My Wife Says I Run Like Steven Seagal

My significant other has recently channeled some disturbing news to me. While running around the yard and kicking a ball around with my two-year old she delivered this haymaker to my manhood: “You run like Steven Seagal.”

Interpretation: You flail your arms around like a double jointed wet noodle when trying to sprint…Or simply put, you run like a little girl.

This ninja can run AND play a mean Santana cover

At first I thought my wife was just jealous of my God-given talent and blazing puma like speed. After all, you should see her try to run. I always tell her she runs like a cartoon; you know, the Wile E. Coyote type running style, where the feet are flying a mile a minute but they are only kicking up dust in the same stationary spot.

I could run backwards faster than my wife can run forwards. I would challenge her to a footrace to prove it, but highly strenuous activity is dangerous to women this close to their post delivery date.

Being a proud track coach, one who always stresses the proper ear to hip arm rotation, I proceeded with an attempt to prove her wrong. But in my attempt to display impeccable running form, I pulled a hamstring.

I bet Steven Seagal never pulled a hamstring while running down greasy drug lords and mob bosses.

Give me a couple of weeks, and I’ll be back to top speed. By then my wife will be physically able to try to cash that check her mouth has been writing.

What happens when Seagal faces off with a Looney Toon? Stay tuned.

Bryan Daniels

Naming Your Child: A Prophetic Declaration?

Names were rich in meaning in the ancient days. You didn’t just name your children wily nily whatever-sounds-good-at-the time names.

A hodge podge assimilation of syllables or fleeting cultural icons would never do for a child’s name way back when (ie I’ve ran across more than one “Nike” or “Mercedes”). A regrettable upward trend in 2010 girl baby names shows that “Kendra” and “Kourtney” with a “K” are becoming more popular among young parents. Why? Because of the notorious reality shows of Kourtney Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson (former playmate).

In the olden days of biblical history, a child’s name held a certain foreshadowing weight to it. Bestowing a name on a child was a prophetic declaration, a visible sign of God fulfilling his covenant promises to the individual families of Israel.

Biblical names revealed much about a person’s past, expected future character, or life in general:

Adam means “man, clay or dust.” Eve means “first woman.”

Abraham means “father of multitude,”; after billions of “children” have come from his seed I would say that prophetic name has rang true. Abraham named his son “Isaac”, which means “laughter” (which is what the elderly Sara did when she found she would be pregnant with him!)

Biblical names didn’t always have endearing overtones attached to them. Look at the tragic names of the children of prophet Hosea for more on this (the boy named “Sue” was lucky compared to them). Isaac’s son, Jacob, name means “trickster or deceiver”, which is what he ended up doing to Esau to obtain his birthright. Jacob later wrestled with the Lord to obtain his new name, Israel, which means “straightened by God” (Genesis 32). So in the case of Jacob, his respective names reflected that a deceitful crook got straightened out by the Holy One of Israel.

“Samuel” means “heard from God” which is what he did as a prophet to Israel.

Peter’s name means “The Rock”, as in one of the foundational apostles the early church would be built on.

So in many cases, biblical characters are given names (prophetically and retroactively) that reflect their personal qualities.

My wife and I are not trying to be hyper-spiritual, but we do believe our son’s names should be meaningful to us, just as a baby’s name was meaningful to the biblical families of old. We decided on the names “Josiah” (our two-year old) and “Gideon” (due March) for various reasons. Though most people complement the uniqueness of the names, we do get some semi-puzzled looks that seem to intimate certain questions such as “Are you Jewish?” or “Are you Amish?” or “Are you weird?”

“Josiah” was one of the few righteous kings in Israel’s history in a long line of royal charlatans and chumps (2 Kings 22:2). “Josiah” means “Jehovah heals/saves” and in the anglicized version of the Hebrew it means “Fire of God.” He became king at the ripe age of eight after his father, Amon, was assassinated. He was the last good thing to happen to the nation of Israel before it was utterly destroyed in 586 B.C by Babylon. At the young age of 20, King Josiah began a building campaign to restore and repair the Temple which was neglected by kings past. During construction the “Book of The Law” was discovered and its commands struck the young king like a knife in the heart. By repenting of idolatry on behalf of his nation, and preaching the newly found word of God, the bold Josiah began a massive reformation in the life of Israel (2 Chron 34:21-33).

"King" Josiah on horseback....with his mom

Gideon was a “mighty man of valor” and a warrior judge for the nation of Israel. “Gideon” literally means “mighty warrior.” By trusting in God he carried out great exploits for his nation even when the odds were stacked ridiculously against him (Judges 7:4-7). Through supernatural means, Gideon led the outnumbered Israelites to victory over the Midianite forces, and purged the Israeli camp of Baal worship. After 40 years of relative prosperity and peace under Gideon Israel tried to coronate him king, but he refused, insisting only God should hold such honor.

We hope and pray our son’s names are like prophetic declarations that bear fruit similar to the lives of the biblical Josiah and Gideon. I hope Josiah is not necessarily political royalty, but rather a zealous repentant leader who preaches the word and longs for revival. I hope Gideon is not necessarily a military leader, but rather a courageous and humble spiritual warrior who fights for the soul of his family and community while violently destroying the idols in his own life.

But more than anything, I want them to fall in love with Jesus (or “the one who saves”), and make it their aim to know Him and make His name known (Matt 1:21). Ultimately, Jesus is the name above every other name, and all who confess Him will find true significance, and most importantly, salvation in His mighty name (Phill 2:9-11).

Bryan Daniels

Baby Bedtime Prayers and God’s Sovereignty

I sometimes wonder if the Nike Marketing Group has had a hand in influencing the modern American church’s gospel message. There is a certain level of “Just Do It” fervor in the sermons and Sunday school lessons of evangelical churches.

In our zeal to get God’s work done we tend to lead and end with an exhortation for every man, woman and child to go “invite, tell, contextualize, evangelize, and do whatever you can” to get the gospel out. Just do it, just do something, because doing anything with a Christian flavor is better than nothing!

There may not be anything wrong with this.

In a sense this can be a very biblical exhortation (Colossians 3:23). A little bit of Bible study can quickly show us that the Great Commission is the last charge Christ made to all who would claim to be His followers (Matthew 28:19-20).

But a little bit of truth with no context can be a dangerous thing; If we preach the gospel mission as mainly an emphasis on doing, trying, and moving for God, an ungodly deduction could be made in the mind of the listener: “If I don’t move, God can’t. God is dependent on me. God is impotent to get glory if I don’t go get it for Him.”

If we are not careful, in our mind the cosmic tables can be turned. And in a very real sense I can believe with all my heart not that I desperately and daily need God above all else, but that now that I’m a Christian:

“God needs me.”

Jesus is the antidote for this natural man-centered bent of our heart’s. When He spoke and acted, Christ placed the emphasis of evangelism back at His Father’s feet:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Here is how modern evangelicalism has rendered this verse in so many ways: “The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few; therefore GO! Can’t you see? The lost need you! God needs you! The world needs you now! It’s your destiny!”

But this isn’t how Jesus appeals to the blind and hurting world he saw around him. He was driven to tearful compassion for His shepherdless sheep, and the response He wanted us to have was not to hastily run out and use any means to reel them in (JUST DO IT!). The first compassionate biblical command Jesus gave us for a world going to hell with out a Savior was to

“Therefore, pray.”

This seems so counterintuitive to our über busy lives and the works based gospel we have quietly submitted to in the name of church attendance and behavior modification.

Jesus knew without divine unction and calling, mankind could do nothing of eternal value for mankind. Without the Father first preparing vessels for His glory, the sending out of laborers would be in vain. And as a result, all meaningful evangelism efforts must be rooted in humble fervent prayer before the Father asking Him to graciously give what we can never produce:

A harvest of souls.

Revival doesn’t necessarily begin in big tents or rousing services, it begins with us in our prayer closet on our knees tearfully pleading for the Sovereign Ruler to have mercy on us (2 Chronicles 7:14). It is not first about doing, it is first about depending.

I believe this is true even for those seemingly hum drum daily routine prayers we unload hastily at the end of a busy day.

The way a person prays may betray their true theology.

In my bedtime prayer with my son I don’t appeal directly to his will (or his inherent ability to turn to God), I appeal to the God of Justice and Mercy to make Himself known to him based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In reality, almost every parent I know prays for their child this way, regardless of the theological system they claim.

In a word, I pray God will make him willing (Psalm 110)

Would anyone be motivated to pray for another’s salvation otherwise?

If I am not convinced that God can accomplish my son’s salvation and prepare him for an apprehension of grace, what motivation for prayer is there?

This is a weighty privilege and responsibility for parents. Our supplications can be one of the many tiny levers that has helped set the great wheel of God’s sovereignty into motion for our child’s salvation. In prayer, we place our child’s destiny into the caring hands of the merciful Father, for God forbid these precious ones be left up to their own fallen devices.

I know there is tension and mystery on the subject of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. His sovereignty does not negate our responsibility, but rather should motivate and empower it. The God who can be trusted on as a loving Father, can also be depended on to carry out his purposes as a powerful King.

So I pray over my son every night. Standing on the undying promises of a King who can never be thwarted (Eph 1:11):

“God you make Josiah a man of God, You make him a man after Your own heart…You give him a heart of flesh to know You and fear You, and You save him by Your grace.” (Ezekiel 36:26-36).

I know without the Holy Spirit moving on his little heart he will have no inclination to repent and believe the gospel in his lifetime (Eph 2:3-5).

At the conclusion of our bedtime prayer Josiah looks up at me as I say “In Jesus Name.” And he always responds with a hearty drawn out, “Aaaaamen!!!” or, as the word means, “So be it!”

A three year old knows his utter dependence on the Father’s mercy. Let us find that same childlike dependence in prayer, and our interceding and going and preaching will not be with vain appeals of man-centered movement, but with the Father’s blessing and divine power.

Bryan Daniels

Bathroom Theology: “Toy Story 3 was OK”

It was a dingy truck stop with “World Famous” coffee and yesterday’s News Herald. It was also my pharmacy, where I frequently purchased my Monster energy drinks (sugar-free) and BC powders.

The credit/debit slidey machine was usually down, but for a $2.50 fee you could use the ATM in the back.

After drinking my weight in coffee that morning it was time for me to introduce myself to the bathroom. I took a deep breath before breaking the threshold of the door; I’d rather save my nostrils from the burning sensation.

The condition of the establishment betrayed the quality of the rough and tumble types that frequented it. Bleach was not its friend. The walls, the subject of much sharpie and ball point abuse, were painted and repainted differing shades of white.

White trash graffiti littered the walls above my stall with doodlings that would make Charlie Sheen blush with shame.

In between the “call for a good time’s” and apocalyptic warnings of a race war, a curious observation was made. It was a solitary sentiment of sanity that ignored the nasty upside down world it was placed in.

It made me literally laugh out loud. It read in bold black letters:

“Toy Story 3 was OK”

Some truck stop movie critic saw it fit to inject some innocence into this profane world. Given the positioning of the message (a few inches above my head), it wasn’t written by a child either.

Believe it or not, that little observation got me thinking.  I’m always grasping for analogies no matter how far of a stretch they may be.

I wonder sometimes if the American church’s message is akin to this same type of detached sanitary musing in a filthy truck stop world.

We can (and should) address many things in relation to the gospel.  Rated R movies, alcohol consumption, finances, church attendance, self esteem, political affinities, etc. But if secondary “rule-keeping” issues become the main message the world is hearing then the church has become as irrelevant as light-hearted bathroom graffiti.

A gospel of levity and law keeping cannot begin to address the depth and brevity of the sprawling trash heap that much of culture has become.

The biblical gospel message deals directly with depraved hearts and filthy souls, showing that so nasty is the scourge on humanity, the only viable cure was God slaying His own Son on a cross as an atoning sacrifice. The gospel addresses sexual trafficking, slavery, drug addiction, starvation, rape, greed, child molestation, racism, pornography, and the whole reality of manifest darkness we dwell in. God has seen it all, judged it all, and weighed all of this iniquity in His hand. But then He did something so inexplicable, so utterly shocking we will never understand it in an eternity of eternities.  With that very hand God the Father crushed his own perfect dear Son under the weight of judgment for our iniquity (Isaiah 53:11).

With the Son’s resurrection, the Father ensured His sacrifice was sufficient and new life can be a reality with Him (2 Cor 5:17).

The church has a pearl of great price, so valuable it can restore all manner of broken relationships, political systems, nations, and even truck stops. But the gospel cannot be about mere behavior modification or some domesticated commentary espousing a better life. That would be as misguided as telling an addicted child molester, “Toy Story 3 was OK.”

A gospel that paints over or sidesteps sin never will deal with the root of the issue: the heart.

The gospel must exploit the utter sinfulness of sin in the light of the holiness of God, the blazing love of the Father in the sacrifice of the Son, and the almighty power of God to make all things new in the resurrection.

The gospel is not detached from the reality of sin around us, no, it is the only death-blow to the sin that so dominates our fallen world. An accurate proclamation of this amazing grace is the only bleach for the sin-stained soul, not new laws or 12 step programs.

And as far as our Truck Stop movie critic goes, my two-year old son respectfully disagrees.

He thought Toy Story 3 was awesome.

Bryan Daniels

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