God Is Love And He Must Also Hate

I remember reading Johnathan Edward’s notorious sermon “Sinner’s in the hand of an Angry God” in English class my sophomore year in high school. Interestingly, it was a required reading for that public school classroom credit. I don’t recall, but maybe we were studying early colonial Puritan literature (IMO Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” would have been a better portrayal).

As a young shallow cultural Christian with very little grasp of grace that reading was a harrowing experience for me.

Now I can’t breakdown the literary merits of Edward’s sermon. I do know he wrote/spoke exponentially more about heaven than hell. But the theological content of his most famous sermon is, for some, a microcosm of everything that is wrong about modern strands of evangelical/fundamental/reformed/etc Christianity.

So it may be said: A massive God that can be angry at the tiny people He created is too petty to be worthy of worship. OR A God that hates is in direct contradiction with the God who “is love.” OR In the NT Jesus revealed a loving heavenly father, not a ticked off tyrant. And so on and so forth…

To which I say respectfully: Let’s pump our breaks a minute.

As a pretty rotten sinner who finds unique ways to stumble every day, of course I want God to be a merciful Father/Abba, full of invincible grace and unwavering love for me. And amazingly He is that, through His precious Son, Jesus.

But I don’t think a significant point should be lost here: In order to love, you must have some capacity to hate.

For example: Let’s say I were to tell you in conversation that I love the Jewish people and wish the best for them. Yet, in the very next sentence, I said I was emotionally neutral about the subject of the Holocaust. “No!” you may say, “If you love the Jewish people, you must hate what the Holocaust did to them!” And surely you’d be right.

To love some things, is to hate other things.

If I love children I will hate child abuse.

If I love my wife I will hate committing adultery against her.

Human emotion is wrapped around a fallen nature, so even our most righteous anger has remnants of jealousy, pride, greed and general sinfulness. But we mustn’t project those fallen attributes to a perfect God’s righteous anger. God’s love and anger, unlike ours, is rooted in His fundamental holiness. Unfortunately, we usually interpret words like wrath/hatred/anger  and even love through the grimy lens of our own limited human experience and hurts.

But the perfect man, Jesus, was angry with people at times, spoke of wrath much, and I’m sure felt something of hatred when confronting the hypocrisy of the hyper-religious Pharisees.

Jesus was angry at the money collectors who tarnished His father’s temple. Real, visceral, vein popping, table-turning, righteous rage. It’s not a stretch to say he genuinely hated what they were doing.

And yes, Christ graciously dinnered up and fellowshipped with the prostitutes and tax collectors. Yet He also sternly promised millstones and gnashing of teeth to the prideful and scoffers.

For God to really love a bride, He must hate what separates His bride from Him. God’s hatred is not a petty “flying off the handle” explosion of unstable men, it’s a holy rational hatred of the sin that is killing His image(s).

“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity” (Isaiah 61:8)

and conversely His bride must hate what separates Him from her:

“Let those who love the Lord, hate evil (Psalms 97:10)

What is most harrowing/heart-rending is that such holy hatred/anger/wrath was necessarily poured out on the perfect Son, Jesus, at the cross. The Son became “sin” for us, so that we could become sons and daughter like Him (2 Cor 5:21) Jesus took the proverbial bullet of wrath on our behalf, absorbed it fully, and even rose to show it would never…ever…touch us in this life or the next.

So God’s love and wrath doesn’t have to be torn asunder by our uneasy conjectures (1 John 4:10). And charges of cosmic child abuse do not have to be leveled against a heavenly Father who is wholly unique in His holiness.

The bare minimum fundamentals of the cross are too great a mystery to explain: In wrath, it pleased the Father to crush Christ for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:10), so that His love could be displayed in healing us of all guilt and sin(Isaiah 53:6) I’m sure I haven’t grasped a kindergarten level understanding of such grace.

Maybe that’s what old Johnny Edwards was getting at after all.

Bryan Daniels

When I was young….

“When I was young I was sure of many things; Now there are only two things of which I am sure: One is, I am a miserable sinner; and the other, that Christ is an all sufficient Savior. He is well taught who learns these two lessons”- John Newton, former 18th century slave trader and the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace”

Cultural Contradictions: Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday

Be grateful for what you have this season…Psyche! Covet what thy neighbor has!

Seen this one floating arond the internetz the past couple days. Worth a re-share. Hope you have a holiday filled with family, fun, and chillaxation. And:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)

Bryan Daniels

A Pre-Emptive Strike Against Thanksgiving Gluttony (and Dairy Queen)

I wrote something like this last year after the Thanksgiving festivities…I thought I’d share it this year before we gorge our bellies ; )

Buzzin’ on Grape Juice

Church culture intrigues me.

I am always curious as to how inconsistencies or contradictions are birthed in church traditions and cultural Christianity. Alcohol consumption is just one example. Especially in my own tradition (Baptist), abstinence from any alcoholic beverage, no matter the temperance exercised, is a prerequisite for any church leadership position. It is written with permanent ink in the church bylaws. And though this would be another post topic, I can never reconcile how drunk people in John 5 thought Jesus saved the best wine for last if He was only serving up watered down grape juice.

While we strain a gnat out of our wine glasses, one “camel” that is commonly overlooked in cultural churchianity (especially the Southern flavor) is gluttony (Leviticus 19:18). Yes, Thanksgiving is a celebration of faith, family and provisions (as it should be), but it has also become centered around ginormous meals that include ungodly amounts of red meat, lardy gravy, casseroles, sugary pies, and sweet tea. It is a time to brag about caloric intake and the intestinal fortitude it took to force down that last bite of pumpkin crunch.

I consume enough each Thanksgiving to get sick to my stomach for the rest of the evening and well into the night, the ache only subsiding after a couple BC powders and Sprites.

It’s not just during Thanksgiving.

Follow my example…to the buffett…

Look at church leadership. When was the last sermon you heard from the pulpit condemning the sin of gluttony? Even worse, when is the last time you saw a pastor who was clinically obese preaching from the pulpit, a likely persistent indulger in the sin of gluttony?

I’m always reminded of the story about the interaction between CS Lewis and a well-meaning pastor. The Pastor beseeched CS Lewis to quit his unseemly habit of cigar smoking, being it was such a nasty inelegant act for a Christian leader. Lewis quipped back to the portly pastor, in effect, “When you lose the fifty pounds you need to lose then you can come talk to me about bad habits.”

Many rotund pastors will rail against drugs, sex, and rock & roll without a batting of the eye, all while carrying their idol before the congregation within their size 44 waistband. Since when does treating our body as a temple only have to do with premarital sex and masturbation (1 Cor 6:19-20)? Of course it is wrong to murder, but why is it OK to slowly kill ourselves with our poor lifestyle habits?

It’s not just my Baptist brethren.

Supernatural Jenny Craig

No lie: I heard a personal account of one pastor in the apostolic/prophetic movement who was counseling a young single lady who should be considered medically obese. She suggested to the pastor that she felt she needed to lose weight and find a man. The pastor told her, “Don’t worry about that. God is going to grant you supernatural weight loss very soon, and you will find a man soon after that.” (!?!?!)

Do huh?

I don’t have time to address all the glaring problems with this miracle “cure” and the irreparable damage it may do to this girl emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Not only is that pastor making an irresponsible and whimsical false promise with no biblical truth in it, he is putting that woman’s very life in danger. Instead of speaking into her life a healthy lifestyle change (and the pitfalls of gluttony), the misguided pastor gave her a quick lightning bolt fix she would rather hear (tickling ears); Supernatural weight loss sounds better to me too than eating broccoli, tuna-fish, and sweating my butt off….

I’m not saying we should elevate gluttony and food excesses above any other vice, just a call to make an honest evaluation as to why we overlook some sins and not others. As with everything, it is not a physical issue but a spiritual issue. Addictions come in all forms, the most subversive types are usually the culturally accepted ones.

Thankfully, the gospel of Jesus Christ heals all addictions; and always gives grace towards our daily indulgences.

But as new creatures, if we are called to crucify the flesh (Galatians 2:20), that would seem to include the syrupy sweets and fried fatties we take with gleeful gratitude into our flesh. How would a dead man (or lady) react to the temptation to “super size” or “have it your way” when the opportunity daily presented itself?

To be crucified with Christ in part means the dynamic sway of Dairy Queen has died to us.

To be honest, I don’t like that. Because, after all, Dairy Queen has some really tasty fried onion rings.

Bryan Daniels

An Old Man Schools The Founding Fathers On Providence (Benjamin Franklin)

In the infancy of our Constitutional Republic, America’s founding fathers found themselves deadlocked after 5 weeks of heated deliberation (first makings of the filibuster?). Large and small states were in a standstill over state representation in Congress.

After many days of quiet observance an 81-year-old statesman of legendary prestige rose to address the Convention. These are the words of Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention on June 28, 1787 directly addressing George Washington. I know Franklin was a self-proclaimed Deist but modern Bible believing men and women would do well to have their minds this saturated in Scripture (some of this language flatly contradicts Deist doctrine). The old man despaired at the prospect that this budding country would be led by fallen “human wisdom.”

All the Scriptural parentheses are from me:

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings (James 1:17)? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection (Psalm 50:14-15).- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered (James 1:5-6).

All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor (Psalm 5:12). To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend (James 2:23)? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance (Romans 4:20)?

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men (Daniels 2:23). And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid (Matthew 10:29-31)? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1) I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages (Genesis 11:1-9). And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

Bryan Daniels

Say “Nice Doggie” and Pray You Don’t Have To Throw A Rock

Diplomacy is the art of saying, “Nice Doggie!” until you can find a rock.

Will Rogers

Not very long ago I was taking a friendly jog in my neighborhood. As I passed a house about a quarter of a mile from home out jutted two unfriendly pit bulls from the garage.

On a full-bore sprint.

Towards me.

I stopped in my tracks as they neared and watched in dismay as the leading dog went airborne about three yards from me.

I realized her aiming point was my right arm, which I subsequently stuck above my head in the nick of time as she flew by my torso. When she turned to collect her wits I found myself squared off eye to eye(s) with two angry pups. From the garage a woman’s voice rang out. An angel diplomat, and maybe a derelict owner, hollered the names of the dogs and ran to corral them as they stood staring me down.

She apologized and I continued my run (shaken). Sometimes the authority of a mediator can calm an angry beast.

As I ran, I was reminded of a childhood friend who encountered two stray pit bulls in the woods with his playmate. There was no owner to restrain the dogs for him. One of the dogs latched on to his face and commenced to tear it to shreds. Eventually, the friend was able to fend off the animals with a machete. Years and tens of thousands of dollars of facial surgery (and a court settlement) later and deep scars still remain from that attack.

Sometimes the authority of a sword is the only thing that can calm an angry beast.

Let’s hope and pray peaceful diplomacy rules the day for Israel and Palestine. I know it’s unlikely, maybe humanly impossible, for the “City of Peace” to preserve much longer without major battle conflict; but we should at least shun the sure international domino effect a Gaza War would have on invested nations.

How long will America be able to speak soft words to a rabid situation, while merely carrying her big sword and pocketful of rocks? How long until diplomatic solutions necessarily give way to machete solutions?

I don’t know.

This is why I’m glad I’m not the president. And it is one sure reason we should persist to pray for our political leaders making earth-shaking decisions in the crucible of the moment right now. Even the fiercest political opponents of the Obama administration better plead for uncommon wisdom on America’s behalf.

Lord haste the day humanity has exhausted its diplomatic and military resources, and the Prince of Peace takes his rightful place in the New Kingdom. Instability will give way to the unshakable One sooner now than ever, peeps.

Bryan Daniels

PS-If you’re a pitbull advocate, please don’t make the comments about that. Thanks.

Post-Election SackCloth and Ashes

I like what a local Baptist church sign marquee displayed the day after election: “Join us: Instead of 40 days of purpose, 40 days of repentance.”

Some say with clenched absoluteness,

“God is judging America!”

Which could be true. But in the midst of red-faced talking heads and predilections of coming doom we sometimes forget that judgment begins in the house of God first (1 Peter 4:17).

So I offer some post-election repentance on behalf of my fellow brethren and sist(ren), and mainly….on behalf of me. If you don’t consider yourself to be a apart of said “house” feel free to exclude yourself from the following tearing of garments!:

On behalf of my Republican brethren, I repent for pridefully acting as if my political stance is always the moral/spiritual/ high ground, from marriage to abortion to Fox News. We can appear to be right philosophically/religiously and still be very wrong in nature (Matt 23:27).

On behalf of my Democratic brethren, I repent for pridefully acting as if my political stance is always the moral/spiritual high ground, from welfare to women’s rights to MSNBC. The Red Letters of Jesus aren’t inherently more important than the rest of His inspired revelation (John 5:39).

On behalf of my Libertarian brethren, I repent for pridefully acting as if my political stance is always the moral/spiritual high ground, from the debt crisis to states rights to Ayn Rand. The Bible is the only totally inspired work of God, not the US Constitution (2 Tim 3:16).

On behalf of my non voting brethren, I repent for pridefully acting as if my political stance is always the moral/spiritual high ground, from end times prophecy to food storage to illuminati conspiracy theories. Jesus doesn’t want our vote for President anymore than He wanted to be the one up “Apostle” in the ancient Apollos/Paul argument (1 Cor 1:12).

So I personally turn, not mainly away from any of these convictions, but to something so much greater. This:

Christ is our treasure, only hope, and His love reigns supreme. We need not rescind into some monkish lifestyle. But our priorities should be blazingly clear in these days. The King lived, the King died, the King is coming again. Every president and king, living or dead, will one day bow to this One (Phill 2:10).

He is the only spiritual high ground, all other people and their ideologies must appear facedown before His righteousness.

Bryan Daniels

For my Papa, and for all veterans this day…

Chief of the least

[I wrote this after my Papa died six years ago. It’s about his last few days on earth. He was a World War II veteran and great debater]

Calloused hands that loved little dogs

and showed little boys how to hook a worm

Tremble now, involuntarily and soft

Armchair politician with a dagger wit

and humor more arid than the August Mojave

Forgets now, wets his own bed

Broad hard marine with a bulldog tattoo

and played keyboard for the church of st. waltz

Withered now, Hospice choir sings

First the grandson became nephew                                   

the nephew a Japanese conspirator

The sponge was a razor

the nurse a war criminal 

Escaped his cell block while sleeping

He always preferred the back door

No national day of mourning

No brash parade in his name

Just my hold it together sobs

The only sound left of another hero dying

Bryan Daniels

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George Washington Prophetically Speaks On Party Politics

Ol’ George predicted this current American mess a long time ago with harrowing prophetic insight. He saw the creeping danger of partisan parties (before they were even a factor in American politics) in the early constitutional republic he helped found. On his way out of office (1796) Washington warns us today:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

…Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.”

Farewell Address, George Washington


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