A Child Sees “The Moon!” and “The Son!”

Children have a winsome way of instructing adults.

My son, Gideon, not yet two years old, teaches me a lesson about worship and the wonders of God.

If we walk outside right after dusk it’s not very long until he lifts an expectant gaze upward. With an awe-inspiring wonder in his eyes he exclaims, “Moon!” (sometimes pronounced “Boon!”)

It never gets old to him. He sees it near every night, but each time he is caught by complete surprise when earth’s companion reveals itself. He points to the heavens with a tiny index finger, gasps, and exclaims it again with more emphasis, “Moon!” He’ll then look to me to make sure I’m not missing out on this exquisite display of the cosmos. And I can’t help but look up with him and force the amazement in my voice while joining with him,

“Moon!”

When his brother, Josiah, was this age we had the same ritual.

The wonder of a glowing orb perfectly suspended before a pitch black backdrop is a mystery we “refined” adults rarely recognize anymore.

My son knows nothing of Cosmology or Astronomy, tidal forces or Neil Armstrong. But he knows the proper response to divine phenomena when he sees it (Psalm 19).

We should be more like children (Mat 18:3). Sophistication, tradition, materialism, and blatant worship at the altar of fallen reason have left us cold and dead inside. Our blind dedication to theoretical principles has left us passionless and purposeless.

As GK Chesterton once intimated: the problem is not that we are so advanced as a species but that we are so dull. One defining mark of spiritual maturity is when the curious marvel that is a blade of grass or tad pole can bring us to our knees in worship. The splendor of God’s power in those simple things rarely grips us anymore.

 The Halo of God I Took For Granted

A few nights ago there was a great halo around the moon that extended down into our stratosphere with epic brilliance. Around 10:30 my wife woke me up from a near dead sleep so I could go outside and witness it with her. She was as giddy as a schoolgirl about the sight, calling up her dad to awake and see the spectacle too.

ring around the moon
The moon I took for granted.

I was impressed. But standing in my chilly driveway with my boxer shorts on my demeanor was a little more reserved. The killjoy left side of my brain took over as I said:

“It’s just light from the moon refracting off ice crystals…”

And there I was, trying to be more than a child. I would have been much better off if I took notes from my one year old and just pointed up while exclaiming,

“MOON!”

The wonder of the gospel will make us children again (Mat 19:14). May we never view the empty tomb as some abstract historical fact or ecclesial tradition. There is an eternal chasm of difference between assenting to information about God and being ruined by a revelation of God.

The Christian paradox: Be mature in faith yet childlike in trust.

Today: may we look to the gospel of Jesus Christ with childlike astonishment, point to His cross and empty tomb and cry out to God and man, “The Son! The Son! The Son!”

What areas in life do you feel you need to be more “child-like”?

Bryan Daniels

Everyone (even Ray Lewis) Is A Theologian. Every One.

Theology is your friend, not your enemy, no matter who you are. Before our whitey tighties get in a postmodern wad over that hear me out:

Theology Isn’t Only For E-Hard Basement Dwelling Theologians

With the advent of church-theory driven seeker sensitivism and a competing rise of Neo-Calvinist hard-rationalism on the other end, the word “theology” has become a word with negative connotations attached to it.

The tragic assumption for many is this: Theology is only for people with mere head knowledge of Scripture (a book), but no heart knowledge of Jesus (or the Father, or the Holy Spirit). The common retort against serious systematic study of the Bible is usually along the lines of:

“God doesn’t live in a book!” or

“The pharisees were theologians too,” or

“God is about a relationship (or insert “love” or “people” here) not all this theology and doctrinal stuff.”

While each of those statements contains some relevant truth in them, they all mischaracterize the nature and function of theology in the average Christian life.

Far from being only for the over educated old white dude with Andy Rooney-ish eyebrows and a permanent scowl: Theology is for everyone; and, in the end, everyone is a theologian.

Andy Rooney is a theologian
If you stare into them, you will have tarantula nightmares…

The word theology comes from two Greek words – “theos,” which means “God,” and “logos,” which means “words.” The simplest definition of theology, then, is “God words” or words about God. Whenever someone speaks of God or the characteristics of God, he or she is speaking theologically and doing theology.

Oprah Is a Theologian

That means this: Whenever anyone opens their mouth and makes any statement about God they are making a theological statement: Rick Warren, Snooki, Oprah, and Joel Osteen all have a personal theology that they share every time they speak or write about anything pertaining to God or godliness.

There is no escaping this no matter what group, denomination (or non), or philosophical worldview you ascribe to.

The maniac with a megaphone, the politician pimping God for a vote, the pimply faced emo kid using His name as a curse word. Yes, theologians every last one of them.

Ray Lewis, the theologian and super scary beast man, said last week after the Ravens beat the Brady Bunch, “No weapon formed against this team shall prosper…” That, my friends, is a theological statement…albeit a twisted out of context one.

Ray Lewis is a theologian
Great football player. Bad Theologian. Please don’t tell him I said that…Please.

Even if a person despises the formal Christian education culture or any doctrinal debate, yet they speak words about God, Christ, Holy Spirit or Scripture in general, they have assumed the position of theologian. An unbelieving atheist, in a twisted way, has a theology and can function as a theologian.

The question is not whether we are theologians (ones who speak words about God), the question is whether we are theologians that are committed to carefully speaking the true words of God. If we are committed to truly know God, love people, and be in right relationship with Him, then we better be committed to knowing and sharing His word as faithfully as we can (2 Timothy 2:15).

For the sake of God’s holy name and rep, we all should be the best theologians we can be.

Also, for the sake of the Holy Spirit we better be the best theologians we can be. If the Holy Spirit wrote a book for us (He did!), we are not being “Spirit led” by building strange fires apart from it (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Theology Is For The Mind AND Heart

Theology helps fuel the mind with God’s own thoughts about Himself, and warms the heart with a passion for Him and others (admittedly I’ve jacked that sentiment from Piper). When we begin to cherish (heart) what we know (head) about Him, we are becoming good theologians (and disciples). Those who are satisfied in knowing little of God may well be satisfied in cherishing little of God.

Let’s not construct barriers Christ never mandated; We are called to love God with all our “heart” and all our “mind.” It is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Those who would separate the two are creating a false dichotomy. A passion for Scripture context, church history, and ancient languages may very well be the evidence of a heart aflame for God’s glory.

Some may quip, “Well, I am just about Jesus and experiencing God.” So is the true theologian. Completely immersing oneself into the mind expanding, soul stirring, heart igniting words of Jesus is a primary way of being all about Christ while experiencing Him.

What About That Mean Turd E-Theologian?

Granted, some hyper critical theological nitpicks can create irreparable damage in a church body or a Facebook status. But when a person sets his theological sights on everyone but himself on a weekly basis that reveals more about his heart than it does about serious biblical studies. A spirit of division and criticism is unwarranted and unbiblical..

But what do we make of the Bible drill champion “theologian” who has no heart of love, no fruit of the Spirit, shares no gospel and is lost as a ball in high weeds? This person is not an indictment on theological studies any more than Nickelback is an indictment on Rock and Roll.

Sometimes we swing the judgment pendulum so far the other way we altogether forget Pharisees need grace too. Give it to them until they are changed from the inside out.

But let me say to some of my precious “young, restless, and Reformed” audience: a true study of God should make a person the most humble, loving, giving, servant to all men. If your theological study takes you inward into an endless spiral of introspection and selfishness, let me be clear:

You’re doing it wrong.

And to everyone else: Theology is not the culprit. Theology is your friend. At least for this side of the eternity, until the veil is finally taken away, and we see and know Him face to face (1 Cor 13:12).

What say you my fellow theologians?

and

Please share.

Bryan Daniels

Why I am Switching From WordPress.com To WordPress.org

Well, my fellow WordPress peeps, that was awkward.

Turns out I’ve “misunderestimated” the maligned WordPress monkeys. A few days ago I emailed WordPress support with the hopes they could help me transfer my WordPress followers to my new self hosted site. After an extended weekend  long wait with no response and researching old help board fodder that stated it couldn’t be done, I wrote this post begging my followers to follow me once again.

A few hours after posting that heartfelt pleading a happy engineer informed me through e-mail that she had just transferred all my WordPress followers, so I should slowly back off the ledge and settle down. So there you go. Disregard my threats of never hearing from me again. You’re all accounted for and here where you belong after all.

Three WordPress monkeys hard at work
Three WordPress Monkeys hard at work

And I say: Well done WordPress, well done. And I apologize to all the WordPress monkeys whose work I doubted; I take back everything I said about you and your lack of opposable thumbs.

As my first official new post on www.chiefoftheleast.com here are the promised reasons I have for making the switch to self hosted.

WordPress.org platforms have Sa-weet Plugins

I always hated I could never put Ref Tagger on my old site so that readers could conveniently see Scripture whenever it was referenced. Now I can type Leviticus 27:11 for no reason whatsoever and “BOOM!” there it is in all of its Levitical glory (when you hover over it). I also have downloaded an SEO plugin by Yoast that I am quite smitten with. There are plenty more to come I’ll be sharing with you.

WordPress.com ads were….er….not always “consistent” with my site message

I remember one post I wrote that alluded to the prophetic office of Jesus that had a video ad for some hack fortune-teller attached to it. If I ever choose to monetize my blog in the future I will at least have the freedom to choose ads by companies that won’t stab my conscience in the back. If Ads are going to be on my site regardless I might as well make the money off of them. If I can make enough pocket change to pay for the hosting then I’ll be happy. Blogging is still a much cheaper hobby than golf, or hunting, or spelunking. Which leads me to…

WordPress.org Gives Me Freedom, But Not Enough To Hurt Myself

There is still a support system attached to WordPress.org self hosting, yet there is also more autonomy to make your site your own baby. I’ll be tinkering with layouts, commenting features, html code….Ok, not really that last one. But I don’t have to know the ins and outs of site design because WordPress.org makes this so easy even a PC user like I can do it….almost…by myself.

So there you go.

I appreciate your continued following and encouragement.

Oh yeah, and whenever you get the chance: Give your friendly neighborhood helper monkey a hug for me.

Bryan Daniels

How Lance Armstrong Taught Me I Was A Dirtbag

I heard on the radio this morning Lance Armstrong is preparing to come clean (kinda).

I must confess, I’ve never cared for the public image the cycler portrayed. He seemed cocky, seemed like a womanizer, and even seemed to over-state his battle with cancer for publicity purposes. I remember the interview after one post cancer Tour De France victory where the reporter asked if Armstrong thought his rousing success was a miracle of God.

Armstrong’s (paraphrased) response: “This wasn’t God, this was me.”lance armstrong

After lying about doping for years and hiding behind his foundation under the guise of righteousness, a revealing light has come out against Armstrong in the testimony of a great cloud of witnesses. In the past ten years some of these hapless victims Armstrong has taken to court, publicly slandered, privately bullied, and viciously squeezed every last penny out of their reputation in humiliating fashion.

Their crime: Telling the truth about Armstrong’s cycling legacy.

What a dirtbag! was the first bitter thought on my ride into work.

But as I brooded over the injustices I heard, a chord struck me at the soul level:

Lance Armstrong is a broken soul that needs grace at least as much as I do.

He is in the same perilous boat we are all by nature in:

Dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1).

Enemies of God (Romans 5:10).

Children of Wrath (Eph 2:3).  

Natural rebels against a high and Holy King.

Armstrong may not see it that way, but God forbid I withhold grace from a soul who clearly needs it. Because in the end, I likewise am a soul who clearly needs it. If true, Armstrong’s wrongs against humanity are real and demand repentance. But they are no worse than my daily crimes of neglect and brattiness against a Father who has called me His child through the blood of His dear Son.

The main difference between Lance Armstrong and Bryan Daniels? If I have experienced this dynamic grace in the person of Jesus like I claim to, I should know better.

So this morning, by the grace of God, my pretentious self-righteous anger turned into mercy filled intercessory prayer for Armstrong.

I pray his lasting mark on earth won’t be a yellow Livestrong bracelet, but the bloody red embrace of strong love found at the foot of cross and empty tomb. I pray he sees there is a far better race to run and prize to win in this life, and he will never win it without the grace of a Father being lavished on him.

And I thank God for His free impartial intervening grace to fallen undeserving men; even dirt bags like me and Lance Armstrong.

Bryan Daniels

Christianity Absolutely Is A Crutch For The Weak

Christianity is a crutch for the weak.

Yes.

Absolutely.

Thank God.

With a pinched nerve ravaging the muscles in my right buttocks the past month I’ve been walking with a sizable limp. You know, the kind that makes you walk like a zombie with a gangsta lean. I haven’t thought of crutches to ease the pain but I have thought pretty hard about snatching one of those hoverounds whenever I find myself at Walmart. I didn’t want to garner any dirty looks from the old or obese people I’d have to take it from though. But I’m sure people with maimed or broken legs appreciate the support of crutches.

Have you ever went up to an injured individual and declared smugly: “Crutches are for people who can’t walk on their own!”

“Um OK, your point?”funny crutch

Jesus is for people who can’t walk on their own.

Christianity absolutely is for the weak, diseased, emotionally distraught, broken, and depressed of the children of men. The bottom of the barrel is the cream that rises to the top in God’s upside down Kingdom.

As Jesus said (my paraphrase): “I came for the sick, not those who suppose they’re well.” Jesus came for the embittered Lieutenant Dans, the paraplegics who can’t even go to the bathroom without being humbled by the help of others.

The nervous social introvert who can’t even go to the bank without praying they don’t see anyone they know.

For the foolish.

For the poor.

For the unpopular.

For the weak. Especially the weak. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

If the statue of Liberty will take them how much more will the perfect Father in Heaven open His strong arms for them? His own dear Son limped up to Calvary to show His compassion for the limpers. He rose from the grave to show they wouldn’t limp forever.

If Christianity is a crutch for the weak I say this: Lean hard into this crutch called Christ, and I promise, you will find Him much more than just a crutch.

Bryan Daniels

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

The Very Best Can Only Get Better

(On a beach-head in Kauai 11 years ago…)

Our group settled among an isolated beach strip. About one hundred feet into the cascading water a rock edifice jutted out of the cerulean sea, the perfect height for novice jumpers and divers.

To its immediate left a coral formation had formed underwater, apparently soft and smooth as kids and parents walked knee-deep in water along its roof. I swam out to the reef and found a spot seemingly perfectly formed for my buttocks. In my reef recliner I turned and faced the shoreline.

Brooding green and grey escarpments wrapped along the coast as far as could be seen. Brown sand gave way to dense vegetation almost untouched by humanity. Magnificent mountains whipped with small clouds were seen in the distant inland. The water glittered like diamonds before me and a gentle breeze ruffled the hair I used to enjoy.

My body, surrendered to the water, moved slightly to the rhythm of the gentle waves around me.

A living postcard exploded before my eyes.

It doesn’t get any better than this, I thought.

In that glorious fleeting moment: Complete comfort. Complete safety. Complete satisfaction.

But even in the grandeur of that moment, I was wrong.

It can only get better…for those in Christ.

St. Augustine once wrote after witnessing a North African sunset plunge into the ocean: “If these are the beauties afforded to sinful man, what does God have in store for those who love Him?”

The crystal sea will make the Caribbean look like a mud puddle.

Intimacy with the Bridegroom will make sex feel like an afterthought.

Wine and food at the Lamb’s wedding feast will make a Red Lobster shrimp dinner taste like an expired Hotpocket.

The worst days are no match either. As a slipped disc violently speed bags my sciatic nerve. As nasty flu symptoms begin to ravage my throat and head.

No fleeting moment of satisfaction then. No tramadol/robitussin induced haze then. A “far more eternal weight of glory” awaits His broken and bleeding.

Our worst days,

best days,

average days,

all days;

get better in Christ alone.

Bryan Daniels

Pretty Much My Exhaustive View On The End Times….

“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Bryan Daniels

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

Mass Murder Is Why A Suffering Sovereign Came

“Mass murder is why Jesus came into the world the way he did. What kind of Savior do we need when our hearts are shredded by brutal loss?

We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.

And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be.

The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.

So he came as who he was: the compassionate King. The crushed Conqueror. The lamb-like Lion. The suffering Sovereign.”

John Piper

Read the rest of the article.

Suffice to say last Friday was the saddest news this nation has faced since 2001. As a father of two sons (1 a year away from kindergarten) and a public school educator the heartache was twofold for me.

I hope this reeling nation doesn’t get too obsessed over tertiary political/social issues in this time.

The only agent that can change the hardest human hearts is not of this world or public policy. Saul, David, and Moses were all once murderers turned servants of the righteous King.

The only agent that can comfort the most shattered human hearts is not of this world either. The perfect hands that were wounded on the cross are strong enough to bind our wounds forevermore.

I pray Sandy Hook turns to the “Suffering Sovereign” alone for comfort.

I pray the other broken on looking souls in America do too.

Bryan Daniels

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