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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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There Will Be No End

wonderful-counselor-mighty-god-everlasting-father-prince-of-peace

What is the true message of Christmas?
Isaiah 9:6-7 says it all . . .

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government
Will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of
His government and peace

There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David
And over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it
With judgment and justice

From that time forward
Even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts
Will perform this.

~Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV

Merry Christmas . . .

To One . . .

And ALL . . . .

YouTube Video: “Hallelujah” by Mannheim Steamroller:

Photo credit here

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A Reminder for Christmas

Nativity-Merry-ChristmasI published this blog post on December 25, 2015 under the title of Christmas and the Christian Faith.” As I reread it this evening I decided to reblog it again for this year. Here is the entire contents of that blog post.

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I ran across the following article this morning on a Public Domain website titled, Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith by Steven Arnold King (source here). It is actually a speech given by the Honorable Steve King of Iowa in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 11, 2007.

It’s significance cannot be underestimated. Here is the text of that speech (quote source here):

RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTMAS AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

SPEECH OF
HON. STEVE KING
OF IOWA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

manger cross kingMr. KING of Iowa: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for her support and help in getting this important measure to the House floor for a vote.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address the House today to discuss the importance and relevance of Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.

As this resolution notes, there are approximately 225 million Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population. Beyond that, there are approximately 2 billion Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population.

And yet, Mr. Speaker, in recent decades there have been some who have undertaken efforts to diminish the significance of this great religion, and these efforts are no more apparent than during this time of Christmas.

It is not hard to look out over this great country of ours and find those who, for one reason or another, have engaged in a highly-politicized and highly-publicized crusade to rid the public square of any reference to the religious underpinnings of the Christmas holiday. These are individuals who have subscribed to a radical interpretation of our Constitution’s free exercise and establishment clauses and have sought to impose their secular views and beliefs on the nation as a whole.

In many respects, it is this ongoing effort to bring about the secularization of Christmas–and all of our everyday lives for that matter–that motivated me to bring this resolution before the House today.

Regardless of how others may define it, Mr. Speaker, Christmas is a religious holiday. It is the day on which Christians–those who identify themselves as believers in the salvation from sin offered to them through the death and resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible–celebrate the birth of their savior. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is cause for great celebration. As the Son of God, Jesus was sent to earth, by our Heavenly Father, to become a human being, live a sinless life, be crucified on a cross for our sins, and rise from the dead three days later. The purpose of this, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, was to save sinners from eternal death–the price to be paid for their sin.

And so, Mr. Speaker, the birth of Christ, as celebrated by Christians on Christmas is a truly important and significant day because it is celebrated as a recognition of God’s redemption, mercy and Grace.

The importance of Christmas, however, does not end with the tenets of Christianity. Because Christmas is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar, I believe that its annual passage should serve as an opportunity for all Americans, Christian or not, religious or not, to recognize the important role played by Christianity in the formation of our nation and in the founding of our civilization.

It is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that courthouses throughout this country proudly display the Ten Commandments. It is no accident that, in this very chamber, it is the face of Moses, the human author of those divinely dictated commandments, that looks down upon you, keeping close watch on all that transpires in this chamber. Mr. Speaker the framework of our laws and the fabric of our society is heavily dependent upon the maxims of Christianity, and I believe that as we Christians begin our annual celebration of the birth of our savior, the one from whom Christianity derives its name, it is wholly appropriate for us, as a nation and as members of this House, to take the time to acknowledge the contributions that the Christian religion has made to our country and our way of life.

Mr. Speaker, I think we all can agree that virtually any American, whether Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, when confronted with the fact that he has in some way wronged his neighbor, will rightly respond in one universal way–knock on his door, confess to him, repent, and ask for forgiveness. The neighbor would then forgive them as Christ has taught us. True and simple as this may seem, it is important to ask why we as Americans naturally react in such a way. The answer of course is that in this “conditioned behavior” we see very clearly the positive effect that Christianity has had on the development of our country and culture.

There are few places in the United States–if any–that you can visit where the laws “do not steal” and “do not murder” do not apply. Likewise, there are few households in this great country in which moral character is developed in young children without the invocation of the ninth and tenth amendments regarding lying and coveting that which belongs to others.

Mr. Speaker, we as Americans live in a moral society and in a country that is governed by moral laws. While many of these laws obviously cannot be found in any explicit sense within the pages of the Holy Bible, when we survey the content of that book–the document that outlines how it is the Christians are to live their lives here on earth–we do find much in the way of foundational principles that has come to guide not just the development of our laws, but also the foundation of our nation.

It was from the Bible and the example of Jesus that Pilgrims first established government on this continent, from which the Founders outlined the political thought that shaped our nation, and by which Congress first intended to educate our children. Furthermore, as the scholar David Barton and others have tirelessly pointed out, it was from the Bible that early American leaders derived concepts like private ownership, the free-enterprise system, an industrious work ethic, and workfare rather than welfare. As a result, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ have permeated every aspect of life in America. He has shaped our culture and transformed every great leader to rise from our population. As a testament to this, each of our American Presidents has acknowledged God’s hand on this Christian nation that is the United States. If there never had been a Jesus Christ, there would never have been an America.

In an address to the nation President Truman once said that, “In love, which is the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poets’ dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!”

Luke 2v13-14He went on to say that, “This is a solemn hour. In the stillness of the Eve of the Nativity when the hopes of mankind hang on the peace that was offered to the world nineteen centuries ago, it is but natural, while we survey our destiny, that we give thought also to our past–to some of the things which have gone into the making of our Nation.”

In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of Christmas, “it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth.”

President Eisenhower called the nation to reflect during his remarks at the lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree on December 15, 1957 when he said, “In a few days we shall all celebrate the birth of His Holiness on earth. We shall recreate in our minds, once more, the ancient coming of that Spirit who remains alive for millions in our time. We shall acknowledge the Kingdom of a Child in a world of men.”

He went on to say, “That Child–we should remember–grew into manhood Himself, preached and moved men in many walks of life, and died in agony. But His death–so the Christian faith tells us–was not the end. For Him, and for millions of men and women ever since, it marked a time of triumph–when the spirit of life triumphed over death. So–if this Christmas season in a time of war is to have real meaning to us, it must celebrate more than the birth of a Baby.”

During his Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve, 1983 President Reagan pointed out that “It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.” [YouTube Video of speech is available here. Length of video: 5:10]

As the words of these great men–these revered and honored presidents of the United States of America have clearly demonstrated, it is not a stretch to say that the precepts and principles of Jesus have so completely permeated the culture of this nation that even an American atheist would be hard pressed to separate his worldview from the impact of the first Christmas.

Though we are not all Christians, Mr. Speaker, we are all Americans. By virtue of that simple fact, I will again reiterate my belief that it is not only appropriate but, more importantly, is necessary during this special time of year to remember not only the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, but also to recognize the important impact that the Christian faith has had on the foundation and development of our society, our nation, and our civilization. (Quote source here.)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. . .

Let Earth receive. . .

Her King. . .

YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston:

In case you’re interested, here’s the YouTube Video of President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve 1983 referenced in the speech above:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Christmas and the Christian Faith

Nativity-Merry-ChristmasI ran across the following article this morning on a Public Domain website titled, Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith by Steven Arnold King (source here). It is actually a speech given by the Honorable Steve King of Iowa in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 11, 2007.

It’s significance cannot be underestimated. Here is the text of that speech (quote source here):

RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTMAS AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

SPEECH OF
HON. STEVE KING
OF IOWA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

manger cross kingMr. KING of Iowa: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for her support and help in getting this important measure to the House floor for a vote.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address the House today to discuss the importance and relevance of Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.

As this resolution notes, there are approximately 225 million Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population. Beyond that, there are approximately 2 billion Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population.

And yet, Mr. Speaker, in recent decades there have been some who have undertaken efforts to diminish the significance of this great religion, and these efforts are no more apparent than during this time of Christmas.

It is not hard to look out over this great country of ours and find those who, for one reason or another, have engaged in a highly-politicized and highly-publicized crusade to rid the public square of any reference to the religious underpinnings of the Christmas holiday. These are individuals who have subscribed to a radical interpretation of our Constitution’s free exercise and establishment clauses and have sought to impose their secular views and beliefs on the nation as a whole.

In many respects, it is this ongoing effort to bring about the secularization of Christmas–and all of our everyday lives for that matter–that motivated me to bring this resolution before the House today.

Regardless of how others may define it, Mr. Speaker, Christmas is a religious holiday. It is the day on which Christians–those who identify themselves as believers in the salvation from sin offered to them through the death and resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible–celebrate the birth of their savior. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is cause for great celebration. As the Son of God, Jesus was sent to earth, by our Heavenly Father, to become a human being, live a sinless life, be crucified on a cross for our sins, and rise from the dead three days later. The purpose of this, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, was to save sinners from eternal death–the price to be paid for their sin.

And so, Mr. Speaker, the birth of Christ, as celebrated by Christians on Christmas is a truly important and significant day because it is celebrated as a recognition of God’s redemption, mercy and Grace.

The importance of Christmas, however, does not end with the tenets of Christianity. Because Christmas is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar, I believe that its annual passage should serve as an opportunity for all Americans, Christian or not, religious or not, to recognize the important role played by Christianity in the formation of our nation and in the founding of our civilization.

It is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that courthouses throughout this country proudly display the Ten Commandments. It is no accident that, in this very chamber, it is the face of Moses, the human author of those divinely dictated commandments, that looks down upon you, keeping close watch on all that transpires in this chamber. Mr. Speaker the framework of our laws and the fabric of our society is heavily dependent upon the maxims of Christianity, and I believe that as we Christians begin our annual celebration of the birth of our savior, the one from whom Christianity derives its name, it is wholly appropriate for us, as a nation and as members of this House, to take the time to acknowledge the contributions that the Christian religion has made to our country and our way of life.

Mr. Speaker, I think we all can agree that virtually any American, whether Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, when confronted with the fact that he has in some way wronged his neighbor, will rightly respond in one universal way–knock on his door, confess to him, repent, and ask for forgiveness. The neighbor would then forgive them as Christ has taught us. True and simple as this may seem, it is important to ask why we as Americans naturally react in such a way. The answer of course is that in this “conditioned behavior” we see very clearly the positive effect that Christianity has had on the development of our country and culture.

There are few places in the United States–if any–that you can visit where the laws “do not steal” and “do not murder” do not apply. Likewise, there are few households in this great country in which moral character is developed in young children without the invocation of the ninth and tenth amendments regarding lying and coveting that which belongs to others.

Mr. Speaker, we as Americans live in a moral society and in a country that is governed by moral laws. While many of these laws obviously cannot be found in any explicit sense within the pages of the Holy Bible, when we survey the content of that book–the document that outlines how it is the Christians are to live their lives here on earth–we do find much in the way of foundational principles that has come to guide not just the development of our laws, but also the foundation of our nation.

It was from the Bible and the example of Jesus that Pilgrims first established government on this continent, from which the Founders outlined the political thought that shaped our nation, and by which Congress first intended to educate our children. Furthermore, as the scholar David Barton and others have tirelessly pointed out, it was from the Bible that early American leaders derived concepts like private ownership, the free-enterprise system, an industrious work ethic, and workfare rather than welfare. As a result, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ have permeated every aspect of life in America. He has shaped our culture and transformed every great leader to rise from our population. As a testament to this, each of our American Presidents has acknowledged God’s hand on this Christian nation that is the United States. If there never had been a Jesus Christ, there would never have been an America.

In an address to the nation President Truman once said that, “In love, which is the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poets’ dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!”

Luke 2v13-14He went on to say that, “This is a solemn hour. In the stillness of the Eve of the Nativity when the hopes of mankind hang on the peace that was offered to the world nineteen centuries ago, it is but natural, while we survey our destiny, that we give thought also to our past–to some of the things which have gone into the making of our Nation.”

In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of Christmas, “it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth.”

President Eisenhower called the nation to reflect during his remarks at the lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree on December 15, 1957 when he said, “In a few days we shall all celebrate the birth of His Holiness on earth. We shall recreate in our minds, once more, the ancient coming of that Spirit who remains alive for millions in our time. We shall acknowledge the Kingdom of a Child in a world of men.”

He went on to say, “That Child–we should remember–grew into manhood Himself, preached and moved men in many walks of life, and died in agony. But His death–so the Christian faith tells us–was not the end. For Him, and for millions of men and women ever since, it marked a time of triumph–when the spirit of life triumphed over death. So–if this Christmas season in a time of war is to have real meaning to us, it must celebrate more than the birth of a Baby.”

During his Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve, 1983 President Reagan pointed out that “It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.” [YouTube Video of speech is available here. Length of video: 5:10]

As the words of these great men–these revered and honored presidents of the United States of America have clearly demonstrated, it is not a stretch to say that the precepts and principles of Jesus have so completely permeated the culture of this nation that even an American atheist would be hard pressed to separate his worldview from the impact of the first Christmas.

Though we are not all Christians, Mr. Speaker, we are all Americans. By virtue of that simple fact, I will again reiterate my belief that it is not only appropriate but, more importantly, is necessary during this special time of year to remember not only the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, but also to recognize the important impact that the Christian faith has had on the foundation and development of our society, our nation, and our civilization. (Quote source here.)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. . .

Let Earth receive. . .

Her King. . .

YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston:

In case you’re interested, here’s the YouTube Video of President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve 1983 referenced in the speech above:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

The Perfect Gift for Christmas

giftHere’s a reblogged Christmas post of mine from 2013 that’s good to go for this year, too. Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!!!!!

The Perfect Gift for Christmas (or Anytime)

"Simeon's Moment" by Ron DiCianniChristmas is definitely in the air, whether you live in a cold and snow-filled place or a warm, sunny, tropical location like I do in Florida. And, it’s only ten days away now. The hustle and bustle of buying gifts is everywhere, but at least the agony won’t hit until sometime in January with that first credit card bill that keeps on giving for several months into the new year.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year whether I spend it alone or with others. I love walking into stores and heading for the area filled with Christmas decorations, or driving around and looking at all the houses festively decorated. Here in America Christmas is highly commercialized and, unfortunately, the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in the shuffle of Santa Claus and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and gift-giving, and parties, and that frantic search for the “perfect gift” for everyone on our list. Yet the real gift of Christmas won’t bring a headache in the mail in January or any other time of the year, and this most perfect gift has no bill attached yet it cost God everything when He sent His only Son as a baby to this earth. And it is this very Gift that Simeon waited a lifetime to see at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth (Luke 2:25-35):

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2 contains that first Christmas story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the account of Simeon who was in the temple at the time of the purification rites required for all firstborn males by the Law of Moses, and he saw with his own eyes God’s plan of salvation when Jesus was presented. “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:22-24). And at that point Simeon told his mother, Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (vv. 34-35). Simeon spoke of the cross that was in Jesus’ future.

The cross of Jesus Christ“a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (I Corinthians 1:23-25). Let’s read the surrounding verses in I Corinthians 1:18-31:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The greatest giftGod’s plan of salvation, born in a manger, dying on a cross, and resurrected to give us (those who believe) eternal life“a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Stripping away all the commercialism and festivities of this time of the year–the story of Jesus Christ is the real message of Christmas.

The most perfect gift available in this world is available at anytime, in any place, and not just at Christmas. A Pharisee named Nicodemus found it in John 3 in his conversation with Jesus, succinct in three verses (John 3:16-18):

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

In the hustle and bustle and frenetic activities that accompany Christmas every year, let’s not forget the real reason for Christmas–the reason the Prophet Isaiah foretold thousands of years ago when he said in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Jesus stated in Revelation 22:12-13, Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” And the invitation is given in verse 17,The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

“The free gift of the water of life” . . .

Available now, this Christmas, and at anytime . . .

Don’t miss it . . . .

YouTube Video: “Mary Did You Know?” sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

Tis-the-seasonRight before Christmas two years ago I wrote a blog post titled, No Greater Love.” The message is a good one to remember, especially at this time of year, so instead of coming up with something new, I’m posting something old–from two years ago.

No Greater Love

305398_429242660480779_383150247_nMost folks are familiar I Corinthians 13 as it is considered to be the greatest chapter on love found in the entire Bible. However, the verses we most often quote are verses 4-7 and you’ll no doubt recognize them right away–“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking . . .” etc. They are spoken many times in marriage ceremonies. However, we have a tendency to skip over the first three verses which state (I Corinthians 13:1-3 MSG):

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Think about those words for a moment. If we say, believe, or do anything–ANYTHING–without doing it from a heart of love, it means nothing. Nothing! And we are bankrupt. Bankrupt! Without love, what we say means nothing, what we believe (or say we believe) means nothing, what we do means nothing.

Those are serious words. They give me pause for thought. It gives a whole new meaning and weight to the words that follow in those most familiar verses that we quote so often . . .

“Love is patient” (So just how patience are we? Do we get impatient waiting in a fast food line because the line isn’t moving fast enough?)

“Love is kind” (How often do we show kindness to those we don’t know or know well–for example, the homeless, the hurting, or even the clerk who was rude to us or someone we’ve heard some gossip about?)

“It does not envy” (Who or what are we jealous of, and who or what do we envy and why?)

“It does not boast, it is not proud” (How often do we seek acknowledgement from others or boast about something we have accomplished, hoping to look good in the eyes of others in order to elevate ourselves?)

“It is not rude” (How do we respond to someone who is rude to us? Are we rude back? What’s your first reaction to someone who cuts you off in traffic?)

“It is not self-seeking” (How did we feel when someone else got that promotion we thought we deserved? And how did we treat them afterward? When we think about money or material possessions, is it primarily to serve ourselves or to also help others?)

“It is not easily angered” (Are we quick to react in anger when something doesn’t go our way? Are we easily offended? Are we quick to judge?)

“It keeps no record of wrongs” (This is a very tough one. Do we have a tendency to constantly nurse grudges against those who have offended us, whether they are aware of it or not?)

“Love does not delight in evil” (Evil takes many forms. Do we take delight–in secret or with others–when someone–especially those we aren’t fond of or are jealous of–falls or fails in some way, privately or publicly? Do we gossip about others behind their backs? That is delighting in evil.)

“Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (Do we protect others and not just family and friends but those who are helpless–widows, orphans, the homeless, the less fortunate among us? Or do we just protect ourselves and look the other way? What about trust, hope, and persevering during hard times instead of complaining?)

Love is action and not just words we say to each other without doing anything that proves it out. If we “talk it” but don’t “walk it” it means nothing. Read those first three verses above again and let them sink in . . . really sink in.

Here are a few action steps to think about to start living out this life of love if we are really serious about it:

(1) When someone tells us about a need they have, instead of just saying, “I’m praying for you,” and walking away, see if there is something we can actually do to help them is some tangible way, and then do it. It could be as simple as giving them a hug or inviting them to lunch, or giving them a $20 bill if they just lost their job (that happened to me after I lost my job and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me–not so much because of the money but because I knew it was a real sacrifice for the person who gave it to me and it was her way of showing me how much she cared about the situation I was in). Show genuine concern for the person and what they are going through.

(2) Start putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. For example, if a clerk is rude to you, don’t automatically be rude back or grumble under your breath. Instead, say something kind. After all, you have no idea what that clerk has gone through that caused him or her to be rude. His bank might have just foreclosed on his house or her husband might have just lost his job or asked for a divorce. Don’t just react to the rudeness, but act with kindness.

(3) Work is usually a hotbed area where little love or kindness is shown. Many folks are constantly “looking out for #1,” and gossiping behind other’s backs. Stay away from the gossip. Do the best job you can for your employer, even when someone else gets the promotion you expected to get or the boss is nasty to the bone. And congratulate that person who got the promotion over you (and do it with sincerity). God is still in control, even in the worst of situations. You never know what is going on “behind the scenes.” And God may have spared you from something worse that you can’t see or understand. Or He has something better in store for you down the road.

(4) Don’t always be self-seeking. Think about others and how you can help them. Be “other” focused. And don’t gossip.

Well, you get the idea . . . . Love, real love, is always focused on others and not just on ourselves. By doing that one thing (focusing on others) the rest of the list will start to take care of itself. We will be more patient, and we will be more kind; we won’t envy, and we won’t boast about how great we are by seeking the attention and accolades of others. We won’t always be “looking out for #1″ (which is pride in it’s ugliest form). We’ll stop being rude and self-seeking; our anger will start to dissipate and be replaced with “a peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) towards others and ourselves; We won’t delight in evil anymore (like gossip) but genuinely care about those we don’t know or understand (and without judging them, too).

If we want this world to be a kinder place, we can’t wait for others to do it. It starts with us.The next time you’re tempted to react negatively to a negative situation, which could be in the next few minutes, stop before you react and think about what is really going on. It’s not easy as we’ve been so used to reacting to situations instantly (and sometimes with great regret later on–we’ve all been there). Instead, count to ten internally (and say a quick prayer for God’s help). If someone just cut you off in traffic, instead of flipping them the finger or swearing at them in your car, say a quick prayer of thanks that you didn’t get in a bad accident, and pray for them, too.

Christmas is just a few days away. The very best gift we can give anyone (family, friends, or complete strangers) is genuine love. And it starts with us (and no, we don’t wait for them to love us first–we could be waiting forever if that is the case). In fact, genuine, authentic love started with Jesus Christ. He is our example. He laid down his very life for us on the cross at Calvary. How can we not extend that same love to others if we truly follow Him? After all, in John 15:12-14 Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

And here’s the gift I want to leave with you this Christmas from the Apostle Paul in Phil. 4:8-9 (MSG):

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

And let’s start living life . . .

As if everything is a miracle . . . .

YouTube Video: “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” sung by Rod Stewart on his 2009 CD, “Soulbook.”

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 
credit here

The Perfect Gift for Christmas (or Anytime)

"Simeon's Moment" by Ron DiCianni

“Simeon’s Moment” by Ron DiCianni

Christmas is definitely in the air, whether you live in a cold and snow-filled place or a warm, sunny, tropical location like I do in Florida. And, it’s only ten days away now. The hustle and bustle of buying gifts is everywhere, but at least the agony won’t hit until sometime in January with that first credit card bill that keeps on giving for several months into the new year.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year whether I spend it alone or with others. I love walking into stores and heading for the area filled with Christmas decorations, or driving around and looking at all the houses festively decorated. Here in America Christmas is highly commercialized and, unfortunately, the true meaning of Christmas gets lost in the shuffle of Santa Claus and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and gift-giving, and parties, and that frantic search for the “perfect gift” for everyone on our list. Yet the real gift of Christmas won’t bring a headache in the mail in January or any other time of the year, and this most perfect gift has no bill attached yet it cost God everything when He sent His only Son as a baby to this earth. And it is this very Gift that Simeon waited a lifetime to see at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth (Luke 2:25-35):

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Luke 2 contains that first Christmas story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the account of Simeon who was in the temple at the time of the purification rites required for all firstborn males by the Law of Moses, and he saw with his own eyes God’s plan of salvation when Jesus was presented. “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:22-24). And at that point Simeon told his mother, Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (vv. 34-35). Simeon spoke of the cross that was in Jesus’ future.

The cross of Jesus Christ–“a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (I Corinthians 1:23-25). Let’s read the surrounding verses in I Corinthians 1:18-31:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things— and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

The greatest giftGod’s plan of salvation, born in a manger, dying on a cross, and resurrected to give us (those who believe) eternal life–“a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Stripping away all the commercialism and festivities of this time of the year–the story of Jesus Christ is the real message of Christmas.

The most perfect gift available in this world is available at anytime, in any place, and not just at Christmas. A Pharisee named Nicodemus found it in John 3 in his conversation with Jesus, succinct in three verses (John 3:16-18):

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

In the hustle and bustle and frenetic activities that accompany Christmas every year, let’s not forget the real reason for Christmas–the reason the Prophet Isaiah foretold thousands of years ago when he said in Isaiah 9:6-7:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Jesus stated in Revelation 22:12-13, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” And the invitation is given in verse 17, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

“The free gift of the water of life” . . .

Available now, this Christmas, and at anytime . . .

Don’t miss it . . . .

YouTube Video: “Mary Did You Know?” sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

And the Beat Goes On (for Christmas)

DSC00108As of today, it’s 25 days until Christmas and 31 days until the brand new year of 2014. I’m hoping for a great new year and hope you are, too! I’m taking a break from blog post writing for the month of December and want to send all of my readers a wish from a song by Rascal Flatts that best sums up what I want to say during this Christmas season. So without further ado, here is “my wish” for you (YouTube Video below):

My Wish

by Rascal Flatts

I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you want to go,
And if you’re faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin’ till you find the window,
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
But more than anything, more than anything . . .

My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this is my wish.

I hope you never look back, but you never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you left,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God’s grace, in every mistake,
And always give more than you take.
But more than anything, yeah, more than anything . . .

My wish for you is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you’re out there getting where you’re getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this is my wish (my wish, for you).

Merry Christmas
&
Happy New Year 2014
Everyone!!!

YouTube Video: “My Wish” (2006) by Rascal Flatts:

Photo taken by author

Being Thankful (and Joyful, Too)

being_thankfulIn two days here in America we will be celebrating Thanksgiving and this year it also marks the first day of the Jewish holiday, Chanukah (Hanukkah). And even though the specter of unemployment still looms over my life after more than four and a half years now, I have much to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day and everyday.

Eight days ago I wrote my latest blog post titled In God We Trust – True or False? and then the very next day my wireless modem died and along with it my internet connection to the world. It was 3 ½ years old and had served me well, and while I did everything I knew how to do in the following days to try to revive it, the consensus was that it was dead. I mourned the loss as I knew a new wireless modem would cost more than I wanted to spend right now. I never dreamed that when I lost my job in April 2009 that I would still be unemployed over four and a half years later, and as much as I try not to worry about finances (my only income during this time was the unemployment benefits I received which ended in May 2011 and I have had no income since that time), to have unexpected expenses on an already tight budget gives me pause for thought every time it happens and sends me back to the place I talked about in my last blog post–e.g., do I really trust God to see me through every circumstance. To say the least, it humbles me.

And I have a confession to make . . . . After over four and a half years of unemployment with still no light at the end of that tunnel, there is one portion of Scripture that I recently found rather annoying (at least in the first sentence of the passage). It is found in James 1:2-18. Let’s read it:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

It is clear from the start of the passage that we (e.g., Christians) will encounter trials of many kinds throughout our lives and that these trials come our way as a testing of our faith which produces in us that much needed quality of perseverance if we allow it to (vv. 2-3). And it is that quality of perseverance that will make us mature and complete, lacking nothing (v. 4). And in order to acquire this perseverance, we must have God’s wisdom and God has clearly told us to ask him for it and he will give it to us generously and without finding fault as long as we truly believe that he will and not doubt (vv. 5-8). Well, I can’t tell you how many times I have asked God for his wisdom over these past four and a half years (five, actually) and he has given it to me every time I have totally trusted him to do it and not relied on my own understanding.

However, at the beginning of this portion of James is this statement, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sister, whenever you face trials of many kinds . . .” (v. 2). I have to admit that after four and a half years joy doesn’t exactly describe how I have been feeling lately. Tired, frustrated, isolated, restless . . . yes; but joyful? Hardly . . . . I found joy to be in very short supply when one mini-trial would end only to give birth to the next one and all of them in the midst of the major overarching trial of long term unemployment. And I was still encountering a major anger issue from time to time regarding my former boss in Houston who started this whole mess in my life when I first arrived for that job in Houston in late September 2008 and from which he fired me from in April 2009.

Now, mind you, my anger at him has in no way affected him at all. In fact, he doesn’t even know about it. The last time I saw him or talked with him was the day he fired me (April 21, 2009). His life has kept right on going through a couple of promotions while I’ve been unemployed the entire time. And then last night I read a quote on Facebook that really brought it all back home to me. While I couldn’t find a reference for the author of the quote, here is what it stated:

The one that angers you
Controls you.
Don’t give anyone that power
Especially the one
Who does it intentionally.

Human anger is destructive. It can and often does destroy others and always destroys us in the long run if we do not deal with it appropriately and in God’s way. Only godly anger can be constructive, but we humans rarely experience that kind of anger. Our anger is usually followed up with a strong desire for revenge. And the Bible is very clear that revenge belongs to God and not to us—see Romans 12:19. I have stumbled over my anger more times than I can count over this long time of unemployment, and it is the biggest stumbling block preventing me from experiencing real joy in the midst of a major trial that, at least from my very human and limited perspective, has lasted way too long and has stretched the lesson on learning perseverance to its limit.

Choosing joy todayHowever, as I read through Psalm 139, I am reminded that God knows everything about me (and he knows the same about you, too)—including every moment of my life and every circumstance and trial that I have encountered and I am currently encountering (and the same also goes for you). He knew me from my mother’s womb and “all the days ordained for me were written in your [God’s] book before one of them came to be” (see vv. 13-16). And as King David said right after that acknowledgement in v. 17: “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you.”

As I mentioned in my last post, In God We Trust—True or False?”, so often we take our eyes off of God and place them squarely on what we think needs to be done in any given situation. And once we take God out of the equation of our circumstances (or ask him to bless what we are about to do instead of asking him for his guidance in the situation when it happens and while we are going through it) we are on very shaky ground. Deadly ground, actually.

This whole experience with my internet modem dying last week has brought this point back home to me once again. I fretted and stewed about what to do; what it was going to cost me; how I could do it the cheapest way possible; how I was going to recoup the financial loss with no income whatsoever coming in, etc., etc., etc.; in fact, by yesterday morning when I woke up I was totally frustrated and had worked myself into a frenzy. I spent time over the past several days checking out all the options, weighing the pros and cons of each decision, and, quite frankly, wore myself out with the ensuing frustration of trying to figure it all out on my own.

Now, mind you, during this time I was aware that God was trying to get my attention but I had inadvertently assumed that I had to give him some help with it (how often do we do that, folks?). By the time I got up yesterday morning I had made that proverbial mountain out of a molehill and it was time to get off that mountain. And by yesterday afternoon I gave it all up and said, “Okay, God . . . please show me what I should do about this situation.” So I packed up my laptop and headed out to the store that I had almost written off as an option (I checked them out last week along with some other options) . . . and, well, you can probably guess what happened. I ended up getting a wonderful sales clerk who gave me a fantastic deal with a brand new and fast 4G wireless modem with whistles and bells and no contract required and some discounts I didn’t expect (I’ve been a long term customer with this particular company with my cell phone service) that will be saving me at least $15/mo from what I was paying for my 3 ½ year old much slower wireless modem with a different company that died last week right after I wrote that post that asked “Do we really trust in God?”

Talk about an object lesson . . . .

So now, once again, I bring to God this anger issue that just doesn’t seem to be resolving itself on its own. I’m tired of being angry, folks. Really, really tired . . . about as tired as I was yesterday morning when I woke up totally frustrated about what I needed to do to get connected with the world again after my wireless modem died a week ago. And that little saying I quoted above that I found on Facebook last night brought it home to me. I want God and not my anger at my former boss and my unbelievably long-term unemployment situation to be in control, so I give the entire situation (and my former boss) back to God right now . . . right this very moment . . . .

So with all of that being said, this Thanksgiving I am enormously thankful and grateful that God is always in control–even when I’m out of control–and if I will let go of my preconceived ideas or my own understanding which has limited perspective on the whole issue and truly ask him to guide me in everything I do, he will do exactly that—just as he promised he would do in James 1. And this morning, I can feel that joy that has been eluding me for so long seeping back into my life . . . and just in time for Christmas, too.

Are you in the midst of a trial that you can hardly stand anymore and any joy you once experienced has been robbed from your life? Then maybe it’s time to stop trying to figure it all out on your own. Leave all of the options up to God—he’s the only one with the right option (and with him, it’s never an option).

Christmas is coming soon and there’s no better gift to receive than God’s wisdom (through Jesus Christ). So stop the struggling on your own; ask God for it, and don’t doubt . . . .

Starting right now . . .

And consider it pure joy . . . .

YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston in the movie, The Preacher’s Wife (1996):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

A Child Is Born

Manger and cross @ www.fishermansnet.comThe
Christmas
Story

from
Luke 2
(NIV1984)

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

22 When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”),24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25 Simeon's Moment by Ron DiCianni 2011 - www.tapestryproductions.comNow there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel,and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

YouTube Video: “Mary Did You Know?” sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here (“Simeon’s Moment” by Ron DiCianni, 2011)

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