St. Valentine’s Day: The Real Story

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Flowers, candy, red hearts and romance. That’s what Valentine’s Day is all about, right? Well, maybe not. Did you know this day actually commemorates the day Valentine was executed by the Roman Empire for merely performing marriages? Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Please read on.

The actual origin of this holiday for the expression of love really isn’t really romantic at all—at least not in the traditional sense. Father Frank O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, tells the real story of the man behind the holiday—St. Valentine.

Valentine was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an Emperor called Claudias II (2nd Century A.D.) who persecuted the church at that particular time,” Father O’Gara explains. ” He also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.”

“I think we must bear in mind that it was a very permissive Roman society in which Valentine lived,” says Father O’Gara. “Polygamy would have been much more popular than just one woman and one man living together. And yet some of them seemed to be attracted to Christian faith. But obviously the church thought that marriage was very sacred between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged. And so it immediately presented the problem to the Christian church of what to do about this.”

“The idea of encouraging them to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about. And he secretly married them in spite of the edict.”

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against command of Emperor Claudius II. There are legends surrounding Valentine’s actions while in prison.

“One of the men who was to judge him in line with the Roman law at the time was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. He was supposed to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result.” Legend has it that countless others were converted to Christianity as a result of Valentine’s imprisonment.

In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a most cruel three-part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, “from your Valentine.”

“What Valentine means to me as a priest,” explains Father O’Gara, “is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe. And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that —even to the point of death.”

Valentine’s martyrdom has not gone unnoticed by the general public. In fact, Whitefriars Street Church is one of three churches that claim to house the remains of Valentine. Today, many people make the pilgrimage to the church to honor the courage and memory of this inspirational Christian saint.

“Valentine has come to be known as the “patron saint of lovers.” Before you enter into a Christian marriage you need some sense of God in your life—some great need of God in your life. And we know, particularly in the modern world, many people are meeting God through his Son, Jesus Christ.” Since marriage is so much more than a physical union, it’s a spiritual one, only God in Christ can help us love one another successfully, unselfishly, as God loves each of us. We have to have His help daily.

“If Valentine were here today, he would not be shocked at the moral permissiveness we have in our culture now, it was in his ancient Roman culture, as well. But, he would say to married couples that there comes a time where you’re going to have to suffer, your love is going to be tested. Ironically, he would say that real love is much more than chocolates and flowers. Real love doesn’t always receive, it has to give with no thought of receiving. It’s not going to be easy to maintain your commitment and your vows in marriage. Don’t be surprised if the ‘gushing’ love that you have for someone changes to something less “gushing” but maybe much more mature. And the question is, is that young person ready for that?”

“So on the day of the marriage they have to take that into context,” Father O’Gara says. “Love—human love and sexuality is wonderful, and blessed by God—but also the shadow of the cross. That’s what Valentine’s Day means to me.”

A Love That Listens to You

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “listening is the mark of true love.” Nothing is more comforting to know that you are being heard and your feelings and opinions matter to the one who loves you. Being able to listen to others is a secret to lasting and healthy relationships be it friendship or marriage.

Our Heavenly Father is the cosmic Expert at listening to us. You’ll never find Him too busy to not hear us. In fact, He demonstrates His ongoing love for us by speaking through His Word and listening to our voice daily. It’s definitely a two-way street. But beyond the words we utter, our Heavenly Father hears the hurt in our spirit. He keenly senses the frustration and confusion of our soul. He knows exactly what we are thinking long before we even think it. That is an awesome Listener, if you ask me.

You’ll never find a better listener, in this life, than the Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact that He is the greatest Being in the entire universe, He will never put you on hold or send your prayer request off in a distant voicemail. In addition, He not only hears us, but He also walks with us. Because of the love relationship He initiated from the cross, God is not content to just hear us, He desires to walk with us through the valleys and the mountaintops of our life. Even when we are not on our best behavior, when thoughts and words come out of us that should never, Jesus won’t refuse to hear us. You’ll never find a greater, more patient listener then Him. He responds to us like a cherished Lover who longs for us to know how very much He cares and loves us beyond our wildest dreams!

Since you are deeply loved by God Himself, please take that as a “motivational incentive” to pour your heart out to Him today and tomorrow and every day of the rest of your life! Your Creator and Redeemer loves to hear from you.

A Good Name in Today’s Scandalized Culture

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Friends, if you are getting bone weary of all the chronic sexual assault allegations and cringe-worthy stories, coming out every day, you are not alone. The #MeToo campaign is shining a spotlight on widespread misogynistic behavior, ranging from unprofessional to full-scale assault.

As overwhelming as this feels, it pales in comparison to the shattered lives of victims. From Hollywood, to even some religious organizations, sensational scandals are becoming a regular segment in today’s newsfeed.

Indeed, this #MeToo movement is upending many of our institutions. TIME magazine announced “The Silence Breakers” as their 2017 Person of the Year. Oprah Winfrey drew widespread praise for her speech at the Golden Globes earlier this week, proclaiming, “The time is up” for sexual harassers.

Most of this is actually good news. These stories are finally coming out of the dark.

As Christians, we know we cannot separate our morality and ethics from our faith. Additionally, we simply cannot ignore the eye-opening stories of these abused victims, even if we find ourselves mentally numbed by the sheer quantity. The church must lead, not merely follow along, in support of all who have endured abuse, neglect, and injustice. If we don’t we will find ourselves at the mercy of the allegations of certain far-left, extreme-liberal, special interest leaders and groups who are more concerned with getting personal media publicity than for getting true justice for all the victims. We should care.

In light of the darkness, now being revealed, we who follow Christ seek to live our lives “above reproach,” or “above the criticism” of the unchurched in the world. We must abandon this erroneous thinking of”secular/sacred” categories, some would have us fall into, where religion is to be limited to “a privatized pursuit.” Jesus Christ is not only Lord of the church, “He is Lord of all” and His Lordship graciously encompasses our entire life. I don’t have to have a “Praise the Lord” bumper sticker on my car, and drive like Mario Andretti, or rudely bludgeon every sinner I encounter, in order to love God and encourage others to live for Him. Actions speak louder than words.

Truth is, “who” we really are and “what” we really believe is under the bright spotlight of those we work with, those we consider friends and those who cross our paths on a daily basis, “a city on a hill cannot be hidden,” said Christ. Nor, should it be. Clearly, if our faith is not worth living out, it’s not worth having.

The best news is that we are not religiously or slavishly bowing down to a cruel, cosmic, Sovereign Warlord who delights in destroying the lives He created. Our God mercifully humbled Himself, became a Man, in sheer undeserved compassion and love for you and I, to suffer the most atrocious Roman cross for a planet who would just as soon crucify Him to death than tolerate His very existence. Yet, the most phenomenal event in the history of mankind, still continues to boggle the minds of the world’s greatest thinkers, “Why would He die for me? Why….me?”

Considering all that, the very last thing I want to do is bring shame or disgrace to the name of Christ. “Will I make mistakes?” Yes. “Guess what?” So will you. No big surprise there. However, I’m convinced that if we seek true authenticity or “to be real” in today’s scandalized culture, we will not ignore the victims of abuse, nor we will be an accessory to the fact of America’s continuing unraveling of ethics, decency and respect for ourselves, as well as others. If we are going to be “talked about,” let others see us as an “inspirational example,” not the butt of a late night show comic joke.

By the grace of God, I am not interested in ‘hiding in the dark’ with my faith. I am laying my good name and reputation on the line daily in order to serve God and the church, who are, my brothers and sisters around the world. But, I am not alone, so are you. That is why I always sincerely pray for my friends, on a daily, basis, for this very reason.

Thank you kindly for your ongoing prayers that my good name will continue to stay untarnished in a world full of hate from those whose primary desire is to make us Christians look like the hypocrites we are not because, “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches”

David Crews

Upcoming ‘Passion of the Christ’ Sequel to Be Biggest in the History of Films: Says Director Mel Gibson

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(Photo: Passion of the Christ from Twentieth-Century Fox)

A sequel to Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” about the crucifixion of Jesus is reportedly in the works and will be the biggest movie ever created, an actor told USA Today.

Jim Caviezel, 49, who will reprise the role of Jesus, gave few details about the film, but made the prediction because the movie will be “that good.”

“There are things that I cannot say that will shock the audience,” said Caviezel, who also said he was inspired by Gibson. “It’s great. Stay tuned.”

Gibson told USA Today in 2016, “The Resurrection. Big subject. Oh, my God. We’re trying to craft this in a way that’s cinematically compelling and enlightening so that it shines new light, if possible, without creating some weird thing.”

Upon its release, “The Passion of the Christ” was the highest-grossing R-rated film in North America, generating $611 million worldwide on a $30 million budget.

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was the highest-grossing R-rated film in North America upon its release, generating $611 million worldwide on a $30 million budget.

Gibson said in an interview last year that the film is going to focus on the Resurrection.

“Of course, that’s a very big subject and it needs to be looked at because we don’t want to just do a simple rendering of it — you know, read what happened,” the actor added.

“Passion of the Christ” screenwriter Randall Wallace told The Hollywood Reporter that “there’s a lot more story to tell.”

Caviezel, who hasn’t acted in a biblical film since then, will portray Luke in “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” slated for a March 28 release.

Joy More Contagious Than the Winter Flu

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Joy More Contagious Than the Winter Flu

“Joy is like jam. You can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself.” 
—Anonymous 

Everyone is looking for joy. Marketing companies know this. Every commercial promises the same product: joy. Want some joy? Buy our hand cream. Want some joy? Sleep on this mattress. Want some joy? Eat at this restaurant, drive this car, wear this dress. Every commercial portrays the image of a joy-filled person. Even Preparation H. (LOL) Before using the product, the guy frowns and squirms in his chair. Afterwards, he is the image of joy.

Joy. Everyone wants it. Everyone promises it. But can anyone deliver it? It might surprise you to know that joy is a big topic in the Bible. Simply put: God wants his children to be joy-filled. Just like a father wants his baby to laugh with glee, God longs for us to experience a deep-seated, deeply rooted joy.

The joy offered by God joy is different than the one promised at the car dealership or shopping mall. God is not interested in putting a temporary smile on your face. He wants to deposit a resilient hope in your heart. He has no interest in giving you a shallow happiness that melts in the heat of adversity. But he does offer you a joy: a deep-seated, heart-felt, honest-to-goodness, ballistic strong sense of joy that can weather the most difficult of storms.

Peter referred to this joy in the opening words of his epistle.

“Though you have not seen him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”
(I Peter 1:8-9 ).

Who was Peter addressing when he spoke of unspeakable joy? He was speaking “To God’s chosen people who are away from their homes and are scattered all around the countries of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (I Pet. 1:1). Peter was speaking to persecuted Christians–people who had been driven from their cities, separated from their families. Their rights had been taken. Their property had been taken. Their possessions had been taken. Their futures had been taken, but their joy had not been taken. Why? Go back to Peter’s Epistle again- this time in another translation: “You have never seen Jesus and you don’t see him now. But still you love him and have faith in Him” (I Pet. 1:8). The source of their joy? Jesus! And since no one could take their Jesus, no one could take their joy.

What about you? What has been taken from you? Your health? Your house? Have you buried a dream? Have you buried a marriage? Buried a friend? As you look at these burial plots of life, is your joy buried there, too?

If so, you may have substituted courageous joy for contingent joy. Contingent joy is “IF  joy.” It always dependent upon a circumstance. Contingent joy says I’ll be happen when…or…I’ll be happy if. I’ll be happy when I have a new house or a new spouse. I’ll be happy when I’m healed or when I’m home. Contingent joy depends upon the right circumstance. Since we cannot control every circumstance, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Envision the person who buys into the lie of contingent joy. As a young person they assume, if I get a car, I’ll be happy. They get the car, but the car wears out. They look for joy elsewhere. If I get married, I’ll be happy. So they get married, then disappointed. The spouse cannot deliver. This goes on through a series of attempts. If I get the new job… if I can retire… If we just had a baby. In each case, joy comes, then diminishes.

By the time this person reaches old age, he has ridden a roller coaster of hope and disappointment. He becomes sour and fearful. Contingent joy turns us into wounded people.

Courageous joy, however, turns us into strong people. Courageous joy sets the hope of the heart on Jesus and Jesus alone. Since no one can take your Christ, no one can take your joy. It’s supernatural. It’s not of this world. It’s a gift from God and the birthright of every born again child of God.

Think about it. Can death take your joy? No, because Jesus is greater than death.

Can failure take your joy? No, because Jesus is greater than your sin.

Can betrayal take your joy? No, because Jesus will never leave you.

Can sickness take your joy? No, because God has promised– whether on this side of the grave or the other–to heal you.

Can disappointment take your joy? No, because though your plan may not work out, you know God’s plan will.

Death, failure, betrayal, sickness, disappointment. They cannot take your joy, because they cannot take your Jesus. And Jesus promised, “No one will take away your joy” (Jn. 16:22).

Is that to say your life will be storm-free? Is that to say no sorrows will come your way? No. “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Is that to say you will never cross the drylands of sorrow? No. But that is to say your sorrow will not last forever; “Your grief will turn to joy” (Jn. 16:20).

Courageously joyful people have done the same. They have anchored their hearts to the shoreline of God. Will the boat rock? Yes. Will moods come and go? No doubt. But will they be left adrift on the Atlantic of despair? No, for they have found a joy which remains courageous through the storm. And this courageous joy is quick to become a contagious joy.

Christians of the New Testament church were not known for their buildings or denominations or programs. They were known for their joy. “They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts. They praised God and were liked by all people” (Acts 2:46-47).

The early Christians were joyful Christians. In fact you might argue that there is no other type. In the purest sense, the phrase joyful Christian is redundant. We shouldn’t need the adjective. We don’t put the word dead in front of cadaver or wet in front of water or handsome in front of David (Just kidding.) Ideally, we shouldn’t have to put joyful in front of Christian.

But we do. We do because we tend to major in contingent joy and not courageous joy. But God can change that.

Assess your joy level right now: Are you joyless? Do you spread more pessimism than you do hope? If so, God can help you. Grimness is not a Christian virtue.

Believe that joy is possible!

Don’t give in to despair. What Jesus said to his followers, he says to you. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

Be open to the possibility of a joy from heaven. Joy may be elusive, but it is never gone. Sometimes it just takes some work.

Anxiety thrives in the petri dish of if only. It doesn’t survive in the world of already. For that reason, treat each anxious thought with a grateful one.

Take a moment and follow Jesus example. Look at your blessings. The Bible says, “For the JOY set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame…”

Do you see any friends? Family? Do you see any grace from God? Love of God? Do you see any gifts? Abilities or talents? Skills?

As you look at your blessings, take note of what happens. Sorrow grabs his bags and slips out the back door. Unhappiness refuses to share a heart with gratitude. One heartfelt thank you will suck the oxygen out of its world. So say it often.

Who is to say God won’t give the same to you? Why don’t you call out to Him?

Ask God, “Lord, what is separating me from joy? What have I allowed to steal the fullness of my joy I should be experiencing from You?”

Ask Him to replace your contingent joy with courageous joy. Ask Him to help you anchor to the firm rock on his shoreline. Ask Him to show you the joy that cannot be taken. He will. He will stir a revival of contagious joy in your heart.