Dragons Are Real, Parents Are Stupid

Some adults just don’t get it.

I remember a recent movie excursion with my wife, where we viewed the adapted CS Lewis novel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in 3D. There was a certain prude in attendance with his wife and two very young children; he must have gotten time off from his busy schedule of joy-killing to stoop to his kid’s level to watch this movie.

After a satisfactory viewing experience, my wife and I headed to the restroom facilities to unload about eight gallons of the carbonated syrup we accumulated in the past two hours. As I was waiting outside the bathrooms for my wife to finish (a common universal posture for any man with any wife) I overheard the JK (joy-killer) speaking with a fellow adult he happened to know within earshot of his children. The convo went like this:

“How was the Narnia movie?” fellow adult

With a snarky tone, “It was a bit farfetched,” said JK. “Extreme.”

My mouth dropped wide open. The only response my bewildered mind could conjure up was, “Really? Ya think?”

It is a movie based on a fantasy children’s book for mother Mary’s sake! I thought boys who turn into dragons, sword dueling mice and a talking lion were all based on living historical characters. But seriously, why don’t you just go ahead rip the imagination and innocence right out of your children’s little formative souls? While you’re at it tell them Santa is just your drunk great-uncle and all dogs go to hell.

It brings to mind one of my favorite GK Chesterton quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”

I feel a bit sympathetic for the JK, because some parental injustice must have been done to him in his early childhood, and as a result his ability to process allegory and wonder has been greatly diminished. In this rationalistic materialistic indoctrination maybe he missed the forest for the trees, and the redemption themes behind nearly every movie are (possibly) lost on him. The adult qualities of dignity and pretension has made JK a dull boy.

Metaphor, allegory, and the like, reveal deeper realer truths. If the stirring apocalyptic visions of apostle John’s crystal sea and blazing throned Majestic One are wonderful, the reality is much more so.

No wonder the lion of Judah, Jesus, told adults, “Unless you are converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Hopefully, this childlike wonder will give us a fresh unction to see and worship Christ more, even in 3D movie events. And possibly then a mole cricket or blade of grass may bring us to our knees in curious delight.

I guess the moral of this story is: Don’t be a joy-killer; God loves to challenge the comfortable traditions and long-held presuppositions of our hardened humanity. Don’t scoff too hard at a fanciful land of mermaids and giant sea snakes, the truth just maybe more far-fetched and stranger than such “fiction.”

Bryan Daniels

Why I Write/Have a Blog (in no particular order)

1. I enjoy it. I know, not too profound. But for some odd reason, I find writing cathartic. When I get lost in a verse, a thought or a sentence it feels like a natural process, an outworking of some inward stirrings. Some guys golf or hunt to unwind. I write.

I don’t do it because it’s a duty (like grading papers), I do it because it is like throwing a football or drinking a good cup of coffee to me.

I’ve never been into journaling my thoughts by pen, and that is partly because I have the handwriting skill of a drunk five-year old. Seriously, “handwriting” was the only subject I got a “U” in (for Un-satisfactory) during kindergarten. So my blog serves as a functional online journal for me, a record of my weekly musings I would otherwise not keep.

2. It blesses me. Really, if there were no audience or blog platform I would likely still write. In my early college years I once began an essay on “Jesus-The Bridegroom’s” relationship with His “church-bride” from an ancient Jewish cultural perspective. This wasn’t a class assignment but simply an area of interest. About one hundred single spaced typed pages later, my concentration began to taper off. No one has read the paper in full and I probably will never share it with anyone (some of it is poorly written and theologically weak).

But writing sometimes brings a deeper joy than the surface level satisfaction of reason #1.

In my college writing project I learned a lot in my studying about ancient Jewish culture, the book of Song of Solomon and even eschatology. So I was blessed to come to a deeper understanding of the Bridegroom’s radical love for His church (me) and how He desires a deep relationship with us.

As St. Augustine said, “I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.”

3.To bless others. I always hope my sometimes ignorant musings will bless someone somewhere in someway. I don’t want to keep my light under a bushel if anyone may benefit. It can be borderline arrogant to presume I have something to say or that I deserve to speak into another’s life.

I struggle with that sometimes.

But when another gives positive feedback or an encouraging word it does affirm that I am not just speaking to a wall or typing into an inanimate object. And, as CS Lewis once stated, “One compliment can last me a whole month.” It is a sober reminder that there are souls on the other line, and it is a humbling endeavor to communicate a message that may edify them by the grace of God.

I know it sounds unspiritual if I don’t overtly say I write “for the glory of God.”  Though it is true, in my opinion that phrase is beginning to get overworn in contemporary Christian language. I believe when humans delight in the common graces of God (writing, sports, kids, etc.) for what they are, then God’s glory is in view in a distinctly beautiful way. In other words, instead of saying it in an obligatory manner (“for the glory of God!”), it is better to just show it.

So for my own joy and blessing, and for the good of others and glory of God, I try to faithfully maintain a blog.

Besides, it’s much easier on my pride than staring daily at the inebriated scrawlings of a kindergartener.

Bryan Daniels

The Final Prophet: Who Has Your Ear?

The ever quotable AW Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”

We can be very religious, but if we are not utterly fascinated with the person of Jesus Christ our worship is base. Scripture says the Glory of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). If we would be acquainted with God’s glory we must find it in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Christ revealed Himself to be many things. One office He fulfilled was that of prophet; not just any prophet, but in an ultimate everlasting way THE FINAL PROPHET for all peoples and ages. Scripture communicates this in Hebrews 1:1-2:

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

In Hebrews 1:1 we find that God speaks-He is not silent. He reveals Himself. Only a person can speak. Only a person who wants to relate to other persons can speak and communicate.

God is a person, with a personality, with a heart to communicate to us. He is neither stoic nor neutral about communicating truth to us.

Before, in the Old Testament, He spoke through various prophets to Israel. Who was a prophet? Not a purple haired lady or some greasy haired charlatan in a three-piece suit who waxes, “Sow into our ministry and we’ll give you miracle water/prayer cloth/financial anointing!”

The OT prophets words were tough; Forget seeker sensitive, more like seeker abrasive. Their consummate message: Don’t put your trust in the living God for coats and boats, trust Him because His perfect wrath will fall on you if you don’t! Some prophets were subjected to utter rejection while carrying out strange and radical displays of obedience. (read about Hosea here)

John the Baptist, the forerunner prophet of Christ, was a wild man with an uncompromising message of repentance.

A prophet is one who simply speaks for God. They are, in the moment they are prophesying, the mouthpiece of God (2 Peter 1:21). God could have spoken with a thundering voice from the sky, but that would neglect the human incarnational component He was intimating. In an awe-inspiring way God chooses sinful men as His blessed ambassadors.

This speaking happened “in many ways.” (verse 1) Through creation, as Psalm 19 shows, nature speaks praises of her Creator. God speaks now through the recorded lives and words of Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Samuel and David. God can even speak through the sacrificial system of Leviticus and endless genealogies of Numbers. Though the message is singular, God has diversified the means with which He would speak to man.

For us to say “God has not spoken to me,” is like covering our ears during a concert and saying “I can’t hear anything.” If we aren’t hearing it’s our fault. The problem isn’t with the decibel level of God’s voice, it is with the selective hearing of our own ears.

God’s creation, God’s prophets and Christ’s blood have spoken with clarity, and all who spurn their word will be condemned justly.

Verse 1 says He has spoken in these “Last days through the Son” Usually, in the NT, the “last days” refer to the advent of Christ into the world. I’m not convinced the disciples had a “Left Behind” dispensational understanding of the end times. The beginning of the “last days” started with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So in a real sense the disciples believed they were living in the last days. In the person of Christ, we find God’s final communication to humanity for these last days.

As CS Lewis stated “Christ is the self-expression of the father.” The Father had one thing to say to us, and He breathed out Christ into the world as the message in the flesh. As the final prophet, He is the living Word of God to humanity (John 1;1).

Have we heard God’s voice through the work and person of Jesus Christ? Has the magnitude and beauty of the cross ravaged us? Has the wonder and power of the empty grave captivated us?

Both the Old and the New Testament speak of Him, and thus the whole series of prophets testified to the Person, work, grace and glory of the Son of God. Christ said “You search the Scriptures because in them you seek eternal life. But these Scriptures testify of me!”(John 5:39) Our privilege is to see Christ in it all from Genesis to Maps. Jesus in every bible story, character, prophecy, praise, lament, everything.

He is the center of the story. His words do not reveal information, they reveal Him!

God’s word is “God –breathed” and He continues to speak to us through his word about Jesus. (2 Tim 3:16) The testimony of Christ is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10)

What is the final prophet saying to me? This is no ordinary man making unsubstantiated claims. This not just another Mohammed, Joseph Smith or Jim Jones. This is the “heir of all things.”  Christ owns it all, for through Him God made the universe (Hebrews 1:2) Yet this is still a person; through God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit a word is being spoken to us. The Comforter has many things to say. There is a message that is being communicated right now. That is why Jesus and the prophets proclaim again and again, “He who has an ear let him hear!”

Which begs a personal question:

Who has your ear?

Facebook, Fox News, Hollywood, ESPN, Twitter? (I’m wounding my own pride)

Some voices have no right to speak into your life.

You can listen to Snookie. Or you can listen to the one who speaks for God. This one Who speaks is very God of God. Are you listening to Him? He is speaking. In and through Christ. Listen.

Bryan Daniels

Hell-The New Nintendo, The Old Biblical Truth

Hell is the new Nintendo.

At least it is amongst blogging Christendom as of late. Nothing can quite get public dialogue heated (?!) quicker than some good ole’ fire and brimstone-esque debate. In this day many, even those who call themselves Christian, want to say, “To hell with hell!”…at least as the Bible plainly teaches it.

Hell is an immensely important doctrinal matter, because if eternal destinies of individuals are at stake then what we believe about hell cannot be taken too seriously or studied too carefully.

I bet John the Baptist believed in a literal hell...

It is no matter whether it offends our modern sensibilities and we feel the notion of a literal place called “hell” is arcane and puritanical. What we “feel” about it has no bearing on the issue. The most pressing concern at hand is this: Is it biblical to posit hell as a place of constant physical torment and eternal spiritual separation from God? Or is hell just self wrought consequences of bad choices which we reap only in the here and now?

Let’s begin the discourse in Revelation 20:10. Admittedly, one can’t deny the heavily symbolic nature of Revelation and the difficulties that flow out of such language, but all symbols symbolize something. Symbols are used to illustrate a greater truth that can’t be wrapped in literal language, not a lesser truth. While symbolic descriptions of hell sound bad enough, we can be assured the reality is even worse than can be imagined (thankfully this works on the flip side with heaven too!). 

The fundamental nature of hell is spiritual separation from God, but this view does not account for all the particulars of hell. Revelation 20:10 verse to help illustrate this point: “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet also were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” There are several key inferences to make here: the lake of fire consumes the person, just as waters consume any person thrown into a physical lake; it is a place from which they cannot escape; the imagery of fire and sulphur is intended to show extreme pain and suffering that extends to all the senses. Furthermore, the punishment is obviously eternal, continual, total and conscious (“tormented day and night for ever and ever”) and human beings will be there, for the beast and the false prophet are humans.

It’s clear: “Anyone whose name is not written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:10)

Many proponents of a non literal temporal hell claim if we had a more thorough understanding of Jewish historical context we could not hold to the traditional view of hell. This is not corroborated by careful study though. The ancient Jewish belief of humanity includes an immortality of the human soul and human body, which is in direct contrast to the gentile view of a separated body and soul. Daniel 12:1-2 is a confirmation: “ . . but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” If we hold tightly to the view of heaven as conscious eternal bliss, how can we not hold to the view of hell as conscious and eternal torment? Jesus confirms this when he says the unrighteous “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” The biblical text is plain and does not change the grammatical meaning of “eternity” when referencing heaven or hell.

I find it hypocritical (and an indictment on human nature) that no one is propagating a “temporal” heaven with the same logic they claim a “temporal” hell. Could it be because we are making our interpretations of Scripture based on our subjective inclinations (eisegesis) and not the objective ordinary meaning of the text (exegesis)?

What can we make of Jesus’ NT exhortation to “Fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28)? Hell is the place the body and soul will be eternally destroyed by a Holy loving God. Hell is not just the suicidal and self-inflicted internal propensities of misguided men (though it is that in part), Hell is the external judgment of God being poured out on sinful men (Romans 1:18-21).

Why else would we be charged to “Fear Him”? If all religions end up in the same relativistic celestial melting pot whom is there to fear?

The most heart wrenching display of the nature of hell is Christ’s separation from His Father on the cross. In this tangible portrayal of hell we do see physical suffering, which is only a minute part of this hell, but we see even greater the spiritual suffering of the Son who cried, “Why have you forsaken Me?” In hell, all the goodness and grace of the Father is suspended from the person and they are completely isolated from anything of redeeming value. Self is the wretched cruel king in hell. This Spiritual suffering is the most severe aspect of hell, but this in no way denies the physical suffering of the individual.

Hell has an immensely devastating affect on the whole person. Hell happens to you and in you for eternity.

When we reject the hell Christ took on the cross for us, we are accepting the hell we deserve for an eternity. God gives us what we truly desire. As CS Lewis once said, “Either people will say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ or God will say to them, ‘Thy will be done.'” The self willed, self absorbed and God-hating will continue in that trajectory into eternity. They wouldn’t want it any other way.

Remember who we are rebelling against when we sin. This is no mere Joe Blow off the street, it is the High King and perfect Son we are scorning. This is a high crime with high consequences. When blaspheming the infinitely worthy ONE there are necessarily infinitely dire implications. The punishment (hell) fits the crime (treason). 

This is why the love of God and the wrath of God are inextricably linked. “This is love not that we have loved God but that He has loved us and given His Son as a propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10) In an ironic display of gospel ignorance many who claim “Love Wins” apart from God’s wrath (cough*Rob Bell*cough), are actually nullifying the love of God. God loves sinners because He poured out His just displeasure on His perfect Son who died as our substitute. Clearly, a denial of God’s wrath is a denial of Christ’s propitiation (wrath bearing sacrifice) which in turn is an outright denial of God’s love.

Universalism, in the end, destroys the very thing it is attempting to uphold.

 There is no biblical reason to uphold purgatory or annihilationism as a more sensitive route to hell. Christ was the most loving and sensitive man who ever walked the earth yet He talked more about hell than all other biblical writers combined. It was probably because He was more qualified to speak of such a horrible reality considering He was the creator of it, just as all things were created through Him (Colossians 1:15-17). The domesticated demure Jesus we have constructed in our minds declares in the “Rich man and Lazarus” parable that hell is place of personal consciousness, eternal torment, and no second chances (Luke 16:19-31). Even if we reject the hellfire and brimstone hyper fundamentalist preaching of the traditionalist past, we would do well to give an ear to what Jesus has to say.

If there were no Jesus there would be no hell. Or to say it differently, the only way there could be no hell is if there were no Jesus.

Our distaste for hell will not make it go away. In reality, that taste is designed by God so that we may shun hell and desire the heavenly kingdom He purchased for us with His own Son’s life. We may very well wish the notion of hell would just go to hell. But we would be consigning the love of God, the blood of Jesus, and all the goodness on heaven and earth to the same fate.

Bryan Daniels

Why Dragons are Real and Parents are Stupid

Some adults just don’t get it. I encountered one in a recent movie excursion with my wife, where we viewed the adapted CS Lewis novel “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” in 3D. The prude was there with his wife and two young children, as he must have gotten time off from his busy schedule of joy-killing to stoop to his kid’s level to watch this movie.

After a satisfactory viewing experience my wife and I headed to the restroom facilities to unload about eight gallons of carbonated syrup we accumulated in the past two hours. As I was waiting outside the bathrooms for my wife to finish (a common experience for a man with a wife in her third trimester) I overheard the JK (joy-killer) speaking with a fellow adult he happened to know within earshot of his children. The convo went like this:

Stupid talking lion

“How was the Narnia movie?” fellow adult

With a snarky tone, “It was a bit farfetched,” said JK. “Extreme.”

My mouth dropped open. The only response my bewildered mind could conjure up was, “Really? Ya think?”

It is a movie based on a fantasy children’s book for mother Mary’s sake! I thought boys who turn into dragons, a sword dueling mouse and a talking lion were quite logical myself. But seriously, why don’t you just go ahead rip the imagination and innocence right out of your children’s little souls? While you’re at it tell them Santa is just your drunk great-uncle and all dogs go to hell.  

It brings to mind one of my favorite GK Chesterton quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”

I feel a bit sympathetic for the JK, because some parental injustice must have been done to him in his early childhood, and as a result his ability to process allegory and wonder has been greatly diminished. In this rationalistic materialistic brainwashing he’s missed the forest for the trees, and the redemption themes behind nearly every movie are (possibly) lost on him. The adult qualities of dignity and pretension has made JK a dull boy.

No wonder the lion of Judah, Jesus, told adults, “Unless you are converted and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Hopefully, in the new year this childlike wonder will give us a fresh unction to see and worship Christ more, even in 3D movie events. And possibly then a mole cricket or blade of grass may bring us to our knees in curious delight.

I guess the moral of this story is: Don’t be a joy-killer; God loves to challenge the comfortable traditions and long-held presuppositions of our hardened humanity. Don’t scoff too hard at a fanciful land of mermaids and giant sea snakes, the truth just maybe more far-fetched and stranger than such fiction.

Bryan Daniels