Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Things ... NOT in the Bible

Sunday in senior high Sunday school, David Prosser, got me to thinking! He challenged the students with the fact that there are some things not in the Bible that we tell as a part of the Christmas story. Namely of interest to me was the fact that we put Jesus in a stable but the Bible never does! So I started to do some lookinng in to this! And, I came across this blog about Things Not in the Bible (Christmas Edition):

"Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem, an innkeeper, a stable where Jesus was born, three Kings, camels, and singing angels. Oh, and also, the date of December 25.

None of it is there.

The Bible does not say that Mary rode a donkey, just that she gave birth while she was in Bethlehem. She could have been there for months.

It says Jesus was laid in a manger “because there was no room for them in the inn.” But no stable or innkeeper are mentioned.

Luke’s gospel makes reference to “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” This would have happened in the spring months, not December. And there was one angel appearing to the shepherds--one. And Luke writes:

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Saying, not singing. And do we know what the "heavenly host" is?

And then we have my favorite Christmas myth: the three kings. No, Virginia, three wise men did not visit the Jesus in a stable on the night of his birth. The Biblical text merely refers to “Magi,” and they visited Jesus months or even years after his birth. It even says in Matthew 2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea...
After. Not the night of. After. And nowhere does it mention that they rode camels.

It has become so ingrained in our culture’s Christmas narrative, with carols like “We Three Kings” and nativity scenes showing three men wearing crowns and flowing robes bowing before the manger, that this may come as a shock. However, none of that is in the Bible. Even the entire nativity scene is not in the Bible."

So how do we justify these contradictions in the Bible? Do these (and other) contradictions invalidate our faith in Christ in any way? I don't think so. In fact, I think that many Biblical contradictions have to do with historical content and can be easily explained or justified. And, afterall, we do beleive that Scripture is the inspired word of God! And correct me if I'm wrong, but humans (the ones writing it) are fallible, right? And, they were writing from different points of view and with different agendas, right? Finally, anyone who is REALLY seeking the truth will find not only the contradictions but the many answers to them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Zion Students The Week of 12-14-09

Check out the video below to see this week's announcements. Plus watch interviews with the cast and directors of "Cooking up Christmas."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Student Leadership Meeting # 1

Last month, we had our first student leadership meeting. At that meeting, I shared these thoughts with our leaders! Stay tuned for part 2 after this Sunday when we meet again!

When I think about examples of leadership in the Bible, I naturally am drawn to these descriptions of leaders in the early church: 1 Tim 3:1-13 or 1 Peter 5:1-3.

But THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF LEADERSHIP, of course, is Jesus. My favorite example of Jesus' leadership comes from John 13. Here, Jesus showed the disciples the manner of leadership that they were to have - to serve one another! And what Jesus teaches us here is that to be an effective leader is to be one who is an example of what they want other people to do and be. So watch what he did:

In the first century, people walked to visit family and friends. And they walked in sandals on dusty dirty roads and towels. Proper hospitality meant that the slaves of the house would offer guests clean water to wash their feet and towels to dry them. Sort of like we offer folks a drink or place to sit when they arrive at our houses today.

The act of Jesus taking off his outer clothes and wrapping the towel around his waist meant He was in the position of a menial slave. Without saying it, Jesus is showing the disciples that being a leader sometimes means being a servant, that there are no boundaries of status (I’m better/more powerful than you). And this act of foot-washing was a chore given ONLY to the LOWEST slave. This is not something that any other Jewish or Roman leader would have ever done. So it was a BIG deal!
Here’s the deal with the act that is important or teaches us leaders a lesson from the ultimate example of a leader. Jesus requires that we step out of our comfort zones a bit in 2 ways.

1. Pride:
Over and over, Jesus taught his followers about the value of humility. Now the Jesus is placing his closest friends – the people who would now become the leaders of the church – He is placing them in a situation in which they must act out humility. If I said to you right now, take off your shoes, I’m going to wash your feet, how would you feel? Right, there’s that pride / humility feeling we’d all have. The bottom line - to be effective as leaders we sometimes have to set aside our pride. There will be times as student leaders here at Zion that we will be humbled by God.

2. Independence:
"What would you find most difficult: washing someone’s feet or having someone wash yours?" For me, and for most, the answer was always the same. Having someone wash my feet bothers me a bit more than my washing someone else’s. I confess: I have a very independent streak in me. I do for myself, thank you very much, and these feet don’t need your help. I can wash them on my own, no problem. Besides, I don’t want another person to see the dirt between my toes and under my toenails or the hair on my legs because I forgot to shave this morning. The problem with this thinking, however is that it is far from the spirit of the Christian faith. An independent nature is not a highly valued trait for a leader. In fact, as leaders of this student ministry, we will become a “family” where we are mutually dependent for ministry and encouragement. We might not “like” each other all the time, but we will have to depend on each other. In fact, the disciples didn’t really like each other. Just before this part in Scripture, they had been battling and jealous of each other about which of them were more important in the Kingdom of God. But, when it came down to it, after Jesus’ death, they pulled together and depended on each other to get done what needed to be done. We will do the same.

Each time we meet, our student leaders will spend some time in prayer about what is going on in our ministry. And, I will challenge us to step our of our comfort zones regularly. Being a leader is great and I am so proud of each of our leaders for stepping up and serving on this team. But, it can also be a little scary or intimidating. We worry that our peers and friends will not like the choices we make for the group, etc.

Our students then spent some time drawing their prayers. I didn't make them wash each other's feet, but they did have to trace each other’s feet on paper. On the papers, they listed what they perceived to be thier individual strengths and weaknesses as leaders and what they were most excited and most challeged about on this team. Then, as a “family” we compiled our drawings together to form a doormat. We'll walk the doormat each meeting as a reminder of our chance to be servants!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Senior High Bible Study (12-8-09)

So, it’s Advent! And I'm sure I don't have to remind you that Advent is the season of preparing. And I convicted that there must be something to this whole “preparing” thing because if you think about it, Jesus spent about 30 years preparing and then had 3 years of powerful ministry while on earth. So, it kinda makes sense - preparation is vital.

So, I’ve been trying to “prepare” myself this Advent, whatever that means. I wasn't sure, so I went to Scripture. And, I’ve gotten stuck on these two little verses in Luke chapter 2. I thought I was starting there because the beginning of this chapter is all about the birth of Jesus. But there are some things about this passage that have really struck me and I haven’t been able to move on in my “preparing!”

Here's the background; we have all probably heard the story! The Emporer calls for a census and so all the people have to go to their "hometowns." So, Joseph goes to Bethlehem and he takes his pregnant, fiancee with him. While they are there, it comes time for Mary to have her baby. She has the baby (and this is where I am stuck), wraps Jesus in pieces of cloth and lays him in a manger.

Is there anything that strikes you about the passage from Luke 2:1-7?

Here’s what strikes me about it:

First, we know that Mary and Joseph are having this baby in a barn in Bethlehem. What gets me is - the Son of God's first bed is a feeding trough, the place from which dirty animals eat. Quite a curious place for a king if you ask me. But here’s the thing - Jesus never learned to live like a king. He lived like a servant his whole 33 years.

Think about this. This amazing man’s life started in a dirty barn where he was put in a feeing trough and wrapped in pieces of a blanket. It’s gross. And this is Jesus – you know Jesus = God. God can do anything / God is in control. So why choose to be born in a manger?

It’s pretty inspiring to think about the incredible things Jesus then accomplished and went through later in his life. The turning point in human history was born in a barn. This tells me that no matter where we come from or how small and insignificant we feel, we, too, can accomplish amazing things through serving others. And, we should celebrate all of this!

But, it's easy to get self absorbed during this season and lose sight of these things. I know when my mom asked me for my Christmas list, I was like, oh yeah … it’s time to rack up. Then, my refrigerator died. Completely died and I didn’t know it, so I lost pretty much everything except for a small cooler full of freezer stuff that didn’t thaw out. Do you know how hard it is to live without mayonnaise or ice? I’m on day seven – it aint easy! I’m just saying. The experience made me so grateful in a way because I also realized how much I take for granted and how tough it must be not to have everyday necessities. I mean, I have worked on houses on mission trips where there is no toilet or no floor - but there are people who don’t even have water this Christmas.

Americans, it is estimated that we spend about $450 billion dollars on Christmas each year. Did you know that there are people that don’t have water? And to give everyone in the world water / wells would cost only about $10 billion? It really makes you stop and think how backwards we seem to have our priorities.

Several years ago, there were some pastors who had this same thought. They created a group called "Advent Conspiracy." They have four principles by which they suggest folks go during the Advent season to help re-shift this backward priority. They suggest to worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all during Advent. Their vision is overhwleming and amazing! You can view their web-site here: or watch the video below!

Advent Blessings!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zion Students This Week

Hey guys! This week's annoucements video was too large to post here. So ... check it out on our channel:

In it you'll see Zion/student ministry leaders (Pastor Tim, Jillianne, Troy Fite, Pres. DJ Corley, and Jesus) as break dancing elves. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Happy New Year! Did you know there was a secular year and a church year? We all know the secular year begins in January. But, the church year begins with Advent! So Happy New Year! Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24).

So this week, I began to wonder, what is Advent and hat does it mean to us? I proposed this question on my Twitter and Facebook pages today. My challenge was to define Advent in one or two words. Here are some of the answers I got: Baby Shower, Anticpation, Getting Ready, Great Expectation.

Then I read this about Advent: "Let’s use our imaginations – I see two parts: ad and vent. Stay with me on this. Ad is short for advertising. Vent is a hole in the floor or ceiling that lets air flow into a room. The two combined form the word Advent. If you follow my “logic” here, a reasonable assumption would be that Advent means advertising airflow. Really? Well, don’t save that for your SAT. But think: If we “do” Advent well, then our very lives flow in a way that advertises Jesus!" What a concept!

So, just how do we do Advent well? We wait! Seriously / Technically Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” During the four weeks before Christmas, Christians celebrate and look forward to both the coming of Jesus. So why all this waiting? After all, this is the 21st century! We can drive 70 miles per hour; DSL lets us surf the Net without a wait; FedEx can deliver in 24 hours. So, why wait?
Why not just jump right to Christmas? Because waiting is a good teacher. To wait well is something that must be learned.

So, let’s take some time to explore waiting in Scripture. Each passage reveals something about waiting well. There are some tips we can use to wait well all year!

1. Wait with “Presence” (said "Presents")
Read Matthew 2:1-2 and 9b-12 = the wise men deliver presnets.

Of course, there’s got to be presents at Christmas right? Or it’s not Christmas! I mean even the wise men brought Jesus presents! So, they must have been the original creators of gift giving! And, two things, they came from really far away and gave some pretty extraordinary / extravagant gifts for that day and time. But here’s the deal, after they gave these “presents,” they offered Jesus their “presence” by worshipping Him. The wisw men went out of their way to claim this relationship and worship Jesus. We can do the same today and claim that relationship and have God present in our lives. The challenge is to have God’s presence so integrated into our lives that when others look at us / interact with us, they should sense that "presence."

2. Wait with patience
Read Luke 1:5-25 = Zechariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptists parents)

Zechariah and Elizabeth had been waiting for a child. Zechariah was a priest; in those days, if a priest didn’t have a male child he could be excommunicated from the church. Zechariah must have feared this but waited and waited patiently.
Also, we read that Elizabeth isolates herself for 5 months after learning she is pregnant. This allows her to prepare for what is likely in her old age to be a tough child-birth. But can you imagine not leaving your house for 5 months? That would take some patience! So we know here that when we are patient in our waiting, good things can happen.

3. Wait for Wisdom
Read John 8:3-9 = Pharisees try to trick Jesus

How does Jesus handle this moment? He waits! Jesus takes time to think and ponder. Then he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. Is he stalling for time or could he be teaching us to wait well by waiting for wisdom to respond in a Godly way? I don’t know about you, but when I get into a tense situation, I have a bad habit of just saying whatever I am feeling, especially when I am upset. But we learn here that we are called to wait for wisdom and that there is big value in it. Our problems (i.e. the stoners) tend to dissipate or not seem as intimidating when we wait with wisdom.

So you can see, there’s lots of waiting! And waiting is certainly a theme of Advent. But, we Americans seem to totally get caught up in stress and forget to anticipate the arrival of Christ! Think about the things that are stressing you right now: schoolwork, Christmas parties, gift buying, parents, friends, family obligations, etc. No matter how much you worry about everything going on or all that you have to do, Christmas is still going to come on December 25. We will still be blessed by Christ's birth.

So how do we make Advent a special time? Wait well! Wait with presence, wait with patience, wait for wisdom.


So, my friend Eleanore just sent me this picture on e-mail. I LOVE this house! Should have decorated mine like this. But, none of my neighbors are really putting up lights (nor have they in the past 7 years).

Seeing this picture made me stop and think. Clearly the lights on the left house probably took a lot of time and planning to get up. At least a days work, right? And, gosh, I can only imagine their electric bill.

The left house, alone, would certainly draw a crowd of drivers-by. But then add house on the right: 5 little letters and an arrow AND they steal the show! But imagine the further draw these houses together have on drivers-by and folks in that city. Further, this picture is spreading across the Internet like crazy.

It's sort of like us and Jesus. Replace the hosues with Jesus (on the left) and you (on the right). Isn't this what people should see when they look at us. A "ditto" sign pointed at the brilliant, bright, and beautiful Jesus Christ? I'm just sayin' ...