Is Punching Cats The Cure For Manboobs? The Internetz knows….

(Please don’t take any of this seriously)

People are delightfully weird.

I appreciate this.

Because deep down, so am I (as my wife can attest).

Every few months I peruse the “search terms” tab in my dashboard for the sheer enjoyment of basking in other people’s quirky internet search items. For the record, the overwhelming way most people find “Chief of the Least” using the mysterious algorithms of SEO is by looking for “awkward christmas photos.”

Supposed internet anonymity brings out the latent weirdness in folks.

As pointed out in a previous post, many people come to my neck o’ the internet through searching “Rastafarian Polygamous women.” Somehow a post I wrote on Mormonism and a separate post that mentions Rasta music got hopelessly intertwined as they traversed the high-speed internet. I’m sure some Bob Marley lovin’ stoner with a sexual addiction was displeased when he found my blog.

Here are some more recent search term gems I’ve dug up for your pleasure:

“p90x insanity manboobs”

I’ve done both “Insanity” and “P90x” workouts in past. Both regimes have their positives, but I can’t really say either combats the serious heart breaking condition of gynecomastia. The most unfortunate phrase for those suffering from this disease is: “Pool Party!” Seriously, the best anecdote is to eat healthy, stay physically active on a daily basis, and find a girl who likes you for you.

“purple haired lady in old testament”

I don’t recall ever studying a purple haired prophetess in Sunday School. Pretty sure I mentioned a notable TBN female character’s, er, “hair extensions”, during a post about an Old Testament prophet. Who knows: Joseph’s coat of many colors could very well be a foreshadowing of some modern Christian TV personality’s mane of many colors.

“cat punch”

I’m not gonna lie. I have fought the urge to punch a cat before. But I don’t think I’ve ever divulged that information to anymore. Except now. They’re so self-assured. So laid back. So bored with you. And at the same time in a feline fit of rage they may unexpectantly maul the living crap out of your ankles. No thanks.

I’m curious what gems you dug up from the dusty recesses of your dashboard? Do share.*

Bryan Daniels

*Please keep it family friendly as possible…

Orcs, Gunmen, and Bad Guys Like Me

While watching a Lord of The Rings Scene my four-year old son, Josiah, caught a glimpse of an Orc, a miserable snarling subhuman warrior for the “Army of Shadows.”

As his inquiring mind processed the battle scene before him, Josiah asked,

“Why is that guy mean?”

Before I could respond he answered his own question:

“Because he’s bad?”

Sounded like a sufficient reason to me:

“Yes, baby, he’s a bad guy.”

Such a description easily rolls off the tongue when encountering hypothetical terrorists on a movie screen. But when the perpetrators become human and the victims flesh and blood it seems our ability for succinct language becomes squishy and vague.

Whether it is the recent murder-suicide by NFL player Jevon Belcher.

Or the more recent Portland mall killings by a crazed gunman.

The response of many public network pundits has been the same the past few years:

Legal experts and resident psychologists will try to psychoanalyze the mind of the killers: social constraints, political persuasions, chemical reactions, or stunted emotional growth are all posited as the source of the madness. The whole world goes straight Dr. Phil in its obsession with the dark mind(lessness) of these murderers.

I don’t want to neglect the socio-economic, genetic, psychological, etc, factors that make up a person’s character. I don’t have anything meaningful to add to the timeless nature vs. nurture debate. But I believe something unfortunate is lost in our culture when we try to process man-made tragedies while altogether omitting words like “evil”, “bad”, or even “depraved” from our vocabulary.

Some times the “bad guys” aren’t just in a movie script.

Whether the heartless violence happens in Arizona, Norway, Columbine, or a mall, the social commentary in the aftermath shouldn’t always swirl around periphery issues like gun control, childhood upbringing, bullying, and poverty. Not that any of these don’t matter. Just that most of this chatter is to the neglect of personal responsibility for the evil actions of an evil man.

I know the world bristles at any value judgment that has moral overtones but that shouldn’t matter.

I want my son to keep this “bad guy” moniker in his vocabulary.

Not because he is “better” than anyone else, but because he could be much worse than anyone else. I want him to see that apart from the grace of God the natural bad guy that lives within his own nature can also manifest itself in horrifying ways.

I want him to see his daddy as one of the “good guys” not because I have anything inherently noble about me, but because I don’t. What separates any good man from the bad man is nothing but undeserved grace through the God Man.

Sometimes my mind goes places I don’t even begin (or want) to understand. I imagine if our thoughts could be projected for all to see we would be horrified, embarrassed, and left utterly friendless in less than a few hours. If we don’t believe in words like “evil” it may be because we haven’t lifted up the floorboards of our own nature and peered in to see what really lies beneath our daily facades.

There is real evil.

There is real invincible grace that trumps real evil too.

That’s the story we should tell. But if we keep denying with our words the natural-born bent toward wickedness in us all, then we’ve denied the need for the overpowering righteous given at the cross (2 Cor 5:21).

And for bad guys like me, there is no other hope in the world but the gospel of Jesus that saves sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)

Bryan Daniels

God Wants To Be Annoyed

I live with my own personal four year old petitioner/investigative reporter. He asks what seems like a 1000 rapid fire questions throughout the day:

What’s that?

Where are you going?

Can I see?

Can I have arcoons (translation: cartoons)?

Can I go to Mimi’s (grandma)?

Can I go to Mickey’s (other grandma)?

Can I go outside?

Can I have a sandwich?

Can I have juice?

Can I (play) fight with you?

Can you fix my train/car/airplane/transformer/monster truck/etc?

Where’s momma?

Where’s Gid (brother)?

And maybe his favorite default question of all, said with boyish wonder:

What happened?!

I’m sure I’ll miss his little inquiries when he becomes a quiet self-confident teenager who believes his pops is out dated and irrelevant. Questions are the mark of humility: as a small child, Josiah knows he doesn’t know the answer to many questions and he trusts someone else to give it to him (me!).

Unlike this fallen impatient dad, the heavenly Father always loves to have His sleeve tugged on, to be incessantly implored, to be uncompromisingly interrogated by His adopted children. He wants us to keep asking, seeking, knocking, and ringing the doorbell like an overzealous girl scout.

Amazing isn’t it? As a whiny son with trivial requests I take this to heart:

God the Father through the blood of His own Son wants to be annoyed by our prayer requests.

Crazy.

Bryan Daniels

The Utter Absurdity of The Baby God-Man

The historical-biblical Christian faith is a bit ridiculous.

Many basic doctrines have a built-in absurdity to them that offends the natural mind.

Don’t believe me? Just have someone tell the elementary tenets of the Christmas story back to you:

“So the God of the universe gets a young virgin girl pregnant, she gives birth to His infant divine Son in a stable in the middle of nowhere, angels rejoice and hardly anyone else in the world notices?”

and then

“thirty years later this same God Man all of a sudden starts walking on water, multiplying food, and healing all diseases while claiming authority over everything in the world. Despite all this most people reject Him and He goes to a Roman cross to die a brutal death that shakes the earth. Then he raises Himself up from the dead through a tomb, walks and talks with people for a few days, and finally floats back up to heaven to be with the God that sent Him down here. Oh yeah, and this dude’s gonna come back with fire and stuff a second time?….

And I’m supposed to believe all that and follow Him right?”

To which we say: “Amen!”

We could say, to blunt the force of the rejection, “Our modern sensibilities are conditioned to reject such claims because of strict scientific rationalism.”

But that’s not the total story. Watery new age Oprah-ism rejects biblical Christianity too, and it has nothing to do with a naturalistic worldview.

This is no modern phenomenon. The ancient polytheistic Romans rejected the Christian witness also, mostly on the grounds that it rejected all of the Roman’s gods and the Lordship of Caesar. Read the Roman scribes take and you almost get the snarky flavor of a Bill Maher commentary:

Lucian of Samosato said of Christians in 165 AD:

These deluded creatures, you see, have persuaded themselves that they are immortal and will live forever, which explains the contempt of death and willing self-sacrifice so common among them. It was impressed on them too by their lawgiver that from the moment they are converted, deny the gods of Greece, worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws, they are all brothers. They take his instructions completely on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods and hold them in common ownership.

In the fourth century the Roman Emperor, Julian, equated Christianity with atheism and lamented over its influence:

“Atheism [I.e. the Christian faith!] has been specially advanced
through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”

Other scribes of that day call the primary Christian doctrines unfit for a child’s nursery rhyme or on par with the drunk “etchings” of an old mad woman.

And I say: This is how it should be.

The Bible predicts such chagrin. Paul calls the message of the cross “foolishness” to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18). Read the Roman accounts again: Self sacrifice, love for neighbor, good deeds, etc., was the mark of the early church and that still wasn’t enough to convince the Roman writers of Christianity’s validity.

These truths aren’t just absurd to the mind, they are flatly impossible for the mind to submit to apart from the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:7-8) A prerequisite regeneration of heart must occur before the attractional wonder of the cross becomes apparent (Titus 3:3-6).

Without the supernatural power of this heaven-sent “wind”, sharing the gospel would be akin to commanding a pile of fossilized bones to get up and file into army ranks (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

With man it is impossible/absurd/incredulous/laughable. But with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)

Blind men see.

Deaf men hear.

Dead men live.

And the ancient account of the baby God-Man can become absurdly beautiful.

Bryan Daniels

Come Thou Fount To Every Wanderer

One of my favorite hymns performed by one of my favorite artists (Sufjan Stevens). It offers a heartrending backstory too. Around the “prone to wander…” lyric I usually start falling apart at the seams.

Bryan Daniels

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

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

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