Embracing My BaptiCalviMethoCostalism

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. In adulthood I adopted a more Reformed approach to Theology. Right after college I married a beautiful charismatic girl named Jessica Lee. We currently attend a United Methodist fellowship together as a family of four.

I guess you could call me a BaptiCalviMethiCostal. That is, if labels mean anything (I don’t believe they mean much).

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the different streams of tradition that all end up converging at the same cross. Across the Christian spectrum, there may be many different inclinations towards modes of baptism, communion, and church government. Yet there is also unity in this traditional diversity, just as there is unity in diversity in the very nature of God. Most all Protestant denominations (and many Catholic streams too) grip most tight the same basic doctrines as essential:

Sinfulness of man, Deity of Christ (Trinity), Salvation only through His cross, His physical resurrection, Inerrancy of Scripture, etc.

I always admired the historical friendship of Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. Both men were prominent revivalists during America’s First Great Awakening. Both men were involved in public doctrinal debates during this time, especially over the biblical doctrine of predestination. They were on polar opposite sides of the theological spectrum on some issues. Many believe this strained their longtime friendship, but not if you look at their own words towards the end:

Around this time of controversy, Whitefield was asked this question, “Do you expect to see John Wesley in Heaven?”

“No,” was his reply.

But then Whitefield continued, “John Wesley will be so close to the Throne of Glory, and I will be so far away, I will hardly get a glimpse of him.”

Whitefield died in 1770. Wesley was the primary speaker at his funeral. He shared these words about his friend, George Whitefield, from the pulpit:

“Have we read or heard of any person since the Apostles, who testified the gospel of the grace of God through so widely extended a space, through so large a part of the habitable world? Have we read or heard of any person who called so many thousands, so many myriads, of sinners to repentance? Above all, have we read or heard of any who has been a blessed instrument in His hand of bringing so many sinners from “darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God?”

There are real traditional distinctives that shouldn’t necessarily be ignored. But there is a greater truth still that unites all manner of sinful men under the same banner of the slain Lamb of God.

So it is with me.

I’m sure there will be many brethren from the Lutheran, Anglican, Charismatic, Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist persuasion and more that I will never see in heaven because of their close proximity to the throne. And if I only currently open my eyes I may also see leaders in those same diverse traditions who preach with bold apostolic fervor the gospel of grace and power in Christ.

So I embrace my BaptiCalviMethoCostalism. There is enough room for all of these and many more at the foot of that one horrible and wonderful cross.

Bryan Daniels

Baby Bedtime Prayers and God’s Sovereignty

I sometimes wonder if the Nike Marketing Group has had a hand in influencing the modern American church’s gospel message. There is a certain level of “Just Do It” fervor in the sermons and Sunday school lessons of evangelical churches.

In our zeal to get God’s work done we tend to lead and end with an exhortation for every man, woman and child to go “invite, tell, contextualize, evangelize, and do whatever you can” to get the gospel out. Just do it, just do something, because doing anything with a Christian flavor is better than nothing!

There may not be anything wrong with this.

In a sense this can be a very biblical exhortation (Colossians 3:23). A little bit of Bible study can quickly show us that the Great Commission is the last charge Christ made to all who would claim to be His followers (Matthew 28:19-20).

But a little bit of truth with no context can be a dangerous thing; If we preach the gospel mission as mainly an emphasis on doing, trying, and moving for God, an ungodly deduction could be made in the mind of the listener: “If I don’t move, God can’t. God is dependent on me. God is impotent to get glory if I don’t go get it for Him.”

If we are not careful, in our mind the cosmic tables can be turned. And in a very real sense I can believe with all my heart not that I desperately and daily need God above all else, but that now that I’m a Christian:

“God needs me.”

Jesus is the antidote for this natural man-centered bent of our heart’s. When He spoke and acted, Christ placed the emphasis of evangelism back at His Father’s feet:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Here is how modern evangelicalism has rendered this verse in so many ways: “The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few; therefore GO! Can’t you see? The lost need you! God needs you! The world needs you now! It’s your destiny!”

But this isn’t how Jesus appeals to the blind and hurting world he saw around him. He was driven to tearful compassion for His shepherdless sheep, and the response He wanted us to have was not to hastily run out and use any means to reel them in (JUST DO IT!). The first compassionate biblical command Jesus gave us for a world going to hell with out a Savior was to

“Therefore, pray.”

This seems so counterintuitive to our über busy lives and the works based gospel we have quietly submitted to in the name of church attendance and behavior modification.

Jesus knew without divine unction and calling, mankind could do nothing of eternal value for mankind. Without the Father first preparing vessels for His glory, the sending out of laborers would be in vain. And as a result, all meaningful evangelism efforts must be rooted in humble fervent prayer before the Father asking Him to graciously give what we can never produce:

A harvest of souls.

Revival doesn’t necessarily begin in big tents or rousing services, it begins with us in our prayer closet on our knees tearfully pleading for the Sovereign Ruler to have mercy on us (2 Chronicles 7:14). It is not first about doing, it is first about depending.

I believe this is true even for those seemingly hum drum daily routine prayers we unload hastily at the end of a busy day.

The way a person prays may betray their true theology.

In my bedtime prayer with my son I don’t appeal directly to his will (or his inherent ability to turn to God), I appeal to the God of Justice and Mercy to make Himself known to him based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In reality, almost every parent I know prays for their child this way, regardless of the theological system they claim.

In a word, I pray God will make him willing (Psalm 110)

Would anyone be motivated to pray for another’s salvation otherwise?

If I am not convinced that God can accomplish my son’s salvation and prepare him for an apprehension of grace, what motivation for prayer is there?

This is a weighty privilege and responsibility for parents. Our supplications can be one of the many tiny levers that has helped set the great wheel of God’s sovereignty into motion for our child’s salvation. In prayer, we place our child’s destiny into the caring hands of the merciful Father, for God forbid these precious ones be left up to their own fallen devices.

I know there is tension and mystery on the subject of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. His sovereignty does not negate our responsibility, but rather should motivate and empower it. The God who can be trusted on as a loving Father, can also be depended on to carry out his purposes as a powerful King.

So I pray over my son every night. Standing on the undying promises of a King who can never be thwarted (Eph 1:11):

“God you make Josiah a man of God, You make him a man after Your own heart…You give him a heart of flesh to know You and fear You, and You save him by Your grace.” (Ezekiel 36:26-36).

I know without the Holy Spirit moving on his little heart he will have no inclination to repent and believe the gospel in his lifetime (Eph 2:3-5).

At the conclusion of our bedtime prayer Josiah looks up at me as I say “In Jesus Name.” And he always responds with a hearty drawn out, “Aaaaamen!!!” or, as the word means, “So be it!”

A three year old knows his utter dependence on the Father’s mercy. Let us find that same childlike dependence in prayer, and our interceding and going and preaching will not be with vain appeals of man-centered movement, but with the Father’s blessing and divine power.

Bryan Daniels

Lil Wayne’s Incarceration: A Call to Freedom

In case you have been too enamored with election results to actually watch the “real” news, let me fill you in: rapper Lil Wayne is free at last!

Lil Wayne (Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.), was recently incarcerated for 8 months stemming from an illegal gun possession charge. As he partook in solitary confinement his album sales for I am Not a Human Being soared to No.1 on the Billboard 200.

Jeezy

Behind the mystique lies a heart-rending tale of modern times.

In addition to gun charges, Carter has also had multiple drug charges leveled against him.

To date, Carter has at least four children by three different women.

Even though he was an honor student, Carter dropped out of high school. (To his credit he is currently trying to complete an online degree)

At the age of 13, he accidentally shot himself with a .44 caliber gun.

Most of these events are just symptoms, pointing to a larger sickness. All of these circumstances have an origin in some way to the most tragic fact in Mr. Carter’s bio:

His parents were divorced when he was 2, after which his father permanently abandoned the family.

In a recent interview, Carter explained why he has dropped the “D” from his given name “Dwayne”, opting for “Wayne”:

“I dropped the D because I’m a junior and my father is living and he’s not in my life and he’s never been in my life. So I don’t want to be Dwayne, I’d rather be Wayne”. Asked if his father knew of this and Wayne replied with a smile, “He knows now.”

Behind the smile lies a little boy still needing his father’s affirmation.

The case of Carter is a case against our times. The prevalence of absent fathers is a scourge on our society.

As a father, all I can say is I don’t fully understand this tendency towards abandonment. I’d rather die a thousand deaths than miss my son’s first words, birthdays, football games, and other milestone moments .

I do know there are a litany of factors to consider: socioeconomic, educational, psychological, learned family traits, etc. But the prevailing factor behind it all can get lost sometimes in our philosophizing:

Sin. Sins of the heart.

Sin not only hardens our hearts against God and His revealed will, it hardens our hearts against people, even the people closest to us; our family. One of the first sins ever recorded in the Bible was a family feud that turned into premeditated murder.

It is cases like Carter’s that make me cling to one of the most compelling promises in Scripture. 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 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. It’s a heart issue. All sins are.

Whether by overt acts of abuse, subversive attitudes of disappointment, or the act on trial here: neglectful abandonment. Apart from a turning of heart, all father’s are susceptible to this.

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. Children must have a turning of the heart too.

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, even Lil Wayne’s. I long for the day men like him see freedom not in the context of a prison release, but in the freedom from sin found in Christ. True freedom that breaks every curse, and makes them the fathers, husbands and children that can revive a nation.

Bryan Daniels