Archive for the ‘ Relationship ’ Category

Allegations Amok: A Response to the Wave of Sexual Allegations

Hey, y’all! Welcome back to a simple man of God!

Yesterday — Wednesday, November 29 — the US was shocked to learn that Matt Lauer, co-anchor of NBC’s Today news show for the past 20 years, was fired after an allegation of sexual misconduct – specifically during the Sochi Olympics a couple of years ago.

This is after a string of accusations that began with Harvey Weinstein several weeks earlier. If you ask some of my friends, I sort of called this tsunami of accusations at that time, saying Weinstein was the catalyst that opened the floodgates.

Sadly, I was right.

In terms of Lauer’s accusation, this one made me stop and actually cry at the news. The big reason is that his accuser did it right. She went privately with her lawyers to the NBC execs, did not demand money or attention, and only requested the right thing be done.

This is not to say that others are liars or only out for some attention. Nor is this to say that every accusation is true. I am merely saying that the manner in which this woman (and others with their allegations) is handling it gives more credence. And this is what helped to break my heart a little more than other accusations of late.

NBC even came out and said they had enough evidence that this was not an isolated incident, which immediately brought into question so many past moments.

  • A few years ago, former co-host Katie Couric responded (half-jokingly) in an interview that the worst thing about her former colleague was that he would pinch her “rear-end” (she used a different term).
  • There were times his questions (to both genders) seemed awkward, weird, or “creepery” even then.
  • Why did some people – most notably Ann Curry – not get along with him?

With this and so many other allegations, one can easily ask:

Why do so many people do such inappropriate/vile things?

I was not surprised by this wave of allegations. Why? Why did I seem to expect it?

Simply, because the Bible told us it would be so.

I do not mean specifically in 21st Century United States of America. This was a general thing.

For starters, several other people have pointed out – as well as the Bible – that whenever people live however they want, especially when the abandon God, they focus on sex.

Think about what the Bible says, especially in Judges: “The people did what was right in their own eyes.”

Does that not sound much like our society?

“Do what feels good. Do what feels right. Do not tell others that what they are doing is wrong.”

And what happened the most frequently? Sexual sins … of all sorts.

In fact, Paul specifically mentioned this and other sins in his letter to the Romans:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . .

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. . . .

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Romans 1:20-21, 24-26, 28-32, ESV

Now, this may sound like I am saying the victims deserved it. Am I?

Consider the number of artists (actresses, singers, etc.) who expressed their excitement at being able to take their clothes off, be in sex scenes, and the like.

This is almost begging for unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances.

But no one deserves it!

And it is not a one way street, only men against women. It is also women against men, men against men, women against women, adults against children …

Some may immediately jump to the Catholic Church’s issues in this area, but it is at least as prevalent outside of the Church, as well.

What Scriptures tells us is that this is all because God basically says, “Fine. Turn away from me. I will let your nature take its course.” He gives us over to our sinful nature, and it plays out … just like we see it today with all of these allegations.

Some may say, “But even Christians do these things (not just sexual)! How can you say they turn away from God?”

This is all about denying the image of God in each other. Whenever we do anything against another human being, we are turning away from God by spurning his image in them.

But God is a God of love, grace, and mercy. He even extends it to those who have abused and been abused.

The answer either way is the same: REPENT! Turn from you evil ways and change your thinking!

We must turn away from our own desires and actions to have our minds renewed by Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Only this will keep us from even wanting to commit such acts, let alone doing them, and only this will bring about full healing.

 

Who Am I? Knowing My Identity

“Hello, again!

In the last few weeks, I have been hearing and reading a lot about identity.

Who am I?

In terms of identity, the major theme has been how we identify ourselves. This includes:

  • Identity politics — Being known by political party or with whom you most closely agree.
  • Job-based/Skill-set identity — Being known by what you do or know.
  • Relationship identity — To whom you are connected: husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, father/son, mother/daughter, friend …

It is this last one that has the most applicability to today’s topic, especially for the Christian.

Losing myself

What happens when the ideology, job, or relationship status changes?

You see, if your identity is dependent on something external, it can lead to major confusion and even crisis-mode inside. You could be screaming, “I don’t know who I am anymore!”

This is where someone may say, “This is why we need strong self-esteem.”

completely disagree.

Yes, I said completely disagree.

Why?

Because self-esteem focuses on the self. This is the antithesis of Christianity and relationship with God, as it says you can find peace within yourself.

Instead, you need something stronger.

So, how then should we live?

Where is your identity? How about starting with the Bible.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me”
Matthew 18:5

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:20

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
John 14:13-14

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;”
Mark 16:17

Now, what does Jesus mean by “in my Name”? Does he mean “Lord, please do this for me, in Jesus Name. Amen”?

No.

I think this hearkens back to the 10 Commandments, specifically number 3:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain …”
Exodus 20:7

Is using the Lord’s Name in vain using it as a curse word?

Partially, yes. Mostly, no. It is more like saying you are a Christian (My identity!), doing something wrong, and claiming God either approves or even commanded it. THAT is using the Lord’s Name in vain more than anything else.

But what does Jesus mean?

Literally taking on the identity of Jesus Christ.

Not just living by “What Would Jesus Do?”

It means to think, talk, and act like Christ.

It means you put yourself out of the way, and you let Jesus Christ live through you.

Then it does not matter your skill-set, job title, political affiliation, who you know … well … a little bit who you know … 😉

Whatever happens around you and in your life does not matter that much when you know you have the Lord of the Universe living in and through you!

So, how do you identify? What is your first thought when asked who you are?

  • I’m a Republican/Democrat/Libertarian.
  • I’m this or that.
  • I am a husband/father/wife/mother/sibling.
  • I know so-in-so.

Or is your first thought “I am a Christian. I am a child of the living God. I am a son (or daughter) of the Most High! My heavenly Father adopted me through my Brother, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”

This is why it is important to study and memorize Scripture (I admit to being weak in memorization!), because it helps us better understand the meaning of life.

What is the meaning of life?

To glorify God.

This is why theology is important. (Scary, I know, but that is the big reason I make these blogs/vlogs, to give you a hand in it.)

Theology is simply the study of God: who He is, what He wants from and for us, and how we can live for Him.

We find our identity by living for him. We glorify God the Father by allowing God the Son to live in and through us by the power of God the Holy Spirit in us.

Then we can know that no matter what is going on around us and in our lives, we are good to go. Because we are in Christ.

It is who we are.

He is our identity.

And it is not by our own power. It is through our weakness that He is stronger! (2 Corinthians 11-13, especially in 12:9!)

Be excellent, my friends!

 

One of My Reformation Days

Many today are commenting on Martin Luther, the other Reformers, the Reformation in general, or something along those lines.

Those are very important, and I will undoubtedly share something in the future.

Today, however, instead of focusing on the 95 Theses of Luther, I will do my wife a favor.

You see, we met ten years ago on this day. And what she did not know that day ten years ago was that I had a list of things God and I worked out to find my future wife. (She learned of the list just a few weeks later, but she has not seen/heard the entire list … until today!)

The incredibly shortened, Readers-Digest-version of the story is this:

On the Ides of March of 2007, I ended a previous engagement. I had come to realize that we were not as compatible with each other as we could be, and there were many factors in play in that decision, including a deviation from biblical standards of relationships, if you dig.My Reformation Day/Halloween Costume 2017, Beatnik Daniel

A mere two weeks after that, I was ready to simply swear off marriage to “be as I am,” according to Paul (1 Corinthians 7:7). Instead, I was led to create a list of attributes to confirm a particular woman was my wife.

Then, ten years ago today, my life was reformed when I met my wife.

Interestingly, we half-met when I was having a civil debate with an unorthodox Jew about the anti-Semitic writings of Martin Luther … and then fully met on the way to a Campus Crusade for Christ costume party, at which we shared her costume. (Hence our dressing up in matching costumes each year.)

Anyway, without further ado, here are my 17 Theses of my Relational Reformation (first the more fleshly, then the more godly, but I will leave much of the fulfillment of these between the two of us for now!):

  1. I should find her attractive.
  2. We should have a similar sense of humor.
  3. We will be fascinated by the mundane and the spectacular.
  4. We will be able to have intelligent conversations.
  5. We will be able to be silly with each other.
  6. She will seek clarity in all things. (Friends call us both “clarifiers.”)
  7. She will be willing to think and change.
  8. She will have dramatic changes in her life so that we can be together. (When we met, she was attending the Mormon church and was dating someone else.)
  9. She will have a passion for God.
  10. She will love kids. (She is a wonderful Kindergarten teacher, now! She demonstrated that passion when we met.)
  11. She will be passionate about people.
  12. She will challenge me to go deeper with God.
  13. She will be willing to serve anyone, any time.
  14. She will desire that others know God’s love.
  15. She will be tender toward the needy.
  16. She will feel the need for forgiveness.
  17. She will forgive me.

It literally took 17 days for her to fulfill everything on this list. Not one every day, as we did not see each other every single day, but on November 16, she only had (from my perspective) two more to meet … the last two … and that morning she met them.

It has been a great 10 years! Not always easy. Not always the best. But God brought us together and has brought us through thus far.

Now, I only pray our relationship with each other continues to bless and inspire others to seek God and godly relationships.

May His purity, light, and mercy continue to shine through us!*

(*sidenote: this sentence is a pun on her full name!)

Thankful Offering

In today’s video, I think it is pretty clear I had not had my coffee, yet! But if you look in the background, you can see evidence I was about to remedy that.*

The last entry touched on the Las Vegas shooting and how “But for the grace of God, there go I” in terms of how each and every one of us could be capable of committing such an atrocity.  Today, I look at the exact opposite end of the spectrum.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian, and professor who was killed by the Nazis just days before the end of World War II.¹ Both he and James, the brother of Jesus, focused heavily on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

The Sermon on the Mount is basically Jesus’ teachings on how the Christian should live. Specifically for today, in 5:16 (ESV), Jesus says:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

If all we do are good things, but we do not really mention God, how could others give God glory? We may merely be “good people” in the eyes of the world.

Therefore, God gives us the direction we need in this matter:

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
Psalm 50:23a, ESV

When we give thanks to God, this directs people to Him! Thankfulness, a lifestyle of gratitude, is the thing that helps to center our life around Christ and leads others to Him.

A heart of gratitude not only gives the glory to God, but it can also help us to feel great and can help others to feel better.

However, the main point is that God is glorified. Gratitude, likewise, can keep us focused on Him so that we are more likely to seek His glory than to turn to anything else – including lashing out at this world and those in it.

Therefore, give thanks to God. As Paul said, give thanks in everything in your life² – yes, everything, even the bad things.

And thank you for joining me today!

daniel

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DoA – Not Dead on Arrival, but Day of Atonement 2017!

Hello and Shalom!

At the time of recording, it was the day before Yom Kippur, the Hebrew term translated as the Day of Atonement! By the time you read/watch this, it is either the actual day or after that day. (See Leviticus 16 and 23:26-32)

Either way, by our Gregorian calendar, Yom Kippur happens to be from sunset Friday, September 29, to sunset Saturday, September 30, 2017. This means it actually falls on a Sabbath, this year!

Here are the basics:

Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – was the only day of the year that the High Priest of Israel could enter the Holy of Holies – the inner-sanctum of the Temple, or Tent of Meeting during the Exodus – and offer the sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole nation of Israel.

It was possible to have personal sins forgiven throughout the rest of the year by going and offering sacrifices, but they were continuously needed.

When the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, he would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Ark of the Covenant. (See Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9; and Deuteronomy 10)

The Ark was first built with wood and then overlaid with gold. It is interesting to think about something that can waste away being covered with something more permanent and made to look beautiful.

Moving on, in Hebrews 9:3-4 we learn what is inside of the Ark of the Covenant (AotC).

  1. In Exodus 16:32-34, we read that an omer of manna (roughly 2.2 Liters), of the bread that was formed by the morning dew resting on the ground, was to be put into a jar and placed into the AotC. This demonstrates God’s provision for his people.
  2. In Numbers 17, we read of Aaron’s staff that budded. The story recounts that each of the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel were to give their staffs to Moses to put into the Tent of Meeting, and the one that budded – had flowers grow from it – would be God’s chosen spiritual leader – the High Priest – of the nation.
    Not only did it bud, but this piece of a dead tree had new life grow from it: flowers that attract our eyes and nose, AS WELL AS almonds. This was also placed into the AotC, and it demonstrates God’s spiritual (and emotional and other sensations!) provision for his people.
  3. Deuteronomy 10 recounts the story of the 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments. Originally, God gave Moses two tablets, but when Moses came down from the mountain he found the Israelites worshiping the golden calf (already breaking the first 3 Commandments!) In his anger, Moses smashed the tablets.
    When he climbed up the mountain again, God had him chisel out new tablets, and then God used his own finger to write the Commandments on the new stones. These are what were placed into the AotC. These symbolize God’s expectations for His people, how they are supposed to live.

Now, what does all of this have to do with Christians?

WELL! Hebrews 9-10 explain the relevance to us!

Firstly, we have one final High Priest, Jesus. Through His sacrifice on the cross, we have complete and total atonement! No other high priest nor sacrifice is ever needed for the washing of sins. He finished it!

Just as the High Priests of old would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice onto the AotC, Jesus’ blood is sprinkled over our hearts, cleansing us of our sins.

Now for the fascinating bit, when things get quite allusionary and allegorical!

The Temple symbolizes our bodies. Therefore the Holy of Holies is the chest cavity, and the Ark is the heart. The lid of the AotC is called the Mercy Seat.

Do you see the connection so far? His blood sprinkled over the heart to purify us?

Cool.

Thinking of the AotC being made of wood covered in gold, it is like our hearts – also something perishable – are covered and even replaced with the beautiful and imperishable! Our Atonement is attained … if we believe! … because God has chosen us through His Chosen One!

Now for the deep stuff:

  1. What about the Manna? Jesus explained in the Gospel according to John (see John 6:35, 49-51) that He is the Bread of Life. When we believe in Him, the Holy Spirit places Him within our hearts. He explained that when we eat of his flesh (Communion/the Eucharist), we join in His sacrifice and are spiritually sustained.
  2. Likewise, what about the staff? Jesus explained a chapter earlier (see John 5:24) that whoever hears His word and believes Him who sent Him (God the Father sent God the Son) has eternal life.
    In other words, when we believe in God and Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, we are given new life! Just as the staff budded, we are awakened to and promised eternal life!
  3. And the Law written on the stone tablets? This time, we look back at an Old Testament prophecy from Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34). God tells us there that through the Atonement and the Holy Spirit we have God’s law written on our hearts. We now know what it looks like and how to live out the Law, i.e. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot fully and properly live out the Law, but through Christ, it is fulfilled and we are helped by the Holy Spirit!

How amazing is that?!

That is how the Day of Atonement is still applicable. However, instead of looking forward to a day when our sins can be atoned for, we live daily in atonement thanks to Jesus the Christ!

May your Day of Atonement be blessed as you reflect on what God has done for you.

Daniel

 

Re-17 but not 17 Again

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Today is my amazing mother-in-law’s birthday.

Also, it is what I call my Re-birthday.

17 years ago today, in a small Nazarene church in Bloomington, IL, I realized that I believed the Gospel message. Jesus got a firm hold of me, and that is when everything began to change for me. It took about six more months for it to really mean something to me, but the change was evident even then. (Ask my parents, who, at the time, were annoyed with my sudden music choices and leaving radios on around the house.)

The point of all of this, then, is that Jesus is Lord. And the picture above shows that I celebrate by baking a cake, and I serve it to others.

Why?

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Luke 15:7, 10, 24

Just like the song says, this wretch was lost and dead, but now I am found and alive. This calls for celebration!

Therefore, I finish with the full reason for this post by quoting Jude (3):

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Let us celebrate our common salvation and share this faith with our fallen world!

 

The Joy of the Lord (and Rend Collective)

I spent the past two years working on a Master of Education in Secondary Education. It took quite a bit of my energy, especially over the past five months when I had to prepare for then fulfill my student teaching experience (in a 7th Grade Math – Pre-Algebra) classroom.

Needless to say, I was busy. I still worked. I had classes and observations to do. That is why this blog took a hit in terms of my attention. This past five months, though, were some of the most tiring and full periods of my life. Only a few things kept me going:

  1. Working at the coffee shop gave me opportunities for ministry. I was involved with bolstering faith in others, practicing my apologetics skills with many non-Christians, and played a role in a couple of people becoming Christians!
  2. My wife and friends encouraged me A LOT!
  3. At my weakest moments, God reminded me of His immanence (which was a common theme in messages I heard this past weekend).

My most common reminder was through a song.

Whether on the radio or during interactions with others in which the song would play, Joy of the Lord by Rend Collective would be exactly what I needed to feel a little stronger for my task.

Joy Of The Lord

Rend Collective

Though tears may fall
My song will rise, my song will rise to You
Though my heart may fail
My song will rise, my song will rise to You
While there’s breath in my lungs
I will praise You, Lord

In the dead of night
I’ll lift my eyes, I’ll lift my eyes to You
When the waters rise
I’ll lift my eyes, I’ll lift my eyes to You
While there’s hope in my heart
I will praise You, Lord

The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength
In the darkness I’ll dance
In the shadows I’ll sing
The joy of the Lord is my strength

When I cannot see You with my eyes
Let faith arise to You
When I cannot feel Your hand in mine
Let faith arise to You
God of mercy and love
I will praise You, Lord

Oh You shine with glory Lord of light
I feel alive with You
In Your presence now I come alive
I am alive with You
There is strength when I say
I will praise You, Lord

When sorrow comes my way
You are the shield around me
Always You remain
Like courage in the fight
I hear You call my name
Jesus, I am coming
Walking on the waves
Reaching for Your light

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
~Nehemiah 8:10b, ESV

There is something to be said to be able to “taste and see that the Lord is God!” And it is a blessing to “[take] refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8) That we can trust Jesus when He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
~Exodus 15:2, ESV