Joseph Avenue Christmas is the story of one man's journey to the true meaning of Christmas. Not just the birth of the babe, but the salvation of the soul. Set on the wintry streets of Rochester, NY it is a visit to the heart of that city and the hearts of some of its best and bravest people. From their good example, and the simple lessons of their own lives and faith, a troubled man finds on a dark Christmas Eve an escape from an increasingly failed life.
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The WHAM Home Repair Clinic will air it's 25th Anniversary show tomorrow morning with its outgoing, informed, and amazingly entertaining duo in Jim Salmon and John Carr. The pair join Bob Lonsberry for a special edition and hilarious segment. Listen below...
Why didn’t God respect Cain’s offering?
Did you ever wonder that? Way back in Sunday school, when they told you the Genesis stories over and over. Did you ever wonder why, when Cain and Abel made offerings to the Lord, that God accepted one and rejected the other?
Here’s what the Bible says.
It says that Cain made an offering of the fruits of the ground. Stuff he’d grown on his farm. Vegetables and stuff, grains and fruit.
Then his brother Abel made an offering of the “firstlings of the flock.” Abel kept sheep, and he took the best of his animals and sacrificed them to God.
Two brothers, worshipping, offering sacrifices.
But only one passed muster.
God respected and accepted Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s.
One manner of worship pleased the Lord and had his approval, and one did not.
Did you ever wonder why?
It was because Cain did it his way, instead of God’s way. There was a set way to offer sacrifices, it is all through the Old Testament. God told the people how he wanted it done, how he wanted them to worship him, what he wanted them to believe.
Sacrifices were to be animals.
And Cain didn’t do it that way.
Cain did it his own way.
He sacrificed plants.
And God rejected it. Ultimately he rejected Cain. And Cain, undoubtedly growing in evil and alienation from good, became the first murderer, rising up and slaying his brother.
Not so much because of the difference between sheep and produce, but because of the pride and lack of humility, the sense that he would be in charge of his relationship with God, instead of letting the Lord be in charge.
It’s an ancient lesson, if you’re going to worship the Lord, you have to do it the Lord’s way. And there is a Lord’s way. There is a right way and a wrong way – as the sacrifices of Cain and Abel metaphorically and literally show.
Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life.
That is a lesson almost universally ignored in contemporary American Christianity. In fact, contemporary American Christianity has far more in common with Cain’s sacrifice than Abel’s. Certainly, it is done in the name of the Lord, but not in the spirit of the Lord, and not with his approval or acceptance.
Christianity is a religion which requires the bending of human will – through faith and free choice – to God’s will. Yet, as practiced in our day and age, Christianity is a religion of consensus and popular opinion. Instead of molding our lifestyle to our faith, today we mold our faith to our lifestyle.
It used to be that consciousness of our sin prompted us to change our offending behavior, now we merely change the prohibiting commandment. We live our lives as we wish, we create a dogma around our choices and we pretend it is the word of God, we pretend that it is pleasing to God.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers.
"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
And we mock the Abels of the world who faithfully obey the unchanging will of the Lord. And stoked by our envy and pride, we rise up and seek to slay the beliefs and institutions to which they righteously cling.
In a way, we are a nation of Cains, gods unto ourselves, consumed with the desire to do it our way. A desire, which the conduct of the biblical Cain shows us, is on the path of evil.
And so we ordain gay bishops. And perform gay weddings. We trivialize the Bible by calling it folklore, and we mock the Savior by deeming him merely a great teacher. And we forsake our religion by seeing it as just one of many, merely another path of a myriad, converging off in the distance somewhere at the feet of some undefined and amorphous deity whose exact characteristics we haven’t yet decided upon.
It’s religion by committee, where instead of seeking God’s will, we worship our own will. We are modern idolaters kneeling piously in front of a mirror.
We reject the fundamental fact that truth is absolute, and instead bury our sin and foolishness in the morass of moral relativity and situational ethics. We have been offered a foundation of stone, but instead build our houses and our cathedrals on the shifting sands. And we skip blissfully along as they collapse into ruins all around us.
And we do all this while – just like Cain – self-righteously pretending that we are worshipping God.
The will of the Lord is not found in the opinion polls or the latest policies of cafeteria churches, it is found in his written and inspired word. It doesn’t matter what the activist bishops and theologians think, it matters what God has declared.
The answer is in the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus told his followers to implore their Heavenly Father, “Thy will be done.”
Not my will. Not your will. His will.
Abel understood that. Cain did not.
The great test of our lives will be whether or not we do.
Don Stevens, Rochester Americans' play-by-play announcer, joins Bob Lonsberry to talk about the Frozen Frontier, taking place this week and next at Frontier Field. The event takes the recent concept of an "outdoor classic" and turns it into a full celebration of hockey and the city of Rochester. Listen below...
Meg Richardson is a Rochester native who grew up in the South Wedge. She attended Nazareth College and is now living her dream of performing on the big stage. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you an exclusive interview with a star of this year's A Christmas Carol. Listen below...
Reports this week that Rochester is the fifth-poorest city in America brought predictable and impassioned calls for the community to “do more.”
At a dramatic press conference, the presenter spoke loftily about this high poverty rate being an offense to the community and that honor and duty and apple pie all demanded that “more be done.”
Poverty was cited as a cause for greater philanthropy, enhanced social welfare programs and more community involvement.
And the next day, coincidentally, the United Way had a big fundraiser for causes and non-profits of various stripes.
The assumption is that high poverty rates call for more welfare and social programs. We work on the premise that the more poor people we have the more we should give.
But I’m not sure that premise is correct.
And maybe instead of presuming something, we should do some analysis, and see if past experience can teach us anything.
Because there is a poverty paradox in Rochester. The more we give, the poorer we get.
For almost a century, Rochester has been among the nation’s top cities for both per capita charitable contributions and access to social welfare programs. For almost 100 years, Rochester has been one of America’s most generous cities.
Dating back to the prime of George Eastman’s life, Rochester has been on the progressive edge of offering charitable and social service assistance to the impoverished. The predecessor of the national United Way movement itself was created in Rochester. The Rochester system of settlement houses welcomed the newcomers from both overseas and the black South.
For a century, we have been one of America’s most generous and services-rich communities.
We have done more, under the dominant paradigm, to reduce poverty in our community than virtually any other city in America.
And yet, over those years poverty has increased and become more debilitating.
And now, we have the fifth-highest poverty rate in America, and some of our neighborhoods have almost-unmatched concentrations of poverty.
Nation-leading generosity has led to nation-leading poverty.
We’ve done more and gotten less.
And people are pointing to the new statistics and shouting that we must do more of what we have led the nation in doing for almost100 years.
That doesn’t make sense.
So I’d like to offer an alternative.
Instead of taking a social-welfare approach to poverty, perhaps we should take a jobs-creating approach to poverty.
Not another inane works program or jobs-training program – neither of those ever work – but an approach of city government that puts private-sector jobs creation at the top of the list.
Not through government development programs – which have also been stunning failures – but by creating direct incentives for businesses that build in the city and pay good wages to people in the city.
Specifically, people from the most impoverished of neighborhoods.
Not the fundamentally dishonest “job creation” of New York’s current IDA culture, where tax dollars are frittered away on bull-crap projects for fat cats too crooked to pay their own bills.
But rather a targeted tax abatement system whereby the city throws open its arms to job-creating businesses. All of them. Lots and lots of them.
For example, the city should forgive the property tax of any business opening or operating in the poorest neighborhoods that employs at least 10 people from those neighborhoods, fulltime, at wages of at least $20 an hour.
And that $20 hour wage is not to create some artificial “living wage” threshold, it is to tell businessmen that the enterprises they launch need to offer such value to customers that employees truly earn their high wages.
Understanding that wage variability is a function of operating margin, a similar no-tax offer should be made to businesses that employee 20 or more people at $15 an hour, fulltime.
Beyond taxes, the city needs to pull its vexatious inspectors up short and cut through the crap, red tape and harassment that city workers have come to represent for Rochester businesses.
City staff should be there to help wage-paying businesses, not trip them up and fine them and impede their progress and growth. Make permits, fees and approvals quick, easy and cheap.
Roll out the red carpet for business.
Poverty is a function of low income.
Jobs raise income.
Businesses are necessary for jobs.
The city must embrace businesses.
Businesses in Rochester that employ people living in Rochester are the only hope for reducing Rochester’s poverty rate.
The answer is entrepreneurship, not entitlement.
For 100 years we have given more than almost any other city in America. We were pioneers in the social welfare and public philanthropy movements.
And now we’re the worst of the worst.
All we did was dig the hole deeper.
Passing out bigger welfare checks isn’t the answer. One more social program isn’t the answer.
A job is the answer.
A real job. A private-sector job at a private-sector business.
To fight poverty, invite business. Remove the suffocating burden of city taxes and unnecessary regulation. Embrace business and see poverty fall.
That’s the solution.
We’ve tried things the other way for 100 years. It’s about time we tried them this way.
Because more of the same will only get us more of the same, and that is insane.