Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means that love is in the air.
Or is it?
I ask the question because I’m convinced that love is one of the more widely defined–and misunderstood–concepts in our culture. And I’m far from the first person to point out that this time of year doesn’t always lend itself to the clearest thinking on the subject.
So when you get right down to it, what does it mean to love someone in God’s eyes?
What do the following things have in common? And what do they have to do with your life?:
- A near shipwreck.
- The beauty of an English day in mid-winter.
- The repetitive chant of a child from a neighboring house.
- A skin disease.
- A “hard boiled atheist’s” evaluation of the gospels.
- A modern piano composition.
- Facing charges for tax fraud.
- A mother reading her children bedtime stories.
Think about all the things that you find exciting or satisfying in your life. Some examples:
- Binging on that new Netflix series.
- Reading that book that’s so hard to put down.
- The appetizers at that favorite restaurant of yours.
- That girl/guy in your class/workplace you’re finding it hard to stop thinking about.
- Your favorite team’s next game.
- All the interesting things you’ve got going on in your job.
- An excellent report card (and maybe a scholarship that goes with it).
- Your kids: seeing them reach the next milestone, thinking about their future, and so on.
- That hobby that makes you so impatient for the weekend.
With all those things in mind, here’s a question: why is it so easy to be preoccupied with all these things, while it’s often so hard to pursue God? And for that matter, what can we do to fight against that?
Nobody who’s around The Crossing for long will confuse it with a perfect church. But over the last 16+ years, we’ve seen it grow from a couple of dozen people to regularly having over three thousand adults worship on a Sunday morning. And while that’s very encouraging, it also sparks a few important questions.
Why does a church grow? And what will help it continue to grow?
Ultimately, the answer to both questions is the sheer grace of God, and it’s exceedingly important to remember that fact. But I think it’s fair to say that God normally uses various ways to deliver that grace, and recent research offers some insight into at least one of them. And that particular way, it turns out, runs counter to what many observers might think.
“Will you and Daddy ever get divorced?” My 6-year-old’s anxious question pierced my heart. It wasn’t the first time one of my children had asked this of me. I remember asking my parents that same question around his age.
How do I want to respond his question? What does my child want me to say? “Never, sweetie! Never! Never! Never!”
I mean, my husband and I are both devoted Christians who took a vow 16 years ago to one another. We take that promise seriously, love one another very much, try to serve one another and work through conflict, and know we are accountable before God. But, is that enough? Can I really say we would never get a divorce?
(Note to my Mom: Don’t worry, this post isn’t a cry for help or warning sign. Everything’s fine!)
At age 38 and after working in ministry at The Crossing for about 16 years now, I know the reality around me. My children see the reality around them, too. Fifty percent or more of families are torn apart by divorce and far more are affected by it in some way. And Christian families certainly aren’t immune.
Perhaps even more alarming at times is intimately knowing the sin that lies within my own heart. And every human heart. We are a broken people who, despite our fervent promises and good intentions, are in a war against discontentment, selfishness, pride, lust, and so many other temptations that threaten to pull us away from our spouse. Every day.
So, how should I answer my child’s question? Three options come to mind.
The end of the calendar year always brings with it a host of awards, recognitions, “best of” lists, and the like. And perhaps the most well-known of these was announced last week: Time recognized Donald Trump as its 2016 Person of the Year.
Of course, Time isn’t the only publication or organization that recognizes a man/woman/person of the year. GQ magazine tapped actor Ryan Reynolds, Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, and actor/director Warren Beatty for the covers of its Men of the Year issue, while Glamour selected pop star Gwen Stefani in the same role for its Women of the Year issue. A bit narrower in scope is Sports Illustrated, which recognized NBA champion and Finals MVP LeBron James as its sportsperson of the year. No doubt we could find more examples.
All this got me thinking about something that’s admittedly speculative, but maybe helpful nonetheless: what if God gave out a person of the year award? What would be his criteria for selecting the winner?
If you’ve spent much time around a church during the holiday season, you’re probably heard the term “Advent” several times. But beyond associating the word with the Christmas season, many of us might not have the clearest idea of its significance.
Our English word “Advent” comes from the Latin adventus, which is a translation of the Greek term parousia, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Western Christians have historically observed Advent during the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
But what specifically are we observing? To sum it up briefly, Advent is a season of expectation. In it, we turn our attention to the coming of Christ. And to do so, we look both backward and forward.