A Strange Everlasting Love For Bad Guys

My four-year old, Josiah, approached me with his Action Bible last night. Behind his bright brown eyes the wheels of his little inquisitive mind were churning.

Jesus died for bad guys
Jesus died with, and for, bad guys

“Hey daddy, who’s that?” he pointed to a picture of a thorn-crowned man hanging on a cross. (He knew the answer.)

“That’s Jesus”

“But who’s that?” he pointed to the thieves on either side, betraying his real question.

“Two bad guys….Jesus died with bad guys to show that He died for bad guys….because He’s the good guy.”

“Even when we’re bad guys, Jesus died for us and loves us.”

“Oh….I love Jesus,” he said. That little confession from the lips of my child is enough to make a Puritan do the cabbage patch.

At our worst moment, worst sin, worst stumbling, most clumsy tripping and cursing and falling off the cliff of our own foolishness; He loves us in that moment, in the blessed now.

Not what we’ll become when we figure out this religion thing. What we are in the present.

Not when we’ve modified our behavior to appease a cultural Christian standard yoked around our throats. He takes all our hangups and foulups and chokeholds and then crushes the Son with them in an everlasting display of love.

This is an eternal, and to the hardened world, strange love.

Josiah is sometimes illogically mean to his younger brother, Gideon. I am often unfeeling and impatient with my younger weaker “brothers.” Jesus loves us both.

Josiah sometimes doesn’t share his favorite toys with others. I often don’t share my resources and money with the ministries and poor who need it most. Jesus loves us both.

Josiah whines and pitches fits when he has to clean his room. I haven’t washed my car in ages (ever?). My wife can attest to my consistent inability to pick up my shower towels. Jesus loves us both.

Depending on the hour of day, Josiah and I can be cantankerous, immature, unthoughtful, and selfish. We are both grateful for the good guy who loves and died for bad guys.

Like my little boy, I need an undeserving love lavished on me everyday.

A no-strings-attached no-prerequisite-required love new every morning.

The lifelong confession of professional stumblers and bad guys can never be more simple or profound:

Jesus loves me and died for me.

Bryan Daniels

Nicolas Cage and Left Behind: I Want Your Candid Opinion….

Nick Cage is not Rapture ready
A national treasure left behind

My affection for cheesy movies is well documented, so I’ll probably get a group up to watch the midnight showing of this…. : ) I’m also a big fan of overblown Nicolas Cage performances and his ever-changing joker face.

Not rapture ready

If the rapture happens while I’m in the theater, I will have left this world in one happy ironic state. I’m still a bit perturbed the Oscars snubbed Kirk Cameron for his original Left Behind role of Buck Williams. If that’s not worthy of a Lifetime Achievement Award what is?

On another note Tim Lahaye, the creator of the 16 part (?!) Left Behind books series, says, “The plot line (for the movie) is nothing like the book.” I’m assuming that’s a good sign for the movie.

Maybe the producers of the new Left Behind will take some riveting plot notes from my friends at Rapture Ready:

If you do take the mark (of the beast) then nothing can be done for you—you will suffer the malignant ulcer making the rest of your life almost unbearable. Did you ever have a canker sore in your mouth? If so, then you know how painful that one little canker sore was. Now think of having canker sores all over your body, on your genitalia, in your mouth. Think how painful and unbearable your life will be.

Yeah think about that…unless you’re eating something right now.

What do you think my friends?

Bryan Daniels

PS. This is still, by far, one of the best things on the internet:

God Don’t Need No Street Fighters: Contending or Contentious?

Contending is not synonymous with being contentious (Jude 1:3).

Being “for the faith” is not necessarily the same as always expressing our disdain “against” something/one.

It’s easy to get caught up in a theological witch-hunt.

For me, it’s kinda fun. Go to the archives of this blog, and I’m ashamed to say, you may find one or twenty examples.

ryu

Shooting the wolf and being the hero to the sheep is gratifying business. It’s like Call of Duty, but instead of Nazi Zombies we’re taking out heterodox super pastors. God and world needs us, right? Cause there’s a heretic or demon lurking behind every dark corner or pair of hipster glasses.

In some cases there may be.

But I don’t know if we are doing any service to the King who is sovereign by acting like the world is always spinning out of control. God’s truth will march on even if we don’t enlist as His elite team of orthodox freedom fighters. Narrow is the way and there are few who find it, but the grace of God is strong enough to push all manner of theological diversity through that impossible door.

Not heresy mind you. Diversity.

We shouldn’t make “the way” narrower by our pet traditions. Funneling everyone/thing out until we’re only surrounded by a couple of proud folks clinging only to their TULIPs. Or translation of the Bible. Or conspiracy theories. Or denomination (or non) of choice.

And some may say, “Well, Paul called people out…” He did. But what’s our fascination with calling people out? To show that we have some kind of inerrant apostolic insight others don’t? Paul was given a specific divine call to nurture and defend a sensitive movement that was in its utter infancy.

“But God gave me the gift of discernment.” He probably did. Instead of wielding that gift like a drunk Corinthian, why don’t we use that discernment to bathe the person in tearful intercession?

Instead of a drive by internet comment how about emailing the offending party? Take them to coffee? Get to know their story? Ask questions?

The whole doctrine of church discipline (that we ignore today) begins with a brother lovingly and personally confronting a fellow brother. Not a hasty blog rant submitted to the masses about another’s error.

I know some mega Christian leaders are out of our personal scope of contact. Sure, ice cream with the Pope is out of the question. And I’m definitely not saying we should never point or even publish some thoughtful contrarian words to certain movements/ministries. But the reactionary knee jerk potshots from self constructed towers of ivory should not be our staple message.

For example:

I’ve made about a thousand more snarky comments over Joel Osteen’s theology than one prayerful utterance over his ministry. Hypocritical I know. And because of my fallen flesh, I’ll probably be clowning his love for Oprah tomorrow.

Speak the truth. But lets not speak it until we know it’s seasoned with salt, grace, love, and a broken heart. Truth is powerful. It shouldn’t be thrown around in a fit of rage like a Ryu fireball.

Keep praying.

Keep weeping.

Keep contending.

Make Christ, who is “full of grace AND truth”, the center of it all (John 1:14)

Peace and grace and truth to you peeps,

Bryan Daniels

Four Parenting Haikus For Milk Dud Lovers

I took one Creative Writing class in college. Much of the class involved sitting in a circle tribunal of your peers and having your work torn apart. It was horrifying. My haikus, among other forms of writing, were “too overt”. Blogging is a much safer writing experience. I don’t have to witness the disgusting or apathetic facial expressions my work produces in my blogging peers.

But here’s my shot at haiku redemption, just for fun:

Stepped on a Milk Dud

Scraped it off and smelled it

Wasn’t a Milk Dud

The above just happened to my wife yesterday ;)

 

Kisses on the cheek

Holding hands at Wreck It Ralph

Mama is his girl

 

I am Spider Man

Gideon is Bumblebee

Dad, you be the Hulk

.

Spork is gripped tightly

Eyes peek at mashed potatoes

Dinner time prayer

 

Bryan Daniels

 

 

Living, Moving, and Death By Facebook

Tom, the lead character of Tennessee William’s “The Glass Menagerie”, once hit me with a haymaker of truth in a college literature class. The quote goes:

“I’m tired of movies! Look at them! …..You know what happens? People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! Yes, until there’s a war. That’s when adventure becomes available to the masses! Everyone’s dish, not only Gable’s!……But I’m not patient. I don’t want to wait till then. I’m tired of the movies and I am about to move!”

Written in 1944, what an indictment on our manic digital age culture.

I see ninth graders everyday who have made smartphones a natural extension of their bodies. The hypnotizing draw of Text messaging/Instagram/Facebook/Twitter has them isolated and slumped over in room full of real human interaction. This grip is so tight on their psyche that studies show twentysomethings have begun to acquire the arthritis of their elders because of the years of unnatural worship posture they’ve given to their technology.

Old men and women used to break their bodies down by hard years and long days of mining and farming.

[pullquote]This younger culture is destroying their bodies not by their work ethic, but by the fractional death of a thousand tweets.[/pullquote] This younger culture is destroying their bodies not by their work ethic, but by the fractional death of a thousand tweets. We’re living with one of the first a-literate generations: They can read and write they just don’t care to.

“Until there’s a war” Tom says. The greatest generation sacrificed everything to pass this country through the crucible of World War II. I wonder what my late Papa, a Marine veteran and Iwo Jima survivor, would say about jobless thirty year old Peter Pans killing Nazi Zombies with their thumb skills. Papa had a colorful way with words. Use your sanctified imagination.

Many of these poor kids can’t sit down and have a coherent conversation for more than 3 minutes. The invincible itch of Instagram is enough to overwhelm all interpersonal skills.

With a dearth of “options” at our fingertips we’ve become dull boys and girls. We can’t live because imageswe’re so distracted. Like Tom, it’s easier for us to go to the movies instead of moving.

Before I sound too much like a sanctimonious Ned Flanders grumpy old man type let me say:

I’m guilty. Totally.

My dad doesn’t even have an email.

His dad could barely stand to use a phone.

I go through withdrawals if I haven’t checked my Facebook in 24 hours.

Before the Industrial Revolution the average peasant wouldn’t even be able to travel outside of their small farm community, much less their farm. Almost none could read. Most of them wouldn’t live to see 35. Yet we have millions of people, places and things at our virtual fingertips everyday and we’re crippled by cat memes.

Let me say, I’m maxed out. I don’t care if Pinterest, Google Plus, or the next big social thing explodes and puts Mark Zuckerberg out of business with MySpace’s Tom. With active blogging, Facebooking and Twittering I’ve reached my breaking point.

After devoted family time, teaching, track, and home duties culminates towards the weekend, “moving” doesn’t sound like a sweet option. I’d rather just go to the movies and absorb someone else’s story.

But

Moving is everyone’s dish, not only Matt Damon’s.

Just move. Go start that ministry. Go do that workout routine. Go write that book. Go learn to dance. Go try to cook.

Go Fail.

Fail Spectacularly.

Let’s not be the tragic people Tom is speaking of: ones who watch action flicks but never take action. Ones who sing love songs but never love. Ones who long for a superhero to save the world, but never put on the red cape Christ provides with His own blood.

Go move.

Bryan Daniels

5 Pictures That Made Me LOL This Week

As a much needed short vacation from heavy blog topics like “DJesus Uncrossed,”  “Double Lung Transplants,” and “Plagiarism”, here’s some levity for you good folks.

From 22 words, a couple of “inspirational” hipster poster submissions, edited to reflect reality:

I'm a Geography teacher, so this one is dear to my heart...
I’m a Geography teacher, so this one is dear to my heart…

bridge

From “People of Walmart”. My obsession with Walmart is obvious by now. This. is. too. awesome.

Walmart, Nickelback, Kiss and a Malibu?
Walmart, Nickelback, Kiss and a Malibu? #mindblown

From Mark Driscoll, a tie I would actually wear, even if I was at a nude beach. OK, sorry for that visual. Spurgeon is a documented mancrush of mine.

spurgeon

As a father to two little boys, I can fully testify to this fact:

legostep

Hope you got a chuckle.

Peace and grace,

Bryan Daniels

DJesus UnCrossed and What Should Really Disturb Us

I wasn’t going to write about this.

But then I read the Christian responses. And then I read the Christian responses to the Christian responses.

So to ensure I am completely irrelevant here is my Christian response to the Christian responses of Christian responses on the Saturday Night Live sketch this past weekend.

Djesus Uncrossed

Saturday Night Live did a little tongue in cheek sketch allegorizing the life of Christ as a Quentin Tarantino film (Django Unchained style). In “Djesus Uncrossed” Christ was displayed as a vengeful mob boss going on an explicit revenge murder spree of his Roman enemies. I actually saw it live and chose to change the channel. I knew it was just satire yet it didn’t sit well with me.

Like any Tarantino work it was completely over the top. Mind you, this was a spoof of a Tarantino movie so exaggerated and ridiculous violence should be assumed.

It was intentionally irreverent.

There was a slight reek of blasphemy.

Some Christian commentators decried the silly portrayal as a borderline hate crime to Christianity. Their rationale: SNL would never dare portray Mohammed (who actually was a warrior) in such a manner, for fear of retribution.

I can sympathize a little bit with that; but since when did the world accurately portray Christ? That’s not the commission of SNL producers. That’s the church’s gospel work.

The whack job emperor Nero blamed Christians for the burning of Rome. He stuck a stake through the innocent boys and girls and lit them afire for his dinner parties. When others falsely accuse you, “be thankful” the most falsely accused Man in the world said.

And from SNL’s side, the joke wouldn’t work unless you partnered a subject notorious for peace and love (Jesus) with a subject notorious for über violence and gore (Tarantino). Shows that rely on press and viewership are going to go for shock value from time to time to drum up their brand. So, my panties aren’t quite as wadded as they first were over this.

Others have said that this portrayal proves that modern Christianity has militant and violent overtones. Slow your roll.

Jesus very well may need better PR, but I say the response to this spoof proves Christianity is not, even in its fledgling American context, a violent religion. SNL poked irreverent fun at the historical Christ on primetime TV and the only backlash was some cheeky articles and ticked off blogs?

A cartoonist in Denmark could even illustrate Jesus the Prophet in an unfavorable light and I guarantee you flaming riots would not permeate the whole Bible Belt because of it.

There still may have been some relevant truth I believe the SNL clip exposed. The tarnished image of God in Hollywood minds can’t help but get it partially right some times. And that sliver of truth is enough to disturb me rightly.

Jesus did come as a stricken Lamb then.

He will soon come as a roaring Lion.

The world saw a beat down unimpressive Jewish dude with no following.

The world will soon see a risen royal King of countless angel armies.

It won’t look like a trite and cheesy SNL skit. It will look like the invincible unfolding of an eternal Kingdom where an Enthroned Monarch reigns with perfect love and authority.

Until He makes all things right side up, our simple upside down command from Him is unchanged for all ages: Love Him and love the people He has entrusted to us.

Especially the scoffers.

The scoffing masses didn’t bother our humble Master on the way to His death tomb. Let’s not presume we are above such dishonor as His servants.

Bryan Daniels

Double Lung Transplants and Graceful Words

burden

My chest rises and falls effortlessly. I sleep and the involuntary act of breathing expands and contracts my diaphragm.

In my nose.

Lungs fills up.

Out of my mouth.

Lungs spill out.

Unconscious.

Easy.

She seemed more aloof than usual. Her notebook check yielded dismal results. Red Zeroes peppered the gradebook. Her smile was a shadow of its former self.

I warned her of her recent failures, like a teacher of the law warns a Samaritan woman.

“I’m trying to take care of mom,” she said,”She’s been in and out of the hospital a lot lately. She’s on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.”

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis;

I have no clue what those words mean in the technical sense; Only that those words can shatter a ninth graders fragile psyche into a million pieces. They make linear equations and exponential functions seem like a cruel fool’s errand.

“I’m so sorry…well, I’m sure your mom wouldn’t want your grades to slip……” was my half-hearted vacuous response. That teachable moment slipped through my fingers like a jello covered baby.

And I’m reminded of the quote by Ian McClaren:

“Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.”

Everyone we meet is a soul, not a hollow tree. There may be thousands of insecurities, burdens, and scars they are battling on the inside in any given second. Still waters don’t gaurantee still deeps.

May we speak words of grace like our big brother that lighten the unbearable yoke.

Bryan Daniels

Plagiarism And The High Calling Of Unknown Bloggers…

plagiarism by another blogger

I remember a couple months ago I happened on a fellow blogger’s site through a twisted path of gravatars and comment sections. The first thing I noticed there was a curious post eerily similar to one I had published the day before. Upon further investigation I found it was almost exactly what I had published the day before.

The title was changed. A few sentences were changed. But whole sections were obviously copied and pasted and left unchanged from my original piece. I looked for my name as a reference/footnote/shoutout and found it nowhere. No linkage love at all.

Roughly 800 words of unique thought. Misattributed.

Imitation (plagiarism?) is the highest form of flattery…So I was flattered, and I also wondered (here’s where my shameless pride comes in):

If the original blogger/author’s name was CS Lewis or Donald Miller would a reference be shared then?

I see and share my fair share of quotes from theological and literary giants. Many quotes I share I first found through another’s Twitter, Facebook, or blog. Very few quotes do I actually find through personally reading the native work. So I rely largely, and maybe disingenuously, on the careful reading of others.

I’ll continue sharing those quotes too (and so should you). Because there is some redemptive value in using social media as a pithy sounding board.

But

For example: Some may get the misguided impression that I’m a bibliophile of books by reformed dead guys. Not at all. For the most part, I don’t like to read Puritan literature, I like to have read Puritan literature. Happening upon a penetrating internet exhortation by Spurgeon is much easier than sloshing through a run-on exposition of Hebrews by John Owen.

Because of our natural-born predisposition to performance and praise of man, we wear other’s quotes like our own spiritual badge of honor.

And when the quote is from an unknown dude with a minimal platform, giving credit is less attractive to us. If we’re not gonna score points with our tribe then what’s the point? Amirite?!

So I’m personally committed to getting better at this. There are some flat-out brilliant folk in the little blogging circle I run in who can write and wax philosophically like the second coming of Francis Schaeffer. Regular warrior-poets like

JS Park

Danny Anderson

TE Hanna

Linden Wolfe

and many more.

So share and give some love to the ordinary guys and gals who are doing the extraordinary work  of the Kingdom with no adulating masses to prop up their work. And even if your audience is One with zero traffic on the stat page, you still have a unique and gifted voice the world needs. Keep using it Beloved til it’s all used up for His glory.

Who Are The Little Known Writers/Bloggers You Would Like To Share?

Peace and grace,

Bryan Daniels

3 Reasons To Stop Quoting Gandhi

Gandhi

He was a great worldwide leader of the peaceful civil disobedience movement. American Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. saw him as a blazing forerunner to their cause for equality.

Gandhi spoke and lived out a wealth of worthy truth; I would never suggest we should ignore all of it. God is the God of truth, so we should be confident enough to claim it wherever it springs from. For clarification: my main issue is the ad nauseam use of one particular Gandhi quote, provided almost exclusively by Christians as a rebuke to other Christians. It goes:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

So take a few deep breaths. This isn’t a moratorium on all things Gandhi (step away from the unfollow button).  Here are 3 reasons I personally wouldn’t exhort fellow Christians with this particular quote:

Gandhi May Not Have Liked Himself As A Christian

Sure, British Imperialism put a deservedly nasty taste in Gandhi’s mouth. And he fought it beautifully with counter intuitive peaceful resistance.

But Gandhi was a man with a fallen nature too. He abandoned his wife to gallivant with a German bodybuilder. He conducted some sexually strange “spiritual marriage” rituals with young girls.

Maybe worse: Gandhi had blatantly racist views fueled by his staunch belief in the Hindu caste system. Black South Africans had the same struggle with Britain the Indians did, yet Gandhi seemed to sympathize with the white establishment saying of them,

“We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do.”

Black political leaders like Martin Luther King Jr may have loved to have coffee with their social justice idol, but that would likely never happen given Gandhi’s prejudicial presuppositions.

The Reciprocal Truth Would Be Rejected

Imagine a Christian leader standing up before the media masses and saying to the modern world,

“I like your Gandhi, but I do not like your Hindus”

or

“I like your Muhammad, but I do not like your Muslims.”

Doesn’t sound as cute and enlightened, eh?

Would that pastor be lauded as a high emissary of other worldly wisdom? No. He’d likely be railroaded out of town as some small-minded bigot. To be so dismissive of such a large diverse group is the opposite of careful nuance. But Gandhi gets a pass where he shouldn’t.

Jesus Already Covered This Perfectly

The Jesus that Gandhi speaks of like a flavor preference covered this one a long time ago. There are many penetrating biblical labels for “Christians” who are absolutely nothing like Christ:

“Lost” “Blind” “Dead” and “Goats” just to name a few.

Jesus the Prophet called this way before Gandhi the pacifist did. He knew many would claim Him who had nothing to do with Him.

Yes, there is some pertinent truth in the Gandhi quote. Because certainly, blood-bought born-again Christians aren’t perfect. But to suggest the geo political arm of British Imperialism or Southern White racism are synonymous with being “in Christ” is to ignore the nature of the King and Kingdom altogether. Instead of quoting a fallen man to make our point, let’s quote the perfect risen King of all men (Mat 7:21-23)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven….”

But what of sincerely sputtering and stumbling Christians who are still a dim reflection of the Son? Jesus the Savior beautifully deals with this conundrum. He does it with a power greater than a million British empires or Pacifist movements. Jesus does it with

Grace.

Grace for the struggling Christian who doesn’t measure up to Gandhi’s Jesus ideal. Grace for the “Invisible” children of Calcutta who Gandhi would never dare touch because of religious legalism. Grace for Mr. Gandhi if he simply wanted it.

Grace for me.

Grace for you.

Grace that fills the daunting gap between who we are and who we will finally be. Grace covered and saturated and splattered with the blood of a precious Son, not a philosopher. Above anything else, let that be the story we’re known for sharing to our fellow brothers and sisters who stumble yet yearn to be like their adopted heavenly Father.

Bryan Daniels