secondly, to youth pastor, pastor, or some type of clergy, for biblical truth, about the big questions of life. So what the church shouldn’t do is stop talking about the great issues of our day from a biblical perspective. Sexuality, morality, gender, salvation."

McFarland warned that for many youth, the couple of hours they spend in church and Sunday School often competes against "something like 32-40 hours a week in a secular classroom, hundreds and hundreds of hours in a year in terms of secular media."

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New 'Visual Commentary on Scripture' website offers new way to study the Bible

A new $2 million web project launched by King's College London is offering users a new way to visually digest biblical Scripture through the analyses of classic and contemporary works of art.

In November, the United Kingdom-based public research university officially launched a website titled Visual Commentary on Scripture, thevcs.org, a project that has been over a year in the making and was made possible by a donation from billionaire U.S.-based philanthropists Roberta and Howard Ahmanson.

The project, which aims to cover every book in the Christian Bible, uses works of historic and modern visual art that reflect messages found within passages of Scripture.

According to the project’s director, the VCS aims to make it easier for people to see the "bridge between the historic traditions of Christianity and the art world."

"What we are seeing now, and I think it is a new moment in Christian history, more Protestant and Evangelical churches have a very strong desire of wanting to use a visual language in the mission," King’s College professor of Christianity and the arts Ben Quash said.

"Visual language is a new kind of currency among young people who talk to each other all the time in visual language by sharing images on [social media.] So churches who want to communicate the Gospel for young people who talk in images are having to take images seriously. I think that is very exciting because it means that there is a new opportunity to draw people into reading the Bible through using visual arts."

Each passage of scripture included in the VCS will have three accompanying works of visual art that all relate to the biblical passage in question. Each painting associated with the scripture will have their own commentaries written by a select writer or author.

The commentaries of the paintings reflect on the historical perspective of the time period the artwork was completed as well as perspectives on the passages of Scripture they are associated with.

As of now, there are nearly 100 passages of scripture completed by the project, each with their own three paintings and accompanying reflections.

One example is the VCS exhibition of the "Sermon on the Mount," which is accompanied by a 1481–1482 fresco by Italian painter Cosimo Roselli, a 1442 fresco by Italian painter Fra Angelico and a 1598 oil painting by Flemish painter Jan Brueghel the Elder.

According to Quash, the goal is to have over 1,500 scripture exhibitions included in the project with about 240 being produced per year.

The shortest scriptural passage in the project currently is two verses long and the longest passage is three chapters.

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Chick-fil-A Founder's Legacy Seen in Daughter's New Book

Mountains fascinate Trudy Cathy White, from the mountaintop outside her childhood home where parents Jeannette and Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A fame led family Bible studies to the rough spiritual mountains that have tried her faith.

White, a Christian entrepreneur, speaker and former International Mission Board missionary, offers wisdom from personal mountaintops in a new book, "Climb Every Mountain: Finding God Faithful in the Journey of Life."

She and husband John built their home on that childhood mountaintop in suburban Atlanta, reared four children and completed a 10-year stint near Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as IMB missionaries. Today, two Gospel-centered ministries the couple co-founded, LifeShape and Impact 360 Institute, improve the lives of children and adults internationally.

Life's struggles and pains have strengthened her relationship with God, whom she describes as a mountain of fortitude.

"I see mountains as symbols of God's unchanging, resolute presence. He sits like a mighty mountain, unmoving and unaffected by the storms of life," she writes in her book. "Second, mountains represent the many struggles, obstacles, and challenges I've faced throughout my life. They mark where the road gets rough, where the climb seems too steep."

The advantages of growing up in a Christian home as the only daughter among the Cathy's three children, having parents who modeled Christian principles personally and professionally, and managing her first Chick-fil-A franchise as a 19-year-old college freshman were not enough to shield White from pain.

"After all, God's supposed to make our lives easy, right?" White posed. "Wrong. Life is hard."

White's most difficult journey has been understanding her own identity as she has always been introduced as the daughter of the founder of Chick-fil-A.

"I had seen my parents walk through so many challenges in life. Life is not defined by the things you have or who you're connected with," White said. "My identity is defined in Who [God] is in my life."

White's husband has suffered two bouts of cancer. Her youngest son David, born in Brazil, couldn't breathe on his own the first 30 minutes of his life and spent nearly a month in intensive care.

"The Lord is our shepherd; we shall not want," John whispered Psalm 23 to her during the difficult birth, she said. Today, David is a 31-year-old husband and father, although he suffers from adult developmental amnesia.

White views children as gifts from God accompanied by the rewarding challenge of parenting.

"We as parents need to be the best role model we can be for them," she said. She encourages parents to look past the temptation to criticize children for their faults, but to take opportunities to praise them.

The book flows from a lesson White learned from her father, that the greatest blessings in life stem from helping others. Each chapter of the book, available Feb. 12 in bookstores and on Amazon, uses Scripture and life experiences to help readers learn their identity in Christ, understand their spiritual gifts and godly calling, and leave a godly legacy for generations. White's lessons encompass godly parenting, aging and grief.

"The One who made you also made mountains," White encourages readers. "He knows every part of you, and He knows every part of the climb ahead of you. And, although it may not feel like much of a blessing in the moment, He's called you by name to climb it.

"But don't worry," White writes. "He's there to climb it with you."

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