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Showing posts from December, 2010

Am I Jealous or Are You Bragging?

This holiday season brings lots of Christmas cards, photos and family updates in our mailboxes. What I would like to zero in on in this little discussion; at least I hope it will be a discussion, with you providing some back and forth; are the family updates. There are times when I have read them and cannot help but think the writer is bragging. I am not sure if this is true in any or all of the cases that I have felt this or that this is something in me; a reaction to them as I compare myself, perhaps, and a feeling that I somehow fall short. So, how does one sort out such complexities? When is the author bragging? What are the clues? And when is the reader being oversensitive and, may I say, a tad jealous? How do you discern between the two?

I put myself in a precarious situation with this blog post since at least one of my readers is one who has sent a Christmas letter updating us on the family (Note to that person: I don't think I ever thought of you as bragging in su…

An Ancient Prophecy to be Fulfilled in our Day?

Could an ancient prophecy from a biblical prophet come true today? Joel Rosenberg's "The Ezekiel Option" shows how the prophecy in the Bible book of Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39 could come true in our lifetime. For those who are prophecy buffs, he provides some tantalizing (even secular) research on the identity of Ezekiel's Gog, Magog, etc. Joel Rosenberg's books get increasingly Christian as you move through "The Last Jihad," "The Last Days," and now "The Ezekiel Option." "The Ezekiel Option" is the most overtly Christian of the series that I have read thus far. Whether you are Christian or you are just interested in prophecies from thousands of years ago, this book is for you.

The Birth of Christ Announced to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)

An angel named Gabriel was sent by God on a special mission. The place: a city called Nazareth. His mission: to tell a young betrothed virgin woman that she was going to have a baby. This wasn’t the usual job for an angel but this was certainly no ordinary birth. Was it mission accomplished? You decide. Here is what happened:

Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, ““Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

Mary responded with characteristic fear. It’s not easy to have a heavenly messenger suddenly appear.

Gabriel sought to assure her of the nature of his quest: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Confus…

The Birth of Christ Announced to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)

After Joseph found out about Mary’s pregnancy, his head began to swim, we must imagine. He who was one of the righteous among his people, had kept his vows to abstain until marriage. But his betrothed wife, Mary, apparently had not. Questions of why and whom filled his grief-striken mind. Yet Joseph loved Mary and couldn’t embarrass her in public. To make a spectacle of her would seem to be an act of revenge and that he could not do. So, he had in mind to divorce her privately. That’s what they considered it back then. Their marital agreement wasn’t just an engagement. It was virtually marriage with the ceremony and what follows left to await the right time, when all was prepared.

Joseph was to prepare a place for Mary, in his father’s house. There, they would live and have a family. When he was done, at the agreed to time, he would lead a procession to receive his wife unto himself. They would enter the marriage ceremony and he would take her into their marital chamber …

Mary’s Reaction to the Miraculous Conception (Luke 1:46-55)

Dr. Luke, an associate and traveling companion of Paul the Apostle, recorded Mary’s reaction to this angelic visit and the wondrous truth of the Savior’s birth and her role in bringing him into the world.
Here is what she said:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7)

One could assume that Mary and Joseph intended to have their baby in Nazareth, the place where they lived. Preparations most certainly were made to that end. However, man makes plans and God laughs. The plans of God are from everlasting to everlasting and beyond all comprehension. An ancient prophecy revealed that Nazareth was far from the place of the promised Redeemer-King’s birth. The prophet Micah, under inspiration of God, boldly proclaimed hundreds of years before:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times (Micah 5:2 NIV).”

So, how did God move Mary and Joseph from Galilee to the city of David, their ancient King, the one to whom God had promised a line that would last forever? He did it through a decree.

Augustus was emperor of Rome at the time and what they called Palestine was under his dominion. One day he decided it w…

The Birth of Christ Announced to the Shepherds (Luke 2:8-14)

Shepherds often lived out in the fields with their sheep. Lots of hours, separated from the rest of the Jewish community. They were considered filthier than the average person. Obviously, their surroundings didn’t lend to as much ability to stay clean as in the cities. In addition, they were known to occupy their time by telling tales. The long hours, days and perhaps weeks, allowed the telling and re-telling of stories until they became all the more sophisticated and exaggerated. So legendary were their stories that a shepherd’s testimony wasn’t allowed in court. The Jewish community apparently felt that shepherds were somehow incapable of telling the truth.

To these members of Jewish society, so looked down upon, God had a special plan. A messenger came and delivered an incredible tale of his own. Let’s review the story of what happened:

It was dark, night had fallen. The shepherds were probably taking turns sleeping while some stood watch over the sheep. At any time, a…

The Shepherds Visit Jesus (Luke 2:15-20)

As incredible as the story was, the shepherds didn’t hesitate to act. They looked at each other and each thought the same thing:

“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that the Lord has made known to us.”

And so they rushed off, the sheep temporarily forgotten, and they found it to be true. There was a stable with a couple in it. And there, in the midst was a manger with a sweet little bundle inside.

After they left, the shepherds spread the story far and wide, glorifying and praising God. And all who heard it were amazed at what they heard from the shepherds. But Mary, she remembered these things, treasuring them within her heart.

A Mature Love Shown by Teenagers

This Christmas may seem a little, perhaps a lot, disappointing to average Americans. It is a year of hardship shared by many. The road ahead looks difficult just like the road left behind us. However, as is often the case when we get a glimpse of life from another perspective, we realize how good we truly have it, economic troubles and sacrifices notwithstanding.

This is the story of a 16 yr. old girl and a 15 yr. old boy. Ordinary they would be if these were ordinary times. Sabrina Parker loves roller coasters, skating, volleyball and softball. She has hazel eyes and brown hair. Sabrina is, in effect, the girl next door, perhaps even the young lady in your home.

Matt Scozzari is a typical teen boy. Yet circumstances have given him a choice to run from hardship and pain or to rise above his contemporaries. Fortunately for Sabrina, Matt chose the latter. This is their story and its timing is no coincidence.

Before going any further, Matt and Sabrina are not perfect teen…

A Watered-Down Faith

I like cola. What I don’t like is when it is watered down. Go through the fast food drive-in and you can be blessed with a cup of ice flavored by a hint of soda. Unfortunately, the Church is suffering from the same malady when it comes to truth. A watered down faith is lukewarm and not worth the blood of Jesus poured out on Calvary’s cross.

This watered down Christianity has been illustrated in survey form from a couple of recent polls. One disturbing sampling has been collected about Christians and their views of who is going to heaven. In David Campbell’s, American Grace, How Religion Divides and Unites Us, he states that surveys taken of 3,000 Americans show that America’s people are very religious and “tolerant.” For instance, 83% of those who consider themselves evangelical Protestants agreed with the statement that good people of other religions can go to heaven. This increases to 90% when limited to black Protestants. When pushed further on the question, 54% agreed t…

A Biblical, Thoughtful, Encouraging Book on Suffering

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Throughout the ages, lots of effort has been expended on balancing the seemingly incomprehensible co-existence of God and suffering. If God is good, then why does he allow suffering? If God exists, shouldn't he be expected to stop evil at any cost? Why must good people suffer and how come so many evil people get away with so much for so long? These questions and so many more are answered in this incredible volume.

Someday, I would like to write a book or commentary and Randy Alcorn raises the standard quite high! I am impressed with the amount of research, his leaning on theologians as well as those traveling the path of suffering and his faithfulness to the written Word of God. His illustrations of suffering include recent examples.

This would make a great textbook for an apologetics class. Yet, it has the readability of the sweet assurance of a friend. Alcorn's work is an act of deep counseling and perspective whether one is going through suffering presently or life makes it…

A Review of The Last Days by Joel Rosenberg

And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days (Gen. 49:1 NKJV)

Joel Rosenberg’s book, The Last Days, takes the reader on a fast-paced journey through war and peace. The setting is the defeat of Iraq at the hands of the United States after terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. “Black gold” and natural gas have been found in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of the Holy Land. Would both Israelis and Palestinians be willing and able to choose peace and wealth over war and conflicting land claims? What would win the hearts of minds of the people of the land: profits or the prophets?

Take the time to read this excellent thriller. Whether you enjoy developing love stories, drama, political fiction or even a tale of someone coming to Christ, this book has something for everyone. For a greater context, pick up The Last Jihad first and then continue with this novel.

The New King …

A Christian Tom Clancy - A Review of Joel Rosenberg's "The Last Jihad"

The Last Jihad is an action-packed thriller full of twists and turns. Joel Rosenberg went through quite a bit of research in order to make this book realistic and to give it a historic background. The plot involves a deadly assassination attempt on the president of the United States. Other attacks are in the planning and/or execution stages. As the U.S. government grapples with the attacks, their ferocity and audacity, behind the scenes are players who are feverishly seeking who is to blame. Rosenberg’s The Last Jihad addresses the fear of a terrorist nuclear attack. Will that one be successful and who is behind them all? To find out, read this excellent book.

A Few Thoughts on Life, Death and Elizabeth Edwards

I’m sure that politically speaking, Elizabeth Edwards was far from my ideals. Yet, that presidential campaign when John Kerry chose John Edwards as his running mate and how she was portrayed just sucked me in. I came to like the public persona of Elizabeth Edwards. When I heard about her cancer, I felt for her and prayed for her. Honestly, I didn’t think it was wise for John Edwards and for her to continue his presidential campaign when she announced the cancer returned and had gone so far. Even so, she soldiered on. Added to that was the awful revelation of her husband’s adultery and the child that was born of that illicit union. To me, you could not but feel for her.

Now she is gone and before she left this Earth, she authored a “dying letter” to her young children, ages 10 and 12 now. From what I recall, she began that “letter,” which sounds more like a book to me, in 2007. It advises her young children in how to cook certain things, pick a church and pick a mate among a…

"A Date That Will Live in Infamy"

Adventure's in Odyssey Episode from "At Home and Abroad"

One Last Christmas by Matthew West

Go to Matthew West's site and read about little Dax Locke who was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia at 13 months. The doctors didn't think he would make it to Christmas, so his dad put up the decorations early. Soon the whole community joined in. Thanks to them, Dax got one last Christmas. The family, along with Matthew West,... is raising money for St. Jude's Hospital in little Dax's memory.

It's December: Do You Know What That Means?

It happens every December and is totally unlike most every other time of the year.  Something in the air makes this time different. Hindus don't experience it.  Buddhists get overlooked.  Even Muslims are given a pass.  Do you know what IT is?  It is the bi-annual tradition of major news publications dissing Jesus and Christians.

Did you ever notice this?  Every year, as Easter or Christmas nears, Newsweek and/or Time and perhaps some others can't resist rolling out the stories.  Articles that deny elements of the holy-day story as presented in the Bible.  Jesus wasn't really the Son of God or never claimed to be.  The incarnation didn't happen.  Joseph was really the Father of Jesus and they made up the whole tale in order to stay out of trouble.  The resurrection was something concocted by His disciples or a legend developed over time.

Other religions do not face such ridicule.  Ramadan comes and goes without a negative note.  So, why is it that Christianity is open …

"If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil"

I am currently reading the Randy Alcorn book by the above title and I am loving it.  I brought it to the doctor's office since I have an internal leg injury needing attention and know that you can wait a bit, thus the reading material.  To diverge a bit, after an x-ray to make sure that I don't have a hairline fracture, some ibuprofen, rest and ice, I should be good to go in 10 days.

The doctor asked me if the writer was for the idea of God or against in relationship to evil and suffering. To which I replied, "For."  He asked what I thought and I said that I was just beginning but I am already in love with it.  I have already quoted from it on my Facebook.  I'm hoping to follow up with my doctor on the book.