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Feel free to DOWNLOAD the video and use it in church / youth group / wherever.

And here's me explaining the teaching behind the video

Our other spoken word videos:

 

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It's the fairy tale we all believe in - connection, completion, love without parting. The merest glimpse of it captures our hearts. But is the fairy tale real? Is there such a thing as endless bliss, unconquered love and a happily ever after?

Countless failed relationships and a beckoning grave cry out No. Love does not seem to have the last word in our lives - decay, disease, divorce, depression and death does. Can we really believe in love?

The answer is Yes, but only because there is a love despite our deserving, a love stronger than death, a love beyond this world. Jesus makes the fairy tale true - not just for bright-eyed young couples on their wedding day. Because of his blood-earnest, death-defying love, Jesus can bring us all into the ultimate romance. Whatever your relationship history or status, this bliss is for you!

WORDS

You

beside me.

Me: beside myself with you.

Beyond myself in you,

Become myself anew,

Belongs, this self, to you.

 

You

behold me.

Me: behold the world in you.

Besotted with the view,

Bewitched by all you do,

Beguiled by guileless you.

 

We

believe this:

This bedtime tale

Though countless fail

Though pride derail

Though death curtail

We believe this.

This bliss

Beseiged by hatred’s hiss

Beset by graves' abyss

Betrayed despite our kiss

We believe this.

 

But is this bliss true?

Or only for the few

And then sinks from view

Is it true?

Beneath the tale,

Before we fail,

Beside what’s frail,

Beyond death’s vale?

Is it true?

Not only for the few

And then sinks from view

Is it true?

 

He

Beheld me.

Me: deep held in my disgrace.

He bends now face to face,

Becomes me in His grace,

Befriends me, takes my place.

 

He

Betrothed me.

Me: bestowed the world for free.

Bequeathed by royal decree,

Beloved eternally,

Become as one: He with me.

 

This, beneath all other glories

This, beyond the bedtime stories

This, beside your marital station

This, love’s sweetest consummation.

This is true.

Never to sink from view.

Not only for the few.

This bliss is for you.

 

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They look fresh, bright and lively, surrounded by family, fun and festivities - Christmas trees are a great picture of our human condition. We too may dress ourselves up in achievements and surround ourselves with great experiences, but we're perishing - cut off from our true Life-source in God. Thankfully, Christmas gives us the answer. Real life has been born into our world. In connection with Jesus we "may not perish but have eternal life."

Please share the video and offer true hope this Christmas.

See our previous Christmas videos here.

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When 10 of those asked me to do an evangelistic video for Halloween, I knew the dangers. Here are a couple of interviews I've done on the subject:

As I set about making the video I predicted a range of reactions reflecting the range of views on the subject.

When John Piper was asked about Halloween he summarized these varying approaches...

How to write something that satisfied all such groups?

Well, you can't. So I decided to write something for the friends of Christians - friends who would have little understanding of Halloween's origins or the gospel. That's the target audience. Therefore I'm not trying to convert Christians to 'trick or treating'. I am trying to engage trick-or-treaters (and their Facebooking parents) with the gospel.

Originally the video was going to be an animation with silhouetted figures playing the part of trick-or-treaters. We ran out of time for that and so decided to film it. On the day, I told the parents to bring children in whatever costumes they were comfortable with - a pirate or a spiderman would be perfect. I also brought some spare pumpkin costumes just in case. As it happened, the parents did a wonderful job on wardrobe and make-up as you can see.  And my videographer and soundtrack artist were incredibly good at evoking the mock-horror.

What we ended up with was a really quite scary first minute of film that went beyond what I'd imagined with words and a basic animation. But I'm glad for how the film has turned out. I think that initial impact grabs folks and hopefully pulls them into the gospel material. Remember - this is for non-Christians. Non-Christians.

So I want to make clear, my intention is not to open the doors for Christians to go trick-or-treating. I want to open the doors for trick-or-treaters to come to Christ!

Interestingly I've had complaints in the other direction too. One person so far has thought I'm too hard on paganism. I think they made some good points. They asked Why do we "mock" these spiritual beliefs (witches, paganism, etc)? Is it really Christian to mock? Would we similarly 'mock' Muslims or Hindus?  That complaint led to a really fruitful conversation. But I mention it just to say that the video is not at all trying to compromise with spiritual darkness but to unmask it.

Here's the bottom line for me: if you're not sold on the whole "mocking the darkness" angle (which I think is the true meaning of Halloween... see links below) then please don't get involved in Halloween just because we made a pretty video. I'm persuaded that Halloween can be engaged with positively, but if you're not persuaded then don't practice.

Romans 14:14 is the verse here:

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.

Just cos I made it rhyme, doesn't mean I'm right. If you're a Christian wondering what your approach to Halloween will be this year, our video hasn't solved anything for you. You can't short-cut the reading, thinking and praying part.

If you want some pointers in the direction of Christian engagement with Halloween, James Jordan is my top tip on a starting place. Peter Dray has also written a great paper (delivered first as an evangelistic talk). The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church has good entries on "All Saints Eve" and "All Saints Day" (which deny that ancient Christians simply adopted pagan practices). CS Lewis's introduction to the Screwtape Letters gives sound advice on neither thinking too highly nor too little of evil powers and gives a great defence of holy mockery. He quotes Luther:

“The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” (Martin Luther)

Alan Rudnick writes from an American perspective and Steve Utley from a British one. Michael Spencer and Anderson Rearick might be a step too far for some, but they're fascinating for showing how attitudes have changed on this issue.

If you're after a video for how Christians should engage Halloween, then check out Ed Drew's video. Our video is designed to reach non-Christians. And to that end I ask that you get busy sharing it this week. If we really want to oppose Satan then, as Luther says "Christians should face the devil with the Word of God."

 

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Our Father above
Your Name shall be holy
Your kingdom and love
Come down to the lowly

Provide for each day
And pardon each deed
As we pardon others
Protect us and lead

ALL MY SONGS

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Here's the poem I wrote last week performed:

Let me explain some of my thinking...

In the first kingdom everything is framed in transactional terms. There is a reward for the girl and, naturally, people want to talk about the terms and conditions. So there is a battle between legalism and licence: give the girl too much and she'll spend it on prodigal living. Impose too many terms and she's little more than a slave.

And so a debate ensues. One side may want the goodies given freely, no strings attached. The other side wants the girl to prove how serious she is about royal living.

These debates can get tiresome. But the worst development of all is the person who stands up claiming to have discovered the optimal payment structure - not too strict, not too liberal. These sanctification Goldilockses are just right - balancing license and legalism with their perfectly measured pastoral pronouncements.

But the answer is NOT to balance licence and legalism. The solution to this problem does not lie in between these errors. We need to come out of this transactional kingdom and enter the realm of gracious union. If we miss union with Christ, we miss everything, and we will be doomed to ping-pong back and forth between "grace" and "holiness" - as though those things were extremes to be avoided!

In Christ's kingdom, He marries His wicked bride - freely giving her His righteousness, graciously taking on Himself her sins. She offers Him nothing. He gives her everything.

And in that utterly gracious union, she finds herself both captive and crowned. She has a new Lord forevermore. And she has new freedoms she could never have imagined. Both. At the same time.

The bride now has everything - but not apart from her Lord. In her Lord she is free and she's possessed. In her Lord she is freely forgiven and given a new life. In her Lord, she is loved in spite of all sin and she's claimed for royal living.

If you take your eyes off your gracious Lord, you might celebrate the security of your wedding ring - surrounding you no matter what your behaviour. On the other hand, you might emphasize the seriousness of your wedding vows - binding upon you at all times. But neither focus is the Scriptural one. Look at Jesus - freely given to you in all your sin, fully possessing you for all your life.

Don't balance licence and legalism. They're both errors and the answer is not in between. In Christ we are both captive and crowned.

DOWNLOAD HERE - FREE

Feel free to Use in Church, RT, Share, etc...

.

WORDS

The Israelites in thirsty lands, trod burning sands with desperate craving,
no longer slaving for Egyptian masters, now by grace they’re free to face
this fresh disaster – starving in a barren place.

Until the Bread of Heaven fell like morning dew each day anew,
and to these folks complaining, every day the Bread sustaining,
to lead them all their journey through.

Fast forward 1500 years: a Man appears, stands tall among His peers,
And feeds the desert crowds without ado,
A supernatural déjà vu.

And having won the mob's attention then He makes His bold contention:
He IS the Bread of old, the One foretold to feed us and through our wilderness to lead us.
Could His claim be true?

It's Thursday Night, an upper room, a supper strewn with broken bread,
Then Jesus stands, a loaf in hand and says:
THIS IS MY BODY - and tears it like a lion tearing prey,
a raw dissection on display.
In pieces rent and ragged, edges jagged, now laid bare in disarray.
(You see) He'll feed His people in THIS way.

He the LORD for we the least, Him devoured so we can feast.

And so to Friday - by a highway
Rivals gloating, Soldiers joking, mobs provoking, Jesus choking,
torment spoken, HERE the Bread of Heaven BROKEN.

He the LORD for we the least, Him devoured so we can feast.

THEN... Come Sunday and, like Bread, He rises,
surprises all His friends, extends the dinner invitation:
"COME ALL FROM EVERY NATION: This is the meaning of salvation:

He the LORD for we the least, Him devoured so we can feast."

This God served up upon the cross,
His posture still arms-open willing ALL to come and eat
This Bread is sweet and free - served up anew.
Available like morning dew,
To lead you all your journey through,
My friend, this broken Bread’s for YOU.

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Please feel free to download and use the video wherever you like (but don't charge for it!). Remember, there's also Christmas in Dark Places - our 3 minute spoken word video from last week.

Be aware that there's also a great kinetic typography version of Santa vs Jesus produced by 10ofthose - that might be more appropriate for your context.

And the words to the poem are below. Feel free to quote the poem if you want, just don't  change it. If you feel like changing it, that means you're a poet and should write your own. Go to it!

They say there’s a big man who lives far away,
Supposedly jolly but it’s hard to say.
I’ve never seen him, and neither have you.
But the children believe, whether or not it's true.

He’s known as a loner, with many a quirk
No time for a chat, he’s embroiled in his work
He keeps to himself, for most of the year,
I reckon we’re grateful he doesn’t appear.

We send him requests, for particular needs,
But we never hear back, who knows if he heeds?
We try to be good, give his arm a twist,
To merit our place on his blessed little list.

And maybe one day if we do what we should,
He’ll give us our things, so long as we’re good.
I’ve had it to here, I’m calling his bluff:
He’s a weird moralistic dispenser of stuff!

Granted, this rant is a strange one to pick
But listen I’m not really after St Nick
As strange as he is, and Santa is odd,
I’m really addressing most folks’ view of God.

It’s God who we see as a distant Big Guy –
An ancient, invisible, St Nick in the Sky.
“He’s sees you asleep, He knows when you wake
He’s watching and waiting to spot your mistake.”

And just like with Santa, requests we hand in,
We want all his things but we don’t want him.
That’s our connection with old Father Christmas.
We might dress it up, it’s essentially business.

Throughout the year, good behaviour’s our onus
When Christmas rolls round we’re expecting our bonus.
“Just leave us the gifts Nick, we’ve been good enough!
And then please push on, now we’ve got all your stuff!”

I mean Santa is interesting, curious, quirky
But no-one wants him to share their Turkey!
I’m sure his “ho, ho, hos” are sublime,
But I fear what he’ll say once he’s drunk our mulled wine.

That’s old St Nick, but the picture rings true,
It’s how we imagine what God is like too.
But Christmas resounds with a stunning “Not so!”
The One from on high was born down below.

To a world in need He did not send another.
God the Son became God our Brother.
He drew alongside, forever to dwell,
Our God in the flesh, Immanuel.

This God in the Manger uproots all our notions:
A heavenly stooping, divine demotion.
Born in a stable, wriggling on straw,
Fully committed to life in the raw.

Santa gives things and then goes away.
Jesus shows up, to befriend and to stay.
Santa rewards those with good behaviour.
Jesus comes near to the broken as Saviour.

If you don’t like God, I think I know why…
You probably think He’s St Nick in the Sky.
You’re right to reject that far-away stranger!
This Christmas look down to the God in the manger.

Here's the Original Video. But someone's asked for versions to be sung in church. So here's a Karaoke version - no vocals.

And here's a version without the speaky bits:

And here's the Powerpoint.

 

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