What Our Cultural Love of Long Romances Says About Us

Last night as Mom and I were watching the Blue Jays/Yankees game, a beautiful elderly couple in matching red Jays jerseys came up on the screen. The announcers were wishing them a happy 76th wedding anniversary (and a happy 96th birthday to the husband!) and thanking them for watching for so long.

This morning I stumbled across an article about another beautiful couple, 91- and 93-year-old Bill and Doris Barr from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They've been married for 66 years. Doris was diagnosed with Alzheimer's almost twenty years ago and Bill has been her primary caretaker for the bulk of those years. Just five years ago she moved into a care home, but Bill visits her almost every day, eating lunch with her, feeding her, telling her about news in the family, and singing to her.

He said, "When the minister said, 'For better or for worse, or rich or for poor, in sickness and in health,' I meant it. And she meant it."

I love these stories desperately. And I'm not alone. We have a cultural love of the long-term romance. We delight in seeing elderly couples displaying affection, holding hands, still together after so many years.

And I believe a reason we love that so much is because we feel its elusiveness. 

Bill and Doris' granddaughter Lianne Pereux stated this outright: "It's hard to believe that 66 years, people can be together and still be as in love [on] the day they got married as 66 years later. It's really hard to imagine that and, for me, they've always been role models."

We live in a culture where faithfulness has been replaced by fickleness. Long-term romances are fascinating to us in a science project sort of way. It's lovely ... but weird. How did they do it? What was the formula? Because we want it too. Divorce and crumbling relationships surround us yet unfailingly make us sad (need I say Brangelina?). We crave a better way.

I think our love of these relationships echoes a deeper cry in our hearts for everlasting faithfulness. We want someone who will never, ever let us down or disappoint us.

I believe these relationships echo a longing for a relationship with our Creator.

We want to be seen, to be known, and to be loved unceasingly forever. Christians have that in the unwavering covenant love of God. He will never divorce us, never die, never leave us. He is always there to protect, care, forgive, and love -- perfectly.

The longest, most faithful marriage relationship on earth is only a flickering image of our relationship with God. Even the best marriage is between two sinners and so marred with sin. Not so with God. "His love never fails, it never gives up. It never runs out on me." It is eternally faithful.

As I think about those sweet Jays fans and the beautiful Barr couple, I am happy to see their faithfulness. But I am also sad to see the effects of sin on their love stories. Yet I am hopeful as I think about what these relationships point to -- the soul-satisfying, unbreakable, endlessly faithful love the God of the universe has for me.

Photo courtesy of Chilanga Cement and Flickr Creative Commons.

With Love, Your Single Daughter

This is a beautiful and personal piece on embracing the gospel as a single woman, by Rachel Dinkledine. I was moved by it, struck by it, encouraged by it, and I hope you are too.
"There are more than enough 'Why Singles are Marginalized in the Church' articles floating around cyberspace. My aim is not to add to their number. By God’s grace, there are also many pastoral and theologically-sound resources on singleness. My aim is not to improve upon these (I don’t think I can!). So what is this article all about?

Whether you are single or married, your theology of singleness will profoundly influence the life of the church. Instead of writing a five-point essay defending this statement, I submit to you a letter, a letter inspired from the experiences of many godly single women, from 20-somethings to 70-somethings. While the letter is written to parents, most aspects can be profitably read as addressed to a congregation from a single sister. May the Lord use this to propel you to develop and live out a biblical theology of singleness."

13 Things I'm Loving This Month

From silly to serious, here are 13 things I have been eating, drinking, reading, listening to, laughing at, and enjoying this month.

1. Fruit 2.0 Sparkling Water. Everybody's raving about LaCroix these days, but here in Nova Scotia I have yet to locate this trendy beverage. I have discovered Fruit 2.0, though, and I've fallen in love with it. There are so many delicious flavors - my favorites right now are cherry lime, strawberry, and white grapefruit. This is the drink that has defined my August.

2. The Simple Show. I know, I know, I'm always raving about podcasts, and this is yet another. But I only just stumbled upon it and have been listening quite a bit this month. Hosted by Tsh Oxenreider, she interviews guests about simple living - simple eating, simple entertaining, simple reading, simple decorating.

3. The Olympics. Because everybody loves the Olympics. Best moment: Andre De Grasse and Usain Bolt exchanging grins as they crossed the finish line second and first in their heat at the men's 200M semi-finals.

4. Abigail Murrish's blog. Her tagline is "Robust theology. Thoughtful science. A sagacious life." She writes about food, the gospel, hospitality, agriculture, books, and a lot of other beautiful, important things.

5. Holiness by J.C. Ryle. This book. If you have not read it, you need to. I mean it.

6. The Blue Jays. A.k.a. the first place team in the American League East Division - in case you were wondering.

7. Veggie/legume chips. My family thinks I'm weird, but I have really been into bean chips lately. And plantain chips. And kale chips. And snap pea chips. Maybe I am weird ...

8. Summer fruit. Colorful and delicious blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple - so yummy and fresh.

9. The Bible Project. I promise that I do not get paid to promote The Bible Project! I just love it a lot.

10. Keith and Kristyn Getty. After TGCW16, I've been listening to so much Getty music. My two favorite songs right now are "Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed" and "Lift High the Name of Jesus."

11. After-sun cream. For sun burns. So many sun burns.

12. Dancing with REFIT REVOLUTION. When it's too hot to run or I just don't feel like it, I stay inside and dance to REFIT. You can find this fitness dance studio on YouTube with tons of choreography videos, including several Christian songs.

13. The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm re-reading this series in publication order and loving it even more this time than when I read it a few years ago.

What are your favorite things this month?

Love Is Not Entitlement

What a wise and canny post from Melissa Edgington.

"Love isn’t a laundry list of behavior requirements. It isn’t an attempt to grab as much attention as you can, setting up ultimatums to try and control your loved one’s thoughts and actions. There’s a word to describe that type of attitude: abusive.

Real love is always looking out for someone else. It’s deciding that you are putting another person’s wants and needs ahead of your own. Real love doesn’t feel entitled. It doesn’t make demands or threats. Real love is kind. It’s gentle. It forgives imperfection."

Mrs. Spurgeon After Her Husband's Death

Susannah Spurgeon, wife of the famed preacher Charles Spurgeon, wrote these words about life with and after him:

"I have traveled far now on life’s journey; and, having climbed one of the few remaining hills between earth and Heaven, I stand awhile on this vantage-ground, and look back across the country through which the Lord has led me.

A well-defined pathway is visible, but it appears devious and wandering; sometimes skirting a mountain-top, whence one could catch glimpses of “the land that is very far off”; and, further on, descending into a valley shadowed by clouds and darkness. At one time, it runs along amidst steep places, and overhanging rocks; at another time, it winds across an open plain, brilliant with the sunshine of goodness and mercy, and fanned by breezes which are wafted from the fields of Heaven.

There are flowers of joy and love growing all along the way, even in the dark places; and “trees which the Lord has planted,” give shade and shelter from too great heat.

I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, and mountains to cross, and fierce enemies to fight, and many dangers to go through; but their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”

Mostly, they went on their way singing; and for one of them, at least, there was no joy greater than to tell others of the grace and glory of the blessed King to whose land He was hastening. And when he thus spoke, the power of the Lord was seen, and the angels rejoiced over repenting sinners.

But, at last, they came to a place on the road where two ways met; and here, amidst the terrors of a storm such as they had never before encountered, they parted company—the one being caught up to the invisible glory—the other, battered and bruised by the awful tempest, henceforth toiling along the road—alone.

But the “goodness and mercy” which, for so many years, had followed the two travelers, did not leave the solitary one; rather did the tenderness of the Lord “lead on softly,” and choose green pastures for the tired feet, and still waters for the solace and refreshment of His trembling child. He gave, moreover, into her hands a solemn charge—to help fellow-pilgrims along the road, filling her life with blessed interest, and healing her own deep sorrow by giving her power to relieve and comfort others."

Don't Follow Your Heart

Jon Bloom:

“Follow your heart” is a creed embraced by billions of people. It’s a statement of faith in one of the great pop cultural myths of the Western world; a gospel proclaimed in many of our stories, movies, and songs. 
Essentially, it’s a belief that your heart is a compass inside of you that will direct you to your own true north if you just have the courage to follow it. It says that your heart is a true guide that will lead you to true happiness if you just have the courage to listen to it. The creed says that you are lost and your heart will save you. 
This creed can sound so simple and beautiful and liberating. For lost people it’s a tempting gospel to believe. 
Is This the Leader You Want to Follow?

Until you consider that your heart has sociopathic tendencies. Think about it for a moment. What does your heart tell you? 
Please don’t answer. Your heart has likely said things today that you would not wish to repeat. I know mine has. My heart tells me that all of reality ought to serve my desires. My heart likes to think the best of me and worst of others — unless those others happen to think well of me, then they are wonderful people. But if they don’t think well of me, or even if they just disagree with me, well then, something is wrong with them. And while my heart is pondering my virtues and others’ errors, it can suddenly find some immoral or horribly angry thought very attractive.

14 Things That Love is Not

If Paul Tripp could come up with 23 definitions of what love is, here are my 14 definitions of what love is not.

What Love is Not

LOVE IS NOT... the way someone makes you feel.
LOVE IS NOT...  something that comes and goes and fades with time, something you can fall "out of" as easily as you can fall "into."
LOVE IS NOT...  selfish, motivated by self-interest and what other people do for you.
LOVE IS NOT... prideful, seeking to build up yourself and tear down someone else.
LOVE IS NOT... sex.
LOVE IS NOT... just an emotion that makes butterflies rumble in the pit of your stomach and your face turn red.
LOVE IS NOT... trivial, flippant, silly, vain.
LOVE IS NOT... forced upon you; as in: you are not forced to love your family.
LOVE IS NOT... easy, painless, free of all suffering, uncomplicated.
LOVE IS NOT... just for the people you like (see Matthew 5:44).
LOVE IS NOT... like Hollywood makes it seem.
LOVE IS NOT... anxious and a constant cause of worry.
LOVE IS NOT... quick to anger or short-tempered, seeking argument, or easily frustrated.
LOVE IS NOT... lust.

23 Things That Love Is

Paul Tripp:

"With Valentine's Day fast approaching, here's a gospel-centered reminder about how to love. But, you don't have to be romantically in love to find this list practical. Every healthy relationship requires love and sacrifice, so if you're a parent, child, sibling, neighbor, pastor, or co-worker, this list is for you.

God bless you in your relationships, and may the Holy Spirit empower you to love with a love that is not your own.


1. LOVE IS... being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of others without impatience or anger.
2. LOVE IS... actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward another while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
3. LOVE IS... making a daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
4. LOVE IS... being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding.
5. LOVE IS... being more committed to unity and understanding than you are to winning, accusing, or being right.
6. LOVE IS... a making a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
7. LOVE IS... being willing, when confronted by another, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
8. LOVE IS... making a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to another is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
9. LOVE IS... being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged, but looking for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
10. LOVE IS... being a good student of another, looking for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support them as they carry it, or encourage them along the way."

Reflections on a Year Gone By: 2014

Happy New Year. At twelve o'clock tomorrow morning, we'll ring in 2015. Where did the last year go? It was like blinking - first we were blow-horning goodbye to 2013 and wondering what 2014 would hold and now we're on the cusp of 2015 with a handful of memories leftover from the last year. And what a year it was. We saw so much ...

We saw the Seahawks wipe out the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. We saw Sochi host the Winter Olympics. We saw the multiple-million-times retweeted Oscar selfie. We saw a plea to #BringBackOurGirls. We saw disaster and death and prejudice in Ferguson. We saw the fear of Ebola. We saw celebrities dump ice buckets on themselves. We saw Derek Jeter retire. We saw the deaths of Robin Williams and Maya Angelou. We saw Malala Yousafzai co-win the Nobel Peace Price. We saw threats from North Korea over one raunchy movie. We saw madness and mayhem and kidnappings and murders and missing planes and famine and tragedy. We also saw beauty and life and forgiveness and victory and grace. It was a year of sorrow and joy. You have your own memories of this year. Perhaps for you it was marked with pain - or maybe pleasure. The one constant this year: God was faithful.

For me it was a year of blessing and growth. I got my full driver's license. I became a college junior. I started working at Reitmans. I went on a road trip. I read Les Miserables (and a whole lot of other good books). My family got two kittens. I started writing over at TheRebelution. And a host of other things - some nice, some not so nice. But I pray that, as we look back on this year, reliving memories, laughing over the joys, and still weeping over the sorrows, we ask ourselves some important questions.

How did I glorify God this year?

What were the sins I struggled with most?

Was I faithful to the gospel?

Did I become more holy?

Did my actions reflect my commitment to the King?

Did I choose joy?

How many people did I share the gospel with?

Did I pray often?

Was I relying on the Word of God?

As we enter upon this new year, the first in our years of eternity ahead, join with me in focusing our minds and hearts on the one truth that affects everything. Let us strive to know God more. Let us seek to sin less. Let us long to love better. Let us dedicate "another year for Thee," as Francis Havergal penned in "Another Year is Dawning":

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

The Gospel and Black Friday

The zany busyness of Black Friday is a product of a consumeristic culture. This day after American Thanksgiving has become known for being a blur of outrageous deals, wild sales, BOGOs, coupons, saving cards, and massive clearance racks. Last year, 15,000 people lined up outside of Macy's in New York City before the store opened on Black Friday. Canada is nowhere close to having the Americans' zeal and passion for this shopping day, but we try our best - hosting lavish deals and weekend-long sales.

It strikes me how much the gospel's message clashes with Black Friday. This is not to say that you shouldn't shop anywhere today. Absolutely not! Join the fun, but don't sweat the small stuff. And don't get drawn into the sin Black Friday can tempt you toward.

See how the message of Black Friday opposes the gospel:

Black Friday's mania is bred out of a culture of selfishness, a desire to get what you want, a desire to have the best deal. The gospel is centred around selflessness, as God humbled Himself to the form of a man.

Black Friday has become all about being first, first in line, first parking spot at the mall. The gospel is all about being last, when Christ said, "The first will be last and the last will be first."

Black Friday is all about wanting to be served. The gospel is all about Christ coming not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.

Black Friday is all about spending as little as possible. The gospel is all about God sacrificing the most valuable thing in eternity - His Son.

Black Friday's frenzy is all about glorifying ourselves. The gospel is all about glorifying God.

Enjoy Black Friday, but don't let its mania distract you from the goodness of the gospel.

The Most Warped Love Story Ever

Jacob and Rachel had the potential to have one of the most romantic love stories ever. Despite their different upbringings, circumstances threw them together and upon love at first sight, it seemed the stars were aligned for these young lovers. But then their castle in the sky crumbled and everything fell apart.

But let's go back to their beginnings. Jacob had grown up in a home splintered by parental favoritism. His father loved his outdoors-man older brother more, but Jacob's mom favoured him, spoiling him, perhaps even babying him a bit. When Jacob and his brother grew older, a full out family feud between the two sons broke out (it probably had something to do with Jacob deceiving their father into leaving the portion of his will to Jacob instead of his brother). Jacob's mom grew worried and sent him to stay with relatives out of town.

These relatives were the family of Jacob's uncle. And among these relatives lived Rachel. Rachel grew up with an older sister, Leah, but Rachel got the looks in the family. Leah was the plain Jane, while Rachel more than made up for her sister's deficiencies. Her family was well-off, perhaps due to her rather shifty businessman of a father. And the day Jacob showed up and fell in love with Rachel, everything began falling into place.

But maybe you know the rest. This love story is found in Genesis 29. And its pure innocence was soon tarnished by sin and deceit. Rachel's father, Laban, clever as he was crafty, saw Jacob's love for his second-born daughter (key fact here) and when Jacob asked to marry her, Laban agreed. But for the bride price (a cultural payment made by the groom to his father-in-law to show his love for and commitment to the bride), Laban roped Jacob into working for him for seven years first.

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. (Genesis 29:20)

Then came the wedding. After the feast, Jacob went into his bride. Fast forward to the next morning, the bride's veil was lifted, and surprise! Here was not his beloved Rachel, but her older sister, Leah - the firstborn. When Jacob stormed to Laban to ask him why Leah was given to him, Laban was all like,

"It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years."

So now Rachel and Jacob are Rachel, Leah, and Jacob. And soon when the children start coming, Bilhah and Zilpah (Leah and Rachel's slave girls) are given to Jacob to make more babies. So we've now got one guy, four women, and lots of kids. Furthermore, when Rachel begins struggling with infertility and Leah's womb gets opened instead, Leah sells mandrakes (a plant thought to bring fertility) to Rachel for a night to sleep with Jacob!

This is the most warped love story ever. What was once so beautiful fast spiraled out of control. Sin destroyed this love story.

And sin continues to destroy love stories today. Our culture is a sap for these stories, none of which are about true love - sexual purity, fidelity, faithfulness, and commitment in a marriage between a man and a woman - but instead about a false love. Their stories are just as warped as Jacob and Rachel's. Their stories are about emotions and feelings and men who want to marry each other and boyfriends and girlfriends who live together and teen pregnancy and divorce. They don't realize that outside of God's plan for marriage, there is no such thing as true love. What they have are the shattered remains of the Fall. Sin soaks their relationships.

God created sexuality to be a good thing within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman. It is an expression of true love. Last week in Bible Study we studied Proverbs 5-7, warnings against sexual immorality and calls to stay pure and faithful within marriage. The pure young man and his bride who follow the wisdom of Proverbs have the real love story. Jacob and Rachel (and Leah and Bilhah and Zilpah) said no to God's good design and let sin bring corruption and pain. That story definitely had no happy ending.

Standing up for the biblical, beautiful vision of marriage and sexual purity is a scary thing these days. It's awkward and weird and sometimes just plain painful. But true love is too important not to defend.

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When the King Came to Tell Stories: Part 2

If you missed Part 1, check it out here.

“Once upon a time, a king came to earth to tell stories, and the stories contained the mystery of eternal life.” - Jared Wilson, in The Storytelling God

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most (if not the most) culturally well-known stories that Jesus told. Pretty much everyone today thinks they know this story and its beloved morals. You've got a stellar cast of characters: the Traveler who gets robbed and beaten on his journey; our antagonists, the Priest and the Levite who, despite their seeming righteousness, don't bother to help the Traveler; and then the hero, the oh-so-good Samaritan, lowly and looked down upon, who stops and does help.

Yet we have plucked this story and its characters from its context, slapped it in thank-you cards and on soup kitchen walls, and missed the whole point.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the beginning. A lawyer had just come up to Jesus and asked Him how he could have eternal life. The question at first seems beautiful. You've got a humble lawyer throwing himself at Jesus' feet and asking how to be saved.

But unfortunately, that's not how it went.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25)

This lawyer had no intention of humility. He wanted to test Jesus. And that is about the worst motive in the world. Jesus responds to him with a question,

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

To which the lawyer replies,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus, knowing the man's heart, tells him that he has answered correctly. "Do this and you will live." The lawyer knows he has not kept this command. Jesus knows that He has shown the man his sin. And so, "desiring to justify himself, [the lawyer] said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'" The ESV Student Study Bible said,

A deceitful question, because the lawyer was trying to eliminate responsibility for others by making some people "non-neighbors."

At this question, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.

So Jesus is responding to a question of deceit and selfish justification. This parable is in the direct context of the gospel. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the gospel informs our practice. The fact that we love God means we must love others.

When Jesus ends the parable and asks the lawyer which of the characters was the true neighbor to the Traveler - the Levite, the priest, or the Samaritan - the ESV Student Study Bible later says:

Jesus' question corrects the lawyer's deceitful question (v. 29). The question is not "who is my neighbor?" but "how can I be a neighbor?"

As Christians we have a responsibility to love, to care, to show kindness and compassion - even when we don't feel like it. And the reason we do that is not because we're just good people. It's not because we're nice. It's not because we're in the mood. It's not because we've done good works. It's because of the gospel. Faith and practice go together. Faith without works is dead.

The Good Samaritan was not good because he helped someone. Anyone could do that. The Good Samaritan was good because he understood the gospel and instead of asking "who is my neighbor?" he asked "how can I be a neighbor?" The centerpiece of this parable is not the Samaritan. It's the gospel.

Books, Baseball, and Worshipful Rest

Yesterday was a beautiful day of rest for me. On Monday I finished my final two CLEP exams in PEI and returned home for a Tuesday of rest. I took yesterday off from any academics. I just read and played baseball and tidied my room and ate Chicago popcorn and enjoyed the sunshine and picked up my grandparents from the airport.

And the rest was beautiful. I'm a busy person, like I'm sure you are too. This is no surprise; we live in the culture of exhaustion. The "shop till you drop, work till you can't" mentality pervades our society, so much so that we view rest as laziness.

But how blatantly contrary to God's Word. I was reminded of an article by Jen Wilkin I read last summer. In it, she wrote,

The God who grants us soul-repose commands our worship in the form of bodily rest. The worshiper is blessed in obedience. Restored and ready, he resumes the effort of tilling his corner of the garden. More importantly, he's reminded that both the garden and also the one who tills are contingent and derived, depending every moment on the sustaining breath of the Creator. He is thereby mercifully relieved of his idolatrous, exhaustion-breeding belief that the work of his hands upholds the universe in part or in whole.

The command to rest is most clearly displayed in God's calling His people to keep the Sabbath. We are sinning when we refuse to rest, because when we obey this command of God we sacrifice our pride and idolatry and express satisfaction in God's power and our limits. By refusing to rest, we are saying that we think we can do life alone, that we can sustain our world through our power, might, and long hours. And in the face of disobedience, our love for and worship of God grows cold.

Wilkin continues,

Love grows warm once again in the emptied spaces of rest. We remember our love for the One who sustains us, we recall our love for the ones who surround us. Worshipful rest renews our love for God and for others. It is the rest that restores our souls.

Busyness is not always bad. But when it is hindering you from worshipful rest, it most certainly is. Don't let hectic days cool your love for the Creator. Enjoy the beauty of rest.

Image Credit:

Our Colour TV Affections

I've been reading Bryan Chapell's book on prayer, Praying Backwards, and in a recent chapter stumbled upon a powerful illustration. Chapell was explaining how when a person is first given the Holy Spirit and they become a Christian, their affections change. Thus, they no longer lust after the world but they long for their Saviour. But see how Chapell illustrates this:

It is as though, after years of possessing only a black-and-white TV, a generous relative provides us a new high-definition color console. Suddenly the entertainment that appealed to us for so long loses its allure. We desire that which fills our senses with greater sound and color - and seems more real. Of course, if we wander away from the HD-TV and pass by the room that holds the black-and-white, it may still draw us in and even mesmerize us for a time with its old images. But it no longer has the appeal for us and the power over us that it once did. Our desires have shifted because we have experienced something better.
The believer discovers that life with Christ is better than the empty and colorless pursuit of the world's pleasures. Walking with him, loving him, and loving all that he loves now fulfill us and give our world its color. Old pursuits can still beckon us when we wander from him, but they will never fulfill us as they once did. Our hearts have been forever changed. As a result, the things of the world do not have the power over us that they once had and our prayers reflect more and more the priorities of the One we treasure. We become less selfish, less concerned for personal gain, and more eager to be used for and fulfilled by God's purposes. Jesus' glory becomes the priority of our prayers because we love him above all and most desire that he be honored and pleased.

(Taken from Bryan Chapell's Praying Backwards, pgs. 76-77)

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Chocolate Hearts and More Jesus

"We will never learn how to love by working it up from our own hearts but only by having more Jesus in our lives." - Philip Ryken, from Loving the Way Jesus Loves

Today is Valentine's Day. You either love it or you hate it or you're really rather ambivalent about it. Whether single or in a relationship, you have our own ideas about what Valentine's Day is and what it should be. You have your own conceptions of romance and chocolate hearts. But no one will argue that today marks a reminder (however cheesy and commercialized it may be) that we are called to love, not just romantically, but in all of the areas in our lives, be it familial or friendly.

We think we can work it up from our own hearts, don't we? Despite our firm belief in justification by faith alone, we think our works can still buy us some grace. We can love like Jesus loved - without worrying about the power of Jesus. Yet the only way that we're going to love, wisely reflects Phil Ryken, is to have "more Jesus in our lives." What does that mean? It means that our lives become more gospel-focused. We think about Jesus. We read about Jesus. We talk about Jesus. We sing about Jesus. We memorize Jesus' words. We know Jesus better, and when He becomes the centrality of our life, then we will learn to love. For He gives us the grace we need.

Valentine's Day may be a scam, but it is nevertheless a reminder to love. Love is a necessary component in a Christian's life and ought to mark it not just on February 14th, but every day of the year. And the only way that we can love is by having more Jesus. So make Him the focus of your life - and your Valentine's Day.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love." (Galatians 5:22a)

Reflections on a Year Gone By

Happy New Year. At twelve o'clock this morning, we rang in 2014. I can hardly believe it! 2013 seemed to speed by. And what a year it was. We saw so much ...

We saw bombs in the Boston Marathon, and we saw Boston strong. We saw the Red Sox win the World Series. We saw Miley Cyrus lose every ounce of innocence at the now legendary VMA's. We saw Rob Ford and his illegal substance escapades make Toronto (and Canada) a laughingstock. We saw the election of Pope Francis. We saw the birth of Prince George. We saw the death of Nelson Mandela. And the death of Margaret Thatcher. We saw the U.S. government shut down. We saw the one year anniversary of Iranian Christian pastor Saeed Abedini's imprisonmentWe saw A&E pull Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty over his controversial comments on homosexuality. We saw tsunamis and slavery and sickness and famine and tragedy. We also saw beauty and life and forgiveness and victory and grace. It was a year of sorrow and joy. Perhaps for you it was marked more with pain - or maybe pleasure. Whatever it is, we can praise God for His faithfulness.

For me it was a year of blessing and growth. I got my driver's license. I started college. I left project ARC. I went to the Caribbean. I tap danced for the first time. I learned how to cook something other than frozen pizza and chicken nuggets. I finished memorizing the book of Romans. I started a chronological Bible reading plan - the same one as my brother. And a host of other things - some nice, some not so nice. But I pray as we look back on this year, reliving memories, laughing over the joys, and still weeping over the sorrows, we ask ourselves some important questions.

How did I glorify God this year?

What were the sins I struggled with most?

Was I faithful to the gospel?

Did I become more holy?

Did my actions reflect my commitment to the King?

As we enter upon this new year, the first in our years of eternity ahead, let us focus our minds and hearts on the one truth that affects everything. Let us strive to know God more. Let us seek to sin less. Let us long to love better. Let us dedicate "another year for Thee."

The Most Important Social Institution

Right now, in our day and age, traditional marriage as defined in Scripture between one man and one woman is not very popular. Culture calls that idea outdated, but okay if it's just one choice among others (i.e. LGBTQ marriages). But as soon as you say it's the only right, pure type of marriage, things get vicious. Culture calls you intolerant, says you're against progress, labels you a hate offender. But God has given this sacred institution of marriage for man and woman, not for man and man or woman and woman. (Genesis 2:18-24) People don't like to hear that, but these Irish filmmakers who stand up for traditional marriage created this video to talk about it. It's short, but it's an excellent conversation starter.

Valentine's Day: Rearranging Our Focus

Mark Liederbach:

"Church Tradition records that in the year 269 or 270 AD (the historical record is unclear), a young man living in the Roman Empire saw something that changed his life—and influenced western civilization for close to 1800 years.

While not a Christian himself and uncertain of his own beliefs, this young man saw something profound and intriguing in the lives of his Christian friends.  The mere fact that his friends were Christian made them objects of state-sanctioned wrath and persecution under the emperor, Claudius. And yet, even while persecuted for their faith, their love and devotion toward one another and toward him was astonishing.

Honored by their friendship, and intrigued by their faith, this young man voluntarily aided his Christian friends to such an extent that, even though not a Christ follower himself, he was eventually imprisoned along with them.

It was there, while he was alone and afraid in a Roman jail, that his Christian friends visited him, and this young man, whose name was Valentine, finally understood and embraced the Christian gospel.

It was not long after his conversion that the Roman officials presented Valentine with a choice: recant your faith and be freed or refuse and suffer the consequences. He refused.

As tradition would have it, he was then clubbed to death on February 14th.

Before he died, however, he is said to have sent a message to his Christian friends saying: “Remember your Valentine… I love you”

Ultimately, no one is quite sure of the exact details of the origination of the Valentine’s Day tradition, but one thing that is sure is that a Christian by the name of Valentine was martyred for his faith in the year 269 or 270.

The truly curious thing, however, is that a day originally meant to commemorate the simple, yet stunning faith of a Christian believer willing to sacrifice his life instead of denying his faith has been reduced to a day that commemorates trivial crushes with heart-shaped candies and a rather strange, almost naked, bow-and-arrow toting, pagan Greek god named Cupid.

Sadly, the pure message of the life-altering good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead as a way to offer payment for our sins and enable a new life based on faith in God and his promises has become little more than a holiday that serves as a litmus test of puppy love.

Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, amidst the hearts, flowers, cards, and guilt-motivated purchases of candy, it might be a blessing to take a moment with your sweetheart and consider the real meaning of this special day.
Why would Valentine die for his faith?

Perhaps Romans 5:8 holds the answer: it is because “God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

And that kind of love is so compelling, so stunning, so simple, that when we “get it,” it is worth living for…and it is worth dying for.

Living and dying for that kind of love makes a lot more sense than trying to get a diaper-clad, puny god to shoot a love arrow at one’s latest crush."


There is a particular passage in the Bible I have garnered comfort from for a long time, but was blessed to be able to memorize it just a week or two ago. Some of you know that Dad and I are memorizing Romans, our third book of the Bible to memorize together. Last week we started chapter nine, but it was just a little bit before that (at the end of chapter eight) that this passage came up. Here it is:
"For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39 HCSB)
This is a passage that is talked about in Christian circles a lot, pasted in Christian greeting cards, made into Christian songs, adapted into Christian poems, on the front of church bulletins - bottom line is, Christians hear it all the time. I know I have, and even though I've always taken comfort from it, I've also taken it for granted. It was only when I was memorizing it, rolling it around and around in my head, reciting it over and over, that the truth finally began to sink in.

God's love is unchanging, unbreakable and utterly unbelievable. It's wild and radical and life-changing. And nothing can separate the objects of His love (i.e. His children) from His love. Why? Because not only is God loving, He's also the all-powerful creator and sovereign governor. He created "life" and has conquered "death." He reigns over "angels and rulers." He's in control of "things present and things to come." He's using "hostile powers" for His purpose. He knows all things and every "height" and every "depth." And of course, He is the Creator and holds ultimate power over every "other created thing." God is love, but He is also all-powerful, all-knowing and in control of this world.

Take comfort in these familiar words, recognizing their truth and importance. For just as Paul was, we can be persuaded that nothing "can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."