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An Edited Christmas - a look at Rick Warren's 2008 Christmas message

Warren’s new book is called “the purpose of Christmas” which we got a glimpse of through his recent Christmas message that was broadcasted  Dec. 24 on “Fox,” called Christmas with Rick Warren.”  

Rick Warren in his 2008 Christmas service spoke to a total of about 21,000 attend through six services on Christmas Eve and an estimated 50,000 total since Saturday at its four Southern California campuses. Warrens message was surrounded by a band, a string ensemble, six Christmas trees and a giant wreath with a sign that declared: "The Christmas Connection." His message was continually broken up with Christmas songs sung by soloists and the band.

His service started with music: “Come all ye faithful” led by music director Rick Munchow. His message began with “Have you ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong for you, nothing goes as planned. I just should have stayed in bed. I had a day like that 3 days ago. “This set the theme of his message. His day began with his rotary mixer spilled all over because he forgot to put the lid on. He said, this is going to be a baad day.

Got in his car to make hospital visits. In traffic he as in a full stop and was rammed from behind. As he pulled over to the side of the road to wait for the highway patrol he turned on the radio only to hear a guy screaming “he wished Rick Warren was dead,” and said to himself “This is not a good day” with all this Warren made a funny and clever summation of all these things taking place.

Warren: “I need a silent night” And states that we are going to look at the Christmas story from a different angle, “when God changes our plans” he then steps away from speaking and a Christmas song is sung to the assembly.

All of the music was done well, but it seems Warren has to break up his message (at least 4 times) with a song. Either he does not think people can digest too much information, or that they did not come to hear a sermon on Christmas but have need for entertainment, which he considers equally important.

Warren: “The birth of Jesus 2008 years ago messed up every bodies plans.” It certainly messed up Mary and Joseph’s.”

This date is continually mentioned by Warren and he never qualifies this statement that we really do not know neither the day nor the year Christ was born.

Making the story understandable as if he is speaking to children under 10 in Sunday school he spoke of an angel visiting them “you’re going to get pregnant before the wedding day and it won’t be Joseph.” (Mary says in a doubting and somewhat sarcastic manner) “Right.” Oh and here’s the second part of the plan”, something’s going to happen to you that was never done before in human history and will never be done again… we are going to call it a virgin birth” (Mary) “Right.” “Oh Mary there is one other part of the plan, the baby you are going to carry its, uh God” (Mary) “Right.” Would you believe that story the angel delivered … God messed up Mary and Josephs plans.

The bible states in Luke 1:29-38 When the angel gave her the message “she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. V.34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" He explains w "The Holy Spirit will come upon you,”

V.38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.” There is no questioning, no doubting from Mary, her response is one of faith- let it happen just as you say. Amen. Whatever bewilderment she had was cleared by her accepting the angels explanation.

Throughout his sermon Warren stretched the story from his own perspective to fit the point he was making, at times it departed from the actual events recorded and left it open to new additions.

Herod is then mentioned by Warren, putting his slaughtering all the children under 2 in Bethlehem in the same time period he was born, “but God changed Herod’s plans.”

He mentions the Jewish leaders looking for a Messiah, a savior, a political leader, a political activist. Their plans God messed up.

Warren: “The innkeeper had his plans changed, he didn’t plan for Mary and Joseph to show up because there was no room at the inn.”

So then how exactly did he have his plans changed if he didn’t plan for them? This makes no sense. Someone needs to read the Bible to be accurate in their telling its story. Warren then says, “the angel predicted this but the innkeeper wasn’t ready for this.” How could he be ready for something that he did not know of? I would really like to know what Scripture he is referring to of an angel predicting this of Mary or Joseph?

Warren: “Shepherds had their plans messed up looking for another quiet night with the sheep. Angels came with the glory of God (this was at least a good thing) messed up the shepherds plans.

“Has God changed your plans, messed up your plans. How many of you have had your plans changed in 2008, can I see your hands—the rest of you are liars.”

Warren says he looked over a whole list of plans he had in 2008 and what did not happen. “I’m not saying that everything in your life is God’s ideal will- it’s not. Problems that happen in your life, they are your fault. We live in a broken world, we live on a planet where nothing works correctly. Our bodies don’t work correctly, our relationships don’t work correctly, nothing works, on earth correctly. So we hurt other people, sometimes intentionally sometime unintentionally, other people hurt us sometimes intentionally sometimes unintentionally…. Not everything that happens in your life is God’s will, God’s will is not rape, God’s will is not evil, its not sin its not murder, God hates these kind of things.” (ed. Note: this is all true) That is why we are to pray God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, why? Because God’s will is done perfectly in heaven. It’s rarely done on earth because most of the time I’m doing my will, you’re doing your will, not what God wants us to do. That’s’ why we have so many problems and strife.”

Quotes Prov.19:21: “You can make many plans, but the LORD's purpose will prevail.”(NLT)

Warren:You make all the plans you want but ultimately God is in control of where history is headed and God has a plan and a purpose God has never made a person he doesn’t have a purpose for. He made you to love you.”

Warren then emphasizes God’ love to all. While there are a number of statements he made that are good and truthful there are some major issues he brought up that are contrary.

NKJ Prov 19:21: “There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD'S counsel-- that will stand”

Counsel is not the same as a purpose. The referencing of these loose paraphrases rarely enhances the meaning that one would read in a literal translation. In other words, the Lord is to be consulted to have his plan done.

Warren again mentions: “At the first Christmas 2008 years ago… “ “1. when God changes our plans he is trying to get our attention. “We have spiritual ADD and when God tries to talk to us we are too busy talking to ourselves.” Warren peaking of the audience: “I never heard God talking to me, that’s because you’re not listening. When was the last time you sat down by yourself quietly and for 20 minutes just said God is there anything you want to say to me and you just sit there and be quiet. I doubt you ever done that in your life. We are all too busy” God gets call waiting when he tries to talk to you.”

Picking out the timing of 20 minutes and then promoting the same concept that is found in the “Be still” DVD of Richard Foster is more than coincidence.

Warren continually took Scriptures into another application: Ps.81:13 New Century version “God says, I wish my people would listen to me.”

The full context is Ps. 81:11-13: "But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. V.13 "Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! (NKJ) My people are specifically Israel. This kind of Bible teaching of finding similar words but not similar meanings shows a lack of study. There are areas God speaks to the Jews, to the Gentiles and we need to distinguish them. Especially for such an important sermon over TV. While many call Warren the next Billy Graham, for what it’s worth, Graham was far more concise and careful in his sermons.

This is where Warren should consider God’s words that he quotes, because he starts to insert things into the text the Bible does not have.

Apparently Warren is telling people in this sermon to listen to God in quietness but the context is about Israel not walking in his ways because they are not consulting him by his word. Also this brings up a conflict, to tell people to listen to God and promote churches to go through his book for 40 days ina program or pastors copy his sermons and outlines he offers them posted on the web site seems contrary.

Warren then explains God knowing the future in a good way. “God tells us to what to do and not to do because he of his loving care. God’s plan is bigger than yours No matter how big your dream for your life is God’s is bigger.” To his credit Warren does admit it is harder at times but I have to take issue with this comment. God does not make every believer great, his plan is not always bigger, it is always better but not bigger, there is no biblical justification for this.

“Mary had to put up with skeptics critics and gossip for 9 months. “She walking around her community saying I’m a virgin, I’m pregnant and it’s going to be the Son of God.”

They may have ridiculed her as an unwed mother but this is certainly not what took place. Luke 2:19 “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She didn’t go through town wondering what's happening or telling people what has taken place as portrayed in this sermon. In fact when Mary visited Elizabeth who is pregnant with the forerunner- John the baptizer she said to Elizabeth; "my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior" she understood what has taken place - for God has remembered his promise (Luke 1:45-57). Luke 1:56. "Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house."

Warren further statesMary must have asked herself a thousand times “why God” “why now” “why this”… only later did she understand.” Actually it was Joseph that showed doubt not Mary. Matt 1:18-20: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”(NKJ)

There is no Bible narrative Warren is following for his statements. He then used Jn.13:7 ripped out from its context “my words you don’t understand.” Then his sermon is paused for more music.

Warren comes back and asks “How do you please God and get to heaven? By promising to be good? No. By being perfect. No. you can’t be, you can never be perfect, heaven is perfect you are not, neither am I.”

“The Bible says there is only one way you can please God, its not through religion, its not through rituals, not through rules, its not through regulations. It is through a relationship of trusting God, having faith. Faith is the only way you can please God. I didn’t say this, the Bible says (quotes Heb. 11:6)” (this is counsel to a believer not an unbeliever -is really about after we are saved)

“You seek God in faith and that is pleasing God’ “Don’t seek an explanation to your problem, you don’t seek relief from your problems- you seek God- he can help you with thre rest.”

Warren approach is vague because he does not say look to his word but insinuates as he mentioned before to be silent and hear God speak. This is actually leading people away from God’s counsel that is found in his word. He has already spoken on these matters and He wants us to seek Him by His word, not apart from it.

Warren: “I’m not going to do what I want to do I’m going to do what you want me to.” I’m going to go with your plan. I’m going to stop being self centered and be God centered, there is a word for this- repent.” The Greek word is the word Metanoia which means change your mind, change what you think change the way I think about God, the way I think about life. About my sins, about other people, it changes everything…. Its saying God I’m going to think about the way you think about life.”

Actually the bible uses this more often to mean to change your mind about Jesus Christ, to go from not believing to believe in him, to change your direction and follow him (Acts.2:38).

He quotes from Rom.8:28 “I want to live for his purpose, a purpose driven life. Then God says “ I will then cause all things to work for good. he is not say all things are good, because there is they are not, there is a lot of bad in the world, evil in the world.” This may be true but he left out the more important point “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose

Again he reiterates “God’s plan in 2009 is bigger and better for your life.” While the Bible always says it is better it does not gurantee it is bigger than what our own plans are.

Warren then has everyone read out loud Luke 2:11 about Chriost the savior being born. “He sent a savior for everyone, you need a savior. You say I don’t need to be saved I’m not drowning you need a savior more than you realize..” “In fact, if God did not think you needed a savior he wouldn’t have wasted the time sending one 2008 years ago. And we wouldn’t have been celebrating Christmas for all these years.”

“What does he say be saved from- so many things. He doesn’t just save you from your sin, that’s good… from hell, that’s good. He doesn’t just save you unto heaven, that’s good. He saves you from yourself, self centeredness, and all the problems that causes, He saves you from all the side effects of sin in your life, the fear, the bitterness, the guilt, the resentment, the lonliness, the jealousy. All the negative emotions of the life that comes from what we want to live instead of of living the life that God would have us to live. He saves me from all these things.

While he states a number of things correctly, saving us from sin is what it is all about because everything else is caused from the effect of sin. We are told to die to self – that is our obedience in following him.

“He save me from the part for a purpose and he saves me into a future, into heaven. We are either seekers, stumblers or saved.”

“The whole reason we celebrate Christmas is because the wismen gave gifts to Jesus at the first Christmas . At there first Christmas people came to see Jesus for different reasons.”

Apprantly Warren thinks 2008 years ago the wisemen came to see Jesus’ birth, but they did not see Jesus until he was a young child that lived in a home at least 1-2 years after.

Matt .2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.” Matt 2:11: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

There were not all kinds of people seeing Jesus at his birth. The only ones to see Jesus in the manger were the shepherds and we know why they came- to see this great thing that was told to them by the angel.

Luke 2:15-18 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”

If we read the story carefully we find Mary and Joseph knew they would be there for a while and that Mary would give birth, it is at that time they went to the inn because she was in labor and then went to the manger.

Luke 2:4-7 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

A number of things did not happen as Warren spoke in his sermon. While he may have good intentions, for a message being broadcasted over TV to millions and there is much lacking. This may make good storytelling but for God to honor our speaking of him it must be truth, it is to be grounded in his word so his spirit can move freely upon peoples hearts. This leaves me to wonder if spending 20 minutes a day is sufficient to deliver such an important message to so many people.


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