Be Happy Your False Accusers Don’t Know The Truth…

“Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no better by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.” – Spurgeon

Let The Gospel Lion Defend Himself (Spurgeon)

A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out!

I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of
himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out.

CH Spurgeon

The Relevant And Unshakable King

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28)

We have a ridiculous fascination with modern renderings of relevance over ancient diplays of biblical reverence.

Sometimes the sociological disciplines take precedent over the sufficient Spirit born word. The modern church doesn’t necessarily need more business theories, church growth plans, surveys, branding campaigns, and cutesy advertisements. More than anything, the church needs to grasp His holiness.

We can be seeker sensitive, but we need to realize God is the seeker in the relationship (Luke 19), and it would be nice to be sensitive to His commands. We don’t approach Him glibly like a child approaching Mickey Mouse.

He is our Father. Yes. But our Father also happens to be a creator of all things, and a high holy sovereign King. Mankind, even the “holiest” can’t stand His blazing majesty: Moses hid his face in a rock. Isaiah fell prostrate like dead. Ezekiel laid dazed and confused on the seashore.

Jesus made the Father’s holiness tolerable and accessible to sinful men like us. Holy justice called for the powder crushing of Jesus.

And it took a scourging of a perfect man. It took a Father’s utter rejection of an only Son. It took the only innocent blood in the universe poured over guilty enemies like me.

It’s wonderful love. It’s beautiul intimacy. But it is all these with an unimaginable eternal cost. Reverence is the manner we should approach such precious stones. Sometimes a closed mouth and a bended knee is all that can be done in the midst of such striking mysterious otherness.

Let’s not be the spoiled children who “play marbles with God’s diamonds.” (CH Spurgeon)

Not in church.

Not anywhere.

If this “kingdom can’t be shaken”, how much more unshakable is the holy One who built and rules it?

Bryan Daniels

The Revelation of The Lion Lamb Man (part 2)

5And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” 6And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying,   “Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:5-10)

We left the dejected apostle, stricken with grief, with no hope in our last blog post (Revelation 5:1-4).  But an angelic elder comes to comfort John in the very next verse.

The Lion

The first figure John is introduced to is a Lion (verse 5). A lion is a beast of prey; the noble creatures are strong, majestic, and dangerous. You don’t fight with a lion, you submit to a lion. Lions aren’t hunted as prey, they are hunters.

Christ, like a lion, devours His enemies. The book of Revelation displays Christ as a sword wielding horse riding warrior with a tat on his thigh (Revelation 19). With one swipe of the His just sword He will slay the enemies of the gospel. The devil is only “like a roaring lion” (1Peter 5:8) but Jesus IS a roaring lion. Satan and the demons tremble before His might.

He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The protector of Israel in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Yet He is before Abraham (John 8:58).

He is also the “Root of David” (verse 5). The source of David’s reign. The pre-eminent one above every King or patriarch.

He is a descendant yet He is pre-eminent.

And He is worthy to take the scrolls because He has “conquered” (verse 5)

The Lamb

In an incredible contrast, when John fixes his eyes to behold this “lion,” He in fact sees a Lamb (verse 6). Lambs are preyed upon; they are weak, harmless, lowly, sheared for clothes and killed for food and sacrifice.

These two juxtapositions could not be more shockingly stark. In Christ we have the paradoxical Servant King, the conquering Lion and the lowly Lamb.

In a mysterious peculiar narrative that could only be God-borne, the Lion conquers all His enemies by becoming a Lamb. (Phil. 2:5-11)

The Lord of the Universe becomes a suffering Savior to His covenant children (Isaiah 53:3-12).

The Lamb is standing, alive forevermore, though it appeared for a short time He “had been slain” (verse 6)

Christ’s final cry on the cross “It is finished” was not the surrendering death gurgle of a tortured Jewish man, it was the victorious roar of a Lion that shook foundations of heaven and earth.

This is a lamb-like Lion, and a Lion-like lamb. And he is “standing,” next to throne not slumping or laying down. Not dejected and defeated, but upright and fully alive because the war is won.

Perfect Everything

Seven (perfection) horns protrude from His head– Again seven, the number of perfection or completion. Horns in the Old Testament signified authority. Christ is a Lamb with perfect authority and power, or “omnipotence”  Seven eyes-He sees all and knows all. Seven eyes signify perfect wisdom and knowledge of all. He knows the beginning from the end (Isaiah 48:9-10). This is Christ’s “omniscience.” Seven Spirits signify God’s presence everywhere at all times. No one can flee from Him, He is always imminent in our lives. This is Christ’s “omnipresence.”

A king with only authority and no wisdom would be a cruel tyrant dictator. A Hitler of sorts. A King with only wisdom and no authority would be helpless to exercise good for his people. A figure-head of sorts (King of England?)

Look how both perfect wisdom and perfect authority dwell in the person of Jesus Christ. These are the diverse excellencies of Jesus Christ!

As a father I can be very loving and gentle with my children. But if I were to feel they were in harms way that gentleness would be replaced with a fierce hand of violent protection. I will go straight William Wallace on you and your speeding chick car in my neighborhood.

God in Christ is the same way, only exponentially more loving and powerful. He protects us with a loving soft hand of a father and defends us with a clenched fist of a righteous warrior.

In verse 7 we see Jesus literally take the scroll of history from the very hand of God the Father. This is the Father handing over the keys of the Kingdom to the Son. Christ the sovereign one holds history in his perfect hands from beginning to end! He is working all things out (your life) according to the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11).

The heavenly company falls down to worship the Lamb (verse 8) an adulation that was at one time reserved for God the Father (Revelation 4:10).

They reveal in their song why the Lamb is their sole object of worship: Because of His blood shed for His ransomed people (verse 9).

Or as John the Baptist said “Behold! The lamb who takes away the sins of the world John” (1:29)

The culmination of God’s perfect love, justice, holiness, mercy and glory is found in beholding the God-man suspended between heaven and earth taking the full cup of the Father’s wrath for us.

Behold the worthy one being revealed in Revelation 5. CH Spurgeon concludes:

We admire him for his glory, but even more because his glory is mingled with humility; we admire him for his uncompromising justice, but even more because it is tempered with mercy; we admire him for his majesty, but even more because it is a majesty in meekness; we admire him because of his equality with God, but even more because as God’s equal he nevertheless has a deep reverence for God; we admire him because of his sovereign dominion over the world, but even more because this dominion was clothed with a spirit of obedience and submission;
Even obedience to the cross. Amen.

Calling All Vapors

“There is no glory in being a featherbed soldier, a man bedecked with gorgeous medals, but never beautified by a scar, or ennobled by a wound. All that you ever hear of such a soldier is that his spurs jingle on the pavement as he walks. There is no history for this carpet knight. He is just a dandy. He never smelled gunpowder in battle in his life. If he did, he fetched out his cologne to kill the offensive odor. Oh, if we could be wise enough to choose, even were as wise as the Lord Himself, we would choose the troubles which He has appointed to us, and we would not spare ourselves a single pang.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon

Safety is a myth.

We’re all gonna die.

Whether by accident, illness, or some other means.

We’re given one life.

It’s only a vapor.

To risk is right.

Make your vapor count to His glory.

Bryan Daniels

The Unwelcome Beast of Depression (You’re Not Alone)

Chief of the least

A few months ago, I wrote about an elephant dwelling in the back of our church sanctuaries. That post was about the prevalence of “porn” in the American church, and it included a short lament regarding our tendency to keep it a dirty little secret rather than shedding the gospel light on it. I called porn an elephant because when an elephant is in any room it must be acknowledged. Yet so many church leaders have taken the ridiculous stance of acting like the “porn elephant” is not seated among their own congregations, when statistics clearly show it is.

The porn elephant is not the only unwelcome beast in our midst that no one is talking about. Apparently, we have given a second elephant residence in our congregations while applying similar silent treatment towards it. This elephant’s name is “Depression.” While no one is really talking about it almost…

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The Perfect Bloody Antidote To Valentine’s Day

(This is a “Valentine’s Day” re-post from the late great blog “Enabled by God.” May she RIP)

The more I study the scriptures I have had memorized since VBS, the more I am convinced of my ignorance of them. In my adult life I have often been guilty of neglecting the Sunday school stories of old: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Jonah and the Whale, etc. This apathetic attitude overflows into the New Testament Scriptures too. My neglect is displayed specifically in what is probably the most celebrated verse in modern time: John 3:16. Sure, I can quote it frontwards and backwards and say all the doctrinally correct things about it, but rarely does this verse resonate deeply while striking me at the core.

You may feel the same way. But we are in jeopardy of neglecting a multifaceted jewel that should leave us awestruck, not smugly content. We should not approach John 3:16 lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”

“For God so loved….”

We can never get over that truth. We can never “get past it” and on to deeper more substantial matters. If we believe we can God have mercy on our souls. There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that still dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the highest form of love. It is the most emphatic love one can express. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning, “God intensely loved the world in this way….”

God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions. Stop reading, turn the computer off, and let that settle within your soul. The transcendent One is an emotional being. Though human emotional makeup is so twisted with sin and prone to instability, we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.

The Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His hatred is a perfect hatred (Psalm 5:5). He even possesses a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with a precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or some general taskmaster living in a cloud of unknowing. He burns with perfect passion. He delights to love; and He delights to manifest this love to the world.

“For God so loved the world…”

This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only. There are some intriguing ways to break down the word “world” here, which in the Greek is “Kosmon.” It could mean just the elect from all over the world (particular view), or it may mean every man, woman or child who ever lived on earth (most common view). A compelling article on the biblical usage of “Kosmon” can be found here. For now, lets take “world” in its most ordinary sense. That would mean the world God loves with such intensity is the great totality of fallen mankind. It’s incredibly provocative that a holy God would love such ones. It’s compelling because the great totality of fallen mankind is one mired and twisted mass of unlovables. If we seriously doubt this then just glance at the evening news, supermarket tabloids, or bathroom mirror sometime.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”

This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him this:

“There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies that deserve to die, and I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my kingdom.”

That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a million millions.

We dwell too little on how undeserving we are of such a divine arrangement. My son would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending him to die for even a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the righteous, but the blatantly unrighteous. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the human realm of categorizing.

This is one reason of many that universalism is a fatal and foolish heresy. A god who saves everyone regardless of unrepentant rebellion doesn’t need to send His own Son to atone for sins. If you are an atheist, Muslim, cultist, or open blasphemer of God it matters not to the universalist. This god saves all regardless of righteousness. But it cost this god nothing to save hell deserving sinners. As a result, this god is worse than worthless. He not only fails to give anything real in grace he also fails to judge anyone in righteousness.  It costs the false god of universalism/sentimentalism nothing to love humans. But the true God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling.

The love of God is not some theoretical sentimental feeling like butterflies, twinkling eyes, and fluttering heartbeats. God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the mass of wretched wicked unredeemed humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with His hand of wrath meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind. This was a Father giving. But this was also a Father sending (John 3:17). The giving was not a giving over to, but a sending with a specific mission granted in eternity past. The Son came to die. And He laid down His life on His own accord (John 10:18).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

All the groups and categories we place people in on earth are futile in eternity. It may be red state or blue state, black or white, male or female, or any other temporary niche one may find themselves in. In reality, there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will eternally perish and those who will eternally live. Simply, those who acquire God’s deserving wrath and those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.  Where we fall between those two groups is the only question that will matter in one hundred years.

We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”

There is much that the word “believe” entails.  It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.

Maybe repentance is the gift you and I really need this Valentine’s Day.

Repenting of chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs.

Repenting of allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness.

Repenting of my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society.

Repenting of believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around.

Repenting because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been fully realized in me.

The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not cards, roses, fancy dinners, kisses or even companionship. The world says love looks like a good-looking young couple, dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another. God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten beyond recognition, and scorned by all, even by his own Father. Do we desire the former love over the latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).

And may we again return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again.

Bryan Daniels

The Perfect Bloody Antidote for Valentine’s Day

[This is an oldie but goodie, a remix, a regurgitation, a….just read the intro to this]

The more I study the scriptures I have had memorized since VBS, the more I am convinced of my ignorance of them. In my adult life I have often been guilty of neglecting the Sunday school stories of old: Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Red Sea, Jonah and the Whale, etc. This apathetic attitude overflows into the New Testament Scriptures too. My neglect is displayed specifically in what is probably the most celebrated verse in modern time: John 3:16. I can quote it frontwards and backwards and say all the doctrinally correct things about it, but rarely does this verse resonate deep within me anymore. 

You may feel the same way. But there is a multifaceted jewel here that we need to pick back up and dust off. We should not approach it lightly, as Spurgeon said, “like children, playing marbles with God’s diamonds.”

“For God so loved….”

We can never get over that truth. We can never “get past it” and on to deeper more substantial matters. If we believe we can God have mercy on our souls. There is still an untouched uncharted ocean that still dwells within John 3:16. This love that God loves with is an “agapao” love, or the highest form of love. It is the most emphatic love one can express. It’s not just that God loved the world, it is that he intensely loved the world. And the force of the word is coupled with way he loved (so loved), literally meaning, “God intensely loved the world in this way….”

God is a God who loves. That means He feels. He knows devotion. He knows affection. He knows heartache. He has emotions. Turn the computer off and let that settle within you. The transcendent One is an emotional being. Though human emotional makeup is so twisted with sin and prone to instability, we have emotions only because our gracious Originator had them first. And it is He who has granted them to us.

The Father is neither stoic nor unstable with His emotions. God’s emotions are perfect. His love is a perfect love (1 John 4:18). His hatred is a perfect hatred (Psalm 5:5). He even possesses a perfect jealousy (Exodus 34:14). When He loves, He does it with a precise intensity and purpose. He’s not a distant watchmaker or some general taskmaster living in a cloud of unknowing. He burns with perfect passion. He delights to love; and He delights to manifest this love to the world.

“For God so loved the world…”

This love was meant for the world. Not for Jews only, or Americans only, or the Reformed only. There are some intriguing ways to break down the word “world” here, which in the Greek is “Kosmon.” It could mean just the elect from all over the world (particular view), or it may mean every man, woman or child who ever lived on earth (most common view). A compelling article on the biblical usage of “Kosmon” can be found here. For now, lets take “world” in its most ordinary sense. That would mean the world God loves with such intensity is the great totality of fallen mankind. It’s incredibly provocative that a holy God would love such ones. It’s compelling because the great totality of fallen mankind is one mired and twisted mass of unlovables. If we seriously doubt this then just glance at the evening news, supermarket tabloids, or bathroom mirror sometime.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son….”

This is a love grounded in action. For an infinitely less significant analogy imagine this: You are a powerful King and you beckon your only son and heir of your throne for a mission. You tell him this:

 “There is something I want you to do for me: I have some enemies that deserve to die, and I want you to go and die in their place, so that they can have eternal life and inherit my kingdom.”

That’s what the Father and Son did at the cross; and incalculably more than that times a million millions.

We dwell too little on how undeserving we are of such a divine arrangement. My son would stay home safely in my arms forever before I would ever imagine sending him to die for even a thousand martyrs or missionaries. But the Father’s love was too great. God sends his son to die not for the righteous, but the blatantly unrighteous. His love is altogether not like any we have experienced. There is no category for this love in the human realm of categorizing.

This is one reason of many that universalism is a fatal and foolish heresy. A god who saves everyone regardless of unrepentant rebellion doesn’t need to send His own Son to atone for sins. If you are an atheist, Muslim, cultist, or open blasphemer of God it matters not to the universalist. This god saves all regardless of righteousness. But it cost this god nothing to save hell deserving sinners. As a result, this god is worse than worthless. He not only fails to give anything real in grace he also fails to judge anyone in righteousness.  It costs the false god of universalism/sentimentalism nothing to love humans. But the true God’s love is grounded in a decisive sacrificial act, not just a thoughtful feeling.

The love of God is not some theoretical sentimental feeling like butterflies, twinkling eyes, and fluttering heartbeats. God the Father looked at his perfect, precious Son in one hand, and the mass of wretched wicked unredeemed humanity in the other, and he literally crushed the blessed Son with His hand of wrath meant for us (Isaiah 53:10). This was the blessed eternally begotten Son, ripped from the bosom of the Father to endure an agonizing hell for mankind. This was a Father giving. But this was also a Father sending (John 3:17). The giving was not a giving over to, but a sending with a specific mission granted in eternity past. The Son came to die. And He laid down His life on His own accord (John 10:18).
 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

All the groups and categories we place people in on earth are futile in eternity. It may be red state or blue state, black or white, male or female, or any other temporary niche one may find themselves in. In reality, there are essentially only two enduring groups: Those who will eternally perish and those who will eternally live. Namely, those who acquire God’s deserving wrath and those who acquire God’s undeserving mercy.  Where we fall between those two groups is the only question that will matter in one hundred years.
 
We are not left to our own devices. God graciously provides a means for us to accomplish His eternally good end. The God who loves and gave lavishly out of that love says, “Believe in Me. Trust in me. Put your faith in Me.”

There is much that the word “believe” entails.  It is a type of believing that perseveres for Christ. It is a type of trusting that exalts in Christ. It is a type of faith that knows the dead heart can only be raised with Christ. And part of that believing is a repenting before Christ.

Maybe repentance is the gift you and I really need this Valentine’s Day. Repenting of chasing lesser lovers because I believe Christ is not sufficient for all my needs. Repenting of allowing a fallen culture to tell me singleness is the same as aloneness. Repenting of my part in contributing to the commercialization and plundering of the word “love” in society. Repenting of believing God’s love is a reflection of human love and not the other way around. Repenting because the love of God set forth in John 3:16 has been memorized by me, but has not yet been realized in me.

The best gift we can get this Valentine’s Day is not cards, roses, fancy dinners, kisses or even companionship. The world says love looks like a good-looking young couple, dressed to the hilt, holding hands, giggling, and exchanging flirtatious glances with one another. God says love looks like a single Jewish man, stripped and forsaken, beaten beyond recognition, and scorned by all, even by his own Father. Do we desire the former love over the latter? May God grant us the gift of repentance if we do (2 Timothy 2:25).

And may we begin to return to the precious stones of our childhood, where the lost can become found all over again. 

Bryan Daniels