Category: Sep/Oct 2012

The Reality of Fairy Tales

fairyweddingsepiaA couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that as a child I created a marriage formula based on fairy tales. I wanted to add that I do not blame fairy tales for my misconception of how I thought earthy romance was supposed to play out. I actually defend fairy tales. They hold some great truth in them.

Fairy tales get a bad reputation. We love the stories, but we refuse to accept them as reality. We have broken hearts, broken marriages, and little hope for any “happily ever afters.” So when we encounter those inspiring tales, we brush them off as foolishness.

But I want to make a bold statement: fairy tales are real. Fairy tales are founded in reality. Our spiritual reality. Think of the main plot of a fairy tale: A prince boldly comes after the bride he loves, ready to sacrifice all in order to save her from the evil that threatens to destroy her forever. Does that sound familiar?

If you dissect the main themes of a fairy tale, you’ll find that those stories point to something incredible: God’s love for us.

Fairy tales have a damsel in distress – someone who needs to be rescued from evil. The damsel is us:
“Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.” – Galatians 1:4 (emphasis mine)

Fairy tales have a prince – the damsel’s savior – who usually rides on a white horse. That Prince is Jesus:
“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for He judges fairly and wages a righteous war… On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” – Revelation 19:11, 16

Fairy tales are about good versus evil. Good prevails. Evil is destroyed. Our good and true God will prevail over the world’s evil adversaries:
“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.” – Daniel 8:23-25

“Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies.”
– Revelation 19:19-21

Most of the time, the theme of a fairy tale is “true love conquers all.” The LORD is our True Love. His love will conquer anything that tries to separate us from Him:
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

And finally, fairy tales have a happily ever after. Guess what? It exists. Our happily ever after is eternity with the Lord, free from all pain and suffering. We will spend eternity with the One who passionately loves us:
“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’” – Revelation 21:3-4

Believe in fairy tales. They’re quite real. But remember to keep your eyes on what the stories point to. They don’t point to how our relationships on Earth look, but instead, they reflect the incredible story of God’s love for us.

Book Spotlight: The Book of Romance

bookofromanceThe Book of Romance
by Tommy Nelson

Audience: Everyone
Good for couples

God created the marital relationship to be passionate, romantic, and intimate. No book of the Bible presents this case better than Song of Songs: the poetic account of Solomon and his bride. In The Book of Romance, Pastor Tommy Nelson takes apart the Song of Songs verse by verse, exposing the beautiful design of martial relationships.

Using the story of Solomon and his wife, Nelson covers all stages of romantic relationships, from dating to living unified as husband and wife. Nelson states that passion, romance, and intimacy do not have to be lost in the marital relationship – they can always be restored if fiercely fought for.

Topics covered:

  • Discernment while dating
  • Pure passion and sexuality
  • Sexual creativity and intimacy
  • Addressing conflict in marriage
  • Pursing romance
  • Staying committed to your spouse

Each chapter ends with discussion questions for individuals and couples.

Buy on Amazon (Also available on Kindle)

Buy on Christianbook.com

Lurking Darkness

darkheartGrowing up, I always thought I would enter into marriage as easily as princesses in fairy tales did. It seemed like a simple enough formula:

Step 1 – Don’t date any guy other than the one you will spend the rest of your life with
Step 2 – You’ll know “the one” when you meet him
Step 3 – Spend the rest of your life with that person

So you can imagine my dismay when I entered adulthood and found a trail of broken relationships behind me. Not only was my fairytale formula not as simple as I had anticipated, but now I had the extra challenge of cleaning up all the pain, confusion, and heartache that came with those failed relationships.

And I still struggle with the feelings my past has left me with. There are many times I have asked God, “Why did I have to go through all that heartbreak in the first place? What was the purpose?”

After a long time of asking, my questions received a reply: Your broken relationships show the darkest parts of your heart better than anything else.

That’s the truth, isn’t it? Our attitude towards people in our past shows hidden darkness that lurks in our hearts. Our disdain for our ex shows our bitterness. Losing our crush to someone else shows our envy. Anger towards someone for what they did years ago shows our unforgiving nature.

Past pains should not be denied or glossed over; our feelings need to be addressed, and sometimes it can take a very long time to mend. But for a moment, consider: what do your broken relationships reveal about you? Does bitterness, anger, or envy lurk within you? Are you trying to hold onto the past or are you looking forward to the future? Have you truly forgiven those who have hurt you?

We cannot change the past, but we can change our perspective on it. Failed relationships are, unfortunately, part of this life despite whatever relationship formula you have come up with. We cannot change what others have done; we cannot force them to apologize or take responsibility for their actions. But we can identify the darkness in ourselves and receive God’s help in cleansing us of our imperfections. We have to face the darkness the past shows in us, or else the future will always be tainted by our bitterness, and we will end up holding ourselves back from finding real joy in the present.

Verses to Consider:
Ephesians 4:31-32
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Philippians 3:12-13 (emphasis mine)
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…

Psalm 26:2
Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart.

Book Spotlight: Sex is Not the Problem

sexisnottheproblemSex is Not the Problem (Released also as Not Even a Hint)
by Joshua Harris

Target audience: Everyone

Most readers know Joshua Harris for his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book that reopened the discussion of courtship for a generation dominated by the dating scene. With a refreshing boldness, Joshua Harris addresses the topic of lust and sexuality in Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is). This book goes beyond the usual pulpit “don’t have sex until marriage” speech, and instead celebrates sex and sexuality for what they truly are: a gift from God.

But in a fallen world, there are a lot of temptations and sins that distort the original design of sex. Harris not only teaches on the beauty of sexuality, but also how to deal with the pitfalls and snares of unholy lust.

Topics covered:

  • What lust is and what lust isn’t
  • God’s design for sexuality
  • The differences in the male and female sex drives
  • Dealing with masturbation
  • Fighting against pornography and other media temptations
  • Biblical truths on lust

Corresponding study guides for both men and women are available for purchase for small
groups or individuals.

 

The Box

box2Has someone ever tried to put you in a box?

Not literally, but metaphorically. Maybe your parents or someone you dated had a specific vision for you, and you found yourself trying not to step out of the boundaries of their expectations despite your own goals or feelings. Or perhaps you created a box for yourself – one that consists of a very strict list of who you should be and who you shouldn’t be in order to gain approval and acceptance.

I believe that all of us at one point has attempted to alter ourselves in order to fit into The Box that others have created for us. We fear rejection and opposition to who we truly are, so it seems only logical to become who people tell us to be in order to be accepted.

I’ve had a lot of experience with The Box. After a bad breakup with a guy I had turned into an idol, I spent most of my time thinking, “If I was only like this, he’d still be with me.” The thought was torture. I spent a lot of time rejecting who I was, and hating any woman who exhibited traits I thought I should have. In addition, I couldn’t be myself because I thought there was something wrong with who I was.

I spent a lot of time attempting to reprogram myself until the Lord revealed to me something spectacular: When God designed me, He had no intentions for me to be anyone else. He sculpted me. He created me to be exactly who I am for His purposes. The time I had spent trying to be someone else was hindering His plans for me. God accepts and loves who I am – He doesn’t want me to be anybody else.

The same goes for you. You were not designed to be someone else. God created you from His own custom blueprints. He rejoices in who you are, not for who you think you should be.

There will always people who will reject us. Even Jesus was (and still is) rejected. Jesus didn’t have one flaw in Him, but people insulted Him, mocked Him, and crucified Him. If anyone knows what it’s like to be rejected for who they are, Jesus does.

Don’t torture yourself by trying to shove yourself into The Box. You do not belong there. You are meant to be the wonderful creation God designed you to be. Although it is tempting to try to be someone else for the sake of affection and acceptance, it will not benefit you. You will eventually feel trapped and enslaved by expectations. Instead, be who God has created you to be. He delights in your existence; not for who you might be one day, but for who you are today.

Verses to Think About:
Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

Psalm 139:13
You [God] made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Isaiah 49:1,3
The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name… He said to me, “You are My servant, Israel, and you will bring Me glory.”

Book Spotlight: Who Has Your Heart?

whohasyourheartWho Has Your Heart
by Emily E. Ryan

Target audience: Single women
Good for both group studies and individual study

What would you do if you found out that you would never be married? How would you respond? How would you live your life?

Author Emily Ryan searched the Bible for the best role model of female singleness and stumbled upon the story of the Jephathah’s daughter. Even though this young woman only takes up a few verses in Judges 11, Ryan brings her full character to life, using her as an inspiring example of a single woman of great character who sought and obeyed the Lord after her father made a foolish promise that resulted in her never marrying.

Ryan doesn’t tell you how to approach dating, how to find a spouse, or how to kill time as a single person until God brings you a husband. Who Has Your Heart focuses instead on the beautiful character of God, and the hope and joy that comes when a woman seeks Him above all other relationships.

Topics covered:

  • God’s grace and extending that grace to others
  • The importance of community and support groups
  • Taking action as a single woman
  • God’s character and His will for His people
  • Facing grief in your walk with the Lord
  • How to cultivate a deep relationship with God

This book includes questions at the end of each chapter for discussion and reflection.

Available at Amazon

Available on Christianbook.com

 

Fifty Shades of Pornography

shadesThe Fifty Shades of Grey books are currently some of the most popular books on the market. It’s disturbing how popular this book series has become in such a short amount of time.

For those of you who don’t know what Fifty Shades of Grey is, it’s an erotica series that involves some pretty graphic sexual encounters, including B&D and S&M. Yet people talk about it like it’s a Harry Potter book – completely innocent, really fun, and something everyone should read. Do you know where I found a shelf of Fifty Shades of Grey books? Next to the preteen section. And if that’s not enough, I even found cleverly disguised erotica books for teenagers hidden in the bookshelves.

Why are we okay with this?

Pornography is traditionally thought of as something visual, such as pictures and movies. And since books aren’t visual – they’re based on the imagination – we don’t consider them to be in the same category as pornography.

We’re wrong to think that. Very, very wrong.

Think about this: men are typically visual, and are statistically the main consumers of internet pornography. But what are women the main consumers of? Steamy romance novels; stories that play out sexual fantasies, much like internet pornography does for those who are aroused visually.

Pornography comes in many different mediums, not just in internet pictures and in x-rated movies. “Romance” novels are just as much a form of pornography as pictures are. They cultivate lustful desires in the mind in the same damaging way that internet pornography does. The difference is that romance novels target the emotions instead of the eyes, and in doing so, they dodge the pornographic label.

There is nothing innocent about pornography in any form. It destroys marriages, it destroys relationships, and it destroys lives. I don’t say that to be dramatic – it’s a fact. (There are links below if you’d like to see the facts for yourself.)

Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” Vile doesn’t come just in the form of pictures – it can come in written form as well. So what are you putting before your eyes — written or otherwise?

Verses to think about:
Romans 8:5-6
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Job 31:11-12
For lust is a shameful sin, a crime that should be punished. It is a fire that burns all the way to hell. It would wipe out everything I own.(Emphasis mine.)

1 Corinthians 6:18
Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.

Related articles:
Social Science Research on Pornography
Harmless Pornography
Pornography Statistics

The Art of the Scavenger Hunt

map2Scavenger hunts are an entertainment typically reserved for parties and large groups, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t apply to couples as well! A scavenger hunt involves gathering items, clues, or information to receive a prize. Scavenger hunts can be incredibly simple or incredibly complicated, depending on the occasion, the prize, and time restraints. But no matter how you choose to put your scavenger hunt together, it is sure to put a smile on your sweetheart’s face.

Collecting Items
If your sweetheart is collecting items as a prize, include items that relate to romance, your relationship, or your date. You can have them collect romantic ambiance, like candles or flowers, or you can send them to pick up the wine or dessert. (Get the store owners involved in your hunt – it’ll make their work day more interesting!) You can also leave items around the neighborhood, at friends’ and family member’s houses, or scattered around your own backyard. When the items have been gathered, incorporate them into your prize or your plans for the evening.

Leaving Clues
A scavenger hunt doesn’t have to be only about collecting items, it can also be about collecting information or solving mysterious clues. Have your sweetheart collect clues in order to solve a secret message, send them to a rendezvous spot, or help them find a surprise gift. Information can be obtained through riddles or secret codes, or with a little legwork. Send them to the library with a list of Dewey Decimals, using the titles of each book to form a message. Or have your date gather clues from your friends and family members. Everyone loves playing a good game of detective, so make it mysterious and challenging to ensure that your sweetheart has fun collecting clues!

Scavenger Hunt Teams
If you enjoy friendly competition or simply want to get a lot more people in on the fun, consider doing a large scavenger hunt with other couples. Give each couple a list of what they need to collect, then give a prize to the first three couples that complete their lists and give consolation prizes to all the others. The prizes should be romantic in nature, such as dinner for two to a restaurant, a book of romantic ideas, or tickets to an event or show.

Prizes
Prizes are the biggest drive of a scavenger hunt. Try to make your reward equal to the amount of work your date puts into their search. Prizes can be anything from a birthday or anniversary gift to a romantic evening for two. You can also include your collected items as rewards. For example, if you wanted to take your wife to a formal event, you could pay for the dress, shoes, and hair styling in advance then make it part of the scavenger hunt.

Five Romantic Scavenger Hunt Ideas

Rendezvous Hunt
Start by leaving them a mysterious note such as, “I’m hiding. Can you find me? I have something for you if you can. Want a hint? Grab the package on the doorstep at 123 1st Street to find out more.” Have your date collect items for a picnic, such as a basket, blanket, and food before hinting to where you’re at. (Try not to make it too difficult or your date won’t find you and your food will get cold.) When they arrive, set up the picnic and give them a prize for finding you, such as an item they’ve had their eyes on or tickets to an event you plan to take them to after the picnic.

Boomerang Hunt
At a time when your spouse is at home and you’re not, text them with a message such as, “I have a surprise for you. But I need you gather a few things for me first…” The idea of this hunt is to have them leave the house to gather items, only to have them come back home to a surprise romantic dinner. Tell them to text you once they reach the first point of interest, then make your way back into the house and start to prepare dinner. (Something that will keep in the oven is a good idea.) Each time they reach a new spot, text them the next clue. Once they have collected all the items, bring them back to the house for dinner.

Photo Shoot Hunt
Have your sweetheart collect pictures of places that mean something special to the both of you. Write on your list things such as “The first place we kissed”, “Where we met”, and “Where we had our first date.” Have them collect the pictures, give them a prize for collecting them, then take those pictures and turn them into a small gift book. You can make the book yourself or use a self-publishing website like Lulu.com.

Cyberhunt
Tell your sweetheart a secret message with the help of the world wide web.

It might look something like this:
1 – open up Google search and type in “plants”
2 – click on the third item in the search bar
3 – Write down the third word in the third paragraph, etc

Your message can be anything from “I’m completely in love with you” to “Pick up chocolate cake from the bakery downtown and meet me at the park.”

Foreign Affair Hunt
Have your sweetheart collect objects or pictures of objects relating to a certain country. For example, if your theme was France, have your sweetheart take pictures of something with the Eiffel Tower, a French flag, a baguette, etc. Make the prize related to that culture, such as an authentic cultural dinner, a cultural show, or even plane tickets to the country itself!