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

Saint Patrick: Green Beer Has Nothing To Do With Him

Contrary to popular belief, Saint Patrick’s Day wasn’t founded on creepy leprechauns, cheesy parades, and nasty green beer. The day also originally had nothing to do with getting so incomprehensibly slobber-knocked that even Irish cuisine begins to taste good (Crubeens? Black Pudding?!). Saint Patrick’s Day was actually founded on a real Christian missionary who wasn’t even Irish.

Though much of the life of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, has been mythologized, there are a couple solid historical sources that remain about the fifth century saint.

At the ripe young age of sixteen, Patrick was abducted by Irish raiders from his home of Britain and sold as a slave.  After six years of subjection as a slave herdsmen the young Patrick escaped and returned to the Motherland. But he returned to his aristocratic family a changed man. In his Irish enslavement he had found freedom in the

He probably wasn't really a "Snake Whisperer"

renewed faith of his childhood Christianity. And this calling of God wouldn’t keep him away from the hilly Irish countryside for long.

One passage in his work Confessio, St. Patrick’s spiritual autobiography, tells of a dream after his return to Britain, in which he was delivered a letter headed “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, he seemed to hear a certain company of Irish beseeching him to walk once more among them.

“Deeply moved,” he wrote, “I could read no more.”

Being relatively uneducated did not stop him from answering the call and after a short study stint he was ordained by Saint Germanus the Bishop Auxerre. Once he found himself on Irish shores he traveled extensively, zealously preached the gospel, and baptized peasants and political leaders into the Kingdom.

Preaching the gospel in a country steeped in pagan and Druid religion, Patrick was in constant endangerment of martyrdom with local kings, lawgivers and commoners. On top of this, Ecclesiastical powers back in Britain doubted his motives and charged him with seeking ministry “office for the sake of office.”  Despite this, he would many times gain favor with local leaders by bearing gifts, and always refusing gifts in return. For roughly 40 years of traveling poverty he preached incessantly to every Irish ear that would hear him, to the point Catholic history credits St. Patrick with “converting all of Ireland.”

Despite these ministry successes he was a humble man who died in relative obscurity. His autobiography, Confessio, is considered by many to be the most honest soul bearing account of any religious diarist, save St. Augustine. Patrician scholar, D.A. Binchy, has said, “The moral and spiritual greatness of the man shines through every stumbling sentence of his rustic’ Latin.”

So the next time you’re compelled to wear green, eat corn beef and cabbage, or watch the cult classic “The Leprechaun”,

stop and think about this humble bold saint.

Are you relatively uneducated?

Do you have a tragic and abusive past?

Does your speaking or writing have a “stumbling” quality about it?

Do those in high places doubt your calling?

So what.

God wants to turn the eternal destinies of nations and He desires do it with the most humble broken means at His expense. When there is nothing to boast of human ingenuity and power, that is how God will get the most glory.

“God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” (1 Cor 1:27)

He sovereignly did it in Saint Patrick’s life.

He can do it in ours.

Bryan Daniels

God Will Not Shut Up

<Please read on before any offense sets in>

After my senior year of high school I had the opportunity to go on a summer mission trip to Hawaii with my young adult church group.  {Go ahead; you can now have pity on me for suffering so greatly for the cause of Christ.} I assure you it wasn’t just a vacation incognito. Most of that month consisted of construction work on a small Baptist church and christian school on the relatively obscure (and poorer) island of Molokai. We slept in the church’s gym and warded off mice before and after every meal due to the drought conditions of the little island.

Other than the time spent on “The Friendly Island” I was able to spend one week in the Maui mountains and another on a Kauai beachhead as a young children’s camp counselor. Needless to say, during my month-long stay in Hawaii I was staggered by the sheer beauty of God’s creation.

True story: I took this pic in Austria...It's a picture of a postcard from an Austrian airport : )

On Saturdays, we’d get the day off to enjoy the riches of nature around us. I remember visiting one beach in Kauai where two massive rock edifices jutted out from either side of the short shoreline. Tourists and natives alike cannon-balled and jack-knifed from the bluffs into the aqua water. I plunged into the glittering sea and swam among the glowing exotic fish for about 150 feet out until I arrived at a coral reef. This reef had a smooth flat surface that kept the water only a knee-deep for yards at a time. Parts of the reef were curiously grooved and almost seemed to be fitted for a human buttocks. I obliged one of the reef’s chairs and reclined as I faced the shoreline.

I was awestruck.

A panorama of large green mountainous slopes rose above the sandy brown shoreline. I looked to my right and my left and saw that ominous green edifices whisped with clouds stretched down the shoreline as far as the eye could see. The canopy above me was the sky blue and clear. With a light cool breeze blowing through the hair I used to have, I thought:

This is ridiculous.

I felt a bit like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration. “Lord, why can’t I just pitch my tent on this reef for awhile and chill with you?”

The apparent work and beautiful design of the Creator was all clearly laid out before me. The experience solidified for me what Scripture says about creation:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it to them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-21)

Let this resonate deep down into your soul’s sweet spot: God is never not speaking to us

If you’ve ever attempted to share your faith one sure objection will always rise up in the listener: What of the pagan one in an African jungle who has died without hearing the gospel?

One simple biblical (albeit unsatisfying) answer is “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

Another answer may be: Even if there is not a clear biblical gospel message preached by a messenger, then there is still a God born message that is always being accepted or rejected through a man’s circumstance, creation, or personal conscience. That man and all men are without excuse.

Psalm 19 makes it clear: God will not and cannot shut up. His speech continually “pours forth” through His creation. If we can’t hear Him it has absolutely nothing to do with the frequency or clarity of His message and absolutely everything to do with the deafness and dullness of our own hearts.

No man can ever plead ignorance before the Judge of all the world, neither the heathen in a Congo village nor the intellectual in academic America. All men have at least violated the law written on their hearts and despised the obvious graciousness of the One who gave them life and sustenance. They drank His water, ate His food, and splurged on His providential blessing, yet many never reached out for the Giver of these gifts though He is not far from each of us (Acts 17:27).

No man is innocent (Romans 3:11-18), no man is ignorant, no man has an excuse, all men deserve wrath. The heavens, the seas, the mountains, the sunsets, good food, family, and our own wounded conscience bears witness to this.

But let us rejoice in hope if God has granted us grace through Jesus Christ. Like Saint Augustine said, as he watched a blazing sunset plunge into the glimmering seas of North Africa:

“If these are the beauties afforded to sinful man, what does God have in store for those who love Him?”

Yes, indeed. What beauty and glory is reserved for those who know and love Him through Christ? Those eternal glories will make the natural wonders of Hawaii, the thrill of sports victory, and even the gift of sex taste like cardboard. There the Word of God, Jesus, the very self expression of the Father, will be communicated to us in ever increasing levels of glory forever and ever. Amen.

Bryan Daniels