This Christmas I Want To See Jesus Riding On His Horse

As I sat back in my recliner last night my four-year old son, Josiah, approached me. I was easing the pain of a newly inflamed slipped disc that has seemed to be playing the bongos on my sciatic nerve the past couple days. Almost everyone has noticed I’m walking with a sizable limp, less like a 29-year-old young man and more like an elderly arthritic woman with a plastic hip.

The daily news blared in our living room. As talking heads heralded shootings, fiscal cliffs, and injustices worldwide my little boy approached me. He was holding his “action” bible, an impressive work with DC comic illustrations peppered among Old and New Testament commentary.

Action-Bible-190x290

“Daddy, I want to see Jesus riding on his horse.”

It was from the Revelation portion, the end of story: a conquering warrior King wielding a sword riding atop his white horse while leading an angel army into a fierce battle with a snarling multi-headed red dragon.

“I do too, baby,”

I said as I took the book and strained to lift him up to my lap.

My son doesn’t understand the weight of recent news. And he has been taught the wonder of the incarnation, that Ancient-of-Days-arriving-into-human-flesh-Christmas-mystery (Isaiah 9:6).

But an innocent infant who poops himself and needs his mom doesn’t quite resonate with a wonder filled boy who sleeps with his Transformers and Spider Man toys.

He already has a baby brother.

He wants to know a conquering Cowboy King with a tattoo down His thigh who slays bad guys and dragons (Revelation 19:16).

I do too.

May our baby “Christmas Jesus” never be separated from the Sovereign one who wins forevermore. As we behold the nursing babe in cave, may we also see the horrifying cross, the breathtaking resurrection, and the only King who fights and conquers every injustice on our behalf.

Forget the “war on Christmas”, Christ is a fierce warrior who is well able to defend Himself.

And in a similar way, may our prayer this season be to our heavenly Father:

“Daddy, I want to see Jesus riding on his horse.”

Bryan Daniels

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

Camping With Captain America

We kissed his little brother good night,

ate our chicken sticks and juice,

and practiced writing our name…along with drawing jets, rocket-ships, and volnados (mix between a volcano and tornado)

Last night I camped out with a cowboy, a Power Ranger, and Captain America, all perfectly wrapped up in one little four year old boy’s body.

We pitched the tiny red tent in the darkened living room, my head resting on a Thomas the Train pillow as the lower half of my body was exposed to the harsh winds of a ceiling fan. An assortment of monster trucks and race cars protected the perimeter. We shot a snake and a werewolf with a bubble blowing handgun.

Evenings like this go too fast. This freckle faced, mama’s brown eyes, bundle of wonder will be a pimple faced hairy teen tomorrow. The next day he’ll be a dashing young man, moving out and moving on to his own harrowing journey of limitless possibilities.

A journey into a real world that needs a real hero to rise up and conquer real werewolves and snakes, especially those that lie latent within.

Maybe one day a nurse will hand him his own beautiful crying child, wet and wrapped in hospital blankets; and at that moment he’ll be altogether convinced of his own limits as a man and father, and altogether grateful for a heavenly Father that cares for this child infinitely more than he ever could.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue to thank a great Father who inexplicably continues to give the gift of fatherhood to fallen men like me.

Bryan Daniels

My Summer Sabbatical (Follow Me)

As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a sabbatical from consistent blogging. As family time, summer part time jobs and football camps have taken precedent I’ve taken an extended leave from this blog. I really don’t “feel” like taking the time to contribute any coherent consistent blog thoughts on God, family, and life in general.

Focusing my time on leading and loving my wife and two sons seems like the best choice right now.

I’ll be back in commission at some point. I don’t know when for sure. But the itch to write rarely leaves me for long.

Meanwhile, I’ll devote more free time to reading this summer rather than writing. I want to keep a steady balanced diet of fiction and nonfiction works. First up is Jared C. Wilson’s Christological examination “Your Jesus Is Too Safe.” Next, I plan to finally finish off Leif Enger’s “Peace Like a River.” I’ll see where the summer wind blows me after those (I have a slight addiction of purchasing books I never get around to reading).

I’d also be honored if you follow me on Twitter. I may not have the mental fortitude right now to daily blog, but I can manage to tweet a few daily random blurbs in 140 characters or less. Probably half of my tweets are serious theological musings, the other half trite tongue in cheek snarks about current events. Excuse my sarcasm in advance.

Thank you guys for your continued involvement and encouragement on my little corner of the blogosphere. I’ll see you around soon.

The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.

Bryan Daniels

A Father’s Day Prophecy and Freestylin’ Dads

The very last written OT promise to the nation of Israel is found in the book of Malachi. It is followed by roughly 400 years of prophetic silence, until a carpenter’s son shows up on the scene to turn the world upside down. It’s kind of a “Father’s Day” prophecy for us today.

It says:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6)

In the NT, we learn John the Baptist came as a fulfillment of this prophecy (Luke 1:17). But there are also compelling reasons to believe there is a final “end times” Elijah that will be the complete fulfillment of this prophecy (Revelation 11:3-12).

Regardless, this prophecy hits at the root of the matter with an axe hammer. Our current  cultural issues (or you could say “curse”) with absent parenting, abandonment, and child abuse all stem from the same fount: It’s a heart issue. All sins are.

Whether by overt acts of abuse, subversive attitudes of disappointment, or neglectful abandonment. Apart from a turning of heart, all father’s are susceptible to these sins.

Children are not entirely innocent. This promise would apply to rebellious younger children, neglectful older children and children embittered by what they perceived as a rough childhood. Malachi states children must have a turning of the heart too towards their parents, regardless of the parents past sins toward them.

If we want to see a revival in this nation, we must start with a reviving of families. It will start with broken families being broken and repentant before one another.

I long for the day when God fully restores broken families. I long for the day when boys with beards see freedom not in the context of abandoning their family, but only in the freedom found in Christ and abandoning their sinful proclivity to not “man up”. True freedom that breaks every curse, and makes them the fathers, husbands, and children that can revive a nation.

Do it in my family, Lord, start with me first and my two little boys, Josiah and Gideon.

Bryan Daniels

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

The Daniels Family Irish

The Daniels Family

There are my only earthly treasures in the world.

As the adage goes, a father is a man who has pictures of kids in the wallet where his money used to be. Parenthood is very strange and unique: the very moment you first meet that little wet ball of crying beauty face to face you instantly know you would kill or die for them if need be. Jess and I are very blessed beyond anything we deserve to have two healthy happy boys to share life with. This above picture bring out the ginger in everyone’s hair (except for Mr Clean there) for some reason. Josiah is twisting his tie and Gideon is in a milk induced trance on the hip of his mom. Needless to say there are plenty of ruthless rasslin’ matches and spitfire Irish pub brawls between the four of us.

Family is a precious gift. Hug, kiss, or just give a word of love to the respective loved ones in your life today. At the end of the day (and life) I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Man, I wish I would have spent less time playing with my kids, hugging my wife, and visiting with my parents.”

Oh yeah, and Lord I want to thank you for my smoking hot wife:

Divine Cage Matches And The Limp Of Love

One of the many benefits of “daddyhood” are the daily ruthless cage matches that turn my living room floor into a carnage filled war of bloody dropkicks and stomach turning armbars.

Ok, not really.

But I can see the mean and hungry gaze of my opponents every evening as I descend down to the living room rug. A little blond three year old jumps off his chair in the kitchen and screeches across the tile like a Scottish warrior. A twelve month old carrot top takes a more subversive attack mode, crawling swiftly across the carpet floor while huffing and puffing in an unintelligibly excited tone.

The three-year old cannonballs onto my stomach, the one year old goes for the face rake, they both giggle hysterically as their big clumsy opponent grunts in fabricated (usually) pain.

This is their favorite time of day.

It’s their father’s too. Amongst the dropkicks and baby armbars he’s usually able to sneak a few hugs and kisses in.

I’m sure in their little imaginative psyche’s they are partaking in a no holds barred rumble of epic proportions. I mean, they are relentless (and could probably go on all night).

I always think about Jacob and the jujitsu smackdown he had with God. Whether it was just an angel, the preincarnate Christ, or some other divine manifestation, Jacob was convinced he had a face to face encounter with The Almighty when it was over (v. 30) The story always had a certain level of humor to me (Genesis 32:24-32).

God humbles Himself in such a way to appear physically before the perplexed man, and not only that, He allows for a wrestling match to ensue for the whole night.

This is the same God who could fling a universe into existence with the flick of a wrist, or drown a massive army with the drops of his bucket. But here we find Him in a grappling stalemate with a sinful man who deeply fears his own human brother, Esau.

Behold the humility of God!

I don’t presume to know God’s emotions, but since He is Father, I wonder if a sheepish grin of delight ever occurred to Him as He wrestled with His child, Jacob.

And just to  remind the kid who was boss, like any good father has to do from time to time, the God-man dislocates Jacob’s hip with the simple brush of the finger. A little tangible battle wound to remind him the cost of wrestling with the Almighty (v. 25).

Despite the pain, Jacob is relentless. Specifically, relentless with his prayer request to God:

“I will NOT let you go until you bless me!” (importunate child!)

God blesses the striving man with a new name and a wiped clean past:” Israel.” For Jacob you have “striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (v. 28) Amazingly, God delights in being bugged by His children (Matthew 7:7)! Keep pestering Him beloved, He has commanded we treat this as a joyful full time occupation (Jeremiah 51:12).

I love the heart of a Father who stoops to His children’s level to communicate and bless them.

I love the relentless grip of the child who knows only the gracious hand of the Father is able to supply all his needs.

I love being a dad. I pray my little boys can see through the flawed picture of their own  earthly father’s limited love, and see the perfect picture of their eternal Father’s everlasting love.

Such a love that cost the death of His own begotten, where the Father’s wrath on the Son wasn’t imaginary, but terrifyingly real and utterly complete (Isaiah 53). Thank God that through Christ we may wrestle with the Holy One in prayer and not be destroyed.

Claiming the precious name of Jesus in incessant prayer to God is serious business.

We may walk away from the encounter with a new limp.

We may walk away from it with a new name.

But let’s always walk away from it with a new-found delight in the Father who delights to wrestle with His kids.

Bryan Daniels