PreachingNOW Vol. 6, No. 44 December 19, 2007 From the Editor: How Can This Be? Articles: Preaching and Worldview 'The Hipper-Than-Thou' Pastor? Illustrations: Christmas, IncarnationChristmas, Emmanuel ChristmasPrayer, Snow Link of the Week Preacher's Bookshelf Humor And Finally... "Christ was born in the first century, yet He belongs to all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet He belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet He belongs to all countries." (George W. Truett) Sign up now for a 1-year subscription to Preaching Magazine. That’s 6 great issues for only $39.95-a savings of over 15% off the newsstand price! Subscribe Today Vol. 6, No. 44 December 18, 2007 Michael Duduit In his most recent letter to pastors, Ron Walters (Vice President of Pastoral Care at Salem Communications) writes: “Christmas has always been wrapped in questions. Even when Gabriel first announced that Mary would “be with child and give birth to a son,” she flinched at the idea. It just didn’t make sense. “How can this be? I’m a virgin!” God has always specialized in the extraordinary, and Christmas is living proof. Our Creator is outside any realm. He cannot be compartmentalized, nor does He conform to normalcy. He lives beyond limits. He is unrestrained by the impractical and laughs at the impossible. His understanding is infinite and His ways are immeasurable. He is, after all, God! Nowhere else but in Bethlehem was this more clearly demonstrated. Instead of being born in posh Jerusalem, He was birthed in a nondescript suburb. Instead of being attended by royalty, He was visited by the working class breaking from their midnight sheep patrol. Instead of a royal cradle, He was placed in a feed trough. Instead of taking His rightful claim to the throne, He was rushed away to escape execution. How can this be? It didn’t make sense. However, things rarely make sense in this world - whether it’s His birth place or our work place. Yet, as in Bethlehem, God is still in control. He doesn’t follow our plumb line of expectations or reasoning-not on His Son’s birthday, and not even today. He has His own plans. Because He’s the Almighty God, that’s enough!” Michael Duduit, Editormichael@preaching.comwww.michaelduduit.com PREACHING AND WORLDVIEW In an essay in the recently published book Preach the Word (Crossway) – edited by Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson – Bruce Winter argues: “Preaching that ‘simply exegetes’ the biblical text is not sufficient to secure God’s intention of personal transformation through the Word of God. Evangelists, pastors, and teachers need to be able to understand how the secular culture has already programmed, and will continue to program, the mind-set of non-Christians as well as that of Christians on individual issues. “To use contemporary terminology, a mental software package called ‘the spirit of this age’ and another called ‘the will of God’ or ‘the knowledge of God’ cannot operate in the same mind (Rom. 12:2). Paul sees these two programs as incompatible and therefore unable to be stored in the same databank ... The secular world’s programming not only hinders the entrance of the gospel for the unbeliever, but it also presents a difficulty for Christians, because conversion to Christ does not automatically deprogram the ways of thinking and acting that have been driven by ‘the spirit of this age.’ If the argument and human arrogance mounted by the secular world, which are contrary to the will of God, are not exposed for what they are and subsequently demolished, then transformation by the renewing of the Christian mind will not occur.” (Click here to learn more about the book Preach the Word.) 'THE HIPPER-THAN-THOU' PASTOR? A recent Time magazine includes a brief feature on pastor Rob Bell. (The headline just above is from the Time article.) The article notes he “apprenticed at a megachurch before founding Mars Hill just outside Grand Rapids. The town is notoriously well churched, but Bell saw an untapped audience: some were his music fans, others Christians left cold by traditional services. 'A hundred people a day were calling and saying, "Dude! Give us the real thing." I was like, "If someone could speak to these people in their mother tongue, they'd be here in droves."' Fifteen hundred people, alerted by word of mouth, came that first Sunday. Nine years later, Mars Hill tallies 11,000 weekly. “Watching Bell there, I found it easy to see his appeal to the young. He delivers stand-up-style monologues, not three-point sermons. Comic riffs alternate with seemingly naive questions – Letterman crossed with NPR'S Ira Glass – until Bell tightens the rhetorical noose and produces tears or thoughtful silence. His stagecraft is legendary. To illustrate a passage from Leviticus on sacrifice, Bell brought on a live goat, which he released – underlining Jesus' role as the last and greatest sin offering – intoning, 'The goat has left the building.' “In 2002, Bell went to video. Attempting a sermon for a standard 21-min. TV slot, he and three friends came up with just 10 strong minutes. These morphed into the Nooma – a 12-min., high-end short melding Bell's spoken narrative and a seemingly unrelated visual into a compelling homily. The format is unique in the world of Evangelicalism or, really, anywhere. If the father of a young child can watch Rain, a divine-love parable featuring Bell and his son during a storm, and not fight tears, he is Christopher Hitchens. The 18 Nooma DVDs have sold 1.2 million units. They epitomize Bell's trademark combination of deep cultural savviness and deeper piety.”(Click here to read the full article) PLAN TO ATTEND NCP 2008 Make plans now to attend the 2008 National Conference on Preaching, April 7-9 in suburban Washington, DC. The theme of this year’s conference is “Preaching and the Public Square: Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?” We have a powerful line-up of speakers and leaders, including Chuck Colson, James MacDonald, Barry Black, William Willimon, James Emery White, A.R. Bernard, Mark Batterson, Robert Smith and many more. To learn more or to register, call, toll free, 1-800-527-5226, or visit www.preaching.com/ncp CHRISTMAS, INCARNATION Every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there is displayed, beneath the great Christmas tree, a beautiful 18th century Neapolitan nativity scene. In many ways it is a very familiar scene. The usual characters are all there: shepherds roused from sleep by the voices of angels; the exotic wise men from the East seeking, as Auden once put it, "how to be human now"; Joseph; Mary; the babe – all are there, each figure an artistic marvel of wood, clay, and paint. There is, however, something surprising about this scene, something unexpected here, easily missed by the causal observer. What is strange here is that the stable, shepherds, and the cradle are set, not in the expected small town of Bethlehem, butamong the ruins of mighty Roman columns. The fragile manger is surrounded by broken and decaying columns. The artists knew the meaning of this event: The gospel, the birth of God's new age, was also the death of the old world. Herods know in their souls what we perhaps have passed over too lightly: God's presence in the world means finally the end of their own power. They seek not to preserve the birth of God's new age, but to crush it. For Herod, the gospel is news too bad to be endured, for Mary, Joseph, and all the other characters it is news too good to miss. (Thomas G. Long, Something Is About To Happen, via eSermonscom newsletter) CHRISTMAS, EMMANUEL When Corrie ten Boom was a little girl, her father used to tuck her into bed at night. He talked and prayed with her, then laid his big hand on her little face. Later, when Corrie was imprisoned in a brutal concentration camp, she would ask God to tuck her in and lay His hand on her face. "That would bring me peace, and I would be able to sleep," Corrie wrote in her book, Each New Day. David Jeremiah writes, “One of our Lord's Names is Emmanuel, meaning ‘God with us.’ Our dads or moms may no longer be around to tuck us into bed, but our Emmanuel never leaves us. Sometimes it helps to envision His presence in the car beside us, sitting by us in the pew at church, or leaning over us in bed as if to tuck us in. It's not a matter of visualizing an imaginary person but of recognizing a Friend's presence. “Jesus said, ‘Lo, I am with you always.’ So be strong and of good courage, and do not fear or be dismayed, for the Lord God will be with you.” (Turning Point Daily Devotional, 12-18-06) From the January-February issue of Preaching ...In an article on providing a balanced diet of preaching, J. Kent Edwards writes: “Pastors make similar decisions for their church families on a weekly basis. Every week, every pastor wonders, 'What’s for dinner?' What spiritual food will I serve up to my congregation this week? The decision about what to preach is not incidental. Your choice impacts the spiritual health and development of the people you lead. How do you decide what to preach? What criteria guide your decisions? Even if you are committed to preaching Scripture, the question remains: What portion of the Bible will you preach this week, month, and year? What parts will you not preach? Why?” _______ Every issue of Preaching contains insightful articles on preaching, plus great model sermons and practical resources. If you’re not a current subscriber to Preaching magazine, click here (or call, toll free, 1-800-527-5226) to go begin your subscription! Also in the January-February issue of Preaching: An exclusive interview with Charles Stanley, articles on “Preaching with Flavor,” “The Expository Method,” the final installment in Michael Quicke’s series on “Preaching and Trinitarian Worship,” and much more. Order your subscription today! At his website Serious Times, James Emery White talks about why the movie A Christmas Story is the most popular holiday film for today’s young adults, as opposed to the film their parents liked best, It’s a Wonderful Life. Jim writes: “The great divide between It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story is more than just the radical individualism that marks our day, but what has spawned such individualism. The real divide between the two films is that one retains the idea that Christmas is about the birth of the Jesus, and one does not. Unless I have missed it, A Christmas Story does not have a single reference, symbol, picture or event that would suggest Christmas is about the birth of Christ, or has religious significance of any kind. It’s a Wonderful Life, on the other hand, was rich in Christian idea and ethos, from traditional Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Christ (the climax of the movie is marked by the spontaneous outburst of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) to the central character of an angel. A Christmas Story is marked by the complete and total absence of anything religious at all, much less Christian. No nativity scenes, no church services, no Christian music . . .” To read the full article visit: By the way, Jim will be one of the featured speakers at the 2008 National Conference on Preaching, as we explore the relationship of preaching and culture. To learn more go to www.preaching.com/ncp "It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God - the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people - kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people - no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush ..." (Andrew Greeley) Research from the Barna Group indicates that major portions of the generations under 40 have looked at evangelical Christianity and rejected what they saw. The reasons for that – along with a prescription for change – are found in the new book unChristian (Baker Books) by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. These two insightful young church leaders have also included comments from a diverse group of church leaders (from Rick Warren to John Stott to Brian McLaren). Like it or not, this is an important book that church leaders should read. (For additional resources visit wwwunchristian.com) In The Beautiful Fight (Zondervan), Gary Thomas urges believers to realize that Jesus is more than a historical reality – He is a present power who can transform our lives. He challenges us to live with a new passion for God. This is a good book for the new year. We may be approaching Christmas, but wise preachers are already thinking ahead to Easter. A book you’ll enjoy reading as you think about the events surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection is AD 33: The Year That Changed the World (InterVarsity) by Colin Duriez. This fascinating volume paints a portrait of the world in which Jesus lived, and of the events surrounding the Passion. The insights you’ll gain about first-century Palestine will add flavor to many future sermons. CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS LOVE (paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13) If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook. If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing. If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point. Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure. (http://www.holytrinitynewrochelle.org/yourti14714.html) PRAYER, SNOW A heavy snowstorm closed the schools. When the children returned to campus a few days later, one grade school teacher asked her students whether they had used the time away from school constructively. "I sure did, Teacher," little Julie replied. "I just prayed for more snow."(from beliefnet.com) BAD CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR YOUR PASTOR The Left Behind Series "Practical Survivors Guide." A Monopoly Acts 16 "Get out of jail free" card. A "Begats" family tree chart. A Christian Supply House "Woman at the Well" water cooler. Golf club covers with the 12 disciples' faces on them. The Damascus Road auto fog light (It'll blind ya). A Bobble-Head statue of the Apostle Paul for the back of his car. A LifeWay Dead Sea bathroom deodorizer. An official Cokesbury hellfire and brimstone backyard grill. A half-size replica of the Popemobile. A rooftop hot tub. And the number 1 bad Christmas gift for your pastor: frankincense aftershave. (from Sermon Fodder and Joke A Day Ministries) Because it’s almost Christmas, maybe we need to close on a heart-warming note.Such as this: Summer Lambert had made an early-morning stop at Wal-Mart when a strange man walked up and handed her an envelope. It contained a Christmas card and $50 in cash. According to a Dec. 12 AP story, this was just one such encounter reported by staff and customers of local businesses this Christmas season. A "Mystery Santa" has been approaching perfect strangers and handing out the cards and cash. The incidents follow receipt of a card and letter by the local newspaper in which the anonymous sender said he plans to hand out $600 in cash this holiday season. The man said his goal is to "open a heart or two" this holiday season. While we can’t hand out envelopes of cash, all of us at Preaching magazine and Preaching Now wish you a blessed Christmas season and a wonderful new year. __________________________SUBSCRIPTION INFO__________________________ * This newsletter is never sent unsolicited. It was sent to you because you signedup to receive this newsletter on a Salem Publishing website. We respect and value your time and privacy. If this newsletter no longer meets yourneeds, we will be happy to remove your address immediately. 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