Monday, December 22, 2014

JESUS DOES NOT HATE CHRISTMAS


(My wife, Patty Cooper asked that this blog entry be put back up for Christmas.  I am putting it back up now and it will remain up until Sunday December 28th.  Tell your friends to take a look.) 

I have been asked why I write so much about Jesus on a blog that is suppose to be about mental health.  The answer is simple.  Spirituality is a one of the most important keys to mental health.  Please note that I did not say to mental illness, but rather to mental health.  Spirituality helps one to recover mental health and to maintain mental health.  For me personally, Jesus is at the core of my spiritual life so I write about what I know.  I could not write about the spiritual life from any other perspective.  That does not mean there are not others.  It just means I write about what I know about.


I would hate it if a group of people got together and decided when my birthday was going to be.  That is what happened to Jesus and most likely they picked a pagan holiday to be day they would celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Why do I think He does not hate Christmas?


First, I think Jesus likes all the smiling faces of the children that Christmas brings even if it is not really His actual birthday.  He loves children and their joy must warm His heart.


Second, He must like the fact that folks get jobs this time of year and make a little money because of all the buying that goes on.  He loves the poor and to the degree that the poor puts some money in their pockets during this holiday I think He is glad of that fact.


Third, He is probably glad the world is talking about Him even if they get most of it wrong.  The little they get right is better than none.  Jesus wants people to know Him.


So there you have it.  My three reasons for thinking that Jesus does not hate Christmas although it is not His actual birthday and we celebrate it in a very pagan way.


© Ed Cooper, December 18, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
      All rights reserved
    

Sunday, December 21, 2014

IS THE BIRTH OF JESUS HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?: SCS No. 31


Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 31

(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life.)

Scripture for Today:
Luke 2:1-7 King James Version (KJV)
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 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:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 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.




Sermon for Today:

This time of year the reliability of the story of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels is always up for discussion.  I am not surprised when an atheist or agnostic doubts the accounts, but I am when people who claim to be Christians say they only believe parts of the accounts.  They usually have trouble with the virgin birth or with it being historically accurate.  Why am I surprised?  Because if they are a Christian and have a relationship with Christ which is what being a Christian means then they know the unlimited power of Christ and His Father the Creator of all.

The Gospels are as reliable as any ancient documents that are commonly trusted.  The best test of their trustworthiness is the fact they appeared so soon after the events they record and while people were still alive who could attest to their facts.  Do they agree on every point?  The answer is no.  Do we have any of the first manuscripts? Again, the answer is no.  Do we have other sources that mention any of the facts in the Gospels?  The answer is yes.  The Gospels can be trusted as historical documents.

Now back to can we trust the accuracy of the birth story?  My answer to you is simple.  If you trust Jesus for anything, then you should not have any trouble with the story of His birth.  If you pray for God’s help on any occasion then you must think God real enough and powerful enough to intervene in this world.  That being the case you should have no problem with the birth story.  Just put your faith in it like you do in Him and have a wonderful celebration of His coming into this world.


Prayer for Today:

Father, May the world find the peace that Your Son came into the world to bring.  It is in His name we pray. Amen.



© Ed Cooper, December 21, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Thursday, December 18, 2014

JESUS DOES NOT HATE CHRISTMAS



I have been asked why I write so much about Jesus on a blog that is suppose to be about mental health.  The answer is simple.  Spirituality is a one of the most important keys to mental health.  Please note that I did not say to mental illness, but rather to mental health.  Spirituality helps one to recover mental health and to maintain mental health.  For me personally, Jesus is at the core of my spiritual life so I write about what I know.  I could not write about the spiritual life from any other perspective.  That does not mean there are not others.  It just means I write about what I know about.

I would hate it if a group of people got together and decided when my birthday was going to be.  That is what happened to Jesus and most likely they picked a pagan holiday to be day they would celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Why do I think He does not hate Christmas?

First, I think Jesus likes all the smiling faces of the children that Christmas brings even if it is not really His actual birthday.  He loves children and their joy must warm His heart.

Second, He must like the fact that folks get jobs this time of year and make a little money because of all the buying that goes on.  He loves the poor and to the degree that the poor puts some money in their pockets during this holiday I think He is glad of that fact.

Third, He is probably glad the world is talking about Him even if they get most of it wrong.  The little they get right is better than none.  Jesus wants people to know Him.

So there you have it.  My three reasons for thinking that Jesus does not hate Christmas although it is not His actual birthday and we celebrate it in a very pagan way.

© Ed Cooper, December 18, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

   All rights reserved  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

ACKNOWLEDGING THE JUSTICE OF GOD: SCS No. 30


(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life.)


Scripture for Today:
Luke 7:24-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. 30 But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)
31 “To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not weep.’
33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; 34 the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”



Sermon for Today:


The news is full of people demonstrating in the streets for what they call justice. Around the world we see wars being waged and the people fighting them saying they are doing so to bring justice and for a holy cause.  Their adversaries call them terrorists.  Justice does not seem to have the same meaning for all human beings.  

I was detained with my parents in the Nairobi, Kenya airport in 1965 for more than a day because we were white and Americans.  To the Kenyans it was just because we did not have the proper papers.  To my father it was unjust because usually an overnight visitor’s visa was always granted at the airport, but at the time Kenya was having diplomatic trouble with America so we were caught in the middle.  My mother and father were worried.  Being a teenager, I found it nothing but an adventure.  My father did not like being told when he could eat.  I had been told when meals were by him for years.

There were marches yesterday (12/13/2014) in a number of cities.  Most of the marchers were against what they perceived as recent police and grand jury injustices. However, a few people marched in support of the police.  Deciding what justice is will never be as simple as it seems at first glance.

Our Scripture lesson for today says we should acknowledge the justice of God.  Jesus said the least in the Kingdom is greater than John the Baptist and it says they all saw the justice of this.  Do you see the justice of this?  It can only be understood if you understand that things changed when Jesus was baptized and His ministry was the beginning of the new covenant with all peoples.

“Therefore the one who is least in the kingdom of God (one who has believed in Jesus and has become a member of the new covenant kingdom) is actually greater than John, for those who come after John live in the age of fulfillment, following the coming of Jesus. This underscores the qualitative difference between the old age and the dawning of the new kingdom age.” ESV Study Bible Notes     

The justice of God does not and will not look like anything we conjure up in our heads today as we live out our lives.  We perceive wrongs and unfairness each day, but the grace of God may paint a picture that will surprise us just as the Pharisees and the lawyers were surprised in our Scripture lesson.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) who by their own statements influenced numerous politicians and activists with his speeches and writings such as U.S. President Barack Obama, former President Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hubert Humphrey, Dean Acheson, Madeleine Albright, and John McCain. Arthur Schlesinger described Niebuhr as "the most influential American theologian of the 20th century" and Time Magazine posthumously called Niebuhr "the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards".  Niebuhr faced with Hitler and Japan dropped his long held pacifist beliefs and friends and supported World War II.  What was just took on a different meaning when he looked Hitler in the face.  He then wrote about something he called Christian Realism.

What is most real is that one day there will be justice, but I am not objective enough to even attempt to tell you what God’s justice will look like.  What I can say is that God’s grace is real.  Read the story that follows our Scripture lesson.  Remember it? A woman washes Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume and then with her tears.  He says to her “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”(Luke 7:50 ESV)  That makes me know God’s justice will also be done with God’s grace.



Prayer for Today:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.


(This version is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)


© Ed Cooper, December 14, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
   All rights reserved

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

FORGIVING FAMILY


This time of year between Thanksgiving and New Years family is always on my mind. One of the big issues I deal with is forgiveness. I don't seem to be able to let go of how some of my family have reacted to my behavior over the years. I don't like all the conversations behind my back and I certainly don't like the fact that they participated in locking me away a number of times on psychiatric wards. My biggest issue is that my only child was taken from me when she was less than a year old when I was locked away and I ended up with no rights other than those granted by my ex wife. She granted none. I think not being able to see a living child may be worse than having a child die before you do. Of course that is just an opinion based on my feelings although I have lost a child very dear to me. A step-daughter of mine lost her first born son. We had been very close.

The advice I get is to forgive my family and stop letting the anger eat at me. People either quote the Bible, the Big Book of AA or some psychological theory about anger. The Bible does not say I cannot be angry. Read Matthew 5:22 in the KJV, NKJV, Young's Literal Translation, Worldwide English Translation or the World English Bible and you will see the words “without cause.”

Matthew 5:22New King James Version (NKJV)
22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

In the NIV it reads
Matthew 5:22 New International Version (NIV)
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Footnote:Some manuscripts brother or sister without cause
It seems reasonable to me that if one takes the fact that Jesus got angry and that God got angry and that everyone agrees that some manuscripts say that if you’re angry without a cause you’re in trouble then maybe quoting the Bible to me does not work in this case.
The 12 steps tells me what to do in relation to those I have wronged, but I don’t find a great deal of guidance on what I am suppose to do about those who have wronged me.
I do understand the destructiveness of anger to the soul.  It is a cancer to a person’s interior life that spreads to their external life and can make them very difficult to live with.  Do not take this blog entry to suggest I am promoting the idea that one should hold on to anger at all costs.  I am saying don’t try to sell me that all anger is sinful because God and Jesus did not sin and they got angry.  If you don’t believe that ask the money changers in the temple or the fig tree or perhaps you would like to read the Old Testament and then tell me God never got angry.
I have been going to see a psychiatrist since 1964.  I have listened carefully to their advice about anger and read many books claiming to answer the question, but as to date at the age of 66 I still don’t know what a person does with anger that has a cause that is not minor or petty.  Maybe someone reading this will answer this question for me.
© Ed Cooper, December 10, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee


     

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 29

Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 29

(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life.)





Sermon for Today:

The message for today can be found at the following link.

SERMON ON YOUTUBE


Prayer for Today:

Our Heavenly Father, May we learn to look at the poor as your children and to begin to see them as our brothers and sisters. Help us to learn how to witness to our loved ones and to the people we know and who we come in contact with in our daily lives. Amen.



© Ed Cooper, December 7, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
All rights reserved


Thursday, December 04, 2014

WHO MEASURES RECOVERY?



Recovery cannot be measured by whether or not a person is employed or any other artificial measurement decided upon by the funding source or the provider of services.  Recovery cannot be measured by a definition decided on by a committee of persons even if that committee has a majority of persons with lived experience on it.  Recovery can have a definition for the purpose of discourse, but only the person can define it for their personal recovery journey.

Why is this so important?  Because by defining, setting measurements and time limits for persons receiving services you are taking away the person’s right to be an individual on an individual journey.  No two journeys are the same just like no two people are the same.

When I went to a sheltered workshop which was suppose to evaluate me for work, I was appalled at the process.  They pretended to have a pay scale based on production, but it was a farce.  When I went and found a job on my own (I had had plenty of practice having held over fifty jobs before I was 40.), Mountain House in Asheville, NC threw me out of their program because I did not stay at the sheltered workshop saying I was not serious about my recovery.

By all standards set by providers I am a failure.  However, I just had my 66th birthday which means I have made it a long time without going down the path that they said I must.

Person-Centered Recovery should mean that the person defines what the measurements will be and the pace.  Too bad the mental health system has yet to learn this very simple principle.

© Ed Cooper, December 4, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
All rights reserved