Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Christmas/Easter Story

A few years ago, my wife and I attended a conference at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich., which focused on music and arts in worship. One of the presenters was Dennis Dewey, who has a passion for oral presentations of the Bible.

His methodology makes perfect sense, because the Bible—scripture—was always read to people until relatively recently, before the printing press (and literacy) made the Bible physically accessible to everyone. If I remember correctly, Dewey said to take note of how some passages seem repetitive, possibly because the text often lends itself more to oral presentation than written presentation.

During the weekend conference, we were given a copy of the following, which I think is magnificent. We always seem to think of the warm and cuddly baby Jesus and how indescribably wonderful a gift He was. But how often do we reflect that the gift of the baby Jesus culminated at the cross?

This is meant to be spoken aloud, performed during a service or Christmas play—or Easter play, which would be equally apropos. Enjoy, and have a merry and blessed Christmas!

ONE: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. (This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

TWO: Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. I will therefore
chastise him and release him."

ONE: And all went to be enrolled to their own cities. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

TWO: But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for, but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

ONE: And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.

TWO: And when they came to the place which is called the skull, there they crucified him, and two criminals--one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

ONE: And she brought forth her first-born son and wrapped him swaddling cloths...

TWO: And they cast lots to divide his garments.

ONE: ...and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

TWO: And the people stood by, watching.

ONE: And an angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. And they were filled with fear! But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

TWO: But the rulers scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others! If this IS the Christ of God, God's chosen One, let him save himself!"

ONE: And this will be a sign for you...

TWO: And while the sun's light failed, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!"

ONE: ....You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths...

TWO: Then Joseph of Arimathea took down the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a linen shroud...

ONE: ...and lying in a manger.

TWO: ...and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb.

[PAUSE, as the tellers switch stories]

TWO: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace among people of God's favor!"

ONE: The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his
body was laid, and returned and prepared spices and ointments.

TWO: When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened that the Lord has made known to us!"

ONE: And on the first day of the week at early dawn they went to the tomb.

TWO: And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

ONE: And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb! But when they went in, they did not see the body!

TWO: And when the shepherds saw the babe lying in the manger, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning the child.

ONE: While they were perplexed about this, suddenly, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel, and they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you when he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise?"

TWO: And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

ONE: And they did remember his words, and, returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest!

TWO: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them!

ONE: But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
-- Composed by Luke's Community/Rearranged by Dennis Dewey, 1995

(If you pass this on to anyone else, please include the credit line!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Coming the first week of the new year: The Apocalypse Code

The end times are a main focuss of much of evangelical Christianity. They have taken on a new significance thanks to the mega-bestselling Left Behind series. However, I am not one who believes in the Left Behind-style teaching, nor do I agree with the significance of the modern state of Israel, or that there will be a rapture in terms of a "secret second coming" before the actual main event, and so on.

I've been working on collecting my thoughts for some time, which is why I haven't posted much since November. I'm working on a multi-post series on the end times, using Hank Hanegraaff's new book, The Apocalypse Code, as a main ingredient.

Essentially, I no longer hold to the end times theology propogated by Tim LaHaye, John Hagge and even one of my heroes in the faith, John MacArthur. Because every post is closely related, I wanted to have most (if not all) written up front.

Please understand that this will not be an attack on anyone's faith. Rather, I want to examine why the premilenialism teaching that has grown in strength since it was first taught in the 1800s has introduced serious error into the modern church.

Prayers for a shooter/killer

Those recent twin shootings in Colorado rattled a friend of mine. Greg Stier, head of the Dare2Share youth ministry, sends his kid to the same campus where the first murders took place.

Around the bloogosphere, I’ve seen well-deserved praise for the ex-cop (turns out disgraced former cop who has now been redeemed by the Lord) who took down the shooter before the guy blew his own head off. I’ve also seen plenty of “enjoy hell!!” comments directed at the murderer.

But on his blog, Greg had this to say:

“Our hearts break for the victims of the shootings at the YWAM Training Center in Arvada, Colorado. This tragedy took place less than five minutes away from Dare 2 Share Ministries International headquarters in Wheatridge, Colorado. This hits close to home to me personally because I live in Arvada where this horrific shooting took place. I ask all Christians to pray that the perpetrator of these horrible shootings is caught, brought to justice and then to Jesus. I ask that every Christian prays as well for the surviving victims and all the families that have been affected by this shocking and senseless tragedy.”
“Pray…that the perpetrator…is brought to Jesus.” Of course, we now know the ultimate outcome and know some of the background of the killer. But Greg, amid what really was a terrifying episode, was asking for grace for the shooter instead of joining in with the chorus of those damning him to hell.

Think about that for a while.