We Don’t Have To Elect A Donkey for President (Never Trump/Never Clinton)

GK Chesterton once wrote, to the chagrin of those who demand a person’s political and religious views remain in the private sphere, this:

I never discuss anything except politics and religion. There is nothing else to discuss. Nothing of importance can be separated entirely from its social effect, which is politics, or from its ultimate value, which is religion.

As a tandem post to my last political piece, “Never Trump and Never Hillary (Letter To Those Stuck In Two Parties)”, I wanted to add a small political and religious addendum (which may grow).

Many well meaning conservative Christians have thrown in the political towel this election cycle. They admit the two major choices aren’t inspiring. They concede Trump has many character deficiencies as a candidate and is likely not as conservative as he lets on during his speech rallies. But all those glaring weaknesses matter little compared to this: He’s not Hillary Clinton at least (overtly pro choice progressive).

The fragile hope of these reluctant Trump supporters is that at bare minimum he seems open to the conservative view of things, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll appoint brilliant political minds around him to cover his deficiencies. Maybe even God will knock him off his high horse like Saul of Tarsus and he’ll grow to be an unlikely champion of Christian ideals (different post). Even if no personal epiphany occurs, look at Scripture they may say:

God used evil kings like Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1)

And Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 43:10).

I mean, shoot, God can use a donkey if he wants! (Numbers 22:28)”

The following is why I believe we can reject such fatalism in our current political climate.

As the American electorate we’re in a unique position the ancient Israelite citizens never were. Our constitutional republic affords us certain rights, one of the greatest is our ability to vote concerning our political leaders. At the birth of the US, the power was placed in the hands of individual people, “We the people” specifically, not an over-reaching central government leader.

Israel’s political climate was much different and typical for its time. As a monarchy Israel was given a king or a judge (1 Samuel 12:13). You don’t vote in a monarch you simply submit to it. God preferred to be the only King of Israel but reluctantly conceded the Israelite people’s impatient urging and gave them over to Saul (1 Samuel 8). Saul wasn’t voted in. World history shows kings in other nations gain their position by family lineage or outright violence but the greater populace has little to do with his position of presumed power. Kings are not voted in. In contrast, Americans, and hat tip to the collective genius of our constitutional forefathers, have an active role in voting in the most principled men and women of character we have available to us.

Never Trump and Never Hillary

I am a strong believer in God’s sovereignty in human affairs, even the current wonky political affairs that make my stomach churn (Daniel 2:21). He can and does use whomever he pleases for his glory.

But the fact that God used an unrighteous Babylonian King for his glory 2800 years ago is no reason for his people to clamor around modern day unrighteous Babylonian authoritarians. Ancient autocratic political structures limited the involvement of the masses to mere recipients of the given King’s graces. Modern democratic political forms seek (or at least should seek) to energize and empower the masses to actively participate in the process of electing their given leaders. Electing especially those leaders who would consider authoritarian power to be anathema to the founder’s ideal.

We have a litany of choices before us. Not one. Not two. But many.

And yes, God used a Donkey to speak on his behalf once. But 1. That is not the normative way he wants to get his message across, and 2. That is not license for us to vote Donkey’s into the highest office in the land.

To the donkey’s defense, he’d probably be less of a jackass than the limited choices now before us.

And it goes both ways.

To apply ancient Israel’s governance to the modern American model will lead to hermeneutic headaches.

If God can use evil Kings and donkeys, why care whether Trump or Clinton is elected? He can use either of them right? Such a view inevitably leads to an impotent fatalistic view of personal ethics. Christians should not be forced to make choices that sear their personal conscience just because one candidate is better at pandering to them than the other. The same could be said of every evil totalitarian this side of Nero. God can use them, right? So let’s just wait and see what happens. This logic is a slippery slope that will leave everyone paralytic and tumbling down a ravine of shrugging inaction.

I still plan on voting in the general election. As far as president, I’m still not sure who that will be. The Libertarian Party and apparently David French are becoming more viable options as I write this. Who knows, maybe I’ll even write in a literal donkey as my choice on election day.

God uses donkeys

Couldn’t be much worse than what we’ve produced thus far.

Bryan Daniels

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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

Hug, Don’t Hate, The Pharisees In Your Life

There are some modern groups in which it is still politically correct to hate. For instance:

Westboro Baptist Church.

Dallas Cowboys.

The Kardashians.

Nickelback.

In Christian culture there is one biblical group in particular that gets our self-righteous blood boiling more than any other:

The Pharisees

They were the most religious, prestigious and openly critical Jewish sect towards Christ’s brief public ministry. They wielded their knowledge of the Law like a battle-axe. They held people captive and enslaved under the crushing weight of the meticulous ceremonial law. They would hold immaculate banquets to honor their own religious devotion before Israel’s upper crust, while locking out the broken, poor and unclean from their sight.

Ancient Jewish religious culture was married to the political establishment. Pharisees weren’t just the religious elite. They were the social elite. Political elite. Educational elite.

Jesus definitely had hard words for this particular religious opponent: They were called bleached tombs housing rotting corpses on one occasion (Matthew 23:27); on another, he accused their mothers of shagging the devil (John 8:44).

Everyone ELSE is a Pharisee

Some modern Christian groups commonly get compared to those ancient hypocrites: The red faced Fundamentalist who shuns sex, drugs and rock & roll. The Theological nitpicks and watchdogs, who commonly accuse other Christian groups of heresy. Any pastor who may say any word of exhortation on the matter of homosexuality, abortion, or anything deemed a political issue.

We love to hate on the Pharisees. And we love to ascribe that title to every other group but the one we happen to identify with. It may sound like this:

“Sure, grace is for tax collectors, prostitutes, gang bangers, drug addicts, etc….But don’t get me started on that old fart deacon who gave my wife an ugly look when she raised her hands during worship…I can’t stand that guy!”

Do we really think we’re gonna reach that crazy dude with the megaphone, who is thumping nothing but the law to deaf masses, by shouting “SHUT UP!” out our window as we screech by in our car?

Modern pharisees need grace as much as the anguished teenager considering an abortion.

I know this because they are human. And we all happen to be in the same sinking ship by nature (Romans 3:23).

Hugs Not Drugs….Or Hate

I also know this: The apostle formerly known as Saul was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). And a dang good one. Before Christ knocked him off his donkey, Paul was notorious for his ability to hunt down men and women of “The Way” and see to it they were murdered for their faith (Acts 7:54-60). The blood of the saints was all over his hands, and he was quite proud of it (Acts 22:4)

A Pharisee of Pharisees
Paul, a “Pharisee of Pharisees” murdered Christians

Think:

The next modern-day apostle Paul may, at the moment, be murdering Christians in Sudan.

Maybe more shocking to you:

The next modern-day apostle Paul may, at the moment, be the church deacon you’re cursing underneath your breath.

If we have any reservations over those statements it is because we don’t believe in invincible grace. One thing is for sure: The only force that changes the heart of a murderous or judgmental Pharisee, is the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Next time you’re shocked by their critical spirit and blind religious hubris: stop, take some deep breaths, smile and say something like:

“Is there anything I can pray for you about?”

“You wanna go for coffee some time?”

“Tell me your story.”

or even, God willing:

“Can I give you a hug?”

If God’s kindness brought Pharisees like us to repentance (Romans 2:4), you never know what similar grace will do to the hearts of those bound in legalism now.

Stop the hate. Try a hug instead.

What are some ways you could express greater grace towards the “Pharisees” in your circle?

Bryan Daniels

What The Heck Does “Chief of The Least” Mean?

The apostle Paul never appreciated the suped up title of “super-apostle.” That doesn’t stop us from putting him on that pedestal today. But if we read the NT carefully it’s plainly apparent:

Paul wasn’t all that impressed with himself

We praise him for his perseverance in mind-boggling persecution: stoned, five times whipped, shipwrecked thrice, beaten and imprisoned mercilessly and more (2 Cor 11:23-29). Paul said it wasn’t his true grit, but Christ alone who strengthened him in these things (Phil 4:11-13)

We hold studies searching for the nature of Paul’s notorious “thorn in the flesh.” Was it poor eyesight? Ugly face? Lingering torture wounds? Celibate life? Bad case of hemorrhoids? Paul didn’t point to the nature of the thorn, but rather the nature of sufficient grace was the focal point of the story (2 Cor 12:9).

Some pastors call Paul the most brilliant Christian mind in the church era. He had the modern equivalent of three Ph. Ds and oratorical powers that made peasants in Lystra call him a Roman god (Acts 14:12). Paul calls all of his extensive formal educational training a big steaming “pile of s—” (literally in the Greek) compared to the knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:8).

What Spiritual Progress is For a Chief

We shouldn’t be surprised when Paul turns our view of Christian maturity on its head.

Indian Chief
Not that kind of Chief, guys.

We hope maturity in faith and sanctification would mean grappling less with the pet sins and shortcomings that rack our conscience daily. It may mean some of that. “Progress” is a nice clean catchword for politics and spirituality. But watch how Paul views progress in his Christian walk (Chief of the Least comes in here):

In the beginning of Paul’s ministry he called himself (1 Cor 15:9)

“the least of the apostles”

The least of the small select group of New Covenant Church founders. In the middle of Paul’s ministry, he called himself (Eph 3:8):

“the least of the saints.”

The least member of the growing New Covenant Church. In the end of Paul’s ministry, in his letter to his spiritual son Timothy, he called himself (1 Tim 1:15):

“Chief of Sinners”

The guiltiest and greatest sinner in the Whole. Wide. World.

This is what progress in holiness looks like: As we mature in our faith we become more humble and more broken over the sin still latent within us. As we realize we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies our faces are brought lower than dirt in servant gratitude. Paul wasn’t the greatest sinner in the world compared to other Roman dictators and miscreants.

True.

Paul was convinced He was the greatest sinner because he was in a prime position to be more aware of his own sin than others. One of the greatest works of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to us the depths of our own sin, not the sins of others.

So we find true progress to be an ever growing cyclical progress in brokenness. In humility. In gratitude.

In more brokenness.

In more humility.

In more gratitude.

A greater awareness of our sin brings an even greater awareness of the gospel that killed its grip in the person of Jesus Christ. “Chief of the Least” is a merging of Paul’s self titles.

I’m applying it to me.

But it is not just for me; It’s for anyone acutely aware of their broken estate on one hand, yet caught up in greater grateful flood for the Savior that utterly repairs and restores it on the other.

We fellow “Chiefs” adhere to this simple lifelong confession:

Yes, I am a great sinner. But I have a much greater Savior in Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Bryan Daniels

A Child Sees “The Moon!” and “The Son!”

Children have a winsome way of instructing adults.

My son, Gideon, not yet two years old, teaches me a lesson about worship and the wonders of God.

If we walk outside right after dusk it’s not very long until he lifts an expectant gaze upward. With an awe-inspiring wonder in his eyes he exclaims, “Moon!” (sometimes pronounced “Boon!”)

It never gets old to him. He sees it near every night, but each time he is caught by complete surprise when earth’s companion reveals itself. He points to the heavens with a tiny index finger, gasps, and exclaims it again with more emphasis, “Moon!” He’ll then look to me to make sure I’m not missing out on this exquisite display of the cosmos. And I can’t help but look up with him and force the amazement in my voice while joining with him,

“Moon!”

When his brother, Josiah, was this age we had the same ritual.

The wonder of a glowing orb perfectly suspended before a pitch black backdrop is a mystery we “refined” adults rarely recognize anymore.

My son knows nothing of Cosmology or Astronomy, tidal forces or Neil Armstrong. But he knows the proper response to divine phenomena when he sees it (Psalm 19).

We should be more like children (Mat 18:3). Sophistication, tradition, materialism, and blatant worship at the altar of fallen reason have left us cold and dead inside. Our blind dedication to theoretical principles has left us passionless and purposeless.

As GK Chesterton once intimated: the problem is not that we are so advanced as a species but that we are so dull. One defining mark of spiritual maturity is when the curious marvel that is a blade of grass or tad pole can bring us to our knees in worship. The splendor of God’s power in those simple things rarely grips us anymore.

 The Halo of God I Took For Granted

A few nights ago there was a great halo around the moon that extended down into our stratosphere with epic brilliance. Around 10:30 my wife woke me up from a near dead sleep so I could go outside and witness it with her. She was as giddy as a schoolgirl about the sight, calling up her dad to awake and see the spectacle too.

ring around the moon
The moon I took for granted.

I was impressed. But standing in my chilly driveway with my boxer shorts on my demeanor was a little more reserved. The killjoy left side of my brain took over as I said:

“It’s just light from the moon refracting off ice crystals…”

And there I was, trying to be more than a child. I would have been much better off if I took notes from my one year old and just pointed up while exclaiming,

“MOON!”

The wonder of the gospel will make us children again (Mat 19:14). May we never view the empty tomb as some abstract historical fact or ecclesial tradition. There is an eternal chasm of difference between assenting to information about God and being ruined by a revelation of God.

The Christian paradox: Be mature in faith yet childlike in trust.

Today: may we look to the gospel of Jesus Christ with childlike astonishment, point to His cross and empty tomb and cry out to God and man, “The Son! The Son! The Son!”

What areas in life do you feel you need to be more “child-like”?

Bryan Daniels

Everyone (even Ray Lewis) Is A Theologian. Every One.

Theology is your friend, not your enemy, no matter who you are. Before our whitey tighties get in a postmodern wad over that hear me out:

Theology Isn’t Only For E-Hard Basement Dwelling Theologians

With the advent of church-theory driven seeker sensitivism and a competing rise of Neo-Calvinist hard-rationalism on the other end, the word “theology” has become a word with negative connotations attached to it.

The tragic assumption for many is this: Theology is only for people with mere head knowledge of Scripture (a book), but no heart knowledge of Jesus (or the Father, or the Holy Spirit). The common retort against serious systematic study of the Bible is usually along the lines of:

“God doesn’t live in a book!” or

“The pharisees were theologians too,” or

“God is about a relationship (or insert “love” or “people” here) not all this theology and doctrinal stuff.”

While each of those statements contains some relevant truth in them, they all mischaracterize the nature and function of theology in the average Christian life.

Far from being only for the over educated old white dude with Andy Rooney-ish eyebrows and a permanent scowl: Theology is for everyone; and, in the end, everyone is a theologian.

Andy Rooney is a theologian
If you stare into them, you will have tarantula nightmares…

The word theology comes from two Greek words – “theos,” which means “God,” and “logos,” which means “words.” The simplest definition of theology, then, is “God words” or words about God. Whenever someone speaks of God or the characteristics of God, he or she is speaking theologically and doing theology.

Oprah Is a Theologian

That means this: Whenever anyone opens their mouth and makes any statement about God they are making a theological statement: Rick Warren, Snooki, Oprah, and Joel Osteen all have a personal theology that they share every time they speak or write about anything pertaining to God or godliness.

There is no escaping this no matter what group, denomination (or non), or philosophical worldview you ascribe to.

The maniac with a megaphone, the politician pimping God for a vote, the pimply faced emo kid using His name as a curse word. Yes, theologians every last one of them.

Ray Lewis, the theologian and super scary beast man, said last week after the Ravens beat the Brady Bunch, “No weapon formed against this team shall prosper…” That, my friends, is a theological statement…albeit a twisted out of context one.

Ray Lewis is a theologian
Great football player. Bad Theologian. Please don’t tell him I said that…Please.

Even if a person despises the formal Christian education culture or any doctrinal debate, yet they speak words about God, Christ, Holy Spirit or Scripture in general, they have assumed the position of theologian. An unbelieving atheist, in a twisted way, has a theology and can function as a theologian.

The question is not whether we are theologians (ones who speak words about God), the question is whether we are theologians that are committed to carefully speaking the true words of God. If we are committed to truly know God, love people, and be in right relationship with Him, then we better be committed to knowing and sharing His word as faithfully as we can (2 Timothy 2:15).

For the sake of God’s holy name and rep, we all should be the best theologians we can be.

Also, for the sake of the Holy Spirit we better be the best theologians we can be. If the Holy Spirit wrote a book for us (He did!), we are not being “Spirit led” by building strange fires apart from it (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Theology Is For The Mind AND Heart

Theology helps fuel the mind with God’s own thoughts about Himself, and warms the heart with a passion for Him and others (admittedly I’ve jacked that sentiment from Piper). When we begin to cherish (heart) what we know (head) about Him, we are becoming good theologians (and disciples). Those who are satisfied in knowing little of God may well be satisfied in cherishing little of God.

Let’s not construct barriers Christ never mandated; We are called to love God with all our “heart” and all our “mind.” It is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Those who would separate the two are creating a false dichotomy. A passion for Scripture context, church history, and ancient languages may very well be the evidence of a heart aflame for God’s glory.

Some may quip, “Well, I am just about Jesus and experiencing God.” So is the true theologian. Completely immersing oneself into the mind expanding, soul stirring, heart igniting words of Jesus is a primary way of being all about Christ while experiencing Him.

What About That Mean Turd E-Theologian?

Granted, some hyper critical theological nitpicks can create irreparable damage in a church body or a Facebook status. But when a person sets his theological sights on everyone but himself on a weekly basis that reveals more about his heart than it does about serious biblical studies. A spirit of division and criticism is unwarranted and unbiblical..

But what do we make of the Bible drill champion “theologian” who has no heart of love, no fruit of the Spirit, shares no gospel and is lost as a ball in high weeds? This person is not an indictment on theological studies any more than Nickelback is an indictment on Rock and Roll.

Sometimes we swing the judgment pendulum so far the other way we altogether forget Pharisees need grace too. Give it to them until they are changed from the inside out.

But let me say to some of my precious “young, restless, and Reformed” audience: a true study of God should make a person the most humble, loving, giving, servant to all men. If your theological study takes you inward into an endless spiral of introspection and selfishness, let me be clear:

You’re doing it wrong.

And to everyone else: Theology is not the culprit. Theology is your friend. At least for this side of the eternity, until the veil is finally taken away, and we see and know Him face to face (1 Cor 13:12).

What say you my fellow theologians?

and

Please share.

Bryan Daniels

Big Blog News: “Chief of the Least” is Moving

In a month or so, “chiefofleast.com” will move to “http://www.chiefoftheleast.com/.” The name is virtually the same, but the significance is I will be going from a Wordpress.com hosted site to a self hosted site (WordPress.org). My next post will cover why I’m making the switch, but for now I want to reveal my major reservation in doing this.

WordPress.com does an excellent job of connecting fellow bloggers within the WordPress.com community. The WordPress reader, tag surfing, like button, and easy follow tabs are all great features. With a self hosted blog I have none of those easy mechanisms that foster an e-community. As a result I will be losing an overwhelming majority of my blog followers.

If you hit the “follow” tab to subscribe to me on this site you will no longer be “following” me at the new site. Pretty soon, that will mean no more “Chief of the Least” for you.

Tragic news I know (especially for me I assure you). Some of you I’ve only had the pleasure of knowing a few weeks…..*a single tear drop falls down my cheek*

But the solution to this is simple.

Click the link to the new site —–>(http://www.chiefoftheleast.com/) and follow by entering your email of choice and hitting the “Subscribe” button on the sidebar.

The new blog is updated and running (and very similar to this one), and I do have a few exciting bells and whistles I’ll be adding to it the next few weeks.

If at all possible, I don’t want to lose any of you guys and gals. Not because you’ll miss any blessing by re-following, but because I’ll miss out on the overwhelming encouragement and blessing you have been to me.

So in order to confirm I’m not making the worst mistake in my blogging life, won’t you just mosey on over to the new blog and subscribe so we can stay BFF?

Thanks a bunch.

Peace and grace to you and yours.

Bryan Daniels

PS

I ain’t too proud to beg….