Chief Of The Least: Brief Year in Review! (2011)

It has been a blessed an eventful year for me personally (thanks to the birth of my second son, Gideon, in March). I’d like to thank all the blog readership and random lurkers who make me feel less lonely (internetally speaking), when I sound off on issues. I enjoy the outlet that this blog serves to post my sometimes inane and ridiculous rants on a variety of topics. Here is a quick blog year in review for you with some highlights sprinkled in:

In 2011, there were 86 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 104 posts. There were 77 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4mb. That’s about a picture per week.

The highest viewed overall blog and individual blog-day (May 21st) goes to the same post. Not incidentally, that post was titled “If the Rapture Happens Saturday: A Brief Survival Guide.” If you are an easily offended type, I beseech you, DO NOT FOLLOW THAT LINK. But if you have a slight sense of humor, have at it.

The two other blogs that came closest to the top viewed spot were:

Rob Bell: Does Universalism Really “Win” In The End?

White Guys Who Listen To Christian Rap And The Girl Named World

My top referring sites in 2011 were:

Many visitors came using specific search terms. Here were the most used to find “Chief of The Least” in 2011: 1. Fred Teutenberg 2. Awkward Family Photos Christmas 3. Wedding Wine Poem 4. Justin Bieber Bible Study

Obviously most visitors came from the United States. But Canada and the UK were not too far behind. I was also surprised to find a very small percentage trickle in from places like Nigeria, Chile, Malaysia, Belgium and Pakistan.

My most commented on post in 2011 was “‘Tis the VBS season! (No Sinner’s Prayer Required)”

My top three commenters (thank you guys very much!) of 2011 were:

1. Josh Peacock

2. Stephen Iddison

3. Joel Nelson

Hope you all are found in God’s grace and blessing this new year. Peace.

Bryan Daniels

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Three Unbreakable New Year’s Resolutions God Will Keep For You

“But we ought to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this He called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 2:13-14)

As we take the time to reflect over the past year, and make resolutions we will inevitably break in the next, this New Year gives opportunity for us to freshly grasp old truth. To be “resolute” means to stand firm or be particularly determined about something. Instead of using our feeble resolute-ness on the shaky ground of P90x and Hollywood diets, maybe we need to stand firm on some truth that will build up our souls for an eternity

The early Thessalonica church was in a dungeon of doubt concerning their salvation and the second coming of Christ.  As Paul gives this fragile church encouragement regarding their salvation, there are also are some ancient gems for us to unearth. If we are to stand firm on anything this New Year, let it be on the undying promise of God that we are loved, chosen and set apart for His glory:

  1. We are loved by the Lord Jesus. Paul calls us the “beloved” (agapao) in verse 13. Agape love is the deepest most costly love one could express, and it is given to us in the Son’s self-sacrificial life and death on the cross. In the Christian faith, we can never get past the love of Christ and on to deeper things. It is our privilege and honor to spend eternity plumbing the depths of His love (Eph 3:18-20). The Son has accomplished our salvation with His wrath bearing sacrifice for our sins. This may not be the same type of general love He has for the whole world (jhn 3:16). This is a particular love for a particular people, His “beloved.” Like a husband loves his wife.
  2. We are chosen by the Father. Because of grace God selected us to be saved “from the beginning” (v.13), or from foundations of the world (Eph 1:4). The Father has appointed for us to experience this love even though He knew we were undeserving and unlovable enemies to Him (Romans 5:8-10). If our destiny is in the hands of the all Loving all Powerful Creator of the universe, then any fears regarding our salvation are a foolish wasted exercise. Christ came to die for us 2000 years ago, because the Father had already chosen us in eternity past. This is an alarming mystery. The implications that come with this are not something to be intellectually grasped by us, rather the particular love of God is to be adored by us in joyful trembling fear.
  3. We are set apart by the Holy Spirit. Our election has real results in real-time for us. The Holy Spirit applies the saving work of the Son and Father to our lives by making us born again (Titus 3:5-6) and giving us a new heart to love, fear, and follow after God in righteousness (Ezekiel 36:26-36). That is what “sanctification” is. It is something that has happened and is happening until we die. This “setting apart” has lasting lifestyle implications as the Holy Spirit continues to convict, encourage, illuminate and make us progressively more like Christ (Romans 8:29).  Notice, the primary result of us being set apart by the Holy Spirit is that we would have an unwavering “belief in the truth”, the word of God (v. 13).

In the light of all this, why should we never doubt our salvation?  Because the total Triune God has a vested interest in it: The Father appointed it, the Son accomplished it, and the Holy Spirit applies it to us. No wonder Paul asks rhetorically elsewhere: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:33) The obvious answer is a resounding “NO ONE!”

In conclusion, I hope any newfound New Year’s resolve we may have this time of year will direct itself towards knowing this: The Father has sovereignly chosen you, Jesus has agape loved you, and the Holy Spirit is setting you apart to “obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus” (v. 14).

If we are resolute to hold these truths, this holiday season could bear fruit to eternity for our lives…and others.

Happy Holidays peeps!

Bryan Daniels

Our Awkward Christmas Photo Party Highlights and Unto Us A Band Is Born

If you want a quick Christmas chuckle, go to the “Awkward Daniels Family Christmas Photo” post I wrote last year. Sorry, I don’t have a hilarious story or thorough explanation for our Christmas card this year.

But I did want to share a few of my favorite photos from our “Awkward Family Photo Christmas Party” my wife and I had this past Wednesday night for our young adult group. The party was a tribute to the delightful site “Awkward Family Photos.”

Remember, the goal was to capture on camera the most awkward/tacky/zany moments we could. I think some of my friends went beyond the call of duty in that regard. I’ll let these gems speak for themselves:

Lastly, I would like to involve you, the reader, in the awkwardness of this post. My friends are starting a band and are having difficulty coming up with a name. They are going to use the following image as their album cover. With only that info in hand, please give me your suggestions on a band name. They have a folk/emo/electronic sound:

Merry Christmas and may God keep you and bless you this new year!

Bryan Daniels

“Christian” Music Can Also Kill Your Soul (And You Don’t Even Have To Play It Backwards)

This is not a rant against the Christian music industry. I’m a big fan of plenty of the artists who thrive in that very industry: Gungor, John Mark, Josh Garrels, etc. Many artists in the CCM scene are biblically minded and extremely talented.

This is a bit of a rant against some of the bad theology in the Christian music industry. But I place the most of the blame of this rant on the pulpits of evangelical America. Metrosexual dudes with a guitar, gelled up hair, and tight(ish) pants don’t set the theological bar in cultural Christianity. Pastors and church leaders do. The Bieber wannabes on Christian radio often just regurgitate what they hear from their spiritual leaders on a consistent basis.

The lyric I’m about to share is a microcosm of many such messages you may hear on the Contemporary Christian Music scene. There’s more to this song than I’m about to share, but for brevity I’m only highlighting where it gets dumpster fire bad:

Yeah, I wanna believe, Jesus, help me believe / That I am someone worth dying for 

In those two short stanzas, the grace of God and the precious blood of Jesus has been utterly denied, rejected and made of no consequence. It may seem like a shocking conclusion but hear me out.

To be someone “of worth” means by definition to be “someone who deserves to be valued.”

Who is man? and What does he deserve from God? The abject inherent evil of man is a consistent thread in the Bible from the Old Testament:

There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:3)

To the New:

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. (Romans 7:18)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
(Romans 3:23-24)

What do such abhorrent sinful people deserve from a Holy God? Dr. Phil lessons on self esteem? A Stuart Smalley pep talk every morning in the mirror? No. Man deserves wrath:

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18)

“God is angry with the. wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11)

No one jot. Not One tittle. Not One iota of Scripture will lead anyone to believe in the pop psycho babble craze of “self worth/esteem/actualization.” On the contrary, Scripture makes it patently clear, that no man has any inherent worth that could recommend himself to God. If anything, a basic tenet of the sinfulness of man is that he is manifestly unworthy in regards to deserving love or grace. At its fundamental level, grace is undeserved favor, or to put it another way: favor given to people of unworth.

I’m saying this in love: This is entry level Christianity, folks.

And this type of false doctrine is being pumped into our souls and sang by our children because of a nice clean Christian veneer. Telling someone to love them-self more will create a self lover, but not a self denying disciple (Luke 9:23).

CCM gospel aside, what the Bible teaches is the incomprehensible good news! Man is sinful and has scorned God and His commands. Even when this sinful subject tries hard to be very religious all God sees are “filthy rags” (Is 64:6) But God finds a way to shower eternal wells of free grace to unworthy ones through the perfect person and work of Jesus in the gospel.

“But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, unless any man should boast.” Eph 2:8-9

Jesus will not help us believe we are worth dying for, any more than he would glibly trample over His own precious blood. Much more, He wants to convince us of our unworthiness so we can see with more clarity the supreme worth of His work on our behalf.

The Christian walk is not about our self esteem. If we were to do anything with “self” the Bible sternly recommends this: Kill it. Murder it. Crucify the you that screams for any worth apart from the free grace of God in Jesus Christ (Gal 2:20).

How liberating it is to be set free from the cruel bondage of being and feeling “worthy.”

You aren’t. And you will never be.

This is what we were created for: Not to discover our worth, but to discover His. And the resulting overflow of praise will resound forever from the lips of the unworthy ones:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” Revelation 5:12

Bryan Daniels

The Real Santa Claus-A Persecuted Bishop, Abolitionist, and UFC Fighter?

Folklore sometimes skews reality. Many times it keeps us from remembering that a particular “reality” ever even existed. Saint Nicholas was a compelling church leader and historical figure before legend claimed that he ran an elf sweat shop.  Believe it or not, Saint Nick was not a jolly obese dude with loads of reindeer love and omnipresent abilities on the eve of  Christmas. As we often do with history, the subjects of our contemporary traditions are made too sanitary and domesticated.

Much is lost when this happens; in the case of “Santa Claus” almost everything is lost that is actually noble about the patron saint of children and widows.

James Parker, professor and associate dean of worldview and culture at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, points out some intriguing reasons to get acquainted with the real Saint Nick:

The story goes that Nicholas was born in A.D. 280 to pious and wealthy parents who raised him in the fear and admonition of the Lord and taught him “sacred books” from the age of 5. He was forced to grow up quickly upon the sudden death of his parents.

The first opportunity to do this happened when he heard about a father who, through an unfortunate turn of events, was left destitute with three daughters. Without marriage dowry money, the daughters would be condemned to a life of singleness and prostitution, so Nicholas threw some small bags of gold coins into the window of the home (some traditions say down the chimney), thereby saving the children from a life of misery.

Saint Nicholas was an advocate for human rights and the cultural “least of these.” He wouldn’t necessarily care if posh Western kids had the latest iPhone or game console, but he did care about little girls who would be subject to the demonic underworld of prostitution and human trafficking. Before he was even a notable church bishop Saint Nick practiced the pure and undefiled religion of James 1:27.

This Christmas, would we have a heart for the true religion the Father desires? Give to the forgotten and starving children of the third world here. Give to those still enslaved by modern human trafficking here.

As a young man, Nicholas felt called to become a bishop in the Monastery of Holy Zion near Myra.  His congregation accepted him gladly and admired his boldness to preach against the false gods of paganism and spiritual relativism. Such a radical confession ensured Saint Nick would be a target whipping boy for the religious and political leaders of the Roman Empire.

In A.D. 303, Emperor Diocletian directed the persecution of Christians. Nicholas was the chief Christian priest of his city and an unashamed emissary of the gospel; as a result he was seized by the Roman magistrates, tortured, and then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians. Parker goes on:

Those who survived Diocletian’s purges were called “confessors” because they wouldn’t renege on their confession of Jesus as Lord. When Bishop Nicholas walked out of the prison (after Constantine’s Edict of Milan), the crowds called to him: “Nicholas! Confessor!” He had been repeatedly beaten until he was raw, and his body was the color of vermilion. Bishop Nicholas was also said to have intervened on behalf of unjustly charged prisoners and actively sought to help his people survive when they had experienced two successive bad harvests.

Saint Nick bore the stripes of his Savior on his own back. The inspired words of the maligned Apostle rang true with him: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim 3:12)

Instead of feeding the insatiable beast of consumerism, would we give to our persecuted brethren this Christmas? There are precious lambs being led to the slaughter right now for the sake of the Lamb of God (John 1:29) Here is a good place to do that.

One of the most interesting stories connected with him was his role during the Arian controversy. St. Methodius asserted that “thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as death-dealing poison.” (Arius, of course, asserted that Jesus was a created being and had not existed from all eternity.)

One weak tradition has him actually attending the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Arian doctrine was rejected. The story goes that he got into a heated debate with Arius himself about whether there was a time when the Word (Jesus) did not exist. Nicholas strongly disagreed.

The debate ended suddenly when Nicholas punched Arius then and there on the floor of the council.

I know the particulars of this story may come from weak “tradition” but I assume such tradition would never have had early legs if one thing were not true: Saint Nick took biblical fidelity very seriously. What would this rendition of Saint Nick do to the contemporary sanitized version?

“No kids. Santa doesn’t want to eat your cookies. But he will give you a knuckle sandwich if you don’t have a biblical Christology.”

Saint Nick was a contender of the true faith and a passionate proponent of Scriptural orthodoxy. I’m not saying we should throw fisticuffs with our theological opponents, I am saying we shouldn’t have a limp wristed wishy-washy approach to biblical truth.

I am suggesting old Nicholas would despise the shrugging, questioning, hem hawing of postmodernism in Christianity.

Some of the links to the right, particularly under the “Theology” tab, do a stand-up job of contending for the faith once and for all handed down to the saints (Jude 1:3).

We should always be diligent to keep “Christ” in Christmas. But while we’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to resurrect and demythologize the real “Santa.” The real Santa teaches us that real men protect the marginalized, prepare for persecution, and preach an uncompromising biblical gospel.

That’s a Santa worth inviting into your household this Christmas season.

Bryan Daniels

Tim Tebow and How To Be A Bad Christian Witness

He is the super football hero poster boy for adulating young boys and fawning middle-aged women. He’s a lightning rod of criticism for the skeptical media and scorning masses. He’s a flamboyant winner who wears his faith and emotions on his sleeve.

He’s now 6-1 7-1 as a starting QB and crowned as the comeback King of the NFL.

Tim Tebow is actually not the primary subject of this post (I know the title is a bit subversive.) We are. More specifically, “we” as in: The Christians who may put Tebow-like characters on a lofty pedestal OR on unwarranted blast are the ones who need to heed our “Christian witness”.

You could replace “Tebow” with “Bieber” or “Newton” and it could have the same effect.

The way we could be potentially bad “Christian Witnesses” would be by publicly mishandling very public Christian personas such as Tebow. There are two ditches we can fall into, both equally treacherous.

Tebow is a hypocrite

Read any article on a major internet news source that sheds a slightly positive light on Tebow’s faith and core values. Then scroll down to the comments sections and witness the vitriol spewed in Christianity’s direction on account of Tebow’s public persona. An all-around nice guy and solid role model is painted as a fanatically religious loon with ulterior motives.

The last thing a Christian should do is to jump into that fray (personally guilty on that account). The world of moral relativism has enough reason to hate the absolute truth claims Tebow utters in nearly every interview like “Jesus is Lord…” Most Christians who would beseech Tebow to tone it down take issue with his methodology. When he talks, or bows, or points to the heavens after a big play all of it can seem a bit showy.

But just because these displays are not the way we would do it does not make them inherently bad. Trust me, as a Florida State fan I spent four years searching for legitimate reasons for personally disliking the Heisman and National Championship winner. Other than him being a proud Gator and 4-0 against my beloved team, I couldn’t find any juicy material that stuck.

There is a list a mile long of drug addicts, sex objects, and women abusers who are propped up as legitimate role models in our culture.

Tim Tebow may be many things, but a fraud doesn’t appear to be one of them.  What he is, in my opinion, he is sincerely. Herculean sports achievements and earnest Christian boldness may be joined together without contradiction.

There is no reason to hate on this phenomenon, Christian, just enjoy while it lasts. If the world will know Christians by how they “love one another”, then a good witness would be to love Tebow by praying for his perseverance in the faith, strength to withstand temptations before him, and even deeper grace to walk out the good confession he’s made.

Tebow is a god

This position takes the previous argument, kicks it to the curb, and runs wildly a million miles in the opposite direction.

I can’t prove this, but I have a sneaking suspicion. Let’s say tomorrow, *God forbid* Tebow was indicted on a seedy scandal of epic proportions that involved illegal drugs and illicit sex. I’m afraid the faith of many within contemporary Christendom would be almost irreparably shaken. I fear Tebow is the last vestige of purity and passion in sports and religion for too many. That’s a shame. Because that is way too much pressure for a young man to bear all alone. We have an unhealthy tendency to put legitimately good people on pedestals they never were created for. This is to their demise.

Look, I know Tebow can get Chick Fil A on Sundays. I know he has been a heart donor….twice. I know when Alexander Bell invented the telephone he had three missed calls from Tim Tebow.

But seriously, doesn’t our hyperbole speak volumes about what we really want to be true?

If you are a Tebow apologist/admirer here is a revelation you may or may not be able to process: Tim Tebow has morning breath. He puts on his Chuck Norris pajamas one leg at a time like the rest of us. He may even have serious bouts with pride and insecurities. And he certainly wouldn’t want to be considered as a substitute to the Savior he so boldly claims.

The minute any man is elevated to mythical status prepare to be thoroughly disappointed. As I’ve heard one saint say from the pulpit, “There aren’t any great men of God…only a great God Who has lavished His great grace on great sinners.”

An effective Christian witness doesn’t merely point men to other men.

There is a way we may talk about Christian leaders that neglects the grace of God in their lives and exalts rather some hidden virtue of character within them. But what does any man have that he did not receive?

If we are not careful our objects of worship will begin to look more like handsome young ripped carefully promoted studs instead of a weak abandoned terrifying bloody mess of Lamb on the cross. That would be a tragedy of eternal consequence.

So, thank God for Tim Tebow. But thank God even more for His Son who died on a cross so filthy sinners like us (you, me and Tebow) could be forgiven and free forevermore in His presence.

Let’s pray that would be the all consuming vision Tebow detractors and supporters would get from his life and message.

Bryan Daniels