Thursday, January 24, 2013

Should My Kids Participate In Valentine's Day?

This morning I received an e-mail from one of our homeschool co-op organizers notifying us of the upcoming Valentines Cards exchange for the kids of the co-op, as well as the upcoming Valentine's Day Party.

My first response was, "Oh cute!  The kids are going to make cards for each other."  And who can say no to a party?  It sounds like fun!

Then I felt something in my heart give a little tug.  Isn't Valentine's Day all about romance and love?  Why do little children get involved in it?   Maybe I need to investigate a little further.

Centuries before Christ, as early as 753 B.C., the Romans held an annual 3-day fertility festival on February 13-15, called the Festival of Lupercalia.  During this festival 2 goats and a dog were sacrificed, then skinned.   The priests, or Luperci, would then take the animal skins, dress themselves in it after cutting long thongs from the skins.  They would run around the walls of the old Palantine city nude, only covered in the skins, and with the thongs in their hands.  People who crowded near would be struck with the thongs, especially girls and young women.  Married women were also encouraged to bare their bodies and be flogged. The belief was that this practice would ensure fertility, prevent sterility in women, and ease the pain of childbirth.  The festival was also accompanied with much revelry and drinking.

It is interesting to note that the famous Roman polititian, Mark Anthony (83 B.C. to 30 B.C ), also performed as a Luperci at least once.

Another unique custom of the Feast of Lupercalia was the tradition of matchmaking through the pairing of young boys and girls.  Young, marriageable girls would place a chit of their name in a big urn.  Each young boy drew a name and was then paired with that girl for the rest of the year.

Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christianity in 313 A.D. thereby ending Rome's persecution of Christians.   In 380 A.D. Christianity was made the official state religion of the Roman Empire.  However, this did not end the practice of pagan rituals and festivals.  The pagans who adopted Christianity as their religion did not abandon their traditions and religious practices, mostly because this festival was the longest-lasting and one of the most important and popular Roman pagan festivals.

Although the ritual had become an important part of the civic life of Rome in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I presented a lengthy document opposing the festival.  In 494 A.D. he successfully outlawed the pagan festival, but since so many people still clung to the Lupercalia, he shifted the focus of the festival by refashioning it as the "Feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary". Two years later the feast day of St. Valentine was added to the calendar.   It is unclear, and the topic of much debate, what the Pope's motives were for creating the new saint's day, but it is easy to draw the conclusion that it was to adapt the enthusiasm for Lupercalia to a more sociable acceptable form of celebration.

Although the Festival of Lupercalia essentially ended in the West during this time, it continued in the East for another few centuries. 

Valentine's Day did not start out being a day of romance, but rather a day to commemorate the selfless service and ministry of the priest and physician, Valentinus, who was known for doing good deeds, caring for the poor, and healing the sick.  The Normans celebrated Galatin's Day around the same time.  Galtin meant "lover of women" and was likely confused with St. Valentine's Day at some point.  As the years went by, the holiday grew sweeter, especially during the Middle Ages with the notion that birds pair off to mate on February 14.  Shakespeare also romanticized the day in his work which further contributed to the romantic connotation.

The fact remains that Valentine's Day is not a religious holiday and never really has been either.  Although the Greco-Roman pagan historical roots are alarming to me, and it is clear that there is a correlation between the Festival of Lupercalia and the Valentine's Day society celebrates today, I can attempt to put this aside and only evaluate the merits of the Day as it is celebrated today.  However, if I do so, I am still concerned.   

The primary custom associated with St. Valentine's Day is the mutual exchange of love notes called 'valentines', accompanied with hearts, the colors of red and pink, and winged cupids.   

I would find it hypocritical of me to encourage my children to participate in the exchange of "I love you's" in a overwhelming atmosphere of "romantic love", when I intend to also advise my children to seek friendships rather than "dating" until they are truly prepared to pursue marriage.  Why start dating when you're not prepared to follow through and pursue marriage.  That would be looking for trouble in my opinion. 

Sometimes it is difficult to oppose the world view, and not go along with the main stream, especially with the heavily commercialized Valentine's Day celebrations today.  The easy way out would be to look at the sugar-coating and "cutesy", seemingly innocent, components of Valentine's Day, but the Bible encourages us to have discernment, and to not be unevenly yoked with the world.  It further admonishes us to be IN the world but not OF it.

We should not compromise.  Compromise started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve compromised the one law God gave them, and they paid a heavy price for it.  Daniel refused to compromise his convictions and did not bow down to worship a king.  If this happened today, how many people would argue, "It's harmless!  Bowing down does not reflect what's in my heart!"  But how do you think God would have viewed it if Daniel held that attitude?  

This makes me wonder what price we pay as Christians for the compromises we have made by accepting a world view and pagan practices into our lives?  

You can sugar-coat a pagan ritual as much as you like, the demonic root cannot be removed.

"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?
And what communion has light with darkness?" 
(2 Corinthians 6:14)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who Do You Blame?

One of the fundamental problems with Christianity today:

We blame God for the bad things
that the Devil is doing in this world, and
We blame the Devil for the bad things we are doing.
~Ri├Ętte Sinclair

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Spirit of God in Me

In my personal Bible study I’ve always found 1 Thessalonians 5:23 to be a fascinating verse in the Bible, and I’ve often pondered the meaning of man as a three-part being – spirit, soul and body.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely;
and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I understand the soul and body parts:
*  Body – My physical aspects, i.e. see, hear, taste, smell, touch.
*  Soul – My mind, will, emotions, conscience, and personality.

The spirit part is the tricky one and my grasp of it increases the more I revisit the topic.

The spirit-part of man is fundamentally the seed of God’s presence within all of us.  We are created with all three parts and this is the part that will live on forever.

The difference is that the spirit-part is lost and dead to God (Ephesians 2:2) until we are sanctified – until we accept God’s free gift of salvation and undergo a new birth (John 3:3).  At that point our body and soul continue to lust after worldly and fleshly things, but our spirit, once sanctified, desires for the things of God.

The problem is that our body and soul are in direct battle with our spirit.  Our physical lusts, thoughts, emotions and desires constantly battle against the spirit (Galatians 5:17).

How do we turn the tide of this internal conflict in favor or our spirit and thereby also changing our body and soul for the better?

1.     Accepting Christ:
When we accept Christ, we are a “new creation”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).   This does not imply an immediate change in the spheres of our body and soul, but an immediate change in SPIRIT.   My physical features, emotions, bad habits or personality did not instantaneously change when I accepted Christ.  What did change is my standing with God.   Where before I was at odds with the Righteous God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, now I have been made righteous through the blood of Christ (Romans 5:19).   I am now in right standing with God and may enter into His presence with boldness, because He now no longer sees my sin, but He sees my redeemed spirit – washed and cleansed by the blood.

2. Cultivating the spirit-part:
Merely recognizing that I am now in right standing with God will not automatically bring change to my physical circumstances, thought processes, lusts, bad habits, and so forth.   The only way I can effectively cultivate the spirit-part is by delving into the Word of God which IS the Spirit of God (John 6:63; Ephesians 6:17).  The Word of God is “quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12)

If you want to change the condition of your body, you must start by assimilating the Word of God. 
If you want to change an aspect of your soul – such as a bad habit, an addiction, anger, mood swings – you must start by studying and meditating the Word of God.

Just reading a pertinent verse in the Bible and understanding it intellectually is not enough either.  You must meditate on it, sleep on it, think it, LIVE it.  It should take over your thoughts in such a way that it crowds out the bad stuff not only in deed, but also in your mind, which is usually where the bad stuff begins – with a thought.  (Proverbs 23:7)

In today’s society where our lives are overwhelmed by television, media, advertising, busy schedules and rushing around, this is certainly an enormous challenge.   My first thought is:  “Where am I going to find the time?”    But then I ask myself:  “Do I really want to keep going the way I am now?”  There’s a famous quote that reads:  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.  

I have decided to utilize this process to effect change in my life by starting small.  What do I have to lose?  The proof will be in the results, right?  

I challenge you to join in and also give the Word of God a chance to cultivate God’s spirit in you and see if it will effect change in your life!  

My first goal will be to cultivate peace and patience in my life, what is yours?

Galatians 5:16-23

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:
adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath,
 selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like;
of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past,
 that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

For a more extensive topical study on Spirit, Soul and Body, you may go here.