Archive for December, 2006

Telling the Story

This time of year, pastors usually have problems coming with “new” and “fresh” ways of presenting “the old, old story.”

How many times can we go through the same passages (Matt. 1; Luke 1-2) without them becoming dry and familiar? How long can I go without becoming dry and familiar? If we’re not careful the incredible story of the incarnation can become routine and, dare we say it, even boring. Dorothy Sayers has quipped that the worst sin we can commit as Christians is to make the gospel boring.

Chuck Swindoll made the comment that he’s preached the Christmas story from almost every angle imaginable – even “the camel’s-eye view.” He thinks that the best and most effective way to tell the story of Jesus taking on humanity and becoming one of us is simply to tell the story with as little “garnish” as possible.

Good idea. The Lord doesn’t need me to make the truth fresh, new, or exciting. He wants me to be faithful in proclaiming His truth.

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Movie Review

Rick Phillips has posted a review of the movie The Nativity Story at the reformation21 blog that’s very positive. “Go see the movie,” he says (in short).

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Time for You

Time has named you the Person of the Year!

Thank you. Thank you very much!

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If you’ve spent any time at all talking with non-Christians, you’ve been labeled as “intolerant.” Well, are we?

It depends. Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason has a good explanation at Townhall. Read it here.

He says that “one of America’s noblest virtues has been so distorted it’s become a vice.”

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We always seem to have a hard time finding suitable Christmas cards. The vast majority are sappy, sentimental, or miss the point of Christmas completely.

We (my wife and I) don’t want to send cards that don’t reflect our commitment to Christ, no matter how cute and cuddly they might be. Most of the time, the message just isn’t strong enough or clear enough.

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has some good comments on Christmas cards called “Keeping Christ in Christmas Cards.” You can listen here.

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Here are three recommendations of books that specifically deal with Christmas.

The first is Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration. It includes hymns, prayers, passages of Scripture, Christmas carols, and questions (among other things) to make the Advent season more meaningful. James Boice, James Dobson, R.C. Sproul, and Chuck Swindoll all contributed to this book.

The second is God With Us: The Miracle of Christmas by John MacArthur. He’s concerned that we’re losing Christmas, and this book is an attempt to regain it and clear up some of the fog that surrounds it. MacArthur’s chapters include the identity of the wise men, those who missed Christmas, whether or not the virgin birth is really that important, and the incarnation.

The third is The Passion of Jesus Christ: Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die by John Piper. This book may seem like a strange choice, but it isn’t. It’s a logical choice because Jesus came, not to stay a baby in a manger, but to save His people from their sins (which by necessity included His death). Piper makes clear the reason for Christ’s entry into human history as God incarnate.


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Does This Mean That?

It’s often stated by some Christians that we (as Christians) should not think about what we’re going to say to other people about Jesus or the gospel. In other words, we aren’t supposed to prepare, but simply rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the words.

Matthew 10:16-20 is the passage used as support. Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

“There you have it,” they say. “No preparation or study is necessary. Just rely on God to give you the words.” That sounds spiritual, but it isn’t what Jesus is teaching at all.

First of all, the context of the words of the Lord Jesus are important. Jesus was sending out the twelve disciples to cast out unclean spirits and heal diseases (Matt. 10:1). In other words, these words (and the larger context in 10:5-42) are instructions given to a specific group of people in a specific place in a specific time. These are not instructions given to you and me (although we are also disciples of Jesus). However there are principles that are valuable for us in this passage.

Second, Jesus was clearly “instructing” his disciples (Matt. 10:5; 11:1) before He sent them out. He did not simply tell them to “just wait for the Spirit to put words in your mouth.” Jesus spent three years teaching and training His followers, which obviously included a lot of study, learning, preparation, and time.

Should we rely on the Holy Spirit? Of course we should! Without the working and power of the Spirit, any preaching and any witness falls flat. But our reliance upon the Spirit of God must never supercede preparation and study. The Spirit works through that, too.

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