Thursday, February 22, 2007

Celebrating Ash Wednesday

For many believers, the annual celebration of Ash Wednesday is an essential practice of their faith. Among Catholic communities in Colorado, its practice is very popular. Yet for many Christians its origins remain a mystery.

Believed by many to have started in the 6th century A.D., its celebration is marked by the placing of an ashes in the form of a cross on the forehead of the recipient. Seen as a staple of Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, its practice is gaining popularity among more evangelical protestant groups.

The heart of Ash Wednesday is to remind believers of God's mercy towards them while encouraging merciful acts towards others. For more information on Ash Wednesday and its origins and practices, click here.

Amazing Grace

Great movie, Amazing Grace- it opens on Friday, February 23rd. I hope movie fans and folks who enjoy an uplifting and redeeming movie will buy tickets for this one.

Much can be said for this film but what struck me was Wilberforce's commitment to two great causes- the ending of slavery and the reformation of his society and culture. Wilberforce accurately assessed the fact that to change the slavery laws would require changing the hearts and mind of people. But most importantly, this task would be impossible unless his own heart was transformed.

Wilberforce's pastor, John Newton, penned one of the most famous Christian hymns, Amazing Grace. Born during a fierce ocean storm, this song continues to captivate its listeners with its radical but simple message of God's grace for the sinner.

Newton and Wilberforce realized a truth- a timeless truth we need today. God in his sovereign work offers all of us amazing unmerited grace. And the grace, when sipped by a grace-seeker, not only aligns us with God it motivates us to rescue others. Grace is not limited by race, color, social standing or wealth. It flows openly to all who believe in and commit their lives to God.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Amazing Grace and Christian Collaboration

Unfortunately, Christians are inconsistent when it comes to working well for the common good of our culture. But there are some shining exceptions to the "rule."

One of my favorite Christian writers, Chuck Colson, pens a fantastic article in today's daily update. He tells the poignant story about the collaboration of two Christian groups in nineteenth century England who worked together to end slavery. The most infamous member of this group was William Wilberforce, a well known principled Christian statesman in England during the nineteenth century. His partners in this endeavor were a lesser known sect, the Clapham Saints.

Their collaborative work changed their culture.

Before you read Colson's thoughts, let me quickly add one of my own. First Corinthians 12 reminds all believers of our integration with other Christians. The Apostle Paul brilliantly states that every Christian, great or small, has vital skills and talents needed by the entire church.

If we are to impact our time and culture, we must work with each other for the common good, finding issues that we can offer solutions to...

Here's Colson's article, the Spirit of Collaboration.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The True Meaning of Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day-almost...Most of us think about Valentine's Day in a couple of ways. Hopeless romantics pine away for the day, planning extravagent romantic ventures. The rest of us either forget about it and get caught short-handed or we quickly grab a some flowers or candy on the fly.

But Valentine's Day has a great historical background. Here it is below and its a bit long....

When we think of Valentine's Day, we often think of red roses, candy in heart- shaped boxes, mushy valentines, and winged cherubs flying about shooting starry-eyed lovers with arrows. But did you know that the origin of Valentine's day, or Saint Valentine's Day, comes from the life and death of a Christian martyr? According to author Martha Zimmerman, the date traditionally celebrated as St. Valentine's day finds it origin in the Roman festival of romance called Lupercalia, when the gods Juno and Pan were honored. It was a fertility festival or a lover's holiday looking forward to the return of Spring. In the fifth century, in an attempt to abolish the pagan festival, Pope Gelasius changed Lupercalia and its February 15 date to February 14 and called it Saint Valentine's Day. Even though the names and the date were changed, the emphasis continued to be on love. Who was the real Valentine, and why did he have a day named after him?
Some authorities credit Geoffrey Chaucer with originating the custom of linking Valentine's day with lovers. No link between the day and lovers exists before the time of Chaucer, thus leading some to conclude that it was this famous English author who connected the day with lovers. The fullest and earliest description of the tradition occurs in Chaucer's "Parliament of Fouls" composed around 1380. Since that time it has been traditional to connect St. Valentine's Day with love. But who was the real Saint Valentine? St. Valentine was a Roman Christian who, according to tradition, was martyred during the persecution of Christians in the third century by Emperor Claudius II. The only thing certain about the day we remember as St. Valentine's day is that it commemorates a martyrdom. Claudius II declared all Christians illegal citizens. By his definition, they were guilty of treason because Roman citizens were required by law to worship the Emperor by declaring publicly, "Caesar is Lord!" Of course, this no Christian could do.
The real Valentine was a Roman Christian martyred during the third century A.D. by the Emperor Claudius II. Prior to his death, Valentine continued to minister in prison by witnessing to his prison guards. One of the guards was a good man who had adopted a blind girl. He asked Valentine if his God could help his daughter. Valentine prayed and the girl was given her sight. The guard and his whole family, 46 people, believed in Jesus and were baptized. When the Emperor heard about this he was furious that Valentine was still making converts even in prison, so he sentenced Valentine to death. Just before being led out to his execution, the young Christian wrote a note to the jailor's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine." The first valentine was really a Christian witness. Growing out of this story we participate in a custom of sending cards to people we love.
Given that the tradition of sending love notes grows out of a letter written by St. Valentine to his jailer's daughter on the eve of Valentine's execution, it's ironic that the card we send has received the emphasis, instead of remembering the content of the original Valentine's card: a message of unconditional devotion to Christ, even upon pain of death. Over time the word "Saint" has been dropped from St. Valentine's Day, further obscuring the origins of this holiday. Instead of a negative reaction to some of the pagan origins of the day, why not celebrate the true love that compelled young Valentine to give up his life? Remember that the day we know as St. Valentine's day actually commemorates the death of an early Christian martyr, Valentine, who was put to death for refusing to renounce his faith in Christ. Instead of chubby cherubs, sappy cards, too much candy, and soon-wilted flowers, why not point your family toward the true significance of St. Valentine's day this year? By all means, celebrate the day, but re-inject it with Christian meaning by resolving to live for Jesus without fear or shame, following the godly example of Valentine's unconditional love for Christ.
How can you celebrate St. Valentine's Day in a way that honors the original Valentine, who was martyred for his devotion to God? First, give your life to Christ. Second, declare the truth about God's love even if it costs you something. Third, become a servant to those you love, rather than demanding that your needs be met. According to pastor Alex Stevenson, we all want to hear the phrase, "be my Valentine." It simply means "you are loved." This Valentine's day, remember that you are loved. God loves you and wants you to be His valentine. The love that God gives us is not like the world's love. The world's love is only as sturdy as a paper Valentine's card. But God's love is not a flimsy, cheap imitation: it is the real thing. It is an all-giving love that was and is willing to suffer and die for our deliverance. Will you be God's valentine? It is your choice. Say yes and give to God the love He desires. And when you do, remember the first Valentine and how he gave everything, including his life, to the God he loved.
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Thursday, February 08, 2007

TV Violence Explodes

According to a new report from the Parent's Television Council, a Los Angeles based media watchdog group, TV violence is rampant. "The television season that began in the fall of 2005 was one of the most violent in recent history-an increase of 75% since the 1998 television season."

Wow. Guess who is most impacted by our television-watching habits? Children. TV violence is a bit of paradox in that social science studies have proven that repeated television violence leads to delinquet behavior in children. Yet, adults routinely turn on such violent shows as CSI, etc.

Here are some more major findings from the report. These numbers represent the increases in violence on television since 1998:
1- Violence increased during the 8:00 p.m. hour by 45%.
2- Violence increased during the 9:00 p.m. hour by 92%.
3- ABC has experienced the highest growth in violent programs-nearly 309%!
4- ABC' s short lived program, Night Stalker was the most violent show in the 2005-2006 season.
5-Every program airing on NBC in the 10:00 p.m. hour contained at least one instance of violence.

Finally, the "v-chip" technology, heralded as the anti-dote to television violence, has made little difference the number of children watching violent programs.

As adults, we need to review what we watch and remember that our kids are not prepared to watch what we do...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Really Good Guy- Colts' Dungy Has the Right Perspective

I was flipping through the sports pages this morning and came across another great article on Super Bowl champion coach Tony Dungy. This story warms my heart. If you have followed this story, much has been rightfully made about his ethnicity and being the first black coach to win a Super Bowl title.

But, there are some great life lessons to be learned from his story. Here are the ones that stand out for me.

First, Tony Dungy is an inspiring role model for all of us. Its easy to get cynical today. His success is a refreshing reminder of all that is right about the American dream; that hard work and perserverence is the recipe for true success.

Second, his climb to success was not without hardship and trial. Dungy was fired in Tampa Bay and suffered through the tragic loss of a son and Smith had to endure many closed coaching doors. In today's immediate gratification society, we think that we are all owed immediate success or that it will automatically come to us. Dungy and Smith would attest that is not the case.

Finally, faith matters. I appreciated his now infamous comment right after the Colt's win where he stated that what matter most to him was winning God's way. What a great selfless, humble comment. Its a comment that I hope many will absorb.

We need a dose of good guys acting well today. Cheers for Tony Dungy!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Requiring Cervical Cancer Vaccination-Give Me a Break!

According to Colorado State Senator Suzanne Williams, every 11 and twelve year old Colorado girl is or will be sexually active. At least that's the premise undergirding her latest proposed law requiring the vaccination of these children prior to their admittance into any Colorado junior high school.

Senate bill 80 carries this idea.

I am appalled at the premise of the idea. Now, don't misunderstand my passion. Cervical cancer is a terrible disease. I want every means used to prevent it and cure it. My problem with this idea is that it assumes sexual promiscuity will be a natural event for young girls. And the logic here gets worse because it promotes the notion that this shot will magically protect these children and they can continue their promiscuity. The fact is that cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus, which is contracted through sexual intercourse. A better way to handle this to promote abstinence measures.

As a father of two girls, I intend to protect my daughter's virginity until they move out on their own. If they decide to get this vaccination when they are 18 so be it. But for now, we are raising our girls to value their sexuality and to save it. I am not going to get these shots for them as a protective hedge.

Senator Williams and her crowd need to adopt a new view that kids are more than goats. Good public policy in this area would advocate abstinence which would reduce acts of promiscuity which in turn would cut down the transmission rates of the human papillomavirus.

This idea is enlightened irresponsibility.