Tag Archive | The church

The Christian Origins of Valentine’s Day

This week we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Every year on February 14th, this special day of romance is celebrated through the exchange of cards, chocolate, gifts or flowers with a special “valentine.” What we seldom hear mentioned is where the name of the holiday comes from. The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century.

Saint Valentine was a bishop in Rome who lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. The Roman Empire was collapsing from corruption within and also facing attack from several fronts, from the Gauls, Slavs, Huns, Turks and Mongolians from Northern Europe and Asia. When Claudius became emperor, he was faced with recruiting many capable men as soldiers and officers to protect the empire from takeover from these foreign aggressors. He believed married men did not make good soldiers because they were too emotionally attached to their families. So to assure top quality soldiers he issued an edict forbidding marriage.

Not surprisingly, this edict met heavy resistance from the people of Rome. As a priest and bishop of the Roman Catholic church, Valentine refused to comply with the emperor regarding this ban on marriage. The church taught that marriage was a sacred union between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged. So in spite of the edict from the emperor, Valentine began holding marriage ceremonies in secret. But as his fame in Rome spread, Valentine was caught, imprisoned and tortured. Valentine stood firm in his belief in the sacrament of marriage, and on February 14th, 270 A.D. he was executed for his stand for Christian marriage.

In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I declared February 14 as “Valentine’s Day” to honor Bishop Valentine. It has since become a yearly celebration of love and romance around much of the world.

As in the time of the Roman Empire and Emperor Claudius II, marriage is again under attack. This year, as you celebrate this special day with the ones you love, reflect back on the history of this holiday. Remember, marriage is God’s plan, given to us as a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman, a gift from God meant to complete us. As Christians, may we like Bishop Valentine stand without compromise for marriage. As the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:3, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

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Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone of the Church

Jesus Christ is the CORNERSTONE of the Church, His body.

For a building to stand, it needs a firm base, a foundational cornerstone to build upon. Jesus Christ is the CORNERSTONE, the firm foundation of the Church, His body built up of living stones.

  • About 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah spoke of this “precious cornerstone” that would be laid as a foundation in Zion. Those who believe in Christ as this cornerstone will not need to flee to a place of safety in danger or distress because the Messiah is their refuge.

Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ ” Isaiah‬ ‭28:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • Psalm 118 gives us more information concerning this cornerstone.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Psalms‬ ‭118:22‬ ‭ESV‬

This stone that God had chosen to be the cornerstone would be rejected by the builders. Who are the builders? This Old Testament reference is quoted by Jesus as a part of the parable about the owner of a vineyard and his wicked tenants, recorded in Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19. Studying these passages gives the answer to this question. The corrupt Jewish religious leaders who were repeatedly trying to trap Jesus and find a way to put Him to death are the builders referred to in this verse.

  • Those who come to Christ, the living Stone, become a part of this spiritual house and thereafter will never be put to shame.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.‘ ”1 Peter‬ ‭2:4-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

  • In Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone, the whole “building” of living stones, both Jews and Gentiles who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, are joined together as a holy temple in the Lord.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:19-22‬ ‭NIV‬

Today, I’m grateful to be one of the living stones that are being built into a spiritual house, a part of the Church, Jesus’ body. And I’m grateful that Christ Jesus Himself is the chief cornerstone of this spiritual household of faith.

Jesus, Head of the Church

When Hurricane Harvey stalled out over Houston, Texas, and our part of the city was deluged with over forty inches of rain, our church campus received major flooding, leaving several of our buildings unusable. But the Church was not damaged. How is that possible? Simply because the Church is not a building or group of buildings.

While most churches meet in physical structures, the Church itself is made up of people who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who meet together in a locality to worship their Lord, study His Word, be trained to do the work God has called His people to do and have fellowship with one another. And this week, we will be examining several names of Jesus that relate to the church, beginning with His headship over the church.

The Church is the Body of Christ and Christ Jesus is its head. The word translated church in the New Testament comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly or called-out ones.”

The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church in a certain locality.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter that He Himself would build His church, and the “gates of hell” would not prevail against it. Acts 2:47 explains that Jesus was the One who was building His church, and that it was being made up of “those who were being saved.”

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus is its governing, ruling authority. According to Matthew 28:18, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given by God the Father to Jesus, and one area where His authority is exercised is in the church.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians‬ ‭1:22-23‬ ‭ESV‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus nourishes and cherishes His body.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:29-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus desires to see His nature and character expressed through His body. Ephesians 5:25-27, using His love for the church as an example of how husbands are to love their wives, explains His plan for this to happen. Christ gave Himself up for the church, He is the Sanctifier of the church, cleansing her by washing her with the word, and His end goal for the church is that He might present her to Himself without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:25-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

  • As the Head of the church, Jesus continues His work and ministry on earth through His body. What Jesus did while He was on earth, His church is now called and empowered to do.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke‬ ‭4:18-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

While each church will have its own local leaders, the ultimate leader of any church is to be the Lord Jesus. The church belongs to Him. He is the head and the only One equipped to adequately lead the church. He is to be given the preeminence, the highest place in rank and influence. And that’s a good thing, because Who better knows how to lead the church than the One Who laid down His own life for her members.

As 2017 comes to an end, our church campus still hasn’t fully recovered from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. But our Church is thriving, under the Headship of Jesus Christ and the skilled leadership of its local leaders. And that is something which fills my heart with gratitude.