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2009 Conversations

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2002 Conversations

Ron McManus: Leadership center launched (December 30, 2001)

Norman Arnesen: History's supreme event (December 23, 2001)

Dr. Everett Bartholf: Help for the holidays (December 16, 2001)

"Auntie" Anne Beiler: God has a plan (December 9, 2001)

Mary Inman: Raising seven sons for Christ (November 25, 2001)

Tony Hall: Feeding the hungry, one person at a time (Novemer 18, 2001)

John Maracle: A growing Native American Fellowship (November 11, 2001)

Al Peterson: Praying for national leaders (October 28, 2001)

Beverly LaHaye: The family is God's gift (October 21, 2001)

Terry Meeuwsen: Putting family first (October 14, 2001)

Dennis Gaylor: Changing the world, one student at a time (September 30, 2001)

Nate Cole: You are not alone (September 16, 2001)

George Cope: Training pastors, missionaries and evangelists (September 9, 2001)

Thomas E. Trask: Breaking down the barriers (August 26, 2001)

John Kilpatrick: The blessings and challenges of revival (August 19, 2001)

Marie Colwill: A passion for evangelism (August 12, 2001)

Lottie Riekehof: The Joy of Signing (July 22, 2001)

John Castellani: Teen Challenge: The Jesus factor (July 15, 2001)

Mike and John Tompkins: Publishing newspapers and proclaiming the Good News (July 8, 2001)

Chuck Girard: Music, marriage and ministry (June 24, 2001)

Stanley Burgess: The value of a godly father (June 17, 2001)

Dennis Franck: Single Adult Ministries Agency (June 10, 2001)

Thomas E. Trask: The work of the Holy Spirit (May 27, 2001)

Stephen Tourville: The changing church in America (May 20, 2001)

Margaret Columbia: Raising 17 children for Christ (May 13, 2001)

Donna Fahrenkopf: Wanted: a life change (April 29, 2001)

Sean Smith: Spiritual attacks on young people (April 22, 2001)

Josh McDowell: Is the Bible true? (April 15, 2001)

Joyce Meyer: Being a practical Christain (April 8, 2001)

Paul Drost: Multiplication (March 18, 2001)

Bill Bright: Fasting for 40 days (March 11, 2001)

Beth Grant: Women in ministry (February 25, 2001)

Alicia Chole: His people and His presence (February 18, 2001)

Cris Carter: Playing on God's team (January 28, 2001)

Randall K. O'Bannon: The value of life (January 21, 2001)

Dennis Gaylor: Secular colleges: a vital mission field (January 14, 2001)

History’s supreme event

(December 23, 2001)

Professor Norman Arnesen served at Bethany College of the Assemblies of God and established an educational ministry for pastors and church leaders in South Africa. His New Testament lectures have offered students an in-depth look at life in the time of Christ. He recently spoke with Scott Harrup, associate editor, about the historical context of the Christmas story.

Evangel: Describe the world scene into which Jesus was born.

Arnesen: The inter-testamental period was a very devastating time for the Jews. They were under the severe administration of the Romans. They were looking for someone to deliver them from Roman occupation. The religious world of that day was not at its peak for the Jews. The political times were against them. Historically, it is one of the dark periods of Jewish history. They hoped for a political deliverer to free them from Roman bondage, not realizing the spiritual dimension. Politically, economically, religiously, almost every dimension of life caused the Jews and other peoples to anticipate the need for a deliverer.

Evangel: In some ways, perhaps, that mirrors the world in turmoil today.

Arnesen: It does. In many ways, life’s circumstances are more like the first century than at any time between the first century and today. There is economic chaos around the world. There is political instability. Religiously, people have been looking for answers and a sense of direction for the future. In some ways, I believe the events of today are anticipating the second coming of Christ just as world events anticipated His first coming.

Evangel: What was life like for Joseph and Mary?

Arnesen: Joseph was apparently somewhat older than Mary, who was most likely in her teen-age years. He would have been more of a mechanical type of person used to working with slide rules, if you will. She was more the romantic. Joseph had to deal with perhaps the most unbelievable story ever told. In some ways, he had to have more faith than anyone in the Christmas story. Mary would, of course, know the facts of what happened to her, but Joseph would always have to believe the facts based on what Mary and the angel said. Then, making the journey to Bethlehem was long and difficult with her pregnancy. Finding lodging and going through the birth was difficult in the extreme.

Evangel: People probably have an idealized picture of the manger scene. What were the real conditions?

Arnesen: Well, even in a "hotel," the conditions would not have been that great for the birth of Christ. There would have been a leering, jeering crowd watching. Where they had the birth was apparently in a cave or where animals were kept under a house. That was anything but romantic or appealing. It was a very dirty, makeshift place — a difficult place to bring a child into the world. And it was a world where no one expected the Messiah and everyone was far more concerned with freedom and prosperity than any woman’s pregnancy or the birth of any child.

Evangel: You wrote an article, "The Trouble With Christmas," dealing with Herod’s slaughter of the children. How can that narrative fit into the overall picture of God’s love?

Arnesen: It was the reaction of a wicked king, Herod. It fit in the overall picture as a representation of evil at its worst, with God making a beachhead in this very negative scene to bring forth the Christ child and ultimately, the Easter story. In the midst of Herod’s hatred, God brings forth light. Through the article I wanted to remind people that their view of Christmas as nothing but beautiful scenes was not complete. These were very evil times.

Evangel: Christmas is really about Immanuel, "God with us." What has the Lord done in your life?

Arnesen: He’s been very faithful. He’s carried me through numbers of illnesses when I was close to death. I feel God still has a purpose for me because He’s brought me back from those difficult times. I was able to teach at Bethany for about 32 years and then spent about seven years training pastors in Africa. I’ve had a very fulfilled life, and the Lord has been very faithful through it all.

Evangel: Anything else?

Arnesen: The Incarnation, the coming of Christ into the world at that time, was the supreme event in all of history. Supreme, when connected with Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection.

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