God has a plan for new year

December 30th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

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The tabloids are no longer making their outrageous predictions for the New Year. (Perhaps my mocking of their dismal record had something to do with it.)

So, let me make some of my own predictions for the coming year. (Well, actually, I’ve stolen them right out of the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew.)

God has a plan for our relationships this coming year

      And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ (Matthew 1:16-17).

Relationships were far less complicated in the early Mideast. There were no concerns about “Will he ask me out?” or “Where should we go on a date?” Marriages were arranged by your parents. But even here, the parents had absolute free choice in selecting their future in-laws. But God was working out the details so His Son would have the perfectly predicted lineage. (Somehow God has no problem reconciling His sovereignty and our freewill as we will see.)

God doesn’t merely predict something, then sit back and wait for it to happen. He is intimately involved. Matthew 1:22 assures us that all this took place to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet.

This coming year, God will orchestrate the relationships in our lives. He will arrange for us to meet those who need our help, friendship and love.

God has a plan for our schedule this coming year

      After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.

      “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written” (Matthew 2:1-2, 5).

God had some serious logistical problems to work out. Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth. Bethlehem was a one-donkey town that wasn’t exactly known for its tourist trade. Why should Christ be born there? August Caesar, not know for his closeness to God (other than thinking he was God) commanded all to return to their ancestral birthplace for a census. Augustus had absolute freewill in calling for a census, but God’s providence worked out all the details.

Amazingly, baby Jesus wasn’t born halfway between Nazareth and Bethlehem. Babies rarely arrive on their due dates! And riding on a donkey all day would be a certain way to start early labor! But God’s timing is always perfect.

Even more amazing is the perfect timing of the Bethlehem star.* Computers have allowed scientists to go back in time and observe the precise movements of planets. The recent studies produced some exciting results. During the time of Christ’s birth, significant “signs” appeared in the heavens.

Jupiter (known then as the King star) and Venus (Virgin Mother) joined Regulus (also a king star) in the constellation of Leo (the Lion King). Jupiter and Venus then rose as the brilliant morning star.

In those days, observing signs in the skies was considered a science. And the magi of Persia were trained in science, philosophy and religion. Could it be that God used the “scientific knowledge” of the time to proclaim His Son’s birth? Did they interpret these signs to mean the birth of “The Lord of Lords and King of Kings;” “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah;” “The Bright and Morning Star”?

Several months later, Jupiter moved across the sky and because of its normal orbit appeared to stop in the sky. From the perspective of Jerusalem, it would have appeared precisely above Bethlehem on December 25!

If, as many believe, the star of Bethlehem was Jupiter, this dramatically emphasizes God’s incredible timing. Since creation, His cosmic clock has kept perfect time. And this same God can work out the timing of each event in our lives. It is this promise that can allow us to wait patiently rather than become frustrated with schedules and deadlines in the coming year.

God has a plan for our location this coming year

I’m sure the cynics in early times scoffed at the Bible’s prophecies. I can hear them sneering, “Micah says Christ will come out of Bethlehem, Hosea says Egypt and another says Nazareth! See, the Bible is always contradicting itself!”

Herod’s threat on the life of Jesus sent Mary, Joseph and the baby fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt.

      And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:15).

On their return they discovered that Herod had been succeeded by none better. Once again they fled Bethlehem and moved back to Nazareth.

      So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

God’s providence extends to our very location. If a major move is in this coming year, we can be assured that God has worked out all the details. His providence applies to even personnel managers!

God has a plan for even the tragedies of the coming year

If God is in control, why did He allow Herod to order the murder of innocent babies? Why are God’s children the victims of war, crime, injustice and divorce?

While God is directing history, He is also allowing humankind free choice. Herod misused his freedom—to put it mildly. He murdered his wife, his mother-in-law and three of his sons. And, so there would be sorrow at his death, Herod rounded up the town’s leading citizens on false charges with orders to kill them when he died.

But God’s sovereignty is able to bring good out of humankind’s worst abuses of freewill:

      And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Tragedy may come to anyone of us this New Year. Not all things are good! But somehow, as evidenced in the Christmas story, God’s incredible love and providence will work good out of each situation we face

And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said . . .

Copyright © 1984 James N. Watkins

* Some scholars believe the “star” was actually the light of God, which would explain its ability to pinpoint the house where Jesus was staying.

Photo from MorgueFile.com

Related sites:
The Twelve Sites of Christmas
The Christmas story in chronological order
God is never late—but He sure is slow
Why? Some thoughts on life’s tough questions
Predictions for new year in cartoons

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‘The 365 Days of Christmas’

December 25th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

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I thought I had seen mass hysteria before: the time “Weird Willy” Smith set off a can of tear gas in the high school cafeteria. Or the practical joker who yelled “Shark!” at the beach causing me and my rubber raft to be flattened by half-crazed swimmers.

But these pale in comparison to entering a department store the day after Christmas! As I stepped into the main aisle I was confronted with see what looked like the entire cast from Ben Hur stampeding my way.

Leading the pack charged a six-foot brute with a Marine tattoo strangling a pastel neck tie. He was followed by a crowd of probably quite normal people who, in the passion of the moment, had turned into a murderous mob storming the customer service desk.

The season of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” was over for another year—carefully packed away with the strings of lights and artificial trees.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the peace and joy came after Christmas.

God’s people had yearned for their Messiah since He had promised Eve there would come a conqueror over sin. The angels had announced this precious Gift’s arrival. The waiting was over. The real work of Christmas could begin—work which we can continue today.

Proclamation

It would have been easy for the shepherds to merely muse about their evening with eternity. An angel of the Lord had stood before them. The glory of God had shone over these men on a dark, sheep-dotted hillside. Multitudes of angels joined in announcing “peace on earth.” Then the shepherd’s weathered faces had looked into the tiny, helpless eyes of Almighty God.

But this was just the beginning. After the excitement of Christmas, the shepherds spread the Word about this child and glorified and praised God for all the things they had heard and seen.

Christmas is a year-round opportunity for proclaiming, for “glorifying and praising God” for all we have heard and seen.

Consolation

Simeon, a righteous and devout man who lived in Jerusalem, had been waiting for Christmas—with a much deeper longing that any child anticipating a stack of packages under the tree. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. And so, moved by the Spirit, he entered into the temple courts as Mary and Joseph brought their first born son there for consecration.

Simeon came face to face with “the consolation of Israel.” Taking the child in his arms, he praised God and said, “Sovereign Lord, as you promised, now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all the people.”

This peace continues after the advent candles are burned to stubs and the last needle falls from the tree. Christmas is a year-round opportunity to experience the Prince of Peace and to share that consolation with others.

Adoration

The word Christmas originally meant “Christ’s Mass”—a time of worship and adoration of the Messiah. Today, unfortunately, the masses of people pay more attention to holiday shopping and feasting than to Christ. The magi from the East, however, were wise in their priorities. Before they revealed their holiday treasures, they gave their gifts to Jesus and “. . . bowed down and worshiped him.” Well after the uneaten fruitcakes have fossilized, worship of the living Christ must continue if Christmas is to remain fresh in our hearts.

Meditation

Perhaps meditation is the key to Christmas. The days before Christ’s birth had been a hectic time for Mary and Joseph: dealing with the rumors and suspicions of Mary’s pregnancy, traveling to Bethlehem a midst the tail to tail census traffic, and now the responsibilities of caring for a newborn. But Mary still meditated on the Lord.

Without meditating on the salvation of God and His faithfulness, there can be no proclamation, consolation, or adoration.

Christmas, then, is a year-round opportunity for meditating on all these things and pondering them in our hearts–long after the warranties on our gifts have expired.

Merry Christmas today . . . and every day of the year!

Copyright © 1988 James N. Watkins

Related posts
The Twelve Sites of Christmas

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“Peace on earth” seems only a hollow Christmas card cliche what with civil war, terrorist attacks and rioting in the streets. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow didn’t feel in much of a holiday mood either when he heard the bells on Christmas Eve during the Civil War. His wife had been burned to death when her clothing caught fire in 1861, and his son had been critically wounded in the War in December 1863. The famous poet is believed to have penned the following in 1864:

      I heard the bells on Christmas day
      Their old familiar carols play,
      And wild and sweet the words repeat
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.

      I thought how, as the day had come,
      The belfries of all Christendom
      Had rolled along the unbroken song
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.

      And in despair I bowed my head
      ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
      ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

But Longfellow’s hope was in the One who originally wished, “Peace on earth, goodwill to all people on whom His favor rests.” His poem triumphantly continues:

      Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
      ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
      The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
      With peace on earth, good will to men.’

      Till ringing, singing on its way
      The world revolved from night to day,
      A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.

So despite visions of car bombs dancing in our heads, we can settle in for a long winter’s nap. The bells continue to ring out the promise of peace with faith and hope of Christmas.

      And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

      And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

      And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2).

Have a joyous, peaceful holiday season!

Copyright © 2001, 2014 James N. Watkins

Photo by www.hdwallpapersos.com

Related posts
The Twelve Sites of Christmas

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We wish you a P.C. Christmas

December 16th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

I have in my right mitten, direct from my home office on the frozen wasteland of Indiana, today’s category:

      Top ten politically-correct Christmas—excuse me, holiday—songs

      10. Chestnuts Roasting on an Environmentally-friendly Fuel Source

      9. Rudolph, the Endangered and Exploited Specie

      8. We Three Politically Oppressive Patriarchs

      7. Rocking Around the Recycled, Flame-retardant, Artificial Holiday Tree

      6. All I Want For Christmas is a Dental Plan

      5. Frosty the Snowperson

      4. I Saw Mommy Suing Santa Claus for Sexual Harassment

      3. I’m Dreaming of a Racially Diverse Christmas

      2. I’ll Be Home For Ramadan (or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice or . . .)

      1. We Wish You a Non-sectarian Holiday

Yep, political correctness has wheedled its way into the celebration of Christmas—excuse me, non-sectarian gift-buying winter solstice.

At the risk of coming across as The Grinch,” Ebineezer Scrooge, and Henry Potter all gift-wrapped into one big “Humbug,” I’d like to propose putting some P.C. in our Christmas celebration. But before you click out of this site, let me change the meaning of P.C. to “Purposeful Concession.”

God Himself made some purposeful concessions (PC) on the first Christmas morning.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:

      Christ Jesus . . . being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
      but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
      And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!

After centuries of trying to get His message across through commandments and conflagrations, prophets and plagues, He conceded to communicate His love through becoming one of us.

If Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t get the world’s attention, perhaps Bethlehem and Calvary would make all the papers. The razzle-dazzle, Exodus miracles didn’t have the desired result, so let’s try turning water into wine at a wedding. The hand-writing on the wall thing wasn’t that effective, so let’s try writing in the sand. And slaughtering lambs and bulls never had a lasting impact, so let’s sacrifice our Only Begotten Son to bring lasting forgiveness.

Christmas is about incredible concessions to communicate God’s love and to redeem His beloved.

So here’s my point: we may need more P.C. (Purposeful Concession) to communicate the good news of Christmas. Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So, racism, class-ism, and sexism are not only “politically incorrect,” but have no part in the Gospel message. Neither is their room for judging others by our own personal preferences or convictions. Most of all, we need to show Christ’s love and patience to those who are totally stressed out with the human-made holiday hoopla.

I am not saying to concede biblical principles. While God was willing to make purposeful concessions, He did not compromise His message. It remained the same. “I am holy. I am love. And I desire holy people who will love Me completely and love their neighbors as themselves.”

So this Christmas season, consider adding a bit more purposeful concessions to the celebration. Now, let’s all sing, “We Wish You a P.C. Christmas.”

Copyright © 1998, 2014 James N. Watkins

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Hope in a hand basket

December 9th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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It’s so easy to believe “the world is going to hell in a hand basket.” Just click on your favorite news site for the evidence du jour!

But before you throw your hands up in despair, keep in mind that Christianity flourished during the Roman occupation of Palestine under leaders such as Nero. The Romans would make our culture look like a Sunday school picnic.

The human leader, Caesar, was considered just one of the morally-challenged gods who were to be worshipped under the threat of death.

Children had no inherent value to the Roman culture. After birth, a midwife would place a newborn baby on the ground. If the head of the family deemed it worthy of life, he would pick it up announcing that the baby was accepted into the family. If the newborn was deformed or it was deemed that the family could not support another child, it would be “exposed”—deliberately abandoned in a specific area where it would either die of exposure or be picked up and sold by a slave trader.

Roman conquests and the importation of slave labor, had created a huge gulf between the rich and the poor who were forced into slavery because of debt or for being unemployable such as the ill or disabled. Slaves were often worked to death in physical labor or killed as entertainment in the arenas. None had any legal rights and were viewed simply as “property. Orphaned children also were forced into the slave market. Women were designed as “chattel”—a man’s personal possession.

Secular history records Roman men were free to enjoy sex with other males without any loss of masculinity or social status as long as they took the dominant role. Acceptable male partners were slaves, prostitutes, entertainers and others in the infamia class who had no legal protection. It was not uncommon for a husband to have both a wife and a concubinus: a young male slave exploited as a submissive sexual partner. Many believed, “Women are for babies. Boys are for pleasure.”

And of course, our violent video games pale in comparison with the to-the-death gladiator contests as well as slaves being fed to wild animals. Historians estimate between a half-million and 2.5 million gladiators were killed along with more than 1 million exotic animals.

Into this hellish hand basket came Jesus in a manger.

      The light shines in the darkness,
      and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5).

In three hundred years, the Roman Empire would completely collapse and Christianity would spread to the entire known world.

Light always shines brightest in the darkest night.

We have seen this light during the English revivals during the brutal poverty, crime and child exploitation described by Charles Dickens.

Even as the Communist Chinese government cracks down on faith communities, Christianity continues to grow rapidly in the People’s Republic. Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University, claims “By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon.” He continues, “Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this. [He] actually failed completely.”

So, while it may seem like our world is going to hell in a hand basket, there is much hope to hang onto.

      We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

      What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.

      With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

      For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved (Romans 8:18-24).

      Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

      No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us (Romans 8:35, 37).

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

Related sites
Martin Luther King, Jr’s commandments for cultural change
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Something for everyone on your ‘nice’ list

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For teens

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The Why Files: Are there really ghosts? Questions about angels, the supernatural, and the “Psychic Friends Network”

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Even more books are available at my online book store. All proceeds go to the “Save the Watkins Family” foundation!

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I have in my right hand, direct from the Sky Mall catalog, today’s category: Top ten things I do not want for Christmas

10. Sippy Wine Glass ($19.95) “When standing and noshing, juggling a wine glass can be challenging. Enter this acrylic wine glass with a no-spill sippy lid.” [Perfect for the tipsy toddler.]

9. Darth Vader Toaster ($44.95) “Butter your toast on the ‘dark side.’ Make toast and marvel at the Star Wars logo branded into it.” [More dollars than sense you have, yes?]

8. Relaxing MagicShowerhead ($59.99) “Enliven your daily shower experience by transforming your regular shower into a fountain of brilliant fun. Illuminates the shower water producing a variety of changing colors.” [Far out, man!]

7. Outdoor Dog Chaise Lounger ($249) “Designed with a built-in, overhanging shade for those days your dog just wants to cool off.”

6. Fyxation Leather Six-Pack Caddy ($59.99) “This full grain leather beer caddy conveniently fastens to your bike.” [Don’t drink and bike!]

5. Bacon Jams Sampler ($39.99) “Pack of three features All-Original, Red Chili & Garlic and Black Pepper”

4. Toilet Lid Photo Frame ($49.99) “Display your favorite 8 x 10 photo on this tough white plastic and clear acrylic bathroom essential. Lid fits all toilets or mounts to bathroom wall.” [Pooparazzi pics?]

3. The Wordsmith’s Manual Typewriter ($249.95) “This is the manual typewriter that recalls the thoughtful, well-written correspondence of yesteryears. Devoid of technological crutches such as spell-check and deletion.” [The perfect gift for the Luddite on your list!]

2. Tikker ($79.99) “A wristwatch that counts down your life. Using statistics and a personal health algorithm, your average life expectancy is calculated. The countdown begins, from years to seconds.” [As if aging isn’t depressing enough!]

1. Leo Men’s Padded Butt Enhanced Brief ($35) “All the benefits of a regular brief, but with removable contour padding and a special design to lift your butt.” [How many of those tiny bottles of airline liquor do you need to drink to think this is a good idea?!]

We report. You shake your head.

I am so grateful for gifts I don’t have to return or exchange. (I certainly do not need Padded Butt Enhanced Briefs!) Jesus, however, offers this gift:

      “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 17:27).

I pray that during the hustle and bustle of gift buying, you remember the gift of Christ’s peace of mind and heart. (You won’t find that in Skymall!)

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

Just for fun, I added one fake product. Can you tell which one is totally made up? (And, yes, there’s just one) Leave your guess in the comment box below. First correct guess wins a free book.

And the winner is . . . Jody Moreen who was first to correctly identify the one fake: Toilet Lid Photo Frame. A copy of Squeezing Good Out of Bad is on it’s way to you, Jody.

Related site
The Twelve Sites of Christmas

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