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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Favorite Christmas Song #25, Santa Looked a lot Like Daddy, by Brad Paisley

I'm not a big fan of Santa Claus, but I always loved this song. Garth Brooks does a great job on it, but my favorite rendition is by Brad Paisley

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas and the Gospel According to Love, guest post by Joy Burgess

This is another blog post in my series of guest blog posts I starte a while back. This one is from my friend, Joy Burgess, and she did a great one. Thanks Joy!

Christmas and the Gospel According to Love

“The Gospel can be summed up by saying that it is the tremendous, tender, compassionate, gentle, extraordinary, explosive, revolutionary revelation of Christ’s love.” - Brennan Manning

I love Christmastime. I enjoy the music: “Oh Holy Night,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Mary Did You Know,” “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” and the list could go on indefinitely. The church bells behind my home are constantly tolling out Christmas carols, ringing out the story every day. At this time of year, every Christmas light seems to shine brightly, reminding me of the light that came quietly into the world so long ago. Those wrapped packages under the tree whisper the tale of the greatest gift. Yes, so many things about the season draw me in to the incredible realization of what happened on that lonely night in a stable. If I listen close enough, the whole world is singing the timeless story of love – the love of God.

I always knew that God was love. I’m said the verse thousands of times, “For God so loved the world…” What I didn’t realize was how furiously and deeply God loved ME. I didn’t realize that His love was unconditional. I spent too long thinking that His love was dependent on my performance. Every time I made a mistake, I was sure that I had come to the end of Christ’s love for me.

That’s what is so incredible about the love that we celebrate on Christmas – it’s unending, it’s perfect, it’s unconditional, it’s compassionate and it’s reliable. His love is never based on performance, it never changes and it’s as infinite as the great I AM himself. In fact, love is God’s very identity. Everything about God is based upon his incredible love for us. In Dr. S.M. Lockridge’s sermon, “That’s My King,” he says it well: “My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love.”

Recently, I was discussing the love of God with a friend of mine and we were struck with such a stunning thought. Before God sent Jesus, He was fully aware of all our shortcomings as humans. He already knew about every sin that each of us would commit. He realized how far we were from grace. Yet, knowing all of this, He still sent Jesus. That idea takes my breath away every time I think about it. He knew every person that would reject his gift, knew how so many of us would take so long to accept his love and how many times we’d make mistakes, and still, Jesus came.

Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness that seems to come with Christmas today. We all seem to have so much to do at Christmas that we often fail to take a moment like Mary to ponder these things in our hearts. I think Mary had just a little glimpse of the explosive, furious, extraordinary love of God and all that it meant for humanity. As I celebrate this year, I want to pause to ponder the greatest expression of love that we’ll ever know – the love of God made flesh, laid in a manger and sacrifice for our salvation.

Favorite Christmas song #24, Let's Make a Christmas Memory, by Jeff & Sheri Easter

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Favorite Christmas Song #23, Home for the Holidays Medley by the Talleys

Back in 1988 the original Talleys that consisted of Roger, Debra, and Kirk Talley, made what I consider the best Christmas album ever. This is one of my favorite tracks on the CD. It is a medley consisting of Home for the Holidays, I'll Be Home for Christmas, and I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas. In my personal opinion, their rendition of that last song is the prettiest I have ever heard.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Favorite Christmas Song #22, O Holy Night by David Phelps, and Colin Raye

O Holy Night has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs, and no one can do it better than David Phelps of the Gaither Vocal Band. I was blessed to hear him do it in person a couple of weeks ago, and it brought everyone to their feet.

I've also always enjoyed Colin Raye's version. Though not as dramatic as Phelp's version, it is great also, so putting it also:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #21, New Star Shining by Mark Wills

It must be around 25 years since I first heard this song, and I loved it right away. It hasn't been recorded by a lot of people that I'm aware of. Among all of my Christmas music I have it by just 4 different artists. Three are Christian artists, but I like this one by country artist Mark Wills:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #20, The Reason by The Manuel Family Band

There was a Southern Gospel/Country group that had a short lived career. To my knowledge, they only did a few CDs. One of those was a Christmas CD that had some great and different songs on it. This song is my favorite from the CD. I think it would be better with more than one person singing it, but it has great words and is still a great song. The Reason, by The Manuel Family Band.

Verse 1
Going back to Bethlehem, gonna' find this Baby
Looking for a manger, where the King of Kings was laid.
But I never made it to Bethlehem, I never passed a star or three wise men
I found out Baby Jesus was real, when I was distracted at Calvary's Hill.

And you can't get to His manger, without looking past His cross
A "No vacancy" sign at the Bethlehem Inn
But He made room for the lost.
And on your journey to find three wise men
You'll pass a crowd crying "Crucify Him"
There's just a lot whole lot more to Baby Jesus
There's the reason why He came.

Verse 2
I don't come to condemn the excitement the season brings
I'd just like to leave with you this very important thing
He's not in a manger. You won't find Him there anymore.
But if you listen closely, you'll hear a full-grown Jesus
Knocking at your heart's door.

The reason He came was to give life
He came to set the captive free
To bind up the broken-hearted
And give a chance to a loser like me
So while you're making memories during the holiday
Don't forget the reason Jesus came.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #19, Christmas In Dixie by Kenny Chesney, and Alabama

This song has practially became a classic by Alabama. I heard it for years and loved it. Kenny Chesney recorded it more recently with the one guy from Alabama as guest vocalist. I actually like this newer version, though Alabama's is still awesome too, so here is both.

Kenny Chesney:


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #18, Christmastime by Michael W Smith

I've never been a big Michael W Smith fan. Not sure why. His music just doesn't appeal to me, including his Christmas music. This song is one exception. I really like it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Poinsettias for my friends

My church started a neat tradition several years back. To help decorate the church, anyone can buy potted poinsettias for a friend or family member. They can be done in honor of, or in memory of. The front of the church is filled with the flowers and an insert is put in the church bulletin saying who bought them for and why. I don't have the money to buy poinsettias for all of my friends, but decided to give some "virtual" poinsettias here. Some of the people will never see this blog post, but that is OK.

Church is more than a building. It is people, therefore no church is perfect, including mine. There are things I would like to change about mine, but there have been things I would have liked to change about any church I have attended, but people make up a church, not services or how we do things. I attend church with some great people. Some I know well, and others not so much. Some I interact with regularly, and some I do not. So here are your virtual poinsettias. And I appreciate others also, but these are the ones who stand out to me, in church, and out of church. And my family is a given, so not listing them here :-)

1) Stan & Sandra: You are the best pastors I have ever had. It takes a lot to run a church our size without a bunch of assistants, but you do it, and do it well. You are more than my pastors, you are great friends. I will never forget the time, effort, and prayers you have put forth on my behalf. We are blessed to have you.

2) Steve Goodenow: You are a great Sunday School teacher. I am amazed at how easy it is for you to pull a topic together and teach a great lesson on it. I appreciate your life and your friendship, and your family. Our church and school are lucky to have you guys. Thanks for your prayers and friendship.

3) Denise: In spite of the fact that you are very outspoken with your opinion of my choice of a haircut, I appreciate you a lot. I enjoy our occasional sparring. Thanks for your Christian example and for all you do for our church and school.

4) Jim and Lydia: Your musical talents add so much to our services. I wish I could play as well as you, and will never forget the times you complimented me on my own playing. It meant a lot coming from someone's playing I hold in such regard. I have to admit, I almost enjoy it when you make a mistake, Jim.... makes you seem more human ;-)

5) Burton & Becky: I was so happy when your family began attending our church. Your family has added so much to our church over the years. I appreciate you both, and your friendship. Your family has been through a lot, but you still shine through it all and are a tremendous encouragement and example to us all.

6) Brad: Thanks for always taking time to say hi to me. I admire you a lot and wish I was more like you. You're a great guy and are raising a great family. Thanks for your service to our country.

7) Victor and Ruth: You are another family that has added so much to our church in the years you have attended since you left the mission field. Thanks Ruth for always giving a cheery greeting, and Victor, you are doing a great job as Sunday School superintendent. You both are great examples to everyone in the church.

8) The Dyes: I am sorry for the circumstances that led to your retirement as pastors, but am glad you picked Salem to move to. I appreciate and love you guys, and Mrs. Dye as much as I tease you, I appreciate you a lot. Thanks for being such a great sport and giving back as good as you take it. May God bless you for the blessing you are to others.

9) Brant: You are by far the best song leader I have ever been around. I can tell you put a lot of time and prayer into what songs you pick. I appreciate your life and your family. Keep up the great work, and don't go away so much. We miss you when you aren't there.

10) Lori: I appreciate your life and the example  you give to the kids you teach. I appreciate your comments in Sunday School class and wish I were half as good at expressing my thoughts as well as you do. I am very happy for you on your upcoming marriage. Nate is a lucky guy, and you deserve happiness. Thanks for your friendship.

11) Rodney: Thanks for being my seat buddy in Sunday School class and for making me laugh.

12) Ken & Carol: I appreciate your friendship over the years. You are the kind of friends who would do anything to help others. Our church is blessed indeed to have you guys as part of our congregation. You both are great examples to us all. And I love to hear you guys sing.

13) Arnie & Pam: You are great folks and I appreciate you both. Pam, you are a shining example through your physical problems.

14) Paul & Sue: Paul, we are complete opposites. You are good at whatever you do, and I'm not. You are an avid hunter, and it bores me, but I admire you a lot and wish I was more like you. I know just a bit of how much you talk to people about God, and if we were all like you, our church would be a much better place. You guys are doing a first rate job of raising your kids. Thanks for your friendship and example.

15) Mike & Brenda: Thanks for your friendship. You are both great people, and Brenda you are one of the friendliest and most cheerful people I know. I'm glad you guys moved back here, I missed having you at our church.

16) Barb & David: You two do a lot behind the scenes at church, but it doesn't go unnoticed. Before I even knew who you two were,  I was impressed with how friendly you guys are. I appreciate you guys and the lives you lead.

17) Stephen and Jenny: Jenny,  I've literally watched you grow up from birth to a great young woman. You have turned out great, and you two make a wonderful couple. Stephen, you are one of my favorite singers and I still wish they would have you solo more than you do, though you and Jenny sound great together also. I wish I could sing like you. I appreciate you both, and may God bless your lives and your family. And Jenny, that was a very nice thing you did giving out cards to some of the girls in church. I read my nieces' cards and thought it was awesome of you. You are a lot like your mother.

There are way too many friends on facebook to mention, but a few out who I have never met:

1) Avis: I enjoy your posts. You always have something encouraging and inspiring to say. I also love to read the funny things your grandsons say.

2) Joyce H: Ditto to everything above except the grandkids. Thanks for adding me as a friend :-)

3) Ronie: You truly are one of my favorite authors and I feel blessed to have you as a facebook friend. I love your books and its cool to be able to keep up with a favorite author in this way. I have learned a lot about the military and military war dogs from your books and posts. May God bless you for using your awesome talents for Him. And thanks to Brian for his service to our country.

4) Candace: I love your facebook posts, especially the ones about food. Wish I lived close enough to try out some of it in person ;-). You are another tremendous author. Thanks for writing for God.

5) Kathy: I have been hooked on your books since I read the first one, Tested By Fire. You have only gotten better since then. You are a great author and lady. I enjoy your facebook posts and pictures you post. Thanks for letting this guy be part of your facebook friend family. And thanks for writing Christian fiction and using your talents for God. May He richly bless you and your writing.

6) Mike: It didn't take you long to become a favorite author. God is using you through your writing and your own story of being a cancer survivor. You are an encouragement and inspiration. I hope you can find a way to keep writing and balance everything else in your life. I pray God's richest blessings on you and your family.

7) Kimberly and Kayla: You two have only written two books so far, but they are outstanding. Knowing a little about what your family has gone through with Kayla, I admire you a lot. Kayla, you seem like a terrific young lady. Keep serving God and keep writing with your mother. And thanks for letting readers like me be a small part of your lives through facebook.

8) John Myers: I've never met you, but enjoy interacting with you on facebook. I appreciate what I know of you. Thanks for adding me as a friend.

Other friends:
1) Joy: I wish we had known each other when you were at AWC. You're an awesome person and have taught me a lot whether or not you know it. Thanks for your friendship.

2) Rachel: So glad to hook up with an old college buddy after all these years. You have been and are a great encouragement to me, and I have learned a lot from you. Thanks for being my friend and for being so willing to discuss all sorts of things with me, even things we disagree on.

3) Jennifer: I'm so glad we met up at Cracker Barrel a couple of years ago and have renewed our friendship. I think you are an awesome lady and wish some of your awesomeness would rub off on me. I've enjoyed our visits and chats. Wish we could do it more often. God has used you in my life. Thanks for your example and encouragement.

4) Matt & Christina: I haven't known you guys well for very long, but have enjoyed getting to know you. Matt, I have really enjoyed and appreciated being able to talk to you about "stuff." It has been a big help to me. You two have also helped me to see some things differently and to be less judgmental about some issues I used to view as black and white. Thanks for your friendship. You are a great couple, and I'm glad you got your little one. You'll make great parents, don't worry.

5) Steven: Thanks for being my best friend. In a perfect world, we wouldn't live 400 miles apart and would see each other more often. Thanks for always being there. Even though I tease you a lot about stuff we don't agree on, you know I think you're the best.

6) Cindy and Russell: I feel blessed to have gotten to know you so well, Cindy. I enjoyed hanging out with you in Indiana and beating you all the time in Rook. You deserved a great guy, and I kept telling you that God would send you the right guy. If you hadn't married Russell, that might have happened....... ;-). Just kidding. You guys make a great couple and I'm happy you found each other. Thanks for your friendship.

7) The Matlocks: Thanks for accepting me and befriending me while I lived in Indiana. You are a great family and I count myself blessed for knowing you. Its always good to see you all when I visit and I miss you all.

8) Kimmy and Kevin: I will never forget how much you guys were there for me when I needed it most. Thanks for your friendship. I miss working with you Kimmy.

9) Sandie: Looking back, I am awed that you entrusted me with Jason while I was his big brother. Thanks for your friendship and the privilege of that experience. It was supposed to help Jason, but it helped me too.

10) Shawn and Christa: I appreciate you guys, thanks for your friendship.

Thanks to all who know the worst about me and still consider me their friend and someone worthwhile. Your prayers and encouraging words are much appreciated.

I have probably missed some people, and just because your name isn't listed here doesn't mean I don't appreciate or like you, but these are some who come to mind first and have been special to me in some way or another. Merry Christmas everyone.

Favorite Christmas song #17, The Night Before Christmas by Amy Grant

A song I always loved from Amy Grant's Home for Christmas CD, her best Christmas album, in my opinion.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #16, Immanuel by Michael Card

I'm not a Michael Card fan. I bought his Christmas CD some years back and it bored me, all except for this song and one other. I absolutely love this one, and often play it a second time when I hear it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guns and violence... politicians will never get it

  Yesterday,  I and every other American were saddened to hear of the school shooting in Newtown, CT, where among others, a whole Kindergarten class of innocent kids were murdered by a 20 year old lunatic wielding a gun. The thoughts of those terror stricken children and their heartbroken families just tears at the heart of anyone who has one.

   Already, the anti-gun liberals and media are stepping up the cries for more gun control, as they do any time when there is something like this that happens. Even our illustrious leader, Obama, made references to it, and his record on guns is bad.

   I am pro-gun. I don't have any, but if I had a job and steady income, I would get one. For more than one reason, one being I'd like one before they are outlawed. Our Constitution gives us the right to bear arms to protect us from the government, which our forefathers knew was very susceptible to corruption. It it any wonder that our corrupt media and government wants more gun laws?

    What if we treated alcohol and cars like they treat guns. Every time there is a bad car accident, make more car laws. Make it harder for people to buy cars. Every time alcohol is a factor in car accident fatalities or other fatalities, make better laws to regulate sale and use of alcoholic beverages. Make it harder for people to buy it. Sound insane? Well that is how the left acts with guns. It is a trite saying, but true: Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Adam Lanza didn't even have guns, from what I read and understand. He stole them, so what good did gun laws do in this case? And if he couldn't have gotten guns, he would have come up with another way. It is crazy, and just plain stupid to think more gun laws will help.

   Statistics and studies show that taking guns away doesn't solve the issue. In fact, where the gun laws are toughest, crime rises. Why wouldn't it? If you are a criminal, wouldn't it make more sense to rob places where guns aren't allowed? Makes sense to me.

  Guns aren't  the problem. People are. But if we are going to blame anyone, here are some to consider:

1) TV. How many of these killers get their ideas from watching violent shows and movies where people are constantly getting blown away. Tell me a constant diet of that to someone who is prone to this kind of behavior wouldn't be influenced by that? And yet the same actors who are in these movies are screaming for better gun laws. Really?!

2) Games. There are tons of video games on the market. Again, can you tell me you honestly don't believe kids and young people aren't influenced at all by games where they are killing all throughout the game? Get real.

3) The left. It is amazing how the media and left will jump on any small thing from conservatives and try to paint us as violent and hateful, but yet they overlook it from the left. A couple of examples:

Just recently, a liberal Democrat in Michigan warned "there will be blood" if right to work legislation is passed there.

Also in Michigan, the governor was warned by a pro-union minister, that if he passed the legislation, they would be at his church, and at his daughter's soccer game. Sounds like a threat to me.

There have been several threats made to conservatives, especially in this last election cycle, and they are overlooked. It seems the left is good at threatening and glorifying violence when it suits their needs and purposes.

4) Public schools. Kicking God out of the public schools has not made the USA a better or safer place. Keeping Him in might not eliminate all violence like this, but we didn't have this years ago when we were more of a Christian nation, when kids were allowed to pray in school, when He was allowed to be talked about and mentioned by teachers and administrators. A person would have to be an idiot or a liberal (is there a difference) to not see that there is a cause and effect. We have removed God from the schools, most of government, and they are trying to remove Him from the public eye, and our kids get more violent, people are more filled with hate and despair. We are not a better country than we were when God was acknowledged on all levels, from the schools up to the presidency and Supreme Court.

But lets throw all that aside and outlaw guns. That will make everything perfect and get rid of all violence. Yeah, right. It is typical of humans, and especially liberals, to ignore the cause. They want to blame guns, but God forbid you look at the true solution: Jesus. They could get rid of every gun on earth, and violence and killing would still go on, because guns aren't the problem. People are, people who are evil and sinful, and until they acknowledge God again and look to Him for the solution, nothing will change. But there is no way a politician will ever get it right, especially the liberals who  are anti-God. We don't need more gun laws in America. We need more God in America. We need a revival, we need to seek God as a nation and allow God back into our schools, our government, our courts, and our lives. That is what will help stop school shootings, not less guns and more gun laws.

Why the shepherds?

   Between seeing my nativity scene several times a day, and being in my church's live nativity as a wise man, I've been thinking a lot about the nativity/Jesus' birth. I guess that is a good thing this time of year. I got to thinking about  the shepherds last night. Of all the people to announce the birth of a Savior, the King...... God picked the shepherds.

   Oh, the wise men came too, but from what we know, they worked for it. They studied and watched the skies, and though God let them via a new star, they got no special announcement by a throng of angels, yet the shepherds did.

   Shepherds were lowly people. I doubt they were the most intelligent or clean guys. You can't be too clean if you're hanging out for days at a time with sheep, yet God chose the shepherds to announce His birth to. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. I had some thoughts about that. Maybe its because they are the only ones who would have paid attention. Maybe they were the only ones who would believe it. A baby in a manger...... born in a place that they were familiar with, in circumstances they were familiar with.

   We saw how Herod reacted when he heard. He was afraid he would be replaced, so he had all of the baby boys up to a certain age killed. Had the angels appeared to him, he would have tried all the sooner to kill this new King.

   And why would God tell the religious leaders of the day? They didn't want a baby in a manger. They didn't want a Savior. They wanted a royal King, a warrior who would free them. Three decades later, they killed that baby, so why tell them?

   So you have royalty who wanted to kill Him, and the religious leaders who scoffed and later did kill him..... who did that leave? The lowliest people, the kind of people Jesus came for.

   Would it be any different today? We tend to do as the religious leaders of that day. We might not kill Him, but we try to put God in a box. Jesus wouldn't look like we expect. He wouldn't dress like we expect, not act like we think a King or Savior should act. I'm afraid too many of us would scoff and ignore a Jesus that would come on the scene today.

   But He is here. No, not as a baby in a manger, but He is still here, and we do act like the religious leaders of the day. We shy away from a Jesus/God who doesn't do what we expect. We put Him in a box and worship the kind of God we want. He might be the God our church or family invented. We may have gotten tired of that God and ran to another church to worship their God..... but we have just exchanged Him for someone else's God.

   The Christmas story will never be what it should be to us until we find God for ourselves. We need to find our own Jesus, not one who has been created or invented for us. And we need to find the heart of Jesus. We get so caught up in rules, traditions, in our busy lives. If Jesus were to be born into this world, would we be among those God would choose to announce the birth to? Or would we be too busy, too intent on our own ideals of what a Savior and King would be like, that God would pass us by and announce it to someone else.

  Of all the people that were part of His birth, the shepherds and Mary were the most honored. God chose Mary to carry and give birth to His Son. What greater honor could there be? We can't be Mary, but we can be the shepherds. Lowly and expectant, and obedient. They went immediately to the stable.

Favorite Christmas song #15, It's Christmas by Ronnie Milsap

I loved this song the first time I heard it, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It's Christmas by Ronnie Milsap

Friday, December 14, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #14, Light In The Window by Karen Peck and New River

This is a song I first heard on a CD by the Southern Gospel group, The Greenes, several years ago. I love their rendition of it, but also love this newer one by Karen Peck and New River. This one is already on Youtube, so it won out as the one to share.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On being a Wise Man

    My church is doing a live nativity for the first time this year. It will be tonight and tomorrow night from 7pm-9pm. I signed up to help and am going to be a wise man. I've joked a lot about it, about being a natural for it etc., and also gotten some ribbing about it. The truth is, I will definitely be playing a part. No typecasting going on here with me. I'd be more suited to play the donkey... the KJV donkey. No need there, as we will have live animals.

    We read in the Bible that God offered a young King Solomon anything he wanted, and Solomon picked wisdom. There are examples of how wise he was, and he was renowned for being wise. You have to wonder though if he exchanged the gift for something else later in life. All joking aside, it was far from wise to take 300 wives and 700 concubines.... for more than one reason. On the serious side, he married foreign wives who brought their gods with them. O

     The Bible says a lot about wisdom: (New Living Translation)
Job 15:3 The wise don’t engage in empty chatter. What good are such words?

Job 37:24 No wonder people everywhere fear him. All who are wise show him reverence.

Psalm 19:7 The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

Proverbs 19:12 If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.

Proverbs 10:5 A wise youth harvests in the summer, but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace.

     And there are many more. Imagine what our lives would be like if we truly practiced wisdom:

In what we say
In our spending habits
In voting (a lot of professing Christians failed majorly there last month)
In how we use our time
In choosing friends
In our worship
In how we live from day to day

     I feel far from wise. Contrary to popular belief, I do not say everything I think. If I said everything I think, I'd be friendless, kicked out of my church, and probably sitting in a prison somewhere. I definitely need wisdom in when to keep my mouth shut, but I leave a lot unsaid that I think. :-)

   James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (NJKV) I have asked God for wisdom...... I truly have, but He either didn't give it, or it just didn't take. Maybe that is something that should be on our of our Christmas wish lists this year: wisdom, and super-size it for me. I need a lot of things. I need a good job, my own place, self confidence, money, more time in my day, a better relationship with God..... the list could go on, but wisdom should top the list. If a person is truly wise, it seems a lot of other things would fall into place. Take Solomon..... he was extremely wealthy, and it seems that was a by product of his being wise. Well, he was wealthy until he had to keep 1000 women happy. I can't help but believe that if I had been wise all along, how differently my life would have turned out. I might still be single..... what truly wise man would marry? (just kidding ladies)

   Tonight as I walk into the stable that has been built in front of my church, I will stand and gaze upon a baby doll in the manger. That baby doll is lifeless, and just a representation of the best gift this world ever received, and it would be pointless and useless, not to mention insane, to bow and ask that baby doll for anything. But we call all ask that baby who grew up to die for us, for what we all need more of: wisdom.

    I will put on my wise man outfit, complete with turban or crown this evening, and again tomorrow night, but it will not be a wise man walking up to look upon a baby doll in a manger. No my friends, it will be me, playing a part, but it will also be me wanting and seeking wisdom.

Favorite Christmas song #13, Wise Men Still Seek Him bu Paul Overstreet

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My wish list

I'm a simple guy, and like simple things for Christmas. My family is big on wish lists, and mine usually has some books I want, a CD or two, cologne (spray kind), and clothes. But what if I could have anything I wanted? The possiblities are endless......

1) My own house, complete with a large room I could use for a library, complete with a fireplace and a lazyboy chair

2) My own bookstore with a cafe/coffee shop

3) An SUV

4) A vacation in the mountains, right after Christmas

5) A slimmer me

6) Money :-)

7) My own Keurig coffee brewer with lots of non-coffee items

8) Lots of gift cards

9) A long visit and/or vacation with my best friend

10) A vacation at the ocean (after the mountains one)

11) Peace on earth

12) A new president.... a true conservative one

13) The chance to tell Barak and Michelle just what I think of them and their policies

14) The resignations of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi... or the voting out of them

15) A laptop

16) A good job, though not necessary if I got #2 :-)

17) More energy

18) A full head of hair

19) A new bed

20) The chance to meet some of my favorite authors..... hey, this IS a wish list... all of them

21) A cure for cancer

22) Abortion banned

23) Winning Dave Ramsey's weekly $10,000 giveaway

24) More time

25) Getting all of my stuff out of storage

26) True love

27) A maid

28) Spring, 24/7, 365 days a year

29) Being more successful

30) The chance to meet and talk with George W and Laura Bush

31) The total annhilation of Obamacare and Obama's policies

32) A better and more free America

33) Stock in a chicken farm

34) Snow at Christmas, but no other time

35) And end to my personal struggle

36) That no child would ever hurt

37) God allowed back in the schools, courtrooms, and public square

38) That good would win more than evil

39) A trip to Israel

40) That everyone would be home for Christmas

Favorite Christmas song #12, Hey Santa by Wendy and Carnie Wilson

I'm not a big fan of Santa, but I always loved this song

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #11, I Heard The Bells, two versions

I always liked the song "I Heard the Bells", but it isn't one that is recorded very much, at least not that I have run across. In recent years, I have run across two very different versions of it that I like. I couldn't decide which one to post here, so I am putting them both. First, there is the more traditional version, the Southern Gospel version by the Gaither Vocal Band. The other is by Casting Crowns. Both are worth listening to, and I love both.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #10, Sweet Baby Jesus by the Kingsmen

Thanksgiving at Christmas... or That's what I like about Christmas

Now that I got my "12 pains of Christmas" out of the way, on to better things. I've been pretty depressed lately, I admit it. Back in August, I finally had enough one day at work and quit. Dumb? Maybe, but I needed out of there. Among other things, the job was eroding my already poor self esteem.

Thankfully, I had enough money saved up to cover my bills for a while..... but I hadn't planned on going this long without a job. I've applied several places, and even had a couple of interviews, but nothing yet. I am starting to worry. And get more depressed. Truthfully, I am wondering if I will ever get a decent enough job that I can get out on my own again. I feel incredibly stupid and to be honest - like I have failed. Fear and poor self esteem has always held me back from getting good jobs. I have few skills, and sometimes feel all I am good at is being a speed bump.

Things have been getting to me badly lately. Ever feel like the world was against you and no matter how hard you tried, it seemed you were destined to fail? Yeah, that has been me lately. I didn't figure I could even do one thing I love - buy gifts for my family. My funds will cover another couple of months of bills, but Christmas? No.

Thanks to some great friends, the gifts will not be a worry now, but my future still seems so bleak. The job situation especially. I know from a friend who is a former co-worker and interviewed me once for a job, that I don't "sell myself well." How does one do that if you have no self-confidence?

I did my "12 pains of Christmas" for fun, but decided I needed to get serious about this depressing thoughts issue, and not have my Christmas ruined by fear and worry,  so here it is - what I am thankful for and about Christmas, and what I like about Christmas.

1) I am thankful that I know what the reason for the season is all about. I haven't always known God as I should at Christmas, but I know what its all about and every year experience that sense of awe that God became a baby, that He was born to die for the sins of the world.

2) I am thankful that I have a roof over my head and food to eat

3) I am thankful that I have a car that runs. It isn't new, it isn't in top condition, but it runs and its paid for.

4) I am thankful that I have family to buy gifts for and to spend Christmas with (and to get gifts from!)

5) I am thankful for the nativity scene. I believe every Christian should have one. Since I am living with my parents til I get a good job and can afford my own place, I hadn't been using mine, as they have one...... but I decided to dig mine out of storage and set it up in the basement, and I am glad I did. I see it more often down here, and it does help remind me of what its all about.

6) Christmas music. I love Christmas music, and have at least 120 Christmas CDs. I used to start listening earlier than I did this year, but I still started early for some people - October. They all aren't religious, but a lot of them are, and I am thankful for them. Some of the prettiest songs are Christmas. And we only listen to them a couple months of the year.

7) I am thankful for friends. I have some close by that I see often, and I have some far away (like my Indiana friends) that I see only once a year or less. I have friends who have religious beliefs similar to mine, friends who do not, and some who have none. I have friends who know the very worst about me, and still call me friend. I am thankful for them all.

8) Christmas events. I'm not big on cantatas and kids programs, but there are events this time of year I love. The Walk With Jesus a nearby church puts on, our church's candlelight service, The Christmas Carol play I try to take in every year or so (no luck this year).

9) I am thankful for my church. I don't agree with everything my church teaches and believes, yet its a good church. It isn't perfect (hey, I go there, how could it be?!) but there are a lot of great people there, and I have the best pastor.

10) Gifts. Hey, I'm a kid at heart. I still love to receive gifts, but I also love to give. I am thankful that I can give gifts to those I love at this time of year.

11) My nieces and nephews. Yeah, I covered family already, but the kids are special. No one has any idea how badly I wanted kids of my own. I'm serious...... I have cried before about it. I am thankful I have 3 great nieces and 3 great nephews in my life that are a big part of my life. I don't get to see the boys as often as I wish, as they are a few hours away, but I do get to see my nieces often. I took them to the Walk With Jesus this past Friday evening, then to McDonald's for ice cream. They loved it and have thanked me several times, and I loved it. Its the next best thing to having my own.

12) Christmas cards. I like getting them, especially the ones where someone takes time to write a personal message, like one I got today that said I was a special guy (maybe that was meant for someone else), and another card that said they hoped I got the job I was just interviewed for.

13) At this time of year, people seem to care more, be more friendly, do more for others....wish it was that way all year long, but its great we have it at this time of year.

14) I am thankful we are nearing the beginning of a new year, a year that I have the possibility of not failing at everything, but maybe succeeding, getting the right job, getting my own place, making new friends, becoming stronger, losing more weight, being a better person.... 365 days that are so far a blank canvas.

15) Colored lights. Colored everything. How boring everything would be if it were one color... and how boring Christmas decorations would be with just white lights...... :-)

16) The Christmas tree. Yeah, I know. It would still be Christmas, and would still be Jesus' birth without it, but I love to sit and gaze on a lit tree (with colored lights, of course!) There is something so peaceful about sitting in an otherwise dark room with a lit Christmas tree.

17) I am thankful this year to be able to be part of my church's festivities. Even if I liked choirs, I can't sing a part, and there isn't normally anything for me to do to be part of the Christmas activities, but this year we are doing something new: a live Nativity, and I am a wise man. I'm more excited about it than a guy my age should be, but hey I never have claimed to be mature. Seriously, it does feel good to be part of it, and I am looking forward to it, and am glad I signed up.

18) The Christmas story. I'm thankful we have a record of Jesus' birth in the Bible to read at this time of the year, and other times of the year. I like to read it in different versions. Not that it can get old, but it can help make it newer and fresher to read a different translation once in a while.

19) I'm thankful for Christmas cookies and fudge. For some weird reason, my parents only make fudge at Christmas. I could eat fudge 365 days of the year, but this family only makes it at this time of year. I love it, and the cookies that we only have this time of the year. The extra pounds are worth it.

20) I mentioned family, but I love that feeling when both of my sisters have arrived with their families. Getting hugs from the kids and watching the nieces interact with the nephews. They get along great...... my whole family does. We aren't perfect. We were until those two guys married into our family... just kidding. We get along. There is no fighting and hateful words, and I am thankful for that.

21) Calvary. You can't have one without the other. If we didn't have the birth of a Savior, we would never have had Calvary. If there had been no Calvary, His birth, this time we celebrate, would be useless and empty. We celebrate His birth because of why He came.

22) Christmas sermons. I really do have the best pastor, and get this: he preaches short messages. It is rare he goes more than 30 minutes, and its usually 25-30 minutes. He is a great preacher all through the year, but I truly enjoy and appreciate his Christmas sermons,

23) Christmas memories. My parents always made Christmas special. I have a lot of great memories associated with Christmas. I still smile when I remember how every Christmas eve we would drive around and look at decorations. It never failed when we got to the car, one of my parents would have to run back inside for something, and when we got home, there were our stockings hanging, full. My parents would feign surprise. Like we were fooled....... but it makes for good memories.

Now we make new ones. Kids make Christmas more fun, and so do gag gifts. There are usually one or two each year. We have a large stuffed hippo that gets re gifted each year. The first year I had bought it, we gave it to my dad, and just as he unwrapped it, I started playing "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas." Great memory,

24) I really don't enjoy wrapping presents, but I enjoy that feeling of filling out the "to" and "from" and setting the finished product under the tree. And I'm better at wrapping than I used to be. I used to be so bad, everyone could tell who the gift was from by the wrapping job.

25) Snow. Yep. But only at Christmas. I really don't like winter or snow, but at Christmas it makes it seem more magical, more beautiful. But only at Christmas.

26) Christmas stories. I have so many I can't read them all every year, but its a special part of my Christmas to read new and old Christmas stories.

27) The magic of the season. That covers a lot, but there is a lot. Just think..... the God of the universe came to earth as the most helpless of all of us, a baby. His birth was first announced to the most lowly of people, shepherds. Instead of being born where kings are typically born - a castle, He was born in a stable and had a manger for His bed. It still is the greatest story ever told.

My 12 pains of Christmas

There is a cool version of The 12 Days of Christmas I that I like, The 12 Pains of Christmas. Look it up and watch it, it is amusing. I love Christmas, and am planning on doing a post of what I love about it, but today, here are my own 12 pains of Christmas:

1) The push to do away with calling it Christmas. It really, really irritates me. And how hypocritical of stores to have sales and make so much money over the holiday they refuse to acknowledge what is all about - Jesus

2) Wrapping presents. I love to give, but man do I hate wrapping them

3) Christmas cantatas.... I don't much like choirs in the first place, then add a cantata that has weird songs, or worse - familiar songs with weird arrangements and/or tunes..... yuk. I have heard a few that were OK, but overall - not a fan

4) Kid's Christmas program. Really, unless you have kids in the annual Christmas program at church, what is enjoyable about umpteen kids saying little parts that many of them need coached on. Call me Scrooge if you will, but I am always looking toward the end. I have been in a few that were the exception, but it is not a favorite part of my Christmas. Plus, we have so many bus kids in ours who I don't even know, I just don't enjoy it all.

5) Hearing Blue Christmas by Elvis. Yuk. I cannot bear anything he sings, but especially Blue Christmas.

6) Long lines at the stores

7) The extra weight I gain during this time of year. Cookies, candy. Sigh.

8) Christmas newsletters. I rarely read them. I think what really turned me off on them was a family that bragged so much about their kids, it was sickening. Plus, they are impersonal and mass produced..... I don't care what sport your kid played, or what grade they got on their algebra test..... just wish me Merry Christmas!

9) The Christmas music that is junk, yuk, trash..... about any station you pick has to mix some stuff in that makes you cringe.... like Santa Baby, Baby It's Cold Outside,  Elvis singing Blue Christmas, etc

10) Santa Claus at the manger. I get the idea behind it, but I hate to see it, and would like to smash each one I see. Santa, though he is based on the real St. Nicholas, is make believe, and the idea of a make believe figure at the manger rubs me wrong. Why not add the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny while we're at it?!

11) White lights. I secretly think your Christmas tree is lacking if it has white lights instead of colored...... come on, what is Christmas-y about white lights? White lights are an every day thing, colored are not. Bring on the colored lights!

12) That feeling you get when the last gift is opened, the family has left, and you go back to the every day thing.

Favorite Christmas song #9, Tennessee Christmas by Point of Grace

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #4, Come On Ring Those Bells by Evie

Maybe it is because its the version I first heard and grew up listening to, but I don't think anyone can beat Evie's version

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Favorite Christmas song #2: Mary Did You Know

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Mary Did You Know. I think the first time I heard it, it was by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd. Maybe that is why is is my favorite. Of all the versions I have heard, I like theirs the best:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas song favorite #1: It's Still the Greatest Story Ever Told

Starting today, I am going to try to post one of my favorite Christmas songs on here daily. If I can't find a music video for a song, I will make one. No particular order - that would make it too difficult. This is one of my very favorites, It's Still the Greatest Story Ever Told, sung by the Gaither Vocal Band

Lyrics (third verse not recorded):

It’s Still the Greatest Story Ever Told (Lyrics)
Words by Gloria Gaither
Music by William J. Gaither and J. D. Miller

Verse 1:
A woman and an angel, a promise and a song;
A Word too grand for any mind to hold.
A tax law and a journey, a stable and some straw;
These tell the greatest story ever told.

Oh, sing glory in the highest!
He is come, our great Messiah.
Come, bow before this awesome mystery!
Mighty God and fragile Baby,
Here a lowly manger holds,
And it’s still the greatest story ever told.

Verse 2:
A hillside and some shepherds, a blaze of blinding light;
Angels singing carols in the cold!
Eternal revelation to men as dull as stone,
The glorious, greatest story ever told!

Verse 3
A band of honest seekers, a bright prophetic star;
Exotic spices and a bag of gold.
A visit from the Magi to a humble family
Help tell the greatest story ever told.

Oh, sing glory in the highest!
He is come, our great Messiah.
Come, bow before this awesome mystery!
Mighty God and fragile Baby,
Here a lowly manger holds,
And it’s still the greatest story ever told.
And it’s still the greatest story ever told.

© 1991 Hanna Street Music, Lojon Music, Life Gate Music (admin. by Gaither Copyright
Mgmt.). All rights reserved.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

What holiday?

   I'm not sure when it started, but now it is an every year occurrence at this time of year. Certain stores avoid the word "Christmas" in their advertising, sales, advertisements, and in store greetings. Every year, the miserable atheists get a Nativity scene banished in some town.

  A lot of Christians don't seem worried about it. I have known of Christians to point out that Christmas isn't mentioned by that name in the Bible, that its from secular background, and so on. (These are probably the kind of people who vote for pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage candidates like Barack Obama!) These people are losing sight of something. It isn't just the name of this holiday that is the issue. It is the first part, the "Christ" part. They don't care about the "merry" or even the "mas" part, just "Christ."

   It is true that too many of us get caught up in the hustle and bustle and lose sight of the meaning of it all, but it is still set aside to celebrate the birth of our Savior, so I believe that we should be upset and concerned with this push to call it something else. Yes, it would still be about His birth for we Christians, but does that mean we should just let them throw aside the "Christ" part of it all? They aren't just trying to call it something else, they are trying to erase Christ from it all. Ironic.... erase the person who it is all about. And yes, there could be a message in there for us that we don't erase Him from Christmas by our actions and busyness at this time of year..... but still - it is all about Him, so call it what it is, Christmas......the day of Christ's birth.

   This doesn't happen with other holidays, if you think about it. No one says "Happy Holidays" on February 14, or March 17, or October 31....... and by the way, I don't like Halloween. I won't go into my reasons, but I don't observe it, but I'm not all offended if someone says "Happy Halloween"...... and speaking of offended: Why is it that a small group of people get  their way with this kind of stuff? I saw a poll yesterday that said 7 in 10 people prefer "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays"...... so why does the small group win? Does it not matter that I am offended by stores deliberately removing "Christmas" from all they do? More people want it than not, so why do the smaller groups win?

   Could it be because we sit back and let it happen? I think all too many Christians are passive about this kind of thing.... its why we lost the election - and because too many Christians voted against Biblical values. Too many don't care enough. A few years back, Walmart decided to kick Christ out of Christmas, and it came back to bite them. The backlash was so heavy that they backed down. If Christians kept after stores that did this, it wouldn't happen so much. No, we shouldn't call and scream about it, but we can make a polite phone call or email and inform the store that we are offended and will not be shopping there this Christmas season.

   Isn't it amazing how much extra money these stores bring in on the same holiday they refuse to call by its name: Christmas. They don't want to acknowledge the One who its all about, but they are sure happy to make money off of His birthday. I am not so insensitive that I don't realize that a lot of store clerks in these stores are told not to say "Merry Christmas", but I am often tempted to reply to their "happy holidays" with "What holiday would that be?" And "No, I'm not looking for your holiday music, I am looking for your Christmas music!" - and "I want a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree!"

  And yet we can call it Christmas and lose sight of it all. I love this time of year. People seem to care more about others, I like the lights, the Christmas events at church, the music, and of course the gifts. I love to get gifts - who doesn't?! - but I love to give, something I may not be able to do much of this year if I don't get a job soon...... but still, without the gift giving, it is still Christmas. It is still about Christ's birth. Taking away gift giving, or even calling it Christmas, will not take away the "reason for the season", but I still contend that we need to stand up more for Christmas. Say "Merry Christmas", contact stores that make policies against it, and if your town outlaws a nativity scene in the public square, put one out in your yard. This isn't simply a push to call it something else. This is a push against Christianity and our freedoms. And we need to stop it.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sunday services

Anymore, it is a rarity to find churches that have two services a day, as in morning and evening. Many large churches have more than one morning service. It used to be more common to have Sunday morning and evening services. I'm not sure why and when that changed. Or if it is a good thing or not.

When I worked at the Christian bookstore near me back in 1999-2004, most churches we did business with had no Sunday evening service. One that did, a Friends church, had a lot of people go on Sunday nights from churches that had no Sunday evening service, so apparently some do want it.

My church does. Sunday school, morning worship service, then the evening services: Youth "focus", Children's service, and a Bible study/prayer time for everyone else at 6:15-7:00, and evening worship service at 7:00. That is how it has always been, morning and evening services on Sunday.

I was raised with very strict Sabbath observance. We don't shop or eat out on Sunday, no housework, no noisy or extra physical activities..... and I'm fine with that. I believe Sunday shouldn't be like the rest of the week. Most of the things we do through the week don't need done on Sunday. Why shouldn't we give God all of Sunday? Should we go to church Sunday morning, then live the rest of the day like any other day of he week? God has relaxed His rules for Sunday from what they had in the Old Testament, but unless we toss out that one commandment and make it the 9 commandments, the Bible still says to do all your labor in 6 days, and to keep the Sabbath holy. How to keep it holy will differ a lot, but there are a lot of things too many people do on Sunday that isn't keeping it holy..... but I'm not going into that now.

The thing is, if we are to take that commandment at face value, if we are to do all our work on the other days, and if we are to keep the Sabbath day holy..... then shouldn't our focus be on God and on resting on Sunday? And if our primary focus is that, then why not go to church on Sunday night? What else are we going to do? What else should we do? Shouldn't we want to bask in that atmosphere all day long? Have two worship services to prepare us for the week ahead? Have two chances to fellowship with other believers on Sunday? What could be more important - a TV show we don't want to miss?

And yet, there is the other side of the coin. Rest. With two Sunday services, are we really getting rest from the day? God didn't just say to keep the day holy, He also said to rest. Check out the schedule of a Sunday at my church:
Morning men's prayer meeting: 6:30am (I think)
Sunday school: 9:30 am
Worship service: 10:30 am
Youth "focus", children's service, Bible study/prayer: 6:15 pm
Evening worship service: 7:00 pm

Now that is the every week schedule. Once a month, we have this:
Morning men's prayer meeting: 6:30am (I think)
Sunday school: 9:30 am
Worship service: 10:30 am
Rest home service: 2:00 pm
Youth "focus", children's service, Bible study/prayer: 6:15 pm
Evening worship service: 7:00 pm

And from late September or early October, we have this:
Morning men's prayer meeting: 6:30am (I think)
Sunday school: 9:30 am
Worship service: 10:30 am
Rest home service: 2:00 pm (once a month)
Cantata practice: 5:00 pm-6:15pm
Youth "focus", children's service, Bible study/prayer: 6:15 pm
Evening worship service: 7:00 pm

There is also a weekly jail service some time in the afternoon every week, not sure of the time, and only a few guys go to that. But do you see my point? If a person went to every service on Sunday we have (and I don't), how on earth can you call that a day of rest? Is it OK to wear ourselves out and run ourselves ragged on Sunday if it is all about church and God? Is it OK to not get rest on the Sabbath as long as its all about God's work?

Here is my Sunday schedule:
Sunday school: 9:30 am
Morning worship service: 10:30 am
Sunday dinner
Nap and/or reading
Evening worship service: 7:00 pm

Am I a bad person for not going to all of the other services? Am I less of a Christian? Are people who hit them all a better Christian? I don't believe so. Being a Christian is not all about church, or how many services you attend. It can be legalistic to go to church to keep up appearances and because it is expected. There have been many times in my life when I would rather have stayed home and relaxed, instead of getting dressed up and going to church. Sound bad, un-Christian of me? Sounds judgemental of you ;-)

Why do we go to church? It should be to worship God... but we can do that at home, so why go at all? We need fellowship with other believers. We can't "home church", we need people who believe like us, people to worship with. We need teaching, preaching, discussion - or we could easily go astray and be like a ship on the ocean with no sail. I believe it is Biblical to go to church and God wants us to. God is everywhere, but being in a church full of others worshipping Him is so much better than being at home. Usually.

Why do we stay home from church? We are sick, we don't feel like it, we are tired. I grew up in a church where everyone knew every one's business. If my family missed church, someone called to see why. Concern? Maybe, sometimes. Other times, and more often: busybodies. I will never forget the time we missed a service - we went away - and a lady called to see where we were and why we missed. The funny part: she hadn't been there either!

I grew up in bondage to other people. Afraid if I missed a Sunday service, I'd be judged, people would disapprove. Afraid if I didn't make it to every revival service, I'd be looked down on. Afraid if I missed Wednesday night service, people would assume I was having spiritual problems. There have been times I went to church purely to keep up appearances. I didn't want people to doubt my Christianity. I didn't want people asking me why I wasn't there. I may as well have stayed home, for my reasons for going had nothing to do with God or worshipping Him. I went out of duty, to do what was expected of me, and to keep people happy with me. I would have been better off at home, and the chances of being closer to God, a real possibility.

We should want to be in church. It should be rare that we stay home because we are tired and don't feel like going. If we all stayed home every time we felt like it, the pastor would have empty pews to preach to, and if we never want to be there, we do need to take our spiritual temperature. But....... if we are in bondage so much to what people think of us, that we can't stay home to get a break and rest, then that is wrong also.

I can find nowhere in the Bible how often we should be in church. I get the idea they met weekly, but for how many services? How many times a week? On the Sabbath only, or on Wednesday, or Tuesday? Do we have to be there every time the doors are opened? Are we a bad Christian if we are not?

A while back, I stayed home on a Sunday night. I read some, listened to Christian music, and relaxed. My best friend was harassing me about it and I told him that I did got more out of worshipping God that night by staying home, than if I had gone to church. And I mean that. I was wore out emotionally, and did not feel like being around people. I needed to be by myself. And I enjoyed it.

Back to Sunday evening church. Necessary, or not? I don't think it is necessary, but why not have it? What else are we going to do on a Sunday night if we don't go to church? And why have a church building if you only meet on Sunday morning? I can see both sides of the coin. It can help us to be in another service on Sunday, and will not hurt us in most cases. And if everything is as it should be between us and God, we should want to be in church, but we can carry that too far. I have heard of families who attended every revival service in their area.... going to church every night for weeks at a time, and thought "their poor kids!" It is noble to want to be in as much church as we can get into, but family is important, rest is important, "down time" is important, time to relax and do something fun. We can have too much church. It has been said that too much of a good thing can be bad, and the same with church. If it is wearing us out, keeping us from family and responsibilities, we have too much church.

Granted, most of us don't have that problem. Most of us go just enough...... but enough for what, or who? And why do we go?

If my church had a vote on whether to keep Sunday night church or not, and I was allowed to vote (I'm not a member), I'd vote to keep it. Like I said, what else are we going to do on Sunday nights, and it is good to be in church. I'd change things though :-)

When I lived in the state of Indiana, I attended a church where Sunday nights were totally different. There were no extra services before the evening worship service, and I liked it that way. Church started at 6:00 pm, was out early, could fellowship and still get home and to bed at a decent hour. So if I was in charge at my church, I'd move all of those extra services to Wednesday night and start Sunday evening worship an hour earlier. But I'm not in charge. We have a church boss for that :-)

None of us are the same. We all have different temperaments, things make us tick differently. Some of us can go to 5 or 6 services a day and keep running on full. Others need to use Sunday for that often overlooked intended use: rest. And you know what? God knows the heart. People don't. So if your church has services on Sunday night, and you just need to stay home on a Sunday night - do it, but don't do it all the time.

At my job I just quit a couple of months ago, I had to work a couple of Sundays a month. I hated it. It rushed me on Sunday morning leaving church, I missed resting - no Sunday afternoon nap, and had me missing evening services. Granted, I could have gone and been late, but I hate being late, and would it have done me any good anyway? I doubt much. Instead, I came home and relaxed. Bad? I don't think so.

One of my heart's desires is to get to the point where what people think doesn't matter. My religion has been too performance-based, too set on what people might think of me if I did that, changed that, missed that church service..... but is that any way to serve God?

I shall continue to attend the services I attend, but will not be in bondage to attending them. I don't plan on attending any of the others that are there regularly, or monthly though. I shall use Sunday to rest. We all need that.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Slavery, abortion, and Manasseh

I like reading about and studying about the Civil War. I've read books about slavery, about the Underground Railroad and how good people helped runaway slaves escape to freedom. There is something that really bugs me about the whole slavery issue. It wasn't just non-Christians who owned slaves. Many Christians in those times, and in other periods of history, also owned slaves. I would hope that the slaves owned by Christians were treated better, but the fact still remains that they owned slaves. That doesn't seem right, and I am sure I am not the only one who wonders about that. How did they justify it?

It seems the popular idea at the time was that black people weren't really people. They were looked on as animals, basically, so it was OK to own them, to force them to do labor and not allow them to go free.

Today, slavery is illegal in the USA, but we have another issue: abortion. It is legal to kill an innocent baby in the womb, as long as its the mother who wants it. It isn't a person (sounds familiar), but a fetus, a blob of tissue, and it isn't murder, but a procedure. Amazing that the same fetus or blob becomes a person and is murder if someone injures or kills the mother and the baby dies as a result. Suddenly, it is a baby, a person. It simply depends on who is behind the death.

We have become just as complacent and accepting of abortion here in the USA as they were of slavery. Do we really thing about what it is? They go up inside of the mother and rip the baby into pieces. And then there is partial birth abortion. A baby is partially pulled out of the mother's womb, and killed. It can't be pulled the whole way outside - its a baby then, and would be murder, but as long as part of it remains in the mother, it can be killed..... and Barak Obama supports it, and all abortions.

Obama is so pro-abortion, that he voted against a measure that would require doctors to save a baby that survived an abortion. Obama voted that they would have to leave that innocent baby lie there to die..... and he is the only one that voted that way. Yeah, our current president is fine with that, and is the most pro-abortion president we have ever had....... and countless so-called Christians voted for him. I say so-called, because I cannot believe a true Christian can vote for a pro-abortion candidate. If a candidate supported killing a baby that was 6 months old or a year, would we vote for him? Would we assume a Christian could support that candidate? Of course not! That is murder....... but so is abortion! It is still a baby in the womb, and is a brutal murder of an innocent life, and in most cases because the mother was too stupid to use birth control and doesn't want to deal with the consequence of having sex without birth control. Well..... that consequence is a life. God said in the Bible that He saw us in the womb...... God is pro-life.

I have a friend on facebook who used to attend my church with her family. She claims to be a Christian, but is very pro-Obama. She was cheering his re-election and knocking us for worrying and feeling let down, and commented that she would probably see her friend count go down. I commented that I wasn't deleting her, but couldn't understand how she could vote for such a pro-abortion candidate. She didn't reply, but a man did who was raised the same as me. He said that the dumb Christians always make a big deal about abortion and vote for people who are against it. He said its legal, and a woman's right, so just deal with it.

So.... if something is legal, that makes it OK and we shouldn't fight it? There have been - and are - societies and countries that were OK with kids being uses for sexual purposes by adults - and if this country keeps going the way it is, that could happen here. There have been times in history where child and/or adult sacrifices were legal and practiced... and other abhorrent practices. So since they were legal, did that make them right? Absolutely not... there has always been people to fight against evil practices, and is there many more evil than killing innocent babies?! How and when did we become so complacent about it?

I have always enjoyed reading about the different kings of Israel in the Bible. Israel would have a good king who worshipped God and led the people to do right, and then they would have a bad king who worshipped idols and led the people in sinful practices. One of the worst was King Manasseh. He was son of the great and good king, Hezekiah, but Manasseh did not follow his father's ways. He worshipped idols and encouraged and practiced child sacrifice. Child sacrifice. That sounds horrible and we wonder how people could do such a thing, offer their own child up as a sacrifice to a false god........ yet people are doing it today in America, and it is legal and encouraged. We don't call it that. We call it abortion, or "choice". Yet it is child sacrifice, but instead of to a god, it is to sacrifice to convenience and pleasure. Sacrificed so the mother doesn't have to deal with the consequence of careless sex.

How did we get to the point as a nation that we are OK with that, and political candidates run on the platform of supporting the right for a woman to murder her unborn child, and even further the cause and make us pay for it? When will we say "enough!" When will we get off our butts and quit believing the lies that its not a baby, that it is a woman's right to choose to kill it, and ignore the fact that the baby has no choice? The woman's rights ended when she spread her legs and had sex..... its her body, but it isn't her body that is being ripped apart by a butcher..... its the body of a baby, another life...... if she wants a body ripped apart, then why doesn't she let hers be butchered?

We aren't doing enough. Yes, we should support and elect pro-life candidates, but is that enough? If there was a building in your town where they were taking young children to be killed because the parents didn't want them anymore, would you sit idly by and figure its the parents right? No. You'd advocate it being stopped by any means necessary.... so why don't we feel that way about the unborn being slaughtered by the millions?

We shudder when we hear of someone blowing up an abortion facility, yet we cheer when the police kill someone to rescue one person...... it may sound extreme and un-Christian of me, but is it really that wrong to blow up an abortion facility, to kill people who are killing innocent babies? I'd never do it and never want to be associated with people who do, but why do we differentiate so much between those two things? Why are we OK with any measures necessary to save one or two people outside of the womb, yet are so complacent about more babies being killed in the womb?

This isn't popular and would be seen as judging, but I cannot believe a true Christian can vote for pro-abortion candidates. I had a lot of reasons to vote against Barak Obama, but abortion was a biggie. I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who supports it and puts forth legislation to help it and to force us to pay for it. How can you call yourself a Christian if you vote for that? I don't care if it is legal.... it is murder and wrong!!

We have started down the slippery path with abortion. Once you cease to view all life as sacred and from God, there is no stopping. In this most recent election, a third state legalized euthanasia, physician assisted suicide. I am against that. For more than one reason. God decides when it is our time to go, we don't. And if we continue down this slippery slope, the day will come when euthanasia is not voluntary. We will euthanize the elderly and "useless" people in society. Impossible in America? No. There was a day when people thought killing babies in the womb was impossible and would never be legal here...... but it is. Legal, encouraged, and supported.

In China, women can be forced to have an abortion with the one child policy there, and women HAVE been forced to have an abortion. That could happen here. In fact, there is a court case going on right now, I forget what state, where a woman may be forced to have an abortion. A mentally challenged woman got pregnant somehow - possibly rape, they don't know. She has the mind of a child. Her parents are taking all the precautions and with her OK, are planning on the baby being adopted once it is born. However, social services has stepped in and taken the case to court. They want an abortion done, against the woman's wishes, against her parents' wishes. That is where we are headed in this country. I have no idea how the case will turn out, but what a shame that such a case is going on, someone trying to get an abortion forced on a woman. If we continue to elect politicians like Barak Obama, who do not hold life sacred, and Hillary Clinton, who is for euthanasia...... we will eventually get to the point of forced abortions and forced euthanasia. A country cannot continue to trifle with life and not hold it sacred, and not go further down the path like other countries and societies have done.

It took a war to free the slaves, and we are proud of what our men and president did at that time. It divided a country, but it freed men, women, and children who had no rights before the war. Maybe its time we got serious about the blight on our country - abortion, something far worse than slavery. Yes, it is legal, but so was slavery. And like slavery, it is morally wrong and no Christian should accept it and look the other way, and no Christian can or should vote for a candidate who is for it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Christmas CDs, an exhaustive list

I decided to count my Christmas CDs the other night to see exactly how many I have. I have 98 actual Christmas CDs in actual CD form, and 30 digital that are just on my Ipod and computer, so all in all, I have 128 Christmas CDs:

33 Miles: Believe
4Him: The Season of Love
Alabama: Christmas
Ball Brothers: Christmas
Big Daddy Weave: Christ Is Come
Ray Boltz: A Christmas Album
Booth Brothers: Christmas
Ronnie & Kim Booth: Christmas With Ronnie & Kim Booth
Bowen Family: Christmas With the Bowen Family
Brian Free and Assurance: Christmas With Brian Free and Assurance
Jim Brickman: The Gift
Jim Brickman: Homecoming
Jim Brickman: Peace
Jim Brickman: Christmas Romance
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: A Brooklyn Tabernacle Christmas
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: Light of The World (digital)
Michael Buble’: Christmas (digital)
Garth Brooks: Beyond the Season
Garth Brooks: The Magic of Christmas
Jeremy Camp: Christmas, God Is With Us
Carpenters: Christmas Portrait
Casting Crowns: Peace On Earth
Caleb Collins: Christmas (digital)
Steve & Annie Chapman: Coming Home for Christmas (digital)
Steven Curtis Chapman: The Music of Christmas
Steven Curtis Chapman: Christmas Is All In the Heart
Steven Curtis Chapman: All I Really Want for Christmas
Steven Curtis Chapman: Joy
Kenny Chesney: All I Want for Christmas Is a Real Good Tan
Collingsworth Family: Feels Like Christmas
Jeff Collins: Christmas Sessions
Travis Cottrell: Ring the Bells
Covingtons: Country Christmas
Crabb Family: The Locket (digital)
Jason Crabb: Because It’s Christmas
Crist Family: A Timeless Collection
Diamond Rio: The Star Still Shines (digital)
Downhere: How Many Kings
Jeff & Sheri Easter: It Feels Like Christmas Again
Forrester Sisters: A Christmas Card
Kenny G: Miracles
Kenny G: Faith
Kenny G: Wishes
Bill & Gloria Gaither Homecoming: He Started the Whole World Singing
Gaither Vocal Band: Still the Greatest Story Ever Told
Gaither Vocal Band: Christmas Gaither Vocal Band Style
Vince Gill: Let There Be Peace On Earth
Gold City: Voices of Christmas
Amy Grant: A Christmas Album
Amy Grant: A Christmas to Remember
Amy Grant: Home for Christmas
Amy Grant: The Christmas Collection
Amy Grant: My Best Christmas
Jason Gray: Christmas Stories (digital)
Greater Vision: Everything Christmas
Steve Green: The First Noel (digital)
Steve Green: Joy to the World (digital)
Greenes: A Family Christmas
Josh Groban: Noel (digital)
Mark Harris: Christmas Is (digital)
Hoppers: Glad Tidings
Hoppers: A Christmas Story Live (digital)
Imperials: Christmas With the Imperials (digital)
Instrumental Praise: O Holy Night
Integrity Quartet: Christmastime
Isaacs: Christmas (digital)
Allan Jackson: Let It Be Christmas
Jack Jezzro: An Acoustic Christmas
David Klinkenberg: The Carol of Emmanuel
Kutless: This Is Christmas
Lady Antebellum: A Merry Little Christmas (digital)
Legacy Five: A Little Christmas
Lonestar: Reason For the Season
Lonestar: MY Christmas List
Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas Celebration (digital)
Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas Extraordinaire (digital)
Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas In the Aire
Manuel Family Band
Martina McBride: White Christmas
Ronnie Milsap: Christmas With Ronnie Milsap
Gordon Mote: The Star Still Shines
Anne Murray: What a Wonderful Christmas
New Song: The Christmas Shoes
New Song: The Christmas Hope (digital)
Oak Ridge Boys: Best of the Oak Ridge Boys 20th Century Masters Christmas Collection
Fernando Ortega: Christmas Songs
Paul Overstreet: Christmas, My Favorite Time of the Year
Brad Paisley: Brad Paisley Christmas
Ivan Parker: Merry Christmas From Ivan (digital)
Sandi Patti: The Gift Goes On
Karen Peck & New River: Georgia Mountain Christmas
Perry Sisters: Still of the Night (digital)
David Phelps: Joy, Joy
David Phelps: A David Phelps Christmas, One Wintry Night
David Phelps: O Holy Night
Plus One: Christmas
Point of Grace: Home for the Holidays
Point of Grace: A Christmas Story (digital)
Boots Randolph: Christmas With Boots Randolph
Boots Randolph: A Christmas Holiday
Colin Raye: Christmas
Rescue: The First Christmas
Kenny Rogers: The Gift
Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton: Once Upon a Christmas
Selah: Rose of Bethlehem (digital)
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: A White Christmas Edition
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: Christmas With Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: Every Light That Shines At Christmas
Sisters: Christmas
Sonicflood: When Love First Cried (digital)
Spiritbound: Christmas Collection
Straight No Chaser: Holiday Spirits
Straight No Chaser: Christmas Cheers
Sugarland: Gold and Green (digital)
Talleys: A Family Christmas
Talley Trio: It’s Christmas
Third Day: Christmas Offerings (digital)
Chris Tomlin: Glory In the Highest
Randy Travis: An Old Time Christmas
Triumphant Quartet: We Need a Little Christmas (digital)
Various: Christmas In the Country
Various: City On a Hill
Jaci Velasquez: Christmas
Matthew West: The Heart of Christmas
The Whisnants: Jesus Is Born Today
Stan Whitmire: A Piano Christmas (digital)
Gerald Wolfe: My Kind of Christmas
Christine Wyrtzen: Christine’s Christmas (digital)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Celebrate death!

   Four more days to Halloween. Wow. Can't wait! Truthfully, I can. Halloween is almost like any other day to me. I say "almost" because you have to watch for idiots throwing pumpkins or pulling some other juvenile and dangerous stunt. I don't do Halloween. I leave my porch light off, and don't decorate for it.

   When I was a kid, my parents let us kids dress up and go door to door in our small neighborhood, and then they'd take us by car to some of our relatives, and that was fun. Times have changed though and it isn't safe to let your kids go door to door. Besides, I think Halloween teaches kids wrong. It teaches them to be little beggars and that you can get something for nothing. (Sounds like Obama's followers..... Halloween must have been a Democrat idea!)

    I am not going to go out and try to do away with Halloween. What people want to do with it is their business, but I don't get the appeal. There is so much about Halloween that is associated with death, the devil, witches, ghosts.... none of the things Christians should have anything to do with anyway, but when did we start glorifying death and these creatures that are associated with evil. Take the house pictured below:

    What is so great about having fake tombstones in your yard?! There isn't a person on this earth that hasn't been touched by death. Death isn't funny or fun. It hurts those left behind, so why would anyone want symbols of death in their yards? When I see a house heavily decorated with that kind of stuff like the one above, I just shake my head. I've seen coffins, fake bodies... you name it. I'm serious - why celebrate death? Why put out symbols of death and evil? And you know what I've noticed..... in a lot of cases, the people who decorate heavily for Halloween don't do much, if anything, for Christmas. And no, I'm not saying you have to decorate for Christmas, but still.... its kind of weird to make so much over Halloween, a holiday associated with death and evil, and not do much for Christmas, a holiday all about life and God sending His Son into the world...... we Christians have the best holidays.
    I'm not going to knock people who decorate some for Halloween and send their kids out trick or treating, but I do have serious reservations about getting too much into the holiday. Death and evil aren't funny, nor are they anything to be trifled with. I believe if we could get a glimpse into the demonic world and the occult world..... if we could see what witches, goblins, ghosts, and devils really are and what they are all about - I believe we'd burn our Halloween decorations that portray them.
   Don't celebrate death this October 31. Celebrate life!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The best thing I ever did

     The Big Brothers/Big Sisters program is a wonderful program/organization. Some years back.....13 I think, I found out about it and decided it would be a cool and decent thing to do. I went and got interviewed, had to give references, and be submitted to a background check. Then the scary part: I met the mother. She was super nice and a Christian, which was a relief. I hadn't been sure what I was getting into.

   If you're not familiar with the program, it is for kids who don't have a positive role model in their lives. In this case, the boy, Jason, had no father. He had a "sperm donor" who walked out of the marriage when Jason's mom got pregnant and refused to get an abortion. Jason had no contact with his father or his father's family. He had been close to his grandfather on his mom's side until the grandfather's death a year or so before. The kid had no adult male in his life, other than his boy scout coach. So I signed on.

   I'll never forget the first time I met Jason. He was a quiet and shy 12 year old. Or so I thought. As I told him and his mom later, he was so quiet at the beginning, but then once he started talking to me, he never shut up.

   In the next 4 years, I grew to love the kid as if he were my brother. I took him shopping, to eat out, to see plays, play mini golf, and many other activities. I went to some of his basketball games, school concerts, boy scout events. The program is to help kids, but it helped me also. I believe one of the best things we can do is when we do something for others without expecting something in return. And I believe being a "big brother" was one of the most unselfish things I did, and was definitely the best long term thing I ever did.

    I was Jason's big brother for 4 years, and I took it hard when it ended. It was worth it, but it is also painful to have any relationship end. Jason's mom just recently told me that he has turned out to be a great man - he is 25 now. He doesn't smoke, drink, or do drugs, and she said I had a lot to do with the kind of man he turned out to be. I can't put into words how that made me feel, and it made me all the more glad I that I went through with being a "big brother."

   I'm only one person, but can you imagine what this world would be like if we all did something along these lines? If we got more involved in others lives. If we did something just for the reward of helping someone without entering into it wondering what we were going to get out of it.

   I did that for 4 years, but I'm not holding myself up as a paragon of virtue along these lines. It has been a while since I actively helped someone else just for the sake of doing something good. Partly because opportunities haven't crossed my path, but neither did I go looking for opportunity. There is an old song that comes to mind:

If I can help somebody, as I pass along- If I can cheer somebody-
with a word, or a song-If I can show somebody, that is travelin' wrong-
Then my living shall not be in vain.
Then my living shall not be in vain!
If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain!
If I can do my duty, as a good man ought-If I can bring back beauty, to a world
that is so lost-If I can spread love's message as the Master taught,
then my living shall not be in vain.
Then my living shall not be in vain-then my living shall not be in vain.
Then my living shall not be in vain!
If I can help somebody as I pass along- then my living shall not be in vain!
Then my living shall not be in vain!
Then my living shall not be in vain!

      Too many of us, even Christians...... especially Christians, are too involved with life. We're too busy, and often that busy is good and necessary, but we lose sight of what is important: people. That is what God is all about, what the Gospel is all about, and what the church and Christians should be about. But sadly, all too often we aren't all about people, being Jesus to people, helping those who need it.

   My self confidence levels are usually pretty low, and I find myself wondering what on earth I could do to help anyone, but then I think back to that four year period that I was a "big brother" to a great kid who needed an adult male in his life, and I realize that I can do something. I'm sure I wasn't the perfect guy for that, and many others could have done better. Guys that loved sports instead of me, who barely tolerate them...... but I was able to give love, time, and support. And yes, it cost me a little. I spent time and some money, but having his mom say that I made a difference - that makes it more than worth it.

    We can't take much to Heaven with us. In fact, there is only one thing we CAN take with us: People. So why do we waste so much time on stuff that is going to stay here and either rot away or be passed on to someone else, or be put in a garage sale? Why not spend more time on people.... and not just telling them about Jesus - that is a given, but giving them love and time. We can spend hours telling people about Jesus and even inviting them to church, but if we don't love people and just be willing to spend time with them, being their friend, paying attention to them - then why would they want our Jesus?

   Our neighborhoods and even our churches are filled with hurting and lonely people. Isn't it time we started caring?

If We Are the Body by Casting Crowns

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girls teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is away?
There is a way

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
Jesus is the way