The Beautiful Gift Of Ugly Love This Valentine’s Day

Familiarity to a Bible verse can breed negligence.

We’ve see it on Tim Tebow’s eyepaint and memorized it in VBS when we were four years old. But we should not approach John 3:16 lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”

“For God so loved….”

We can never get over that truth. We can never get past it and on to deeper matters.

There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the most emphatic form of love. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning,

“God intensely loved the world in this way….”

God is not your distant deadbeat dad. God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions.

Stop reading, turn the computer off, and let that settle down into your soul deeps.

The transcendent One is an emotional being. Human emotional makeup is so twisted with jealousy and prone to instability. But we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.

Unlike us, the Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His jealousy is a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or security guard with mace spray. He doesn’t dwell in a cloud of unknowing.

He burns with perfect passion.

He delights to love;

He delights to manifest this love to the world.

“For God so loved the world…”

This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only.

Every one.

The redneck dude that cut you off in traffic and showed you his tall finger.

The online bully chick who is spreading nasty Facebook rumors about your sex life.

The Pharisee. The prostitute. Republican. Democrat. Even the Independent. Rich. Poor. Catholic. Atheist. There is no distinction in the kingdom of free grace. Divisive human categories be damned.

We’re all in this great cosmic mass of fallen humanity together.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”

This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him:

“There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies who want to wipe us from the earth and murder our family name. Now, I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my whole kingdom.”

That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a billion billions.

This is a face melting, soul rocking, mind exploding divine arrangement.

My sons would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending them to die for a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the nice and clean, but the vile and dirty. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the shallow human realm of categorizing.

God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling or obligatory side hug.

God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the snarling mass of wretched humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with a holy hand meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind.

The ugliest most beautiful sight in the universe.

Terrifying.

Irresistible.

Crazy.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

All the flimsy little preconceived groups we place people in are futile in eternity. It may be red state/blue state, black/white, rich/poor, or any other temporary niche. But there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will perish without the Son or those who will live with Him. Those who acquire God’s deserving justice or those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.

In one thousand years nothing else will matter above that.

We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”

There is much that the word “believe” entails.  It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts with joy in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with the power in Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.

Maybe repentance is the gift we really need this Valentine’s Day. Whether we’re married, dating or single:

Repent for chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs.

Repent for allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness.

Repent for my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society.

Repent for believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around.

Repent because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been fully realized in me.

The Gift Of Ugly Love

The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not sex, roses, cheap chocolate and steak dinners. The world says love looks like a suave young couple dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another over candlelight.

God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten like a rented redheaded step mule, and scorned by all, even his own Father (Isaiah 53:10-11). Do we desire the pretty former love over the ugly latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).

And may we again return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again; And where the beauty of ugly love is the most precious priceless diamond we can receive.

What’s a way you can share this gift to others this Valentine’s Day?

Bryan Daniels

PS. I’ve violated one of my main blogging rules with the daunting length, forgive me, as I believe the topic is worth it.

The Perfect Bloody Antidote To Valentine’s Day

(This is a “Valentine’s Day” re-post from the late great blog “Enabled by God.” May she RIP)

The more I study the scriptures I have had memorized since VBS, the more I am convinced of my ignorance of them. In my adult life I have often been guilty of neglecting the Sunday school stories of old: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Jonah and the Whale, etc. This apathetic attitude overflows into the New Testament Scriptures too. My neglect is displayed specifically in what is probably the most celebrated verse in modern time: John 3:16. Sure, I can quote it frontwards and backwards and say all the doctrinally correct things about it, but rarely does this verse resonate deeply while striking me at the core.

You may feel the same way. But we are in jeopardy of neglecting a multifaceted jewel that should leave us awestruck, not smugly content. We should not approach John 3:16 lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”

“For God so loved….”

We can never get over that truth. We can never “get past it” and on to deeper more substantial matters. If we believe we can God have mercy on our souls. There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that still dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the highest form of love. It is the most emphatic love one can express. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning, “God intensely loved the world in this way….”

God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions. Stop reading, turn the computer off, and let that settle within your soul. The transcendent One is an emotional being. Though human emotional makeup is so twisted with sin and prone to instability, we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.

The Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His hatred is a perfect hatred (Psalm 5:5). He even possesses a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with a precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or some general taskmaster living in a cloud of unknowing. He burns with perfect passion. He delights to love; and He delights to manifest this love to the world.

“For God so loved the world…”

This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only. There are some intriguing ways to break down the word “world” here, which in the Greek is “Kosmon.” It could mean just the elect from all over the world (particular view), or it may mean every man, woman or child who ever lived on earth (most common view). A compelling article on the biblical usage of “Kosmon” can be found here. For now, lets take “world” in its most ordinary sense. That would mean the world God loves with such intensity is the great totality of fallen mankind. It’s incredibly provocative that a holy God would love such ones. It’s compelling because the great totality of fallen mankind is one mired and twisted mass of unlovables. If we seriously doubt this then just glance at the evening news, supermarket tabloids, or bathroom mirror sometime.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”

This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him this:

“There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies that deserve to die, and I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my kingdom.”

That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a million millions.

We dwell too little on how undeserving we are of such a divine arrangement. My son would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending him to die for even a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the righteous, but the blatantly unrighteous. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the human realm of categorizing.

This is one reason of many that universalism is a fatal and foolish heresy. A god who saves everyone regardless of unrepentant rebellion doesn’t need to send His own Son to atone for sins. If you are an atheist, Muslim, cultist, or open blasphemer of God it matters not to the universalist. This god saves all regardless of righteousness. But it cost this god nothing to save hell deserving sinners. As a result, this god is worse than worthless. He not only fails to give anything real in grace he also fails to judge anyone in righteousness.  It costs the false god of universalism/sentimentalism nothing to love humans. But the true God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling.

The love of God is not some theoretical sentimental feeling like butterflies, twinkling eyes, and fluttering heartbeats. God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the mass of wretched wicked unredeemed humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with His hand of wrath meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind. This was a Father giving. But this was also a Father sending (John 3:17). The giving was not a giving over to, but a sending with a specific mission granted in eternity past. The Son came to die. And He laid down His life on His own accord (John 10:18).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

All the groups and categories we place people in on earth are futile in eternity. It may be red state or blue state, black or white, male or female, or any other temporary niche one may find themselves in. In reality, there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will eternally perish and those who will eternally live. Simply, those who acquire God’s deserving wrath and those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.  Where we fall between those two groups is the only question that will matter in one hundred years.

We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”

There is much that the word “believe” entails.  It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.

Maybe repentance is the gift you and I really need this Valentine’s Day.

Repenting of chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs.

Repenting of allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness.

Repenting of my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society.

Repenting of believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around.

Repenting because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been fully realized in me.

The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not cards, roses, fancy dinners, kisses or even companionship. The world says love looks like a good-looking young couple, dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another. God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten beyond recognition, and scorned by all, even by his own Father. Do we desire the former love over the latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).

And may we again return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again.

Bryan Daniels

The Perfect Bloody Antidote for Valentine’s Day

[This is an oldie but goodie, a remix, a regurgitation, a….just read the intro to this]

The more I study the scriptures I have had memorized since VBS, the more I am convinced of my ignorance of them. In my adult life I have often been guilty of neglecting the Sunday school stories of old: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Jonah and the Whale, etc. This apathetic attitude overflows into the New Testament Scriptures too. My neglect is displayed specifically in what is probably the most celebrated verse in modern time: John 3:16. I can quote it frontwards and backwards and say all the doctrinally correct things about it, but rarely does this verse resonate deep within me anymore. 

You may feel the same way. But there is a multifaceted jewel here that we need to pick back up and dust off. We should not approach it lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”

“For God so loved….”

We can never get over that truth. We can never “get past it” and on to deeper more substantial matters. If we believe we can God have mercy on our souls. There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that still dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the highest form of love. It is the most emphatic love one can express. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning, “God intensely loved the world in this way….”

God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions. Turn the computer off and let that settle within you. The transcendent One is an emotional being. Though human emotional makeup is so twisted with sin and prone to instability, we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.

The Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His hatred is a perfect hatred (Psalm 5:5). He even possesses a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with a precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or some general taskmaster living in a cloud of unknowing. He burns with perfect passion. He delights to love; and He delights to manifest this love to the world.

“For God so loved the world…”

This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only. There are some intriguing ways to break down the word “world” here, which in the Greek is “Kosmon.” It could mean just the elect from all over the world (particular view), or it may mean every man, woman or child who ever lived on earth (most common view). A compelling article on the biblical usage of “Kosmon” can be found here. For now, lets take “world” in its most ordinary sense. That would mean the world God loves with such intensity is the great totality of fallen mankind. It’s incredibly provocative that a holy God would love such ones. It’s compelling because the great totality of fallen mankind is one mired and twisted mass of unlovables. If we seriously doubt this then just glance at the evening news, supermarket tabloids, or bathroom mirror sometime.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”

This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him this:

 “There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies that deserve to die, and I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my kingdom.”

That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a million millions.

We dwell too little on how undeserving we are of such a divine arrangement. My son would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending him to die for even a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the righteous, but the blatantly unrighteous. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the human realm of categorizing.

This is one reason of many that universalism is a fatal and foolish heresy. A god who saves everyone regardless of unrepentant rebellion doesn’t need to send His own Son to atone for sins. If you are an atheist, Muslim, cultist, or open blasphemer of God it matters not to the universalist. This god saves all regardless of righteousness. But it cost this god nothing to save hell deserving sinners. As a result, this god is worse than worthless. He not only fails to give anything real in grace he also fails to judge anyone in righteousness.  It costs the false god of universalism/sentimentalism nothing to love humans. But the true God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling.

The love of God is not some theoretical sentimental feeling like butterflies, twinkling eyes, and fluttering heartbeats. God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the mass of wretched wicked unredeemed humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with His hand of wrath meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind. This was a Father giving. But this was also a Father sending (John 3:17). The giving was not a giving over to, but a sending with a specific mission granted in eternity past. The Son came to die. And He laid down His life on His own accord (John 10:18).
 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

All the groups and categories we place people in on earth are futile in eternity. It may be red state or blue state, black or white, male or female, or any other temporary niche one may find themselves in. In reality, there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will eternally perish and those who will eternally live. Namely, those who acquire God’s deserving wrath and those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.  Where we fall between those two groups is the only question that will matter in one hundred years.
 
We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”

There is much that the word “believe” entails.  It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.

Maybe repentance is the gift you and I really need this Valentine’s Day. Repenting of chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs. Repenting of allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness. Repenting of my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society. Repenting of believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around. Repenting because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been realized in me.

The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not cards, roses, fancy dinners, kisses or even companionship. The world says love looks like a good-looking young couple, dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another. God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten beyond recognition, and scorned by all, even by his own Father. Do we desire the former love over the latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).

And may we begin to return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again. 

Bryan Daniels

Why You Should (Maybe) Stay Single

Marriage is a beautiful covenant to be shared with your best friend and children are a blessing from the Lord.

In the Genesis account God creates Adam, the man, first and gives him the freedom to name and have dominion over the animals. When Adam is finished with this great task God turns back to him, the lone man, and creates the perfect woman to complement him, Eve. The account says the two lived “naked and unashamed.”

I don’t know exactly what type of marital bliss the two experienced with one another before the fall but the word “unashamed” assumes a few things: What they experienced as a couple was a guiltless, free, honest, open relationship void of any social constraint or embarrassed self-consciousness. Most importantly this was their posture with God before the inception of sin, total guiltlessness and free from the shame of sin. The Bible is not specific with how long the couple enjoyed this state, and in Genesis 3 we learn of a deceiver that comes in to their life to malign God’s word and destroy their covenant with one another. By their disobedience and taking Satan’s word over God’s the honeymoon comes to an abrupt end and sin’s children of shame, pain, and toil were birthed.

One point of interest is commonly overlooked here. The order of events in the Bible are not inconsequential. Look again at this: Satan did not begin his assault on Adam or Eve until they were a couple under the marriage covenant of God.

Now, I know singleness has its own unique set of challenges and insecurities. But a cursory look at the tabloids, facebook, shows, movies and music reveals a telling indictment on our culture. It’s one of our golden calves, an idol called ” the relationship.” It seems the only thing we fear more than death is loneliness. Everyone, unequivocally, wants to meet “the one.”

As the Genesis 3 account alludes, we run into a problem here. Marriage does not make life emotionally easier for the companionship seeker, in reality it makes life substantially harder. Satan’s greatest delight is in making the institution of marriage a deplorable scandal. If he does that he can also placard the covenant God has with his church in a similar manner (Ephesians 5).

Marriage is under attack, less in the political sense (to the chagrin of radio shock jocks), but rather in the more dangerous spiritual sense. It has always been under vicious attack from the very beginning.

The single person may have been “graced” by God with this singleness for a season. Again, marriage is a beautiful covenant to be shared with your best friend and children are a blessing from the Lord. But marriage is hard. Just as with Adam and Eve, Satan wants to destroy its participants. Men and women who are addicted to porn, facebook, call of duty, shopping and self in general need not apply.

It’s not a question of perfection, but rather projection: where are we going with our life and is Christ leading us there?

Men, if we can barely pay our own bills, have no savings, have an XBox addiction, live with our parents, know more about Steve Jobs than Jesus, and treat women like a hill to be conquered, DO NOT TRY TO GET MARRIED. I’m not saying God cannot purge you of those maladies while you’re married (because He has had to with me), I am saying it will be done with a lot more turmoil and heartache in the context of marriage. Those strongholds in our life don’t just magically dissipate with the signing of a marriage license. They die hard. 

With the prospect of marriage, you are saying you are ready to support financially, spiritually, and emotionally both a wife and children.

If we don’t have our life in some respectable order what makes us think we can add another needy soul (wife) or souls (children) to that mix without disastrous results? Multiply your current weaknesses by at least three when a child is added (as he should be in marriage) into the fray. Marriage with children is not for the faint of heart, it’s really another way to die to the flesh so your partner may flourish and Jesus be glorified.

Marriage is not for those with fanciful illusions of champagne and roses, it’s for those who wish to serve their “other” sacrificially the way Christ served the church. With forgiveness always outstretched even when the heart is wounded.

Twenty five year old Peter Pans with beards aren’t ready for it. Thank God for his grace and your singleness if that may be you.

Again don’t get me wrong:   

I am absolutely in love with my wife, Jessica, and our son, Josiah. Marriage is a beautiful covenant to be shared with your best friend and children are a blessing from the Lord. But before we start thinking seriously about it, let’s first put on our big boy pants (not those emo skinny jeans) and pry the Android out of our hands. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

Bryan Daniels