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Singles Awareness

I mentioned before that I would update about why Valentine’s Day is good for all people, not just couples. Really, Valentine’s Day – if we are keeping with the love theme – is meant more for those who are married or getting married, but I did say it is a good day for all people.

Today the focus is singles!

I feel for all of those who say “I hate Valentine’s Day” or even call it “Singles Awareness Day”. I really do. Quite frankly, stop being so selfish and full of yourself! You might not like having “love” pushed down your throats, but others do not like having “hate” and “sour attitudes” pushed on them, either.

I know. That is a great way to get many people to stop reading. I am not trying to offend – honestly. It is just that if you want to complain about a holiday that glorifies relationships, I think it shows just how envious you are of others. I understand complaints about how commercialized it has become. I hate that, too. As I mentioned before, it was supposed to be a day to honor a man who pushed God’s ideal of love. Some people probably think “I agree with his being the patron saint of plagues!” because this day has become so “show someone you love them by going into bankruptcy!” (moral and financial, it seems)

Sight has definitely been lost on God’s truth, but I think I can give most of us the benefit of the doubt that it started long before we came along! Quite honestly (and I am not trying to pick on one group more than another!) The Catholic Church has not done a great job of making sure even most Catholics understand this holiday properly, so why should we expect the rest of society to get it?

Instead, our focus should be on God. Not meaning to sound like I am repeating myself, but what was Valentine trying to tell people?

I will give you a hint (for Christians out there): What is the greatest Commandment?

Christians who say they hate Valentine’s Day really get on my nerves. Seriously. I know I am to love my neighbor, but when a Christian says “I hate …” anything, really (other than sin!) I just want to punch them in the throat! At least then they will not spoil things for the rest of us, and maybe I can stop them from vocalizing what they are not supposed to be thinking, anyway!

Really, it reminds me that we all need prayer … and better understanding.

For Christians out there: Seriously. Get over yourselves if you “hate” Valentine’s Day. Just do not give in to the commercialism! Focus on the One you should be focused on! Stop harping on the evils of what our world does. Remember, we live in a fallen world. The Devil is always trying to steal our thunder. Stop helping him. Instead, give it to God. It is what we are supposed to do. Be the salt and the light, not a lampshade. At least try to show you have Love living inside you.

For the non-Christians: Please accept my apology for those who do not live what they presumably preach. They do not speak for the rest of us (even if it seems they are the ones in the majority sometimes). Instead, please realize that this holiday was meant to point towards the greatest love of all: God’s. You should truly read what John chapter three means. God loves you so much that He came to live as a man, be ridiculed and beaten, killed by hanging from nails through His hands on a cross, and suffering in Hell for a few days. All of this so that He could say “I love you so much, I died for you. But I also came back to life to show you that I want to spend eternity with you.” Seriously. How many people have died to save your life? How many actually lived to make your life worth something? How many came back to life so that you can have a real life, too?

For everyone: If nothing else, use Valentine’s Day as a day to remember that you might have someone in your life one day with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Instead of sulking or complaining, work on being the person you want your spouse to have; the person worthy of being called “Mine” by someone.

It was the words of the prophet Billy Joel that first got through to me as a child: “Tell Her About It”. It made me realize that I had to be a man worthy of a woman before I could properly treat her as the woman I desired most. Like in the song, I have made some mistakes. I broke promises to myself, God, and my wife . . . before I was married. Yeah, those experiences helped me be more conscientious of my time with her later, but there are pains that still live with me.

Why is it important to “wait until marriage” for certain things? There are the obvious: avoid diseases, children out of wedlock, certain heartaches, certain financial pitfalls, and on and on. There are others: realizing you are connected to people emotionally for the rest of your life, regrets, painful memories, emotional scars, and on and on.

Use Valentine’s Day as a reminder. Seek God. Work on being the person another person can love. As the Bible says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Happy Singles Awareness Day!

For the record, I love being married.

Also, sorry for not posting last week. I was trudging through the battle of Chest Cold 2011 … and am really still in combat.

Because of today, I think it is time to do a short marathon on love and couples … and singles. I mean, this day is not all about chocolates and candies and heart-shaped balloons and pizzas!Heart PizzaSt. Valentine

We should start in the right place: HISTORY!

Saint Valentine

According to Catholic.org, here is a brief history of the namesake of this holiday:

Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century, specifically during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. This was during the time Christianity was illegal, and helping Christians was also illegal. In about 269, Valentine was arrested, ordered beaten with clubs and beheaded. His crime? Helping Christians.

Specifically, Valentine helped Christian couples get married. There is a legend that while awaiting death he healed his jailer’s blind daughter and then wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine”. He is considered “the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.”

Now we can see where all of this love stuff came from, but what about all the fluff?

According to the ever-popular Wikipedia, it was during the early 1800’s that cards and hearts began being sent to people. It was just before 1850 that Brits and Americans were both creating, selling, buying, and sending Valentine’s gifts. It was really this holiday that began the mass commercialization of our holidays (hopefully they keep their mitts off of my Halloween!). Today, it is estimated that around a billion valentines are handed out every year, and teachers receive the most! (At least our children know who is in charge!) Over 15 million e-valentines were sent out last year.

So, we must ask ourselves: What happened?

This is a holiday honoring a man who encouraged biblical love and marriages, but today it is all about showing all kinds of love, like, lust, and even hatred. I could go into all of the rants and tirades about not teaching children properly and how we have had too many preachers who became gutless and/or lazy in presenting the gospel in a clear way. But does that really help anything? We should not be too surprised that we as people continue to rebel against God. Read the Old Testament. Israel helped prove that … as, so I think, our children. I know I did growing up (right, mom?).

When I hear a Christian say “I hate Valentine’s Day”, I get, quite frankly, angry. First of all, it shows people do not care about history at all, and this helps solidify the belief of many of us that ignorance runs rampant. Secondly, if we are commanded to love and are expected to grow in the love of God, then the only thing we should hate is hatred and sin (not the sinner. And yes, it is possible).

We should not, however, expect anything different from non-Christians. Especially if “God is love” and they are any of the people who do not want anything to do with religion (especially God), it only makes sense that they would hate Valentine’s Day.

We need to remember, this is a day to remember a man. At the same time this is a day to remember love between people who are going to be married or are married, being youthful, and – most importantly – loving God. That is the way it should be, but obviously it has become more about spending oodles of money on frivolous things.

Understanding God’s holiness?

Talk about doubts but seeking God:

Addison Road: What Do I Know of Holy

I made You promises a thousand times
I tried to hear from Heaven
But I talked the whole time
I think I made You too small
I never feared You at all No
If You touched my face would I know You?
Looked into my eyes could I behold You?

(CHORUS)
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

I guess I thought that I had figured You out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees

(CHORUS)
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Find More lyrics at www.sweetslyrics.com
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

(CHORUS 2)
What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of wounds that will heal my shame?
And a God who gave life “its” name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?

(CHORUS)
What do I know of You
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood
But the shore along Your ocean?
Are You fire? Are You fury?
Are You sacred? Are You beautiful?
What do I know? What do I know of Holy?

What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of Holy?

Rising Second Title

Earlier we heard from Mark about faith in Christ and the importance of the Resurrection. I have some other thoughts.

Today is Groundhog Day! This is the day a bunch of American’s put their faith in a small mammal who rises out of the ground to tell us whether we have to wait six more weeks for spring or should expect spring to come on March 20. So many people put their faith in this tiny creature to let them know if we have to wait 42 days to see the snowy season end or … 46 days.

Do those four days really matter? And, really, the hope is that it is an early spring will come if the little guy does not see his shadow. A few funny tidbits about Phil and his history:

  1. His predictions are frequently “Long winter”, sometimes for multiple years in a row, with “Early spring” never being repeated a year after it was last reported. That is rather pessimistic!
  2. Out of 115 predictions, 15 (13%) have been early spring.
  3. Out of 115 predictions, 45 (roughly 39%) have been correct.

To be fair, the Bible tends to be rather pessimistic, as well:

  1. All (as in all people. Every single person, minus One … but He was also fully God) have sinned.
  2. Israel could not listen, and they had to be disciplined.
  3. Our world will get worse before it gets better.

 This can cause a lot of us to doubt our world, the Word, and even weather predictions! (That order seems off)

Consider this:

  1. How many Bible prophecies have been proven false? (Honestly. Not “there is no evidence” quotes from people who have barely even touched a Bible)   0 (Zero).
  2. How many religions have founders who died, rose to life again, and have not died since?   1 (One).
  3. How many religions have changed how time itself is measured?   1 (One).

It seems that the Bible is rather reliable, and Christianity seems to be the best … nay, the ONLY real option. It really is centered around the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. There are some great places discussing this very thing (Most recently at Matt Appling’s blog). It is through the cross we are truly introduced to God’s grace, another central point. It is through the cross we were given forgiveness. It was the Resurrection that solidified the deal forever, justifying us by signing the check that was written in His blood to pay for our sins.

It is not faith in a furry animal that gives us peace. It is not weather forecasts or cute productions that allay our fears of death and judgment. It is all through the death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

What doubts do you still have? What fears keep you from moving forward? Where are you placing your faith, your trust? Who do you reveal your worries and concerns to? What hope do you hold on to?

My Life with Jesus (My first ever Guest Blog!)

Look at how amazing I am! New to blogging, yet I already have a guest blogger! Meet Mark. He is pretty amazing, too, but I am teaching him a few amazing things. Enjoy!

Dr. Luke  Timothy Johnson in his book  The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels asks a very pointed question.   Is Jesus dead or alive?  The question seems awfully irrelevant  doesn’t it?  In our post-modern world existence or non-existence of something or someone  really does not matter  it only matters on our perception of things.  I doubt we treat our mortgage, car payment, and credit card bills  the same way.  Scholars for years have been doing their best to discover who Jesus really was.  Books have chronicled Jesus as Mediterranean peasant, iconic sage, and even a most holy prophet.

His words have been analyzed over and his steps have been traced.  The study of Jesus has made many scholars  famous, i.e.  John Dominic Crossan.  Scholars treat Jesus solely as a figure of the past to be studied and analyzed.  I am concerned that we as Bible believing evangelicals fall into the same dangers.  The pulpit in America is devoid of sermons detailing the most pivotal event in human history.  The event I am speaking of is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Easter seems to be the only time that this event is preached.  Liberal mainline denominations have treated the resurrection story in a very postmodern way.  “The reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus is not important, it only matters how it makes you feel.”  Resurrection has been reduced to a  feel-good, happy, ethereal feeling.  I want to state unequivocally that the actual resurrection of Jesus matters.  I want to share about my life with Jesus.

Jesus Christ is not simply a figure in the past to be studied and analyzed.  I may be able to learn about Jesus by studying the gospels and tracing His steps and studying all His sayings.  Learning about Jesus is not the same as learning from Jesus.  I live my life as a disciple of the living Jesus.  My day consists of hearing from Him as the living incarnate Word.  I also learn from Him as I hear Him speak through the Holy Spirit, and as He guides me on a daily basis.  “Jesus wanted: Dead or alive.  I choose Jesus alive as One who is real and continually leading me and guiding me to the truths of His Word.  You may only choose to study about Jesus, but I choose to learn from Him.  We need to change our vocabulary from “Jesus was” to “Jesus is.”

History has enough great names in the past to learn about.  Einstein taught us about relativity.  Galileo taught us about astronomy.  Newton taught us about Gravity.  The men I mentioned are all dead and gone and their legacy lives on, and we are grateful for their contribution.  Jesus stands out from all others, because He not only walked this earth and endured every pain and sorrow on the cross for us, but He conquered the grave and beat death, thus securing our salvation by rising from the dead! (I Corinthians 15)

Today, be ever mindful that Jesus wants to teach you something today.  My life with Jesus is a life full of hope, because I know that Jesus is alive.

SOLIA DE GLORIA!

Confronting doubt with Truth

Doubt can push us towards God or away from God.

One of the only ways to remove doubt is to introduce truth. This is not just looking at some facts. Anyone can look at facts (I think a great example is the difference between believing in six days of creation or millions/billions of years of evolutionary process … while looking at rocks and fossils). It is seeking truth.

I think this kid has some things figured out:

But there is still a question of whether or not it is okay to doubt. It sure seems the great people of the Christian faith had it all figured out. But as I mentioned, doubt can push us towards God or away from God.

Judas Iscariot believed Jesus as the Messiah, but his doubts after helping get Jesus arrested and crucified sent him to hang himself.

Heck, the Sanhedrin, for the most part, doubted Jesus was the Messiah, and this doubt brought about the very act that could redeem them!

We need to ask, does our doubt cause us to curse God or follow Him? There were other doubters:

Lee Strobel was an adamant atheist doubting God even existed until he met a woman while doing a story for the Chicago Tribune (he wrote about it in Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary. I had to read it my first semester at college). Her faith caused him to doubt his doubt in God and is today one of the most famous Christian apologists.

Josh McDowell thought Christianity was bunk until he looked at the evidence. He is also one of the most famous apologists.

Ravi Zacharias grew up in an atheist, and he was so sure that he was a failure and that his life would be better not being tried to commit suicide by mixing several household chemicals together and drinking them. Someone brought him a Bible while he was in the hospital. Today, he is one of the foremost Christian apologists.

Albert Henry Ross doubted the resurrection, considering it a myth without merit. He later wrote a book declaring the truth of the Resurrection called Who Moved the Stone?

Mother Teresa, while raised in the Catholic faith, had many doubts about the existence of God when seeing all of the misery around her in India. Yet she persevered; and we all know of her great contributions to the poor, sick, homeless, and godless.

Martin Luther doubted paying money for indulgences could absolve sins. He inadvertently began the Protestant Reformation (so, for many people, he helped make their denomination even possible).

Thomas doubted, and he was an Apostle of Jesus! It is believed he was the first missionary to India (where he … uh … was killed).

The most famous Apostle of all, Paul, doubted! As Saul, he persecuted the early Church to the point of approving of killing believers! As we now know, the risen Jesus personally called him to service, and he went on to write most of our New Testament.

The list is really quite long. Suffice it to say, if you have doubts about God you are not alone.

I doubt that is true. I can’t believe it. I SHANT believe it!

Doubt has a bad rap.

I also think it rightly has a bad rap, but I think that sometimes gets in the way of people acknowledging or even confronting their doubt.

I just started the class “Systematic Theology” this week, and doubt is one of the first issues we are tackling (hence the idea to write about it!).

When is doubt a good thing?

How about when God is crying out for us, leading us to Him? Doubt can be a very good thing. We start to doubt the wisdom of the world. We start to doubt everything we have been raised to believe about what the world is telling us. If our doubt is truly from God then we will find ourselves doubting the world more and more and God les and less. This doubt will lead us to the saving knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior.

Doubt can also be good as a believer. Poor Thomas, that Apostle of Jesus, gets a bad rap that comes with a nickname: Doubting Thomas. If someone does not believe something, they might be called a “Doubting Thomas” in more of a derogatory way. But sometimes it is okay.

If we sit in a church pew (or chairs, as they are becoming more popular all the time) and blindly listen to what the preacher is saying, are we really growing? Especially if the message being preached is weak, heretical, or even blasphemous, doubt can play a big role. If your church preaches “God hates certain people, so we are going to go to funerals and protest and yell at people that God wants them to go to hell”, then doubt might push you to research and find the truth. It could be a message that God only wants you happy and rich and have your best life now, but doubt gets you to find the Bible says something a little different.

Is this to say that certain people will not be sent to Hell or that we can have happiness and financial prosperity here on Earth? No. In fact, the Bible tells us that there are righteous people and evil people who both do well.

But people still doubt. Sometimes when a person says “I don’t believe it”, what they are really saying is “I can’t believe it”. Or if they say “I can’t believe” they may really be saying “I won’t believe it!” Zechariah had trouble believing angel and was punished; Mary had trouble believing the same angel and was considered righteous. Why? Zechariah allowed his view of the material to interfere with his view of the power of God, but Mary sought understanding. Zechariah said “I can’t or won’t believe this, because it is so strange”, but Mary said “I am unable to understand this. Help me!”

This is the same issue many people face with the Bible. Everyone asks “Why did God have the Israelites destroy all the people in the Promised Land?” One person may say “I refuse to believe a loving God would do that!” Here is something to mull over:

If you had learned that a violent pedophile had moved into your area, would you not want them gone while wondering “How could they let someone like that live near me?” Or perhaps this pedophile moved right next to your child’s school. You would do everything within your power to make sure that your child was safe.

Now look at Israel. God knew what would happen. Here are these various nations and tribes who undoubtedly would have heard about the army of Egypt being destroyed by the Hebrew God, but they all said “We won’t believe in that God!” God knew these people would turn the hearts of the Israelites away from Him.  He knew that if these people were allowed to remain in the area, they would do very naughty things to His people and lead them astray.

We should be aware of doubt and willing to allow God to use it to move us closer to Him. Proverbs chapter one tells us who refuses to listen. They doubt and suffer. Instead, the beginning of wisdom comes from seeking God (see verse seven). It is okay to doubt as long as it leads to God. If it begins to turn us away from God, we begin walking the path of fools.

What say you? Are there doubts you struggle with? Do those doubts hurt your relationship with God or help? Do they confuse you about which way they are pulling? Further on, do you have people around you to help you through your doubts? A pastor is good, but a friend is better (especially if that pastor is a friend!).

Grace and Peace!