Archive for December, 2008

Chasing 2008

Posted in Observations with tags , , , , , , on 2008/12/31 by NY4JB

As 2008 comes to an end can we say we’ve done anything worthwhile in the past year?  Or ever?

Ecclesiastes 4:16 (NLT)
Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.

It’s always bothered me that most people don’t know the difference between passable and great.  There’s a strange sociology behind paying stars (actors, musicians, athletes, entertainers in general, politicians) insane amounts of money when people don’t know if the star is really better than the guy on the street corner.  In college I worked at a major department store and often observed this ‘mob’ mentality where one department or area would be crowded with customers bumping into each other, waiting in line and sometimes fighting over merchandise while the area next to it would be empty.  Then the crowd would move on to the next area together.  There would occasionally be the loaner who would do the opposite of the mob and consequently not have to wait in any lines.  It’s as if the average person, being clueless, just assumes the crowd is there for a good reason (a good deal, a great performer, etc.) and they don’t want to be left out.  In the entertainment industry the job of the marketing and promotion team is to get people to think that everybody loves whatever they are promoting, once they do that the sheep will just get in line.

The Washington Post apparently did a social experiment on perception, taste and priorities.  Three days after violinist Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston, where the average seat was $100, the Post sent him to a metro station in Washington DC.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3,500,000.  He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes, during that time only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing no one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

In other words, of the thousands of people going through the station, nobody could tell the difference between one of the greatest violinists of our time and any regular street musician.  But put him in a tuxedo and let the promoters do there thing and people will pay large sums of money to be there.  By the way, I’ve never heard Joshua Bell play so I don’t know if he really is a great musician but since he was in the paper I’m assuming he is – so I’m guilty too.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NLT)
That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

Heavenly Father,
The only lasting glory is yours, yet in this world the meaningless is glorified.  We are a sinful people who waste our time chasing the wind, won’t you guide our hearts to do what is pleasing in your sight.  This I pray in Jesus name.
Amen

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What Happened to Joseph?

Posted in faith with tags , , , , , on 2008/12/30 by NY4JB

One of the mysteries I’ve often heard is what ever happened to Jesus’ earthly father Joseph. I have heard conjecture that he must have died before Jesus began preaching but I don’t think so. We know from Scripture that Joseph is still alive when Jesus is twelve.

Luke 2:42-43 (King James Version)
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

Then we hear about him again when Jesus returns to preach in Galilee.

John 6:42 (King James Version)
And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

Why would they say they know his father if his father was dead? If his father had recently died wouldn’t they mention it or if he was long dead they would likely only mention that they know his mother, but they say “whose father…we know”. To me this says that Joseph was still alive and known in the area.

So what happened to him, why is he not mentioned? I believe he was probably at home tending to the shop. We know he was a carpenter and he wasn’t rich so it isn’t likely that he could just stop working and follow his strange son around, he had to make a living. In the parable of the prodigal son the father does not chase after the son and I imagine that Joseph probably thought of Jesus as a runaway. We know that from time to time Jesus’ mother Mary goes to see Jesus and that she is present when Jesus dies and that Jesus tells John to take care of her.

John 19:26-27 (King James Version)
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

If this was the only point of reference it would be easy to conclude that Joseph had already died and Mary was now homeless but I don’t think that is correct. I think John took Mary back to his home to comfort her in the hours and days immediately following Jesus’ death until his return. We know that Jesus had younger brothers who could have taken care of their mother so it doesn’t make to think that she now had no family left and Jesus was concerned about her becoming homeless.

Of course this is mostly conjecture and Joseph’s role was already complete at this point or there would be more about Joseph in the Scriptures.

Heavenly Father,
We give thanks that the Bible is your word and contains all we need to know. Our curiosity makes us guilty of straying from the truth that you have set plainly before us. You sent your son to Earth to be the perfect sacrifice and we crucified him with our sin, but you raised him in your glory and he reigns over all creation, for Jesus’ sake we pray.
Amen

Fog on I-71

Posted in faith with tags , , , , , on 2008/12/29 by NY4JB

We had to drive through some pretty thick fog during our travels this past weekend.  For about twenty miles we had very poor visibility with the exception of some momentary totally clear spots followed by what looked like a white wall as we went back into the thick fog.  The tail lights of those who (to be kind) apparently have better fog-vision than I do, would vanish just after they passed us.  I wonder if this is what it is like in our Christian walk.  Walking through thick fog unable to see, with moments of clarity that are gone as quickly as they came – like the ‘ahh moments’ I talked about previously (https://ke4juh.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/ahh/)

2 Corinthians 4:3 (ESV)
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.

Colossians 1:26 (ESV)
the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.

Was I, while driving in the fog, like one with little faith and unable to see?  And, were those who passed me like those with great faith?  Why didn’t they slow down and help me see?  Are we in such a rush to get somewhere that we pass by those who can not see? 

Romans 14:1 (NLT)
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.

Mark 9:35 (NLT)
He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Or is it just fog on I-71?

Heavenly Father,
You are the creator of Heaven and Earth; no one knows creation the way you do.  Would you guide us through the fog and keep us on the path to you and please forgive us when we rush by others on the way.  Remind us to slow down and serve them as Jesus commanded.  This we pray in Jesus name.
Amen

A Time For Everything

Posted in faith with tags , on 2008/12/28 by NY4JB

Ecclesiastes 3:1-6 (NLT)
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.  A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance.  A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.  A time to embrace and a time to turn away.  A time to search and a time to quit searching…

Have you ever celebrated Christmas away from home?  How about exchanging gifts with relatives at a hospital?  There’s a first time for everything and we are back at the hospital visiting my wife’s sister.  Her kids are holding up pretty good; her husband is putting up a good front most of the time but he had to stop short when he started to talk about his wife’s condition; my wife alternates between looking OK and losing it and her mom is barely holding together.  Here’s the thing, even the ICU waiting room couldn’t keep Christmas out, and people were in better spirits than usual.  The odds may be stacked against my sister-in-law but God is still in control, so even though we don’t always understand why things happen the way they do, we know there is a good reason.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

Job 9:4 (NLT) For God is so wise and so mighty.  Who has ever challenged him successfully?

And it is not our place to ask why, we are simply to have faith and praise God.  Her life has always been in God’s hands as it is with each one of us.  So, why do we only turn to Him when there is trouble in our lives?  And when things get really tough we question things as our faith is shaken. 

Heavenly Father,
You have all the power and are deserving of our praise, yet our faith is weak.  We ask that you strengthen our faith as your will is done in our lives.  And though we are undeserving sinners we ask that you have mercy on our sister.  We give thanks for the salvation we have through your son Jesus and it is in his great name that we pray.
Amen

No Coke, No Pepsi

Posted in Prayer with tags , , , on 2008/12/27 by NY4JB

I wasn’t planning to, but, I stopped drinking Coca Cola on the 16th when I ran out.  We were fasting the next day, nothing hard, just no solid food from the time we got up until the sun went down, so I didn’t buy any that day.  I did have some hot chocolate and tea so I didn’t go totally caffeine free but I still had to take some aspirin.  On the way home I decided not to buy any Coca Cola, since I had made it past the hardest day, I thought.  The headache on day two was much worse but with prayer and aspirin and a nap when I got home…

It has been nice not to have to be thinking about if I have enough Coca Cola in the fridge and traveling this weekend I didn’t have to pack a cooler.  Today, I had a Coke and when I finished it, I didn’t immediately want another, much better.  This was obviously an addiction that God has now freed me from.  I wonder what other addictions I have that I could be rid of if only I would ask for God’s help.  How about you?

Heavenly Father,
You are wise beyond human understanding and you show great mercy to people who are unfaithful and undeserving of your loving kindness.  We give thanks and ask that you continue to help us to recognize our failings and guide us to become more like your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  It is in His name that we pray.
Amen

Spicy Corn

Posted in Recipes with tags , , on 2008/12/24 by NY4JB

Ingredients:
Corn, kernels frozen is easiest but can be fresh or canned (drain liquid)
Butter, no margarine is not OK use real butter
Crushed Red Pepper
Crushed Black Pepper
Sea Salt

Melt generous amounts of butter in a hot cast iron skillet add some corn, and seasoning and cook stirring often until it starts to burn and pop.  Empty skillet into crock pot and repeat…

What I Want for Christmas

Posted in faith with tags , , , , , on 2008/12/23 by NY4JB

When I was a child, getting Christmas gifts was very important.  We would make lists of what we wanted, or drop hints trying not to seem greedy but the reality is that gifts were an entitlement.  My family was not rich by US standards at that time (and not even close by today’s standards), but we did expect there to be gifts under the tree and there always were.  Of course, we got some of the utilitarian gifts like clothes but what we wanted was toys.  A rite of passage was the bicycle, even though it didn’t fit under the tree, it would be sitting in front with a bow on it (kids don’t seem to care about bicycles anymore, back then every kid had to have their own).  Once we hit a certain age we were expected to give as well as get.  Some kids made gifts but I can’t remember doing that.  We were given five dollars early, from my aunt in Missouri who sent us money every year, so we would have money to buy five gifts.  I vaguely remember my mom taking me to the turnpike, about a half mile from our house, where Mays and the 5 & Dime store were.  She would ‘suggest’ gifts for everyone in the family and then pretend to look the other way when I bought her a ten-roll pack of peppermint Lifesavers.  I didn’t understand why we spent a bunch of money and wrapped things other than, “it’s Christmas and that’s what you do.”

When I was in my early twenties I really enjoyed spending way too much on my credit cards giving gifts I couldn’t afford but as soon as I moved out on my own that stopped and that was pretty much the end of the Christmas gift exchange until I got married. There were kids involved again, but my wife’s family goes overboard with gifts for adults too. They ask me what I want and my honest answer is ‘nothing.’ I don’t need anything and if I want something I can just buy it (and if I can’t just buy it, then it’s too expensive for somebody to buy it for me). So what happens? For a few years I would intentionally not buy stuff I wanted so I would have something to put on a list but lately there really isn’t anything I want or need. It just feels silly to spend money on stuff just because that’s what you do at Christmas. Now, before you call me scrooge I do believe in giving gifts but first let’s talk about why people started giving Christmas gifts in the first place.

Two thousand years ago a child was born and Christmas is the celebration of the birthday. We don’t know the exact date so a long time ago church leaders picked December 25th which is as good as any other day and they had reasons we won’t explore. So why would we celebrate somebody’s birthday when we don’t even know the right date and they lived so long ago? Because its God’s birthday, the day that God became a child on earth to give himself as a gift for all of us. This was the first and greatest Christmas gift, and 33 years later he completed the gift when he lay down his life so that we may live.

John 15:13 (ESV)
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

You say, you knew all this but why do we give Christmas gifts? And, why do we go crazy spending too much money and fighting traffic? Many of us do it for the wrong reason, because that’s what you do for Christmas. Right? So what’s the right reason? Love, to show others that you love them…

John 3:16 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Matthew 22:39 (ESV)
…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

So what do I want for Christmas? Nothing, but if you have to do something do it for somebody that really needs it. Give to a non-believer and explain why; or give to the Salvation Army; or send some chicks or a goat to the truly poor http://www.foodforthepoor.org/giftcatalog

Romans 12:13 (NIV)
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Share God’s love by telling others what God has done for you.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you, for showing your great mercy and loving kindness by sending your son into this world.  For giving him as our Saviour and the bridge that allows us, a sinful people, access to you.  We ask that you bless all those who do not know the true story of Christmas and open their hearts to receive salvation through your son, our Saviour, Jesus this Christmas.  That you would guide us not to focus on the worldly gifts but on You and the gift that you have given us, in the great name of Jesus we pray.
Amen