Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The ever present struggle to "Rejoice with them that do Rejoice"

           Have you ever been there?  That place, that moment, when you look around the room after a friend has announced (of course with their new significant other) that they are in a relationship, or even just the sight of seeing a new couple, you realize, while in a dazed stupor that you're the only person not jumping up and down?  You're the only one not squealing with excitement, shouting congratulations and singing praises to God, or drenching them with love?

And. It. Is. Awkward.

         It's not because you're unhappy for them, because of course you are.  It’s just that every couple announcement brings a tsunami wave of emotions that crashes over you, am I right?  And the intensity of these emotions, leave you breathless. And numb. And scared.  And…well…not yourself.  It’s within the first 60 seconds of their joyous announcement you instantly feel happiness, joy, sometimes relief for that person because you know their struggle, but also there's bitterness, anger, sadness and grief, even resentment, all at once.   Not necessarily towards them, but towards your own circumstances. Because why haven’t your prayers been answered? Are you not worthy? Don’t you deserve a mate just as much as they do?

           It’s also within that same 60 seconds you feel joy and happiness for them. And even a sense of relief and hope. Relief that they will never have to endure the pain of singleness anymore, and also a rare form of hope, hope that maybe, just maybe it might be your turn next. People dont realize these emotions that come so fast and so hard, which are hugely difficult to juggle.  Especially in a group setting…with an audience, because you're convinced everyone is staring at you and waiting.  Waiting and wondering.  Waiting for your reaction.  And wondering what you might be thinking, or feeling.

Is he happy? Will he cry? What will he say? Is he mad? I wonder if he is jealous? 
            Romans 12:15 commands the Christian to "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."  A Christian that has been, and may continue to have to struggle with singleness, also struggles immensely with a tsunami, hurricane, tornado, (whatever natural disaster you want to equate this too) of questions of "is something wrong with me?", "why?", "when is it my turn?" "Will I ever experience a relationship? " "How will this point me to God?".  And these same questions, and there's more (I only put a few), flood the mind of that Christian single every time they see a new couple, get invited to a wedding,  or maybe they don't even get an invite, but just know a couple is getting married, a new baby announcement,  their buying a house, going on a really cool date (well......any type of date would be great...) At times, that Christian single won’t be able to hold back the tears and give people the joyful congratulations they deserve.  I know, I've been at weddings, but couldn't talk because of the quivering lips and heart-wrenching and real pain.  Not only is this also an overwhelming feeling of guilt, but another part of the guilt we feel is that this new couple sees our waterfall of tears and quivering lips and most likely have the perception that is for them and it's just that we're so overjoyed for them, and we're speechless.  Sadly and unfortunately, it has very little to do with them and therein lies the guilt.  This should be a moment when we express our excitement and sincere happiness,'s not.  Not because we aren't thinking of those things and don't want to express them.  There is just SO much in these emotions and it's too much to try to even explain....even after a few days when we're calm.  We are in immense pain. And we can’t stop the feelings we feel from the hurt of singleness, and most often the loneliness that accompanies, or the fearful thoughts we have that this joy and excitement you now have, may never come true for us. And it’s hard. It makes us feel like an awful person, because we know the right thing to do is set aside our pain for their joy, but sometimes in that moment......we can’t.  We really want to, but we just can’t.

              I realize not every Christian struggling with singleness feels or reacts this way, because while I may not always like being told in a group setting, others may prefer that.  In fact, the thought of someone else treating them differently or "tip-toeing" around them, may infuriate some.  We're all struggling in our own ways. We're all dealing with different wounds.  Different scars.  Different past experiences.  And we're all in different stages of grief.  But I believe despite the differences and despite the struggles, we're all in need of the same grace. Grace to help us rejoice to the best of our abilities. Grace to give us the strength to overcome our unpredictable emotions. Grace to see us through our painful and heart-wrenching circumstances.  And grace to help us never give up hope that maybe, just maybe, our turn will be next.

             But with that grace, I also believe there needs to be compassion. And so if you're reading this today and are either in a strong relationship or married, can I make a suggestion? A suggestion on how to share your news in a group setting that has someone you know struggling and praying every day, every minute, or every second for their own relationship? Or maybe you have shared it with everyone, but not them because your not quite sure how to and want to be sensitive. So while I know it sounds like an awesome opportunity to announce it in front of your friends or family members at the big family get together, it’s probably going to be a very uncomfortable time for your single and ever-mindful-of-their-singleness friend or family member.  Maybe even potentially reopen a wound that was just starting to scab over.  Or cause them embarrassment as they are unable to hold back the waterfall of tears that sometimes accompany the pain they are feeling.  And so in order to possibly help shield those wounds and allow them to “rejoice with those who rejoice” to the best of their ability, (and in their own unique way) can I offer you my number one tip or suggestion or piece of advice? (however you want to look at it)
If so, here it is…

              I know this may seem like more trouble than its worth, but sit them down, privately, just you two and them.  Maybe not even start the conversation with "so me and so and so are dating....." they see you two together. They get it. Talk to them as if nothing has changed and know that in the meantime, the news of another couple that they have to get used to is being processed.  They need time to process that information. Process their grief. Process all their emotions.  There may be some tears, tears of joy, but also of sorrow, for themselves.  However, know that they really do want to support you, and they really do want to be there with everyone else, but they just might need that extra time to pull themselves together in order to do so.

              A lot of people may read this and get the sense that whenever a Christian single has a break down at the mention of a relationship, that they are just being incredibly selfish and looking for attention.   Although, sadly, some Christian singles may use their circumstances to get others to pity them, there are a few who do not think that way in the least.  This is also part of the overwhelmingly guilty feelings that go through our minds and hearts.  We know that others may percieve our breakdown as an act of selfishness, but we're just trying to get through this moment.  

               These are a lot of reasons behind a single person's breakdown and struggle, but there is so much more to it, but for the reasons above, we need grace, compassion, understanding,  and sensitivity from others.  Now, you may be asking yourself, "why don't they say so?"  It's hard to talk about your own struggle and sometimes just talking about things, we can feel the emotions creeping up inside, and we just don't want to have another public breakdown, so to avoid that, they may change the subject, or even walk away. 

               I hope that’s not too hard too ask, is it?  It’s doable right?  Because telling them privately still allows you to share your awesome news in front of your friends and family......just others need time and care.  As was said earlier, some people don't like when others feel the need to "tip-toe" around them, but to some, it shows incredible care and thought for their well-being.

Friday, September 11, 2015

To tolerate or not to tolerate?

        More and more often, with everything that is happening in the world, it's hard for a Christian to remember to love and to show the loving side of Christianity.   There are many scripture verses that command the Christian's separation from this and that, and that separation is from things that oppose God's Word and, in some cases, very specific situations from other people and of course, these demand certain indications,  but in general, we are to love our neighbors.   In this post, I will look at all the passages with this commandment and, Lord willing, the reader will be encouraged from God's Word.
         I did a simple search through the Bible of where Christians are told to love their neighbor and there are at least 9 instances.  These are the clearest, in my opinion.


Leviticus 19:18 "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD."

Leviticus 19:34 "But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."

Matthew 19:19 "Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Matthew 22:37-39 "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Mark 12:30-31 "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.  And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."

Luke 10:27 "And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself."


Romans 13:9b "...and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

Galatians 5:14 "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

James 2:8 "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:"
             The majority of these passages are found during the dispensation of law and therefore most would conclude that because Christians are no longer under the law, but under grace, this command is obselete.   Unfortunately,  this is untrue because there are 3 other times in the new testament that this command is directed to Christians in the dispensation of grace.  
            I fear that a lot of people, christians included, taint the perception of Christianity for their lack of love towards others, myself included.  In acknowledging all the Christians that are suffering persecution and wrongful imprisonments all over the world, there is a lesson in loving the person more than the sin the rest of us need to learn from their example. 
          The Bible commands that Christians love their neighbor. Below, I have put the original Greek and Hebrew terms and emphasized a commonality in both.  Another person.  According to the Bible,  a neighbor is another person, regardless of their social status, skin color, choice of religion or lifestyle.  All  people are to be shown love by Christians. 

Greek word:

Original: πλησίον
Transliteration: plēsion
Phonetic: play-see'-on
Thayer's definitions
1. a neighbour
2. a friend
3. any other person, and where two are concerned, the other (thy fellow man, thy neighbour), according to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth
4. according to Christ, any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet

Hebrew word:

Original: ריע רע
Transliteration: rêa‛ rêya‛
Phonetic: ray'-ah
BDB Definition:
1. friend, companion, fellow, another person
2. friend, intimate
3. fellow, fellow-citizen, another person (weaker sense) other, another

           How do Christians lack in this?

           Well, that's easy to do.  Simply by being unfriendly can be the simplest way a Christian can give the perception of unloving.  Sometimes it is unintentional........but sometimes it can be intentional.  For example, the Lord may bring people into our lives for the very reason to teach us how to love, properly.  However, Christians can sometimes say things that seem like it is a chore to associate with a particular person.   Christians may wonder to themselves or even ask their fellow Christians, why are you talking to that person?......or you don't want to talk to them, do you?  I think you may see the point.   It is vital for a Christian to love others, and to speak in a loving way, both to their fellow Christians and to people that they may not want to be friendly to. 
       The title of this post is to tolerate or not to tolerate.  There are many, many evils, sins and situations in the Bible that are necessary, and needful, for the Christian to avoid and, not tolerate.  Sin needs to be shunned from the life of the Christian and when Christians associate themselves with those who practice sin on a daily basis, (hint: we all do)  there is very little room for intolerance for the person, not the sin.   Throughout history, people have tried to practice intolerance, to no avail.  People like Adolf Hitler (though there was A LOT MORE on his agenda) was very intolerant of people and yet, Christians still seem to tolerate people that are persecuting and wrongfully imprison them, simply for being a christian. It is very possible to love a person so much aside from their political views, lifestyle, what they favor or don't favor, etc., and still love them, as a person created in the image of God.

John 15:12 "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
       One of the many ways that we as children of God, can show love to each other is by first sharing the truth of God's love and that God loves everybody so much, that He gave his only son to die for the sins of the world.  Whoever will believe that, will have an eternal relationship with the One who loved and created them. (John 3:16)  Another way, is to look past all the sin in someone's life and to love them, the person, created in God's image.

1 John 4:7-11 "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Should Christians regard halloween?

        One of the most significant days of the year, for unbelievers, is approaching and it seems as though a lot of Christians tend to take advantage of this day to pass out tracts and share the gospel of Christ's sacrifice, or decide to join in on the fun even if they decide not to pass out tracks or anything.  However,  is this really something that the true Christian should be doing?  Let's look at what the Bible says, but before examining what the Bible says about participating in this day, let's remind ourselves of the origins and very real existence of what halloween celebrates; witches, witchcraft,  and the occult.  Here is a brief look at the origins.

      The Halloween customs the world observes on October 31st had their beginnings long ago. The origins and traditions can be traced back thousands of years to the days of the ancient Celts and their priests, the Druids of ancient Gaul and Britain. We know little of the Druids, but of certain is that they had an elaborate religious and political organization. Some were soothsayers, magicians, sorcerers, and barbs (composers and reciters of heroes and their deeds). Their religion worshipped numerous gods and natural objects, such as trees, wells, etc., in which magical practices were involved.
        The Druids believed that witches, demons, and spirits of the dead roamed the earth on the eve of November 1st. Bonfires (literally "bone-fires") were lit to drive away the bad spirits. The great bonfires served another purpose as well -- on this night, unspeakable sacrifices were offered by the Druid priests to their Lord of Death (Saman). The celebration was called "The Feast of Samhain" (pronounced SAH-WEEN). The Druids would carefully watch the writhing of the victims in the fire (sometimes animals, sometimes humans). From their death agonies, they would foretell the future (divination) of the village. The local householders then each took a portion of the fire to their own hearths for good luck and good crops in the new year.
         To protect themselves from the mean tricks of these spirits (like killing livestock), the Druids offered them good things to eat (sometimes food, sometimes female children). The Druids also disguised themselves in order that the spirits would think the Druids belonged to their own evil company, and therefore, not bring any harm to the Druids. They also carried "jack-ó-lanterns," a turnip or potato with a fearful, demonic face carved into it, to intimidate the demons around them. And, thus, this "tradition" is carried over today as Halloween and is celebrated by dressing up in costumes, playing trick or treat, wearing masks, and carrying jack-ó-lanterns.
        Much later, the Roman Catholic Church set aside the first day of November to honor all the saints who had no special days of their own. This was known as All Saints' Day, and was preceded by All Hallows' Eve (derived from the word "hallowed" or "holy evening"). Eventually, the two festivals (the old pagan customs and the Roman Catholic feast day) were combined, and All Hallows' Eve was shortened to Hallowe'en. Professing Christians were now provided a convenient "alternative" to the aforementioned pagan ceremonies.
           Despite half-hearted attempts by the Catholic Church to destroy the pagan religious practices associated with Hallowe'en, they have survived. During the Middle Ages, such practices found an outlet in the practice of witchcraft, which was and is devoted to communing with the spirits of the dead and to the worship of Satan himself. While almost every major holiday has been tainted with some form of paganism, none are so deeply immersed in the occult as is Hallowe'en.

            To this day, one of the special "sabbaths" for Satan-worship continues to be October 31st -- HALLOWE'EN!   (Sourced from Biblical Discernment Ministries)

            A wiccan (modern day witch) website describes this day as "A night of magic and chaos." This website also states that "It's generally celebrated on October 31st,  but some prefer November 1st, being the festival of Samhain, 1 of the 2 spirit nights each year, the other, Beltane.  And it's a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended and the thin veil between the worlds (physical and spiritual) is lifted, and communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easier at this time.  It's a time to study the dark mysteries and honor the dark mother and dark father, symbolized by the crone."
          A lot of these traditions are still obviously present in todays practice of halloween, and clearly it is a day that is still dedicated to witches, witchcraft, and the occult.  

           I used to live about an hour north of Salem, Massachusetts, where the famous witch trials were held.  Today, there are big parades held during this day every year that celebrate witchcraft and other occult traditions.  Even though I lived an hour north, I remember a lot of ex-coworkers that were and most likely still are very into this celebration.   When I was younger, I was a bag boy and the cashier was a dedicated wiccan (she was only 16 or so years old) and it was quite normal for me to see palm reading shops and psychic businesses along the main roads.  When I moved to PA, I thought that "...halloween is probably not celebrated much.  I mean, I was in the direct radius of where the witch trials were."  I was mistaken.  Halloween and the occult is probably more regarded. My first encounter was with a boy who attended my church.  I soon found out that he was heavily involved with all things paranormal and the spirit world.  Soon afterwards, I was getting a haircut and the lady was bragging about her halloween decorations and that for the next year, she wanted to buy a coffin to display in her yard! I have also talked with multiple people, christians also, who find these things to be fascinating.  My experiences from when I was younger not only drilled it deeper why the Bible takes this evil seriously,  but also how serious it is for people involve themselves in these things.
            Time to explore and examine what the Bible says about all this.  Most references are found in the old testament, however, there are some key passages in the new testament.   In Exodus 7:11 "Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments."  Pharaoh ordered that people involved in these things perform their magic and enchantments.   In 1 Samuel 28: 7-14, the witch of Endor contacts the dead. Deuteronomy 32:16-17 tells us that demonic involvement was intentional.  Even involvement in the occult and witchcraft were grounds for excommunication, according to the law.  Leviticus 17:7-9 says "And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations. 8. And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9  And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the LORD; even that man shall be cut off from among his people."  This sentiment is repeated later in Leviticus 19:31, "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God."  Exodus 22:18 is very convincing in the tolerance of witches, in which the law demanded, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."  The Lord took these things very seriously, and still does.
        According to Leviticus 19, there is a very real consequence for, even being involved in such things: defilement.  The Hebrew word translated "defiled" is a word that means contamination, in regards to being sexually, religiously, or ceremoniously.   This defilement would affect the spiritual or ceremonial aspect in our lives.  In essence, being involved with the occult or witchcraft,  will very likely hinder our own personal witness endeavors to those that are involved in these practices. In other words, a believer that is involved, whether it be embracing all the traditional practices or just 1, will have a much harder time explaining what the Bible says about separation from these things, (because he/she compromises and does not separate themselves) then if a believer who has completely separated themselves from these practices.
            Finally, in Deuteronomy 18:12 "For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee." The act of how the Lord drove out these abominations, is not too clear in this passage.
            There is only 1 instance I can think of in the old testament in which it is clear how the Lord drove out an evil spirit, and this was through music.  In 1 Samuel 16:23 "And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." (To learn more about music and it's Biblical role, visit here .)
         There are a few chapters in the new testament dedicated to the subject of Christian liberty, or a Christian involving themselves with something that offends neither them nor God.  According to the Bible, regarding these things is an abomination unto the LORD.   In the new testament, these abominations, along with all fleshly abominations, have been driven out or, more specifically, crucified at the cross of Christ.         
         Witchcraft is a very real existence,  even today.  Paul indicates this for us in Galatians 5 when he states witchcraft as a work of the flesh.  Another clear passage is found in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. "Abstain from all appearance of evil."  Because this is a day dedicated to evil and the dark mysteries of the spirit world,  this should be a very clear command.  Paul also writes to the believers at Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21

          "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils."  According to this passage, it is a contradiction for a believer to participate, or to even be involved with such things.

        Finally, Ephesians 6:12 is clear in the premise of the Christian's battle grounds and halloween is considered by wiccans to be 1 of their 2 high and holy days during the year. 

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

It is no coincidence that Ephesians 6:12 states the Christian battle to be spiritual.

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in HIGH places."

          The verses to follow in 13-17 describe for us the armour in which to defend against this  spiritual wickedness.  Only by the Grace of God will His children be able to stand firm on His truth.  I pray that this post helps to bring Christians to a concrete conviction on these matters. 

1 Corinthians 10:12 "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."

James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."