Where To Turn

I read an article this morning, which said that churches are closing their doors in record numbers. Later this afternoon, I saw a disturbing video of some protestors outside the Supreme Court of the United States, chanting “**** the church,” among other obscenities, in response to the upcoming ruling on abortion. In the recent past, protestors have rallied in front of churches and caused disturbances everywhere, and it will only get worse once the ruling (Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) comes out.

Lot, a righteous man, was vexed by the depraved conduct of the lawless in Sodom (2 Peter 2:7), much as many of us are at the evil we see around us.

The article I read this morning is unfortunately very true; I saw an article recently as well that said less people were attending church nowadays than ever before. The Pandemic did quite a job on Christianity, and very little to help people’s faith. But it wasn’t just the Pandemic; even at my relatively young age, more than half the people I grew up with going to Church and Vacation Bible School and so on, have left the faith.

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, he said something that turned a whole bunch of people away, and they followed him no more. At that moment, he asked his disciples if they also were going to leave him, to which Peter—a man who changed so much between being a disciple and being the Rock upon which Jesus would build his Church—replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God (John 6:68-69, NIV).”

Daniel, another servant of the LORD, lived at a time when the temple of God had been raided by the Babylonians. From the NIV Life Application Study Bible: “Those who loved the LORD—though few in number—must have felt disheartened and discouraged, especially since most people were already worshiping other gods and neglecting the LORD altogether. We feel greatly alarmed when churches around the world are destroyed, close down for financial reasons, are split by controversies, or are wracked by scandals. We do not know why God allows his church to experience these calamities. But like the people who witnessed the plundering of the temple by the Babylonians, we must trust that God is in control and that he is watching over all who trust in him. When you hear of God’s people going through difficult times, pray that he will bring restoration. Remember God’s promise that those who love him and suffer will experience joy when [Jesus] returns (1 Peter 4:13).”

The world out there offers nothing of lasting value; that much is obvious. Everything we know has a beginning and an end; what the LORD offers is eternal. He offers peace today and in the Age to come and beyond. The LORD is in control right now, just as he was thousands of years ago, and he is well-aware of everything going on in the world and is not surprised by any of it. He knew what the world would be like today, June 23, 2022, thousands of years ago. He will not be mocked, and he will have his day with wickedness, when all will be made right.

We’re living in the times foretold by the Apostle Paul: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:1-5).”

Christians: hang in there. Don’t bow the knee to Baal; fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Jesus is living in His Church, and Jesus is coming for his own; the Lord knows them that are his (2 Timothy 2:19). The Kingdom of God on earth will be a time worth living for; none of the sufferings of the present can or ever will be compared to the glory of the day when Jesus will rule as the Wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), when justice will roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:24).

Grace and peace,

Dan

OBX, Eclipse, and Camera Troubles

At the end of April, I took a weekend to go to the Outer Banks of North Carolina; ever since I left there in September, I had been wanting to get back sooner rather than later. One of the days I was there, as I was trying to take some photos, a gust of wind came by and blew over—and broke—the $20 tripod I had just bought two days before (thankfully, my DSLR was not on it when it fell over). I called all around the area to see if any stores sold tripods but had no luck. That afternoon, I took the ferry over to Ocracoke Island, and while I was there I came across a hardware store; I asked if they sold tripods there, and looked all over, but couldn’t find one. I didn’t take many more photos that weekend, since most of the photos I take—such as HDR and long exposure—require a tripod.  Lesson learned: don’t cheap out; it will end up costing you more in the long run.

I still enjoyed myself though, and met a lot of great people. I was thankful as well to have taken this shot of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse before that happened.

(The rest of my photos are at DanGaitanis.com/obx)

As you may know, I love lighthouses (who doesn’t?); one of the many reasons I love going to the Outer Banks is because there are four lighthouses that you can visit, all within a few hours. A Lighthouse is a good reminder that Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12), the only true light that shines in darkness; the darkness comprehends it not (John 1:5).

Three weeks ago tonight, I went to the local ballfield with a few friends, to watch the total lunar eclipse. I got out my camera, formatted the memory card, and headed to the field; when I got there, for some reason, the camera wouldn’t turn on—at all. Nothing. I ran back home and tried a few different batteries, to no avail; I couldn’t believe it. Fortunately, I had an old camera that I hadn’t used in a long time, as well as the battery for it, so I put the battery on the charger, went back to the ballfield for a little while to enjoy the start of the eclipse, then came back home and grabbed the battery and camera before heading back to the ballfield for the rest of the evening. The sky was clear until the moon was about 95 percent covered by the shadow of the earth; then it got really cloudy all of a sudden. Even so, I still managed to get a couple of shots of totality through breaks in the clouds. Not waiting by my phone for National Geographic to call, but it’s better than nothing.

(Mysteriously, the week after the eclipse, the camera started working again, of course as I brought it to Richmond Camera for them to have a look at it; then last weekend I planned on going to a Flying Squirrels game and wanted to take some photos there, and the camera was back to not working again. That camera is relatively new, so this is incredibly disappointing, but I’m holding out hope that it’s an easy fix)

The Lunar Eclipse happened exactly when we were told it would happen; it was right on time. And it didn’t announce that it was starting; it just did. The heavens have such an order to them, that scientists were able to pinpoint the exact time the eclipse would start and end. The LORD’s promises are as certain as the Sun rising in the east and setting in the west; everything he said would happen throughout history, did happen, exactly the way he said.

Just because clouds got in the way of the eclipse didn’t mean the eclipse wasn’t happening; we just couldn’t see it. In the same way, the LORD is always working, even if may not seem so at the time. If you have thirty minutes or so, read the entire Book of Esther; God’s name is not mentioned even once, yet his hand is visible throughout the story, in delivering his people—the Jews—from their enemies. Today, we don’t have direct revelations from him, but it is so clear that he is at work; the question is, will you let him work in you and through you?

The LORD told his prophet, “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told (Habakkuk 1:5 NIV).” If his promise to send the ruthless Chaldeans to punish Israel for their sins was so incredible that Habakkuk wouldn’t even believe it, how much more good will the LORD do for those who love and obey him?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).”

Grace and Peace,

Dan

He Is Risen

It’s Easter weekend. For some, that means chocolate and bunnies; for Christianity, it’s the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection, three days after being crucified.

“Behold the Lamb of God,” said John the Baptist, “that taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29).” In him was no sin; he was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3); he gave his back to the smiters (Isaiah 50:6). Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5). All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way (Isaiah 53:6); all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all; this sinless man, the suffering, friendless one who was numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) and was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgression of God’s people he was stricken (Isaiah 53:8).

But he trusted in God that he would deliver him (Psalm 22:8); for the joy set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame (Hebrews 12:2). God’s own righteous standards would not allow him to remain in hell, nor to allow his Holy One to see corruption (Acts 2:31); how could a sinless man be held captive by the grave? It has no power on him (Acts 2:24). The greatest miracle in human history happened that first morning of the week, an event that the rest of human history depends on: if Christ did not rise from the dead, we are all without hope (1 Corinthians 15:13-19). For now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep (1 Corinthians 15:20); God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoso believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Who is this King of Glory? None of the angels of God ever received such a high title, or to be called God’s Son (Hebrews 1:5); all the angels of God worship him (Hebrews 1:6). He is gone up on high and has led captivity captive (Psalm 68:18), he has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He has commanded his followers to preach the Good News of the Kingdom to every nation, to teach them to observe all things whatever he commands (Matthew 28:19). The LORD gave the Word; great was the company of the preachers (Psalm 68:11); their sound is gone out to all lands and their words into the ends of the world (Romans 10:18).

So why seek the living with the dead? All the other religious leaders of the past—while their teachings may have been helpful—are in their graves. Christ is Risen, and he is coming again; he brings his reward with him. He will rule the world with righteousness and the people with his truth (Psalm 96:13).

Happy Easter!

Grace and peace,

-Dan

(side note: if you’ve never listened to Handel’s Messiah, I can’t recommend it enough. Now is a good time; it’s quite popular in the days surrounding Easter and Christmas. For a bird’s-eye view, click here to watch a presentation I gave last holiday season)

A Clean Slate

This past Thursday was Opening Day in Major League Baseball. I always love Opening Day; baseball is my favorite sport, and as a Red Sox fan, I look forward to seeing what they’ll do this season. I also love Opening Day because everyone starts off 0-0; it’s a clean slate. The Atlanta Braves won it all last year, but back on Thursday, they were 0-0 just like everyone else. It doesn’t matter at all how good (or bad) a team was last year; they all began this season with the same record, and not until July or August will we begin to see real separation between the good and bad teams. In late October of this year, only one of those 30 teams will be celebrating on the diamond as World Series Champions.

I’ve read a number of articles by the so-called “experts,” who predict how this season will go, and of course it’s based on how teams did in the offseason with trades, acquisitions, the draft, and other roster moves. At the end of the day though, it’s unpredictable; these are human beings, playing a 162-game regular season schedule. Games will be won and lost on freak plays, won by improbable comebacks and lost on improbable blown saves, won and lost by one run or ten runs or somewhere in between. There will be rain delays, bad calls made by umpires which affect the outcome of the game, and, of course, errors, made by players in the field. It’s impossible to predict what will happen this season, but it’s all about execution. Look no further than last year’s Red Sox; they had to win their final three games of the regular season just to get into the playoffs, then they beat the Yankees in an always-unpredictable Wild Card Game, then upset the Rays in the Division Series before falling to Houston in the American League Championship, just two wins away from the World Series. No one saw that coming; the guys just went out there and played good baseball and made it work.

The LORD is willing to give you and I a clean slate in life; he is willing to remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:24), to make white as snow our sins which are as scarlet (Isaiah 1:18), through the work of the Messiah, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:20). This is not unconditional; the LORD will only give you and I a clean slate as long as you and I will give others a clean slate: in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (Matthew 6:12).” If you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).”

But that’s not it; you also have to have faith that the LORD will make good on his Word. Abraham went into a foreign land, not knowing anything about what was ahead, but his faith was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:19-22). He knew the LORD was willing and able to do exactly what he said he would do.

There’s nothing scientific about it; you just have to do it, unwavering (James 1:5-8); “the just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4),” which comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

Don’t look back at the way you were before; press forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). Look unto Jesus; he is the author and finisher of the faith (Hebrews 12:2).

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”-Jude 24-25

Grace and peace,

-Dan

Time and Chance

It’s one of my very favorite times of the year, for many reasons; one of which is because the NCAA Basketball Tournament (also known as “March Madness”) begins tomorrow with the Selection Show; 68 of the best college basketball teams in the country are invited to the single-elimination, winner-take-all Tournament to determine the National Champion. This past week and a half has been filled with the Conference Tournaments, which play a part in determining which teams make the field of 68. The school I went to—VCU—has had a great deal of success in the past 15 years or so, and it seems that almost every year they are in contention for one of the 68 bids to the NCAA Tournament. Last night though, their hopes of making the field took a huge hit after losing in the Atlantic-10 Quarterfinals against their crosstown rival, the University of Richmond Spiders. VCU had already beaten Richmond twice in the regular season, but then when it really counted, Richmond had the better game and was able to knock the Rams out of the Atlantic-10 Tournament and most likely keep them from playing in March Madness. The Spiders then pulled another upset this afternoon against Dayton to advance to the Atlantic-10 Championship Game tomorrow for the right to go to March Madness. That’s basketball, and that’s sports: sometimes the team who is supposed to win, has a bad game, or the team who is not expected to win, plays lights out and pulls the upset. It happens all the time, and March Madness is full of it: even just in the past few years, we’ve seen some of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history (such as Virginia losing to Maryland-Baltimore County, and Michigan State losing to Middle Tennessee State). It wasn’t part of a tournament, but not many people expected North Carolina to go in and beat Duke last Saturday in Coach K’s final home game before he retires. It happens: not just in sports, but in life—sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it just doesn’t.

King Solomon, the wisest man—other than Jesus, of course—to ever live, wrote “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all (Ecclesiastes 9:11 English Standard Version).”

Obviously, the LORD doesn’t care about who wins a college basketball game, or who has more degrees or money, but he is in control; he knows the end from the beginning. We don’t.

On a sunny Friday afternoon in March 2020, my uncle Rob and I met up for lunch at our favorite pizza place (RIP A New York Slice) and we shared a large pepperoni pizza; we talked about the upcoming March Madness, and whatever else. Neither of us—or anyone else—knew what was about to happen just six days later—two years ago today—when everything would change and a period of unprecedented uncertainty would begin. As crazy as it all was, the LORD was never any less in control than he was before it or is right now. He was the same before the Pandemic began, and will be the same a thousand years from now, The Psalmist writes that the LORD sits enthroned on the flood; he is in control even if your world is “underwater.” He gives good times and bad times to keep people in check, and he will make all things right one day. He changes times and seasons and he knows what he’s doing, and when he makes a plan, no one can stop or change it (Isaiah 14:27). This is the same God that made the sun stand still (Joshua 10:12-14).

A Brother once said at a youth weekend, “focus on what you can control, fear God and keep his commandments (from Ecclesiastes 12:14); don’t worry about the rest.” He is always good: win, lose, or draw. Keep your mind stayed on him: you will have peace (Isaiah 26:3). He delivers the righteous (Psalm 34:19); trust in him and he will act in time (Psalm 37:5). Nothing is left to chance when the LORD does something.

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God has made one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him (Ecclesiastes 7:14).”

Grace and peace,

Dan

Landmarks

This is Mount Trashmore.

It’s exactly what it sounds like: a mountain made of trash; a landfill that has been converted into a park. My relatives used to live right behind Mount Trashmore, so I feel like I’ve climbed it 100 times.

Two of those relatives are dead, and have been for about 6 years or so; they both died on the same day—of completely different causes—back in 2016, but the remaining one still lives in that house and I visit him as often as I can when I’m in the area.

Every time I go out there, before going to Oceanfront, I make a stop at Mount Trashmore and take a few minutes to climb it and look around. The view is certainly nothing spectacular; all you see is the surrounding park, as well as Lake Trashmore and Lake Windsor, as well as Town Center in the distance. But being up there reminds me of old times; I think of all those days when I was much younger, and my family would once in a while take a daytrip to the Tidewater region, where on that Sunday morning we would visit the wonderful Brothers and Sisters in Norfolk, then spend an afternoon with some of them, then going our separate ways and meeting up with our relatives for dinner before heading back to Richmond. I think of how much fun we all used to have sitting around the dinner table, and all the laughs we had. I think of how special that house is where they all used to live in Windsor Woods, and the two-hour trek back to Richmond late at night, sitting in the backseat and being really tired but with a full heart after being around so many wonderful people that morning and then others later that evening.

To some, Mount Trashmore is just a landmark that they drive by on the Virginia Beach expressway on their way to the Oceanfront. For me, it’s a very special place that takes me way back.

Of course, there are many, much more famous landmarks all around the world, and they exist not only for direction and location, but to make us remember something or someone from the past.

The Children of Israel were to set up a pile of stones in the Jordan River, so that every time they saw them, they would remember what the LORD had done for them (Joshua 4). Hundreds of years earlier, Jacob had received a vision that was so incredible that he decided to commemorate it by setting up a pillar (Genesis 28:10-22).

We all have reminders of our successes and failures, and it’s different for each of us: David brought Goliath’s armor into his tent as a reminder of the victory the LORD had given him (1 Samuel 17:54). The Apostle Peter denied Jesus as he stood around a “fire of coals (John 18:18).” After Jesus’ Resurrection, he had breakfast with his disciples and there was another fire of coals (John 21:9); what do you think was going through Peter’s mind as he remembered what he had done—and been forgiven for? That fire of coals probably didn’t carry the same significance for the others, just as the twelve memorial stones that Israel set up, didn’t mean anything to the surrounding nations.

There are reminders everywhere of what the LORD has done for you and me, as well as his message to his creation. Be mindful, and think of him every time.

As for Mount Trashmore, I can’t wait to traverse that holy hill again this coming weekend if the good LORD wills.

(circa 2011)

Grace and peace,

Dan

Leaving Your Mark

Back in September, I took a few days off and went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was the first time I had been there since 2002, when my family and another family had all vacationed together. There has not been a day that has passed since September where I haven’t thought about that weekend, and just how great it was to wake up every morning to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, to see the Lighthouses, enjoy the sea as much as possible (the dreaded red “No swimming” flags were out, due to Hurricane Larry, some hundreds of miles off the coast), and to meet some great people, a few of which I’ve kept in contact with since then, not to mention the relaxation and freedom I felt, not worrying at all about anything going on at work, or in Richmond, or in the country or in the world. Vitamin Sea really does cure all ailments.

One of the days when my family and the other family vacationed in the Outer Banks 19 years before, we all went down to Hatteras and Ocracoke. In the sidewalk at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was an imprint of a lizard who had gotten caught in the cement; my brother and I and Julia and Jackie took a picture around it.

When I was there back in September, as I walked around the property at the Lighthouse, I wondered if the lizard imprint was still in the sidewalk; I figured the chances of that were slim to none. After looking around a few minutes, I found it near two boulders and some benches.

It had been 19 years; the lizard’s mark was still there.

Part of me couldn’t believe it. The other part could; one thing I had noticed about the Outer Banks upon my return was that very little had changed from what I remembered.

I sat there on the bench for a few minutes as people walked by, and I thought there just had to be some lesson to take away from that little marking in the sidewalk: think of all the millions of people who had walked over it in the past 19 years, and all the tropical storms and hurricanes that had passed through (most notably, Isabel, in 2003). Yet, the lizard’s mark was still visible.

What kind of mark are you leaving on the world?

There’s plenty of good and bad examples in Scripture, of people who left their mark, and it was still there many years after they were long gone: Solomon, who even though I like to think repented at the end of his life, made some mistakes and the effects were felt through Israel for generations. The Book of Ecclesiastes may be his reflection on all he had done, whether good or evil. Of Jeroboam, it’s written many times that he “made Israel to sin.” Of course there are many great examples as well (the most important, of course, being Jesus himself). Imagine when Paul is resurrected, and he gets to see the full result of his preaching effort, or Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when they get to see the Promises fulfilled and the reward for their faith. These examples are thousands of years old.

Even the little things we do in life can have a major impact, for better or worse. The “butterfly effect” is very real, and what you do can have a lasting effect long after you’re gone. How do you want to be remembered?

On the last night of my trip, I spent a few hours at the Lighthouse, taking photographs of it with the Milky Way in the background, and talking to people who had also come out to enjoy the night, but one thing I really appreciated was just watching the Lighthouse do its thing: shine its light. I sat there on the amphitheater for quite some time after finishing my photos, watching the rotating beam of the Lighthouse shine in all directions. The Lighthouse didn’t care what type of people were out there at sea; it just shined. Jesus—the Light of the World—tells us to let our light shine before all people, that they may see our good works and glorify our father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Think of all the people out there who are in darkness and need light; you may be the only light they ever get. No one hides a light under a box; it does no good that way. Be the example that others will want to follow.

Grace and peace,

-Dan

Someone’s Always Watching

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl; countless Americans (and many more around the world) will tune in as the Rams and Bengals meet for all the marbles. Any incredible play or costly mistake will be seen (and then talked about) by millions; all of which will have seen the same game broadcast as everyone else. Have you ever wondered how many people are watching the same thing at any given moment?

A while back, I got a scam email from someone saying they had hacked into my computer’s webcam, and that they had video of me that they were going to send out to all my contacts if I didn’t pay the ransom. Now, I knew this was fake; I even considered calling their bluff, but I just deleted it. Many people choose to cover their laptop’s camera with a piece of tape, because there really are people out there who can hack into the camera and watch what they do, whenever they want.

Last week, one of my coworkers and I used my work computer to join a conference call with someone in a different state. We hadn’t done a video call in a long time, and for well over a year I had kept a piece of tape over the camera. I took the piece of tape off so the other person in the video call could see us, but it got me thinking: what good is the piece of tape? If I’m not doing anything wrong, who cares if some hacker in China is watching me from the other end of the planet?

Someone much more important is always watching: the LORD, and Jesus.  There is an old Sunday School song that goes something like:

“Oh be careful little eyes what you see,

Oh be careful little eyes what you see,

For your Father up above is looking down in love,

So be careful little eyes what you see.”

(followed by “be careful little ears what you hear, be careful little hands what you do, and so on).

The Apostle Paul tells us to abstain from all appearances of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), to give our adversaries no reason nor occasion to speak badly of us; to be above reproach. Zig Ziglar once said, “live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, no one would believe it.” We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). The LORD searches and knows you (Psalm 139:1). Keep your conduct honorable, so that when people speak evil of you, they may see your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12).

Every moment, everything you do and say, is monitored carefully by the LORD. He is looking not for fault (he doesn’t need to look for that; nothing is hidden from him; it is all in plain view), but looking out for you, because he wants you to be in his Kingdom with his Son, Jesus. It will be his great pleasure to have you there (Luke 12:32), but without holiness no man shall see him (Hebrews 12:14). Invite him to search and know you, and see if there be any wicked way in you, to lead you in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

Grace and peace,

Dan

(Side note: this is the Super Bowl matchup that I’ve secretly wanted for a while—my high school’s mascot was a Tiger, and my college’s mascot was a Ram; I’m cool with whoever wins, but predicting the Rams win 28-17).

Truth: Check It Out

Two stories have broken in the news this past week that have had people talking.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring from the Supreme Court of the United States, which means President Biden gets to nominate Breyer’s replacement. However, within a few hours of the story breaking, it was announced that Justice Breyer had not intended for the news to get out so soon (traditionally, Justices announce their retirement at the end of the Court’s term in June), and that he was upset at what had happened. Obviously, someone had leaked the news to the press and it had not even been verified (although it did turn out to be true).

Then today, it was announced that Tom Brady, a 7-time Super Bowl Champion and possibly the Greatest Quarterback of All Time, was retiring. Within minutes, it was all over the news. Again, nothing from the man himself; in fact, his own father came out and said Brady was not retiring, and Bruce Arians, the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Brady’s current team—said this was the first he had heard about it. Yet, sports networks like ESPN continued to pedal the rumor that Brady was done (not surprising; ESPN isn’t exactly known for journalistic integrity).

What if Justice Breyer or Tom Brady had come out afterward and denied the whole report? You can’t un-ring a bell, and once a story is out there it’s hard to make a retraction (actually it’s quite easy; the hard part is getting as many people to pay attention to it once the narrative is out there). Breyer is retiring, and Brady probably will as well, but it doesn’t make the media look any better.

Fortunately, these are two minor examples from the recent past (there are major examples from just the past few years), but journalism is in big trouble in this country. And it’s not just about journalism; there is a huge problem with truth. Who are you supposed to believe anymore? Who is the great arbiter of truth?

I majored in Journalism at VCU (side note: the basketball team beat the Richmond Spiders tonight in the cross-town rivalry; Go Rams!) and one of my professors once said, “if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.” What he meant is that whenever you hear something, check it out for yourself to make sure it’s true.

Another famous saying in media (which is obviously not applied much anymore) is that “it’s better to be right than to be first;” if you’re the first to break a story, but you’re wrong, it doesn’t matter that you were the first: wrong is wrong. Truth is truth.

Just because a famous person says it doesn’t mean it’s right, either.

Christians are supposed to be truth-seekers. If we believe whatever we hear in the news, or from our social media feeds, or wherever else, without checking it out for ourselves, we need to be careful enough, but all the more if we hear something that goes against what the LORD says. The Apostle Paul said those in Berea searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being taught was so (Acts 17:11), and he warns against being tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, but to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-15). If you go to court, you swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” on penalty of perjury. How much more important to heed God’s truth! A half-truth is not truth, and truth with a little extra is not also not truth; at the very end of the Bible is a stern warning against adding to or taking away from God’s Truth (Revelation 22:18-19). John MacArthur said, “When the Word of God is not set up as the supreme authority, division is inevitable. Such happens even in evangelical churches, when pastors and other leaders begin substituting their own ideas for the truths of Scripture. The substitution is seldom intentional, but it will always happen when the Bible is neglected. A Bible that is not studied carefully cannot be followed carefully. And where it is not followed there will be division, because there will be no common ground for beliefs and practices. When the truth of Scripture is not the sole authority, men’s varied opinions become the authority.”

We live in a world where it’s hard to figure out who to believe. With so much information out there coming from so many sources (mainly the internet), it’s impossible to comprehend it all, but none of that will actually save anyone. The only source of information that can be depended on with absolute certainty is the Bible; God doesn’t change, even here in 2022. “The truth of the LORD endures forever (Psalm 117:2).”

Grace and peace,

-Dan

(also, I neglected to mention recently that my presentation on Handel’s Messiah can be found here)

The LORD Doesn’t Forget

Have you ever felt forgotten, like you did all the work for something but someone else ended up getting the reward? I’m not just referring to a job, where you want a promotion and someone else who does no work ends up getting it; I’m talking about when you put in a lot of effort for something, and it is forgotten, or unappreciated, while someone else who literally just exists, gets what you wanted, what you were chasing, where it seems to just fall into their lap, many times without even asking for it.

This has been on my mind a lot lately, and it’s really frustrating. I don’t even know if I’m wording it right on here.

One of the worst things someone ever told me (and this was someone I think very highly of and have a huge amount of respect for), was that God doesn’t care about effort; that no matter what, God is going to just do things his way. That was the last thing I needed to hear on that day, besides, “There’s other fish in the sea…” I totally disagreed that God doesn’t care about effort; sure, his will prevails, but we can’t just sit by and think that everything just falls into place: your future boss at your dream job is not just going to call you out of the blue, and your future significant other is not just going to ring your doorbell and say “Here I am!” You have to put forth quite some effort. But the cruel irony is seeing someone who just has everything seem to go their way get what you want without any effort. It can actually discourage you from wanting to try at all for something, hoping that maybe for once things will just fall into your lap.

I know this verse is taken a little out of context, but the principle behind it still applies:

“God is not unfair; he will not forget the work you did or the love you showed for him in the help you gave and are still giving to other believers.”-Hebrews 6:10

The Lord remembers; he will not leave you empty-handed. He has promised that the righteous will be rewarded; he knows what we need before we even ask him (Matthew 6:8). A brother once told me that if you’re trying to do the right thing and you’re asking God for help, he will take care of you. That was a few years ago, and I’ve kept it in the back of my mind ever since.

Don’t be discouraged; the Lord is mighty to save and nothing is too hard for him (Isaiah 63:1; Jeremiah 32:17).

Grace and peace-

-Dan