A Brief Encouragement To Donkeys

I became a Christian the summer before my senior year. Shortly thereafter my youth pastor asked me to share a word with the youth group. I prepared a sermonette from Scripture as best I knew how, prayed like my life depended on it, and when the time came I pretty much read verbatim from the scratch paper I had written my notes on. I don’t remember any amazing move of the Spirit or a mass weeping repentance at the altar afterwards. But my youth minister must have seen something I didn’t, and on a consistent weekly basis he asked me to speak or lead a study for the duration of my senior year and college years thereafter.

I really enjoyed the opportunity and felt a certain level of blessed comfort when sharing or proclaiming the truth of God’s word in small and larger contexts. This comfort with public speaking was quite a miracle of God, because in my youth years I was a virtual mute and painfully shy throughout high school. I appeared to be a pretty confident machismo jock type, but within me I had an illogical fear of a wide variety of social situations (I still struggle with that sometimes).

From then on, I continued to share a word in some ministry capacity on a weekly basis for about eight years straight. I can say confidently that no one benefited more from the prayer, bible study time and sharing than I did. God has a way of keeping you accountable in spiritual disciplines when others may glean spiritual food from the dish you’re serving. Those dynamic moments when the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s truth to your spiritual senses can only be described as a burning deep within the bones that must escape lest the body be seared inside out (Jer 20:9).

All glory to God and His grace if one soul was blessed by His Word during those seasons (1Cor 3:7).

Because of different circumstantial factors and choices made by me (and of course the good Providence of God!) my weekly leading came to an abrupt end about one and a half years ago. Other than a couple of speaking opportunities here and there for the past year and a half I have not had any official “public” ministry of the word.

I have missed the fellowship and human contact that came with all those respective bible study groups.

That is where this blog comes in.

This has been my outlet when I feel the itch of the Word and the unction of the Spirit to share. It has also been a place to share some of the more inane, frivolous and humorous aspects of my personal life and thought patterns.

Now I am not saying any virtual blog community should replace the indispensable community of the local assembly. I am definitely not saying a blog that focuses on spiritual matters could ever replace the powerful proclamation of the gospel that happens in the context of church.

I am saying I am thankful for this small writing outlet God has given me for this season.

I am saying I am thankful for you, the reader, subscriber, or silent lurker.

I am saying I am most thankful for a careful Shepherd who can use any medium He pleases to reach His sheep: and sometimes He still chooses to use importunate jackasses (Numbers 22).

Whatever season you’re currently in you should know that God is the good and gracious sovereign King who alone changes the times and seasons (Daniel 2:21). Be thankful for and faithful to whatever small platform He has given you for this short time. Whether it be a church with stagnant membership, a blog with no traffic, or a co-worker who doesn’t want to hear it.

Keep sowing the gospel seed. The greatest and most fruitful trees all have the same small hidden beginnings in the soil of supposed obscurity. We may never know what eternal fruit God is going to raise up out of the dirt of our lives.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Bryan Daniels

Tim Tebow and How To Be A Bad Christian Witness

Some thought that may pertain to the recent phenomenon of LinSanity!

Chief of the least

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…

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Josh Garrels-Free Music That Could Make A Baptist Dance

In my opinion, Josh Garrels is the best thing that has happened to the “Christian” music industry in years. The above vid is a just one sample of his refreshingly diverse style. His musical, lyrical and vocal range is crazy good. Also, his theological depth is a fresh wind of change for the contemporary Christian music scene. And he is GIVING HIS NEW ALBUM AWAY FOR FREE. Seriously. Download “Love, War and the Sea In Between” for free here. You will not regret it. If you are not fully satisfied, I will give you a full money back guarantee no strings attached ; )

If the “best things in life are free” , Garrels’s album goes along way to further strengthen that maxim.

At least do yourself a favor and listen to Garrels’s  song “Ulysses.” If you don’t hear the intense yearning of a Bridegroom for His maligned bride in that brooding blessed  song, you need some spiritual hearing aids. I’ve lamented about the state of the CCM industry in the past; Some of the more inanely repetitive poppy-ish selections are just pure unadulterated cheese to me. The lack of theological depth and trite sound sometimes frustrates me. Why are we talking about torn jeans when we should be talking about the torn and bloodied son of God on the cross?

But there are more than enough creative and rich voices to thank God for within that very same industry. Gungor and John Mark MacMillian are a few others I would add to my personal list of favorites. Other than my steady diet of sermon jams, John Mark’s “The Medicine” is probably the most ingested album on my IPOD. Part of that frequency is because the song “Skeleton Bones” makes my three-year old son, Josiah, do the robot (for reasons unknown to me).

But seriously, download Garrels’s album.

And

I’m curious, what’s on repeat on your playlist?

Grace and Peace,

Bryan Daniels

The Unwelcome Beast of Depression (You’re Not Alone)

Chief of the least

A few months ago, I wrote about an elephant dwelling in the back of our church sanctuaries. That post was about the prevalence of “porn” in the American church, and it included a short lament regarding our tendency to keep it a dirty little secret rather than shedding the gospel light on it. I called porn an elephant because when an elephant is in any room it must be acknowledged. Yet so many church leaders have taken the ridiculous stance of acting like the “porn elephant” is not seated among their own congregations, when statistics clearly show it is.

The porn elephant is not the only unwelcome beast in our midst that no one is talking about. Apparently, we have given a second elephant residence in our congregations while applying similar silent treatment towards it. This elephant’s name is “Depression.” While no one is really talking about it almost…

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The Intimacy of Eternal Life-You Get Christ, Not Earthworm Jim

{A newly edited retread from the late great blog “Enabled by God.” May she RIP}

Eternal life is scary.

At least it was to me as a child. Every time I pondered for any amount of time about being somewhere forever, an incredible aching formed in the pit of my stomach. An aching that would persist to the point of either nausea or panic attack, until I drove all thoughts of immortality out of my mind for the moment. I understood heaven was preferable to hell as far as eternity went, but I couldn’t fathom being anywhere for forever, no matter how celestially blissful it may be. Even Earthworm Jim got old after you’ve beaten it for the seventeenth time, right? According to my concept of heaven, after a couple of years the monotony would be mind-boggling.

We get to run on streets of gold. But then what? We get to swing on gates of pearl. But then what? We get to hang out with our deceased grandparents, Moses, and maybe one of the band members from Creed. But then what? It all seemed a bit…..boring after awhile. As an atheist coworker told me recently, “I don’t want to imagine being anywhere forever. I’d die of boredom being in one place forever. Especially if there are no dogs there.” Chubby little nine year old Bryan would have wholeheartedly concurred with that statement (especially the dog part, which I don’t even think is true).

This gripping sentiment of fear was held way before I came to the realization that eternal life was Christological and God centered; and nothing like anything I knew on earth (Revelation 1:1). In a word, the prospect of eternal life was frightfully boring to me before I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. After that happened, I learned eternal life did not primarily consist of an infinite quantity of time, but an intimate quality of relationship.

It was Jesus Christ Himself who graciously gave me a wholly adequate solution to my childhood dilemma in (John 17:3):

“This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and the Son whom you have sent”

Here I found Christ never meant for us to be enamored with streets of gold, seas of crystal, or gates of pearl; He wanted us to be enamored with Him.  A heaven of harps and cloud loitering satisfies not, but one vision of His blazing grandeur and glories will enrapture us for an eternity (Hebrews 1).

What Christ says about eternal life in his John 17 High Priestly Prayer would be altogether shocking and ludicrous to the passive bystander of His day. This is an average Jewish carpenter with no political clout, no royal entourage, and nowhere to even lay his head. And to his concerned disciples he gives this sure promise hours before He dies on an excruciating cross:

“After this, you will get to know my Father and me forever.”

The Islamic Extremist gets 72 virgins. The Hindu gets a better cultural status next time around. The cultist gets his own world and god-like state. The prosperity propagator gets his best life now and maybe a private jet. But Christ makes all of those false promises burn in the light of this one profoundly simple assurance:

“You get Me.”

“You get to know Me.” Clearly, this is a ridiculously audacious promise if we are talking about a mere Jewish man.

The greek word for “know” here is ginōskō, which is translated in three primary tenses:

1) to learn to know, come to know, get knowledge of perceive, feel

2) to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of

3) Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman

To “know” God, in its fullest biblical sense holds much more weight than an introductory understanding of bible stories or an intellectual assent to a few orthodox doctrines.

We are called to an intimate knowledge of God, so much so the word is used interchangeably in Scripture with the way only a husband could physically “know” his wife.  You know, the way Joseph didn’t know Mary before Jesus was born? (Mat 1:25)  We are given the same type of relational status only it is eternally deeper than that of human marriage. This is a spiritual relational intimacy a holy God has granted us through Christ from the foundation of the world. This union is not only for super apostles and church leaders, it’s for any who belong to the bride of Christ. It belongs to all who are being washed in the water of God’s word. (Eph 5:25-28)

Paul called the heart of the gospel the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Cor 4:4-6) You can find the glory of God in many places: Lightning storms, mountaintops and holding your first-born for the first time. But Paul says the highest point of the glory of God rests in knowing and beholding Christ Himself, His face, His person, and His work at the cross and resurrection.

Paul also called everything else a four letter word (in the original Greek) compared to the surpassing worth of the knowledge of Christ. (Philippians 3:8) That’s because Christ is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:17), who upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3), who sits on an unrivaled  throne as King of the universe (Isaiah 6:1), in charge of angel armies (Heb 1:7), with eyes blazing with fiery holiness (Rev 1:14), a voice that thunders like crashing waterfalls (Rev 1:15), who made all things as all things were made for Him (Col 1:16), and will righteously judge the living and the dead at the end of time (Revelation 19:11). And this all culminates at the cross, where He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world for our sins (Rev 13:8).

Indeed, this is no mere Jewish carpenter.

Through Him we are called children and heirs of God (Rom 8:16-17). That means we get God; we are afforded the incomprehensible privilege of knowing this God through Christ. This is what we received when we received the gospel, and it all happened at the point of our conversion. Which means eternal life doesn’t begin when we die, eternal life begins when we come to know Christ. Eternal life isn’t just then and there, but it is a here and now reality for those who are in Christ.

In Christ alone, the glory of God is made manifest to us. In Christ alone, the blazing holiness of God is made tolerable and accessible to us. In Christ alone, the righteous Judge has become a righteous Father. In Christ alone, we can know God and not just know things about Him in a second-hand way.

In the life to come, we will be eagerly chasing down the unsearchable riches of His excellencies; and after an eternity we will not have even reached the foothills of the majesty of King Jesus and His kingdom.

Better than wealth, health, fame, sex, food, relationships, toys, self-esteem and all the glory of the world combined.

You get Christ.

Bryan Daniels

Herniated Discs and The Delight Of The Father

Turns out herniated discs are about as fun as a fart in a wet-suit.

On and off back pain from the past few months culminated this past weekend with sharp stabs to my lower back when I walk and a dull firm ache even when I sit still. When I went to the Dr. today I was informed a slipped lower disc was the cause of my considerable chagrin. The Dr. signed me up for an MRI but when I calculated how much I’d be paying out of pocket for it I respectfully declined.

Though I have two little boys who demand regular WWE Smackdowns and I coach two sports I have no clue as to how my back got into such a predicament. This past week I’ve been walking like an arthritic 120 year old trying to do the robot. I’m glad my source of pain has been entertainment for someone somewhere, maybe.

Herniated disc pain usually goes away on its own after a few weeks; only 10 percent require surgery. I’m praying mine won’t. I’m thankful for the health God has granted to me over the course of my life. After years of competitive football and being a reckless manboy I have never broken a bone, had major surgery, or incurred any major medical expenses.

I am especially thankful for familial blessings God grants that seem to be healing agents in and of themselves. After the particularly tough day at work (mainly due to the severe back pain and unforeseen medical expenses) I sat down on my recliner with my almost 1 year old son, Gideon, in lap. My three year old, Josiah, crawled up with us and my two lover boys commenced to laugh and kiss one another for the next 10 minutes or so (see my site banner photo for a sample). As their father I delighted in the whole experience. My son’s birth an irrepressible joy in me.

A little discomfort pales in comparison to such amazing graces.

I am also thankful no matter how bad, good, wise, dumb, weak or strong we may be or feel at any given moment, this is true: In Christ, we are never more or less than a son or daughter of Father God. If Christ’s blood was shed for us then the Father looks at us, in spite of all the entanglements of sin and selfishness, and sees a perfect spotless Son whom He is eternally pleased in (1 John 3:1).

God delights in His own glory, amen! He delights in Christ, absolutely!. But here is the biblical reality that makes me supremely uncomfortable almost daily. If I am in Christ, then…God…delights…in me (Zep 3:17). Yes, it is through His grace. Yes, I deserve wrath on my best days.

But the work and person of Christ has now replaced eternal disdain with Fatherly delight. Sworn arch enemies have been made adopted sons and daughters (Gal 4:6).

And a million bad days and herniated discs can’t hold back the contagious joy God has over His own children.

Bryan Daniels

“All Of the Founding Fathers Were Agnostics And Deists!”

In honor of President’s Day…Enjoy!

Chief of the least

In case you’re wondering what the fireworks, parades and cookout clamor is all about this time of year, let me give you a one sentence history lesson on July 4th: Independence Day is when Americans (winning!) celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence that happened on July 4, 1776, which declared American Colonial independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

I’m thankful the founding fathers had the backbone to stand up to the bloody Motherland and sign that Revolutionary document of epic proportions. Otherwise we’d all be sporting bad teeth and eating crappy food right now; Or even worse, obsessed with the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

There is another legacy I am thankful the FF left behind too. This one is to the chagrin of strange secular e-scholars armed with gobs of misinformation. If you do a tertiary Google search of the “Founding Fathers Religion” you just might walk away with an overwhelming impression that America was founded on Deism and Agnosticism.

As my scorned…

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The Gospel Whitney Houston Heard

Note: This is not an indictment on the eternal state of Whitney Houston’s soul. God will do right regarding what everyone deserves in the end.

I happened upon Whitney Houston’s funeral service yesterday while channel surfing. I only caught the last 45 minutes or so, but the last message caught my ear.

Pastor Marvin Winans delivered the eulogy at New Hope Baptist Church; Winans seems like a passionate articulate leader. But with stars from around the world in attendance and an audience of  millions in television attendance, he  dropped the proverbial gospel ball a bit. To his credit, when bringing up Matthew 6:33, he did stress the “Kingdom of God and His righteousness” before all things be added to us. But righteousness was equated to merely right living, not the righteousness that is only given through the perfect work and person of Jesus Christ. Pastor Winans last sermon point he stressed to the listening masses was this: We need to “keep God first” and make Him “our priority” in all things. I agree with him, but what gives us the strength to carry out such an impossible task?

Let me say I know I may be looking through all this with a negative lens. My wife is always surprised by my ability to find the touch of grey in every silver lining. Sometimes I seriously wonder if God has given me the spiritual gift of  discouragement. : )

I really don’t know what gospel Whitney heard throughout the duration of her church life. There may have been some thorough biblical Christ centered teaching that she accepted or rejected at one time. But I am treating the message at the funeral service as a microcosm of the broader message most people hear from American Christianity:

The gospel of behavior modification.

This type of gospel when fully lived out will lead well meaning men to become “twice the sons of hell” they once were (Matt 23:15). It is certainly powerless to lead any man or woman out of the grim demonic grips of drug and self addiction.

Did Whitney hear on a consistent basis that sinful man had to pull himself up by his own boot straps, activate his own faith, or just rearrange his lifestyle to fit God’s standards? I hope not. Because that gospel only births desperation in the hearer. Though it masquerades as a gospel of grace, that gospel is actually the bad news of law keeping mingled with very little good news. Jesus said the flesh “profits nothing” (John 3). Paul said the purpose of the law was to “reveal sin” (Romans 3). James said to fail in one letter of the law is to be “guilty of all of it” (James 2)

Our greatest issue is not that we are merely failing to be Christlike. That’s a given. Our greatest issue is that we are dead in our sins and need supernatural resurrection in Christ (Ephesians 2).

As Pastor Tullian Thcividijian says: “Jesus came first to effect a mortal resurrection, not a moral reformation-as his own death and resurrection demonstrate.”

I’m sure over the course of her life Whitney Houston probably heard the gospel of self-fulfillment, the gospel of behavior modification, and maybe even the prosperity gospel. But this may be the saddest commentary of all regarding Whitney’s death: Despite her Christian heritage I don’t know if she ever consistently heard the gospel of the bloody righteous Savior Who lived a perfect life she never could live, and died a perfect death she never could earn. This is the undeniable understated gospel with a resurrection power that can obliterate the deepest sins, weaknesses, and addictions.

Did Whitney ever hear this clearly? Do we?:

God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we may become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21)

A tragedy is a life lived in utter bondage. But an even greater tragedy is life everlasting in total bondage. May the biblical gospel we preach always address and free the captives of both.

Bryan Daniels

Real Marriage And Fairy Tales

My wife and I are reading “Real Marriage” by Mark and Grace Driscoll. We are only through the first two chapters and it has been a delightful experience thus far. I know there are many negative opinions and reviews regarding the work (I’ve read a few myself), but I have decided to reserve mine until I have read the book in full.

Also, I’d like to share a vid by Jefferson Bethke, the viral spoken word rock star who started an e-fire with “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” He actually has stated publicly that he wishes he would have tightened his language and theology down before airing that vid. As has been pointed out, Jesus didn’t hate all forms of “religion” and actually partook in “religious” acts while living on earth (going to the temple, enjoying the feasts, instituting the Lord’s Supper).  Bethke seems like a genuinely humble, God-loving bloke.

This vid on relationships and sex is stellar, and touches on what much of the “Real Marriage” book is about (Bethke goes to Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill):

If you’re married I hope you make Ephesians 5:25-32 the heart’s cry of your marriage. If you’re single don’t go chasing a Hagar in haste, God’s got every provision under control. And just maybe, you should read this: “Why You Should (Maybe) Stay Single.”

Bryan Daniels

ABC Award Ceremony (You love me, you really love me…)

(Visualize an image of an award here)

I usually don’t do these, but lately I’ve been making a concerted effort to connect to the greater blogging community  (particularly Christian bloggers). You should do so also. There are some genuinely creative, God-loving, interesting people out there in the e-community.

Here are the rules for this award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you:

Thank you very much to Real-Life Housewife for the (Awesome Blog Content) nomination. I am married to and in love with my own “Real-Life Housewife” and I have nothing but props for all the women who pull off married life, motherhood, house management, and work life with grace and humor. Props to you and your tribe of Proverbs 31 women!

2. There are no limits for how many fellow bloggers you can nominate:

Here are three I would recommend off hand:

The Ink Slinger-Pretty much a child prodigy writer/blogger who will give you hope that the next generation of young’uns aren’t just a bunch of CoD addicts and basers. He’s sixteen years old, people!

Not for Itching Ears-Jim, the founder, keeps everything Christ/cross centered in his writing. If you just want the simplicity of the cross, read up! If you want to be entertained, well….

Seek the Holy-Chris is a pastor I know personally who has an affinity for Reformed Theology, computer tech, and zombie slaying. Please go spam his site with glowing comments about Arminianism and Henry Blackaby… : )

3. Share some things about yourself alphabetically in just a word or two. (Or alternatively, just write the first word you think of)

A-Aslan-Teaching children to cuddle with hungry ruthless lions…

B-Big Hurt (my middle school nick name)

C-Condoleezza Rice. Great leader and role model. I once named a pet finch after her…

D-Dirk Nowitzki-Da Heat slayer vill Kaput you!

E-E‘s Talk Soup (remember that show? Awesome)

F-“Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of….” (everybody!)

G-Grenada-One of my more entertaining students is from there, claims to be apart of the Jamaican mafia.

H-Hell; that’s just the first thing I thought about….

I-Ignatius, seems like a pretty cool name…

J-Jessica, my beautiful wife. Josiah, my beautiful three year old.

K-Krazy with a capital “K.” It’s one step up on the sociopath scale above “Charlie Sheen.”

L-Los Lonely Boys-Whatever happened to them and did they ever figure out how far heaven is?!

M- Mayonnaise. Delicious condiment and the hilarious nickname of someone I know.

N-Never say Never- Justin Bieber Bible Study (wrote a post about that once)

O-for The Office. Just about the only show I’ll DVR. I’m a Dwight fan.

P-Piper. For my mancrush, John Piper.

Q-Quickbooks. I’ve never quite figured out how to use that software I downloaded on my computer five years ago.

R-Reformation. Thankful for that era in Christian history. Semper Reformanda!

S-Snake. Just killed one yesterday right near my backdoor; sorry, but with two little boys I don’t really care if it was poisonous or not…

T-Tullian Tchividjian. Grandson of Billy Graham, and a heckuva preacher man. Any takers on how to pronounce his name?

U-Unicorns. Yes, I love them too.

V-Vera Wang. My wife watches TV fashion shows (man card intact)

W-Weakling. As in the Weakling formerly known as Saul.

X-X-Files. I used to watch it. I think Chuck Missler did too.

Y-The Young and the Restless. Reminds me of my Nena, and unfortunately, Alzheimer’s.

Z-Zebraska. This was the title of a song I made up in third grade. “Zebraska, the most wonderful place in the world/ Zebraska, it’s for every boy and girl….” Those were the only lyrics…

Bryan Daniels