A Resolution That Can Never Be Broken….Ever.

Tis the season to make half-hearted resolutions to Hollywood Diets and 90 Day workout programs!

As we embark on a fresh New Year, a chance to call “Do Over!”, and an opportunity to rededicate, we may need to pause a bit before the ball drops and the confetti cleanup ensues.

In my opinion:

The gist of our modern Christianity is akin to a perpetual New Year’s Resolution.

Behavior modification dominates much preaching and teaching in the church. The thrust of so many Christian messages is about doing stuff: Pray longer, Give more money, Witness more, Invite a friend, get an accountability partner, help the poor, get a quiet time, become a leader…Try harder to be a better husband, employee/employer, father, citizen, dog owner, etc. etc. etc.

Do do do, go go go, try try try….and we reduce the beauty of the gospel mission to a Nike commercial.

We have such a propensity to work-related righteousness and commitments we may forget that Christ has made a resolution to us that will never be broken:

In Christ, God has resolved to love us with an eternal commitment. This resolution was not built on the sifting sand of human will but was signed, sealed, and delivered by the blood of His own dear Son before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:13). This commitment to us isn’t just for the New Year, it is new every morning (Lamentations 3:23).

The basics of the gospel blows away the minds of mighty angels  (1 Peter 1:12). The blazing seraphim near the throne and Michael the sword-wielding warrior can’t comprehend why such a holy King would condescend to love such weak sinful men. We treat the gospel like a trite prayer tacked on the end of a sermon, or a kiddie pool we have to enter to go on to deeper spiritual waters. The Gospel, which reveals the glory of God in Jesus Christ, is the deepest thing in all the world(s).

Angels aren’t impressed by our great exploits for God, they’re impressed by God’s great exploits for us in the gospel.

The gospel tells us that there is nothing we can ever do to make God love us more than He does right now. It tells us there is nothing we can ever do to make God love us less than He does right now. Over 170 times in the NT the term “in Christ” is used to connote those who have been apprehended by God’s grace. God loves His Son with an unbroken perfect love and if we are IN CHRIST, God must love us in the SAME EXACT WAY (John 17:26).

We bring nothing to the table and yet are given everything.

No wonder angels are so perplexed.

Why would God love fallen broken humanity in the same way He loves His spotless precious obedient Son?

Why would God make a once and for all resolution to such disobedient despondent wretches?

This New Year may we look to Christ and His commitment to us in the gospel with angel-like longing, and may it birth heaven-like worship in our hearts. Let’s resolve to be captivated by God’s curious resolution to love us, in 2013 and forevermore.

Peace and grace this new year.

Bryan Daniels

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

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

Cultural Contradictions: Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday

Be grateful for what you have this season…Psyche! Covet what thy neighbor has!

Seen this one floating arond the internetz the past couple days. Worth a re-share. Hope you have a holiday filled with family, fun, and chillaxation. And:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)

Bryan Daniels

A Pre-Emptive Strike Against Thanksgiving Gluttony (and Dairy Queen)

I wrote something like this last year after the Thanksgiving festivities…I thought I’d share it this year before we gorge our bellies ; )

Buzzin’ on Grape Juice

Church culture intrigues me.

I am always curious as to how inconsistencies or contradictions are birthed in church traditions and cultural Christianity. Alcohol consumption is just one example. Especially in my own tradition (Baptist), abstinence from any alcoholic beverage, no matter the temperance exercised, is a prerequisite for any church leadership position. It is written with permanent ink in the church bylaws. And though this would be another post topic, I can never reconcile how drunk people in John 5 thought Jesus saved the best wine for last if He was only serving up watered down grape juice.

While we strain a gnat out of our wine glasses, one “camel” that is commonly overlooked in cultural churchianity (especially the Southern flavor) is gluttony (Leviticus 19:18). Yes, Thanksgiving is a celebration of faith, family and provisions (as it should be), but it has also become centered around ginormous meals that include ungodly amounts of red meat, lardy gravy, casseroles, sugary pies, and sweet tea. It is a time to brag about caloric intake and the intestinal fortitude it took to force down that last bite of pumpkin crunch.

I consume enough each Thanksgiving to get sick to my stomach for the rest of the evening and well into the night, the ache only subsiding after a couple BC powders and Sprites.

It’s not just during Thanksgiving.

Follow my example…to the buffett…

Look at church leadership. When was the last sermon you heard from the pulpit condemning the sin of gluttony? Even worse, when is the last time you saw a pastor who was clinically obese preaching from the pulpit, a likely persistent indulger in the sin of gluttony?

I’m always reminded of the story about the interaction between CS Lewis and a well-meaning pastor. The Pastor beseeched CS Lewis to quit his unseemly habit of cigar smoking, being it was such a nasty inelegant act for a Christian leader. Lewis quipped back to the portly pastor, in effect, “When you lose the fifty pounds you need to lose then you can come talk to me about bad habits.”

Many rotund pastors will rail against drugs, sex, and rock & roll without a batting of the eye, all while carrying their idol before the congregation within their size 44 waistband. Since when does treating our body as a temple only have to do with premarital sex and masturbation (1 Cor 6:19-20)? Of course it is wrong to murder, but why is it OK to slowly kill ourselves with our poor lifestyle habits?

It’s not just my Baptist brethren.

Supernatural Jenny Craig

No lie: I heard a personal account of one pastor in the apostolic/prophetic movement who was counseling a young single lady who should be considered medically obese. She suggested to the pastor that she felt she needed to lose weight and find a man. The pastor told her, “Don’t worry about that. God is going to grant you supernatural weight loss very soon, and you will find a man soon after that.” (!?!?!)

Do huh?

I don’t have time to address all the glaring problems with this miracle “cure” and the irreparable damage it may do to this girl emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Not only is that pastor making an irresponsible and whimsical false promise with no biblical truth in it, he is putting that woman’s very life in danger. Instead of speaking into her life a healthy lifestyle change (and the pitfalls of gluttony), the misguided pastor gave her a quick lightning bolt fix she would rather hear (tickling ears); Supernatural weight loss sounds better to me too than eating broccoli, tuna-fish, and sweating my butt off….

I’m not saying we should elevate gluttony and food excesses above any other vice, just a call to make an honest evaluation as to why we overlook some sins and not others. As with everything, it is not a physical issue but a spiritual issue. Addictions come in all forms, the most subversive types are usually the culturally accepted ones.

Thankfully, the gospel of Jesus Christ heals all addictions; and always gives grace towards our daily indulgences.

But as new creatures, if we are called to crucify the flesh (Galatians 2:20), that would seem to include the syrupy sweets and fried fatties we take with gleeful gratitude into our flesh. How would a dead man (or lady) react to the temptation to “super size” or “have it your way” when the opportunity daily presented itself?

To be crucified with Christ in part means the dynamic sway of Dairy Queen has died to us.

To be honest, I don’t like that. Because, after all, Dairy Queen has some really tasty fried onion rings.

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

An “Act of God”: He Apparently Hates Movie Screens

Two days ago my beautiful wife and I were able to pawn the boys off on my mother in order to have one of our rare movie date nights. We rode out to Pier Park on the beach to watch “Men In Black 3” at the Grand. After a delightful viewing experience for the first 30 minutes the screen suddenly went blank in the theater as the volume continued to run. After inquiring about the problem I learned that the screens in all sixteen theaters had been blacked out. We sat a few more minutes in the theater and listened to the plot as the sound rambled on. We decided to leave and approached the box office for a refund.

They claimed  they could give us replacement tickets but not a full money refund.

Why?

“We can’t give a refund because the reason for the blackout was an act of God,” said the kind young lady who was the ticket attendant.

I realize she was probably told by her superiors to respond like this when something like this happens (presumably lightning). I realize there is an “Act of God” clause in insurance companies that intimates disastrous events outside of human control (earthquakes, flash floods, etc.).

But I find it curious how God’s name usually only gets evoked when bad stuff happens to us.

God is the whipping boy when tragedy strikes, but not one thought of gratitude is thrown His way for the countless days, months and years of tragedy withheld from our lives. Why isn’t a beautiful sunset, a breathtaking mountain range, or a stunning sandy white beach deemed an “act of God.” Why isn’t such an amazing mystery as a successful child-birth and delivery called an “act of God” by OBGYN’s and Insurance claims?

Words mean something.

And the words and phrases our culture uses betrays something about it.

And it is strange when we use such words to quickly assign blame to Him for infrequent disastrous events and yet never praise for the consistently peaceful merciful everyday events of life. His Providential kindness is apparent everyday I get to wake up in the morning, but I can only offer anger when He takes back one of the many gifts He has loaned me for a short time? No. Both acts, those that seem like judgment and those that seem like mercy, are meant to elicit one awe-inspiring response.

Praise.

This is perfectly personified in Job after successive “act(s) of God” leave him with no family, no resources, and a handful of critical friends. Job knows only one proper response to this shockingly personal tragedy of epic proportions: Broken hearted repentant grateful praise. So Job worships and cries out from the depths of a shattered heart:

The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

Maybe the theater girl wasn’t too far off in her assessment. But let’s not be hypocritically selective in our own lives when witnessing His “daily” acts that we take for granted: from family, sunsets, music, to food. His fingerprints aren’t hiding from us.

Lifestyles of the Rich, Young, and Sad (Mark 10)

He did everything right.

He was religious. He was prosperous. He was educated. He was respected.

He was one of Israel’s most eligible bachelors.

But something was missing. Something deep:

Peace with God at the soul level.

It all publicly culminated as he collapsed like a heap before the dirty feet of the one with answers, a good teacher. Like a pauper begging for a lonely morsel he’d go anywhere, give everything, do anything to quench this longing. What a humble posture for a man of his stature. Or so it seems:

Teacher what must I do to have eternal life?!

Pray a prayer? Follow a formula? Give some change to the good teacher’s cause? The answer should be simple enough, thought the young man.

The good teacher answers his question with a question. An enigmatic reply only a Jewish Rabbi could muster. And then He points to the Mosaic Law,

“Just do it.”

This dude must not know me very well, thought the young chap. I’ve kept the law obsessively since pre-K. I’ve tithed out of my spice rack, never touched an unclean woman, and I don’t even beat my servants on the Sabbath!

“Good sir, I kept this Law ever since I was a little boy.”

The most curious look washed across the good teacher’s face. Sadness and compassion at once converged in His deep dark brown eyes. Tears welled up but didn’t roll down as He responded to the boy:

“Then sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come follow Me for the rest of your life.”

Now

The golden calf is laid bare.

The sword is plunged into the heart of the matter.

It had been the question that had haunted the boy until now, but for the rest of his life the answer will haunt him even more. What mindless audacity from a sweaty carpenter with no pedigree, no land, and no following of consequence?

This couldn’t be.

He stood up slowly, downcast, and turned back to the fields of gold he came from. Rich. Young. Respected. Religious.

Full of sorrow.

Full of pride.

The good teacher watched the young ruler amble away without another word.

Sometimes the questions are complex and the answers are simple.

Sometimes we walk away sorrowful from the only One who can give real lasting joy.

Bryan Daniels

God Is Younger Than We Are….

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

-GK Chesterton

The Atheist God

“In that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt.  Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.”.’

– G.K. Chesterton