I have installed IntenseDebate to enable the use of CommentLuv on Blogger, but anyone can leave a comment, and please do! I have also removed the nofollow tags to make this a Christian DOFOLLOW blog. If you have a Christian or family oriented blog and would like to exchange links in the blog roll, just leave a comment and ask!

Friday, December 24, 2010

What's Your Most Memorable Christmas Gift?

Nothing spiritual or theological in this post. God's gift of Jesus is the Greatest Gift of all eternity, but let's just have a discussion of our most memorable material Christmas gifts. I lived in Key West in the late 70s when my dad was stationed there in the navy. We lived in base housing and had a seperate storage unit in a building located elsewhere in the housing area. Christmas morning I emptied my stocking and found the key to the storage unit. I was totally bewildered as to why I had this key in my stocking. My dad drove me over there to have a look. I opened the door and there stood my first 10-speed bicycle. We didn't have all these mountain bikes and 15- and 18-speed bikes like we do now, so a 10-speed was pretty special for a kid back then. I was 10 years old and still remember it quite well all these (cough)%&(cough) some-odd years later. Post a reply and share your most memorable Christmas gift.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can You Pass Heaven's Entrance Exam?

Why do you call Me good? No one is
good but One, that is, God.
- Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19

There are many people who hope they’ll be good enough to get into heaven when they die. It should scare them to death (no pun intended) to have to go through life “hoping” they’ll go to heaven instead of “knowing,” considering what the alternative is. But, then again, many who “hope” to go to heaven don’t believe there is a hell, so it doesn’t really bother them. Well, seems to me that, if you “hope” to go to heaven, then you must believe you have an eternal soul that goes somewhere after you die. “Hoping” to go to heaven, then, must also mean there is an alternative place you’ll go if you don’t get into heaven. “But I’ve never missed church!” “I’ve put lots of money in the offering plate!” “I’ve done a lot of charity work!” “But, I’ve been a pretty good person. I mean, I’ve never killed anybody. I kept the 10 commandments!” All of these are reasons people have for thinking they’re going to heaven. Every one of them is wrong and can be refuted with scripture, but I won’t go into that here. That would make this post way too long. All of these things, however, are dependent upon what the person does or doesn’t do. The simple truth is, THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO EARN OUR WAY INTO HEAVEN! It’s a heart issue, as I wrote about a few months ago in my post Have You Had a Heart Transplant? In the words of Jesus above, He plainly pointed out that the only one that can be considered “good” is God. Anything less is less than good. How can we possibly think that anything we can do can stand up to God’s goodness?

But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses
are like filthy rags.
- Isaiah 64:6

Compared to God’s righteousness, all of our good deeds are like filthy rags. Is that what we want to bring Him to get into heaven? And it applies across the board; rich or poor, white or black, Protestant or Catholic, American or Chinese, drug addict or preacher. We are all in the same boat because none of us are “good enough.”

There is none righteous, no, not one.
- Romans 3:10

Did you know there is an entrance exam to get into heaven? Have you studied for it? No, you don’t need to know the bible inside out. You don’t need to be a master of every point of doctrine. You don’t even have to be able to quote scripture like a biblical scholar. The exam is only one question God is concerned with: did you trust my Son? It’s that simple, but so many people miss it because “people” make it complicated. God made it simple, and He did all the work for us. All He wants us to do is trust that Jesus has it all covered for us. He died on the cross as God’s perfect sacrifice to conquer death for us, to pay a debt for sin that He did not owe, because we could never pay the debt ourselves. That was the whole mission of the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, as I wrote about in my post Born to Die.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
- John 3:16

This is perhaps the most widely quoted scripture of the entire bible. But look what it says. It says that God gave His Son. When you give something, it is a gift to simply be received. If you’ve been trusting in your own ability to get to heaven, won’t you take a moment to consider this and honestly ask yourself if you deserve to get into heaven, or if you’re just bringing Him filthy rags? Be completely honest with yourself, lay aside your pride, and make the decision to simply TRUST Jesus and not yourself to get to heaven. That’s all there is to it, and you too can pass heaven’s entrance exam with flying colors!

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through Me.
- John 14:6

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Walking in Mary's Shoes

Carefully consider the words to Mary Did You Know, and take a moment to put yourself in Mary’s shoes. If you’re a woman, and an angel had told you that you were going to have a son, but you were still a virgin, how much faith and courage do you think it would take to tell your fiancĂ©? If you’re a man, and your betrothed came to you with this, would you believe her? Just the simple act of telling Joseph put her very life at risk because she could have been stoned to death according to the Law. Mary stepped forward on faith that God had given her a special child for a special purpose. Could she have possibly comprehended just what that purpose was? Could she have ever got her head around the concept that her child was fully man, yet fully God? That He was, indeed, God in the flesh? Sure, she saw him growing up, teaching in the temple at a young age, amazing the temple leadership with his knowledge and understanding of the Scripture He Himself spoke into being. She saw the miracles He performed. She saw Him turn water into wine, restore sight to the blind, heal the lame, cure lepers, raise the dead back to life; but did she know her Son would have to give His own life? Did she understand that He was God’s perfect sacrificial Lamb? Many Jews believed the Messiah would be a military ruler that would defeat the Romans and liberate them from their human bondage. Little did they understand that Messiah was coming to deliver them from the spiritual bondage of sin. Can you imagine what must have been going through Mary’s mind as she saw her Son beaten, tortured, humiliated, and finally executed on a cross? Was she waiting for a miracle, like an army of angels or something, to stop this from happening? How could God let this happen to her promised Son? Imagine her anguish as she saw her Son, beaten to a bloody pulp, laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. For three days she grieved, until she saw her Son resurrected from the grave. Was it not until then that she understood that the Son she delivered came to deliver her? Was it then, after enduring unimaginable grief, that she finally knew it was all part of God’s plan? Truly, Mary was blessed among women. Moses got but a glimpse of God, but Mary was entrusted to give birth to His earthly form, raise Him as her child, hold Him, nurse Him, and love on Him. Any mother will kiss her baby, but did she know just how privileged she was to literally kiss the face of God? Unlike any other, God found favor with her, indeed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Creative Nativity Story with a Modern Twist

This a very creative telling of the Nativity story with a uniquely modern twist. It's too cute and very much worth the viewing. There is no embed code to put it on here with a preview in a player, so please click on the link. It's on a site called GodVine.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jesus: Wine-guzzling Vagrant and Socialist?

Was Jesus a “wine-guzzling vagrant and socialist?” That’s the assertion made in a book by Barbara Ehrenreich titled “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” It is about her efforts as an “undercover journalist” to make a living working minimum wage jobs in Minnesota, Maine, and Florida. I never would have heard of this book if I had not read a news article concerning it and the controversy it has caused. It is required reading for a personal finance class at Bedford High School in New Hampshire. The book is supposed to be a supportive argument in favor of a higher minimum wage, but it goes beyond that by using foul language and being offensively critical of Jesus and Christianity. An excerpt from the book, in which the author describes a Christian church service she attended in Maine, reads,

 "It would be nice if someone would read this sad-eyed crowd the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a rousing commentary on income inequality and the need for a hike in the minimum wage. But Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned, nor anything he ever had to say. Christ
crucified rules, and it may be that the true business of modern Christianity is
to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth."

In the book's Frequently Asked Questions section of the author’s website, the question is posed, “Why did you go out of your way to insult Jesus as a “wine-guzzling vagrant?” The author’s reply states:

"I didn’t! In fact, Nickel and Dimed received a Christopher Award, which is given by a Catholic group in recognition of books "which affirm the highest values of the human spirit." In the section at issue, I observed that the social teachings of Jesus went utterly unmentioned at the tent revival I attended. The revival preachers clearly preferred the dead and risen Christ to the living Jesus -- who did indeed drink wine and could even make it out of water. As for the vagrancy charge: that’s what he was, a homeless, itinerant preacher."

Despite what some fundamental legalists might say, I would agree that, yes, Jesus did make actual wine at the wedding feast of Cana, and I’m sure He likely drank some of it, as well, but He was certainly no drunkard as the author seems to imply. Wine was, and still is, a very common part of the culture of the region in which Jesus lived His earthly life. I would compare it to sweet tea in the southern US. As for homeless, I suppose that technically, yes, He was homeless. Jesus Himself said,

Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man
has nowhere to lay His head.” - Matthew 8:20

However, I fail to see how mention of this is even necessary in a book about the struggles of minimum wage workers. Even so, this could easily have been worded much differently and still make whatever point the author intended. It seems to me that it was purposely worded to sound inflammatory and create controversy, perhaps for the advancement of the author’s recognition and career.

Based on the above excerpt and the authors FAQ response, it seems pretty clear to me that the author is completely lacking in biblical understanding in a few key points. As for the “dead and risen Christ,” absolutely that must be preached! If Jesus had not died, been buried, and arisen to sit at the right hand of the Father, there would be no redemption for mankind. There would be no atonement for our sins. Christianity would be just another “religious morality system,” and Jesus would have been just another great teacher. But the fact that He rose from the dead, just as He said He would, proved who He is and provided the way for us to gain eternal life; by what He did and not by anything we do or don’t do. Yes, His recorded earthly ministry taught us a lot about the character of God and how He would like us to live, but everything hangs on the resurrection.

Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount does Jesus address “income inequality.” He addressed a lot of other things, such as those seeking to follow Him and living to please God will have great reward in Heaven, sin begins with our thoughts and attitudes, marriage is sacred, keep your word, go the extra mile for people even if they’re doing you wrong, love your enemies and pray for them, don’t pray or do good deeds for public recognition, but to please God, forgive others, do things for the good of God’s kingdom rather than personal material gain, don’t try to serve God and money, trust God to provide what you need to survive, don’t judge others but rather examine yourself first, earnestly seek to reflect the character of God, and keep Christ at the center of your life and He will sustain you. Hmmm… that pretty well sums up the Sermon on the Mount, and I see nothing close to “income inequality” or any other type of social or economic justice. He did, however, teach a lot about not worrying about your economic status but trust that God will provide for your needs.

As for the statement “Christ crucified rules,” I would beg to differ. In the words of Jesus, again from the Sermon on the Mount,

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.
I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you,
till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no
means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” – Matthew 5:17-18

In His own words, He did not do away with “rules.” His sacrificial atonement was because we are unable to “follow the rules” completely enough to match His perfect righteousness. It is by His grace that HIS righteousness is imputed to us that we may stand before a holy and righteous God and be worthy to enter His kingdom. A little later in the Sermon Jesus said,

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust
destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where
thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

It is by “following these rules” that we lay up our treasures in heaven; seeking to please God, loving and forgiving others, keeping a check on our thoughts and attitudes, and doing good for others by putting them ahead of ourselves out of unselfish love, even our enemies. In no way do I mean to say that we have to earn our salvation by being “good enough.” Eternal life by His work on the cross is an absolutely FREE GIFT that we cannot earn but only receive. There are, however, rewards in heaven that we earn in this earthly life by what we do after we receive His greatest gift that can ever be given. If we are too worried about how much money we have, how big our house is, what our job title is, what kind of car we drive, etc, it gets in the way or our relationship with Jesus and takes our focus off of Him. I’ve been going through some things in my own life lately that have really been driving that point home. Our identity should not be in our material possessions, but in Christ, and Him alone. Again from the Sermon on the Mount,

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we
drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles
seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these
things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day
is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:31-34

Jesus did talk a lot about money, but He never said it was wrong for some to not have money and some to have it. An often misused and misquoted passage is from 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” It is not the money itself, but the love of money and putting it before God that is wrong. Jesus praised the poor widow in the temple who gave what little she had out of a pure heart, but didn’t question why she was poor and didn’t have as much as others. He said it was easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than to enter heaven because, as I said above, it gets in the way of our relationship with Him because we get too concerned with it. He told the rich young ruler to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. He didn’t want to give up his money so he didn’t follow Jesus, and Jesus didn’t force him.

When the woman in Bethany used expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ head, the disciples got upset and said the perfume could have been sold and the money used to feed the poor. Jesus responded with,

Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.” – Mark 14:6-7

Jesus acknowledged that there would always be the poor. He never said they were entitled to any certain standard of living. Nor did He say the rich should not have their money. If He said the rich had to give their money to the poor so everyone would be on the same level, then that would be Socialism. He gave us free will and allows us to decide what to do with our money, good or bad, for His glory, or not for His glory, so Jesus was certainly no Socialist. The “social teachings” of Jesus, such as can be seen in the Sermon on the Mount, can largely be summed up with “love your neighbor as yourself.” I don’t know what Christ the author is referring to, but it’s certainly not the Christ of the Gospel.

There are many reasons people are poor. Often it is because of their own actions and decisions. Sometimes they’re just too lazy to work and just want a handout they feel “entitled” to. Sometimes it is because of an illness or some other circumstance beyond their control. The bible says in several places, basically, “you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Those with more should, indeed, help out those less fortunate voluntarily out of love and compassion, and many do, but those of lower economic status should help themselves, as well. People need to take responsibility for themselves and their situation and do what they have to in order to improve their economic status, but it should always be done with an eye toward pleasing God and always trusting that He will provide. America has long been called the “Land of Opportunity,” and there is story after story of people working their way from janitor to CEO, from welfare to millionaire, seizing opportunities and making the most of their situation. I don’t mind giving someone a hand up in a time of need when they are putting forth effort to better themselves and their situation, but I don’t believe it’s right for my tax dollars to be used to give hand outs, sometimes for generation after generation.

I am completely bewildered as to why this book is required reading in any public school in the US. Students get in trouble for having bibles in school. Prayer has been taken out of schools. A student in New York was suspended for wearing a rosary. Yet this book, which contains offensive remarks toward Christianity, is "required reading." This book also contains language that is illegal to use on television, so we'll require our kids to read the words, instead. The parents of 16 year-old Jordan Henderson pulled him out of the school and began home-schooling him over this issue. They voiced their concerns to the principal, but three weeks later, a review committee determined that, despite its issues, "the book provided valuable insight into the circumstances of the working poor and an opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of the 'Financial Impact' competency," Now, I wonder, what if it was a book that referred to Islam’s prophet Mohammed as a pedophile? Well, he did marry one of his wives, Sahih Bukhari Aisha, when she was 6 and consummated the marriage when she was 9, so technically, yes; he was a pedophile, in the same manner in which the author justifies calling Jesus a vagrant. Would a book with a mention of that be allowed in the school, even if it “provided valuable insight?” Somehow I doubt it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Extreme Guitar Hero Christmas Lights

I came across this video of a kid combining Guitar Hero with Christmas lights. I thought it was pretty creative and would be something cool to share.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Born to Die

It’s often said that we all have some purpose in life, something we were “born for.” Some seem to find their clear-cut purpose and pursue it’s fulfillment with great vigor and enthusiasm. Many are still searching, and sadly, some seem to go through life floundering about with no sense or purpose whatsoever. There is one thing that each and every one of us was born to do, but all too many don’t, and that is simply to worship God. There are all kinds of excuses thrown around, like “I tried religion and it’s not for me,” or “it’s all a myth,” or just simply choosing not to believe. Even believers make excuses when they backslide, don’t try to live a Godly lifestyle, or take a contrary view on something God is very clear about. I’ve been just as guilty as the next person. We try to rationalize things in our humanness, but worshipping God is a spiritual act, not a humanly one. If we are to fulfill our purpose of worshipping God, then we must surrender our will to God and seek to please Him instead of, or in spite of, ourselves. This is the essence of Romans 12:1-2.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:1-2

Every December we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but do we stop to reflect on what His purpose was, what He was “born to do?” We’ve fashioned some hallmark-esque feel-good image of the Nativity with a neat little manger bed, shepherds watching in wonder, angels singing, and the Three Wise Men bringing gifts, though they really didn’t show up until Jesus was already two or three years old. The reality is that Jesus was born in a barn, basically. He was born in a nasty, smelly place where the animals were housed and fed. His bed was a manger, which is an animal feeding trough. I’m sure that was a real clean, sterile place to put a newborn baby. The King of Kings left His throne and came to dwell among us, arriving is such a lowly manner, born for one purpose. He was born to die. Jesus, being God With Us, knew this was his mission and told his disciples so.

But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” - John 12:23-28

Though Jesus is fully God, He was fully human, as well. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by the pressures of work deadlines, meeting our family’s needs, or fulfilling our ministerial commitments. How often do we say something like, “I’m only human and I can only do so much?” Jesus quite literally had the weight of the world on Him. In His humanness He felt every emotion, endured every pain, and dealt with the ups and downs of life just as we do. He was even tempted just as we are, but the difference is that He didn’t sin. Can you even begin to imagine the incredible pressure He was under knowing the physical torture that would be inflicted on Him, the intense public humiliation He would have to endure, and the agonizing death He was destined to suffer? Can you imagine having the spiritual fate of all humanity resting on your shoulders? Yes, Jesus the God-man felt the pressure, as evidenced by the events that transpired in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. He was literally sweating blood as He prayed. He knew it was the Father’s plan from before the foundation of the world. He loves us so much that He gave over His human will to the Father’s will, and endured it all to be our atonement to bring us back into right standing with God, and all He wants us to do is trust Him, that He did everything that was necessary because there is nothing we could ever do ourselves to bridge the gap between man and God.

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw,
and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will,
take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
- Luke 22:41-42

As we celebrate this Christmas season, let’s not be distracted by all the shopping, decorations, food, family, travel, and all the stuff that comes with this time of year. Be sure to keep Christ in Christmas, as the old clichĂ© goes. Remember that the King came into the world in a very lowly way as a Servant to all, as we should be servants to each other, as well. Remember that this innocent little child whose birth we celebrate, was God’s perfect, innocent lamb, born to die for you.
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