Let’s Not Waste Our Vapor On Safety

Coffee with Jesus-2

It’s easy to reduce people to walking trees.

But she’s not just a mean girl who spreads nasty sexual rumors about others.

She’s a maladapted splintered soul who was molested by her uncle at the age of four.

He’s not just a hopeless stoner who skips school to smoke and fight club with his buddies.

He’s a directionless fatherless son trying to take care of a mother struggling with meth addiction.

I recently read about a morbid scandal in California that included explicit sexual acts. At a Lutheran preschool. Between four-year olds. My heart hemorrhaged at that news.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to home school my sons forever and a day. Shelter them from the nasty asteroids of the world and demons who live in children of men. We could live on the fringes of town with the doomsday preppers, cursing the darkness while drinking my pet goat’s milk and storing up an arsenal of Walking Dead level weaponry. Safe from the stains of fellow humanity.

But it’s hard to reach people with your back turned to them.

It’s easier to cry “anathema” from a proud hill than enter uncomfortably into the valley that’s cursed. Only armed with the counter intuitive swords of intercessory prayer, sacrificial love, and words of peace.

The world’s default is darkness. And we have the only illumination that will quell it.

God never called us to safety. He called us to salt and light living, but not safety. Even in a sanitized bubble existence, germs and cancer can reach us there. Old age will reach us there. The question then is not how or when we die, but what we die for.

We’re all given a fleeting vapor to work with.

I’ll do my God-given best to protect my sons from the wiles of the world; but they’ll have to jump from the nest soon enough. Wherever they land I pray they will each take ownership of their own cross. That they will work out the implications of being in, but not of, a world that is both lethal and beautiful. Perilous and precious. That it would be done with hard thinking and risky living.

In the process maybe they’ll learn how to live well and die well. The hardest part is the simplicity of “just living.”

It’s a process their daddy hasn’t quite figured out yet.

And I pray they grow to see all people as precious souls not stone facades. Bruised, neglected, twisted, torn, souls. That they’d be better than their daddy in that regard. That they’d see their overwhelming need to receive and grant this indiscriminate grace.

A living grace found in one person:

Jesus. Only Jesus. Just Jesus.

Bryan Daniels

Why We Should Never Get Writer’s Block

God blesses giving, so every use of language, down to the lowliest tweet, ought to be thought of as a gift to others. But when we give, we do not run out of what we are giving. If we are giving language that is thought through, language that is edifying, calculated to bless the other, then what on earth makes us think God would let us run out? (Douglas Wilson “Wordsmithy”)

To My Lover Girl: 8 Reasons I Don’t Deserve Her

 

My lover
Yeah, she’s hot.

1. She is deeply in love with the person of Jesus Christ; More than she’ll ever love me (that’s a good thing). When I first met her she had an irresistible contagious quality about her walk and talk. Confession: I’m a bit jealous over my wife’s intimacy with another dude…..named Jesus.

2. She’s seen me naked numerous times and hasn’t laughed or thrown up once…as far as I know.

3. She’s a hot little red-headed senorita. I’m a chubby balding white dude.

4. She makes me laugh. She’s one of the few people in the world who can actually make me laugh out loud. If making fun of people on TV were a degree we’d be black belt. As a side note, she has a GREAT laugh (too glorious to describe).

5. She’s an excellent mother to our two sons. She would literally punch a grizzly bear in the throat if she felt a threat to her boys. Her “boys” includes me too.

6. She’s a hard worker and savvy business lady. Along with full-time mommy duties she’s building her own business to help out with the bills. As a natural salesperson she could sell rehab to Lindsey Lohan.

7. She puts up with my childishness. I get grumpy when I’m hungry. I’m not a good handy manny. I watch Spongebob with Josiah when I should be paying the Comcast bill.

8. She’s my wife. My help mate. My covenant partner. My little lover girl.

I thank God He delights to give us what we don’t deserve.

Our “first dance” wedding song, still relevant today:

Bryan Daniels

The Beautiful Gift Of Ugly Love This Valentine’s Day

Familiarity to a Bible verse can breed negligence.

We’ve see it on Tim Tebow’s eyepaint and memorized it in VBS when we were four years old. But we should not approach John 3:16 lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”

“For God so loved….”

We can never get over that truth. We can never get past it and on to deeper matters.

There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the most emphatic form of love. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning,

“God intensely loved the world in this way….”

God is not your distant deadbeat dad. God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions.

Stop reading, turn the computer off, and let that settle down into your soul deeps.

The transcendent One is an emotional being. Human emotional makeup is so twisted with jealousy and prone to instability. But we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.

Unlike us, the Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His jealousy is a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or security guard with mace spray. He doesn’t dwell in a cloud of unknowing.

He burns with perfect passion.

He delights to love;

He delights to manifest this love to the world.

“For God so loved the world…”

This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only.

Every one.

The redneck dude that cut you off in traffic and showed you his tall finger.

The online bully chick who is spreading nasty Facebook rumors about your sex life.

The Pharisee. The prostitute. Republican. Democrat. Even the Independent. Rich. Poor. Catholic. Atheist. There is no distinction in the kingdom of free grace. Divisive human categories be damned.

We’re all in this great cosmic mass of fallen humanity together.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”

This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him:

“There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies who want to wipe us from the earth and murder our family name. Now, I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my whole kingdom.”

That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a billion billions.

This is a face melting, soul rocking, mind exploding divine arrangement.

My sons would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending them to die for a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the nice and clean, but the vile and dirty. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the shallow human realm of categorizing.

God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling or obligatory side hug.

God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the snarling mass of wretched humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with a holy hand meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind.

The ugliest most beautiful sight in the universe.

Terrifying.

Irresistible.

Crazy.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

All the flimsy little preconceived groups we place people in are futile in eternity. It may be red state/blue state, black/white, rich/poor, or any other temporary niche. But there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will perish without the Son or those who will live with Him. Those who acquire God’s deserving justice or those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.

In one thousand years nothing else will matter above that.

We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”

There is much that the word “believe” entails.  It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts with joy in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with the power in Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.

Maybe repentance is the gift we really need this Valentine’s Day. Whether we’re married, dating or single:

Repent for chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs.

Repent for allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness.

Repent for my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society.

Repent for believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around.

Repent because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been fully realized in me.

The Gift Of Ugly Love

The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not sex, roses, cheap chocolate and steak dinners. The world says love looks like a suave young couple dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another over candlelight.

God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten like a rented redheaded step mule, and scorned by all, even his own Father (Isaiah 53:10-11). Do we desire the pretty former love over the ugly latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).

And may we again return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again; And where the beauty of ugly love is the most precious priceless diamond we can receive.

What’s a way you can share this gift to others this Valentine’s Day?

Bryan Daniels

PS. I’ve violated one of my main blogging rules with the daunting length, forgive me, as I believe the topic is worth it.

The Forgotten Ministry of Listening

“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them…Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either;…Secular education today [circa 1938!] is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously,…Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Life Together”)

Fellas, The Perfect Valentine’s Gift Card For Your Special Lady….

Doing Big Things Women WearI pass by this delightful sign every week to and from church. It gives me a chuckle every time. Embrace that extra cushion with a fierceness, ladies. But I don’t really want to know what “slightly used” means… *shudder* …I hope it’s not lingerie….*double shudder*

Big ups from a big and tall boy. And may we all endeavor to “Do Big Things” no matter what our current spatial situation may be.

Bryan Daniels

Four Extraordinary Blog Writing Tips From An Ordinary Blogger

I don’t have a doctorate in blogging studies.

I’ve only been doing this for two years and some change. But I read dynamic viral blogs with huge e-followings. And I also read many thought-provoking blogs with not so huge e-followings.

I learn from everyone. None of this is groundbreaking info, just tools I picked up after a couple of years of poor trading. As a service to the awesome folks in my loyal e-circle here are my four top tips for succesful blog writing:

Write about what you love

Everyone is an expert on something….Oh, you don’t think you are? Let me ask:

What do you day dream about when you’re at work/church/school?

Now go write about it.

Food? Family? Crossfit? Relationships? Mini schnauzers? The “Walking Dead”? A TV show may seem like a trite topic to consistently blog about. But there are literally thousands of WD crazies who’d love to find an e-community that shares their passion.

The world doesn’t need less passionate writers. Half hearted writers produce half-hearted readers and no real following. Might as well be etching your posts on the floor of the Pacific.

No topic no passion is too narrow. It’s the world-wide web for Mary’s sake, someone out there shares your love.

Shorter is better

For blogging this may be the most important advice I can give. I’ve learned it the hard way.

This isn’t writing a thesis or some academic journal. If your word count reaches higher than 1,000 words you need to break the post up into a series. I try to keep my posts around 600 words (this one is 575). First time Internet visitors will scan before they engage. Intimidate them with length and you’ll lose them forever.

If readers want a longterm commitment they’ll pick up a book. They don’t, that’s why they’re at your blog. This “shorter” principle also goes with sentence length and paragraph length. Our collective attention spans are shorter than ever, so you better believe your audience reflects that.

Find your own unique voice

No one here is John Donne or John Piper or Jon Acuff. People know where to find their work. They want to read something from your unique perspective not some parroted regurgitation.

Talk about your quirks, your family, your fears, your triumphs. Be a real person not a ghost writer.

You have a specific God-given voice no one else in the world has. People aren’t reading your blog to hear the echo of someone else. They want to sit down and have coffee with you. They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t. Be conversational and use words to engage not impress.

Aesthetics Matter

This isn’t a book with static text pages. It is a comprehensive social experience. Make it simple and attractive. Make it clean and user-friendly. You may boast the literary skills of GK Chesterton, but if a reader gets a migraine from your theme forget about a following.

As a new self-hoster I am trying to get better at this. I may have contracted plug-in diarrhea with my new-found freedom so expect some scale backs here in the near future.

One or two photos may illustrate nicely. But bolding, italics, and especially headings (H2!) will make your main idea pop.

There it is. Top secret blogging tips from a non doctorate blogger. Free of charge to you my dear readers (and fellow bloggers).

What tips do you have for first time bloggers?

Bryan Daniels

I Want To Teach (And Love) Like Mr. Wright

I recently garnered “Teacher of the Month” honors from my educator peers. Though it had more to do with being a team player than my teaching prowess I was grateful. I also got a $20.00 gift card to Walmart to go with it, which as you know is one of my fave places in the world.

This past week I took on an Algebra class for a coworker who will be on maternity leave for 6 weeks. Until Spring Break I’ll be lesson planning for my Geography class (which will have a sub) and teaching the Algebra 1 class.

And coaching track and field for kicks and giggles too.

Mr Wright, of teaching legend, is a boss and the type of teacher every teacher seeks to emulate and every student loves. But I don’t know if I’d ever have the backbone to set off classroom pumpkin bombs and light student’s hands on fire. I wonder what parents think about having to sign legal waivers for every new term.

The holy grail of public education, “Classroom engagement”, doesn’t seem like an issue for him.

His instructional practices aren’t the only thing I’m challenged by. Mr Wright has a big sensitive heart for young people. As preteens get more cocky, pimply, emotional, mouthy, and hardened they become inherently harder to love. That’s why secondary education must be a calling, not a job.

These aren’t just pesky punks, they’re broken souls. These aren’t random shells of flesh, bones and hormones, they’re images of a good and holy Creator.

You can clearly see Wright’s heart has been refined and made soft by the birth and upbringing of his physically disabled son. A son that has taught him that an atrophied body and indeliberate self violence are an occasion to know this: Everything, teaching, fathering, disabilities, everything, boils down to love.

I have two precious impressionable souls entrusted to me everyday. My sons get the short end of the laptop or cable news way too often. May the way I steward my time, energy, and resources display they are dearly cherished and valuable in their father’s eyes.

So a short salute to Mr. Wright: For challenging me to become a better teacher and father. And living with engaging simplicity the timeless truth; without love, I am nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3).

What past or present teacher made a great impact in your life?

Bryan Daniels

Cheesy Movies And Gospel Adornment (SHARK-O-SAURUS!)

I’m a sucker for the cheesiest movies.

The Attack of SHARK-O-SAURAS!!!

I mean, overtly cheesy movies. I gravitate to them like a moth to a flame. Pretentious acting mixed with terrible special effects hooks me every time. I was recently transfixed by “Legend” (1985), which features an elf played by a young unibrowed Tom Cruise. It’s also replete with Goblins and a pair of endangered unicorns.

Tom Cruise in Legend
The Unicorn and Unibrow unite.

My wife saw the melodramatic cheese and immediately said, “Don’t record it.”

“Seriously, don’t record it.”

“Bryan.”

I recorded it.

A goblin chopped one of the unicorns horns off and the magical world of fairies and gnomes turned into a deep winter Narnian nightmare. Epic stuff.

I’m also a sucker for some of those Syfy Channel made for TV movies. They usually feature an 80s child star and dazzling Atari level special effects. Typically, you can bet on a helicopter faceoff with gigantic mutant Gators or Sharks or Snakes or Spiders.

Syfy Shark classic

The Artist’s Gospel Dilemma

I’m not as smitten with cultural Christian cheese.

I don’t want to offend anyone blessed by the following, but I had to turn off the movies “FireProof” and “Facing The Giants” after a few minutes of viewing. I don’t have the stomach for that flavor of cheese.  If you really have something worthy to say, say it in the most powerful, meaningful, excellent way you can.

The gospel is the most spellbinding beautiful message in heaven and earth.

If we are going to “adorn” it with our art, I say make it the most spellbinding beautiful art the world has seen. Acting should be high quality and nuanced. A plot should have depth and grit. Production should be top of the line.

This goes for our endeavors in writing, music, finger painting, breakdancing, etc. CCM radio shouldn’t sound like an infinite loop of the same rehashed pop country songs. In some cases the contributions are literally rehashed pop country songs.

I’m not a model for this. But I’m trying to get better at my craft (if blogging could be called that).

Not Cool, Creative

I’m not saying we should be “cool” in the trite cultural sense of that weak word. Christ never set up a Kingdom of self-assured cool kids. “Cool” is a term beneath the gospel. But our message and our art should have a winsome way of attracting souls (or even repelling them in some cases). Don’t ever let someone walk away from your baby with a neutral shrug.

We have a God breathed word empowered to resonate with human nature and experience more than any other word in the world.

Be excellent with whatever skill He’s given you.

A God who is Creator has imaged children who are creative.

To be less than that is to be less than human.

What’s Your Favorite Cheesy Movie?

Bryan Daniels

Muhammad Ali and Your God-given Name

Muhammad Ali was a mental assassin. He was also a pretty good boxer.

“What’s My Name?!”

The story goes that soon after Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay he had a bout with Ernie Terrell scheduled. At the 1967 press conference Terrell refused to call Ali by his new name citing, “You’ll always be Cassius Clay to me.”

This set Ali off.

During the fight ringside witnesses could hear Ali barking at Terrell. After each succesful haymaker and combination Ali asked the same simple question, 10-15 times a round:

“What’s my name?!”

Boom!

“What’s my name?!”

Pop! Pop!

“What’s my name?!”

Muhammad ali

The left eye was closed by the 8th round. The right eye was closed by the 12th. Terrell couldn’t see Ali coming anymore. He was getting beat like a redheaded rented step mule.

The brutal bout went 15 rounds because Ali wanted it to go 15 rounds. Terrell slumped and Ali would hold him up; he wasn’t done until his opponent knew his name. Legend has it during a 15th round clinch, Terrell whispered into the ear of Ali:

“Muhammad Ali…It’s…Muhammad Ali.”

We Don’t Know Our Name

Every day, an oceanic rush of competing voices washes over us the moment we crawl out of bed.

On our worst (most?) days, we let the wave overcome us and define who we are.

We’re fish in a fallen culture, and we don’t even notice the toxic water we’re inhaling. The supermodel says I’m fat. The car commercial says I’m poor. The clothing ad says I’m a dweeb.

We let what we do define who we are.  Our family, social status, job, hobby, church work, exercise routine, and even addiction. So we self identify:

I’m a runner/teacher/overeater/gamer/blogger/calvinist/trekkie/father/doglover/libertarian/pastor/husband/etc.

A lot of good stuff is contained in those positions. But none of those are an identity that will last. These aren’t are our “names.”

Our God-given Name

God has a much higher view of Christians than Christians do. The cursed performance mentality has been on earth since before Cain. But God’s opinion of us is never based on our daily failures in sinning, quiet times and evangelism. Performance is damned in this Kingdom of free grace.

Where we see a dearth of hypocritical hijackers, passionless puritans, and spiritually dead deacons,

God sees a spotless bride, holy saints and an invincible army (Ephesians 5:25-27, 1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 16:18).

If Satan is the accuser of the brethren then he is getting plenty of willing help from the brethren.

I’m not talking about Holy Spirit driven conviction that brings repentance and joy. I’m talking about flesh driven guilt that brings stagnation and exasperation.

This is a revelation that has been spread out in our plain sight all along. When Scripture talks of Christians in the New Testament it really never calls them “sinners” “depraved” “wicked” “hypocrites” or whatever negative pet term you please. Over dozens of times it designates our primary identity as “in Christ.” So whatever Jesus is, by God, we are by grace:

Sons. Daughters. Beloved. Holy. Chosen. Free. Well-pleasing.

In Christ.

It’s a messy battle to ward off the old dead titles of our former self.

Fight for your new name in Christ.

With the word. With blood. With sweat. With tears.

All 15 rounds.

Until you die.

Only when your heart stops is the fighting over. Then the name above every other name will welcome you into true lasting rest. And He will give us a new name that will be intimate and eternal, written in stone that cannot be broken (Revelation 2:17)

Bryan Daniels

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