A Call To Wonder-Paul Washer

Off to Jacksonville early this morning taking my high jumper to the State track finals.

Enjoy the video.

At least it’s Friday!

Bryan Daniels

‘Tis the VBS season! (No Sinner’s Prayer Required)

Paul Washer has declared a war on the sinner’s prayer. He even goes so far as to call it the “golden calf” within some Baptist circles (Washer is Baptist mind you). I agree with much of this shocking sentiment. Hear me out: Though I believe the biblical reasons are manifold, I also have personal reasons for my particular distaste. I don’t believe I am alone.

Here is the way the sinner’s prayer is presented in many church (Vacation Bible School) contexts:

Towards the end of the week, the children (K-5)are herded into a big room where a pastor is waiting for them. They are greeted, seated, and told to have “every head bowed and every eye closed.” There the pastor gives a very brief Roman Road-ish gospel presentation and prompts the children to a decision in this way:

“Now you don’t want to spend an eternity  in hell apart from Jesus do you? (only the spawn of Satan would really want this) Well, of course you don’t. All you have to do is repeat this little prayer after me and you will be saved. Say this:”

Usually the recitation involves a brief acknowledgment of sin, faith, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After the pastor is finished he asks everyone who repeated the prayer to raise a hand up or stand up or look up or give a thumbs up. To those who do he gives assurance of their salvation and welcomes them into the family of God forevermore.

In third grade, this was almost verbatim the way I was presented the gospel during VBS. And I prayed that little prayer. And I prayed it again the next year. And the next. And the year after that.

Between the third and eleventh grade I probably recited the “Sinner’s Prayer” over 100 times but to no avail.

I was a bit confused (I know many others who have experienced this confusion).

The summer before my senior year I still had no assurance that little magic prayer did the right trick for me even though numerous pastors assured me it did. Around that time, during a summer camp I went to as a student leader, it pleased God to do a sovereign work in me. There, during worship, the utter ugliness of my sin and beauty of God’s grace crashed like a train wreck in my soul to produce in me true conversion. God granted me what the puritans used to call “the gift of holy tears.” I finally knew I was changed. I felt it. I was assured of it.

I don’t remember reciting any specific prayer during the whole ordeal other than maybe, “God don’t kill me.”

I have never been the same since that decisive moment. His cross and relentless grace haunts me on a daily basis, in my dreams and thoughts. I found out later the Bible confirmed what I experienced. It was true repentance.

I began to learn a staple in cultural Christianity had little or no biblical basis. Jesus never said, “The time is fulfilled the kingdom of God is at hand, so everybody bow your head and pray this prayer with me….”

But unfortunately, the “sinner’s prayer” remains as a simple effective church strategy to “win souls.” I believe this reveals our true golden calf in many evangelical churches: Pragmatism. If it works (or seems to work) it must be of God. If it gets results/decision cards it must be the Holy Spirit. So much of our church traditions are not Bible-driven but simply results-driven.

But instead of parrots and decision cards we better start looking for heaven born Fruit (Galatians 5). We need only the Holy Spirit to be saved not man-produced incantations (John 3).

Some call it easy believism. Some call decisional regeneration. Here is the really subversive thing about it: Later in life when this person feels real conviction over their sin and lost state they will go to a Christian preacher/counselor/friend about their troubled soul. And instead of giving the lost one a biblical assurance of faith (through 1 John) the counselor will ask “Did you ever ask Jesus to come in to your heart? Did you ever pray that prayer?” To which the hell raising lost sap will say: “Yes, in VBS a long time ago…” And the misguided Christian/pastor will exclaim “Well, then you’re saved!”

And another false convert heads to hell with a false comfort clinging to a false gospel understanding. Real repentance and faith must produce a life of real works and fruit (The whole book of James!). As the Reformers used to say, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.”

So let’s pray for true conversions this VBS season. Let’s pray for a genuine understanding of repentance, faith, and the discipleship road with Christ. Even in six-year olds. Six year olds who grow to be sixteen year olds who have matured into deeper revelations of faith and repentance and grace.

I’ve heard it said VBS is the greatest tool of evangelism in the life of the church. I believe that is and can continue to be true. That is, only if we are patient enough to not sacrifice our children on the altar of religious pragmatism.

Keep sowing the gospel seed to those kids my VBS peeps, God is faithful to produce a harvest! No psychological techniques or arm twisting needed. : )

Bryan Daniels

John the Baptist Eats Bear Grylls Babies For Breakfast

I appreciate the ministry of Paul Washer. He has a cutting way of encouraging young men to…man up. Yet Washer is considered by many in cultural Christianity to be a bit rough around the edges, too extreme, and too passionate in his plea for sinners (like me) to repent and cast themselves on the mercy of Christ.

I submit that those charges sound eerily familiar to a biblical character of the New Testament:

John the Baptist.

John the Baptist called seemingly sincere people seeking to be baptized by him a “brood of vipers.” He exclaimed vehemently the uncompromising message of broken repentance before the Messiah to any one with a functioning ear (Luke 3:7). He caused a curious stir among communities in Israel and garnered radical disciples to his ministry. He resided in desert caves, ate locusts and wild honey for breakfast, and dressed himself in camel-hair. I’m pretty sure he’d make Bear Grylls look like a cake eating mamma’s boy. John the Baptist was the original Chuck Norris, the only difference being that he was actually good at acting (according to Jewish historian, Josephus; )).

Now think of the ministers you know.

I am not suggesting preachers should take their dietary and fashion tips from a first century Nazarite Jew, but think about the ones you know or have seen on television. What strikes you most about them? Clean cut, with an inordinate amount of hair gel? Politically correct? Bleached teeth? Funny jokes? Nice suits and polished shoes? Great story tellers? Agreeable disposition? Typically, the sermon consists of three crisp points with a couple of relevant illustrations thrown in for good measure (maybe a lighthearted anecdote or two). None of these characteristics are bad in and of themselves, but unashamedly displaying them from the pulpit doth not a preacher make.

John was a real man.

A man’s man. A wild man. A real wild man’s man. A…you get the picture. His tone was blood earnest. His conviction unwavering. For the sake of the Bridegroom he chose to tear into his audience instead of tickling them (Luke 3:3). His weighty material directly flowed out of his love for Christ. Without displaying the sinful state of his audience they could never see their need for repentance, and without repentance they would never see their need for grace. He spoke the truth in love. But he spoke the truth. John loved his audience enough to tear their world apart in order for the Bridegroom to come and gently pick up the pieces. It was his prophetic calling.

Docile manners are not a virtue Scripture esteems greatly (neither am I saying niceness is a vice in Scripture).

The perfect man, Jesus, loved deeply, but he never was deemed “nice” by his closest followers. He was a table turning blasphemer to the most religious folk of His day.

The prophets of old loved their Jewish brethren, but none of their hearers would suggest “nice” as being one of their primary attributes. Broken hearted, men of sorrow, who spoke of shocking judgment coming to the unrepentant nation. Not nice. Not safe. Not sanitary.

The mighty blazing seraphim do not fly around the throne of God in exalted worship singing “NICE! NICE! NICE! Is the Lord of Hosts!” (read Isaiah 6:3, just read that whole chapter for a mindblow!)

Political correctness is the not an utmost concern of the Bridegroom’s friends. A tranquil American church currently majoring in manners watches as the world is dying under the weight of its own sin. It’s not nice to allow the winds of culture to dictate the force of our gospel message, especially when eternal life is at stake.

Sometimes a good sermon is like a roundhouse kick to the soul…just ask my boy John.

Bryan Daniels

Get off Facebook! BE A MAN!

Paul Washer is one of my favorite voices in the recent Reformed movement. He’s passionate, radical, sometimes abrasive and frequently offends his audience…probably just as a forerunner to the Bridegroom should do (just look at that rough and tumble wild man John the Baptist!) A healthy 1/3 of the sermons on my IPod are from Paul Washer with Piper, Chandler and Driscoll compiling the rest.

I know it seems hypocritical and a bit ironic to post a video rant about Facebook on a blog, especially when it is likely this will be shared via Facebook. There is more here than just an epic rant I assure you. Biblical manhood is Washer’s main focus, and I believe FB and the social media craze in general has an unhealthy grip on both young men and women. A majority of women age 18-35 check their facebook account’s in the morning before they even pee. That’s some news, folks. I share a generation that values a self-indulgent stalker tool over the basic essential bodily functions and needs.

I probably already have YOU!

Though there is much to lament about our societal fixation with the trivial (Trolololo Man, I regret to indict you), I know the Holy Spirit has the power to break through the self-inflicted distractions of our lives. I hope Washer’s message doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Godly men will not be found until grown boys repent of their wayward consumption of entertainment and social media.

And I’ll admit, I should be the first one in that line.

Bryan Daniels

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