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The Untold Story of Christmas

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

This year I made a video that tells a little known angle of the Christmas story that also incorporates some well known Bible stories that play a role as well. The video can be seen at http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/26526/The-Red-Dragon-Of-Christmas with a Spanish version here. Let’s explore this subject and ask some questions:

Who? In an obscure passage, Revelation 12, we see the Nativity scene as it really was in the spiritual realm. There is no mention of angels, shepherds, wise men, or even Joseph. The missing piece of our nativity scenes is a huge, vile red dragon. In case John’s apocalyptic description of the enemy is not clear, he tells us in verse 9 that the Dragon is in fact Satan, that ancient serpent. What? Here we get a behind the scenes look at what was really happening at Christ’s birth, throughout his life, and even before. Down through history, Satan has constantly pursued the destruction of Jesus. There is a thread found throughout the entire Bible– hostility between the seed of the woman and the dragon. Revelation 12 is simply the starting point. From there, you can trace the Dragon’s efforts to undo God’s promise from Genesis right on up until Bethlehem.

Why? A major source of inspiration for this video was found in Chapter 11 of More Than Conquerors, by William Hendriksen. The author links classic stories of the Bible with Satan’s attempts to destroy the promised Messiah, the Savior, the one who would reverse the curse. He was targeted way before He was even born, for if one destroys the line from which He will come, then in so doing one has destroyed Him.

When and How? The initial conflict begins, like most concepts, in the beginning. Genesis 3:15 is the first Messianic prophecy. It brings to the forefront the hostility between the “woman’s seed” and the Dragon or serpent. We then see the conflict played out in scripture through many different people and events. However, John sees the whole picture in his vision; the revelation comes to him unveiled. Lift the veil and you will see that the Dragon is behind all of these attacks like a puppet-master pulling strings. From Seth to the Flood (Genesis 3-9) Adam and Eve’s son, Abel, pleased the Lord with his sacrifice, but in a jealous anger, his brother, Cain, slays him. Another son is born who will bear the promise– Seth. The dragon whispers to Seth’s descendants to marry the daughters of Cain, trying to annihilate future generations. Wickedness prevails, but there is one who fears the Lord– Noah (Genesis 6), who builds an ark and whose family is spared from God’s judgment in the flood so the promise will continue.

From the Flood to Jacob (Genesis 10-50) The promise-bearer is now Abraham, but he is old, and Sarah is barren. How can they bring the promised one into the world? The promise is given to their miracle-child, Isaac. But later he and Rebekah have the same problem. She cannot bear any children (Genesis 25). Again, a barren woman gives birth miraculously, and Jacob is born. The attacks do not stop there. Jacob deceives his father and receives the blessing that belonged to Esau. He flees from his own brother in fear. Years later he comes home terrified. He is afraid that Esau will kill him. He tries to butter him up with gifts before he arrives. There’s no need. Esau does not kill him. Instead, they embrace. (Genesis 32-33) The promise moves forward.

From Jacob to the Jews in the desert. (Exodus) The dragon now stands before the woman in the form of Jacob’s descendants, the Jews. After being led out of Egypt after 430 years of slavery (Exodus 12:40) they come to Mount Sinai. God has already given them His law, and they have agreed to it with one voice. But while Moses is up on the mountain, a restless and impatient people get Aaron to make them an idol– a golden calf. If Sinai is the marriage ceremony between God and Israel, then during the honeymoon, there is blatant cheating taking place! God most definitely had the right to be angry. God’s anger burns as they dance around this object. He wants to consume them, but Moses intercedes and the promise is salvaged again. (Exodus 32)

From the Jews in the desert to David, the king. Out of the tribe of Judah God chooses one family to be heirs of the promise made back in the garden of Eden. That family is David’s (2 Sa. 7:12ff; Ps. 89:29, 35, 36; Je. 23:5; Acts 2:30). He is now targeted by the Dragon. Saul, the current king, knows that David will be or even is greater than he. In fits of anger and jealousy Saul hurls spears at David, which he successfully dodges. He eventually has to flee and roam the wilderness, as Saul continues to pursue him with the full force of the army, with the exception of those who defected to be among David’s rag-tag group of mighty men. David escapes Saul’s attempts on his life and in time comes to sit on the throne as Israel’s king.

From David to Queen Athaliah. Athaliah, the daughter of wicked Ahab and Jezebel, now reigns. She has power, but wants more. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. In order to attain absolute power she is intent on killing all of David’s family. If all the royal seed is destroyed, then she will maintain control. Draw back the curtain again and see that the Dragon knows full well that if all the royal seed is destroyed, then Christ cannot be born as the legal heir of David’s throne, as stated in God’s promise. However, we read in 2 Kings 11:1, 2ff “Jehosheba…took Joash…and stole him away from the royal princes who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed.” We later see the boy Joash being crowned as the people cheer, “Long live the king!”

From Athaliah to Esther (Book of Esther) Fast-forward to the 5th century. God’s providence continues in the story of Esther. Though God’s name is never mentioned in this short little book, you see His hand throughout the entire story. As the Dragon plots through Haman to commit genocide and obliterate the whole Jewish race, God is also moving in the background. An amazing chain of events takes place, and through Esther and Mordecai the promise is saved from this evil plot.

From Esther to Bethlehem There are indeed more stories, but we finally end up at Bethlehem for our final act. The child of the promise is finally about to be born. As Paul writes in Galatians 4:4, this takes place in the “fullness of time.” But there are many hurdles to overcome. First of all, Joseph needs convincing that this pregnancy is from God. He is betrothed to Mary, but has not yet been intimate with her. Now that she is expecting, he, being a righteous man decides to divorce her quietly. In the small town of Nazareth, though, rumors were probably already populating minds and mouths. He could have had her stoned! But she and the child will need his full support. So an angel appears to him in a dream to explain the full scale of the situation.

Matthew 1:23 records that the angel told Joseph that “all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” Then we read in verses 24-25 that “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Disaster one is averted, but the Dragon is relentless.

In Matthew 2 we see the wise men or the magi. (They technically didn’t arrive until much later, so they don’t belong on our nativity scenes either!) They show up on king Herod’s door step asking, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” This troubles Herod greatly, and the text says all of Jerusalem with him. This jealous and paranoid king decides that he cannot allow another king to be born and challenge his power. He has heard the rumors and puts a plan in action. Herod asks the religious leaders where this Messiah was to be born. They recite Micah 5, and name the place: Bethlehem. He then tells the wise men, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” He did not want to worship him. He wanted to kill him!

God intervenes yet again. After the wise men find the Christ-child, an angel warns them to leave by a different route and not to go back to Herod. When Herod realizes the wise men failed to provide him with his information, he takes matters into his own hands. He will search for the child. Then, it gets worse. When he doesn’t find him, he slays all of the infant males in Bethlehem. However, an another angel warns Joseph about Herod’s plan and tells him to flee to Egypt. And the gifts from the wise men may have been just what this poor family needed to fund the trip! King Herod failed, but more importantly the Dragon failed yet again. The Dragon could not triumph since the beginning and will certainly not triumph in the future.

Bonus Material: Another great resource for illustrating this passage comes from the late Dr. Robert Lowery, a brilliant scholar of Revelation. “Christmas on Patmos: a Woman, a Child, and a Dragon”- http://rlowery.com/2006/12/04/christmas-on-patmos-a-woman-a-child-and-a-dragon/. It is worth reading in its entirety (especially the section on the term “Behold!”.) In this wonderful little article Dr. Lowery muses:

John’s rendition offers conflict not carols, war not worship. It is a PG-13, if not R-rated, rendering of the story. Some scenes are too intense for young audiences, indeed for audiences of all ages. There is no sentimental Christmas story here: no cozy fireplace, only a fire-breath ing dragon; no cookie-eating Santa dressed in red, only a red dragon ready to devour the baby Jesus; no cuddly animals lowing, only a cunning dragon sweeping his tail across the heavens. Can you imagine a dragon becoming a regular in a Christmas story performed by little children? Who would want the role? Can you picture a well-known company printing Christmas cards with a red dragon lurking behind the manger scene? Of course not! Someone else already lays claim to the color red this time of year, we would be told. Let’s not confuse the public.

This is a reality in scripture and in our life too. Many church-going people are either skeptical of this truth or oblivious to it. We, as Christians, need to be aware of it, but also be confident that the ultimate victory is won already. Christ is the conqueror. He has vanquished the enemy. The Dragon is defeated. The rest of Revelation 12 reminds us that since he was unsuccessful in destroying the Messiah, he has turned his fury against the rest of the woman’s seed…that’s us! But rest assured that God’s purposes and His promises can never ever be frustrated. If a long history lesson can teach us anything, it is that God is infinitely more powerful than any seven headed, seven crowned, and ten horned dragon. Glory to God Most High. We too are on the winning side. Paul sums it up beautifully in Romans 8:37-39:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Why the Red Dragon of Christmas?

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

This year I set out on an ambitious task of creating a video and leader’s guide PDF to help some bold and daring churches teach something different this Christmas- the Red Dragon of Chirstmas. What?? That doesn’t sound like a very cozy message. The late Dr. Robert Lowery writes of the dragon that we see at the Nativity Scene in Revelation 12:

John’s rendition offers conflict not carols, war not worship. It is a PG-13, if not R-rated, rendering of the story. Some scenes are too intense for young audiences, indeed for audiences of all ages.  There is no sentimental Christmas story here: no cozy fireplace, only a fire-breathing dragon; no cookie-eating Santa dressed in red, only a red dragon ready to devour the baby Jesus; no cuddly animals lowing, only a cunning dragon sweeping his tail across the heavens.  Can you imagine a dragon becoming a regular in a Christmas story performed by little children? Who would  want the role? Can you picture a well-known company printing Christmas cards with a red dragon lurking behind the manger scene? Of course not! Someone else already lays claim to the color red this time of year, we would be told. Let’s not confuse the public.

In this very obscure passage, we see missing piece in our Nativity. We get a behind the scenes look at what was really happening at Christ’s birth, throughout his life, and even before. Down through history, Satan has constantly pursued the  destruction of Jesus. There is a thread found throughout the entire Bible– hostility between the seed of the woman and the dragon. Revelation 12 is simply the starting point. From there, you can trace the Dragon’s efforts to undo God’s promise from Genesis right on up until Bethlehem.

This video and PDF makes it easy to tell that story:

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/26526/The-Red-Dragon-Of-Christmas

It outlines the many stories in the Bible where we can see the Dragon at work, like a puppet-master pulling strings. From Genesis, to David, to Esther, to Bethlehem, and many others. Not a cozy message. Or is it?

This is a reality in scripture and in our life too. Many church-going people are either skeptical of this truth or oblivious to it. We, as Christians, need to be aware of it, but also be confident that the ultimate victory is won already. Christ is the conqueror. He has vanquished the enemy.  The Dragon is defeated. The rest of Revelation 12 reminds us that since he was unsuccessful in destroying the Messiah, he has turned his fury against the rest of the woman’s seed…that’s us!  But here comes the COZY part. Rest assured that God’s purposes and His promises can never ever be frustrated. If a long history lesson can teach us anything, it is that God is infinitely more powerful than any seven headed, seven crowned, and ten horned dragon. Glory to God Most High. We too are on the  winning side. Paul sums it up beautifully in Romans 8:37-39:

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Would your church benefit from such a Christmas message?

The Red Dragon of Christmas

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/26526/The-Red-Dragon-Of-Christmas

Let this video help you to tell the Christmas story in a new but a very Biblical way.  Most people in your church will probably never have heard of this obscure Christmas passage in Revelation 12, where we see the missing piece in our Nativity scenes. The 7-headed red dragon (Satan) was present in the Bethlehem scene. Not only there but since Genesis 3 and throughout the entire Bible he constantly pursues the destruction of the promised Messiah. Share this unique video which chronicles these events with your congregation this Christmas!

Our hope is that you can build your whole teaching one day around this topic. Our detailed 4-page Leader’s Guide PDF will assist you in that preparation. Here’s to a great and impacting Christmas season!

My Revelation-like letter to the American Church

Today in my Sunday School lesson we took a look at Jesus’ letters to the 7 churches in Revelation 2-3. We noticed that they follow a certain pattern. The pattern includes:

1) a description of Jesus (taken from Chapter 1)

2) a section headed “I know,” introducing praise for what is good about that church (except in the case of Laodicea).

3) a criticism of the church (not in the case of Smyrna or Philadelphia).

4) a warning or instruction

5) a promise to those who “overcome” (whose fulfillment we see in chapters 19-22).

As a class activity, I asked everyone to write their own letter using the same pattern. A letter to the church. We took a few minutes to do this. I had not ever done this before so I did as well. The submissions were very good and intriguing. I, as a minister, was a bit hesitant to assign this project to those who I serve, especially with the bit of “right your own rebuke of the church” in the letter. I don’t have theirs to post, but I do have my own that I wrote in the 5 to 10 minutes that we had allotted for this. I wrote it in Spanish, but I’ll translate here for you:

In the name of Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, I congratulate you on your decision to follow Christ. That is the best possible decision that can be made. However, I have to tell you, because I love you in the Lord, that you must take more seriously the faith which you have confessed. In a country that is so blessed, you should as a church have a much greater impact, both locally and globally. The problem is that you are too interested in yourselves, and not interested enough in loving your neighbor as yourself. If you do not begin to live invested in the interest of your neighbor, both near and far, than you will not experience the full blessing and will not accomplish the purpose that God has for you. But those who humble themselves now, in this life, my God will exalt in the age to come, and in a way that goes beyond what you can even imagine.

I write this of course to myself as well. May God help us to surpass our own self-interest, and in humility serve others with Christ-likeness.

All in a Day’s Work

February 21, 2009 Leave a comment

So I’ve been looking forward to making this video.  Worship 1/2 has had some great success on sermonspice.  A lot of churches have used it- even some conferences.  This is the sequel.  I get to work on videos on my days off.  Today is Friday, so I got to shoot the video (thanks to Emily, my wife, for dropping the kids off with a sitter and helping me behind the camera).  As always when I have my footage, I want to edit until it’s done.  I had a relatively quick edit.  Some of the tricky overlays I already had done.  I just needed the footage.  Since I did my overlays before shooting, I didn’t want to do them over again.  My footage was wrong in that I was standing on the wrong side, where the graphics were.  To fix this, I did a “horizontal flip” effect.  So I look like a left-handed guitarist and drummer!

To download: http://www.sermonspice.com/videos/24040/lukewarm-hymns-cd-info

I made this countdown before having the idea for another CD spoof:

The original CD spoof is here: http://www.sermonspice.com/videos/16663/worship-1-2-cd-info

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