For “Scripture Sunday’:
“ "Why, O God, why?"
That anguished question cried out from millions of people on December 14 when they learned the unspeakable news that 20 very young children and six teachers had been savagely killed in Newtown, Connecticut. As we unfortunately know from experience, there exists a depth of tragedy that is all but incomprehensible. It is the kind that if one is not firmly grounded in biblical teachings, it can shatter one's faith in both God and all that is good. Such is the depth of evil that visited an elementary school in Newtown. When I heard the shocking news, I—like millions of others—quickly prayed for God's mercy and intervention.
As the publisher of The Good News magazine we are personally asking that you join with us as we continue to pray. Parents and community alike are now rightfully engulfed in disbelieving grief, a tortured state similar to when David cried out: "Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief" (Psalm 31:9, New International Version). They, perhaps like others across the globe, are saddened beyond measure, for the moment understandably inconsolable.
But thankfully there is hope. The Bible declares that God is indeed a God who provides the miracle of comfort in the face of tragedy (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). The Bible promises us that: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18, NIV). In faith we now ask that God would provide these miracles to those who have suffered the incomprehensible.
Why didn't God save them?
But then come the honest questions: Why does God allow hideous acts as those of gunning down young innocents? Why didn't God protect them? These are hard questions. And they deserve solid answers. I'll touch on part of what the Bible reveals.
This world is not currently in an age of God, but in a time that is governed by an evil being described by the Bible as "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is the fallen archangel, Lucifer, known commonly in the Bible as Satan. Satan, as the Bible reveals, hates humanity (1 Peter 5:8-9). Jesus called him "a murderer" (John 8:44). To a twisted being like Satan, a Newtown slaughter is advancement of his evil purpose to destroy humankind.
To be sure, God is not locked in some kind of struggle for power with Satan. God is all powerful. Nothing can subvert His will. But in this present age, an essential part of God's plan for humanity is to allow all humans the choice of free will—the freedom to do good or to do evil. This has allowed human beings unlimited opportunities to experiment with every imaginable method to solve mankind's problems. By the time Christ returns to the earth, mankind will have proven that true peace, prosperity and happiness are only certain when humanity seeks out and obeys God by yielding to His laws and commandments. Until that time, Bible prophecy foretells "perilous times" when evil "will grow worse and worse" (2 Timothy 3:1, 13).
But the story will have a happy ending! When we contemplate the deaths of loved ones, the greatest possible comfort comes from knowing that God loves every single human being and will resurrect every one of them (John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:4; Acts 24:15). Every person who has ever lived will have an opportunity to live again and qualify for eternal life in the Kingdom of God!
That's why Jesus instructed us to pray: "Your Kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10)! In the coming Kingdom of God Satan will be put away, together with all unrepentant murderers (Revelation 21:8). Further, we have the glorious promise of God that when the Kingdom is fully come: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Revelation 21:4, NIV). May God speed that day!” From: http://www.ucg.org/blog/why-didnt-god-protect-them/
“T’was 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
When 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"This is heaven." said a small boy. "we're at God's house."
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
But Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring
Those children all flew into the arms of their King
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
One small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of mom and dad."
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
"May this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation. I'm taking back my schools!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my children, let me show you around."
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."”
Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf , PA
The Pope and the Nativity
The Pope agrees that the nativity scene is tradition. So?
Transcript: [Steve Myers] “Well, here at the Christmas season once again. It's a time that so many are involved in the traditions of their family, of their church, and so many other things. And yet, I wonder if we ever take the time to really examine why we do the things that we do. Christmas maybe should be one of those times for everyone to really examine, "Am I doing the things that really bring honor to God?"
[Darris McNeely] What's really amazing Steve is that every year people bring up the fact that the Christmas traditions are not in the Bible. They're not historically accurate and really don't fit the narrative from the gospel accounts about the birth of Jesus Christ, but we find that people just don't care. Do you care? You should. It's interesting to note as we've been covering on this series on Beyond Today, these dailies, is that even Pope Benedict XVI is writing books, a book that is talking about the narrative of the birth of Christ, pointing out some of the historical and traditional fallacies that are there, and yet justifies the observance of Christ's birthday on December 25th again based on tradition according to church traditions.
[Steve Myers] And the interesting thing is, there's a big deal going on right now throughout the country about nativity scenes. You know, is this good, is this bad, should it be allowed, or not? And so many times people don't even realize that whole image is false. The nativity scene that's out there is not the reality of what the Bible teaches. And in fact, in the Pope's book, he even says as much. Here's what the Pope writes, he says, "In the Gospel, there's no references to animals," at the nativity is what he's saying. There are none, but yet our standard nativity scenes that people set up, even those in the public, always show animals around. He goes on to explain how that came about to be the tradition. He says, "Christian iconography adopted this motif." It means the imagery of early Christianity. He said it adopted this motif, "At an early stage. No representation of the crib is complete without the ox and the ass." And so he says himself that this was not reality when it comes to the Bible, but somewhere along the line people added it.
[Darris McNeely] And that becomes the point of contention in our modern world when these scenes are put out in public places, and people want to have that removed not understanding that the entire scenario is flawed and skewed.
[Steve Myers] And so I think that should cause us to step back - even in a simple thing like this as though it seems, "Well, what's the difference?" Well, what about worshipping God and taking that to that level? Is this something that honors God? Or am I doing things that really I think honor God, and yet in reality like the nativity scene, it's not in the Bible? I think that's what we've got to step back and ask ourselves. Is what I'm doing really bringing honor to God?
[Darris McNeely] Once again we come back to the Scripture in John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. See All... where Jesus said that those who worship the Father will do so in spirit and in truth. True worship of God cannot take place unless it is according to the truth of the Scriptures, of the Holy Word of God. The coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh, as God in the flesh, fulfilling all of those prophecies is an important point of the Bible to understand and to aid us really in our worship, not only of Jesus Christ, but of the Father. And getting it right is so important. That's why it's important for you to ask yourself if someone like the Pope, or some other figure, or anyone points out to you these fallacies, then take it seriously and ask what else are we not understanding and what must we understand to be worshipping God in spirit and in truth.” From: http://www.ucg.org/beyond-today-daily/jesus-christ/pope-and-nativity Thursday, December 20, 2012
Christmas: Have We All Gone Crazy?
“It’s that time of the year again. The traffic is heavier, everyone seems more rushed than usual, and a sort of insane commercial craziness takes hold, as people prepare for the popular winter festival. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I sometimes wonder if people don‘t drive even more aggressively than usual, as they rush around, frantically trying to complete their Christmas shopping. Ah, the Christmas spirit!
One recent survey predicted the average Christmas shopper in the United States will spend around $854 this year on Christmas gifts, an increase of 32 percent over 2011 [http://americanresearchgroup.com/holiday]. Quite a chunk of change in a nation that is still struggling to emerge from recession and worried about the possibility of falling off a “fiscal cliff” in just a couple of weeks!
Strangely, in the midst of all this frenzied commercialism, most people don’t take the time to stop and ask the big question: Where did Christmas come from? It’s believed to be a Christian festival, but is it? The truth may surprise you.
Fact is, Christmas is nowhere to be found in the Bible, and it’s even implicitly disproved in the pages of the New Testament. We read that there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night at the time Jesus was born (Luke 2:8). Had the Savior been born in December, the flocks would not have been out at night, since the weather is too cold at that time of year. What’s more, a census was taken right at the time Jesus was born (Luke 2:4-6). The cold depth of winter, with its short, dark days, would not have been the time for that!
But even non-Christian history is clearly aware of the real origins of Christmas. Notice this, from an op-ed piece by writer Douglas Morrison: “The date of Christmas, December 25, was borrowed from another religion. At the time Christmas was created in AD 336, Mithraism was very popular. The early Christian church had gotten tired of their futile efforts to stop people celebrating the solstice and the birthday of Mithras, the Persian sun god. Mithras’ birthday was December 25. So Pope Julius I decided to make Jesus’ official birthday coincide with Mithras’ birthday. All honest Biblical scholars (Christian and non Christian) admit and agree that Jesus was not born on Dec. 25. Dec 25 became the consensus date, and a logical way to assimilate the pagan, and Earth based Winter Solstice gatherings into the Christian religion. The writings in the Bible contradict the creation of Christmas on Dec 25 because of weather. The shepherds and their flocks were not ‘in the fields’; they were in shelter; no one travelled in mid winter (it was too hard), and a manger at night on Dec 25 in Bethlehem was very cold. The Holy Family’s whole journey, if at all, started at another time of the year.” That’s from an article titled “How the Winter Solstice Was Stolen by Christmas,” on Dec. 24, 2010 [www.opednews.com].
Pagan origins? Winter solstice festival? Crazed commercialism? Overspending? Isn’t it time you took a look at why you keep Christmas? Isn’t it time to reevaluate whether or not this is even something Jesus Himself would approve?”
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Ralph Levy.”
Video of this transcript at: http://lifehopeandtruth.com/speaking-of/christmas-have-we-all-gone-crazy/
Fiscal Cliff: Sign of Deeper Troubles?
“Will the United States go over the fiscal cliff? In less than a month the United States could go over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” How concerned should we be? Is it a sign of something worse?
Come midnight Dec. 31, many tax cuts for American businesses and individuals are due to end. In addition to this, mandatory spending cuts relating to the debt ceiling will take effect. These drastic reductions were designed to motivate both major parties to work hard to come up with more acceptable cuts, but little has been done.
Simply put, both the citizens and the government are going to have less money to work with this coming year. If something doesn’t change, many financial analysts predict a new recession will result.
How did this happen?
How did the United States—the world’s largest economy for many years—get to this point? The short answer is America has been spending more than it has been bringing in.
Last summer, Congress was in a heated debate over the debt ceiling, which is the self-imposed limit the government can borrow. That limit was the unimaginably huge $15.2 trillion. Congress agreed to raise the limit to its present $16.4 trillion, rather than default on its loans.
Of course, the stipulation was that the government had to cut spending in 2013. But will the government really cut spending next year? And if it does, will it send the fragile economy into a tailspin?
And why does the government spend so much anyway?
The United States spends most of its federal budget on entitlement programs. These are programs where public funds are given to people who meet certain requirements. Common entitlement programs include the food stamp program, Medicare and Social Security.
The cost of these entitlement programs is soaring because of the rise in unemployment and the onslaught of the large “baby boom” generation beginning to enter retirement and facing burgeoning health care costs. (Of course, politicians have known for decades that the baby boomers would retire but have continually put off the difficult task of reforming Social Security and Medicare.)
In 1962 only 28 percent of government spending went to entitlement programs. Today, it is 70 percent! In addition, nearly half of all Americans don’t pay any federal income taxes.
Program abuse and dependency
There are some who are quite capable of working yet find ways to abuse the system to receive government assistance.
The apostle Paul wrote about the importance of having a strong work ethic. He said, “Nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. … For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:8, 10).
Paul at another time wrote, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).
Prior to 1939 there was no food stamp program. Generally communities and families helped each other. But as family and community safety nets have weakened, government entitlement programs have grown—and so have abuses of the system.
Today, some see no reason to work, when they can find ways to abuse the system and receive money from the government—cheating the taxpayers.
America’s leaders won’t acknowledge solution
Besides the people who are “milking” entitlement programs, America’s leaders continue to spend far more than the government takes in. They raid the Social Security fund and put off the hard decisions about massive cuts that must be made. The debt ceiling fights and the fiscal cliff should wake people to the fact that the nation is nearing bankruptcy—but too few grasp the magnitude of America’s problems.
Notice what God says about Ephraim, one of the so-called lost tribes of Israel: “Aliens have devoured his strength, but he does not know it; yes, gray hairs are here and there on him, yet he does not know it” (Hosea 7:9).
God continues to say that instead of looking to Him for help, the modern descendants of Israel try to fix this problem themselves. “The pride of Israel testifies to his face, but they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek Him for all this” (verse 10).
So instead of turning to God, they turn to other countries. America makes costly alliances to try to buy friends around the world and then must go hat in hand to persuade other nations to continue to finance more American debt. God says that when we do this, we are like a “silly dove, without sense” (verse 11).
Will America go over the cliff?
America’s problems are the results of bad decisions “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
So as American leaders seek to find solutions without God, will they succeed? At the 11th hour, Congress will probably find a temporary fix to at least parts of this fiscal cliff. But the problem will keep coming back until we address the real issue—our rejection of God and His commandments. And the Bible clearly shows that, unless our people repent and turn to God, we will go over a spiritual cliff. It is called the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:5-7).
One thing is certain. Once we go over that cliff, only God can save us.” From: http://lifehopeandtruth.com/prophecy/blog/fiscal-cliff-sign-of-deeper-troubles/ by Tim Groves - December 4, 2012
The program on WGN this morning: Regifting Jesus
If you feel you love Jesus, please ask yourself, "Does Christmas really honor Him?" Prepare to discover the astounding answer.”
Voyager completes global flight, Dec 23, 1986:
“After nine days and four minutes in the sky, the experimental aircraft Voyager lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, completing the first nonstop flight around the globe on one load of fuel. Piloted by Americans Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, Voyager was made mostly of plastic and stiffened paper and carried more than three times its weight in fuel when it took off from Edwards Air Force Base on December 14. By the time it returned, after flying 25,012 miles around the planet, it had just five gallons of fuel left in its remaining operational fuel tank.
Voyager was built by Burt Rutan of the Rutan Aircraft Company without government support and with minimal corporate sponsorship. Dick Rutan, Burt's brother and a decorated Vietnam War pilot, joined the project early on, as did Dick's friend Jeanna Yeager (no relation to aviator Chuck Yeager). Voyager's extremely light yet strong body was made of layers of carbon-fiber tape and paper impregnated with epoxy resin. Its wingspan was 111 feet, and it had its horizontal stabilizer wing on the plane's nose rather than its rear--a trademark of many of Rutan's aircraft designs. Essentially a flying fuel tank, every possible area was used for fuel storage and much modern aircraft technology was foregone in the effort to reduce weight.
When Voyager took off from Edwards Air Force at 8:02 a.m. PST on December 14, its wings were so heavy with fuel that their tips scraped along the ground and caused minor damage. The plane made it into the air, however, and headed west. On the second day, Voyager ran into severe turbulence caused by two tropical storms in the Pacific. Dick Rutan had been concerned about flying the aircraft at more than a 15-degree angle, but he soon found the plane could fly on its side at 90 degrees, which occurred when the wind tossed it back and forth.
Rutan and Yeager shared the controls, but Rutan, a more experienced pilot, did most of the flying owing to the long periods of turbulence encountered at various points in the journey. With weak stomachs, they ate only a fraction of the food brought along, and each lost about 10 pounds.
On December 23, when Voyager was flying north along the Baja California coast and just 450 miles short of its goal, the engine it was using went out, and the aircraft plunged from 8,500 to 5,000 feet before an alternate engine was started up.
Almost nine days to the minute after it lifted off, Voyager appeared over Edwards Air Force Base and circled as Yeager turned a primitive crank that lowered the landing gear. Then, to the cheers of 23,000 spectators, the plane landed safely with a few gallons of fuel to spare, completing the first nonstop circumnavigation of the earth by an aircraft that was not refueled in the air.
Voyager is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.”
When I dressed, I wore one of my animal print medical tops, like we, the volunteers all do for Adoption Day. After packing up some more of Prime’s stuff, and printing out her feeding instructions, I took her to Adoption Day to meet her new ‘parents’. Their Adoption Application had already been approved. The traffic on the freeway going into Conroe was terrible. Where were all these people going? As I passed the store’s parking lots, I could see that they were all going shopping, and probably getting into more debt!
Mary, Prime’s new ‘Mom’, and her mother were waiting when we arrived, so we all went into a back room at Petco, and closed the doors. I sat Prime on my knee, and then after a while, I put her on Mary’s Mom’s lap, and she just settled down, and even tucked her head under the Mom’s arm. Prime seemed very content. Mary doesn’t have a lap, per se, she is very shall I say, ‘very portly’. They asked me lots of questions about what Prime liked, but I had that all written down for them. We exchanged email addresses, and they promised to let me know how Prime is settling in. Mary’s multi-tier kitty condo is in storage right now, so I offered to let her use mine for now, but I didn’t have it with me. They had already bought a purple soft carrier on wheels with a handle that comes up like a suitcase, so I put Prime’s blankie out of my carrier in there, put Prime inside it, and Mary wheeled her out of the room.
After the adoption paperwork was done, my SPCA boss, Kenya, who was running the “Pet’s Pictures With Santa”, asked the photographers to take a picture of Mary holding Prime. Prime is used to having her picture taken, so the flashes didn’t bother her. This was the first time Mary had held her, and Prime seemed to be quite at home with her. I feel good about it, and I think this is a good ‘furever’ home for Prime.
As it was now only about 1.30pm, I still had time to go to church, but the traffic was bad for several miles. I missed Bible Study, and they were still singing when I slipped into my seat. The sermon was about us all having a nickname. It is either Tim or Tor, and then the pastor explained, we are all VicTIMS or VicTORS. It is our attitude which defines us. One instance was Joseph, who was suddenly confronted with a pregnant fiancée, Mary, an unthinkable event in those days. He could have acted like a Victim, denounced her and left her, but he acted like a Victor, and supported her wholeheartedly.
After the church’s pot luck, I came home to my Misty and little Miss Priss. It was strange not to have Prime greet me like she does every day.