Christmas Memories

xmastree

Christmas just isn’t what it used to be.

Sears is closing stores all across the country (my hometown included).  The store holds a lot of memories for me.

When I was a child, they still had the candy counters.  I remember the trays of red pistachios in the display cases (they were dyed red to hide the blemishes).

More than anything else, I miss the catalogs.  Nothing said Christmas more than the Christmas catalogs.  There was something about the creamy feel of the paper between your fingertips.

Clicking pages on a website just isn’t the same.

The Christmas catalogs were an absolute wonderland.  You could find anything and everything in there, from He-Man and G.I. Joe (I’m dating myself, I know) to Barbie’s Dream House.  They had everything from hats and shoes to bedding and dishes.

It was truly a magical time.

 

A Sad Commentary On Our Society

Ringly

This company produces a line of jewelry that notifies you whenever you receive an “important” phone call, text message, Facebook post, Tweet, etc.

This a sad commentary on our society.  However did we manage back in the 1970’s and 1980’s to get by without being constantly available?

The Answer:  We got things done … EVENTUALLY.  It might have taken 2,3,4 … 5 hours to reach us … but reach us, people did.

 

  • If your house is on fire and you and your Beloved are eating  dinner at a restaurant that’s twenty miles away, there’s really not a whole you can do AT THAT MOMENT to save your house (other than hope that the neighbors called the fire department).

 

  • If you and your Beloved are at that same restaurant that’s twenty miles away and your kids are coloring on the walls … once again, there’s really not a whole lot you can do at the moment.

 

Back in the 70’s and 80’s (before everyone was SO interconnected), we got by by setting priorities (I realize this a foreign concept to some of you out there).  Some things were deemed more important than others (back then, spending time with the kids was deemed more important than going to a club).

No matter WHAT you do, there are always going to be things that you’ll “miss out” on.  That’s life.  You’re a human being — you can’t be in two places at once.

This product is a symptom of the self-indulgence and narcissism that is plaguing our society.  Are you truly SO important that you can’t be “disconnected” long enough to spend time with your family and/or loved ones?  Are they not worth your COMPLETE and TOTAL attention?

What are your priorities?  Where do they REALLY lie?

 

 

What Have We Wrought?

 

I’m sure you’ve heard about the arrest of Martin Shkreli, the now-former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals who raised the price of a lifesaving medicine from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill literally overnight.

The company was fine with charging $13.50 per pill on Monday.  What happened?  What changed?  What could possibly have motivated them to raise the price of that same pill 4,000 percent on Tuesday, other than pure greed?

Is this what our society has come to?  Are we now raising a generation of young people who have absolutely no moral compass whatsoever?  Is a person’s worth as a human being now to be determined by their capacity to generate a fortune for someone else?

Mr.  Shkreli has done more in these past few weeks to hold up a mirror to our society than any theologian or philosopher has been able to do in the past thirty years.

Let’s be honest with our kids … Let’s be brutally honest:  Forget science and technology … forget our society’s endless pontificating about the importance of STEM (Read:  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).  It seems that our young people have learned all too well what our society REALLY values:  Grab The Cash and Go.  It doesn’t matter HOW you make your money or who you step on (or over) in the process, just so long as YOU make a pile.

Grab the waterfront house, the Porsche, and the sole existing copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s latest album.  Your “stuff”, the bling, what people see on the surface — that’s what REALLY matters (and if you should be caught making your fortune illegally … hey, that’s what lawyers are for).

Had Mr. Shkreli not been caught (allegedly) engaging in securities fraud, certain sectors of our society would be praising him to the heavens as a savvy businessman.

Man is more than a mere animal that lusts and grabs for its existence.  To be human is to possess a conscience (I wonder if Mr. Shkreli himself would mind his being deprived of a lifesaving drug for want of his ability to pay its exorbitant cost).

The mere fact that we as a society CAN do something … that we are CAPABLE of doing something … does not in and of itself necessitate that we SHOULD do it.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have”  (Hebrews 13:5).

 

Can You Handle The Truth?

Lt.  Kaffee:  “I want the TRUTH!

Col.  Jessup:  “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

— A Few Good Men (1992) —

 

 

Those who preach the “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” gospel enjoy trotting out Matthew 7:7 :

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The truly ambitious ones will trot out John 14:12-14 :

“[W]hoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

“I will do whatever you ask in my name” … as if Almighty God can be commanded like a genie in a bottle! (“Hello, God?  I’d like a BMW, an iPhone 6, and a waterfront house.  Oh, and can I have it all by next Tuesday?  Thanks!”)

According to the Prosperity gospel, the poor simply lack faith.  If they just click their heels and keep affirming that they’re wealthy, all the treasures that this world can offer (expensive cars and house, vast fortunes, expensive jewelry, exotic vacations, etc.) will be theirs for the asking.

As far as preachers of the prosperity gospel are concerned, such things as the overall economy and world events have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with a person’s earning capacity.  They enjoy trotting out such bromides as “If you can believe it, you can achieve it!”

Is this something that we should really be encouraging?  Would Christ encourage His followers to wallow in the things of this world?

The prosperity preachers hardly ever mention Luke 6:24-25, where Jesus says:

“But woe to you who are rich,  for you have already received your comfort.

“Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

Or His advice to the rich young man in Matthew 19:21 (“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”).

Or further down the same chapter in verses 23 and 24:

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

How does one reconcile the Jesus of Luke 6:24-25 and Matthew 19:21 with today’s trendy “prosperity” gospel?

To make matters worse, not even pastors — those whom God has chosen to preach His Word  — are immune from this sickness of materialism (Pastor Creflo Dollar recently appealed to his congregation for money to buy a $65-million Gulfstream jet).

(Seriously?  Are you and your wife Taffi too good to fly Coach just like the rest of us?  When the shepherd is flitting about the world in his private jet, who’s tending the FLOCK?)

The man whom we serve, Jesus of Nazareth, WALKED wherever He went (He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as He was on His way to Calvary, but that ranks as an exception).  He was born in a manger and had no need of horses or fancy carriages during His years in ministry.

His successors in ministry — those whom God has appointed to prophecy and act in His name — would do well to emulate His example (at the very least, let us emulate Pope Francis, who is content to drive around Vatican City in a Ford Focus).

 

“Love is Patient … ” — What Paul REALLY Meant

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

More than a few couples have tied the knot to these words that were penned by the Apostle Paul.

One could easily conclude that Paul intended this to be a meditation on love … a paean to wedded bliss.

Contrary to what one might see inscribed on the decorative plaques staring back at you from the shelves at your local Christian gift store, that was NOT Paul’s intention at all.

Consider Paul’s audience:  the Corinthians.  Back in Paul’s day, Corinth was Sin City.  If there was a rule, the people of Corinth broke it.  If there was a sin, the people of Corinth committed it.  (Drunkenness?  Check.  Incest?  Check.  Idol worship?  Check.  Sexual immorality?  Check.  Jealousy, Quarreling, and Infighting?  Check, Check, and Check.  The list goes on … )

Earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul vents his frustration with the church in Corinth:

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.

If 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 should be read as anything, it should be read more in the manner of an exasperated teacher having to correct a group of wayward schoolchildren than as an ode to romance.

Paul is REALLY having to get down to basics here (“A is for Apple, B is for Banana, C is for Cat … “).  Anything more advanced would completely go over the heads of the sinning, stubborn, recalcitrant church in Corinth.

Something to consider the next time you hear this scripture passage recited at a wedding ceremony.

New Cloth For Old

nativity

[Jesus said], “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.”

Luke 5:36

 

When Christ said this, he was referring to himself.

Jesus Is the New Cloth.

A little history:  centuries prior to Jesus’s birth, the old House of David was irretrievably broken.  Almost to a man,  the books of 1st and 2nd Kings describe the kings that comprised the Davidic line — Saul, David, Solomon, Ahab, et al. — as having done “evil in the eyes of the Lord”.  (They took pagan wives, worshiped pagan gods, performed pagan rituals. etc.  If there was a commandment, the House of David broke it.)

King David himself had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers (David went so far as to order Uriah killed on a suicide mission).

Prior to Jesus’s birth, the throne of David (and the kingdom of Israel) had long since ceased to exist.  It was now nothing more than an isolated province of the Roman Empire (long after it had been conquered by the likes of Assyria and Babylon).

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.

“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Luke 1:30-33, 35

When the Holy Spirit entered Mary’s womb on that fateful day, God was making a clean break with the past.  Gone was the sin, the evil, and the corruption that had plagued the old Davidic line.  God himself was re-establishing the line that would ultimately produce Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Even though Joseph was descended from the House of David (Luke 1:27), Jesus the Messiah could not be fathered by him (the preceding bloodline was simply too corrupt).

Joseph himself was now nothing more than a humble carpenter — there was absolutely nothing about him that gave any hint of royal lineage.

God — The Holy One Himself — was wiping the slate clean.  He was starting over with a whole new, sacred, pure, and undefiled  piece of cloth (trying to physically attach Jesus to the old bloodline would’ve been impossible; as Jesus himself said in the passage from Luke that I quoted from above, “the patch from the new will not match the old”).

What God for the world on that fateful day, he can do for you as well.  During this holiday season, turn to Him.  During this season of new beginnings, let God give YOU a fresh start (“Behold, I make all things new!” — Revelation 21:5).

Merry Christmas and God Bless.

 

Idolatry — The Latest Trend

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew 19:24

Idolatry is SO on trend nowadays.

It’s true.  Pick up “The Secret” or any book related to what’s now been called “The Law of Attraction”; if you just click your heels and affirm, “It sure feels great to be driving my new BMW”, a big black Beemer will be sitting in your driveway in no time at all.

(Actually, the technical term for what I’m describing is “prosperity teaching” … but it means pretty much the same thing.)

Something you should ask yourself:  Why is it so terribly important to drive a BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus as opposed to a Hyundai, Kia, or Fiat?  It seems that Madison Avenue has succeeded in convincing a good portion of our society that they’re somehow lesser human beings because they’re driving something less expensive than a Mercedes or BMW.

The Law of Attraction (for those not in the know) stipulates that “whatever you focus on, manifests”.  If you’re worried about spilling coffee on your shirt, according to the LOA, you’ll spill coffee on your shirt.  If you’re worried about being late for work, guess what?  You’ll be late for work (God/The Universe will see to it).

That said, if your focus is on a BMW (or a big house … or an expensive diamond ring … or a 72-inch flat-screen TV … or an all-expense-paid vacation in St. Bart’s), then it stands to reason that your focus is NOT on God.

In Deuteronomy chapter 5, verse 7, God commands, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  If the central focus of your life is on anything OTHER than God (be it a BMW, an exotic vacation, or whatever), it is idolatry.  You have made a creation of man — a thing, an inanimate object — into an object of worship.

The prosperity teachers often justify the Law of Attraction by citing John 14:12 (“[W]hoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”) and John 14:14 (“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”).

Christ ALSO says in the very next verse, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15 … which brings us back to Deuteronomy chapter 5, verse 7 — “You shall have no other gods before me” ).

The next time you see that Beemer or that Lexus parked next to you in the church parking lot on Sunday morning, think about the driver for a moment.  You don’t know their history.  You don’t know the story behind that car.

You can’t see the abusive relationship, the philandering spouse, the alcoholism or drug addiction, or the painful, expensive divorce that the owner may have been caught up in.  The person who owns that car may have to work 80-hour weeks in order to afford it (For that matter, the car may be on its last legs; for all you know, it could be 20 years old and held together with kite string and chewing gum under the hood).

There’s also the little matter of Envy, which is a sin.  The Enemy/The Evil One/The Devil uses envy to entice you into his clutches.

Think about your motives — why is it so important to have these expensive luxuries?  How much of what you’re feeling is due to programming by Madison Avenue?  Corporate America has a vested financial interest in cultivating feelings of envy within you (the more dissatisfied you are with your current state in life — and the more that you’re convinced that buying this or that product will resolve it — the more money THEY make).

The Takeaway:  Be grateful for all that you have.  If you have a house, a car, a TV, and broadband Internet access, be grateful for it (no matter how puny it may seem to you).  There are millions of people across the nation who don’t have ANY of those things.

A nation of happy, satisfied people who don’t feel the need to “aspire” to own such expensive luxuries would be nothing less than Corporate America’s worst nightmare.  If a Kia can run just as well as a Mercedes or BMW for a lot less money, what would be the point of “upgrading” to the more expensive car (other than for vanity’s sake)?  It would most certainly wreak havoc on Corporate America’s profits!

Think about it …