26 April 2012

Whatever Happened To Simple Weddings?

One thing I have struggled to understand is where the stress of a wedding comes from. The concept of getting married is something I have always thought to be simple and natural. Two people come together and share everything. Most people would say, "Wait and see!" Well, granted, there are challenges, as one older brother once told me in the build up to his own wedding, a wedding brings two people together often with nonidentical backgrounds, worldviews, social status etc, and so tough adjustments cannot be avoided.

The wedding day, however, I'd like to believe, must be the least complex thing and yet often it is not. There is stress, tempers, fatigue, fits, chaos, tears, delays and so on. And wedding budgets! I could not believe it when I heard what the budget of weddings nowadays come to. It's staggering.

A wedding happens when two people are declared married after an exchange of vows, preferably at a church building conducted by a minister. When the minister says on my wedding,"I now declare you husband and wife," I will breathe a huge sigh of relief, for from that moment, come rain or sunshine, storm or gale, earthquake or tsunami, the girl is mine till either I or she dies. I mean literal elements here, I'm not being figurative. At that point the wedding cannot be cancelled. It has happened.

No need for a wedding dress or suit (the first marriage ever had both bride and groom stark naked by the way). No need for rings. No need for a reception. No need for cars. No need for people. Just a minister and some witnesses suffice.

When you look at it that way, you discover, that there really isn't much to getting married. All you need is two people who have the combined financial muscle to live together. Two independent individuals who are working can get married for literally close to nothing. Perhaps cab money to the church or what ever location has been chosen. You don't even need cab money back!

Where then does the stress come in?

Well, we have made something so simple, so very complex! Now there are cars for the men on the line up, cars for the women, cars for the matron and the kids on the lineup and a car for the bride and groom. There is a wedding dress, and the dresses for the rest of the ladies (I've come to learn that there's even a change of clothes at 'half time'). Yes, weddings now have a 'half time'. That is when people leave the church ceremony to go to the reception. I call it half time because the wedding won't quite pass as a wedding without the reception! You have the suits for the guys. Then of course all the decorations for the church and the cars and reception venue, and then there's the food and the drinks for all the guests, those two really empty the pockets. O yes! Don't forget the wedding cards for all the guests. Then there's the wedding cake, which is actually three or more cakes put one on top of the other. I'm pretty sure I've left a couple of things out, O yes, the music systems and all that equipment. Ah, the video has to be shot and pictures have to be taken. I'm getting a headache just remembering all these, what happens to the poor couple who have to organize them?!

When the above paragraph comprises a wedding, you understand the stress and all the pressure. You understand why the couple cannot breathe a sigh of relief when the minister declares them husband and wife. In they're minds, the wedding has barely began!

All these things that cause loss of sleep and weight (and money!) are all unnecessary. Two people who either don't have the money or decide not to even get a suit and wedding dress but simply put on the best clothes they can find in their wardrobes and take the cab to the church to wed are as married as those who go through the horror I have just described above!

I have obviously described an extreme. Don't expect the bare minimum at my wedding, you may just find the horror I have described, however, I am simply... what's the word... saddened to see a young couple who are both independent and have what it takes to marry (as I have defined marrying at the very beginning) and yet wait eagerly to wed, being strained every passing day by the desire to finally be together, just because they have not met the requirements the rest of us (and unfortunately them too) think comprise a wedding. In my opinion it is actually bondage. Tied to the wrong expectations of family, friends, acquaintances and society generally.

The most upsetting thing for me is the feast at the reception. Why pay huge sums to have more than enough great food and drinks served to friends and family and everyone else and then go drink water and bread in your first home? It's unacceptable. If you have the money, great. But if you don't, why do that? The wedding must be comfortably within what you can afford so that your home is free of any financial burdens especially at the beginning. God knows you'll have enough problems to deal with. Why give everyone else a blast, then go suffer the two of you afterwards? It really doesn't make any sense.

I could go on, obviously, but must end here. Congratulations to all those who have married and given us guests a great time. I hope it didn't strain you because if it did, that's unnecessary and a shame. We would have done fine if you decided to make us suffer so you could enjoy yourselves. For those of you getting married, put yourselves first. Lord knows the rest of us will do just fine!

16 April 2012

Courtship No.2 -Foundational Truths

Foundational truths are like instructions for a product just purchased at the time when you are ready to open the packaging and dig in—they are a chore, but they save you a lot of time, heart ache and increase the pleasure that would otherwise have been reduced or altogether absent had they been ignored.

About God

Two things must be grasped about God. God must be the center. God is God. First of all God must be the center of a relationship. He must be put first and it must show in the relationship's priorities, activities, interactions etc. Secondly, God is God. God can make wrongs right, He can bring happiness and  joy where there is sadness and pain. Nothing is impossible with Him. Amos 4:13~For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

About Man

Man is sinful and imperfect. This implies that any two humans who have any kind of interaction will rub each other the wrong way and cause pain and hurt. There will be pride, there will be selfishness, revenge, anger and so on. What about if both the gentleman and lady are Christians," you may ask. It doesn't matter. Its important to understand this. It will help you understand why you do the most stupid things to your mate and why your mate does unreasonable things of their own. It will help you understand that left to yourself, you would ruin everything. You need God. Romans 3:23~For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

About Marriage

When I proposed my girlfriend I gave her time to give me an answer. Actually, I began hinting that I wouldn't survive a long wait about three days later. She came a few days later and we sat down. "Before I give you an answer," She began, "If I said yes, where would this relationship be going?" Too many ladies accept to enter into directionless relationships. The goal of courtship must be marriage. If you aren't working towards marriage, end it. You have no business being in the relationship. Genesis 2:24~Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

About Love

In courtship, your commitment is to love your mate. That is not the warm, fuzzy feeling in the cockles of ones heart towards a mate but rather a commitment. When one is rude, love responds kindly, when one is sad, love responds in sympathy, when one is wrong, love rebukes, when one is glad, love rejoices along, when one needs to talk, love listens, when one needs silence, love sits quietly beside. Love never leaves, forsakes, or disappoints. To love therefore is one of the most difficult tasks on earth. And that is your commitment to your mate. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7~Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

About Courtship

Courtship helps the two people involved to determine whether the attraction that they felt from afar can work up close and personal. This is achieved by building a bond, familiarization and interaction. It is not marriage. Unlike marriage it can be terminated. While this can be painful, the pain is bliss compared to what the result would be if the relationship culminated into marriage. Matthew 1:18-19~Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

08 April 2012

Jesus Couldn't Have Died On Friday

The Easter holiday is comprised of four days over a weekend, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Good Friday is celebrated as the day of Christ's death and Easter Sunday as His resurrection. Notice, however, what Jesus said in Matthew 12:40:
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Friday evening to Sunday morning cannot take three days and three nights.

The idea that Jesus died on a Friday is probably taken from Mark's account of Jesus' death. In verse 42 of Mark 15, He writes:
And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath...

Mark records Jesus' death as the day before the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath was the 7th day, Saturday. This can easily be explained. The Jews had at least two special Sabbaths, apart from their weekly 7th day. These days where set apart and they were to have special assemblies and no work was to be done. The first day and last days of the feast of Unleavened Bread were special Sabbaths.
Leviticus 23:3-8~“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of complete rest, an official day for holy assembly. It is the Lord’s Sabbath day, and it must be observed wherever you live.

“In addition to the Sabbath, these are the Lord’s appointed festivals, the official days for holy assembly that are to be celebrated at their proper times each year.

“The Lord’s Passover begins at sundown on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the next day, the fifteenth day of the month, you must begin celebrating the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This festival to the Lord continues for seven days, and during that time the bread you eat must be made without yeast. On the first day of the festival, all the people must stop their ordinary work and observe an official day for holy assembly. For seven days you must present special gifts to the Lord. On the seventh day the people must again stop all their ordinary work to observe an official day for holy assembly.”

John is specific in mentioning that it was a day before the special Sabbath, some versions call it a high Sabbath. That is John 19:31:
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.

Here's a view with which I agree: Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday morning. He died around 3pm (the 9th hour) and was brought down from the cross and buried before Wednesday evening arrived (see John 19:42). The Jews began their day in the evening (important), thus Wednesday evening would have been the beginning of Thursday for them, which would be the day to celebrate the Passover. Thus Jesus spent Wednesday night and Thursday (one night, one day), Thursday night and Friday (two nights, two days) and Friday night and Saturday (three nights, three days) and rose on Saturday night into Sunday (Saturday evening would already be Sunday, the first day of the week, since their day began in the evening like I said). Three days and three nights.

John records in verse 1 of John 20:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

For those who think it really doesn't matter when Jesus died, it does. If He prophesied that He would be three days and nights in the heart of the earth and His prophesy was not fulfilled, it would render Him a false prophet. A fraud. Deuteronomy 18:21-22:
And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

For a more comprehensive discussion of this view, click here. I cannot vouch for anything else on this site. Caution must be employed.

04 April 2012

The Meaning of Easter

Easter is celebrated the world over to commemorate the resurrection of our Lord. Some religious groups prefer not to call it Easter for reasons that I completely understand.

You see, the most widely accepted origin of Easter is taken from a 6th and 7th century scholar known as the father of English History. Whether the origin that he suggested was made up or true is not certain.

In one of his books he says that Easter was actually a month named after a goddess, a month which is our April equivalent. The feasts celebrated in the goddess’s honor in that month were forgotten with the passage of time and replaced with the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection as we know it today and this two or so centuries after Christ’s ascension.

This explains the apprehension that some have today with calling it 'Easter'.

Galatians 3 offers at least three things that Easter means to a Christian. It shows us that Jesus’ died to redeem us from a curse. That he did this to fulfill a promise He made to Father Abraham. And that He did all this out of no duty but rather by His grace.

Easter means that we are children of Abraham. God promised Abraham several things. The promise to Abraham that he would have as many children or offspring as the stars in the sky is particularly significant. That promise was God's way of opening the door for non-Jews like me and you. Paul tells us in Galatians that that promise facilitated Abraham’s spiritual children, children who did not fall in his genealogical line but children that live like Abraham-those who live by faith. Hence the song:
Father Abraham had many sons,
Many sons had father Abraham
I am one of them, and so are you
So let’s all praise the Lord!

Let me put it this way, when Abraham looks down on this earth and sees Jews who are his natural descendants and sees you who is not, he feels a much stronger attachment and connection, a stronger affinity and bond to you. And even though, you do not share blood, you do not fall in his ancestry, even though you look nothing like him, he recognizes you as his very own because you live like him, you live by faith!

And that was Jesus' point in John 8 when He told the Jews that if they held on to His teaching they would know the truth and be set free. "Free?" They asked, "We have never been slaves. We are children of Abraham." They treasured their ancestry you see. Verse 39 says,

"Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did." ~John 8:39.
You can almost picture Abraham watching down from heaven, jaw dropped, seeing the descendants of his beloved son Isaac reject the Son of God and turn his face away in disgust. Then he sees you and I accept Jesus, coming to Him empty handed, just as we are. We can almost hear Him echo Jesus' words, "My real children are those who live as I lived."

Those who have faith like Abraham are his real children and they are blessed along with Abraham. The opposite of a blessing is a curse. Easter means we are blessed. We are given salvation freely and escape the curse that anyone else that refuses this free gift are under, that of earning salvation by living a perfect life. It is a curse because no one can live a perfect life. Paul calls this redemption from the curse of the law saying that Jesus redeemed us from this curse by being cursed Himself.

Finally Easter means God’s grace. This comes out clearly in verse 18 of Galatians 3. God did not have to promise Abraham anything. He did it by his grace. He extended the blessing of redemption to you and I who are unnatural children of Abraham not because He had to but because of His grace. He chose that the way through which this promise would be extended to us be by Christ redeeming us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us not because He had to but because of His grace.

02 April 2012

Courtship No. 1 -Finding A Mate

The 5 P's of Finding a Mate.

1. Parental Guidance: Parents are a blessing from God although half the time, one is inclined to think they are quite the opposite. A parent is the best person to ask whether or not you are ready to get into a relationship. Parents are the best source of advice for determining whether or not the person you are eyeing is worthwhile. However, no 'P' is as neglected in the process of finding a mate more than parents. This is unfortunate. Parents are a resource whose wisdom and wealth of knowledge can be unnecessarily costly if not utilized. Granted, not everyone has biological parents who can give them good spiritual guidance in this process but spiritual parents are always available. One simply needs to look for a couple, or older man or woman, in the local church, who they trust and respect and build a relationship with them and ask them for counsel when the time to choose a mate comes along.

~Proverbs 13:10, By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.

2. Prayer: One of my recently favourite songs goes:
Here I am, calling out Father
Can you hear me? I want to hear you
I don't want go without you
Here I am can you speak a little louder
So I can hear you, I want to hear you
I don't want to move without you

This must be the attitude of one finding a mate. "I will not make a move until I hear you, so speak to me." One of the major differences between a Christian and a non-Christian is that the Christian puts the Lord's will above his/her own. Life is no longer about me and what I want but the Lord and what He wants. Prayer must not only be for guidance in choosing a mate but may also be for grace to handle the pressure and anxiety that may be building. For grace to keep feelings for someone at bay until God's leading is clear. For grace to handle the lingering emotions and fears from a previous unsuccessful courtship. And for grace to wait upon the Lord.

~Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

3. Patience: I haven't lived on earth very long, but I have lived long enough to have seen the damaging effects a lack of patience in this area can bring. Impatience causes us to move before the time is right, to ignore or neglect to seek counsel and settle for someone God has not intended to be our life long mate resulting in painful breakups and the like. Many ladies make the mistake of accepting a proposal because it's from the last available decent fellow. Many men rush for ladies because if they don't, the other guys will rush in and "shes bound to end up with one of them". Which God do you serve? It must be one with a small 'g'. For as long as Yahweh is on the throne, you needn't worry. All will be well if you trust and obey. It isn't easy but it is essential to wait. After all, those who wait upon the Lord...

~Psalm 37:7-9, Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

4. Purity: Another neglected area is that of purity. In our world, you are backward if you are in your late teens or older and still a virgin. In the church, that matter is settled and clear. However, the problem is often in the mind. It is important to treat young men as brothers and young ladies as sisters, the bible says. This is easier said than done, especially inwardly. Be on your guard and fight any impurity of thought and deed. Relationships bring people of the opposite sex closer together and an unbridled mind will struggle. It is better to enter into the relationship with the battle of the mind already won. We tend to think this applies only to men, but even women can be prone to unwholesome fantasies.

~Colossians 3:5, Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

5. Priorities: Keep the main thing, the main thing. All too often one can find himself/herself consumed and preoccupied by their desire to find a mate. They find themselves always thinking about it, always looking around, always abreast of news pertaining to the latest singles around or the latest relationships to spring up etc. The main thing is the Lord. Glorifying Him. That must be priority number one. Would it be too much to ask of the Lord, that singles out there would be busy in His church, serving Him? That they would be the ones in the forefront of the ministries and meetings and events working tirelessly for the Lord? I don't think so. After all it is in His service that they find the most compatible mates, those who like them are working hard for the Lord.

~Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.