And Then The Easter Bunny Gives Us Candy!

Suffice to say, it ain’t about the pastel bunnies and diabetic overloads of candy.

It’s about a God man

Who rose up

drop kicked death

and beat the living hell out of man’s deserved destiny.

Bryan Daniels

On Friday a thief, on Sunday a King…

Jesus Went To Hell Today #Allegedly

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (19) in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, (20) because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18-20)

It’s a question that used to nag me a bit around this time of year.

Jesus went to the terrible cross on Friday and was laid to the tomb.

He arose bodily on Sunday defeating death itself.

But where was the Son of God in between those two universe-shaking events?

1 Peter 3:18-20 seems to indicate some answer for us. As we know, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Martin Luther, after studying and meditating on this passage said: “This is a wonderful text and a more obscure passage than any other in the New Testament so that I do not know for certainty what Peter means.”

The three most common views of this verse are:

Christ preached the gospel to the dead saints and unbelievers

Many (maybe most) Christians believe after the cross, Christ literally descended into hell (or place of the dead, or purgatory) and preached the gospel to the pre-Christ Old Testament saints so that they may be set free for the fullest experience of heaven. A majority of Catholics hold to this interpretation. A more controversial branch of this view is that Christ actually went and preached the gospel to unbelievers (IE those who died in the flood) and gave them a second chance to repent and believe on Him. The Apostle’s Creed seems to intimate some variation of this doctrine:  “[He] was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead.”

Christ preached the gospel through Noah during the days of Noah

There is also a pre-existent Christ view of this passage that reflects the view of many modern Reformed theologians. This view states that Jesus was the one preaching in the actual days of Noah, possibly through Noah himself.  So through the mouth of Noah, through the words of Noah, the pre-incarnate Christ was preaching to spirits in prison, understood metaphorically as those who are in spiritual darkness.  The Spirits in prison were humans that were in spiritual bondage in Noah’s day. Many believe this was St. Augustine’s view and it seems to confirm the meaning of 1 Peter 1:10-11.

Christ preached His triumphant reign to the spiritual world

A final view of this passage is that Jesus proclaimed His triumph to those who are in hell and to the demonic realm itself. This view holds that Christ preached His triumphant proclamation over the spirit world not in between the cross and resurrection, but in between the resurrection and ascension.  This was a view widely held in the 17th century.  It states that Peter seems to be speaking here in a sequential, chronological way.  He speaks about the death of Jesus (v. 18), he speaks about the resurrection of Jesus (v. 19), and then the ascension of Jesus (v. 22).  In between mentioning the resurrection and the ascension, he mentions this preaching to the spirits in prison (v. 19-20). Christ wouldn’t be preaching the gospel to the unsaved, rather heralding his triumph over sin, death and over all spiritual principalities, even Satan. The “spirits” in prison hearing the message of Christ’s victory would be the demonic realm He defeated at the cross.

Both the second and third views would suppose Christ was in “paradise” between the cross and resurrection, just as He promised the repentant thief on the cross (Luke 23:43)

I lean to the second view being most plausible, but it is only a slight lean. Some of my favorite theologians hold the third view I can see it as a solid explanation. And yet the first view has a strong historical witness that favors it. There is much more that can be said about all three views.  I would have to defer to Luther’s previous statement above before dying on any three of these hills.

Regardless, I believe proponents of all three major views can rejoice over the cross of Christ where our due wrath was taken by the God-man, and the resurrection of Christ where He decisively proved that death was truly put to death forevermore. Such gospel truths are beautifully and simply clear to us in Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:-1-3).

As Martin Luther wrote in his classic hymn (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God):

And though this world with devils filled   Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God has willed   His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim  We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure For lo his doom is sure
One little word (He is risen!) will slay him

One things for sure. The  Son already went through hell on the cross in such a total terrifying way, the Father was eternally satisfied (Psalm 22). All is quiet this Saturday in Jerusalem, but Sunday is coming peeps.

Peace and grace,

Bryan Daniels

The Cry of an Atheist God

“In that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt.  Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”.’

– G.K. Chesterton

Murdered by A Hot Tub….

Around my freshmen year in college I found myself in a hot tub full of dudes. Wait, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We were all good friends, and the hot tub was at a friend’s house. We talked smack about work, girls and church for an hour or so. Other than watching Real World reruns on MTV I had almost zero hot tub experience.

Hot tub

It was a humid Florida summer night.

Most of my friends were in and out. I sat submerged shoulder-high for an hour straight. Slow boiling like a frog on a stove top pot. My body temp rose. I was sweating more than John Hagee in a Middle Eastern sauna.

I started feeling light-headed shortly after getting out. My light headedness spread to weaken the rest of my body. I stumbled inside the house like a drunk zombie. I criss crossed to the kitchen, muttering the same three words over again, “I need water, I need water, I need…..”

I couldn’t make it to the sink, my world went black and my head hit the kitchen wall. My friends caught me and ushered me to the living room couch. I had no power bars left. All I could say in my waning haze now was, “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…”

I was sure I was dying.

Even more sure than the one time I got caught fighting a Panama City Beach rip tide and muttered my last rites in waist deep water.

“Bryan Daniels-Death by Hot Tub”

the obituary would read. I always wanted to go out a little more hardcore than that. A Bonnie and Clyde blaze of glory was more gangsta than getting murdered by a bubbly Country Club toy.

One friend, quick of mind, poured a bottle of water down my throat. Boom. Instant life spread through out my body. After a minute I came to my senses. Miracle Water. Precious life giving miracle water.

In our dying.

In our inescaple thirst.

In our stumbling and mumbling and running headlong into unforgivable walls.

Jesus is right there.

Living Water is there (John 4:10)

Poured lavishly in and on us forevermore. When our short life seems to be coming to an anticlimactic close we never would have planned. When our world seems to be spinning out of control God’s grip on the situation is even tighter.

Beware of the Hot Tub.

But that undeniable thirst deep in our soul can be quenched. The insatiably unsatisfied can be filled.

By one who gives it freely only to the dying desert travelers….and some times, hot tub dwellers.

Bryan Daniels

Thank God: “Americans Less Religious Than Ever”

Americans are less religious than ever before in the history of America.

Thank God.

Religion in America is on the decline

Twenty percent of Americans claimed no “religious preference” in a study by the General Social Survey. That’s a good thing in my estimation. Because no “religious preference” is not synonymous with unbelief. Only three percent of Americans identified with “Atheism.”

All it really means is traditional denominational streams that once thrived are now waning. People who once felt obligated to self identify as Baptist, Lutheran or Catholic for the sake of social pressure no longer feel that need.

As a Reformed BaptiMethoCostal that doesn’t really wad my panties. I understand modern misgivings with institutional Religion. Maybe some of those streams need to run dry. But the invincible gospel will always march on through the end past the expiration date of man-made institutions.

What I also hope it means is that man’s outward efforts to dress himself up and recommend himself to God are waning too. That religion in general, what man does for God, can die; and that the gospel, what God does for man, can live and flourish.

Cultural Christian games no longer have to be played.

It was the hyper Religious who put Christ on the cross, not those with no “religious preference”, anyways.

So the tide of religious legalism is turning and consuming itself in America. Good. That means the opportunity to experience and share the grace of Jesus is better than ever.

Goodbye, religion.

May Jesus step in and heal the wounds you left behind.

Bryan Daniels

First Bible: Like A Kid On Christmas Morning

When I first saw this short video I can neither confirm nor deny that I may or may not have cried like a slapped baby during it…purportedly.

Under strict government constraints, the word is a precious treasure to Chinese Christians. They’re like gleeful kids on Christmas morning. Some are well into their forties and fifties until they’ve personally cradled their own Bible. Many more will never own their own Bible.

Even the smell of a Bible is a beautiful fragrance to them.

I have numerous misplaced Bibles loitering in my back seat, under couches, and stuck to book shelves like an ignored relic. I won’t skip a physical meal but I will neglect the nourishment of my soul with passive procrastination for days.

These Chinese souls have really grasped Psalm 119 in experiential ways that make me jealous (Psalm 119:11, 14, 24, 47).

God bless them.

God help me.

Go to this ministry and donate five bucks to help more Chinese believers experience this unfettered joy: Bibles for China.

Bryan Daniels

Life Through The Eyes of a 4 Year Old And His Lego Camera

For Christmas, Josiah got a digital Lego Camera. It’s virtually indestructible and the picture quality is circa 1980s Polaroid. I think the pictures kind of have a vintage quality about them. This is home life interpreted through the eyes of a four-year old. The first is a self-portrait. Most of the rest comprise of his favorite subject, his little brother Gideon:

Lego CameraLego Camera Lego Camera Lego Camera Lego Camera Lego CameraLego Camera

Lego Camera

Email me for booking info if you want Josiah and his Leg Camera to capture your family portraits. Between being Spiderman, Bumblebee, and a good big brother his calendar is pretty full these days.

Bryan Daniels

Impossible Love Now

There are some things impossible for God.

Before we whip out Matthew 19:26 like a six-shooter let’s clarify: It should be apparent a God who is holy cannot sin. It should also be clear a God who is logical cannot contradict Himself (though He loves a good paradox).

Let’s take it a step further in a personal direction and say: A God who is Love, cannot love you any more than he does right now.

Or

It would be impossible for God in Christ to love you anymore than He does right at this moment, regardless of where you are right at this moment.

When Paul gropes for words to describe God’s love he starts to sound like a crazy man: The apostle says we need a supernatural divine power to even begin to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesian 3:18).

We may think we’re under a drowning deluge of grace in our understanding, but we’re all really tinkering around in the kiddie pool.

All our mountaintop experiences are foothills.

Or as my Uncle Si once said, “That’s just the icing on the tip of the iceberg!”

This great love is not just for back then when Christ died, or in the future heavenly realm where we’ll live with Him forever, it for the blessed now. He’s applying all those eternal benefits of the gospel to the ever-present now.

A love without condition. Poured out in the present. Greater than our present sin, insecurities, doubts, stumblings and weaknesses. Greater than our ability to comprehend it.

Yes, the Son took away the wrath we deserved, and gave a grace we don’t deserve (2 Cor 5:21). And part of the grace package gifted to us is the ridiculous love the Father loves the precious Son with. It’s lavished on unworthy rebels, sickly kids, prideful hypocrites (1 John 3:1).

Behold this love!

It’s not just a pithy tagline to print on a Christian T-shirt.

It’s a diamond to behold, with every turn and angle revealing another resplendent excellency.

I have a unique love commitment towards my two sons, Josiah and Gideon. We have a deep physical/emotional attachment and bond that penetrates at the soul level. Through the family of God I can love you, but I can’t love you in the exact same way I love my sons. I’m limited in my fatherly affection.

Man’s limitations shouldn’t be projected on God.

The way the Father loves Jesus is the way the Father loves us. If we’re “in Christ” it can be no other way. The affection a tender Father’s heart has toward His only child is mind-boggling. And now in Christ, He has treated us as if we are all His only child.

Like Paul, we can only appeal to hyperbolic language that reaches and grasps at a surface deeper than the Pacific.

That kind of talk gives my brain a crippling charlie horse. Yet it makes my heart flame freedom and life.

It can’t be gripped and digested enough:

God totally approves of you.

God fully accepts you.

God Has sovereignly chosen you.

In Christ: It is impossible for God to love you anymore than He does right now. There is nothing, for all eternity, you could ever do to change that.

Take that, and let it ruin and heal you simultaneously. The first few timid steps into this foothill and kiddie pool will sustain you forevermore.

Bryan Daniels

Christian Youth Camp Crackheads Like Me

I was a bit of a Christian youth camp junkie in high school.

If you have spent ten seconds in cultural Christianity you know what I’m talking about.

In my Baptist circle my drug of choice was Student Life Camps, World Changers, Centrifuge, etc. I’m sure the title is different yet camp experience similar for each denominational stream.

youth camp

Typically, it took place during summer. Roughly a thousand kids from youth groups all over the Southeast would congregate in the dorms and facilities of some small private college. We’d have team competitions, breakout sessions and worship services all centered around one verse or tagline. (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20, “Love God Love People”). The whole camp would build and work towards a crescendo finale on the final night of worship, a perfectly orchestrated altar call.

The speaker was funny, relevant, passionate and was a 10x better story-teller than your poor youth minister or pastor.

The worship was like singing in unison with a billion baby angels accompanied by a good-looking metrosexual worship leader. You raised your hands for the first (and maybe last) time in these services.

You wept at the goodbye of your new camp friends, sang “Friends are Friends Forever,” and promised to keep up through IM and Email (all this literally happened to me).

Now before I sound too jaded and scroogish let me say I was a youth minister or youth minister intern for about 6 years after HS. If you read my testimony, you’ll see God gripped me with his grace at a Student Life Camp before my senior year of HS.

I’m thankful for those soaring-on-eagles-wings experiences God grants us along the treacherous way.

But too many times, during this Christian camp experience, I would just experience the passive contact high of being in what was deemed an anointed environment. I would make all kinds of crazy commitments and rededications because I was finally “on fire” for Christ (“Three hour quiet times, who’s with me?!”). This new flame would last a maximum of two weeks and not even a smoking ember remained after that. By the time school started up there was no discernible change at all my friends could see.

At the soul level I would shrug my shoulders and mark my calendar for the next camp high.

Adults can also fall into this perilous cycle with conferences, movements, and worship experiences. I remember gettin’ it crunk with Chris Tomlin and being transfixed by John Piper during my first Passion conference in ’03 (as an adult).

We’re all a bit like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:27-36).

We see a fresh glimpse of Jesus and His disturbing glory and we want to pitch a tent right then and there. (Luke 9:33) “Let’s hang out here for a while Jesus…this is AWESOME!” But we can’t live up on the safe insulated mountain top forever.

At some point, we all have to go back down into the valley where doubts, demons, and a cross awaits us.

That fire may or may not burn with visceral brightness in our hearts as long as we want it to.

That’s okay.

Because it’s not necessarily the fire, but the faithfulness that sustains us. Namely, His faithfulness to us (2 Tim 2:13). His faithfulness in the simple ordinary beauty of everyday life.

Where He blesses the way we kiss our crying kids, serve our angry spouses, wash dishes, pay bills, and listen to a friend in need. These done in love are as much a precious supernatural act as a limb growing back or a glory cloud falling on the assembly.

On this side of eternity, we may visit the mountain top and be thankful to God for it. But we must come down and live in the valley for now.

Where dirty people are.

Dirty people like us who need the pure blood of a gracious Savior to wash us anew in the sweet day by day.

Bryan Daniels

Crazy John: The Baptizer and Doubter

Jesus is not intimidated by our doubts. 

He welcomes our questions.

According to Jesus, the “greatest man born of woman” had doubts. (Luke 7:28).

John clicked his prenatal heels when he met his cousin through the womb (Luke 1:44) . He personally dropped Jesus in the Jordan. In that muddy water, he heard the thundering voice and he felt the descending spirit. He heard of the miraculous exploits of Christ’s public ministry, of the kingdom of heaven breaking into earth. This radical Nazarite, John, was so sure of his calling and election, he called out the sins of the psychotic royal Herod family with an uncommon boldness.

John The Baptist Cat

The request of a stripper put him on death row (Mark 6:19-23).

So at the end of life this forerunner of the Bridegroom, John the Baptist, found himself stuck in a dungeon of doubt.

Isolated in a hole in the ground, his assurance waned. Two years he languished in a dirty prison cell. He never envisioned his final ministry days playing out like this. This new King seemed to be taking His sweet time in setting the captives free.

So he sent his disciples to inquire his cousin: “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?'” (Luke 7:20)

or in effect: “Jesus, are You this Messiah dude I thought You were, or are You someone else altogether?”

Jesus didn’t chastise the inquirer or mock the question: “Are you kidding me? That wild haired hippie baptized me AND he’s the fulfillment of OT prophecies…He must be backslidden….”

Jesus is not intimidated by our doubts.

He welcomes our questions.

Jesus simply responds, “Go tell him what you’ve seen…” and then He confirms John’s honored position before man (Luke 7:28).

You may be despairing now. In a dingy prison cell of doubt. With nothing but unfulfilled promises and fledgling false starts nagging at your psyche. You may have more hard questions than concrete answers.

None of that threatens your position in Christ.

Just remember:

Jesus is not intimidated by our doubts.

He welcomes our questions.

He’s up to something greater than you can now imagine. There’s wander in that wait. There’s wonder in that wait.

But the wait will be worth it.

Bryan Daniels