December 16, 2016

Who Needs Christ During Christmas


In 2013, Residents and visitors to New York City during the Christmas Holidays were  greeted by a new sign in Times Square displayed by the American Atheists. A digital billboard proclaimed, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” A hand crosses out the word “Christ” and the word “Nobody” appears. 

Despite the atheists’ proclamation that Christmas is irrelevant and obsolete, over two billion Christians around the world continue to celebrate the greatest event in human history, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

Atheist Danielle Muscato once suggested “people don’t care about church and religion any longer. They only care about presents, fun and food.”

While everyone enjoys the tapestry that surrounds the holidays, Christians preserve and cherish the celebration of the birth of the Holy Child of Bethlehem who reaffirms the presence of God in their lives.

How ironic that atheists say Christ isn’t needed at Christmas when it was the Prophet who taught people to love their neighbors ___ even those who deny that God exists. 

May the Prince of Peace continue to bless those who believe in Christmas and those who do not.

December 9, 2016

Bethlehem

Many years ago, a magazine ranked Bethlehem, Pennsylvania  last among 300 places to live in the United States. 

If Bethlehem, Pennsylvania ranked 300th, the sleepy little town we sing about at Christmas would have ranked even lower,  for it had little to recommend it as the perfect birthplace of the Savior.

But God seems to have different standers for perfection than we have, and there is something about the story of Christmas that goes beyond perfection and logic. A virgin bears God’s son in a stable? It’s beyond our comprehension.

Years ago, Harry Reasoner of TVs "Sixty Minutes" said the following:
If God wanted to be intimately part of man, he moved correctly, for the experience of birth and family-hood is our most intimate experience. It's a story of great innocence of God the baby. God in the person of man.
Perhaps your Christmas won't be perfect this year.  Maybe . . . it will be far better than that. maybe you will see right to the heart of this sacred event . . . to the God who seeks not perfection . . . but love.






November 8, 2016

The Remarkable Human Brain

Most of us remember long tedious hours in libraries researching subjects for papers that were required in our high school and/or college courses.  Today, thanks to the marvel of technology, we type a few words in our favorite search engine, and we are offered more information than we can possibly use.

At a high school program in the late fifties, a scientist told a group of seniors that one day people would carry a small device which would enable them to call anyone with a telephone anywhere in the world. At the time, most students probably considered the prediction to be science fiction, and if the speaker had known what we are able to do with our phones today, he may have regarded that reality as beyond his imagination.

We live in a remarkable technological age when discoveries that stagger our senses are announced every day. Unfortunately, we often forget what it was that created the incredible products and services which we use daily. That marvel of biological engineering is a machine more complex than any smart device available today. It is the human brain. And who or what is responsible for our remarkable inventive minds? 

Deepak Chopra, one of the master teachers of Eastern philosophy in the Western world, has written a new book titled, God. In it he makes this observation:
"The human brain, so far as we know, is the most complex thing in existence. Was it really a product of random choice over the past 13 billion years? To believe in randomness as the only creative force in nature, one physicist quipped, is like saying that a hurricane blew through a junkyard and built a Boeing 777.”
We marvel at the human brain and what it can accomplish. Perhaps we should take a moment and recognize and give thanks to our Creator who conceived it. 

August 24, 2016

Get Out of the Boat

For most of my career, I was a college admissions officer, the school administrator charged with the responsibility for determining which applicants were qualified to study at my institution.

Because of my work in admissions, I was more than a little interested in a conversation I had with the chairman of a church committee appointed to determine the attributes and personality traits a person should possess to qualify for the ministry.

Pardon me, but I always thought people were "called" to the ministry. I didn't realize there were specific qualifications, or, as Max Lucado puts it in his most recent book, Outlive Your Life, "God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called."

Jesus called Peter to get out of his boat and, “Follow me.” With that simple overture, Peter was invited to leave his family, his friends and his way of life to walk with Jesus.

And who was this impulsive fisherman Jesus chose to be a disciple and his Rock? The New Testament describes Peter as a blundering, impetuous, hypocrite whose vocabulary was unpolished and coarse. But Jesus didn’t choose Peter because he was brilliant, well educated, sophisticated or because he scored well on a psychological test or personality inventory. Peter was not called because of what he was but what he could become.

It is astonishing to recognize that when we accept the call to “Get out of the boat,” it’s not because of who we are or what we have done. When we choose to follow Jesus, we are forgiven for the sins we have committed, and we are given an opportunity to change and to live the life Christ wants us to live.

July 12, 2016

Six Simple Rules for a Happy Relationship

David Isay, recipient of numerous broadcasting honors and author/editor of numerous books, is also the founder of a remarkable oral history project called StoryCorps. It’s a very simple idea. With help from a facilitator, a couple in a relationship or any two family members face one another and for forty minutes one asks questions then listens.

When the interview ends, the participants walk away with a CD of the conversation, and a second copy is sent to the Library of Congress so that someday descendants will hear their voices and their stories.

Isay’s newest book, All There Is, is a collection of stories about relationships gathered from those sessions. He calls it a “a testament to the heart’s remarkable endurance."

Eighty-five year old Leroy Morgan’s story is about his long and happy marriage which he attributes to the following six statements he and his wife, Vivian, use with each other: (1)You look great; (2) Can I help; (3) Let’s eat out; (4) I was wrong; (5) I am sorry; and, most important, (6) I love you.

Those six simple statements summarize in less than twenty words the key to any satisfying and happy relationship.

Leroy’s statements can also be paraphrased and applied to our relationship with God:

(1) Appreciate the beauty of God’s natural world; (2) Help those who are not as rich in blessings as you are; (3) Give thanks for your daily bread; (4) Confess your sins; (5) Ask forgiveness for your sins; and most important, the first and greatest commandment: (6) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Link to StoryCorps   http://storycorps.org/

June 12, 2016

Dealing with Stress

Rising costs, increasing debt, lower home values, unemployment, natural disasters, lives lost in two wars and the longest recession since World War II would be enough to create stress for any American. But in addition, we can all have anxious moments just dealing with health problems, the pressures of work and family life, or our relationships with each other.

Stress is a common problem in our fast-paced action-oriented society, and it’s not limited to any income, education or socio economic status. Regardless of our station in life, we all regularly face situations which cause anxiety and even fear.

How is your courage and confidence when you face stressful situations that can make our lives miserable? If you are searching for the inner strength to face your problems, perhaps it’s time to reexamine your faith in God, for if you believe in God, you have the power to face stress and adversity without fear or anxiety. And that power is available to you any time, any place and in any circumstance.

We know because it is written again and again in Scripture. Here are just a few examples:
Joshua said it: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Timothy said it: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and love and of self discipline.
And David said it in Scripture we all know: “Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
In times of stress, in days and nights of trouble, I invite you to believe the Grace of God can help you find the strength and courage to respond with confidence to every problem, every difficulty, every broken heart and every human sorrow.

May 27, 2016

Are You Holding A Grudge

I recently read passages from The Forgiveness Solutions by Dr. Philllip Friedman. It is a practical book focused on providing the reader with techniques for learning how to forgive those who have disappointed, offended or betrayed you. 

Among the numerous stories Friedman offers is one about a client who went to see a therapist about his inability to forgive someone who had injured him. When the session ended, the therapist told his client he should leave the office through one of two white doors. 

The client, however, insisted he wanted to leave through a pink door. Despite being told there was no pink door, the client walked to what he believed was a door and crashed into a pink wall.

Finally, the therapist pointed out his client’s problem was like the imaginary door. The client could hold on to his resentments, pain and his grudges and continue to suffer (knock his head against the wall), or he could forgive, let go and seek a better past and future.

One of my favorite bits of advice regarding forgiveness suggests that we should never hold a grudge. While we fret and fume over some disservice done to us, the other person is . . . enjoying a round of golf.

Included In the Lord’s Prayer are the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If you find it difficult to forgive someone, perhaps it’s time to view this phrase as both a command and a prescription from the Master Physician for our emotional well being. 

May 17, 2016

Don't Let the Devil Steal Your Joy

If the cards you received from friends and loved ones at Christmas were typical, most included a wish for a Happy New Year. What about it? Will your new year be happy? According to a 2006 Pew Research Center survey, over 46 million people in this country say they are not happy.

Our country is involved in a war against terrorism, but each one of us is in a private war against Satan who is determined to deprived of all our joy.

The apostle Peter said that Satan walks around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour, and Paul tells us that we wrestle, not against flesh and blood but the rulers of darkness.

Paul Meier, author of Happiness is a Choice, points out that the Devil cannot steal your joy if you recognize that you, not Satan, are in control of your own attitude. Or as Abraham Lincoln said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” 

In other words, your attitude toward life, toward misfortune, toward the irritants of each day is yours alone, and nobody, not the Devil, not your boss, not the Republicans or the Democrats, the liberals or the conservatives can take your attitude from you unless you let them.

One of Satan’s most effective weapons for stealing your joy is when you allow yourself to brood, stew, fret and fuss over a disservice that someone did to you. Meier suggests that forgiving others is the single most important thing we do to be happy.

People whose opinions I respect debate the existence of Satan, but for me, Paul’s command to “put on the armor of God” is an invitation to prepare for battle against an image of evil personified who exists to steal my joy. I invite you to share that image.

January 28, 2016

NOTICE

New posts to the Contemporary Parables website have been discontinued: however, all 230 previous posts are still available below. 

Blessings,

Bruce Westerdahl, Parable Scribe

January 25, 2016

Worry II

Long ago, I read about a group of students who were asked to list their worries on a form which was folded and placed in a box. The papers were shuffled, and everyone selected a new list of worries. When they read what others were worried about, most agreed they preferred to have their own worries back. The lesson: We may not want the worries we have, but if we are going to worry, we prefer to have our own.
Worry, also known as angst or anxiety, is a sad state of feeling which can cause ulcers, high blood pressure, strokes, angina, migraine headaches, indigestion, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, depression, diarrhea and a host of other symptoms. It can also lead to alcoholism or drug addiction.
Some of the most often mentioned reasons people worry are appearance, finances, relationships, health and the future. Other reasons noted are the economy, employment, death and responsibilities.
In just few simple yet powerful lines from a song based on Psalm 27, God’s poet David revealed how he was able to confront worry.  
“The Lord is my helper, and therefore shall I never fear. The Lord is my high tower. In Him will I be confident. The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?”  
Like David, may we all face our problems with courage and strength because we have faith and trust in God.   


January 8, 2016

Don't Let the Devil Steal Your Joy III

Ask the average person if 2015 was a good year for the people of the world, and you will probably get a negative response. And why not  considering  all the natural disasters, terrorism. mass killings, growth of ISIS and civil wars during the past twelve months. Obviously the Prince of Darkness was active in 2015.

But according to Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, “2015 was the best year in history for the average human to be alive.” Really? Here are just a few examples of the facts Kenny offers as evidence:
The mortality rate from famine and undernourishment is down.
Childhood illnesses of all kinds have dropped dramatically.
The number of electoral democracies is at an historic high.
The world is better-educated, better-fed, healthier and freer.
Violent crime in America is down.
Female literacy reached new heights.
Peter Diamandis, named one of "The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders" – by Fortune Magazine in 2014, claims that “90% of the news in the newspaper and on television is negative . . .” 

If we only pay attention to the negative reports the media love to stress, and if we are constantly preoccupied by our own personal misfortunes, we will be in a state of depression and despair all the time.

St. Peter said that “Satan walks around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour and deprive of all joy and pleasure.” St. Paul commanded us to “put on the armor of God” to battle the evil one. 

Last month,we heard from friends and loved ones who wished us a Happy New Year. So what will it be for you in 2016?  Will you allow the negative  to determine your mood or will you look for the positive in your own life and throughout the world? 

January 1, 2016

Those Who Mourn Will Be Comforted

Recently, our church choir rehearsed a song titled Blessed by Pamela Stewart and Brad Nix. The first line of this meaningful hymn is: 
“Blessed are the broken hearts, betrayed by pain and loss.”
Those words reminded me of friends who mourn the loss of someone dear to them, and I wondered, “How are my friends blessed?”

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that those who mourn “will be comforted.”

Many biblical scholars maintain that Jesus was referring to those who grieve because of their sins. I agree with others who believe Jesus was speaking about anyone who mourns for whatever reason.

The second line of the song Blessed is, 
“I was once forsaken and alone upon a cross.”
Jesus knew how it feels to be abandoned and deserted. His closest companions during his ministry disowned him, and even God allowed him, in his humanity, to experience the sense of abandonment and isolation that humans feel when loved ones leave us.

But in the end, Jesus was not abandoned, and the cross on which he died became a symbol, not of death, but of eternal life.

I believe those who mourn will be blessed and will find peace if they will only believe in the promises of the Savior.