Mid-week Pastor’s Update 2-15-2023

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

February 15th, 2023

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1st John 4:7

In the past few days, we’ve had the big two societal occurrences which were broadly recognized and celebrated: that of the Super Bowl and of Valentine’s day. Sometimes when things are going on in society, I like to step back and think, “If aliens were watching from afar, seeing how we’re behaving, what would they think of us?” This certainly would’ve been an interesting first half of the week to witness as an outside, impartial observer.

Of course, we don’t believe in aliens the way the secular world does: the fantasy of ‘little green men’ in spaceships. We of course believe that angels are traversing between earth and heaven, observing & helping (Genesis 28:1, John 1:51, Matthew 18:10, Hebrews 1:14), and that, farther off, unfallen worlds are watching earth as well to see what will happen with the Great Controversy (1st Corinthians 4:9, Job 1:6, 2:1).

Well, this week they would’ve seen the apex of our society’s competitiveness, and our compassion. Or at least simulated, 2-dimensional, versions thereof.

Firstly, sports (apexed in last Sunday’s Super Bowl) is definitely simulated competition. It is set up and funded intentionally so that spectators can observe and vicariously feel the thrill of rivalry: the pursuit of the goal, the rush of victory, or the agony of defeat. It gives people (athletes) a context in which they can strive and discipline themselves toward physical and strategic excellence, and also an arena in which they can get rich and famous. So it certainly ‘checks a lot of boxes’ for society’s felt needs. My dad once made a surprisingly fitting assertion that “sports is our simulated warfare during peacetime”, and since then, I have always thought of it as such. It explains so much! So much about our human hearts, as well.

And then yesterday we had Valentine’s day, the day dedicated to romantic love, of which imaginary observing aliens would definitely believe was constituted in chocolates and flowers and the color red: of fancy dinners, and sexy lingerie, and whatever goes on when the humans turn off the lights in their bedrooms.

Secular people certainly indulge in the thrills and pleasures of the 2-dimensional forms of both war and love outlined above. But we Christians of course contextualize and relate to these things in a much deeper form: we go to the 3rd dimension, understanding both war and love in the context of God, the devil, and us being somewhat caught between them.

First of all, we understand that all wars are but mere surface symptoms of the deeper Great Controversy going on in the universe between Christ and Satan. The first war broke out in heaven (see Revelation 12:7-9), and has since come to our planet (see v. 12). Similarly to how a persistent cough can be indicative of something much more severe and pressing, like bronchitis, tuberculosis, or esophageal cancer, we understand that the wars that we experience (in the current case of Russia and Ukraine, for example), are merely symptomatic of a deeper problem in the human heart: that of greed, covetousness, and ambition for power and wealth. Treating the symptoms is nice for the short-term, but the core cause must be addressed and rooted out for true resolution to occur. This is why we believe that, though we live in a largely peaceful world, we will never reach “Utopia”, we will always need Jesus to come and redeem the righteous to heaven and the earth made new.

And, as horrible as war is, I wonder if the two-dimensional treatment of love is all the more tragic, because it stands-in as a substitute for the true, substantive principle that exudes from God and is indeed His central characteristic. From ‘rom-com’ movies to Disney princesses to the lace & thong stores, I worry that people hit the “glass ceiling” of only ever conceiving of love as surface-level, as a “here’s what I want: if you can offer it to me, I’ll give you something you want” transactional mentality.*

But those of us who have drunk from the well of God’s draught (John 4:14, Revelation 22:7) of true Love have experienced something so much deeper and fuller and more meaningful, that to accredit 2-dimensional impersonators to love is like equating a stunning rainbow vista to a pack of Skittles, or a snow-capped mountain range to a tinfoil hat.

While we may enjoy participating in some of the societal trappings of both simulated war & love, let us never lose sight of the true significance and seriousness of both of them. We can truly find ourselves “playing with fire” if we

If both of these (the Super Bowl, and Valentine’s day) were to disappear, society would no doubt be less ‘fun’ at this time of year, but our fulfilledness as Christians would not be diminished in the least.

I pray a blessed remainder of the week for you and your families: May God richly lavish your lives with numerous evidences of His loving care (1st John 3:1).


Pr. Mark Tatum

* In reference to this, I can’t help but recall a shocking moment I had while doing my student-teaching. In a prep session with my master teacher for a Senior Religion class about Godly relationships, he said something so stunningly concise yet summarative of young, self-centered relationships, that it just about knocked me off my chair: “Guys give love to get sex, girls give sex to get love.” It spoke of a symbiotic, yet ultimately tragic, dichotomy, that it profoundly affected me. It has, similarly to how my dad summarized sports as simulated war for peacetime, shaped how I view the secular world.

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