Jul 042022
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Frederick Douglass c. 1852; By Samuel J. Miller; American, 1822-1888 - Art Institute of Chicago, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20788164

Frederick Douglass c. 1852

On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech at a meeting organized by the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York. It has generally come to be known as “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”. In it, the great social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, statesman, and former slave uses the theme of Independence Day to launch a strong critique of slavery.

Our country has made a lot of progress in the 170 years since Douglass gave this speech, but recent events have made it clear that our progress and even American democracy itself are fragile and require constant vigilance. My purpose in writing this post is to make sure that those who read this blog are exposed to it and have the opportunity to reflect on it as they consider the work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom in the 21st century.

Here are some resources related to this great speech:

Although legal slavery has been abolished in our country, we still have much work to do! May Frederick Douglass’ words help to build our confidence to faithfully pursue justice.

May 142022
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Do you have difficulty facing God because of some major wrongdoing on your part? Genuine repentance (changing your mind, turning around) makes a difference! Check out the story of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33 (the version in 2 Kings 21 doesn’t tell the whole story). Even if you can’t undo all of the damage you’ve caused, genuine repentance makes a difference with God!
As I’ve heard my Bishop, Dr. Gideon A. Thompson, say on more than one occasion: “If Manasseh can get saved – anyone can get saved!”
If you need to repent, don’t put it off. Do it today!

May 072022
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I was recently asked for my thoughts about a video that was posted on Facebook. The video makes the claim that true Christians don’t celebrate Valentines Day. I disagree!

The Video

Here is the video that I was asked to comment on:

The Speaker

The speaker, Daniel Macaraeg, is the Executive Assistant to the National Office Manager of the United Church of God in the Philippines. The United Church of God has its origins in the former World Wide Church of God founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. After Armstrong’s death in 1986, his successors recognized the errors in some of their formerly held doctrines and moved the organization towards more orthodox biblical teaching. In 1995 several member churches rejected this new direction and formed the United Church of God in an effort to return to their originally held (and problematic) doctrine. You can read more about this in the Wikipedia article:

United Church of God – Wikipedia

Basic Claims

Here are the basic claims that Daniel Macaraeg makes about Valentine’s Day:

  1. It originated from grossly immoral pagan practices.
  2. It ignores God’s instructions about not following pagan ways.
  3. It promotes and encourages the wrong kind of love.

My Detailed Comments

Here is a breakdown of statements that Daniel Macaraeg makes and my detailed responses:

00:27 – “Let’s discuss”

What discussion? He’s the only one speaking.

00:47 – “Did you know that true Christians don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day?”

No, I didn’t “know” that, and you haven’t yet proved it.

00:59 – “Christ did not teach it, the early disciples did not observe it, and the people of God are not commanded anywhere in the Scriptures to observe and celebrate Valentine’s Day.”

Nobody I know believes that Christ taught Valentine’s Day or that the disciples observed it. Nobody I know thinks that God commanded it anywhere in the scriptures. We observe a number of holidays throughout the year that are not taught in the scriptures.

01:14 – “For sincere truth-seekers who would rather please God than follow what’s popular . . .”

This sets up a false choice.

01:37 – “Number 1: Valentine’s Day originated from grossly immoral pagan practices.”

This supposed origin of Valentine’s Day in the Roman practice of Lupercalia is NOT settled historical fact. The Wikipedia articles on Valentine’s Day and Lupercalia cast doubt on this idea.

03:47 – “the Roman Catholic Pope Gelasius I recast or “Christianized” Lupercalia in an effort to win over these pagans into Christianity.”

He states this, but provides no evidence. See the Wikipedia articles: Valentine’s Day, Lupercalia.

05:05 – “The martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church together with the celebration of Lupercalia”.

Valentine of Rome was a priest who was martyred in 269 AD and was added to the calendar of saints by Pope Gelasius I in 496 ad. This was the same pope who condemned Lupercalia.

05:38 – “2nd Reason: Celebrating Valentine’s Day ignores God’s instruction about not following pagan ways.”

I don’t know anyone who celebrates Valentine’s Day by following the pagan practices of Lupercalia. Do you?

Deuteronomy 12:29-32 and Leviticus 18:1-30 were written to ancient Israel and not directly to us. When we read the Bible we are eavesdropping on a conversation that God had with someone else. We must first understand what the passages meant to them in their actual context before we apply it to ourselves. No one that you or I know is currently living by each and every Old Testament commandment. No one I know who celebrates Valentine’s day is using it as a means of worshipping God.

He goes on to mention prohibited sexually immoral practices in Leviticus 18. None of this has a specific tie to Valentine’s Day. A husband and wife are free to be sexually intimate whether they are celebrating Valentine’s Day or not. Unmarried couples can and do celebrate Valentines Day without sexual immorality. Those who are sexually immoral are typically sexually immoral whether or not it is Valentine’s Day.

07:24 – “3rd Reason: Valentine’s day promotes the wrong kind of love.”

That this is his opinion does not make it fact. The Bible teaches clearly that God intends sexual intimacy for those who have entered into the covenant of marriage. Believers who are romantically involved, but not yet married should obey this teaching every day – not just on Valentine’s Day. Believers who are married are free to be sexually intimate – on Valentine’s Day or any other day.

09:18 – “Well, what’s wrong with giving chocolates, flowers, cards or jewelry to your wife on Valentine’s Day? . . .What’s wrong with all these things? Isn’t love taught in the scripture and is it not taught in the Bible?”

He goes on to state that the Bible talks about the highest form of love and he sets up a false choice between romantic love and godly love. It is actually possible to have and exhibit BOTH.

10:38 – “Christ even talks about loving our enemies. This is something we cannot find on Valentine’s Day.”

So what? Once I know that Jesus tells me to love my enemies, why do I need to find support for this command in Valentine’s Day?

10:44 – “True love is an ongoing thing. It’s a daily thing. It’s not just a one-day event that we remember in February.”

Who in their right mind imagines that true love is a one-day event? The speaker quotes the passage Romans 13:8 which stresses the importance of love. That in and of itself however says nothing about Valentine’s Day. It simply makes it clear that I should love on Valentine’s Day or any other day.

12:04 – “Knowing this you are now left with a choice. Choose TRUE, godly love – all the time. You don’t need Valentine’s Day in order to express your love. I hope you will make the right choice.”

Yes – I choose to demonstrate true godly love – all the time. I don’t NEED Valentine’s Day to express my love (no one needs Valentine’s Day to express their love), but I CHOOSE to continue to do so. I have chosen BOTH.

The Apostle Paul dealt with problems faced by believers who encountered the byproducts of pagan practices:

1 Corinthians 8-10 – Concerning Food Sacrificed To Idols.

Here Paul teaches that believers are free to consume meat even if it’s been sacrificed to idols as along as they don’t participate in idol temple worship or eat in the presence of:

    • A fellow believer with a weak conscience who will feel emboldened to reconnect with idolatry by your actions.
    • A non-believer who will interpret your behavior as an endorsement to pagan practices.

Either of these certainly can happen as we celebrate Valentine’s Day (or any other holiday for that matter) but, in my opinion, these occasions are the exception rather than the rule.

Romans 14 – The Weak and the Strong

Here Paul make a related point – encouraging believers with strong consciences not to pass judgment on those who have a weak conscience and vice-versa.

I don’t know of any followers of Jesus who have taken up any of the idolatrous practices associated with Lupercalia as a result of celebrating Valentine’s Day. For this reason, it is not a practice that worries me.

Apr 052021
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God Saved Me On April Fool’s Day!

April Fools’ Day is special for me! It was on that day in 1979 that I began following Jesus! I was sitting in my MIT dormitory room in MacGregor House G Entry 4th floor looking out at the Charles River on a beautiful spring day. I was not in any sort of crisis – there was nothing wrong in my life that I was aware of. I wasn’t upset about anything. Somehow Jesus made his presence known to me and made it clear that I now had an opportunity to follow him.

I didn’t grow up in church. My mother took me to Sunday School for a brief period when I was perhaps 5 or 6, but I don’t think that period in my life lasted more than a few months. I did attend Trinity Parish Boys Camp (run by Trinity Church in Manhattan) during the summers of 1971 – 1974 but, although I was curious about the church services, the priests who ran the camp had no idea how to “close a sale”, so I re-focused my attention elsewhere.

My ideas about God had largely been formed by watching the Lutheran claymation show “Davey & Goliath” on television (a wonderful show) as a young child. When I was 16, my sister Renee wrote me a letter about how to make Jesus Lord of my life, but by then I found the idea that I needed Jesus in my life offensive and I tore up the letter and threw it away.

When I arrived at MIT in 1976, I met Michael Harrison, who would become my best friend (and eventually the best man at my wedding). He was already a Christian and encouraged me to become one. The following year I met Courtney McBath, who would also strongly encourage me to become a Christian. Despite their influence I felt strongly that following Jesus was something I just wouldn’t be able to do. I might be able to start out OK, but I just didn’t believe that it would ultimately work. I would tell them: “Maybe I’ll get saved when I’m 30”.

On Sunday April 1, 1979 however, in my MacGregor dorm room, Jesus somehow made it clear to me that if I decided to follow him then, it would work. I felt free to accept him and confident that I could actually be a Christian. I also felt free to say no to Jesus, but I also had a nagging worry: I didn’t know when I would ever again feel that same freedom to follow Jesus!

I decided to follow Jesus and to attend the Black Christian Fellowship Bible study that Friday. As it turns out, Eva had, quite independently, decided to follow Jesus herself that same week (we were no longer a couple at that point). I wasn’t planning to attend church because my mother had told me that churches were full of hypocrites. I went to the Bible study that Friday because I knew the members and trusted that they were genuine. When they invited people to share testimonies I told them that I had asked Jesus to be lord of my life and that I believed he had saved me. Word eventually went out on campus that the unthinkable had happened – Rocklyn had gotten saved. I didn’t go to church that Sunday, but the following Sunday was Easter and I figured I would go to church for Easter. I went to First Church of God (now Shawmut Community Church of God) in the South End and met Bishop Gideon A. Thompson, (he was Pastor Thompson then) who answered my questions, opened his library to me, and mentored me in ministry. He created safe space for me to ask questions and he saw to it that I got answers. Under his ministry I was NEVER made to feel bad for wanting to understand God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. By the way, “Eva had already begun attending the same church and, as you can guess, we didn’t stay broken up for long. 1f642.png

Yes – God saved me on April Fools Day! Now here I am many years later, still following Jesus. To God be the glory!

Oct 012016
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Guest speaker Bishop Marvin L. Sapp preached a powerful word entitled “He’s Adjusting My Vision” at the

2016 Jubilee Convention Wednesday (9/28/2016) evening service

at Jubilee Christian ChurchThe link above is to the video of the entire service (also embedded below). Jubilee Senior Pastor Matthew Thompson introduces Bishop Sapp at 1:09:45 into the video.

Eva and I were greatly blessed by it and we’re confident that you will be too!

Apr 042012
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Abundant Life

In John 10:7-10 Jesus makes a powerful statement about life:

  Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 

The phrase “to the full” has also been translated “more abundantly” and this leads to the important understanding that Jesus has come to give us abundant life. As we examine Jesus’ lifestyle it also becomes apparent that he expected his followers to be a  community – praying for them to be one just as he and the Father are one (John 17:20-23). In other words, the abundant life we have in Jesus includes our relationships with other believers.  If our lifestyles diminish our relationships then we won’t experience life as abundantly as we ought to.

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