Valentine’s Day Thoughts

hearts_crop

 

I love holidays and often feel a little blue in January after all the excitement of the Christmas season wears off. But then comes February with another exciting holiday to perk our spirits!

But I gotta say, our culture’s idea of love is far from ideal. And, the fact that a movie that glamorizes sexual violence comes out just in time for the Valentine Holiday ought to make all Christians pause.

In a world that has so many mistaken notions about love, how do we show true love?

I encourage you to check out this article I helped write for EvanTell on “13 Characteristics of Divine Love.”

Or, consider donating $50 toward a women’s shelter as part of the #50dollarsnot50shades campaign. You can read more about it here.

A Christ for All Mankind

matt

The four different gospel writers designed their accounts with four different audiences in mind, but all emphasize that Christ came for all people.

Concerning Jesus’ birth, Luke records the angel saying, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (2:10).

In his first chapter, Matthew goes even further back to demonstrate this by using a genealogy. We don’t tend to bother as much with ancestral lists today, and many of us probably skip right over it. But for Matthew’s Jewish audience, genealogies were highly valued and read carefully. Read more

Anna: Proclaimer of Christ

familyAnd coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.— Luke 2:38 (ESV)

To Read: Luke 2:22–38

Biblical Synopsis: Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord in accordance with the Mosaic law. Simeon, a man in the temple, took the babe in his arms and blessed him. Afterward, they met the pious woman Anna, who gave thanks and spoke of the Redeemer to all who would listen.

Application for Today: Anna’s story, encompassing only three verses, doesn’t give many details to her life. We don’t hear how she met her husband, or if she had any children, or even what she said. Read more

What the Traditional Nativity often Gets Wrong

nativityWe sing about the babe born in the manger, and we decorate with beautiful nativity scenes commemorating the Christ child’s birth.

If you go to Bethlehem, you could visit the “Church of the Nativity,” a basilica erected by Constantine on top of the place traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Christ.

And, there’s certainly nothing wrong with reverent displays.

But as we celebrate tradition and the words of the Christ tale, we mustn’t forget that the lenses of our cultural glasses have the tendency to color the story. Or to put it another way, we often take our modern day notions and ideas and read them back into the text. Sometimes, this causes us to miss out on crucial parts of the story. Read more

Shepherds: First Guests to the Manger

shepherdAnd they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. — Luke 2:16 (ESV)

To Read: Luke 2:1–20

Biblical Synopsis: As shepherds watched their flocks, an angel appeared with news of great joy over the Savior’s birth and a multitude of angels sang glory to God. They made haste to see the newborn king making known the angel’s report.

Application for Today: Many in the ancient world despised these low men on the totem pole (cf. “every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians”; Gen. 46:34). But there is also a sense in which the term “shepherd” engenders great respect. Many of Israel’s revered forefathers—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David—claimed the trade of sheepherding. God himself is also described as a shepherd to his people (cf. Ps. 23) and Jesus as the “good shepherd” who “lays down his life” (John 10:11). Read more

Two Ornaments that Will Enhance Your Family’s Faith

iStock_000007037542Small(Note: This article was originally written as content for EvanTell in 2011 and was also reposted on blogs.bible.org.)

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be hard to find a moment to breathe. Rush to the store to get more flour for a recipe. Hustle to a neighbor’s house with a plate of cookies. Drive to church for a hymn sing. Then somewhere in there you return home to find that the family dog knocked half of the ornaments off the tree. As you stand staring at the shards of glass, a million thoughts race through the mind: “Where’s the broom?” “How will I find time to go to the store for more ornaments?” “When will Christmas be over?!”

When we cave to the ceaseless hustle and bustle so prevalent in our society, we are prone to forget so much. The wonder of the incarnation. The splendor of God’s love. The joy of growing together as a family. Read more

Halloween Candy: Alternatives and Trade-ins

 

candyHow many of you run to the store at the last minute for Halloween candy? (I admit I am in that category this year.) But what to get?

And, for those of you who take your children trick-or-treating, what will do with all the candy? Seriously, how many of us are still eating our Halloween candy at Christmas? (Guilty.)

Well, I have scouted around for some fresh ideas that appeal to kids and won’t break your pocket book. Read more

Halloween 101: Community Building and Factories of Courage

 

frozen_spiderA child hid her face in her hands, “Mommy who would put such a scary mask on display?”

“Boo!” Out of the shadows jumped Mr. Incredible hoping to steal some candy from his unsuspecting sister.

“What an awesome batman mask!” said a father brandishing his camera.

Love or hate them, one thing is true: a simple, plastic mask evokes strong emotions. Some of us may stay as far away from them as possible, shunning anything that even reminds us of evil in the world. Others join in the merry making with hardly a care in the world.

Either way, we can’t completely hide from Halloween, which brings me to an important part of this holiday—conversations. We converse with friends, neighbors, co-workers, church members, and our family about this annual day of trick-or-treating.  And, in this type of dialogue is great opportunity. Read more

Halloween: The Best Day of the Year for Evangelism

ajThe following guest post is adapted with permission from previous content written by my friend AJ Rinaldi. He currently serves as Ministry Director at EvanTell and is a graduate of Belmont University and Dallas Theological Seminary. AJ has served in church ministry as leader of several small groups, as well as teaching children, youth, and young adults.  

The average person probably doesn’t know very much about the origins of Halloween. Most people probably don’t even care anymore. However, as our society has become more and more callous to images of horror and demonic forces, many of the conservative Christian population has decided to “take a stand” and hold “alternatives” to Halloween; or simply ignore and dismiss it altogether.

It is understandable when believers are uncomfortable with the idea of participating in Halloween festivities. Sincerely, I would never want to push a brother or sister in Christ against their convictions (ref. Rom. 14, 1 Cor. 8).

Yet, while I do empathize and respect when Christians have a conviction about the holiday, my caution is to be careful not to put limits on God. Read more