Uncoupled Love

I meant to post this earlier, but some sort of a spambot thing got to me through the blog. I took time to make sure my computer and those I communicate with would be safe!

In this little series on Valentine’s Day, I have looked at the history of the holiday, what it means for singles, and also for couples. What about that difficult issue of those who are no longer married?

Divorce

Why is it difficult?

Too many this is obvious: Divorce and Death. One is considered a sin and the other too painful to consider for most (and sometimes both can have swapped meanings or even both).

I will not get into the topic of the obvious sins of divorce or murder, but I will mention that Genesis (not the band) and Jesus both talk about becoming one flesh not getting a divorce. I think, for most people who might stumble across this blog, these are understood. I also have a feeling I will blog about this in the future.

When it comes to divorce, I can not and will not judge. As Jesus mentioned in Mark 10, no man should separate and marrying a divorceѐ is considered adultery. So is lusting. I am guilty of adultery.

When it comes to the widowed, my heart goes out to you, but I obviously do not truly understand. You were one flesh, so it is as if you lost half of yourself. I do not want to imagine losing my wonderful wife, so I cannot completely feel your pain. C. S. Lewis helped me with A Grief Observed, but again, I cannot fathom that pain right now.

For starters, if you have been through a divorce or lost a spouse, all of the points I discussed in the previous posts apply.

I think Paul explained things best in 1 Timothy 5 (and I think that it applies to divorcees as well as those who are widowed, male and female) (Taken from the NIV):

 3 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

 9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

 11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

 16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

I think some advice my own lovely mother gave this past week applies perfectly:

My husband and I kept it very simple, but shared the evening with our bible study group doing a shared dinner. Yes I bought pink table cloths and red napkins at the dollar store and put candles and hershey kisses down the center of the table. However the fun was sharing a holiday with friends!

My suggestion for next year for singles and couples alike…spend the day being like Jesus… let everyone you know how blessed you are to have each and every one of them in your life! A simple note, a helping hand, and hug and a Thank you! I’m sure most people would be surprised to discover how many people would return the “love”.
If we could all focus on what we can give and not what we get…we would be far richer and happier than what money can buy!!

I think there are some people in this world who have this figured out (and for the record, I had no idea what my parents did for Valentine’s Day until she made this comment).

Valentine’s Day is a day to honor a man who honored God, so maybe that should be our example, eh?

If we know each other, you should know how much I truly love you. Not in the mushy, lovey-dovey way, but in the “I would do anything for you … even if I am not happy with you at this moment or you are my favorite person” kind of a way. Seriously, you are my family, because even if we are not related by birth many of us are related by Christ’s blood!

If we do not know each other, believe it or not I still love you! Why? Firstly because God loved you and me first. Secondly, I love you because I remember the need to be loved.

Single, dating, married, divorced, widowed, whatever, we are all in this together. In Christ we are empowered, so naturally I encourage all to follow Him. Either way, life is better when we do it together. Remember that. Not only Valentine’s Day but always.

I love you.

God loves you.

Coupled Love

In the last post I discussed singles and Valentine’s Day. I hope I got the point across that instead of hatCute coupleing the day it is a day to work on our relationship with God and being a person who is easier to love.

Today’s post is for couples.

Everyone talks about how Valentine’s Day is the holiday of love and couples. I mentioned on Valentine’s Day the focus of St. Valentine, including that he is the patron saint of couples and marriage (amongst several other, sometimes almost silly in relation, things).

I have been reading a lot of blogs about love this month (go figure). The Church of No People dedicated the whole month to how we view love and relationships.

I can keep this pretty short, really.

Keep God first.

Now, if you are like me, that seems pretty “Duh!” but ends up being hard to do. If you are like me, perhaps this is one area where you understand Paul’s sentiments. If you are like me, you struggle with keeping God first in every other area of your life let alone your relationship.

First I am going to talk to those who are dating or engaged. If you do not have your relationship with God figured out properly (being that He is first in everything), then your relationship is already in danger. Doomed? No. Many couples survive and even remain healthy without God being a part, but you are definitely in danger. Loving God helps you love people better, especially your significant other. Knowing God better helps you know yourself better which helps you know your significant other better. As C.S. Lewis said, “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.”

One argument for getting to know our “earthly dearest” more is to live together before getting or deciding to get married. This is dangerous since it can lead to having sex if you are not already. The first argument for this is that “biblical marriage started at consummation, so we are married when we have sex!”

No. If this is true, then men and women get married all the time to prostitutes. Also, we see evidence of ceremonies throughout the Bible, as well. We also need to consider something from the New Testament: obey the laws of the land. If it does not go against God and His commands, then we should follow it. According to most countries (including the U.S.) you are not married until you have been through the ceremony that joins you together (whether a civil union or in a religious ceremony). (I will leave homosexual unions/marriages and other things for another day) Therefore, in our land, you are not married until you have the paper saying so. NO SEX!

Back to living together, it is a horrible idea. For starters, how often did people do it before the last few decades? Relatively few. How many relationships fare well? Less than those who wait until marriage. (Evidence is also found here and here.)

It is best to wait until marriage for a lot of things. Take it from one (two counting my wife as a separate entity even though the Bible says we are one, now) who knows. As I mentioned in the last post, I broke promises I made to myself, my future wife, and God. One of those: I would wait until marriage to have sex. Two reasons: I did not want to get a disease and I did not want kids too early.

Seriously. The only safe sex is no sex. No protection of any sort is foolproof.

I was engaged once before I met my now-wife. My ex and I convinced ourselves that we were in love and getting married, so why not? After several months and the relationship coming to an end, I wondered if a woman could ever love me for what I had done. It turns out my wife felt the same way about herself. God’s forgiveness and grace is a marvelous thing. Neither of us thought we could be so happy with another person.

For those in a relationship before marriage, Valentine’s Day is not a chance to learn how well you “fit together” in the most literal sense. It is a time to thank God for the love you have found with another. The focus is God, not each other.

(It is okay to celebrate by expressing your love through gifts and actions, just keep it G-rated, people!)

For you married couples, listen to that last piece of advice for un-marrieds: Thank God for what He has given you! The only difference: you are allowed to demonstrate this gratitude in physical ways. In fact, I encourage you to show your spouse your affections in this way!

As I said, God needs to be first. We are told to submit to each other for Christ’s sake. Wives submit to husbands as we submit to Christ. Husbands love wives as Christ loves the Church.

How can we do this if we do not know Him? This is not “women, give up your lives and do whatever the man says” or “men, you can do whatever you want and she has to comply!” This is mutual submission and respect and love. Ephesians 5:1 says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV). I like how Rachel Held Evans put it over at The Church of No People (in the comments): “My husband and I like to think of “submission” in terms of humility, not hierarchy. It’s an attitude that works best when adopted by both partners.” It takes humility, thinking of the other as better than yourself.

That is good advice for un-marrieds, too. Couples and singles.

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!