Posts Tagged ‘ Love ’

A Faith Old Enough To Vote

Today is my 18th Re-Birthday! [For more details, see hereherehereherehere, and here.
Yep. 18 years ago today I succumbed to Jesus’ bear hug of forgiveness and grace. My faith is now legally an adult in most of the world.

Do I feel accomplished?

Honestly, I will always know there is more to do until the day I no longer need to number my days (Psalm 90:12), for The Wisdom of God made flesh has been made fully known to His Creation.

Rather, I am beginning to feel the pressure of time. I was a teenager when entering the Christian fold, so I am only in my mid-30s. However, the Lord has been teaching me to number my days (ask those who know me best! There are stories!), so I can see “missed opportunities” and periods of disobedience in my past. I see faces of people I could have been “That person” to.

Yet, these should not be seen as regrets … at least of I truly believe my sovereign Lord truly is sovereign. Rather, these are moments to glean from and push forward. 

I think Paul put it best.

. . . and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Philippians 3:9‭-‬16, ESV

Therefore, I finish as I have in the past:

 . . . 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!

Reliving Responses to Christmas: The Least of These

It happens to be Christmas Eve!

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post and this post and this post and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


This last part might be a bit fanciful, but one of the joys of Christmas is having some fun.

When Jesus was born, we read: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Immediately following His birth, we read: “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)

Eight days after He entered our world, we read: “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’” (Luke 2:22-24)

A while later, we read: “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 1:1)

What is connection in all of these?

Those are barely mentioned, if at all, in each segment of the story: the animals!

Think about it:

  1. Animals had to give up their place to eat for the night.
  2. Animals were left alone for the night.
  3. Animals had to die for the Lord!
  4. Animals had to help carry worshipers and gifts for the Savior of the world.

When Mary and Joseph laid Jesus in the manger, a feeding trough for animals, this meant that for at least that night and into the morning the animals gave up their dining table.

When the shepherds left their herd for the night, as I mentioned the other day, the sheep lost their security system for a while.

When Jesus was dedicated, two pigeons gave up their lives!

When the Wise Men journeyed from the East, it was their camels and horses who bore the brunt of the excursion and lose any comfort during the trip (though I am sure the Wise Men would have mentioned a thing or two about riding animals through desert and mountain paths).

Would you give up your dining table for a poor baby? Would you like knowing you were unprotected for the night? Would like to carry someone else’s belongings for hundreds of miles (or several dozen … no one really knows exactly how far they travelled)? Would you die for someone?

My take on these under-mentioned characters is this: they were unwilling participants … actually, more like unawares … in this story of our Lord’s birth, yet they can still teach us something.

There are times when God will call us to go hungry for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to give up our lives for the glorification of Jesus Christ.

I can almost guarantee you that these things happen frequently throughout our lives without us even realizing it.

Think of Chinese believers who are worshiping together in someone’s home, when authorities come in and break up the meeting.

Think of Asian/Arab believers who are going to church, and they get beat up as they walk for simply believing in Jesus.

Think of African believers who sit in prison for reading the Bible at home.

Think of the missionaries who die entering a town, yet their children are able to share the gospel with hundreds or thousands through their tragedy.

Think of that time you saw a man on the side of the street, begging for money, and you gave him or fast food sandwich to help him survive a couple more days.

We are all called to serve. We do not always get an angel or a star to warn us and guide us before our service starts.

Merry Christmas, and peace and joy from our Lord to you!

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Strangers to God

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post, this post, this post, and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


I hope you have enjoyed this week as we have reviewed how Mary and Joseph, the Innkeeper, some shepherds, and Simeon and Anna all responded to the birth of Christ. Today we look at some people who had similar knowledge but responded vastly differently:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:1-18

The first things we must ask ourselves are why the people of Jerusalem were disturbed at this news. It was because the leadership was disturbed. Why should that disturb them? For starters, Herod was disturbed. King Herod was a power-hungry man who looked for fame and control wherever he could. He played nice with Roman emperors and generals to get into his position of authority over Judea. He built several large structures, including the Temple in Jerusalem, to grow in fame. Yet he was also threatened by any potential threat to his power (whether real or imaginary) to the point that he even had most of his family killed to prevent them from trying to take away his power from him. He had rabbis killed who disagreed with him. It is not a far stretch to figure out why he was disturbed at this baby’s birth and therefore had all boys in Bethlehem killed. It is also not hard to figure out why the people would be disturbed by his being disturbed.

We could also consider that the Jewish leadership could be disturbed by this news, as well. When Jesus was walking around during His ministry, approximately 30 years after his birth, it was the religious leaders who gave Him the hardest time. They had also accumulated some prestige of their own, and a Messiah, a coming king, might just throw that sense of power out the window for them.

The Magi, or Wise Men, on the other hand, had no first-hand knowledge of the coming Messiah. As far as we know, they were just scholars who had read the Hebrew writings (essentially the Bible) and studied the environment (they were like astronomers more than astrologers, though a blending was definitely there) to figure out Who and what was coming into the world. If they truly thought this was just another king coming on the scene, they would not have done much else than note the occurrence. However, it seems pretty likely that they knew this King was going to change things in the world.

Think about it: They travelled a great distance to find a baby; they were overjoyed at finding this child; they made, essentially, financial sacrifices; and they worshiped Jesus. They may not have completely understood what was happening (when do any of us really?), but they knew enough to worship Him.

Have you noticed a theme with people directly involved with the baby Jesus? They were all filled with joy! Those who sought to ignore or even remove the child had no joy. They may have had times of happiness, but not lasting joy.

What about you? Do you find joy when thinking about the birth of Jesus Christ? Or are you more likely to be offended, disturbed, or uncaring during this season of the year? Do you go out of your way seek peace, seek understanding, seek joy, or give honor? Or are you more likely find ways to make sure no one else is happy? Does Jesus bring you joy or deepen your annoyance/hatred? A follow-up question to that is “Why?”

It is interesting to note that the Magi were not what we in the West traditionally call “Believers,” yet God rescued them from Herod’s punishment and getting blood on their hands by revealing to Herod the location of the child. They may not have been worshiping Jesus in the sense that others whom we have looked at have done it, but they still knew enough to give Him honor.

Do you give Jesus honor? Both Herod and the Magi believed Jesus was King of the Jews, but they responded much differently to that belief.

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Temple Knights

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post and this post and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


We have now looked at how Jesus’ parents, the Innkeeper, and some shepherds responded to the birth of Christ. Today, some prayer warriors meet the infant (and this will be longer, because the passage is 20 verses long):

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:21-40

These are two people who have spent the majority of their lives praying. One lived a very righteous life, and the other secluded herself in the Temple to pray continuously.

Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel,” and to see “the Lord’s Christ.” His entire life was about waiting on the Lord – God’s humble servant, if you will. His entire life was dedicated to glorifying God.

Anna went from tragedy – losing her husband relatively early – into a life dedicated to God, 24/7 prayer and fasting. She never left the Temple, so her social life must have been rather limited.

Something fascinating about these two is that the moment they saw the baby Jesus they knew they were looking upon the face of the one who could save Israel and all of humanity. It was instantaneous. Further, this little baby had not even done anything of note (of which they knew, such as the immaculate conception … the virgin conceiving a child without physical interaction with a man), yet Simeon and Anna were ready to die. As Simeon said, “you now dismiss your servant in peace.” He knew he would not die without having seen the Lord’s Christ, and he was content – nay, overjoyed! – to have seen this tiny baby.

Sometimes, when reading this story from Jesus’ infancy, I hear Anna start singing “Let’s Here It for the Boy” when seeing Jesus! Silly, I know, but it at least helps me grasp her excitement!

Do you get excited about the Lord’s Salvation? Can you contain your excitement about all the things God has done and will do? Are you prepared for His Encore, the Second Coming? Are you able to discern His presence? Would you have been able to recognize the child as the Savior of the world? Will you recognize Him when He returns?

We do not necessarily have to hide ourselves away in a temple or monastery to pray 24/7, and we certainly do not have to be perfectly righteous in our own right. Christ took care of that part through His death and resurrection. We do have to be willing servants. I have to be. You have to be.

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!)

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – Going Back with David Dunn

I promise I am not simply choosing songs that John Piper and others have said they disagree with!

Why do I say that?

Well, in my last Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas I discussed Hillsong’s “What a Beautiful Name”, which included a response to John Piper’s response.

Similarly, today’s song has had a few negative responses, including one I listened to from John Piper about a month and a half ago.

The gist of the negative reactions is this: it sounds too much like David Dunn wants to go back to living like a child, without having to deal with the problems and pressures of adult life. It seems too much like he wants to go back to a simplistic life in which there is not much responsibility and we can fall back on a blind faith.

Here is why I disagree and, more importantly, like the song.

(Other than living a simple life as a simple man of God, of course!)

In the first verse, I am hearing less “I want to go back to an easy life when I believed just because” and more “I long for a faith as strong as I remember having.”

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
Revelation 2:4-5a, ESV

When I listen to this, I am hearing a reminder to have faith like a child (Luke 18:17), not to return to living and thinking like a child (1 Corinthians 13:11).

In the second verse, I hear a reminder to not worry about what others have and do, but to simply love them … which sounds a lot like living out one of the greatest commandments!

However, I think the deepest message is found in the chorus, as it helps us remember how the rest of this is possible.

I am reminded of the Karl Barth quote that he could summarize his work and understanding of theology in the simple lyric “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

What exactly does this mean?

We can rely on Word of God, the Bible and Jesus, to guide us in all truth and inform our faith. Therefore, David Dunn is reminding himself and us that we need to make sure we are digging deeply into the Bible and seeking Christ through devotional prayer (“Devotional” both in the sense of spending time in study and thought as well as out of a deep love).

And the chorus continues with letting this little light shine.

Obviously, this is the call to live out the faith given by God for His glory!

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 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.”
Matthew 5:14-16, ESV

In other words …

… This song can be simply understood as a call to fall back on the greatest commandments:

  1. Love God with everything you are (Deuteronomy 6:4-5),
  2. Love others (Leviticus 19:18),
  3. Love the Church (John 13:34-35).

David Dunn – I Wanna Go Back Lyrics

When I was a kid
I was sure
I could run across the ocean
And I was gonna be an astronaut

When it was You and it was me
I had everything I needed
Faith could even move a mountain top

And then I grew up
And then I got older
Then my life got tough
And we grew apart

I wanna go back
To Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me
For the Bible tells me so
I wanna go back
To this little light
Gonna let it shine
Gonna let it shine
I wanna go back

When I was a kid
I didn’t care to keep up with the Jones’s
I was just happy that they lived next door

When it was You and it was me
I had everything I needed
Your hands were big enough to hold the world

And then I grew up
And then I got older
Then my life got tough
And we grew apart

I wanna go back
To Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me
For the Bible tells me so
I wanna go back
To this little light
Gonna let it shine
Gonna let it shine
I wanna go back

I wanna go back, back to
Yes, Jesus loves me

What is the Church? Where 2 or 3 Gather …

Welcome back, people of the interwebz!

Today we are looking at what it means to be the Church in terms of two or three gathering together.

First, a look at Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV):

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 

Two things to discuss:

1.       We should encourage each other;
2.       We should not neglect meeting together.

Last week at church, we had to “deal with” two men who had issue with each other. They had an awkwardness between them. Their wives had an awkwardness. Being a small house church, we dealt with feeling that awkwardness.

These two men probably did it right. They had tried talking it out, but there was still awkwardness between them. So, the pastor called them out, and told them to go talk it out. After the music started, he joined them. Eventually, they were able to come back in, and it was resolved.

This leads us back to Matthew.

In Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV), Jesus said:

 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” 

They did this, they were able to talk about it, but there was still an awkward tension.

16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 

I knew what was going on, as well as the pastor, so there are at least two more people.

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 

(Treat them as sinner: SHOW LOVE AND GRACE! It may mean kicking someone out of church, but be willing to welcome them back while continually showing love and grace! Thankfully, this was not necessary in this instance.)

18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” 

(We could definitely dive into “whatever bind … loose” and “where two or three are gathered” in more detail, but that is not the focus of today!)

Many people take this passage, verse twenty in particular, to mean that we have church wherever two or three people gather. While this is true, that is not the context of this passage.

It is about church discipline.

This is about handling disputes between Christian brothers and sisters, how to get along.

And it is nice to be a part of a church that lives this out.

This passage is telling us that we should lift each other up in Christ. In this instance, we see Hebrews 10 in action: encouraging each other and not avoiding each other.

Perhaps you are dealing with problems with brothers and/or sisters in Christ: maybe a literal brother or sister, or a parent, or another relative or just a friend.

Regardless, “do not neglect meeting together” means work it out with them in the Name of Christ!

These two guys worked it out in only about five minutes.

Iron sharpens iron,
    and one man sharpens another. ~Proverbs 27:17
  (Proverbs 27:14 mentions how a man who loudly greets his neighbor in the morning is an annoyance … coincidence? DEFINITELY! ;P)

In short, it takes work! Just like in marriage or other relationships, it takes work. If you have problems, you deal with it … in Christ.

Therefore, go out and be excellent to each other!

daniel