- The official website of The Nativity Story
- Dr. Albert Mohler’s Review
- Review by James Smith (editor of the Florida Baptist Witness)
- Theatrical Trailer from Yahoo! Movies.
James Smith (read entire review):
What was clear to me as I screened “The Nativity Story” was that the filmmakers were intent on being as true as possible to what the Bible tells us about Jesus’ birth. Throughout “The Nativity Story” – which weaves together the birth narratives of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke – the film is a faithful re-telling in dramatic fashion of this crucial witness of Scripture. . . .
“The Nativity Story” offers a respectful and faithful portrayal of the biblical account of the incarnation – the radical truth articulated by Melchior upon finding Jesus – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14).
Dr. Mohler (read entire review):
My family and I attended a media screening for The Nativity Story last night. Here is my instant review — the movie is in season and on message. In other words, the movie faithfully presents the main thrust of the Christmas story. That is no small achievement.
The movie, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, takes some liberties with the biblical accounts found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Nevertheless, the invented scenes and dialogue do not distract from the biblical storyline. The screenplay by Mike Rich presents key truths such as the virgin conception and deity of Jesus with unambiguous clarity and artistic force. . . .
When it comes to the virgin birth, the divinity, and the saving mission of the Christ Child, the movie never blinks. Cinematographers may find fault with the presentation of the angels and the voice of God, but I have the sense that where the director had to choose between accuracy and artistry, accuracy often won. For that decision Christians should be thankful. . . .
Should the story of Jesus be reduced to film? That question is not as easily dismissed as some might think. Nevertheless, The Nativity Story is the first major Hollywood studio film in many years to deal with a biblical story. In fact, World magazine reviewer Steve Beard reports that The Nativity Story is the first such release from a major studio since Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments.
So, Hollywood has produced a major film with a national release that straightforwardly presents the central themes and events of the biblical accounts of Christ’s birth. We should not let that fact pass without notice. The movie opens across America on December 1.
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (28) and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (29) that no flesh should glory in His presence.
What the apostle Paul is saying here is that very few of the hundreds which were chosen to populate these lists have been chosen by God and listed by Him in the company of the redeemed. In other words, God’s gracious purpose of election has turned the social order upside down! Instead of the wise, mighty and noble; God has chosen the foolish, the weak and the despised!
But notice that Paul does not say that God has not chosen any of the wise, mighty or noble; but not many. George Whitefield, the evangelist of the Great Awakening, had much of his expenses underwritten by a noble lady known as the Countess of Huntingdon. She was both wealthy and influential and as a believer she used her wealth and influence for the propagation of the gospel. She used to say that she was saved by a “M,” meaning the difference between “many” and any in verse 26. But the majority of Christians throughout the ages have not been the rich and famous, but the poor and obscure. Paul’s point in this text is that this is intentional on God’s part! As commentator Gordon Fee has noted:
God, it turns out, deliberately chose the foolish things of the world, the cross, and the Corinthian believers, so that he could remove forever, from every human creature, any possible grounds on their of standing in the divine presence with something in their hands.
Literally, God has chosen the mora (Gk. for foolish), the morons! God has chosen the weak, the base agene or “no birth” as opposed to the eugeneis noble or “well born” of verse 26. The despised and the “nobodies” things which are not.
How despised were the early Christians? In the late 2nd century, an opponent of Christianity named Celsus wrote:
Their injunctions are like this. “Let no one educated, no one wise, no one sensible draw near. For these abilities are thought by us to be evils. But for anyone ignorant, anyone stupid, anyone uneducated, anyone who is a child, let him come boldly”. By the fact that they themselves admit that these people are worthy of their God, they show that they want and are able to convince only the foolish, dishonourable and stupid, and only slaves, women and children.
Quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum 3.44 (transl. H. Chadwick; Cambridge, 1965, p. 158).
But what Celsus would see as the shame of Christianity, the apostle Paul sees as its own glory and ultimately the glory of God Himself! No flesh will glory in God’s presence!
To God Alone Be the Glory! Soli Deo Gloria
Soli Deo Gloria
The First Thanksgiving
The first thanksgiving was celebrated 383 years ago this Thanksgiving in 1623. The people who celebrated this first thanksgiving were called Pilgrims. These brave men and women had traveled across a dangerous Atlantic ocean in search of religious freedom and the opportunity for a fresh start in a ‘new world.’ The 103 Pilgrim’s who survived their hazardous journey arrived near Cape Cod, Massachusetts on November 12, 1620. They had been aiming for Virginia, but strong winds had blown their ship, the Mayflower, off course by 500 miles. We now know ‘Plymouth Rock’ as the place where these settlers landed. Before disembarking from their ship, each Pilgrim signed the “Mayflower Compact” (a covenant made with God describing how they would conduct themselves in this new land). It said in part:
Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these present solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together in a civil Body Politick….
The Mayflower Compact can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
The Pilgrims were now ready to step upon land for the first time in over two months. Governor William Bradford records their reaction as follows:
Being thus arrived . . . they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils . . . again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth.
Shortly after arriving upon shore, the Pilgrims began constructing houses for the approaching winter. The winter proved to be a costly one in terms of human life. 51 of the 103 pilgrims died that first winter. Unfortunately, spring and summer a couple of years later did not prove much better for the struggling Pilgrims. Governor Bradford, who also became the Pilgrim’s historian in his classic Of Plymouth Plantation (still in print), described a three month drought during which the corn withered and ground cracked open. According to Bradford, the Pilgrims then set aside “a solemn day of humiliation, to seek ye Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress.” When they begun praying, it was a hot, clear day with no cloud in sight. As evening approached, however, it became overcast and began to rain. Bradford writes that the rains:
which did so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather, as through his blessing caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing.
As a result of God’s gracious intervention, a bountiful harvest was brought in and Gov. Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving and prayer for God’s provision. The official proclamation for the first Thanksgiving was issued in 1623 and said:
Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on the hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November the 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to the pastor and render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.
It is interesting to note that the famous Thanksgiving feast only comes after the Pilgrims had gathered for three hours of prayer and listening to the pastor preach at their church house. We’ve kept the turkey-eating, but neglect the thanks-giving. We can’t even get people to come to Wednesday night prayer meeting the day before Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving in United States History
Of course the first celebration of Thanksgiving by citizens of the United States could not happen for another 166 years. This is because the United States did not exist until then. However, our first president, George Washington, issued the first proclamation for a National Day of Thanksgiving. He wrote:
Thanksgiving in United States History
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will . . . I do recommend . . . Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November . . . to be devoted by the People of these United States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficient Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. . . . that we may . . . humbly offer our prayers . . . to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national . . . transgressions.
Complete text of Washington’s proclamation can be accessed by clicking here.
In 1817, New York became the first state to adopt Thanksgiving Day as a holiday. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Each year since, presidents have issued proclamations for the fourth Thursday in November. Lincoln’s first Thanksgiving proclamation said in part:
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God…I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens…[It is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord…It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.
Complete text forLincoln’s Proclamation is available online by clicking here.
Our current president, George W. Bush, has issued a proclamation that tomorrow, November 23rd, 2006, be a National Day of Thanksgiving. His proclamation reads as follows:
As Americans gather with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we give thanks for the many ways that our Nation and our people have been blessed.
The Thanksgiving tradition dates back to the earliest days of our society, celebrated in decisive moments in our history and in quiet times around family tables. Nearly four centuries have passed since early settlers gave thanks for their safe arrival and pilgrims enjoyed a harvest feast to thank God for allowing them to survive a harsh winter in the New World. General George Washington observed Thanksgiving during the Revolutionary War, and in his first proclamation after becoming President, he declared November 26, 1789, a national day of “thanksgiving and prayer.” During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revived the tradition of proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, reminding a divided Nation of its founding ideals.
At this time of great promise for America, we are grateful for the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and defended by our Armed Forces throughout the generations. Today, many of these courageous men and women are securing our peace in places far from home, and we pay tribute to them and to their families for their service, sacrifice, and strength. We also honor the families of the fallen and lift them up in our prayers.
Our citizens are privileged to live in the world’s freest country, where the hope of the American dream is within the reach of every person. Americans share a desire to answer the universal call to serve something greater than ourselves, and we see this spirit every day in the millions of volunteers throughout our country who bring hope and healing to those in need. On this Thanksgiving Day, and throughout the year, let us show our gratitude for the blessings of freedom, family, and faith, and may God continue to bless America.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 23, 2006, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage all Americans to gather together in their homes and places of worship with family, friends, and loved ones to reinforce the ties that bind us and give thanks for the freedoms and many blessings we enjoy.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH
This year, and each year that follows, please take the opportunity to think about God’s blessings upon you and your family. Consider the fact that you owe everything to the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). Think of how you can help teach the ones who are entrusted to you the “true meaning” of Thanksgiving. Our nation’s secularists will continue to attempt to erase all evidence of a belief in God from our history. Given the amount of evidence listed above, they are going to need a big eraser!
The rise of humanism in the period immediately preceding the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century had produced an environment in which the classic works of antiquity were being rediscovered. This movement can be summarized by the Latin phrase ad fontes (meaning, back to the sources).
The cry of ad fontes or “back to the sources” signaled for the Reformers a return to Scripture. They saw this as a call to cut through the centuries of tradition and teaching of the Catholic Church all the way back to the teaching of Scripture. Their desire was that their doctrine would rest upon the Scriptures alone!
The Reformers commitment to the sufficiency of Scriptures is easily seen. The Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli memorized the entire NT in Greek and began his reforms in Switzerland by preaching verse by verse through the book of Matthew.
French Reformer John Calvin’s work in Geneva was characterized by the verse by verse exposition of Scripture. In addition to his preaching, he wrote commentaries on nearly every book of the Bible. A 22 volume set featuring these commentaries is still in print today! Calvin’s commitment to expository preaching is seen in that after he was banished from his pulpit and the city of Geneva by the City Council on Easter Day, 1538, he returned in September, 1541 (over three years later) and picked up the exposition in the very next verse.
The German Reformer Martin Luther was a preacher of the Word. Of his reforms in Germany he could say,
I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, . . . the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.
The question is: Are preachers today equally convinced of the sufficiency of Scripture? I fear that we are not. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul declares the sufficiency of Scripture to Timothy. In the same text from which we are most clearly instructed about the doctrine of the inspiration of Scriptures, we also find the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scriptures! There Paul states:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Greek word translated profitable in verse 16 has the idea of sufficiency. The word translated thoroughly equipped in verse 17 meant to completely outfit or fully supply. It was used of a wagon or a rescue boat that was completely outfitted, or of a machine that was sold in good condition, i.e., capable of performing the service expected of it (Rogers & Rogers). We might use this term today to speak of a new vehicle that comes fully loaded, with all the buttons and whistles. An automobile with everything that you could possibly need for your driving pleasure. This is what the Word of God is for us!
For what does Paul say the Word of God is profitable? For what does it thoroughly equip us?
Paul uses four words to show what the Word of God can accomplish:
- Doctrine – the content of teaching
- Reproof – rebuking in order to convict of misbehavior or false doctrine
- Correction – restoration of something to its original and proper condition. John MacArthur says that correction “is the positive provision for those who accept its negative reproof.”
- Instruction – paideia originally used of training a child.
We’ve fought the battle for the Bible as Baptists and largely won the fight for the doctrine of the plenary verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. But we’re failing miserably in the battle for the sufficiency of Scripture in our preaching and practice.
The modern church’s infatuation with amusement and entertainment and all ideas that a particular music style or program or whatever can accomplish in this world what God has declared can only be accomplished by His Word are doomed for ultimate failure. We have only one guaranteed method of success and it’s not a method but a message! Do we truly believe in the sufficiency of Scripture?
Forgiving is the hardest thing you will ever do. That’s why most people don’t do it. We talk about it, cheer for it, preach on it, and are sure we’ve practiced it. . . .
I asked a few people if they’d ever forgiven anyone, and what it felt like. They gave me answers so pious I knew they’d never done it. I am at the present moment in the maw of temptation, and I can tell you there is nothing exalted about this feeling, this one-two punch to the gut that comes when you even contemplate forgiving, which is as far as I’ve come.
At first I decided I would forgive the person—and never speak to him again. This felt pretty good, but I saw the dissimulation in it at once. I alternately toyed with going to him to “tell him his fault” (Matthew 18:15), which is my biblical right, so there. I had the decree of rebuke written up in my head, a document of fastidious and plenary detail—all for his own good. A smarmy satisfaction accompanied the plan, so I nixed it. For now.
Keeping one’s mouth shut is commendable, and more than I have managed in the past. It will work as long as I don’t go near a phone or e-mail. But I am reminded that “Absolom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad” for two whole years after the rape of his sister Tamar, and it ate him alive till in the end he killed the man.
Seu then offers this excellent description of true forgiveness:
Forgiveness is a brutal mathematical transaction done with fully engaged faculties. It’s my pain instead of yours. I eat the debt. I absorb the misery I wanted to dish out on you, and you go scot-free. Beware the forgiveness that is tendered soon after injury; be suspicious. Real forgiveness needs a time lag, for it is wrought in private agony before it ever comes to public amnesty. All true acts of courage are thus done in secret.
A story told by Tim Keller about a man who went through this painful process of forgiveness is recited by Seu to illustrate the courageous nature of acts of forgiveness done in secret.
“I forgave her and it took me a whole year and I had to forgive her in small sums over that whole twelve months. I paid those sums whenever I spoke to her and kept myself from rehashing the past. I paid them whenever I saw her with another man and refused self-pity and rehearsal inside for what she’d done to me. I paid them whenever I praised her to others when I really wanted to slice away at her reputation. Those were the payments but she never knew them. However, I never knew her payments, but I know she made them. I could tell.”
Finally, Seu concludes her article with these challenging words:
And now the unthinkable: not only to forgive but seek the good. Nature abhors a vacuum and Jesus admits of no middle ground between hate and love. Pray for him.
When you were a child you thought like a child, that pain was something to flee. Now in the adulthood of faith, suck up your hundred denarii, because someone took your ten thousand talents upon Himself (Matthew 18), and like a lamb led to slaughter and a sheep before its shearers was silent (Isaiah 53:7). He did not retaliate but “continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Be so awash in the ocean of His love, my soul, that the shortcomings of all human loves will, more and more, seem but a trifling thing.
Go thou and do likewise.
Welcome to The Elephant of Kettering. This new blog is dedicated to disseminating the life and thought of Andrew Fuller to a new generation. Fuller, a British Particular Baptist, served as a pastor first in Soham and then in Kettering during the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. He was instrumental in the founding the Baptist Missionary Society which sent out William Carey to India. He served as Secretary of the BMS until his death in 1815.
As a theologian he was key in moving Particular Baptists from Hyper-Calvinism to a more Biblical, “Evangelical Calvinism” with the argument that unbelievers have a responsibility to turn to Christ in faith and therefore we must offer Christ to the fallen so that they can respond in faith. His influence and legacy amongst Baptists and other Evangelicals is unquestioned. Yet, he has fallen out of notice amongst many historians and theologians.
This blog then believes that studying the life and thought of Andrew Fuller is incredibly useful and important in the life of the church of Jesus Christ today. In conjunction with the newly renamed Andrew Fuller Centre for Reformed Spirituality under the auspices of Toronto Baptist Seminary and the beginning of the release of a new critical edition of The Works of Andrew Fuller from Paternoster Press this blog will serve as a sounding board for Fuller scholars.
Blog contributors are those who are currently studying Fuller in a detailed way or have in the past and continue to have an interest in the life and theology of Fuller. The posts then that will be offered will be those that are designed to spread their desire to offer Fuller and his theology in the midst of the church. While only contributors can post, any one can discuss the posts in the comments section.
Other things like the promotion of new books, articles, conferences, etc. on Andrew Fuller will be noted here. If you have any questions or comments please direct them to Allen Mickle, the blog master.
This is an exciting opportunity to learn more about the man whom Charles Spurgeon called the greatest eighteenth-century Baptist theologian. I have already contributed my first post and there are now a total of four posts with many more to come from well qualified historians such as Paul Brewster, Nathan Finn, Crawford Gribben, Michael Haykin and Michael McMullen. I recommend that you bookmark this site and check it regularly!
Wednesday was a long day for the messengers who stayed to the bitter end of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. I was one of the few and the proud. It was a dramatic day of both ups and downs. I’m still not 100% sure what happened, and I don’t think anyone will know for sure until the Executive Committee has the opportunity to meet in January and propose (hopefully) a new budge that is more “equitable” to all entities of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. For a blow by blow account of the days proceedings (which I have neither the energy or interest in describing) please visit the blog of my friend Jeff Wright who has done an excellent job of summarizing the actions of this years convention. He is now right up there with Tim Challies in the “Best Live-Blogging” category for 2006!
To summarize, this years convention was the most promising in recent memory. Much progress was made in the area of establishing doctrinal accountability for the various institutions of the TBC. This is important for the good-faith of Tennessee Baptist Churches, the vast majority of which are conservative in their theology. To have boards controlled by more moderate interests is to be out of touch with where most Tennessee Baptists are. I’m glad to say that this convention moved us further down the road to doctrinal accountability, but the journey continues. Dr. Dockery’s report for Union University remains a highlight of the convention. Union’s stated commitment to doctrinal fidelity resonated with the messengers assembled in Memphis this year. The approach taken by Dr. Dockery is one which we would see emulated by other institution heads in the future. Not in word only, but also in deed and in truth.
Additionally, messengers will have the opportunity to choose between two proposed budgets in the Wednesday afternoon session. The budget originally offered took the funding required to pay for the Belmont Study Committees work largely from Union University and Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes. It seems unfair that these institutions which are faithfully using the Cooperative Program dollars which they have received to be punished for the unfaithfulness of Belmont University. Instead, an alternate budget will be proposed which will deal with the issue of funding for the Belmont issue in a more equitable way. I hope that you will stay around and vote for this alternate budget on Wednesday afternoon!