Purpose




Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace





Sunday, December 29, 2013

Left behind with Jabez, dogs, and frogs in a purpose-driven shack Part 1

 
Christians have fads. A lot of us tend to criticize fads of the world, but Christians have them also. I worked in a Christian bookstore for 5 years, and I saw fads come and go.

 First there was the WWJD? fad. When it fizzled out, there was the FROG fad (fully rely on God). It was followed by DOG(Depend on God). Each came with bracelets and all other kinds of merchandise for people to buy. The bookstores overflowed with dogs and frogs going along with the themes.

 Is there anything wrong with WWJD? Anything wrong with wearing things that say it? Not necessarily. If we really mean it. It is an entirely different thing to live what would Jesus do, and another to wear a bracelet and feel good.

 And therein may lie part of the problem. Feeling good. Wearing a WWJD? bracelet makes people feel good, but how many people that actually wore them, really carried through and practiced it? Living what would Jesus do changes things. A lot. If it doesn't affect a person, then they may as well throw the bracelet in the trash, for too many of us live as "I" would do, not as how Jesus would do.

 It doesn't stop with clever Christian slogans and sayings. I don't know how many books have been a fad, or what book was the first one, but one of the biggest that came along when I was working at the bookstore was The Prayer of Jabez. A short, small book became a best seller that we couldn't keep on the shelf. If a person walked up to me and asked "do you have the book....", 9 times out of 10 it was that one, except for the mixed up lady who asked for the Prayer of Jezebel. True story :-)






  Soon the prayer was being marketed on everything but toilet paper, and people were raving about how it changed their lives. Someone even wrote a novel about Jabez. A novel about a man who is mentioned in one verse in the Bible. A lady came in and was insistent the reason she had been put in charge of her church's Christmas cantata was because she had prayed this prayer.

  I was a skeptic from the start, and only read the book because I got one free. I remained skeptical. How miraculous that this sudden magical formula was discovered after all of these years by one man.

 The fad soon fizzled out and I was seeing the book at only a dollar stores, and as cheap as 10 cents on Christianbook.com. If it was that great of a book, what happened to it? Why aren't people still talking about it?

 Because it was a fad. It was a "me" prayer that made people feel good. And as with anything like it, it doesn't last.

 It was followed by a couple of other books by the same author that the Christian retail market tried to fan into fads, but they didn't go nearly as big as Jabez did.

  I'd like to think I am above fads, but I'm not. I got caught up in one. The Left Behind craze. I read the first book and thought it was really good. Then there was a sequel. Cool. And another, and another.......



  Soon there were 12 books, prequels to the series, off-shoots of the series, a kids series, movies....... and of course Christian merchandise to accompany it. The further I read in the series, the more ludicrous I found it, and the more I got tired of it. I only finished the series because I was curious as to how it would end. Upon finishing the 12th book, I immediately sold the books.

 Now it is entirely possible the books changed some lives, but it pretty much became entertainment. When you have Hollywood making a movie about what should be a sobering event: Jesus' return, you have entertainment. And I have read they are making another one due out this coming year that will have top rated actors like Nicholas Cage. Hopefully the fad doesn't come back.

 And along came another fad. This one supposedly "purpose-driven"

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

He is for all mankind

   
I am at work, working at the place where I can bring things to do since there isn't anything to do. I just finished watching the Nativity Story, and wow.......once in a while, Hollywood gets it right. I'm not saying the movie is perfect, and some would have issues with the wise men being at the manger, but it comes close to being just right.

  I've watched it a few times before, but watched it with new eyes this time, and found it more thrilling than the other times I watched it. I found myself with tears in my eyes more than once. Yes, guys can cry, Jesus did. :-)

  I can't put into words everything that came to mind as I watched it, but here are a few thoughts. For the sake of better flow of words, I will not point out at every mention of a character that it was an actor playing a part...... I get that it was.

 
  Mary: I don't think we really get what it was like for her. Today, it is nothing for girls to be pregnant out of wedlock. Back then, it was a big deal, especially if they were engaged to be married and got pregnant by another man. She would have been an outcast, and could have been stoned. Her family and friends would have looked down on her and shunned her.

  In the movie, Mary goes to visit Elizabeth for several months and comes back obviously pregnant, shocking her family, friends, and Joseph. I'm not sure if that is how it happened, but regardless, everyone was shocked and disappointed in her.

  Joseph: Imagine the shock and disappointment he experienced. This young girl he was marrying, who he thought was so good and pure, pregnant. And the baby isn't his. The baby is God? Yeah right.

 After God spoke to him through a dream, he doesn't question her again but goes through with the plan of marrying her. A few other times God speaks to him in a dream, and he leaps to action each time.

  The Bible doesn't say much about him, or if he ever had any other doubts. Being human, he surely did. In the movie, he wonders aloud to Mary, "will I even be able to teach Him anything?" He surely still had doubts and fears.


The shepherds: the first people who were told of Jesus' birth were lowly, smelly shepherds. It had to have scared the daylights out of them when a bunch of angels appeared to them, but they immediately set out to see this baby the angels told them about.





Jesus: There is no way we can truly get what it meant for God to become a baby and come here. A vulnerable, helpless baby. There has been a lot of debate about when Jesus knew who He was, and no one knows. He most likely was just like any other baby. A baby who cried, who needed His diaper changed, who wanted held and rocked.

  A book I was reading said it was like God becoming a slug. That is how low He made Himself for us.


  One of the moments in the movie that got me the most, was when the shepherds arrived at the stable. One old shepherd reached out his shaking hand to touch the baby, then stopped. Mary smiled and said "He is for all mankind", and he reached out his trembling hand again and laid it on the baby.

  Maybe that is why this movie meant so much this year. I've spent my life trying to believe that. That He is for all mankind, including me. I have finally come to believe that I am no exception. That He came for me too, just as much as He did for anyone else who has ever or will ever live.

Ordinary BabyHe was just an ordinary baby;
That’s the way He planned it, maybe;
Anything but common would have kept Him apart
From the children that He came to rescue,
Limited to some elite few,
When He was the only child who asked to be born,
And He came to us with eyes wide open,
Knowing we’re hurt and broken,
Choosing to partake of all our joy and pain.

He was just an ordinary baby;
That’s the way He planned it, maybe,
So that we would come to Him
And not be afraid.

He was ordinary with exception of miraculous conception—
Both His birth and death He planned from the start;
But between His entrance and exit was a life that has affected
Everyone who’s walked the earth to this very day.
With no airs of condescension
He became God’s pure extension,
Giving you and me the chance to be remade.

He was just an ordinary baby;
That’s the way He planned it, maybe,
So that we would come to Him
And not be afraid.



  I like the song, but the one line really stuck out to me today "Anything but common would have kept Him apart From the children that He came to rescue, Limited to some elite few," Had He come as they expected, the common folk would have been shoved aside as the high society folks went to see Him, but He came as an ordinary baby to poor people in a poor town. Ordinary.


Bethlehem: God picked this lowly town for His Son, the Savior of the world, to be born. What an honor, but also what a price. The town had every male child two years and under killed.

  Jesus will come into our lives, just as He came to be born in Bethlehem, but just like Bethlehem, His coming will cost us something. Serving Him always does.

  He did indeed come for all of mankind. All of mankind. The thief, the murderer, the child molester, the politician, kings, presidents, kind people, mean people.... all mankind. No exceptions. Not even little old me.

The gulf that separated me from Christ my Lord
It was so vast, the crossing I could never ford
From where I was to His demands it seemed so far
I cried, "Dear Lord, I cannot come to where you are."

He came to me; He came to me
When I could not come to where He was
He came to me
That's why He died on Calvary
When I could not come to where He was
He came to me.


He came to me
When I was bound in chains of my sin
Oh He came to me when I possessed no hope within
He picked me up and drew me gently to His side
Where today in His sweet love I now abide.


He came to me; He came to me
When I could not come to where He was
He came to me
That's why He died on Calvary
When I could not come to where He was
He came to me.


Merry Christmas



Sunday, December 22, 2013

The unrealistic Nativity scene

 
My mind works in weird ways, and I don't blog about everything I think about... I might be committed to a nice padded cell if I did, but I was thinking Christmas thoughts last night, and while I sat gazing at our Christmas tree with boring everyday white lights, I was thinking about that first Christmas. And it hit me. My Nativity scene, and probably most of them out there, are not realistic.

  No, I'm not talking about the wise men. There are people who think they shouldn't be in a Nativity scene since they came later when Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in a house. I don't think its that big of a deal, and have my wise men in the stable. I'm not about to set them across the room somewhere like they are on their way....... that would be weird.

  If you have a Nativity scene, look at it. What do you see? Mary, Joseph, the wise men, a shepherd or two, some animals, and baby Jesus in the manger. And that is the unrealistic part. He is in the manger. Yeah, I know He was laid in the manger for his bed, but do you really think that is where He would be with people there to see Him? What do you do when you go to see a new baby? You don't stand back and just gaze at the baby. Granted, this was no ordinary baby, but still.....

  A few months ago, I was at the hospital where I work as a security officer when I ran onto my cousin who was there to pick up her daughter and new grandson, who had just been born a couple of days earlier. I walked down with her to the maternity ward to see the baby. After saying hi to the new mother and her two siblings, I asked what comes naturally when seeing a baby, "Could I hold him?" The mother passed the little bundle of joy to me, and I stood gazing down at one of life's miracles: a new baby.

  I wasn't in the waiting room for all of my 6 nieces and nephews birth, but I was there as soon as I could be to see my new niece or nephew and hold him or her. There's just something about holding a baby. Only the hardest and evilest of hearts is not moved by a baby.

(Me, holding my oldest nephew, Josiah, 12 years ago)



  Now imagine the shepherds gathered in the stable. Most likely they were fathers who had held their own children and maybe grandchildren. Being shepherds, they had also held small lambs and carried them on their shoulders. I have to imagine that it was the natural thing for them to ask, "Could I hold your baby?"

  Picture the scene. Dirty, smelly shepherds holding God Himself. They had held babies before, but never a baby like this one. They had held lambs many times, but never had they held the Lamb of God Himself. A Lamb that would one day die for their sins, and for the sins of the whole world.

  This baby was God in the flesh. King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but He was here on earth as a baby. Mary held Him and nursed Him at her breast. Joseph held Him, played with Him, taught Him how to be a man....... I cannot imagine that these lowly shepherds, the people God first invited to see the Savior of the world in a stable, just stood and gazed at this baby. No, they held him. Passed Him from one to another, rubbing his cheek, having God Himself grab their rough and worn fingers in his tiny hands. I'm sure they knew He was special. Having angels appear with their message spelled that out loud and clear. Did they realize just who they were holding? They may have had an idea.

  But He was still a baby. A baby to be held and loved.

 It is easy to look back at Bible characters who walked with Jesus, who saw Him in person, and wish we had been there. Can you imagine holding a baby and knowing it is God Himself in flesh?

 I was thinking that. What it must have been like to be there, seeing and holding the Baby Jesus. But the shepherds left and Jesus stayed there in the stable with Mary and Joseph.

 I am reminded of what Kyle Idleman said in his book Not a Fan: "We are often envious of people in the Bible who talked with God, who saw Jesus and walked with Him. We can't wait to get to Heaven and ask them what it was like, to walk and talk with Jesus. To hear God speak to them in an audible voice."

  Kyle goes on to say this: "But we may have it turned around. It may be them wanting to ask us what it was like to have Jesus living IN us. In our hearts." Interesting thought, and it may have merit. The shepherds walked away, taking the joy of holding and seeing the Baby Jesus, God in flesh. But He stayed behind.

  We can't physically hold God, but don't we have it better than the shepherds? We can have Jesus in our hearts. with us 24/7 every day of the year. He is with us wherever we go. We don't have to go somewhere to see Him, to talk to Him. He is in us. With us. Emmanuel.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What we deserve

On Wednesday, I was doing a rare shopping trip at the Christian bookstore I used to work at, and had a delightful surprise: I ran onto a former co-worker of mine from there that I hadn't seen in 9 years. The last time I saw her, was at the viewing for her husband, who had lost his battle with cancer, leaving her with a son and daughter.

As I and another former co-worker chatted with her, she told us she had just remarried last month, and showed us her ring. We both hugged her, told her how happy we for her, and said the same thing: "You deserve to be happy."

I got to thinking about that later, and have thought about it since then a few times. She does deserve happiness. She lost her husband to cancer, aftter standing by him in sickness and health, and had to raise a 12 year old boy alone, with help I am sure from her 21 year old daughter. But do any of us deserve happiness?

 Do we deserve anything good? We were all born sinners, and did what sinners do: we sinned. Some more than others, not that the amount of sins matters to God. We all deserve death and hell. But God offers life, forgiveness, and eternal life.

 We live in a selfish age. Everything thinks they are owed something. If we don't want to work or have some small physical problem, we think we are owed welfare. If we work, we feel we are owed something in return.

  We deserve good service at a restaurant
  We deserve a raise
  We deserve health insurance....

 But none of us are deserving of what God has offered. In five days is the day we have set aside to honor and observe the day God became a baby, the greatest gift any of us could ever have. A gift none of us deserve.

  I ran across this in a book I was reading:
  • If we had needed healing, God would have sent a Physician.
  • If we had needed knowledge, God would have sent an Educator.
  • If we had needed information, God would have sent a Scientist.
  • If we had needed money, God would have sent a Banker.

  • But, we needed forgiveness, so God sent a Savior!
    I for one, am thankful I don't always get what I deserve.

     

    Check your rights and convictions at the door

      
    There is a belief among some Christians that we should just toss aside our rights and convictions and give into what a certain element of the population wants, specifically gay people. They believe Christians should bake a cake for a gay wedding, photograph one, etc. I had one friend say if a Christian baker doesn't want to do that, he should close his shop.

     The craziest part of the bakery story, is it was in Colorado, where gay marriage is not yet legalized. So a judge said he has to bake cakes for something that isn't even legal there.... not only is that forcing someone to go against their beliefs, but it doesn't even make sense.

     I blogged about the cake issue before, and feel very strongly about it. I believe these gay couples are intentionally seeking out Christian businesses to force them to go along with their sin. As I stated in a previous blog, God says homosexuality is a sin, and He only endorsed and ordained marriage between a man and a woman, so I can't see Him baking a cake for a wedding that is celebrating what He called an abomination. Its crazy to think He would.

      I do believe the next step with be churches. And why not? If you believe a Christian baker should bake a cake for a gay wedding, and a Christian photographer should have to photograph a gay wedding, then how can you say a minister shouldn't have to perform a gay wedding? To me, its all the same..... and its actually a bit of a double standard to say the ones have to do it, but a minister is exempt. They are all being forced to go against their beliefs and convictions. They are all being asked to check their rights at the door, and do what the gay couple wants. And they are all being forced to participate in some way in something God is not going to recognize - a marriage between two people of the same sex.

      What I don't get, is why the same people aren't wanting to defend the other sins: murderers, thieves, abusers, rapists, drug addicts. Why aren't we worried about offending these sinners? No one goes after someone for condemning those sins, but say something about homosexuality, and even Christians are calling for the head of the person who dared to speak up.

      Here is a question for people who believe Christians should bake cakes for, and photograph, etc gay weddings...... do you believe we should toss our rights and convictions aside for other things? Or are you, just like the liberals, making gay people a special case? Here are some examples to test your "check your rights at the door" philosophy:

    If a Christian owns a commercial building, should he be allowed to choose what business goes into it? 
       What if an adult bookstore wants to go in?
       What if a tavern wants to go in and he is against alcohol?
       What if a gay bar wants to go in?
       What if a gay bath house wants to go in?


    What if the KKK wants a cake baked for a gathering?
    What if the KKK wants one of their membership cards laminated? (happened to my brother-in-law - he said no)


    What if someone wants to rent your building for some kind of sex party?
    What if someone wants you to bake a divorce cake? One of the same bakers who won't bake gay wedding cakes refuses to bake those - yeah, people get a cake to celebrate the death of a marriage

    What if you own a Christian bookstore and someone wants to sell a pro-gay book in your store? (I worked in a Christian bookstore and we sold local authors' books, but turned down some)

       And there are other examples. The point I am trying to make, is we do have a right to stand up and refuse to do something business related for things that are sin related.

      We can't pick and choose what people have to cave in and do something that violates their beliefs and rights. I get that we need to love gay people. I get it more than most people, but you're not going to win someone by participating in their gay wedding bu means of cake or pictures.

      No, if you want to reach and love gay people, start at home. In your church. In your family. I can guarantee you, unless your church only has 10 people, there is at least one person in your church, in your family, in your Christian school, who is struggling with same-sex attractions, and is afraid to confide in anyone. Will helping further the gay agenda by caving into their demands, help those in the church? No.

      The militant gays - the ones suing bakers, photographers, and soon they will sue churches and ministers - you know how they treat those people in  your church who are struggling? They want to push them into accepting it and entering into a lifetime of sin. They don't want them helped towards freedom, and serving God. The people who leave the gay lifestyle are shown none of what the militant gay people scream for - tolerance and acceptance. They mock and fight those who want to live by what the Bible says, instead of just accepting their sexuality and living in sin.

      So, no. You're not helping the ones in the church who are struggling with same-sex attractions, nor those in the church who have left their sin. If you want to help gay people, reach out to those ones. After that, reach the ones out of the church, but not by caving to their demands and checking your beliefs at the door.

      If we just cave and fight for gay rights, we have become like the liberals. There are a multitude of other sinners out there that need reached, and if we get so worried about offending gay people, we may end up ignoring other people who need love, who need reached.

      From where I sit, it just seems some of my friends and other Christians only care about gay people being offended. Just like the liberals, its the one sin we can't condemn. Its the one sin we can't refuse to cater to. Its even OK to condemn premarital sex. They won't like it, but you won't be branded a bigot, hater, and get kicked off a show.

      So why, with the multitude of sins out there that we can still condemn, are some Christians going along with this one? Could it be some of us are getting pulled along into the gay agenda along with so many people outside of the church?

      The murderer, rapist, child molester, etc., probably feels bad when their sins are condemned, and condemned they should be. But the same Bible that says those are sins, still says homosexuality is wrong. And if you quote those verses, you're a bigot.

      So go ahead, condemn those who dare to stand up for their convictions when it concerns gay issues, but if you're only feeling that way on gay issues, you my friend have a double standard, just like the liberals.

    Friday, December 20, 2013

    Nothin' but love

      There's been a lot of flack about the Duck Dynasty guy's gay comments. Most liberals want him tarred and feathered. Most Christians seem to support him, some want condemn him - guess it's OK to judge and condemn him, just not gay people....some ex-gays are supporting him and some are not,  and surprisingly, some gay people are supporting his right to say what he wants, even though they disagree with him.

      There has been a rise in Christians wanting to love, love, and love. Take this article for example where the author of the article condemns Christians for not baking gay wedding cakes or photographing gay weddings. She, like many other Christians, seems to think we should just chuck our convictions and rights out the window and do whatever gay people want us to do.

      A few years back, I ran across an interesting site: XXXchurch.com. No, its not a porn site. Its a site that in part seems to have been called that for shock value. The guys who run it go out and try to reach people in the porn industry. They even go to the porn conventions and hand out Bibles that say
    "Jesus loves porn stars".


      They have befriended porn stars and even travel with one doing debates about porn. It all sounds noble, but from what I read, its all love, love, love.

      That's the issue I have with the guys above and the people who are on the "love gay people" bandwagon. They seem to be advocating that we give into whatever the people want, and just love and accept them....... but are we doing people any favors if we just cave in and never stand up to sin, never tell them that yes, we love you, but you're a sinner who needs Jesus? Are the porn stars getting the message that they need Jesus, or just that He loves them?

      I'm a big advocate of telling people God loves them, and of loving them. I needed that more than I got it. I still need it more than I get it...... yet even Jesus told people the truth while loving you. "Go and sin no more." He told parables of the dangers of not being ready for His return.

      I believe it is possible to love people into hell. To step aside and allow them to sin, to defend their right to sin and bake cakes, etc for their gay weddings, etc........ but if we just spout love - and that is important - but never address sin or stand up to it, we are likely to help those people end up in hell, where all the love in the world won't help them.

      I believe Christians can love people, whether the gay, porn star, or average sinner, while standing up to their sin and say "I love you. I'll be your friend, but I cannot do that." Take the Duck guy.....he could have been less crude and more loving in what he said......Jesus would never approve of sin, nor do anything to help people sin, just to show He loved them.

      What gets me about the whole gay issue, is why aren't the same Christians who think we should bake gay wedding cakes, doing more to love other sinners. The drug addict, the child molester, the murderer, the rapist, the thief......would they love them and ignore their sin? Would they encourage their sin and do more to help them feel comfortable in their sin? If not. why not? That's what they are saying we should do with gay people.......

      There is such a thing as tough love. And maybe that's what is needed here. No, I won't bake a gay wedding cake, but I will love you and be your friend. I'll invite you over for dinner or a BBQ.....and so forth.

       We are losing our freedoms, and the gay agenda is one of the biggest forces that is destroying them. Having Christians rail against Christians who are standing up for their rights and convictions, is just going to further the loss of our freedoms. It isn't going to win the gay couple to Jesus. No one is a lost cause, but a cake isn't going to win them. All it will do is make them happy they got a Christian to give in to what they want, and it is most likely they sought the Christian out so they could make a scene and sue him. It is no coincidence that they are seeking out Christian bakers and photographers. Its intentional.

     I may sound heartless, but I'm not. I get that we need to love people and show God's love, but I believe we can do that without stepping aside and doing what sinners want. We can say no in a gracious way and not spout hate.

    Thursday, December 19, 2013

    My thoughts on the Duck Dynasty Disaster

      I'm sure I don't need to recap, as its the main thing being talked about in the news and on Facebook. Phil Robertson from the Duck Dynasty show said what he thought of homosexuality, and has been booted from the show.

      First off, a few things:
    1) I have never watched the show
    2) I have never bought any merchandise marketed from the show
    3) I actually get tired of seeing their bearded faces everywhere I go - they look awful. I hate beards, especially long ones

      I do, however think its cool they have their show, as from what I hear it is very moral, clean, and even Christian.

      I read the review that caused the firestorm. I thought Robertson was a bit crude, and could have phrased what he said better, but I am appalled that many Christians, and even some of my friends, are siding against Robertson. That's the thing to do folks. Help the left sabotage our freedom of speech and religion by siding with the ones who are trying to destroy it.

     The day is going to come - it has in other countries - when it will be illegal to say homosexuality is wrong. You will be fined, put in jail, or both....... now you get kicked off a TV show..... you think its that long off that you'll face fines and jail? And the same Christians standing against Robertson will be sitting there amazed, wondering how it happened. Uh, duh, you helped!

      Here's the interesting thing. He quoted this verse from Corinthians:  “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. … Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

     So here is my question: where is the rage that he said the others wouldn't inherit eternal life? What about the drunks, the swindlers, the idolaters, the greedy, etc.? Why aren't the Christians worried about offending the gay militant people worried about offending these others? Has homosexuality become a protected group even among Christians?

      We do need to love and reach out to gay people, but also ALL sinners. I hear a lot from people about how we need to tone down about homosexuality, how we need to give into them in cases of baking cakes for their weddings, etc....... but I never hear the same people say we need to tone down what we say about other sins: drunkenness, adultery, murder, child molestation....... don't those people matter? Don't they need love, tolerance? It does seem even many Christians have made homosexuality a protected status and make it taboo to say anything wrong about it.

     So if you're one of the ones criticizing Robertson for his gay comments, and not raising a stink about the other sins..... get off of your pedestal and keep your mouth shut. Sorry to be so rude, but I am weary of Christians going so far with this issue. As I said, gay people need love, and yes, Robertson could have toned what he said down, but this is a case of religious and speech freedom. Its a lack of tolerance for Christians and our views.

      A&E should have issued a statement saying they didn't agree with Robertson, but that he had made his statements on his own time. They should not have canned him. I seriously doubt there are many people who watch the show who are among the offended.

      And Robertson said other stuff that his critics are ignoring:

    “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

    “I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

    We are fast losing our freedoms in this country, and I have said this before: I firmly believe the gay issues are going to be what destroys our religious freedoms, but even many Christians seem blind to it. Those siding against Robertson, be warned: The day is going to come when your pastor will face jail if he preaches against it and/or refuses to marry a gay couple. The handwriting on the wall couldn't be any plainer. Just don't complain when it happens.

      And check out what this guy says. He was in  the gay lifestyle for 10 years, and he says its coming:
    http://mattiewalk.com/2013/12/19/persecution-is-a-coming/

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    Making Christmas too "Jesusy"


    I've been thinking this week about something I blogged about a few years ago. I was at the post office here in my town, being the second person in a line of two people. The customer being waited on, a woman, was buying stamps. What she said caught my attention: "I need a book of Christmas stamps, but I don't want anything too Jesusy."

      Anyone who knows me very well will be completely shocked that I had to open my mouth, but I overcame my intense shyness and spoke up, "Too Jesusy? You do know Christmas is all about Jesus and His birth, don't you?" She laughed and gave some explanation about her request, paid, and left.

     What a crazy statement. And a weird word. Whoever heard of "Jesusy" anyway.

     I don't know if my remarks changed her thinking any, but hers have stuck with me. Christmas is all about Jesus, or it is supposed to be, so how can you be too "Jesusy" about His birthday? That's like someone having a birthday party for you and trying not to make it too much about you. Sounds dumb. As dumb as trying not to make Christmas too much about Jesus.

      The truth of the matter is, we are all a bit like that woman. If we are a Christian, hopefully we don't set out to not make Christmas too much about Jesus, but too many of us do exactly that. We chirp "He's the reason for the season" and make sure to say "Merry Christmas", instead of "happy holidays" - and those are important, but it takes more than that to make Christmas about Jesus.

      I did a blog post recently on Keeping Christ In Christmas, and another post on keeping focused on Jesus during Christmas, and that's all well and good, but its easier said than done.

     It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, the Christmas services at church, the gift giving, and good things we associate with Christmas, and even while doing lip service to the real meaning of Christmas, we let the season slip by without truly experiencing it in our hearts.

     What does that look like? We're all different, but I believe we need to focus more on Him at this time. I have been thanking Him for coming for me, for saving me, and trying to spend some time thinking about that night. About what it was like, about the characters in the Christmas story, and what it means that God became a baby for us.



      I'm not setting myself on a pedestal, for I have been just as guilty as any, in doing lip service to the real meaning of Christmas, yet breezing through His birthday, too busy to do more than the usual.

      I have talked a lot about Brennan Manning's book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, and how much the book has helped me. I bought his devotional book, Reflections for Ragamuffins, and I started reading it even though its close the end of the year. He has some great insights into Christmas and that has helped me focus more on Jesus.

      If we don't make Christmas more "Jesusy" in our hearts, it won't do us any good to say "Christmas" instead of holiday, and go around telling people "He's the reason for the season." We should be focused on Jesus 24/7, 365 days of the year, but this is the time we observe His birth. But we shouldn't stop there. We need to meditate on why He came, and think about that baby dying on a cross for our sins. You can't have Calvary without Christmas, but Christmas is only important because of Calvary.

     I want this time to be special. Yes, I love the shopping, the giving and receiving of gifts, the decorations, and everything we associate with Christmas, but I want to focus on the Reason for it all.

      There is only one service I have been in at church this month. I have to work every Sunday morning, and missed the last two Sunday nights, so maybe that has forced me to pursue this more than I would have if I had heard Christmas sermons and been in church. But I haven't had that, so I have had to pray more and focus more on Jesus in the manger and on the cross. Maybe its a good thing I have missed the Christmas services so far. It has caused me to do more searching and meditating on my own. I am, God willing, going to be at our candle light service this coming Sunday night.

      One of the last lines in The Christmas Carol says of Scrooge, "and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge." May it be said of we Christians that we know how to keep Christmas, and keep it Christ centered. "Jesusy", if you will. It is all about Him, it is time we did more to make it about Him.

    Monday, December 16, 2013

    Christmas Newsletter 2013

    I don't like Christmas newsletters. Never have. When I get one, I literally groan. Why don't I like them? Glad you asked. There are a couple of reasons:
    1) They are impersonal, mass produced for several people.

    2) I have read some that were no less than "brag letters". "Johnny made honor roll 4 times. Susie got second place in a marathon...."... and some have lots of pictures.

    3) Many are mundane and boring. Not all. Many. :-)

      But I decided to write one this year. I separated each fascinating month to make it flow better, and tried to write mine in keeping with the style of newsletter I have read. Sit back, drink some caffeine, and prepare to be amazed.... or bored.

      It all started on a cold day in January.........




    January: After being out of work since August, other than a temp job I took for the Republican party, which didn’t do any good since we wound up with Obummer again, I got a job at Infocision in Austintown. They made it sound like it wasn’t a telemarketing job during the interview. Well, it was a telemarketing job. I started around the end of January.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    Complained a lot about winter and snow.

    Scaled the highest mountain in the world in record time.*





    February: I was still working at the job I mentioned above (see January), and hating it even more than before.

    Valentine’s Day was this month, but I boycotted it, as usual.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    Complained a lot about winter and snow.

    Participated in a weight lifting competition. Took first place.**

    March: I was still working at the job I mentioned (see January), and hating it the more I did it. I couldn’t be that pushy, so I quit around the end of March.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    Complained a lot about winter and snow.





    April: spent a lot of time looking for a job…. Can’t remember much else happening other than the usual:

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    May: I turned another year older, had a cake and presents….. Don’t remember what all I got, but some books, candy, and maybe underwear?

    Looked for work, did lots of job applications.

     

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    And now that it was warming up, I started walking a lot. With my Ipod. Well, it didn’t walk with me, I had it in my pocket. And by walking, I mean walking on a trail for exercise and for something to do.

    I learned Spanish in just one sitting.***




    June: Finally got a job. A security guard job at a hospital. Seemed pretty decent, 4 days a week.

    Saw my first dead body out of a casket. Kind of freaky

    My little sister and her family moved to Tennessee to pastor a church there, much to my dismay.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    And I walked a lot.


    July: Nothing exciting happened. The usual. Work, etc.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    And I walked a lot.

    August: We kids had a surprise 50th anniversary party for our parents. It was supposed to be a surprised, but a couple of people said something to give it away, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, but it went well and we had a decent turn out.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    I entered and took first place in Nascar****




    September: A lot of the usual. I also went to the state of Indiana to visit my best friend and his family. I got to see 2 of my cousins, Bo and Brianna, who are going to Bible college down there. I had a great trip and got to tour two monasteries while there, which was very interesting.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    October: Again, not much happened. I did stop walking on the trail as colder weather started coming.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    I got married.*****

    November: Another month that not much happened. We had a nice Thanksgiving, though my little sister and her gang couldn’t come, as they are in Tennessee now and couldn’t come for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Did a lot of Christmas shopping

    I bought a laptop for myself. Refurbished from Dell. And I got a bag for it on clearance at TJ Max.

    Bought three pair of lounge pants from Lakeside.com. Discovered after washing them that they are junk.

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

    Went lobster fishing off the coast of Maine. Caught tons of lobster. ******

    December: Well, the month isn’t over, but a lot of the usual. I put my Nativity set up and am enjoying it.


    Finished Christmas shopping, and got it all wrapped

    Got new tires on the front of my car. Winter tread. $180. Yuk

    Bought a nice pair of lounge pants at Wal-Mart for $5.99. Leftover from their Black Friday sales. They are blue.

    Emailed Lakeside.com (see November) about my lounge pants. No reply.

    Complained a lot about winter and snow.

    I became a monk and entered the monastery. *******

    I also Facebooked a lot, blogged some, read and reviewed books, and ate a lot of meals - something I really excel at. Oh, and I shopped too. And went to church, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here.

     

    I read 164 books this year, though I will add to that before the month ends

    I reviewed 129 books this past year, though that number should reach 134 by the end of the month

    I blogged 329 times so far this year, which does include book reviews. That number will be higher by the end of the month.

    On a more serious note, this turned out to be a pretty decent year. I feel I made some great strides in dealing with my depression, and have finally started to grasp God’s love and grace, which means I have made some great spiritual strides this year.

    Not everything happened that I wanted to, but a new year is right around the corner, and a lot of days to work on changing what I want to change.

    *I really didn’t go mountain climbing, but I did walk up the driveway to get the mail several times

    **I wasn’t in a weight lifting competition, but I did lift my feet off the floor a lot when walking

    *** I didn’t learn Spanish, but I did eat Mexican food several times.

    **** I wasn’t in Nascar, but I did get my first ever speeding ticket.

    ***** I didn’t get married, but I did read a romance novel.

    ****** I didn’t go lobster fishing, but I did eat at Red Lobster. And I enjoyed it.

    ******* I didn’t become a monk, but I did enter the monastery. Two of them, while on my trip to Indiana.



    Sunday, December 15, 2013

    Not to condemn

       The most known verse in the Bible is John 3:16: 
    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. That's a great verse, but so is the one that follows it: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.


      There has been much speculation as to why God sent His son as baby. And a lot of the reasons people come up with are good reasons. And I'm sure there are more reasons than we could come up with that He did it.

      And one of those reasons might be right there in John 3:17. To let us know He hadn't come to condemn. After all, who could possibly feel condemned by a baby?

      For so many years, I felt God was angry at me. If I didn't measure up  - and I felt I never did - He was glaring impatiently my way, wondering if I was ever going to get it. I lived with the belief that I was condemned completely and thoroughly, and no matter how hard I tried to be what He wanted, I was going to disappoint Him, and He would toss me aside.

      But He didn't come to condemn. He came to save. Anyone who would believe on Him.

      For the last few months, I have been wading through a lot of junk. I was tired of trying to serve the God I knew. Tired of feeling I could never please Him, tired of feeling like He was waiting to condemn me the second I didn't measure up completely.

      I started reading books that focused on God's love. I knew I had  the wrong views of God, and the more I read, the more convinced I was of that. But it's one thing to know your thinking is wrong, and another thing entirely to change it.

      I had prayed many times before that God would help me to believe He loved me, but it seemed like there was no change. I don't know why. Maybe I wasn't trying to believe on my own and was expecting God to wave a magic wand or do some miraculous thing to show He loved me. Whatever the reason, it didn't happen.

      Sometime in the last few weeks, it finally happened. Actually, it was a gradual thing. I finally "got it". God loves me. Unconditionally. There's nothing I can do to cause Him to love me more, or less. And His grace is for me. He hasn't been waiting to condemn me if I mess up, but waiting to forgive me if I do.

      It may seem weird for a guy my age who went to a Christian school K-12, did 4 years of Bible college, and was raised in the church, to just now be getting God's love. But I am. And its not 100%, but I'm getting there. We can never fully understand His love and grace, but I am understanding it a lot better than I used to.

      I don't know if I finally read the right words in a book that made it click, or what finally caused a lifetime of doubting God's love and grace to change to belief, but I guess it doesn't really matter. What does matter, is as this Christmas season is so fast approaching, I can look at the baby Jesus in my Nativity set, and know that the real baby Jesus did indeed come for me. Not to condemn, but to love me, die for me, and forgive me.

      That's what Christmas is about. Not just that He came, but that He came to save, not condemn.


    Friday, December 13, 2013

    Making a cake for sin

      There was a recent court case in Colorado where a gay couple sued a Christian bakery owner because he refused to bake a cake for their wedding. Gay marriage isn't legal in Colorado, so I don't know why this even happened, but the baker lost the case and was told to bake cakes for gay weddings, or go to jail. Link here.

      I posted a link to it and said that it was sad. A friend of mine posted this:
    You know what keeps going through my head when I read this story? And no doubt I'll get flamed, but this is what I hear in my head: "inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these..." God loves these same sex couples, and while some of them have an agenda, our agenda is bigger...to love them into the kingdom. I don't think God would be angry that a baker made a cake for a same sex couple, but this only affirms in the minds of the gay community that Christians hate them, and if Christians hate them, how much more God must hate them.

      First off, let me say I get that Christians need to do a better job of loving gay people and people struggling with same-sex attractions. I really get it, and agree. I do, however disagree that Christians should have to do anything that violates their freedoms and forces them to make a cake, photograph, or have anything to do with a gay wedding.

      Here are my thoughts:
    1) I don't believe it was an accident this couple asked the baker to make the cake. There have been too many cases like this in the news with bakeries, photographers, and t-shirt makers (the latter being asked to print t-shirts for a gay pride parade)


    I believe these couples are deliberately seeking out Christian business to try to force them to cave, and to make a scene.

    2) I do believe God might take issue with baking a cake for a gay wedding. The only marriage He endorses is between a man and a woman. His word says homosexuality is an abomination. A sin. So should a Christian bake a cake for something that is a sin? We wouldn't expect him to bake a cake to celebrate other sins?

    3) A gay couple that is going as far as marrying is already bent on doing what they want to do. I'm not saying they are beyond redemption, for no one is, but a Christian baking their cake isn't going to win them to God. In fact, they will most likely walk off smug that they got their way. They won't be impressed that a Christian baked their cake.

    4) Its true we need to love people, and try to reach them, but if we just go along with them on everything, will we ever win them? There is such a thing as loving people into hell. That's when someone is clearly living a sinful life - i.e. homosexuality - and we just pat them on the back and never disagree with them, never stand up to them.

    5) There IS a gay agenda. If Christians just step aside and do whatever the militant gays want, the day will come where its taught in every school that homosexuality is normal from K-12 - they are doing it in some schools - and they will be taught to experiment with the same sex - it is being done in some schools.

    The day will come when its illegal to say homosexuality is wrong. Pastors will face jail time and/or fines for speaking out against it. Its happening in other countries. Its no stretch to say it will happen here.


      And where do we draw the line. I believe the day will come here in America when the age of consent will be lowered to who knows what. The more wicked America gets, the worse it will get.

    Should a Christian bake a cake for an adult male and his teenage boy lover? His 10 year old lover?  8-year old? You might scoff, but there are a lot of people in this country who want that to happen...... and we never thought gay marriage would be so widely accepted


    What about a cake to celebrate an abortion? Ludicrous? They do them for divorces, which isn't a sin, but weird..... and one of the same bakers who refuses to bake cakes for gay weddings also refuses to bake "divorce" cakes.

    What about the KKK? Should a Christian - how about a black Christian - have to bake a cake for a KKK meeting? The KKK guys need God's love too....... and that isn't a stretch. My brother-in-law used to work at a hardware store and a man came in with his KKK membership card to have it laminated. Paul refused, but if you apply the same logic to that as to gay people, Paul should have done it so the man wouldn't feel Christians hated him........


      I 100% believe that homosexuality is going to be the battleground for religious freedoms. The more the get their agenda furthered, the more Christians' rights are lost. They don't want tolerated, they want forced and total acceptance. They won't be happy until gay marriage is advertised and catered to as much as heterosexual marriage.

     They won't be happy until churches, Christians schools, and other Christian ministries have to hire openly gay people...... and it WILL happen. Cakes, photos, and t-shirts are just the start.

     I have two friends who disagree with me on the cake deal, and that's OK. Its a free country, at least somewhat free.... but its naïve to think a Christian baking a cake is going to do anything for the couple's views of God.. especially if they sought the baker out to make news and sue.

      And these people have to be stupid. Who in their right mind would want to have a cake made by someone forced to do so? Or photograph their wedding? I'd want someone wiling to do so.

      Lets flip the coin around: If Christians, by law, can be forced to do these things, then gay people shouldn't be allowed to turn away business for groups like Focus on the Family that they call "hate groups". A gay baker should have to put wording on a cake celebrating straight marriage. A gay t-shirt maker should have to make t-shirts decrying gay marriage......... you see, the liberals are happy with things being forced on Christians, but not on them.

      There is a variety of gay people out there. There are the ones in gay pride parades, the in-your-face ones. The ones who want to shove it down everyone's throats. The ones who seek out Christian bakers so they can sue and make a scene. Those ones...... the possibility of them being reached is slim. They are determined to do what they want to do. They are not beyond redemption, but baking a cake isn't going to make them into a saint. It will just make them happy they got their way.

      Then there are the gay people living quietly, wanting to be left alone. Gay marriage isn't too important to them, and they would never make a scene.

      Then there are the ones suffering silently in our churches. Afraid to tell anyone their problem.

    They all need loved and reached, but caving into their demands and helping them celebrate their sin by baking cakes, taking pictures, or printing t-shirts won't do it. It may not even help. But it will help erode our already eroding religious freedoms - and that is what they want.

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    The War on Christmas

       I just read an article that irritated me. The guy had a good point, but pretty much mocked the idea of the war on Christmas to make his point. Article here.

      Every year, we have stores that won't say "Christmas". Not in their ads, not in their greetings. We have schools banning religious Christmas songs, and sometimes all Christmas songs. Some schools are banning red and green, as if those two colors have anything to do with Christmas. Yes, they have become the main two colors we associate with Christmas, but what do they have to do with Jesus, the meaning of Christmas?

      I am plain ticked off at Christians who stick their head in the sand and put war in Christmas in quotes, as if we are dreaming up this stuff.

      The Nativity scene is slowly being outlawed from America. First it was on government grounds such as post offices, town squares, etc. Now the air force has removed them.

      Each year it seems to get worse, and every year a bunch of blind and naïve Christians come up with dumb things to say about it:

    "Well, calling it Christmas wasn't something God came up with"
    "The "X" really means Christ, so they are still putting Christ's name in it when they use an X"
    "The so-called "war on Christmas"
    "We aren't being persecuted"
    "Christmas is too commercialized anyway"

    And more.

      The thing is, this isn't just a war on a holiday. It is a war on Christianity. The atheists and Muslims are getting their way. The holiday we set aside to honor Christ's birth is slowly being erased and called something else. Give it time, and it will eventually be illegal to all it Christmas. And the naïve Christians will sit and watch it happen.

     You never hear them try to do away with Halloween being called that. No one says "happy holiday" at Halloween. Even Easter, for Easter doesn't have Christ's name in it. But Christmas does. Its not those last 3 letters the liberals and atheists have a problem with. Its the first 6: Christ.

      In my opinion, any store that refuses to call it Christmas, should not reap the financial rewards that Christmas bring. Christmas is the biggest time of the year for stores. They rake the money in, especially on Black Friday when people are shopping for......... Christmas.

      Will it still be His birthday if it ceases to be called Christmas? Will we lose the real meaning of His birthday if it is not called Christmas? No, not to those who know Him as our Savior and have Him in our hearts.

      But if we continue to stick our heads in the sand and refuse to admit  their is a war on Christmas, and on Christ Himself, the day will come when we aren't allowed to say His name. Our country is marching steadily towards everything un-Christian. Taking away the name and meaning of Christmas is just the beginning.

      So for me... if I know a store has a policy against saying Christmas, I'm not shopping there for Christmas.

      I will say "Merry Christmas", even when someone else says "Happy Holidays".

    Do we need to put Christ back in Christmas the way the writer in the article above said? Yes, we do, but we also need to acknowledge there is a war on the Christ whose birthday it is all about, and refuse to bow to pressure to substitute His name for some other greeting or name.

     Can we do it in a wrong way? Yes, and we should be careful to be kind and loving, and not in your face. If someone says "Happy holidays", don't scream Merry Christmas at them, just smile and say "and you have a Merry Christmas". Its not rude. That is what its called. And I for one, will not buckle to anyone,  and especially other Christians, to stick my head in the sand and let the "Happy holidays" echo in my ears.

     Merry Christmas!
     

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    God chose Joseph too


    I have been reading a lot of Christmas books these last couple of weeks, some of them for the second or more time. One book in particular got me thinking about Joseph. Of all of the characters in the Christmas story, he is one we don't think about much. Even in our nativity scenes, he is kind of a nondescript figure, usually dressed in brown, and off to the side to make room for Mary, the wise men, and shepherds.

      We tend to focus on all of the other characters. They even have songs written about them:
    Mary, Did You Know?
    We Three Kings
    While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
    and more

      Even the angels have several songs written about their role at Jesus' birth.
     
      But Joseph doesn't get a song, or at least none that I am familiar with, or that has become a classic we sing each Christmas.
     
      Mary gets revered, almost worshipped by some.
      We talk about the gifts the wise men brought, and follow their example of gift giving
      The shepherds are a reminder that God sent his Son for the lowest of people

      But what about Joseph? We don't even hear anything of him after they returned to Israel from Egypt. He just fades into history.

      I doubt I have ever had an original thought, and this one is probably not original, or profound, but the thought hit me the other day: God chose Joseph also. Much is said about Mary being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, but no one ever talks about the man chosen to be his earthly father.

     Think about it. You're going to have your only child raised by someone else. Would you just check out the woman and make sure she was fit to raise your son? Of course not. You'd check out the man also. Find out what kind of man he is, what kind of father he would make.

      I seriously doubt God just set out to find the right woman to bear His only Son. He searched for the right couple. Man and woman. Mother and father. What good would the right woman be, if the man she married wasn't a good man. A good father.

      We get a little glimpse into what kind of man Joseph was when he found out Mary was pregnant. I'm sure when she told him the father was God, that he thought "yeah right! Why did I pick her?!" Most men in his position would have brought her out to the synagogue and exposed her, broke off the engagement, and stood by or joined in while she was stoned. Not Joseph. He was willing to break off the engagement quietly and not make a scene.

      God obviously had other plans. He had chosen this man to be the surrogate father to His Son, and a dream got Joseph back in the game.

      And again, a dream convinces Joseph to make a run for it with Mary and the baby Jesus. He doesn't question God, but does as he is told to protect the greatest gift ever given to man.

      The Bible doesn't say what kind of father Joseph was, but God wouldn't have picked an abusive or deadbeat dad. He'd have picked a man who would love His Son, who would teach him how to be a man. Joseph was a carpenter, and most likely taught Jesus his craft.


      Back in those days, a son was taught his father's craft and took it over when the father was unable to do it. In all of those years the Bible is silent about, from Jesus teaching the teachers in the temple at age twelve, to the start of His earthly ministry at the age of thirty, we can assume He was working in Joseph's carpenter shop, learning to work with wood.

      We don't know when Joseph died. He was obviously gone by the time Jesus died on the cross, as he asks John to take care of His mother, but it is possible Joseph was alive for most of the part of Jesus' life that the Bible is silent on. And it is highly likely that he and Jesus worked side by side, building things.

      And maybe that's why God chose Joseph. To teach Jesus to build things. For later, Jesus would work on building a kingdom.

      As they worked side by side, I'm sure Joseph taught Jesus far more than carpentry. Jesus was God in the flesh, but He was also man, and I think Joseph, the one we think least of at Christmas, had a lot to do with the kind of man Jesus turned out to be.

      There may have been other Marys. Other girls worthy of bearing God's only son, but only one Mary had Joseph, a man worthy to be the earthly father of Jesus.... the most important job Joseph would ever have.


    Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid, borrowed article

    I ran across this and thought it was so good, I want to keep it where I can find it, so I am "borrowing" it and putting it here on my blog. I am giving it the label of depression, as avoiding  these things would be a great help with depression. Compiled by Amy Morin, written by Cheryl Conner: original article here.

    1.    Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. You don’t see mentally strong people feeling sorry for their circumstances or dwelling on the way they’ve been mistreated. They have learned to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, and they have an inherent understanding of the fact that frequently life is not fair. They are able to emerge from trying circumstances with self-awareness and gratitude for the lessons learned. When a situation turns out badly, they respond with phrases such as “Oh, well.” Or perhaps simply, “Next!”

    2. Give Away Their Power. Mentally strong people avoid giving others the power to make them feel inferior or bad. They understand they are in control of their actions and emotions. They know their strength is in their ability to manage the way they respond.

    3.    Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people embrace change and they welcome challenge. Their biggest “fear,” if they have one, is not of the unknown, but of becoming complacent and stagnant. An environment of change and even uncertainty can energize a mentally strong person and bring out their best.

    4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. Mentally strong people don’t complain (much) about bad traffic, lost luggage, or especially about other people, as they recognize that all of these factors are generally beyond their control. In a bad situation, they recognize that the one thing they can always control is their own response and attitude, and they use these attributes well.

    5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Know any people pleasers? Or, conversely, people who go out of their way to dis-please others as a way of reinforcing an image of strength? Neither position is a good one. A mentally strong person strives to be kind and fair and to please others where appropriate, but is unafraid to speak up. They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.

     
    6. Fear Taking Calculated Risks. A mentally strong person is willing to take calculated risks. This is a different thing entirely than jumping headlong into foolish risks. But with mental strength, an individual can weigh the risks and benefits thoroughly, and will fully assess the potential downsides and even the worst-case scenarios before they take action.

    7. Dwell on the Past. There is strength in acknowledging the past and especially in acknowledging the things learned from past experiences—but a mentally strong person is able to avoid miring their mental energy in past disappointments or in fantasies of the “glory days” gone by. They invest the majority of their energy in creating an optimal present and future.

    8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. We all know the definition of insanity, right? It’s when we take the same actions again and again while hoping for a different and better outcome than we’ve gotten before. A mentally strong person accepts full responsibility for past behavior and is willing to learn from mistakes. Research shows that the ability to be self-reflective in an accurate and productive way is one of the greatest strengths of spectacularly successful executives and entrepreneurs.

    9. Resent Other People’s Success. It takes strength of character to feel genuine joy and excitement for other people’s success. Mentally strong people have this ability. They don’t become jealous or resentful when others succeed (although they may take close notes on what the individual did well). They are willing to work hard for their own chances at success, without relying on shortcuts.

    10. Give Up After Failure. Every failure is a chance to improve. Even the greatest entrepreneurs are willing to admit that their early efforts invariably brought many failures. Mentally strong people are willing to fail again and again, if necessary, as long as the learning experience from every “failure” can bring them closer to their ultimate goals.

    11. Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people enjoy and even treasure the time they spend alone. They use their downtime to reflect, to plan, and to be productive. Most importantly, they don’t depend on others to shore up their happiness and moods. They can be happy with others, and they can also be happy alone.

    12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Particularly in the current economy, executives and employees at every level are gaining the realization that the world does not owe them a salary, a benefits package and a comfortable life, regardless of their preparation and schooling. Mentally strong people enter the world prepared to work and succeed on their merits, at every stage of the game.

    13. Expect Immediate Results. Whether it’s a workout plan, a nutritional regimen, or starting a business, mentally strong people are “in it for the long haul”. They know better than to expect immediate results. They apply their energy and time in measured doses and they celebrate each milestone and increment of success on the way. They have “staying power.” And they understand that genuine changes take time. Do you have mental strength? Are there elements on this list you need more of? With thanks to Amy Morin, I would like to reinforce my own abilities further in each of these areas today. How about you?