7 Wonders of Christmas

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Christmas is a time of wonder. Maybe for you, it brings back memories of hot cocoa, decorating the tree, or caroling. I remember listening to Alec Guinness (of later Obi-Wan fame) in the part of Scrooge on a reel-to-reel recording. Dad recorded it on his new Wollensak recorder with a mic in front of our radio which was about the size of a 2-door Yaris. That was before I was born. I thought we had the only copy on the planet.

Until I found this.

OK, so it’s not as rare as I thought, but listening to it each Christmas is still wonderful.

Christmas has a spirit of wonder because the real story is so unbelievably, inconceivably, wildly wonderful.

I’ve read there are over 365 names in the Bible referring to Jesus. Isaiah the prophet started with, “His name shall be called Wonderful…” Isa 9:6.

Here are my top seven Christmas wonders for 2022.

1: It’s a wonder the Old Testament got it right. Starting around 2000BC God revealed that the Blessing would come through the line of Abraham, the Jewish nation. Later Jacob is told that the Messiah would come through the tribe of Judah. Isaiah predicted He would come from the line of Jesse. Micah prophesied His birth in the tiny town of Bethlehem. Daniel foretold the timeline that the Wise Men may have been studying when they followed the star. And all of this was written 500 to 2000 years before Jesus was born. Those are wild, wonderful prophecies.

2: And while we are on prophecies, it’s a wonder that anyone would prophesy that “a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.” You can claim to be a prophet and try to predict the outcome of an election or the sex of a child. That’s 50/50–at best. But a virgin will conceive? Not likely. Isaiah got that one right 700 years ahead of time. Inconceivably wonderful.

3: I wonder why the angel didn’t tell Joseph what was up with Mary before he planned to divorce her (Matthew 1). He must have been so upset, and disappointed, and just sick in the gut before he knew what was happening. It’s a wonderful story, his sticking by her not only then, but for the rest of his life. That’s a wonderful believer, a great husband, a worthy example.

4: It’s a wonder, too, that God came to shepherds, some of the most despised people of the time (Luke 2). In the caste system, they were the bottom of the barrel, so untrustworthy that they weren’t allowed to testify in court. The Jewish system wouldn’t even allow them on the temple grounds. So, God did better, bringing heaven to earth as the angels sang, and the Temple to lowly shepherds in the form of a baby. That’s wildly wonderful!

5: Two words in Luke chapter two are wonderful to me. The angels said to the shepherds, Lk 2:10 (NIV2011)   “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

They could have said “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” But they said, “a Savior has been born to you.”

To you.

Two unnecessary words make all the difference. It’s unbelievable. Believe it.

6: It’s wonderful that God thought of the practical stuff. Sometimes God can seem distant, uncaring even. But the wise men didn’t show up by accident, they were part of God’s sovereign plan. The star was part of His plan. The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were part of His plan. God cares, and that’s wonderful.

Note: Reinaldo reminded me that according to Gary Larson of “Far Side” fame, unbeknownst to most historians and theologians, there was a fourth wise man who brought fruit cake, but he was summarily rejected by the other three Wise Men, Mary, Joseph, and which rejection was ratified by a screaming Baby Jesus.

7: But it’s the incarnation, God come to earth, in a stable, wrapped in a diaper, to rescue the likes of us. WOW. The real story is unbelievably, inconceivably, wildly wonderful. And think where we are today, 2000 years later:

  • It’s a wonder that King Herod, the ruler of Galilee, a friend of Julius Caesar, and rebuilder of the temple is a footnote to the story of a man who was born in a stable and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
  • It’s a wonder that a guy who never had an army or money or wrote a book, has mountains named after Him (e.g. Sangre de Cristo / Blood of Christ); in New Mexico USA, 7000 miles away and 2000 years later.
  • It’s a wonder that Christmas boxes travel around the world in the name of a man who never traveled far from home and died five miles from where He was born.

Christmas. It’s unbelievably, inconceivably, wildly wonderful.

What are your Christmas wonders? Let us know.


P.S. The photos that we use for this blog and slides tend to come from the online site Unsplash.com. They are free from Unsplash, and legal. The picture I used this week had a note under it from the photographer. I thought I’d share it with you.“I had just stopped by my parent’s house for a cup of coffee. While I sat at the dining room table enjoying the hot cup of Joe and letting it warm my cold bones. I started thinking about Christmas and that was when I spotted the nativity in the corner. My heart was overwhelmed as I thought of Jesus Christ coming down to be the savior of our world. The God of all creation humbled himself and became a child. What love, what deep, deep love!”–Ben White on Unsplash

P.P.S. Bizarre Christmas Stories is now available for under $10! Well, a penny under. Also on Amazon.



Bizarre Christmas Bible Stories was first published by Heritage Builders Press, but right when it was to hit the stores, they went to publishing heaven. Or hell, I’m really not sure due to the president being in jail now. At any rate, it has sat in purgatory for a couple of years while I had to wait to make sure I had the right to publish it again.

This time I self-published it to make it as inexpensive as possible, as a result you can get it as cheaply as me. BUT–I’d just like to get it out there and I’m lousy at marketing. If you can leave a (nice) review, that can really help.

Here are some places I’ve found it

Barnes and Noble for $9.99

Walmart for $13.55

Mendocino Books for $9.99

Amazon (of course) for $17.97!! Who would pay that? Not me.

Merry Christmas!


Bizarre Book Cover Help

I have a little stocking-suffer book scheduled to come out through Heritage Builders this Fall, for Christmas.

What do you think of the proposed cover? I especially loved the bug, scientist, and Mary making diapers out of underwear. Hopefully that won’t offend too many….

Any suggestions? Anything you love? loathe? Of course, without reading the stories it all doesn’t really make sense – but that is why your opinion is more helpful than mine.

Thanks for your help!

Hoping people buy books based on their covers,



Salvation Baby

My sister Janice is writing poems to go into my Bizarre Christmas Bible Story book for 2018. I LOVE this salvation poem…

How Can I Get to Heaven?

Does it take a village?
Does it take an offering?
Does it take good deeds
like food given to the poor?

Does it take religion?
Does it cost a fortune?
Does it call for auras,
yoga poses on the floor?

You could never do it.
You cannot achieve it.
All it takes is one small sin
to block you from the Gate.

All the good you’re doing
will not gain you entrance.
God demands perfection.
Do not fear, it’s not too late.

Baby in a manger,
in Bethlehem, a stranger,
came to life on earth
so that for you He could die.

He, the perfect Savior,
is your substitution.
He came down to this earth
to raise you up on High.

John 3:16

Janice Cooley Jones

Free Halloween Book Deal

halloween-2-001-2400What does a parent do when they run out of candy? Read Bizarre Halloween Bible Stories of course. I have it as a free download through Kindle from Oct 29 – Nov 2 here. Look for the guy climbing out of a commode.

It’s not a huge deal – just 3 stories, two from Bizarre Bible Stories 1, and one from BBS 2. I’ll cut and paste one of the stories at the end of the blog, so you know what it is like. They are:

  • STORY 1: How to Scare a Witch (From BIZARRE Bible Stories, Ch. 6)
  • STORY 2: Eaten from the Inside Out (From BIZARRE Bible Stories, Ch. 24)
  • STORY 3: The Left-handed Assassin (From BIZARRE Bible Stories 2! Ch. 1)

Hopefully we will have 5 new stories – Bizarre Christmas Bible Stories – out soon. Would stink to have it published on Dec 28…


Chapter 3: The Left-Handed Assassin

(From BIZARRE Bible Stories 2! Ch. 1)

Scripture Passage: Judges 3

Would you like to look different? Would you like to be smarter? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Sometimes I wish God had made me different. It’s not that I look disgusting, I’ve seen worse. But, why didn’t He give me shoulders? My arms go down to my knees because they come out of my neck. Was that necessary? In Judges Chapter 3 we have a person who thought he was perfect, but wasn’t. And we have another person who probably wished God had made him differently. But God made him perfect for what God wanted him to do.




The time of the Judges was demanding. When we get to the book of Judges, Chapter 3, life in Israel was horrible. Moses had led the Hebrew people out of Egypt. Joshua had led them into the Promised Land. Life should have been good, but when Moses, Joshua, and the previous leaders died, the people “did evil in the Lord’s sight.” [Judges 3:12 NLT] The people were poor, their army was weak, and they were little more than slaves to an evil jerk named Eglon, King of Moab.

Through war, Eglon had gained control of Israel. His life was great. He was king and his kingdom was growing. So was he. His name means “male calf,” which was fitting in that the Bible says he was both enormous and callous. His army came into Israel as far as Jericho, where he stopped and bartered a peace treaty to end the war. Israel became Moab’s territory. The Israelites were virtual slaves, giving King Eglon most of the money they made. In return, Eglon stopped the war. For eighteen years, Israel belonged to Eglon.

Have you ever felt far from God and then gone to Him for help? What brought you back to God?

Eglon was a pain, and pain has a way of bringing us back to God. Here is what the Bible says happened next.

“When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD again raised up a rescuer to save them. His name was Ehud son of Gera, a left-handed man of the tribe of Benjamin. The Israelites sent Ehud to deliver their tribute money to King Eglon of Moab. So Ehud made a double-edged dagger that was about a foot long, and he strapped it to his right thigh, keeping it hidden under his clothing. He brought the tribute money to Eglon, who was very fat.” [Judges 3:15-17 NLT]

Ehud made an assassin’s weapon. It was a double-edged foot-long dagger, he couldn’t find on store shelves. It differed from a common sword not just in being shorter, but it also didn’t have a hand-guard. [One reason he lost it later]. Both the shortness and the lack of a hand guard allowed Ehud to keep it hidden. Ehud strapped the dagger to his right thigh because he was left-handed. This made it easier and faster to pull from its sheath.

[Stand up and pretend you have a sword strapped to your left thigh. Now, with your left hand, try to pull it up so it can come out of its sheath (holder). It’s awkward because your elbow can’t come up that high without difficulty. Now pretend it’s strapped to your right thigh. Can you see how it is easier to pull out a sword from your right thigh when you are left-handed?]

The “tribute money” Ehud took to King Eglon was what Israel was paying Eglon not to attack them. When Ehud went to see King Eglon, he brought a number of people with him. They were necessary to help carry the money, animals, goods, and materials. When they arrived, Moab celebrated, because someone else was making them rich. That’s not a bad deal if you’re a Moabite. It was a bit like a robber coming to your house with a gun, saying, “If you give me all your money, then I won’t kill you.” As long as they paid Eglon, he didn’t kill them.

Why do you think the Bible tells us Ehud was “left-handed?” Do you think it is an advantage or disadvantage to be left-handed?

There are a few reasons the Bible tells us Ehud was left-handed. First, God wanted to say, “I can beat Eglon with one hand tied behind my back.” The term “left-handed” can be translated “bound in the right hand.” It’s probable that something – maybe a childhood or battle injury — left Ehud’s right hand unusable. It’s likely that Ehud was a one-handed, left-handed-only man. Having only one hand was a major disadvantage. At this time in history, farming, carpentry, blacksmithing, and being a soldier were common jobs men performed to make their living. Any of these jobs would have been difficult with just one hand.

[We don’t know for certain, but since the text can read “bound in the right hand,” and since Eglon wasn’t concerned about his safety, I’m going to assume for the story that Ehud only had one usable hand.]

Even if his right hand was usable, folks back then believed being left-handed was a handicap. In Ehud’s time, even left-handed warriors were trained to use their sword and fight with their right hand. God was letting Moab know He could win with a one-handed, left-handed, man.

[When my mom went to school, those who were left-handed were forced to write with their right hand. They thought that being left-handed was a deformity, even in America, just seventy years ago.]

Ehud was chosen to take the tribute to the King of Moab, not because he was an important official (he wasn’t), but because he didn’t appear to be a threat. You can almost hear King Eglon order, “Send the tribute by some wimpy guy. Deformed is cool, left-handed even better. I don’t want to have to worry about my safety. No muscled soldiers allowed!” Ehud may well have been the least dangerous man in all Israel. The king didn’t worry about him. He should have.

Being left handed was an advantage for Ehud. It’s the reason Ehud was able to get close to the king with his dagger. They must have searched Ehud when he came with the tribute. When security saw no sword on his left side, and no usable hand on his right side, they let him through.

Have you ever gone camping or lived where there wasn’t a flush toilet? Did it smell bad around the outhouse? Aren’t you glad we have clean bathrooms now?

Ehud and the group from Israel delivered the tribute to King Eglon. Then they started the trip back home. Along the way, Ehud made an excuse to the rest of the entourage, and hurried back alone to Moab. He may have been praying, “God, help me get in to see the king. Don’t let them find the dagger. Please help me!” He made it back to the king’s house. The guards were standing in front.

“Hey guys. I’m sorry to come back again so soon. I have a secret message from God I didn’t want to give with everyone else around. Is it okay if I go in to see the King again?” [Judges 3:19]

“Hey you – give Ehud another quick search. I’ll see if King Eglon wants to see him.”

After a scary search, which focused on his left side where there was no dagger, they agreed to let Ehud into the King’s fancy room on the second floor. Ehud said, “If it’s acceptable to the great King Eglon, I’d rather talk to you alone.”

The king was unafraid of “Ehud the lefty” with the withered right arm, so he sent his guards out of the room. Ehud closed the door, walked forward, reached with his left hand, pulled out the dagger strapped to his right thigh, and plunged it into the King’s belly. Here’s the gross part. The dagger went in so deep that the handle disappeared beneath the king’s fat! [No hand-guard to stop the thrust] Ehud left the knife in the king. The King James Version then says, “And the dirt came out.” Because his insides came out, it smelled ghastly. Time to leave!

This extravagant king’s room on the second floor had its own bathroom. They used to build the bathrooms against an outside wall, kind of like an upstairs outhouse you might use while camping. Here is what we think happened. The toilet was just a large upstairs hole to the ground floor below. On the ground floor, the toilet bottom was similar to a closet. It would have had walls separating it (and most of the smell) from the rest of the house. It also had a small door to the outside so some poor soul could go in and shovel it out. Yuck. [This may be evidence that Ehud was also a small man, as he had to sneak out of this shovel door.]

Ehud locked the door to the king’s bedroom, left the knife inside the king, removed the toilet seat, dropped down (yuck, but it saved his life) to the poop closet below, and escaped through the clean-out door.

Due to the smell from the open toilet, [and the possibility of the king spending much time there in the past – my assumption], the guards outside were reluctant to break the locked bedroom door. It isn’t wise to bust in on a king who is sitting on his toilet throne. Better to wait and find him lifeless then to guess wrong and lose yours. When the guards eventually broke in, Ehud was long gone.

Do you remember your answer to the questions “Would you like to look different? Would you like to be smarter? If there was one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be? Could it be that God made you the way you are on purpose?

Ehud had an unfair advantage. No security forces checked the left-handed man. Nor did they check his right side for a dagger. The King wasn’t afraid to be alone with him. Maybe God did something to eliminate Ehud’s sense of smell too – just to be nice.

A one-handed, left-handed, small, smell deprived, Ehud killed the powerful King of Moab. It’s as if God beat Eglon with one hand tied behind His back.

There is an old Haitian saying, “God’s pencil has no eraser.” God didn’t make a mistake when He made Ehud – or when Ehud lost his right arm. Because of a deformed, one-armed weak person following God, Moab was soon defeated and Israel had peace for 80 years. Not bad. Ehud may have wished God made him differently. God made him perfect. Now if I can just find a use for ape-arms.

So, What Should I Do?


God created you just right for accomplishing His will in your life. In fact, He created you with an unfair advantage. He created you for this time and this place. You could have been born during the time of Ehud. You weren’t. You could have grown up anywhere else. You didn’t. God could have created you super-model looking. I’m guessing He didn’t. He could have made it where you never even became sick. Instead, God made you just right for this time and this place to work out His will in your life.

Where Else Is This Taught?

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

1 Corinthians 1:26-28 (NLT) Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish (left-handed) in order to shame those who think they are wise (kings). And he chose things that are powerless (one-handed) to shame those who are powerful (king’s guards). God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all (Jewish nation), and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important (Moab). (Author’s notes)

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

2 Corinthians 3:5 (NLT) It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.

Cooley 2015 End of Year Letter

Emerson’s first REAL Christmas

COOLEY CHRISTMAS LETTER 2015 – written by our son Micah

So you know how we always get me [Micah], your favorite grandson/nephew/cousin/somehow related person, to write the Christmas letter, and how it’s always stupid, and how I always procrastinate to the last minute and it winds up being a “Year in Review” letter rather than a “Christmas” letter, and how it’s always a bad idea?

We did it again.

Mama and Papa Cooley: Mama Cooley is working for the first time since having a chipmunk-cheeked baby in 1985. So, for the first time since the Reagan administration, Mama Cooley is employed as a Patient and Family Advocate at Presbyterian Hospital. No, I don’t know what that means, but she’s making more money than the rest of us. The shocker is, she somehow found gainful employment doing something other than quilting.

Papa Cooley spent most of this year doing Papa Cooley things, primarily not going on his sabbatical, because life is awful. I can’t remember if Bizarre Bible Stories 2 came out this year or last year, but go buy a copy. All the proceeds go to the Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation. Read it in your Prius, while drinking your fair-trade coffee in your fair-wage clothing, while feeling superior to all your friends – because you are.

Megan and Jon: MEGAN IS SUPER PREGNANT. She still has like, three months or something to go, so not super super pregnant, but she’s getting there. She’s not quite to the point where you can start making fat jokes (which is by far the best part), but she’s on her way. The kid will inevitably be a boy, because that’s the way life works.

Jon is graduating next semester, right after the littlest Penner pops out, so that’s pretty much right on time. Good for him and his flawless punctuality on obtaining that degree in… something. No one gets a job in their degree anyway.

Amanda and Jake: I FINALLY GET TO WRITE A CHRISTMAS LETTER WHERE AMANDA ISN’T PREGNANT OR HAS RECENTLY GIVEN BIRTH. Unfortunately, that means I’m out of joke material. She was a gold mine for barely-appropriate-for-a-Christmas-letter humor. In August Amanda and Jake moved into our house on account of the fact that she’s having seizures now, so uh, not a lot of joke material there either. Please pray with us as she seeks a second opinion with a neurological clinic that specializes in seizures.

Fortunately, having Jake and Amanda here means we also have Emerson and Oliver in the house. Today I discovered the joy of buying a two-year-old his first lightsaber. Oliver is smashing up the house as I write. It’s hilarious. I love being an uncle. Amanda and Jake seem less enthused.

Myself and Caleb: We’re still not married, so we’re both here. With parents. Still. It’s totally gonna suck when one of us does get married, and the other one of us is written about in a lonely section, all alone, at the bottom of the annual Christmas letter.

FORTUNATELY, NOT YET. We’re both still single, alone, and crying often. It is very sad.

What isn’t sad is that I am only one class short of graduating from UNM. I also move out next month. So hey, moving out at 24 is right on time! Right? I hope you’re nodding yes, wherever you are. I know mom is.

Caleb is back in community college and then after next semester… you’re guess is as good as mine. Which is probably a guess as good as his. I’ll let you know next year in the next letter. The next six months of his life is always a surprise. He doesn’t get bored.

John 1:14 (NLT) So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. James 1:17 (NLT) Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father.

Merry Christmas! Well, Happy New Year.

Micah (and parent appropriateness editors) for all.

The Lost Scientist

lost scientistAn explanation of the 3 Wise Men that even kids can understand. Merry Christmas

STORY 5: The Lost Scientist

The Passage: Matthew 2:1-12

Who were the three kings that came to see Jesus in the manger?

We sing the song “We Three Kings” at Christmastime, but the sad truth is, no kings came to see Jesus at his birth. King Herod was only about five miles away, but he stayed home. And the Wise Men, who are sometimes called kings, they didn’t see Jesus in the manger either. They asked King Herod for directions, but that is as close as Jesus came to any earthly kings. So, who were these Wise Men, where did they come from, and why did they come?


Matthew chapter two says “Mt 2:1 (NLT) Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some Wise Men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

The word for “wise men” or “magi” can also be translated “scientist, astrologer,” or “magician.” We don’t know much about the wise men, but what we do know is petty cool. We know they were a kind of scientist, that they descended from a priestly tribe from a people called the “Medes,” and that they studied stars. Some were probably into strange religions like the occult, and yet others must have been believers.

If we go back in time to about 500 years before Jesus was born, we can learn more about the wise men. So, lets hop in our time machine and back we go.

Have you ever had a nightmare that was so scary that when you woke up you were afraid to go back to sleep? What was it about?

500 years before Jesus, Nebuchadnezzar (we will call him King Neb) was king of Babylon. King Neb went to war against Israel, and brought Daniel and some other teenagers back as prisoners. Daniel and other young prisoners were sent to wise man school to be trained to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was just graduating from wise man training when King Neb had a dream. The dream totally freaked King Neb out – he must have woken up all scared and sweaty – so he yelled for his magi to interpret the dream for him.

“OK King, we will do our best.” they said, “just tell us the dream and we will tell you what it means.”

But King Neb had forgotten his dream! No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t remember it – but the harder he tried to remember the dream, the more terrified he became. So he told his magi, “I can’t remember it – so you must tell me both the dream I had and what it means.”

“What? We can’t do that! We’d have to be a god to do that! No king has ever asked such a thing before, and no one can tell you what you dreamed!” they answered.

But King Neb wasn’t backing down. He said, “I am serious about this. If you don’t tell me what my dream was and what it means, you will be torn limb from limb, and your houses will be turned into heaps of rubble! But if you tell me what I dreamed and what the dream means, I will give you many wonderful gifts and honors. Just tell me the dream and what it means!” Daniel 2:5-6 (NLT)

Have you ever felt like everyone was against you? Without hope? When? Why? Were you really without hope?

The Wise Men didn’t want to be torn limb from limb, but they also couldn’t do what the king wanted. So, King Neb rounded all the magi up to kill them – including Daniel who had just graduated from Wise Men school. What could Daniel do? He was a teenager in a foreign jail in line to be torn apart. His parents were dead or back in Israel. All hope was gone.

Except for God. All Daniel could do was pray. So he did.

That night God answered Daniel’s prayer, telling him both what the king had dreamt, and what the dream meant. The next day, Daniel asked to speak to the king. There were probably wiser people than King Neb around. They were glad to stop the killing of the Wise Men – so they brought Daniel to the king. When Daniel explained things to the Neb, Neb was blown away! Daniel must have become a hero not only to the king, but also to all the wise men. He saved them from a gruesome death!

When Daniel was older, God told him when the Messiah King Jesus would be born (Daniel chapter 9). Jerusalem and all Israel had been destroyed by Babylon, but God said Jerusalem would be rebuilt, and that the Messiah would come 434 years (62 weeks of years) later. It’s probable that many Wise Men became followers of Daniel’s God, as they must have loved Daniel since he saved their lives. If that is true, then they were looking forward to the coming Messiah. It wasn’t long after Daniel died that Jerusalem was rebuilt.

And the Wise Men starting counting down the 434 years.

If you had a time machine, where would you go? When would you go?

Now we will skim over the 500 years from Daniel to Jesus.

History seems to indicate that after Daniel died, the Wise Men lived east of Israel and the Roman Empire (in the Parthian empire) During these years, kings would hire the Wise Men as their counselors. When kingdoms were between kings, they would use the Wise Men to help choose their next leaders. They were the kingmakers.

The Wise Men pop up after Daniel in the book of Esther, when that king consulted with his “wise advisers” in Esther 1:13. That king trusted his Wise Men to help him choose the new Queen of Persia. Then the Bible goes silent until. . .

Mt 2:1 (NLT) Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some Wise Men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him. . . ”

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

9 After this interview the Wise Men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 1

When the Wise Men came to see Jesus, they weren’t coming to help interpret a dream like Daniel did for King Neb. They weren’t coming to help choose a queen like they did for Esther. They were the kingmakers, and they were coming to worship the new King.

It’s possible that 500 years before Jesus was born, God chose some wise men, a group of scientists, to get special insight from Daniel about when the Messiah Jesus would be born. These Wise Men passed down this information from one generation to the next. When these scientists saw the strange light in the sky, and counted down 434 years since Jerusalem had been rebuilt, they knew it was time to go worship the coming King.

Not being sure exactly where to go to find Jesus, they stopped at Herod’s house. Surely King Herod would know where the baby had been born. But, of course, Herod had no clue.

No important people from Israel came to worship King Jesus. King Herod and the religious leaders in Jerusalem didn’t bother to go five miles to what might be happening in Bethlehem. . So, God went back 500 years to bring some of the smartest men on the planet, the kingmakers – men who counseled kings and chose queens – to travel across from the east to worship Him.

So what should I do?
Worship Him.

Where else is this taught?
Jer 29:13 (NLT) If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
2Ki 17:36 (NLT) But worship only the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt with great strength and a powerful arm. Bow down to him alone, and offer sacrifices only to him.
Ps 33:18 (NLT) The LORD watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.



The President Writes Back!


Since this is the President George H.W. Bush week, I thought I’d re-post this.

He and Barbara have done some things for the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation. Since the proceeds from Bizarre Bible Stories 2! go to the CCRF, I sent them a book.

But he wrote back, and that I think, is really cool.

I’d vote for him now!



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The Stinky Visitors

shepherdI was wanting to do about 5 Bizarre Christmas Bible Stories. So – i started working on one. My first drafts are pretty rough, so if you have suggestions send them on. If you can read it to a kid and send their suggestions, even better! dan@danielcooley.com

The Stinky Visitors
The Passage: Luke 2:8-18

If God told you He was going to meet you for lunch tomorrow, how would you prepare? What would you wear? Would you take a bath that morning? Would you read your Bible?

Let’s go back in time and listen in on a shepherds’ conversation. Oliver is a shepherd’s apprentice, and Emerson is his big brother. They should be asleep, but the ground is cold and hard this night, so they are sitting up talking.

“So Oliver, it’s almost the end of your first year of being an apprentice. You will be ready to work alone soon. What do you think? How do you like being a shepherd?”
“I don’t. It stinks out here. We don’t make much money, and people make fun of us.”
“Wow, you woke up on the wrong side of the sheep pen. I had no idea. You do know this is one of the most prestigious jobs in history!”
“Right. I bet all those people in Bethlehem are jealous of us. We get to sleep on rocks while they have to sleep in comfy beds.”
Emerson felt awful. He really wanted his brother to enjoy being a shepherd like he did, and his father before him. So, he decided to give Oliver a little Bible lesson.
“I’m curious Oliver, do you know what Abraham’s job was – Abraham from the book of Genesis? Go ahead you can say it.”
“A shepherd.”
“Right, and he was rich! And Isaac, what did he do?
“Yeah, I know, he was a shepherd too.”
“Right. And his son Jacob, what did he and Rachel do?”
“OK, I get it, they watched sheep. Big deal.”
“But it doesn’t end there, how about Jacob’s 12 sons? Shepherds, every one of them. And who was the greatest leader Israel ever had? Moses. What made him so great? Not growing up as some rich mansy pansy Egyptian wimp. Nope, it took God forty years of having him work as a shepherd to make a man out of him. And – see if you know this one – who was the greatest King who ever lived?”
“Well, Solomon was the wisest, but I like David best.”
“David, you bet. He is the one who put the kingdom together. And what was his first occupation? A shepherd. We were the best, the top of the social ladder – rich, rugged and important.”
“Right Emerson, I know all those stories – well most of them – but being a shepherd isn’t fun anymore. It’s been 1000 years since David was king. Now someone else owns the sheep, and we are stuck out here homeless, living outside, no chance for an education or a future. What’s so great about that?”
Emerson was stuck. It had been 1000 years since David was king. Rich people in Jerusalem did own the sheep – the shepherds just managed the sheep for the owners. Oliver was starting to wonder what he liked about being a shepherd, and then he remembered.
“Sure, we’re homeless, but no one can tell us what to do. We have the tower of Eder to take refuge in, used for over a thousand years! We get to wrap up the new lambs there in swaddling clothes to make sure they stay spotless for Temple sacrifices, and lay them in the mangers until they calm down. Of course, we also have the sweet smell of sheep, uh, droppings.
I’ll admit, our language is a little rough, just because those city slickers don’t have the guts to say what they really mean. And we’re not all thieves either. Just because we get convicted for every theft in town doesn’t mean we’re guilty of ‘em. If they paid us what our sheep were worth, we wouldn’t have to steal so much! It’s their fault. Idiots, unfair jerks – let me tell you what I really think!”
“Sorry. It’s hard for an old shepherd to watch his language. Anyway, I like having no boss looking over my shoulder, paying no taxes. . . “
“That’s because we have no money to pay taxes with!”
“Well, I love sleeping out under the stars.”
“That’s because we have no house to go to!”
“OK then, at least we don’t have to go to church.”
“Right – that’s because they wouldn’t let us in the Temple if we wanted in!”
“So tell me Oliver, little shepherd, what would you rather do?”
“You don’t want to be a shepherd? Why? How can you say that? What’s bothering you little brother?”
“OK, here’s the truth. I hate sheep. Roman warhorses are cool. Dogs can herd sheep. Cats can catch mice. What good are sheep? They continually get lost, they will eat themselves sick, they stink, they’re stubborn, and they’re dumb enough to follow each other off a cliff.”
“Well, there’s that. I just always figured it was job security, them being too dumb and stubborn to make it on their own. They need a shepherd to feed and protect them. Then they are OK!”
“No, then they still stink.”
“Mercy, you’re a hard case. Yes, sheep will always stink. Nothing we can do about that. Once you’re my age though, you get to appreciate the smell. It’s an acquired taste – like coffee and dirty socks. A shepherd has to get down and dirty with his sheep. He has to love them and hold them – dirt, blood, manure and all.
So you don’t like sheep. We can deal with that. Any other reason you don’t wanna be a shepherd?”
“Yeah, there is. Don’t laugh at me Emerson, but I’d like to go to the Temple. Just once, I’d like to be able to worship with everyone else. You remember bringing the lambs to Passover last spring, don’t you? That priest was such a jerk. All we asked to do was to go into the Temple outer courts after selling him the lambs. ‘Oh no, I couldn’t let you do that,’ he whined, ‘you shepherds are unclean. All of you are. God would be furious if I let your kind into the Temple. God is pure, and you people are unclean! You can’t come into the presence of God.’ I’ll never forget him telling us that.”
“Right – but do you remember what I did then? ‘You’re dirty too!’ I shouted, and slapped him in the face. He couldn’t enter the temple for the entire Passover season because he was touched by an ‘unclean shepherd.’ Pompous idiot. It served him right.”
“Yeah, that was great! But, I’d still like to worship – I’d like to see what the Temple looks like on the inside – to smell the incense and hear the music.”
“You’re right, being a shepherd makes us outcasts. Maybe the priest was right too, maybe we’re not good enough to come to God. But when you’re out here, under the stars, it seems as if God has already come to us. Maybe we’re as close to God here as we would be at the Temple. Our prophet Isaiah says that God knows how many stars there are, and He has named every one of them. I use to count the stars at night, and I think there’s at least 300 of them! If God cares about stars, maybe He cares about shepherds too.
There’s another thing shepherds get that priests don’t. We get the stars, and we get the angels. The priests think they are so special, but the angels came to us! You remember, don’t you? We were camping by the Tower of Edar, by Bethlehem. We found that baby in the bottom of the tower. He was wrapped up in priests underwear, just like we wrap up the lambs so they can be a spotless sacrifice at the Temple. Tell me what you remember.”
[Genesis 35:19-31 the tower, “Mig-dal Ay-dar” in Hebrew, was there at the time of Jacob. From Micah 4:8 and 5:2-5, it seems this was the likely birthplace of Jesus. This view has come and gone, revived by Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, chapter 6. Edersheim also talks about the swaddling clothes. Priests would donate their undergarments after the feast days to the poor, who would use them as swaddling clothes. Shepherds would wrap up the lambs that were bred for the Temple sacrifices in the free garments to make sure they stayed “without blemish.” Since Jerusalem was only 4 miles away from Bethlehem, and since this area was used to raise temple lambs, it seems likely that Jesus, our High Priest was wrapped up in discarded priests undergarments as an infant.]
“Well, that night we were in the fields outside the village, guarding our flocks of sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among us. God’s glory blazed around us. We were terrified.
But the angel reassured us. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth!’
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, we said to each other, ‘Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
We ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. We told everyone we met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard our story were astonished!” [Adapted from Luke 8:8-18]

What do you think it would have been like to be there that night? To see Mary and Joseph? To see Jesus?

Emerson was amazed. “Wow Oliver, you are a terrific story teller. You should wrote that down!”
“Nah, it would never sell”
“What I remember best is kneeling down next to that manger. I felt closer to God there then I’ve ever felt before, even out here under these stars. You see, when I’m out here, I know God is out there somewhere. But kneeling by the manger – it was like God was down here, with us, right inside that little kid. Then – you must remember Mary offering for you to hold her baby, and He reached out to you? It was as if He loved you, sheep stink and all. That Priest, he wouldn’t let us touch him, but this Baby, He reached right into your heart.”
Oliver looked down. The hardest thing ever for him to do was to admit his older brother might be right. But he was getting sleepy now – sleepy enough to crash on cold rocks. So he admitted, “Sometimes, you’re right. As much as I’d like to worship in the Temple, I wouldn’t change that one night for a lifetime of temple worship. And it didn’t end when we left the manger. Do you remember telling everyone we saw about the angels and the baby? That was cool. I can’t imagine anything being as exciting as telling someone else that you have met the Messiah! Can you imagine knowing Jesus and not telling others about Him? Now that would be insane. Even shepherds know better than that.”
“I’ve one more thought for you Oliver, before you give up being a shepherd. That night the angel said, ‘Unto YOU a savior is born.’ This baby with God inside didn’t come to some smart mouth pompous priest. The angels didn’t go to the Temple, or to Herod or Caesar. They didn’t even go to the closest Rabbi. They came to us. Maybe God doesn’t see us as unclean. Maybe God our Shepherd loves us in spite of our dirt.
So, What Should I Do?
Don’t argue with your big brother – he will almost always win anyway.
Don’t slap a priest. They sometimes slap back.
Don’t ever let your sin keep you separated from God. Turn from it and go to God, He can handle it.
Where Else Is This Taught?
The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. [Psalms 23:1-6]
The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” [1 Samuel 16:7]
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.” [John 10:14-15] 

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It’s Official!

ccrLogoFrom the CCRF Website…

Best-Selling Author Donates Proceeds of New Book to CCRF

Best-selling author, Dan Cooley, donates all profits from new book Bizarre Bible Stories 2 to help children with cancer.

“Dear God, why did you give me cancer?” asked Kristina, daughter of a long-time friend of Pastor and author Dan Cooley.

Dan recalls, “In the summer of 2013, Kristina wrote me a note with that question. I tried to give an answer in Bizarre Bible Stories 2!, but fell short. One day I’ll see her again, and she can show me her mansion and introduce me to Jesus who will answer the question with depth.”  Kristina went to heaven June 21, 2014.  The new book is dedicated to her.