Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Q. My husband and I are appalled by the materialism and greed in our culture. We’ve lost close relatives recently and this has made us wonder about the purpose of life. Both of us are searching spiritually. We’re attending a church and taking our children with us. Will this help our children grow up to be less self centered and less materialistic? Does faith affect morality?
A. You are not alone in your concerns about our culture or in your search for spiritual meaning. Research evidence shows that religious faith helps children. Stanford psychologist William Damon says children are “openly receptive to spiritual ideas” and long for a faith that will provide them with a mission in life. Children thrive with a faith which teaches concerns larger than self. Such a faith enables children to weather difficult and even traumatic life events.
Faith can help keep children and teens out of trouble. Researchers have studied not just what causes crime but what predicts virtue. A “spiritual sense” is one of the factors predicting moral behavior in children. The National Commission on Children agrees with these findings. They state “through participation in a religious community - in communal worship, religious education, and social action programs - children learn to assimilate the values of their faith. For many children, religion is a major force in their moral development; for some it is the chief determinant of moral behavior.”
How much does faith determine morality? Obviously there are many good people with no faith and many people of faith who are immoral but over all people of faith are more honest and law abiding. They also are more compassionate.
Researchers have found a clear connection between faith and generosity. A Gallup Survey showed that Americans who never attended church gave away 1.1 percent of their incomes while weekly church goers were two and a half times as generous. Twenty-four percent of the population gave 48 percent of all charitable contributions. Those who were spiritually committed also volunteered their time to help the poor, sick or elderly more often than those who declared no faith.
Active involvement in your faith supports the values we all would like to see grow in our culture such as:
· Nurture of families and family life.
· Close relationships across generation lines; a community of people who celebrate the significant moments of life with you and miss you when you’re gone.
· Children learning empathy, self discipline, honesty, generosity, caring for others.
· Children and adults living the virtues of kindness, faithfulness and love.
· A spiritual understanding that God cares for us and is with us.
You’re on the right track in becoming active in a church. According to the researchers you and your family will be happier and healthier than your unchurched neighbors. More importantly, you will find peace of mind and meaning and purpose to life as you continue to seek God.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, a special day celebrated in many Christian churches. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the beginning of the 40 week days before Easter. Lent is observed in many Christian churches as a period of prayer, fasting, confession, repentance, and self-denial. It echoes the 40 days in the wilderness Jesus spent fasting and overcoming temptation. It also assists Christians in focusing on Jesus resolute journey leading to his crucifixion and resurrection. We learn to identify with his unwavering obedience. We recognize the price he paid for us.
Our faith journey, described in Changing Churches, began in a United Methodist Church - a church that observes Ash Wednesday. Throughout our years there, Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of a solemn and holy time of reflection. While searching for a church in 2008 we attended an Ash Wednesday service at another Methodist Church. I noted in my journal:
We sang six verses of "Just as I Am" and "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood." The hymns, responsive readings, confession, and pastor's message, touched and filled us. We received ashes in the shape of the cross on our foreheads and took Communion - opening and recommitting ourselves to Him. What a sacred event!
In 2004 the teacher of my ladies Bible class mentioned journaling Psalm 51 (about David's sin), one phrase at a time, for the forty days of Lent. This proved to be a sobering but valuable exercise. In order to build up the church, Christians must change and grow. We must face our own sin and repent. The next forty days are a good time to focus on this in prayer.
Understanding the Church Calendar
For those not in a liturgical church, Mark Galli's explanation from his book Beyond Smells and Bells, may help you appreciate the emphasis on the church calendar. He writes:
The church calendar aims at nothing less than to change the way we experience time and perceive reality. . . . Advent signals the new year. For the church, the annual rhythm is not winter, spring, summer and fall, but Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. . . . The church calendar is not about the cycle of life - school or sports or harvest time - but about the movement of history toward a glorious goal. We celebrate the past events of history not merely to remember them, but note how they infuse the present with meaning and power, and point us to our future hope.
Let this be a Holy season for all Christians to ponder and pray and deepen our faith.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Q. My husband and me are newly weds and we’re frightened by the statistics about marriage. Are we doomed to get divorced in five, ten or twenty years? Do any marriages last any more?
A. The divorce statistics we read in newspapers and magazines are alarming and threatening - especially to newlyweds and young married couples. These statistics may cause couples beginning to have problems to give up, thinking divorce is inevitable anyway. They say, “Why not go ahead and get it over with?”
Don’t let the statistics scare you. The statistics we read are presented in a negative way. They state that fifty percent of new marriages will end in divorce. Well, fifty percent will also remain married. The statistics tell us that the divorce rate is higher among teenagers, if partners come from broken homes, if either has been divorced and so forth. But these are just numbers. With even the worst statistics there are couples who defy these odds.
There is much the statistics reported in the media do not tell us. There are over fifty million existing marriages in the
. The percent of all marriages ending
in divorce in a specific year is less than two percent. While this is not a cause
to rejoice, couples who worry about divorce need to realize that every year
over 98% of married couples are staying in their marriages. Many of these
couples may be having problems, may be struggling to survive in the pressures
of today’s world but they are remaining together nevertheless. United
In the media we hear so much about the infidelities and squabbles of celebrities that we forget this is not the way our society as a whole lives. The majority of married couples find satisfaction in their marriage, are committed to remain in the relationship and are faithful to each other.
Here are some very positive statistics about marriage and the role it plays in our health and happiness. A study done in
people showed that married people live longer than those who are single. There
is also evidence that people who get divorced suffer from a higher rate of
illness and death. Other research has shown that our immune systems may become
disturbed after the loss of a spouse. In other words being married boosts our
immune system! California
I hope these statistics will give you more hope. More important than statistics is whether or not you and your husband have committed yourselves to each other before God and your family and friends; have committed in your marriage vows to love and honor each other in sickness and in health. Be determined to honor your vows and you will.
In addition, here are a few tips about marriage:
1. Marriage will not be all that you expect it to be. It will not meet all your needs. Learn to accept the positives that it does offer. Also build your marriage around a strong church to hold you accountable to God and your vows.
2. A good marriage is hard work. We must work at it. We must learn to give and to forgive.
3. Each phase of life involves some changes in each person and in the marriage relationship. Flexibility and a willingness to grow are keys to a lasting, happy marriage.
4. Often marriages fail because the couple has not learned to use their relationship to heal their past hurts. Instead, childhood hurts are projected onto each other and a painful repetition occurs. If this happens, Christian counseling is needed and can make a difference.
I hope these ideas will help you remain committed to each other and determined to work out any problems that occur.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning.” Proverbs 1:5
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Books on prophecy are of great interest in view of the current world situation and the many changes in the world in the last decade. Here I review three excellent books on Prophecy – or to be exact on Escatology - the study of End Times. The Bible has much to say about this so read along in Scripture. I note the copy right date on each of these since the world is changing fast and I’m presenting them in order of date published.
by Dr.Chuck Missler
This book is chock full of information on many subjects. Missler ties them all together – or at least attempts to. He describes the Bible as “an integrated message system…that transcends the insights of the individual contributors.” Anyone who has read and attempted to understand the entire Bible would agree with this and with Missler’s assertion that the Bible originated outside of time since history is written in the Bible before it happens.
Another main point is the fact that even scientists today recognize that the physical universe has four dimensions – not just three. The fourth dimension is time. The scientific information interested me though some of it was difficult to comprehend.
There is much history, biblical prophecy, and description of various end time events and a great deal of very scary information about where we are now. He covers current weapons of mass destruction, biotechnology and diseases, the recurring conflict over
, the rise of Islam, and the thrust toward one world
government – and more. Jerusalem
The book is excellent in many respects though I have several criticisms. The chapters do not flow or tie together well. I also wish he had included an index. Finally, his ending is lame. He demonstrates throughout the book that the signs suggest we are nearing end times. In the final chapter (five pages long) he says 1. Don’t believe me, do your own research. 2. Find out in alternative media what’s going on. And the ultimate issue is the identity of Jesus Christ. I wanted more. Missler offers no thoughts about what the church must do to prepare for the end times. Copyright 2006
By Joel Rosenberg
Implosion is a very timely book and well worth reading. It asks the question, can
recover from its economic and spiritual challenges
in time? America writes in the context of Christian prophecy and
beliefs. Some of his books have been prophetic – coming out just before major
events related to his topic. He has done it again with this book - dealing with
the financial and moral crisis currently facing us. Rosenberg
gives a detailed, informative history about the
First and Second Great Awakening. I learned that even in the 1700’s Christians
were plagued with apathy! Rosenberg ’s
rich descriptions of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield and John and Charles
Wesley demonstrate how their influence sparked revival. Similarly, in the
chapter on the Second Great Awakening we read about Francis Asbury, Timothy
Dwight and Charles Finney and their impact in igniting revival. Rosenberg
Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change
By John Hagee
I was intrigued by the subject of this book after reading a number of otherbooks on end times prophecy and reading many of the Left Behind books. I knew little about the four blood moons. Much of the book recounts the biblical prophecy about the second coming of Jesus. Hagee lists many scriptures about watching the heavens for signs and suggests that the heavens are God’s billboard.
The last third of the book gives details about the blood moons. When the moon is in a total lunar eclipse it looks red and is thus called a blood moon. A Tetrad is four total lunar eclipses occurring consecutively and including a total solar eclipse within the series. These are rare and have occurred only three times in the last 500 years – each on dates significant in Jewish history. The book describes each of these three giving evidence of God’s protection of
. The fourth Tetrad and solar eclipse will happen in
2014 and 2015 each falling on a Jewish holy day. He cites reasons to suggest
the time of the Rapture may be near and urges Christians to watch for the
signs. Copyright 2013 Israel
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it because the time is near. Revelation 1:3