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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole

[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
- C-Train

This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos

Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Monday, October 30, 2006
Prayer...
WAIVER: What follows is a dramatization - it didn't really happen. Judging from the meta, I am starting to feel a little like Orson Wells during the radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds! I apologize for the original presentation, as I see now that it may well have come across as a "prayer request" - and although that was never my intention, it may have happened that some of you who have read this understood it that way - and for misleading you in that direction, those who have found offense, I ask your forgiveness.

Not to justify myself, but to offer a word of explanation - I wrote this post in this particular format to intentionally bypass whatever engrained thought process or bias might otherwise be present and therefore unduly and preemptively flavoring the understanding of the reader. I felt that by this means I might bring greater clarity to the point I was making - and in no way imagined or intentioned anything malevolent or deceitful. I leave the post in its original format however - and if you are reading it for the first time, please understand that it is a dramatization and not a prayer request.

Thank you for those in the meta who voiced concern. I truly wouldn't have noticed any offense had not some sober voices expressed concern.

Daniel.


So Alive!They came to the church about three years ago. She was a young, pretty, and outgoing, and he was smart, tall, and a born leader. They both loved the Lord in a way that was so attractive to others - it was as if the Lord poured them like glue into the congregation - for they seemed to bring people together around that love of God that poured out of them.

She played guitar and was quite a breath of fresh air for the ladies study! She loved the kids, and her love of the Lord was so contagious, that she was absolutely admired by young and old alike - she just had a way of making everyone feel welcome no matter where they were. Her smile was always genuine, and always ready - and if her mouth opened to speak, it was to encourage someone else or to say how much she admired this or that about them. She could see God in all of us, such a breath of life is rare.

If it can be said fairly, the two were like the same side of the same coin. He was so alive in his love for the Lord, a love that burned in him with such a fury it ignited everyone around him. When he first came to the church he took such a shining to grumpy old Mr. Jones, we thought he must be a relative who was required to like that old sour puss. It took about two months, and Mr. Jones cracked like an egg. Suddenly Mr. Jones began to smile, and even talk to people. It turns out he was wasn't really bitter, just lonely, afraid to make friends. Who would have thought this old dry stick had some life in him - and that this same life would become precious in our sight? He would still be grumpy Mr. Jones were it not for the love of this young man. I don't know how he drew Mr. Jones out of his shell, but that was the sort of guy he was - always drawing people back into the fold - sharing his light with them in a way that made you want to be there. He was loved by all of us almost immediately - and not lightly - but with a profound and uncommon depth. God was his life, and the congregation God's temple - and this fellow loved to see that temple adorned right.

When after a year this young couple announced their first pregnancy - if it can be said - they became even more precious to us! By now she was the darling of the church, and he was a pillar that others were leaning on. They seemed to have a study or something going every night, more than a few couples groups, if there was a place to minister - they were there and filled with the most contageous joy that I think others began to share in the ministry just to be around them. When the twins finally came the church, as one, rejoiced with them. We had really come to love these two, and they loved their babes with the same fervor they had poured into all our children. It was touching to see that love - so open, so..words can't really paint it - so right...

Perhaps the most touching thing about them was the time we as a church spent in prayer together. I had never heard anyone pray like that. Not the instructional, bible quoting, polished prayers of "front pew saints." Nor the clumsy breaking, albeit earnest prayers of new believers - no, this was simple, earnest prayer. It had a pure and plain quality to it - like everything else that poured out of this couple - their prayer seemed to be a reflection of God's love. They loved the Lord with every word they spoke and every thing they did - and it was so beautiful to us, though at the time I suppose we didn't really understand it. We would have simply said that we liked them as a couple. Yet were you to ask us afterwards, it was during the times that we prayed together that we felt truly close to them - and it was a sweet closeness indeed.

Which is why when they were both killed in a head on collision on their way home from prayer meeting one Wednesday night, the whole congregatation was stupified. WHAT??!?

Apparently a drunk driver had tried to pass them in the ditch, and when he came back into traffic he side-swiped them, which caused them to careen in front of an oncoming semi trailer - they died instantly and without much warning. Remarkably, the twins came through almost unscratched, which is amazing considering what a crumpled mangle of metal and glass they pulled them out of. I am told that they weren't even crying by the time Child and Family Services took them away from the crash site.

In hindsight, perhaps one of the reasons this couple melded so well into our church was because neither of them had any other family. Child and Family Services took the kids into custody that day, and finding no family for them they were placed into foster care almost immediately. The mother was part native, so the children were given to a foster home on an Indian reserve. Up here in Canada, the reserves are not godly places, nor are they particularly good places for secular people to raise children. If there was a worse case scenario - this was it.

That is only to say that if the shock of loss of this couple was painful, seeing their two little boys tossed to the wolves was, if it can be said, worse. The pain of losing such lovely people is felt more deeply when you imagine that the tragedy didn't end with their death, but was made worse because these little babes whom we had all loved by themselves - received a sudden injection of projected love - as we projected the shared love we all held for their parents into the these - their greatest hope. There is no question in anyone's mind that they would have wanted their children to be brought up in a loving congregational family. It seemed to us as though this couple had come and nested in our church - drawing us all close to God so that their children might be born into the nest they helped to prepare. But now these little ones were being taken away - to be raised by "the system."

It shouldn't surprize you to learn that a prayer meeting was called on the Friday night following - and the whole congregation showed up. THAT by itself was enough to make my eyes wet, but when Mr. Jones came from the back - the first to pray he didn't even make it up the aisle, but bent down right there in front of all of us, right there in the aisle - his dignity the least of his concerns, his arthritic hip must have hurt him something as he went down, but all you could hear was his prayer - that pouring out of a soul to God that gives you goosebumps, and makes you feel like as an unclean voyeur witnessing something precious. This man who had been the most cantankerous old stump - so dry and bitter that we all had secretly wished he would dry up and go be sour somewhere else - when that dear old saint knelt down there in the aisle and wept his heart out before the Lord on behalf of those children -- I felt dirty just being in the same room. If a man has ever opened his chest to God and offered his own heart as a beating prayer, this man did - I can't think about it without a knot in my own throat. His prayer was joined by others, none of which were feigned or put on - the church had one voice that evening - one cry to the Lord, and we were united in it - God was God, and we cried out to him for those children with the wholeness of our hearts for four hours solid - and when we were through most of us were reluctant to leave. We had called on God to intercede for those little ones, to protect them, to find a way for them, and we stayed there on our knees as one body until we had spent ourselves...


Can you picture that scene? I hope you can, because, the thing is...

There really was no couple, nor any twins, nor a cranky old Mr. Jones whom our hero's love softened and whose former pugnacious heart was so tenderly melting our own hearts at some fictional prayer meeting. There was no binding together of people in the church through the wonderful outflow of God's love in some fictional couple - nor any accident that robbed us of such a couple - none of it.

I just made that up to show you what -earnest- prayer looks like.

The Lord can use this sort of tragedy to wake up a church, but I think he prefers to be less dramatic. There was no real tragedy in my story - it never happened. But there is something to be learned there I think. How different our prayers would be if we stopped imagining that everything is going to work out fine by default. We sometimes fail to pray for the children in our church, or for their parents, or for our pastors, our bosses, co-workers, and in fact just about everyone we ought to be praying for - it happens that our prayer life is a beggarly thing indeed.

When you pray for your children today, or for your church or whatever you pray - pray as though you mean it.

I have no idea who the couple in the photo are btw. I borrowed the pic from a google image search for "young couple."
posted by Daniel @ 3:28 PM   17 comment(s)
You're Not The Boss Of Me.
You're Not The Boss Of Me!!!We have all heard it in the playground - the little one who is called upon to submit to some request, but finds the request contrary to their own motives at the moment, and though they are but a child, they cry out, "You're not the boss of me!" If they were adults, perhaps they would word it this way, "I will not have you to reign over me."

The owner and captain of the seafaring vessel is its final authority when that ship is at sea. The only way a crew can refuse to surrender to the captain's authority, is by usurping that authority for themselves. They want the captain's vessel, but not his rule - so they seize his ship, and do away with him.

But what if they couldn't do away with the captain?

Picture this kind of mutiny, if you can...

Crew: We refuse to have you as our captain!
Captain: I -am- your Captain.
Crew: Never the less, we will not have you reign over us!
Captain: You refuse my rule at your own peril.
Crew: Never the less, we will not have you reign over us!
Captain: I and I alone hold the key to the room where the provisions are kept. Only I can feed you, and keep you alive - you cannot intend to impose yourselves upon me daily to provide you the provisions by which you will remain healthy and well fed so as to continue your mutiny?
Crew: We can and we will. We reject you and your rule - whatever the peril!
Captain: But I, and I alone, can navigate this ship to safe harbor - there is no other pilot for this vessel but myself. To reject me is to condemn yourself. Is this one voyage more precious to you than the harbor?
Crew: There is no harbor! There is only this voyage, and while on this voyage we will not have you reign over us!
Captain: Surely, the fact that you are on a ship between harbors demonstrates the fact that there is a harbor? Are you so blind?
Crew: Never the less, we will not have you reign over us!
Captain: Is this not because you misunderstand the purpose and nature of my rule? It is for your own good that I rule over you. I and I alone know how to run this ship, and even I and only I understand how to bring each one of you the greatest joy on this ship! I know each one of you, I know your strengths, I know your failings - did I not hand pick you? I know what this ship needs, and my rule reflects a perfect harmony that will satisfy one and all so that each is content, and no one more so than anyone else. It is not a Lording for my own benefit, but a caring stewardship I embark upon because I have determined to do good for each one of you.
Crew: Blah, blah, blah! We don't want to listen to you because we like it better doing what we want to do when we want to do it. Your reign is waaaaay to restrictive.
Captain: I don't think you understand... I hold -your- life in my hand moment by moment, and whether you obey my rule or not, this will not, and indeed cannot change. You are alive moment by moment because I am a merciful captain. My rule protects you, and under my rule you are like my own dear children - nothing I have will I withhold from you. Were that not enough, consider the alternative - left to your own devices you will perish utterly, having no power in yourselves to sustain your own existence here on the sea. You -need- me, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to sustain you and support you - I will even deal with your mutiny as though it never happened - but I cannot do that for you if you reject me.
Crew: We don't want to be reconciled to you, we want to have your ship, and all that is on it - and have you go away!
Captain: I cannot go away, or you would all perish. You are alive because I am here to feed, clothe, and protect you. Without me, you would all die.
Crew: Be that as it may, that doesn't give you the right to rule over us!
Captain: Yes it does. You're on my ship - I am the Captain - but you intend to reject my rule, while staying aboard my ship. You plan to take advantage of my patience and mercy - coming to me daily for both food and drink knowing full well that the strength you receive from my provision you are going to use to continue your rebellion - and worse, you know that I know that, and yet you will still come and impose your needs upon me, though you reject me?
Crew: Yes. That is correct.
Captain: You plan to eat, sleep, and live out your life at -my- expense, on my ship? Do you not understand that I own all the land where we would harbor? You are on this ship for the sole reason of going to that harbor. It is there that I intend to give you an inheritance. Do you not know that I am the wealthiest man there is? How will you come into your inheritance if you perish out here on the sea?
Crew: You lie. We have no inheritance!
Captain: I do not lie. There is an inheritance for everyone of you who accepts my rule.
Crew: It isn't worth it.
Captain: Who will reign over you if not me?
Crew (altogether): Me!

<thus ensues an awkward silence as each person looks to the other people and rejects their rule as well...>

Captain: Do you not see the folly now? If you will not submit to my rule, the problem isn't my rule, it is your heart - you will not submit to anyone - don't you see that? There is no hope for a kingdom that begins divided. None of you has any power to rule, since ownership is inherent in the right to rule and none of you owns even his own self? Do you not see that you are doomed if you embark upon this course? If you will not obey my rule, you are condemning yourselves.
Crew: Never the less, we will not have you reign over us!
Captain: Come, let us reason together! You cannot insist on this course - it is self destructive!
Crew: Nuh-uh. We will rule ourselves and be happy.
Captain: Happiness? Pleasures maybe, but no happiness. Ever you will toil to take from one another what can only be given by me. Your greed has blinded you - you are become senseless - nevertheless, I pity you, and shall find a way to restore as many of you as will come to me and accept my rule.
Crew: We do not want to come to you, you are repulsive to us.
Captain: How is it that you desire the work of my hands, but reject the hands that made it? Do you not understand that I made your food tasty because I desire to give you joy in eating? Do you not know that I designed this ship myself - this ship that satisfies you so? I designed it to give you joy, and you do enjoy it - but you reject the one who designed this joy for you? Do you not see that as a little inconsistent? You would have all that I provide because you love it - and reject the one who designed it to be lovable? The one who put you on this boat in order that you should enjoy these very things that you are now enjoying - do you not see that when you reject me, you are also rejecting all that I made? For now I am allowing you to partake of the work of my hand, but when we reach the harbor, if you are still rejecting me I will allow you to receive the full fruit of your rejection - and you shall be bereft of those things which you now enjoy? Surely this strikes you as madness? Everything that you would seize from me is mine - and will stay with me when you depart. You cannot take what is mine with you when you reject me. You can enjoy it now, but a day is coming and will certainly come when this ship will land on shore, and when it does, all that is mine shall return to me, and you will not even have what you in your blindness imagine to be yours by right.
Crew: We don't believe you.
Captain: Listen to me - if you reject me, you reject everything that I give as well. Do you not taste and see -daily- that I am good? You do!
Crew: We do not! Your rule is a burden, and we will not bear it!
Captain: You have until this ship reaches the shore - until that time I will provide for you, and if you will have my rule, I will give you an inheritance as a child of my own - as was always intended for you. If you continue to reject me, when we reach the shore I will grant you the desire of your heart, and I will depart from you forever - but know that when I go, all that you think is yours comes with me.
Crew: That is not fair - you should give us everything that we want, then let us go away to do with it as we please.
Captain: Your understanding of what is fair is more than a little twisted. What is -fair- is that I immediately take away everything that I am currently giving, and set you on shore right now. But instead I am giving you a chance, while we are on the way to shore - to give up this mutiny.
Crew: That isn't fair - we deserve to have everything that we want, to live in peace and comfort - it is our right!
Captain: That is what I am offering you - but you are rejecting it.
Crew: No, we are rejecting YOU -not peace and comfort!
Captain: Peace is only possible where men live in harmony - and there is no harmony in a heart that will not compromise itself for another. You cannot have peace aside from my rule, since in rejecting my rule you establish the very discordance that destroys all peace. Comfort comes from peace, and where there is no peace, there is no comfort. In rejecting my rule, you are rejecting peace and comfort.
Crew: Now you're just talking in circles. We will make our own peace, we will make our own comfort.
Captain: With whom can you make peace? If these will not obey a just Captain, do you expect them to obey fellow mutineers?
Crew: Enough! We will not have you rule over us - Now fix us some grub!

etc.


We could go on, and maybe, since it would be fun, we could make them all talk like pirates, but the point should be pretty obvious - that that kind of mutiny is absolutely insane. To reject the rule of God is to reject God Himself. God designed us to take pleasure in many things - but to pursue the pleasure at the expense of the one who created pleasure itself is the very definition of an "empty pursuit."

Everything in life tells us that our Creator is worthy of our worship. We obey in order to walk in the light - and it is through this walk in the light that God makes himself known to us. The greatest lie in the world is the idea that becoming a Christian means giving up everything that brings you pleasure - it is the exact opposite. Failing to become a Christian means rejecting forever the very things which in rejecting Christ they imagine themselves to be grasping.
posted by Daniel @ 8:51 AM   7 comment(s)
Friday, October 27, 2006
For All My 'Merican Friends...
If you haven't seen the Michael J. Fox spot where he pleahs for stem cell research, here it is:


If you haven't seen this retort, it is well worth the watch:

posted by Daniel @ 7:37 AM   8 comment(s)
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Job 11:13-14, John 1:12
Cleanse your hands...
"If you would direct your heart right
And spread out your hand to Him,
If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
And do not let wickedness dwell in your tents
" - [Job 11:13-4, NASB]

"But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name,
" [John 1:12, NASB]


I like how John ties together the idea of believing into (εις) the name of Christ, with receiving Christ. It isn't supposed to be subtle - but some people miss it nonetheless. The verse from Job identifies a truth that remains true even on this side of the cross - no one comes to God who is not surrendered to God - that is: anyone who openly rejects God by holding onto the very iniquity that is separating them from God - cannot soberly claim (at least not with any intellectual integrity) that they are receiving God - since the very rejection of God demonstrates that He is not being received - and if the Spirit of Christ is not being received then there is no genuine belief.

The student who doesn't hand in their term paper on time is graciously given an extension by the professor. He promises to receive the paper and mark if even if it comes in late. The student "believes" the professors promise to be genuine and true, but unless the student hands in the paper, the fact that the student believes in a legitimate and real promise in no way applies the benefits of that promise to the student. To enter into the promise, the student must surrender the paper.

There is a kind of 'belief' that is perhaps best described as an incomplete faith in that it does not enter into the promise that we call the gospel (a faith that doesn't receive Christ) but does acknowledge that the gospel is true etc. Without a doubt one --must-- believe that the promise is true in order to receive it - no one denies that - surely if the student doesn't believe the promise of the professor, the same student cannot benefit from the promise even if the student loudly acknowledges the validity of the promise! Can this kind of faith save someone from sin? Um, no. It cannot. It is a dead faith - knowledge does not save, it puffs up. Christ saves. Knowing that Christ saves doesn't save me, but turning to Christ does.

The question becomes then, "Is it possible to turn to Christ on the one hand and reject Him on the other hand -- at the same time?", and the answer is, "No, it is not possible." No one can receive Christ who doesn't turn to Christ - that is, no one can enter into the promise without repenting of the rebellious self rule of their own life. Jesus -is- Lord, and unless your knee bows, you don't enter into the kingdom.

Period.

If you haven't at some point in your life, understood God's right to rule in your life - if you haven't surrendered your life to that rule at some point, then I have a passage from scripture for you, it comes from Luke 19, the parable of the minas; The one speaking is the nobleman who went to a far country to receive a kingdom for himself, and has returned after receiving the kingdom (picturing the death and resurrection of Christ) - the "King" says,:
'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.' - [Luke 19:26-27, ESV] (emphasis added)
Consider therefore, and tremble, if your faith is of that halfway variety. Choose for yourself whom you will obey - and then obey Him while it is still called today.
posted by Daniel @ 11:10 AM   7 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Ten Bloggers...
Here is a list of ten bloggers (in no particular order) whom I read, and what I like about their writing style:

1. Phil Johnson - Phil doesn't only articulate his opinion well, he also gives you the context of that opinion up front (often showing how he came to the opinion through his understanding of scripture.) Phil has an engaging writing style that keeps you interested as you read - I find I can read Phil's posts without skimming.

2. Frank Turk - Frank is consistent, witty, and has a firm grasp on what he wants to say before he says it. He stays on top of what is going on, and he is fairly prolific when he is not on hiatus. He has a wonderful flair - like the cool guy in school that people want to hang around with - you love it when Frank comes and comments on your blog - and you like it when Frank interacts with you in his own meta or anyone elses.

3. Fred Butler
- Long before I started blogging, I used to hang out on a message board that Fred administrated. Fred is one of the most thoughtful and patient people on the internet - his work on King James Only-ism mixes patience with authority, gentleness with truth - he is willing to graciously interact with even the most far out nut-cases if they are willing to come to the table and deal with the facts. His writing style is straightforward and engaging - I like that.

4. Kim Shay - Kim is both prolific and down to earth. She blogs where the rubber-meets-the-road, which means that when you read her blog you are reading her - she is blogging on a very practical level. Theory is nice, but we need concrete application as well - and this is where Kim shines.

5. Steve Hays and Gene Bridges - I wish I could write like these guys. I mean seriously, these guys can paint their thoughts with a clarity that I truly wish I possessed. There is a beauty in saying something well, and these gentleman are able to post that way as a matter of course.

6. Carla Rolfe - Carla (who is --not-- a Canadian!) is another prolific blogger - I can't log into gmail without seeing Carla in my contact list as being "online but busy" - does she ever sleep?? Carla has a wonderful way of blogging - she entwines her love of her family, theology, and the common events of everyday life into a commentary that is fun to read. She is also pretty talented with a camera, and not afraid to use it!

7. JD Hatfield - JD blogs because he wants Christians to grow in their faith. He is prolific and consistent, and seems driven to feed the flock - very few blogs have I found that are as consistently pastoral and godward as Voice of Vision. JD is thoughtful and kind in all his dealings, and his deep love for the Lord comes through not only in his posts but also in his interaction in the meta.

8. Daniel J. Phillips - Daniel strikes me as the classic seminarian. He is a thoughtful writer, a deep thinker, and entirely consistent within his own theology. His confidence is sometimes misunderstood as being severe, but what comes through more than anything else in Daniel's writing is his desire to see the church educated and consistent in its witness to the world. He is clearly no lover of fluff and I like that.

9. Pecadillo - A.K.A. Officer Johnson. Pec is one of those guys who seems to shine the most in other people's meta. The posts on his own blog are usually off the wall and funny for that reason - but his quips in the meta of other people's blogs are just as hilarious. There are some people who can make any conversation the one that you want to be in - Pec is like that.

10. Mark Pierson - or as I like to call him - "Mister" - I still remember the first time I clicked on Mark's profile - and enlarged his picture - I thought, those forearms are massive! Mark is one of those guys who just plain loves the Lord and loves other people. There are some people on the net that you know if you visited their house the conversation would quickly turn to the Lord - I think that is what it would be like visiting Mark. I like the guy, I can't help it!

11. David Kjos - I know I said ten bloggers, but I make an exception for David. I love his wit. I really do - I wish I was witty like that. But there is substance behind David's wit too, and that is really saying something. David is genuine and beneath the witty exterior is a real God loving soul that desires God's glory in his own life. I admire that much-ly.

*UPDATE*
12. Joanna Martens - every now and again I visit Joanna's blog, partly because she is witty and funny, but mostly because she changes her avatar a lot.


Anyway, if you haven't checked out these guys (or gals) don't take my word for it - make a point of checking them out. I could have made this list quite long, so I apologize if I made anyone feel left out by not including them in the list - really, I could write an entry for every blog I read, but the post would be rather long, and you would probably skim most of it anyway.
posted by Daniel @ 11:38 AM   9 comment(s)
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
About Crucifixion...
Can a man crucify himself?In Exodus 20:13 we read the sixth commandment:
"Thou shalt not kill." - [KJV]
That is an unfortunately misleading rendering of the text. Modern versions carry a more thorough and accurate rendering of the verse:
"You shall not murder" - [ESV]
We mention this first, because it is important to have the most accurate rendering of a text when you are going to use it for doctrine, and secondly because we want to understand that God doesn't give any command that contradict another. If God commands us not to kill, then commands the Israelites to judicially execute a person, or even if God executes a sinner in judgment of their sin - this is not murder, but it would be "killing." God's command does not contradict His own commands about capital punishment, nor did Jesus suggest that the correct interpretation was any more flowery. Paul writes in Romans 13:4 that the authorities that God Himself has placed over us do not bear the sword in vain - that is, they do no have the power to take life for the sake of justice in vain - but God has given that power to bring justice and order to the common weal.

This post however isn't about whether or not Christians can go to war, or get jobs as state executioners (they can - but this post isn't about that). I bring it up because when we look at Christ on Calvary we don't want to think for one moment that God murdered Jesus.

Christ took the elect into Himself through a union we don't fully comprehend we were taken on the cross with Christ and there God judged and punished us for our sins. Because we were in Christ, Christ bore the full force of our punishment and we bore none of it. Christ wasn't murdered, this was the judicial execution of us, but in order to satisfy the righteousness of God, the destruction had to be absolute - meaning that our Host would not live through so utter a destruction. This was the sacrifice that Christ made - He offered His own life to be destroyed instead of ours. Not a murder, not a suicide (murdering of self), but a sacrifice - a willing surrender of ones own life.

When we desire to live righteously, there are typically two ways we go about doing that. The first way seems right to most people, but it is an impotent way that always leads eventually to complete and utter failure. To be sure, it begins in failure too, but that failure is often obscured because it bears a likeness to righteousness. It is the keeping of the law.

The Pharisees were the best law keepers on earth - they had taken the art of law keeping to its greatest height - and Christ said of their righteousness that unless one surpasses that sort of righteousness one cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. This plain truth is typically missed entirely or ignored, such that the there are many Christians today who are trying to become righteous by keeping the law - or imagine that they are righteous because they keep the law. They think that they can do a better job than the Pharisees simply because they are Christians - but they set about trying to keep the law in the exact same way the Pharisees did, and they fail in the exact same way the Pharisees did.

The second way is right whether it seems to be or not. It is not through efforts of the flesh, but through the Spirit. The one who walks in the Spirit does not fulfill the lusts of the flesh because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set that one free from the law of sin and death. It doesn't mean that the spiritual Christian can do whatever they want and it isn't sinful because they are spiritual - it means that anyone who is surrendered moment by moment to the Holy Spirit knows to do good and does it. It is the -promise- given in Ezekiel - God's law written on their new "Heart" (the Holy Spirit) whom God has given to them as promised.

The trouble starts after we have committed our selves to Christ in saving faith, to save us from the wrath of God - Then, because we receive the Holy Spirit, and have a new and gnawing desire to live a life that is pleasing to God - we immediately embark upon a regiment of obedience to the law.

Romans 6 (we don't sin because we are crucified with Christ) is an enigma to those who are trying to live in grace, but find themselves in Romans 7 where the good that they want to do they don't do, but the evil that they don't want to do - that is what they find themselves doing. They understand that they are somehow crucified with Christ - but they don't know how to appropriate that - so they try and make it happen.

Yet scripture no where tells us to crucify ourselves - Romans 12 tells us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, but we imagine we are supposed to go one step further - and not only lay down on the altar - but that we should bind ourselves there and slay ourselves as well! While many a lamb has gone silent to the altar, and perhaps a rambunctious few even leapt up onto the altar - we do well to reason this way: not one lamb has ever bound himself to the altar nor slain his own self there - that wasn't the work of the lamb who was offered, that was the work of the priest.

Christ is our High Priest.

We are commanded to offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice - but we are in-no-way the ones who "put ourselves to death." Romans six makes it plain, that God has already put our old self on the cross - it is actually done already, and not something that we must do, or try to "make happen." The part that has yet to be done however is the "going willingly" part. Christ went willingly to the cross, and so must we.

We might well indeed wonder why it is then that most of us seem to be "unwilling" to offer ourselves up when push comes to shove. I mean, we are thirsty enough that if someone were to give us a glass of water to drink, we would drink it readily enough - we just aren't thirsty enough to do more than that. Consider how Moses brought the Israelites to the promise of God (i.e. the promised land): the Israelites had only to go into the promised land and appropriate what was already theirs through the promise of God, but they weren't -that- thirsty. I mean, if God had gone in before them and removed the Canaanites, leaving only their wealth and property behind the Israelites would have swam the Jordan to get there - but because God made it so that they would have to trust him in order to appropriate the land - they were unwilling to do so - that is, God made faith in Him a requisite to appropriating the promise - and because of their unbelief they did not enter in.

Look, I want you to understand dear Christian that you are able to work out your own salvation from sin because God is right now working in you giving you both the desire and ability to be sanctified. All you have to do is believe that as you surrender your life, God will make your death in Christ real. The whole purpose (this side of heaven) of your being united with Christ in His death is so that you can be [1] justly reconciled to God, and [2] saved from the power of sin. That is why we are told to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God IN CHRIST JESUS. We are to accept these as true, and act accordingly - that is, to stop ourselves from giving into sin.

Not that we use the power of positive thinking to break sinful habits - nor that we make semi-hypnotic auto-suggestions to our subconscious psyche, no, no, no! That is what you get in other religions - that is the counterfeit - that is self righteousness dressed up to look holy! Not that! No, this is one of those dip in the Jordan seven times, or the walk around Jericho seven times kinda deals.

Let me explain a bit more. You see, scripture tells us that God is light and in Him is no darkness whatsoever. Scripture also asks the question, what fellowship has light with darkness (and assumes the answer is "none whatsoever"). It isn't the act of stopping ourselves from sinning that saves us from sins power - that is suppressionism and not freedom. The suppression of sin is temporary being entirely the product of our own strength and will - and so only carries an empty semblance of victory. Wanting to sin while denying ourselves the pleasure of doing is not the "rest" promised by Christ - it is the means to the rest. Perpetually suppressing sin is --not-- sanctification, it is (and can only ever be) mere human effort, and as such is -not- sanctification. We obey (or are supposed to obey) not because doing so --is-- the sanctification of the Christian experience, but because obedience puts us in the light where God is, and thereby enables God to work genuine sanctification in us. The obedience is not the sanctification, it is the necessary prerequisite to fellowship with God, and it is through this communion that God is able to sanctify us.

When we reckon ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus - to begin to offer our bodies as living sacrifices - to no longer present our members as instruments of sin, but instead presenting them to God (as those who are alive from the dead) to be used for righteousness - this is not sanctification - this is the first baby steps into the light - that is, this is a breaking of communion with darkness, and the beginning of the communion with light. We do this not because doing so is our victory - but because doing so puts us in the light, where God is able to make real in us the death we experienced to sin on the cross with Christ.

Did you get that? We obey because if we remain in disobedience God cannot make real in us what happened in Christ, because our disobedience is a wall that separates us - there is -NO- communion between darkness and light - we must walk in the light, as He is in the light in order to receive the benefits of the promises of God, there is not other way, but to trust and obey.

Brother, sister, this work of God was done on the cross - the place where the sacrifice was given. You were there if you are in Christ, and you need not wait around for God to crucify you - it is already done. But don't imagine that God is going to come to you if you are walking in darkness and make all the promises real - He cannot. God is no cosmic rapist - no murderer. He will not impose Himself upon you, nor will He take what isn't given (your life) - you must surrender to the process, just as Christ surrendered himself to the cross, so must you.

So reckon yourself dead indeed to sin, offer your body to God as a living sacrifice, offer your members to God for righteousness - not that the doing of these things will free you from sin's power, but that doing these things will put you in the light where God can begin to clean out your Canaan - not all at once mind you, for God didn't clear Canaan in one fell swoop either. When the house is empty we fill it with other things - God is the one who empties, and God is the one who fills, we must however, hold the door open.

Anyway - I am sure I will explain this again in a hundred different ways - it is really the other half of the gospel - the part that tells us how to live in Christ - and I can't preach or teach a thing without it being mentioned as it is the bedrock of everything I think and believe.
posted by Daniel @ 5:40 AM   2 comment(s)
Monday, October 23, 2006
No Haircut Yet...
One of the things you find when you go shopping with your in-laws, have two of your four kids with you, and only one vehicle between the two families is that you don't all get to do what you want to do when you want to do it.

I had planned to find a barber in Fargo - I am sure they must exist, but it didn't turn out that way (I updated my pic below with a quick snap from this A.M.) - my hair is still rather unruly.

Anyway, the weekend was okay - We stayed at perhaps the cheapest inn in Fargo, the beds were uncomfortable, the bathroom had some mildew on the tiles, their were rust stains in the tub, and the vertical vinyl blinds didn't close all the way - but the expectation was not that we were going to lavish ourselves in a plush hotel - this was (apparently) just going to be the place where we dumped all our shopping stuff and slept at night.

It took an hour and a half to get through the border. When the got there the US border people were very professional and thorough. I was glad to see that. In contrast, it only took a few minutes to get back into Canada.

Fargo, at least from our perspective, seems to be a community that is entirely built around Manitoban shoppers coming south to shop. Granted, I didn't get to see anything more than what was within 3 miles of the inn, but all I could see were shopping malls and restaurants.

We ate at the Royal Fork Buffet for Supper on Friday, at Chicago Pizza for lunch on Saturday, and at Granite City for supper on Saturday. Granite city had the best food, but the music was so loud and the echo so awful it made eating it a very lonely experience.

Anyway - the trip was everything it promised to be - a shopping trip. I am glad to be back. I did pick up some Dr. Martins, an x-fi platinum soundblaster, and a decent 3 1/2" vice for my shop - and some clothes, but my wife did all the major shopping.

Bottom line - good to be back. I have plenty to catch up on elsewhere, so I likely won't be blogging anything significant today, or doing much reading elsewhere.
posted by Daniel @ 8:06 AM   8 comment(s)
Friday, October 20, 2006
Gone for the Weekend.
My wife and I (and two of our kids and her parents and a couple they are friends with whom I have never met) are travelling to Fargo N.D. this weekend. That means that I won't be here to post prolifically through the weekend. Never the less, I have written a post for today on orthodoxy, but I posted it over on Frank's blog.
posted by Daniel @ 8:04 AM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Faithful is He
By the time I got home from work I was out of fellowship with the Lord, and running like Adam in the garden - having a Daniel sized pity party about what a mess I can be sometimes.

No fooling. My poor wife has been turning the house upside down trying to find our eldest boy's birth certificate (we will be crossing into the US tomorrow to bolster the US economy with our weak Canadian Dollar), and so I entered into the fray as well. I spent a couple of frustrating hours looking in the same places over and over again, and was more or less convinced that my wife had likely thrown it out months ago by accident. We had a late, casually brief supper, wherein I said a stilted, formal grace, feeling in my heart that I was miles from where I ought to be spiritually - and forcing myself, by habit, to mean what I was praying, and to properly regard whom it was I was praying to.

I hate the feeling that you have to change gears to pray - I prefer when prayer is as natural as the next breath.

The search continued after supper, but we were on the verge of being seriously short with one another. The kids seemed to sense this, because they became suddenly needy, and loud. I just wanted to get out of the house, and get on my knees somewhere and have some quiet time with my God.

But there was no time for that. Sometimes it works like that - you want to have a spiritual retreat, not that a spiritual retreat will do anything for you - but because you think that if you just had the time you would suddenly be extra spiritual and everything would be right in your walk. But you can't get the time, so you feel justified in staying in your rut.

So I put myself to the task of looking for the birth certificate once again. But I had that nagging sense that I ought to pray. I didn't want to, but I did - my prayer was simple. Not "Dear Lord, come down here and be my servant and bail me out of my troubles!" but some thing where my heart was saying, "I have nothing, I am nothing, I am less than nothing, having been so far away when you have been so loving and gracious." But my mouth just asked God to be merciful to us. It wasn't a long prayer, and not the most articulate - nor was it the deepest prayer I had ever prayed, in fact, I felt that other than throwing myself wholeheartedly on God's mercy in spite of my lame "feelings" - I more or less felt just as far from the Lord as I had before - except that I felt that satisfaction of knowing that I hadn't denied the Lord a chance to be glorified even in this menial thing.

Of course, in less than a minute I was in a box that my wife had packed away months before. There was nothing special about the box, and I don't know why I went to the box - but I dug in, and it was the first thing I pulled out.

Of course, my heart sank in my chest - in utter shame.

How loving and great my God is, to show such mercy to his children - not because we are good, but because he is good. I gathered my family around after that, and we all prayed - not the far away prayer of the lonely soul calling out to the God who feels miles away - but the thankful heart of a servant who is reminded that he serves an utterly faithful God.

So I thought I would mention that - not to bask in the humiliating confession that I was spiritually out of sorts today - but rather to give glory to my God who had mercy on me in this small way - it is more humbling than the story can tell, I love God so much.
posted by Daniel @ 9:36 PM   2 comment(s)
A Bit of History - Part -II-
Did everyone have a fishbowl in their head in the early days??The didn't have any chalk.

It must have been an hundred and twenty degrees in the shade, the bugs were buzzing all around, why had the Emperor insisted on continuing this work? Yet here they were, pouring out bag after bag of good grain onto the ground in lines - marking out the layout for a city that the Emperor ordained to be built.

Speaking to himself he mused, "Oh, Deinocrates, what have you got yourself into now?" Did he come all the way from Rhodes to be the chief architect for this project that was being written out in grain? Were not flocks of birds already descending upon their first works? Yet the Emperor continued to point, and Deinocrates and his crew continued to pour out the lines of grain (bag after bag) - and in this way the general layout for the new city was given.

It was going to be a great port city - the gateway between the Grecian empire and the fertile Nile valley. Here, at the mouth of that great river, they would build a city and name if for their emperor - Alexandria. The seers and omen-mongers regarded the feast that the flocks were making of the grain with mixed speculation. Some felt it was a good omen, but others a bad. Few would have guessed that where this fertile valley opened unto the sea a grand tomb would eventually be the final resting place of this great Emperor - not to mention a tourist attraction for centuries to come.

By the time Ammonius lifted a son in his arms, the famous Lighthouse on the small isle of Pharos in the harbor at Alexandria - one of seven wonders of the ancient world - was already hundreds of years old.

The child grew into a man described by his opponents as tall and lean, with a distinguished appearance and polished address. Women actually doted on him, or so his opponents charged - charmed by his elegant manners, and moved by his manifest asceticism. Men also were impressed by this young man who exuded an aura of intellectual superiority.

The young man was trained in the ministry by an extremely influential theologue named Lucian who had become the head of a local theological school in Alexandria. Lucian believed and taught that Christ was a created being who subsequently created everything else. This teaching was passed along to the young man, whom history tells us was named Arius.

In the year 313, at the age of about 57, the same year in which the edict of Milan was given (legislating tolerance towards Christianity) Arius became the presbyter of the district of Baucalis in Alexandria, The overseer for that diocese was named Achillas.

It was an interesting time for Christianity. Because of persecution, the faith had spread far and fast - and not everyone had the luxury of a full canon, and fewer still had the luxury of time to study it. Furthermore, information - even theological information - wasn't exactly moving quickly through the known world. For two generations in Alexandria Christ was being preached as the greatest of God's creations - and that sort of baggage can really take root in a place after two generations of being preached unopposed!

The battle over the nature of Christ's relationship with God had been waging for fifty years already - Paul of Samosata had dared to say that Christ was of the same substance as God - and was deposed for saying as much. So when Arius concluded that the Logos and the Father were -not- the same substance, and that Christ was created, being "begotten" (reasoning that there must have been at least some point when God was not "the Father" - having been God alone, and only becomeing the Father after begetting the Son) - when Arius came to that conclusion, he was well supported in it in Alexandria.

The debate carried on, mostly through letters and what not - and when it became apparent that the issue would not resolve itself this way - Constantine stepped in and mandated that delegates convene together at Nicea to hash it all out once and for all. The empire was divided into 1800 "dioceses" - 1000 in the east, and 800 in the west. Each diocese was invited to send a single bishop/overseer to the council/synod, though no more than 320 showed up.

I should pause here for a moment. In the organization of the Roman Empire at this point, the provinces were increasingly subdivided making administration difficult. In order administrate these provinces with greater ease - a larger unit (the diocese) was created. The word comes to us from the Greek word dioikysis - which meant administration. This administerial division was later adopted by the Roman Catholic and mirrored the Roman civilian administration. That is to say that during this period, overseers were parochial (overseers of a parish or congregation), meaning that the artificial, political divisions did not represent an hierarchy of patriachs. There would have been many overseers in each diocese, and while individuals may have stood out as elders and godly men, I find nothing to suggest that those who came to represent their Roman diocese, did so with any ecclesiastical authority. It was only as emperical politics imposed themselves on the church that such distinctions imposed themselves on the church.

Because the division was political and not ecclesiastical - some delegates represented many churches and some fewer. Some were highly qualified, some less so. Yet eventually those that did show up, met, and heard the arguments, read the statements and various writings and teachings, and eventually agreed together that what Arius was teaching (that Christ was a created being) was not biblical, but in fact heretical.

Arius (and some of his supporters) were thereafter deposed and exiled to Illyricum. But that wasn't the end of it...

We call this same heresy taught by Arius, "Arianism" today. To defend against this heresy popping up again in the future - the Council drafted a "creed" (a statement of faith) that was intended to articulate what the council had determined to be "orthodox." This is how the creed read in 325 A.D.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
creator of all things visible and invisible;
and in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of God,
the only-begotten of his Father,
of the substance of the Father,
God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God,
begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.
By whom all things were made,
both which be in heaven and in earth.
Who for us men and for our salvation
came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man.
He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven.
And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead.
And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost.
And whosoever shall say that there was a time
when the Son of God was not, or
that before he was begotten he was not, or
that he was made of things that were not, or
that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or
that he is a creature, or
subject to change or conversion
all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.


Just two years later, the whole thing erupted again.

Athanasius became the overseer at Alexander which if you will remember, had been following "Arianism" for the last couple of generations. Athanasius was no stranger to the debate, he had been a deacon in the church, and even had accompanied Arius to Nicene, But Athanasius was no Arian, he understood that Christ was the eternal Word through whom God created the world - that Christ in fact entered into the world He Himself created, in human form, for the purpose of leading men back into harmony with God. He was perhaps, the greatest opponent of Arianism in his day.

I don't want to get ahead of my self however, so I will stop there. I hope to discuss where modalism/Sabellianism came from some day; what it is, and how it played into this discourse... if I ever get back to this...

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posted by Daniel @ 2:36 PM   3 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The MailBox Vandal...
I was reading a post over at Carla's blog, and found my comment was getting too big for haloscan - so I thought I would make a post out of it here.

My dad was declared a ward of the court when he was 15 or so because my grandfather had a history of abusing him physically. My father found a room-mate, and lived a rather reckless, lawless, and carefree life on his.

My mom was a farm girl, the youngest of a dozen children. She quit school in grade 5 and her aging parents let her move to the "big city" when she was still very young. She lived there, with her older sister, as her "live-in" babysitter.

To make a long story shorter, my mom met my dad, became pregnant - and was married by the time she was 16 (dad was 17).

In the first six years of their marriage they had all five of us kids. Dad didn't finish high school - which means that his wage was predictably low. It didn't help our bottom line that both he and my mother were chain-smoking coffee addicts. Of course, back then, it seems everyone was - but as a child growing up I even at a young age I was always upset when we didn't have enough money to buy milk, yet we always had coffee, cream, sugar, and cigarettes.

My Dad's father was against the marriage and for the first few years would have nothing to do with us. And my mother's parents were already in their seventies, and had nothing to offer as a dowry. There was no inheritance coming our way - my parents were wed into poverty, and remained thus, and even worse off as each new child came.

Which is to only to say that we grew up poor.

To be sure, whatever money my parents could have managed to put away was used up (and then some!) when my younger sister was born. She was born with a hole in her heart (smoking defect?), and before her first birthday it became clear that unless this anomaly was operated on, she was very likely going to die soon. I am not sure why our great Canadian medicare wouldn't pay for the surgeon to fly up from the states to perform the operation, but my dad had to shell out plane fare, hotel accommodations, and the price of the surgery to boot - to finance the operation. If we weren't in the poor house before that, we certainly were after it.

When my dad finally did get back on his feet (sort of), he tried his hand at business, but his business was literally sabotaged after he refused to sell it - and he lost what little was left of the shirt on his back. That all happened before I hit puberty.

My father did his best not to pass on that legacy of abuse that his own father had passed to him; and I am thankful that he was partially successful, for whatever I endured as the eldest boy, I am certain was nowhere near the torment my own father endured - but it is enough to say, and I can say it honestly - that I was the innocent target of a whole lotta frustrated anger, resentment, and only partially restrained fury.

As a child, your greatest joy (or at least what I presume would be one great joy) must come from doing something that pleases your parents. You would feel accepted by them not because of what you did, but because you yourself please them, and because of that they show a genuine delight in everything you do. That must be exhilarating! While I may have felt loved and wanted as a child, it was always mixed with contrary messages of dissatisfaction and resentment. In talking with my siblings we all agree, that we felt that we were a burden on our parents, and that nothing we did could ever please them. These mixed messages were understood by all my siblings to mean that dad didn't think too highly of us - that we were not good enough to be loved by him - and that feeling had some long reaching side effects.

For myself, I responded in this way - I thought I dad was sorely mistaken about my worth, and if he didn't think I was worth anything it was because he had misjudged me, and not because I was anything less than I should be. If I did anything well, it was to prove my worth, but when even excellence failed to please, I realized deep down (beneath my bravado - somewhere in the core of my being) that I secretly felt that he must be right or things would be otherwise. I railed against it of course - most of my life, but there is some scar tissue there, that's for sure.

The result of all that, in my case, was that as a teenager, all my relationships were filtered through a rather distorted sociological perspective. On the one hand, when I wanted someone to like me, I felt I had to demonstrate that I was worth liking. My default presumption was that I was unlovable, and I overcompensated for this perspective by moulding myself into whatever would best fit the friendship - I became a personality chameleon; on the other hand, I was most comfortable in the beta-male role. To be sure, it seemed the most natural thing in the world for me to find a person who was full of personality, authority, and power - and become their faithful shadow.

The trouble was that sometimes the most powerful and authoritive people were also the most criminal - and by the time I was fifteen, most of my friends were thugs, thieves, and junkies. I had a police record, and was building my reputation as a "tough guy."

My reputation was quite important to me. It was the ace in my hand whenever my father made me feel insignificant and unwanted - I knew that whatever he thought, others thought very highly of me. Whatever praise and acceptance was lacking at home - others were willing to provide - all I had to do was be bigger than life. I guess at the heart of it I thought that if I could demonstrate it loudly enough - even my father would have to admit there was some worth in me.

Which brings me to the disappearance of Carla's mailbox, and the reason for this post. Carla asks, what kind of person would destroy someone else's mailbox? You see, the other day someone totally blew away their mailbox, and it wasn't the first time. In the meta and in the post people were wondering out loud what kind of person - what kind of social reject could get their kicks by doing something like that? And I only had to glance backward in my own history to answer that I know of at least one kind.

I would not have hesitated in blowing up a mail box when I was running with the devil - if I thought I could get away with it and the people whom I was trying to impress by doing so took notice of it. I would have done it ostensibly for laughs - but ultimately my real motive would have been to receive praise from those people who themselves didn't have the guts to do something like that. I would have done it because I was so entirely certain that I was worth more than other people could see - that I was willing to do anything to demonstrate that worth - for the sole (though often obfuscated reason) that I might have the glory and praise that I was utterly convinced was my due.

Over time, and since I have come to know the Lord, I have understood with some clarity the reason why I was so offended by my father's mix of love and resentment. It was -not- because I was so hard done by - it was because I was so entirely certain of my own worth - that when my father didn't recognize it, all that is wicked inside of me rose again and again to demand that recognition. His failure to praise me caused the "real me" to come out of hiding and show itself as that which requires worship from others, and is offended when it doesn't receive it.

Oh, if you were getting a "boohoo" from my history - if you were feeling sorry for poor old Dan, and how miserable it must have been, - put the hanky away dear friend! Were I an humble man, I would have accepted my father's love and rejoiced instead of regretting that it came mixed as it was with resentment and strife. No, dear reader, I wasn't suffering from "low self esteem" that needed bolstering - hardly, like everyone else, my self esteem is so pie-in-the-sky that I was demanding recognition for a self-deluded superiority. This vile thing inside me caused me to respond as I did - the desire to be worshipped and praised - the desire to rule my every situation - the desire to be God. It shows itself in different ways to different people - but there it was for me.

Why does a man knock over a mail box? Not because he had a hard childhood, or has poor self esteem. Not because "he didn't learn any better" No, it is always and ever because he is a wicked sinner who doesn't understand that the desire to be worshipped as God drives every motivation he has.

That is ugly thing that Christ took to the cross for believers, and praise His name - it belongs there!
posted by Daniel @ 3:21 PM   8 comment(s)
A bit Of History - Part -I-
Gaius was born in modern day Serbia, his father a famous general, and his mother a mere innkeeper's daughter, whom his father later dumped so that he could marry the step daughter of the Western Roman Emperor.

Growing up privileged in the court of Diocletian, Gaius watched his father become one of the two junior emperors (caesares), but later moved to Roman Gaul and died after falling sick during a campaign against the "Picts." Gaius ascended into this father's "throne" but not without some concerns - technically, Gaius didn't really have the right to succession under the ailing tetrach system, but he struck a deal with the eastern Caesar whereby Gaius named the other Caesar the heir of Gaius' father's throne - and butta-bing-butta-boom! Gaius was granted his father's territories and armies.

Gaius (also known as Galerius) now was in control of one of the largest armies in the Roman world, in fact, Gaius took that army and eventually marched on Rome itself in the summer of 307 A.D. to get his inheritance back. The army was large enough to have take Rome, but the western emperor (Maxentius) managed, by promising large sums of money, to elicit a defection of soldiers from Gaius' army, and into his own - successfully saving his butt, and thwarting Gaius' efforts to gain back the Western Empire.

We can picture Gaius now, several years later, sitting by himself on a hill somewhere in the steppes of the alps. On the other side of the Alps lay Italy - oppressed (according to Gaius' perspective) by the cruel usurper Emperor Maxentius, and if Italy (and therefore Rome) was oppressed, why then it followed that the whole world was being oppressed! If Gaius could defeat Maxentius and deliver Rome from his oppressive rule - well, Gaius wouldn't be just a hero - we would have his own throne back too, er, well the throne that came to him through his Father's relationship with his step mom... Well, it's complicated - but you get the picture.

But there was one big problem - although Gaius had a very big enough army - that hadn't helped him the last time - Maxentius was not only clever, but also known to be a wicked practitioner of magic. Gaius didn't want to take on Maxentius when it was clear that Maxtentius had an unfair advantage - I mean, he was the Emperor and didn't that make Maxentius something of a divine himself? Even if Gaius had a sort of legitimate claim to the throne - could he really take on a wicked (and possibly divine man) sorceror/Emperor? Even with his large army, Gaius wasn't about to mess with Maxentius again - unless he felt equally "supplied" by a divine candy-man.

So we see Gaius here, sitting on the fragrant grass under the blue sky. There below, him at the foot of the great hill, his army is encamped and waiting. Gaius is alone, with his army looking on. He is brooding, thinking, planning. How can he defeat Maxentius? Whom among the fickle gods should he call upon? How many had marched against Maxentius under the protection of this god or that god? Were they not turned away each and every one? Was there not a multitude of graves filled because great men had come against Maxentius with their multitude of Gods? Was their no co-operating deity who could render Gaius invincible?

Gaius remained there contemplating for hours - until finally he decided to pray and seek a God who was willing to go to bat for his cause. While thus engaged Gaius saw something that he interpreted to be a mystical sign - it is very likely that he saw a sun-dog (a halo around the sun), though whatever he actually was originally perplexing and difficult to interpret - such that it was only later in a dream that Gaius determined the sign to be an indication that he was to conquer Maxentius under the banner of the Christian God. Eusebius later described the incident as the conversion of Gaius, and said that Gaius had actually seen a bright cross above the sun itself - with writing on it (no less) that said, "Conquer by this" (though how Gaius would possibly misunderstand such a blatant reference to Christianity is beyond the scope of this brief history). This latter elaboration bears all the markings of your typicaly pagan elaboration - but who can say for sure, certainly there is nothing in the Christianity of scripture to warrant or support such a bizzare vision - but whatever the case - Gaius interpreted whatever he saw as meaning that the Christian God would help him to slaughter Maxentius' army and reclaim his own throne.

That isn't to say that this vision caused Gaius to convert to Christianity - rather it was to say that Gaius called out to whatever powers there were, and promised to some sort of allegiance to whomever would guarentee him a good victory. His handling of the Christian God, seems no different than the way any pagan might appeal to any variety of elemental spirit of false God. That is to say that hia expectation of military victory was not based on a biblical understanding of Christianity, but rather on a pagan understanding of how "gods" react to deals that men make. Gaius wasn't looking to change religious affiliation - he was quite happy with his own sun God (Sol Invictus), and history records that Gaius continued to worship Sol Invictus alongside whatever affiliation Gaius had had with the Christian God. Gaius was willing however, (if the 'God of the cross' would indeed make him invincible in battle) and thereby enable the pursuit of his own glory in retaking his birthright - well, hey - Sol Invictus would certainly understand.

So Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (whom we know as Constantine) crossed the alps and attacked Italy - quickly conquering the north before descending on Rome. At the Milvian Bridge, on October 28, 312 A.D. Constantine defeated Maxentius - and became the Western Roman Emperor - Constantine the first.

It was shortly thereafter (313 A.D.) that the Edict of Milan was given - a joint policy (despite the name) between the Eastern Emperor (Licinius) and the Western Emperor (Constantine) that declared that the whole Roman empire would be neutral with regards to religious worship. The edict wasn't binding however, so each Emperor had to make specific edicts for their own Empire. The resulting edicts legislated tolerance and returned any properties that were seized because of religious persecution etc.

Licinius wanted to unite the entire Roman empire (under his own rule of course) and he and Constantine clashed until in 324 A.D. Constantine defeated Licinius and ruled the entire Roman empire.
posted by Daniel @ 12:09 PM   1 comment(s)
Monday, October 16, 2006
Manufacturing An Ideal...
I followed this link from a feature on Phil Johnson's blog - the "where I am right now" side-bar thing. While we are all aware that this sort of thing goes on - it is never-the-less somewhat bizarre seeing it all happen in 60 seconds...
posted by Daniel @ 11:03 AM   3 comment(s)
Friday, October 13, 2006
Where I Am With God Right Now
Part II
You are here...I posted this over on Frank's blog this morning. So if you read the first part, and want to see where it goes - check it out.
posted by Daniel @ 9:31 AM   1 comment(s)
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Just as I am...
I was reading earlier a post over at Rose's blog wherein she said,
Praise the Lord! Sinners don't have to repent or reform before they can come to the Lamb of God.
To give some context to that quote (in case you didn't follow the link) Rose was excited about how much joy she felt while singing "just as I am" - because she saw in it a message that resonated in her own heart - that God saves unrepentant sinners. I had originally typed up this post as a comment to that post, but it became rather large for a comment, so I decided to make a post out of it here instead.

Now, nothing is so loathsome to those who love the gospel as the idea that man must in some way "prime the gospel pump!" The idea that one must live a "good life" or do good deeds or in some other way earn the right thereby (or gain the ability to believe thereby) is about as "works based" a gospel as you can get! So if by repent and reform Rose meant this sort of works based preamble then I add my hearty -AMEN- to her observation. Truly, good works add nothing whatsoever to the gospel, nor does any manner of repentance and reformation prepare one for to obey the gospel.

Like most of you, when I consider "the gospel" I am sometimes reminded of Paul's second letter to Timothy wherein Paul speaks of the gospel as being the agency by which Jesus Christ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light (c.f. 2 Tim. 1:10). Really, the promise of the gospel is that we will be saved from sin and consequently gain eternal life.

It is worth our while therefore, I mean if we are serious about understanding the gospel - to find passages that speak about either facet (either salvation from sin or how to obtain eternal life) - when we find a passage that speaks to one of these we have found a passage that sheds some light on the gospel.

Not that every mention of eternal life (justification) or sanctification in scripture is going to translate into a full presentation of the gospel, but that we should take note of those passages that speak about either, and make certain that whatever we believe the gospel to be - we do not fail to include in our understanding all that is said on the matter. I think that is called "intellectual honesty" - and it seems to me a good place to begin.

I am therefore drawn after reading a passage such as 2 Timothy 1:20 to texts such as Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 10 and Luke 18 wherein we see men asking Christ what they must do to inherit eternal life. We note that the question is not what must we do to purchase eternal life - but rather what must we do to inherit it - that is, to ensure our "sonship" if you will- so that we inherit the kingdom.

There are two instances especially where the question about how to inherit eternal life is asked - the first is the rich young ruler and occurs in three of the gospels, and the other is the lawyer we read about in Luke. When I find a passage wherein a person asks Jesus to his face, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" - well, let me just say that I would not want to regard whatever answer Christ gives to that question as something outside the gospel (as though eternal life could be had without the gospel!)

Consider again the rich young ruler. Recall how he came before the Lord? He ran up to Jesus whom he recognized to be the Annointed one - the Christ - the Jewish Messiah - He believed that Jesus was whom He said He was, and because of this, this rich young ruler prostrated himself before Jesus. Can you imagine? That must have looked like a very humble thing. Jesus wasn't exactly rich you know - to have this rich young ruler prostrate himself before a peasant was not somethin you would see every day. This young man was sold out - he didn't need to start "believing" that Jesus was whom he said he was - he already believed all that. The rich young ruler was way past mental assent to the truth, now he just wanted to know what else he had to do in order to become a child of God - that is, in order to inherit eternal life (and thereby avoid eternal damnation.)

It strikes me as very instructional in our understanding of the gospel - that Jesus didn't say, "I accept you just as you are, but instead examined the very heart of this man -- what we might describe as the nature of this man's "faith."

Recall that Christ immediately went to the law with the fellow. Had he kept the commandments? Christ knew that he hadn't - He was asking the question so that the man might see that he was in fact, a sinner - Christ was using the law to condemn him but the slippery young ruler didn't feel condemned - in fact, he was so deceived that he actually believed himself to be keeping the law.

Wow.

The purpose of the law is, after all, to condemn all of us so that none of us will be disqualified from the promise that comes only through faith. Christ, out of love, needed to kick out the crutches (self deception about keeping the law) that were keeping this rich young ruler from really turning to Christ. He didn't need a Savior so long as he imagined himself to be righteous - for Christ didn't come to save the righteous, but the unrighteous. Had the rich young ruler been sincerely seeking God, the law would have condemned him as a sinner - but clearly he wasn't really interested in seeking God, he was interested in avoiding hell. The lawful use of the law might have opened his eyes, but because he was deceived, he likely believed the lie he responded to Christ with - that he had kep the law since his youth!

The law had failed to penetrate the hardness of this fellow's heart, but Christ wasn't deterred. If one is deceived about the law it is usually because one has turned the law upside down so that it can be kept - so, because Christ was full of mercy and grace, He went to the heart of the matter gave the rich young ruler a single, simple command. The man's reaction to the command would reveal the true nature of that man's heart - it would reveal the calibre whether or not this man wanted to be saved from sin or simply avoid its penalty.

You see, the rich young ruler was perfectly willing to call Christ "King" as long as he only had to do so with his lips - as long as he didn't actually have to obey Christ from an obedient, submitted, (and therefore repentant) heart.

This critical flaw was surgically drawn out by Christ by giving the rich young ruler that fateful ultimatum - an opportunity for the rich young ruler to demonstrate the genuiness of his commitment to "follow Christ." We don't just toss that in because we like the way it sounds by the way - at the end of the exchange Christ explains what must be done to follow Him - and that implies strongly that inheriting eternal life has something to do with following Christ in some way.

The ultimatum that Christ gave to the rich young ruler was a simple command, as we have said - a command that would demonstrate whether the young man had actually kept the law in his youth, for if he had really been able to keep the law since his youth he would have no trouble obeying this command of God either. You see, the law shows us what the life of God looks like in a person. It isn't that you can generate God's life in you by keeping the law, it is that if God's life is in you, you will obey the law. That is what Romans six through eight is all about. Had this rich young ruler been keeping the law obedience would have been natural. When Christ commanded the rich young ruler to give all of his wealth to the poor, it was a test - not the kind that you are given that if you pass you get a reward - but the kind that you are given so that you learn something by its failure - a diagnostic test that is given to point out what is wrong.

It wasn't that Christ hated wealth - rather it was that Christ understood that this young man loved something more than he loved God, and I am not talking about the money - the money was just the tip of the iceberg - the rich young ruler really loved himself more than he loved God, and because he loved himself more than he loved God he was unwilling to relinquish control of his own life to God.

That needs to sink in.

He wouldn't trust God to provide for his needs because, really, he...didn't...trust...God.

The rich young ruler believed that Jesus was whom He claimed to be, and was even willing to publically humiliate himself in prostrating himself before Christ - if it mean that he could get something out of Christ - yet the same young ruler refused to actually trust God to control his life in a way that would satisify him. This refusal to trust God (unbelief) cannot be separated from his unwillingness to surrender to Christ - the two are sides of the same coin. Being unwilling to surrender to Christ (that is, being unwilling to change his attitude about who ruled whom) was the rich young ruler's real problem -- the money just pointed to it: he was a rich young RULER after all, and would not believe that God could do a better job ruling his life than he himself was doing. Really, it wasn't so much a question of whether or not God could do a better job - it was that the ruler refused to be ruled.

This was where the proverbial chariot-wheel met the cobblestone.

This man was willing to call Jesus Lord with his mouth, and even submit himself to outwards expressions of humility (bowing before this peasant etc.) but deep down he was in fact quite unwilling to surrender control of his life over to Christ - and Christ regarded a faith whose mouth cries, "Lord, Lord" but whose heart is far from Christ as insufficient - that is, the fellow could not follow God and continue to rule his own life. The kind of faith that caused him to believe all that was true of Christ, to even humble himself openly in public - that sort of belief was not saving faith, it was really just a man who knew better, but was still unwilling to surrender himself to Christ and obey the very gospel that he now knew to be true.

Really, the Lordship of Christ is often the gospel "deal-breaker." Everyone wants to enter into the kingdom of God, but very few are willing to pay homage to its King - Jesus Christ. The rich young ruler was no exception - he was unwilling to let go of his imagined "right" to rule over himself. We could say that another way - he was unwilling to turn from himself and turn towards God. We call that unwillingness to turn "unrepentance."

There are some who are teaching that the kingdom of heaven is like fancy pearl that God gives to be added to our existing (just-as-it-is) collection of pearls; that the Kingdom of heaven is a treasure buried in a field, that we unearth and join to the rest of our (just-as-it-is) treasures; that the kingdom is leaven put into three measures of barley - that never, ever changes the nature of that barley so that the barley remains (just-as-it-is) flat and unleavened - that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that only grows into a little herb no bigger than any other herb so that the garden can remain just-as-it-is, with no mustard tree dominating it. I kid you not - there are even genuine believers today who walk right past the gospel that saved them, and (in trying to articulate the gospel for themselves) they articulate it poorly to others (even believing wholeheartedly that it is the gospel that saved them!)- in such a way as to remove those things which they failed to understand - those things which now offend them.

If a person's embraces a gospel that turns Jesus into just another patch they sew into their existing "just-as-it-is" garment - if they embrace a gospel wherein Jesus is just a new wine they pour into their old "just-as-it-was" wineskin; they may well rejoice whenever they imagine their own treasured theology is being reflected in song or prose. Who wouldn't?

When I gave my life to Christ, I came in off the street, a sinner full of my sin. I neither reformed or repented prior to hearing the gospel - how could I? I wasn't even sure that I needed a Savior, since I didn't think I was condemned already - I thought that God wouldn't decide that until judgment day - and that no one, not even God, could say for sure if anyone was going to be saved. It was because I held out hope that God would look kindly upon my sin, that I wasn't interested in the gospel before.

It was only when I heard the gospel -- when I became the rich young ruler - only when the truth was suddenly thrust before me that the real stakes became clear. I knew that I was standing on the edge of an eternity in hell, and that the Lord Jesus Christ had made provision to save me from the sin that was already condemning me. I knew for the first time that I really was a sinner and there really was no hope for me but to put my trust in Christ the Savior/King.

I suppose it is fortunate that I never had been exposed to this sort of teaching that taught that one could enter into Christ for salvation from sin, but continue to remain outside of Christ with regards to Christ's reign in my life. Had I heard such a tantalizing story, there is no doubt that I would have used Christ like a wino uses a bottle opener - Christ would have been nothing more to me than the Tool by which I would have generated my escape from sin's sting.

To be sure, the gospel is simple enough - if you trust that God sent Christ to take into Himself all who turn to God in faith - that is, all who repent of their rebellion and accept the only reconciliation God offers - then Christ will put you into the Holy Spirit (baptize you with the Holy Spirit) through whom you become united with Christ and thereby adopted into the family of God - so that the benefits of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection become yours by faith - then all the blessings in the heavenlies (not the least of which is eternal life) become yours.

The notion that it is possible to believe yourself into the same Christ whose rule you openly rejected throughout the process is a little much for the intellectually honest to swallow. When I reject the rule of Christ in my life I demonstrate that I don't really trust that Christ will control my life the way I want it run - this rebellion and unbelief is darkness - and there is no way that Christ who is light, can enter into a union with anyone who continues to walk in darkness. It should be plain and simple - but really, there are some who have trained themselves to be blind on this point. That isn't to say that once a believer commits himself to Christ that he will thereafter remain in the light - but it is to say that the relationship cannot begin until/unless both parties are in the light - and that means you cannot hold onto your rebellion and treason, and expect to be unified with Christ.

Here we must pause too. This in no way suggests that you must generate your own repentance. The reality is that you cannot, you don't have the power to do that. But God will use the gospel itself to quicken you so that you can repent/believe. You cannot surrender your life to Christ in this way by yourself - but everyone who does is regenerated by God as they put their faith in the gospel.

We are not saved by chanting some salvation mantra, we are saved when God has mercy on us and quickens us so that the gospel can be believed. It isn't something we generate before hand, it is something God does on the fly. I knew that Jesus was God, and that His offer of salvation was genuine. I knew that Christ was a King, and somehow I surrendered to Him giving him all I was and all I would ever be. I don't know how I did that, because, well, that sort of surrender wasn't natural - it wasn't possible. But God enabled me to commit myself to Christ, and I did.

So when I read about a gospel that doesn't include repentance - I must say, it disturbs me. Not that I presume the person or people championing it are not saved, or even well meaning - I am sure that most who do so are entirely genuine, love the Lord as much as they are able, and believe with all their heart that what they are pawning off is the real McCoy. But I still think they are missing it.

It is possible I suppose that Ms. Elliot really believed an antinomian gospel I can't really say - but I like to think that when she said, "poor, wretched, and blind" - she was describing what a repentant heart looks like, and that gives me some hope.
posted by Daniel @ 4:07 PM   10 comment(s)
Crazy Busy...
Baaa baaa.It doesn't happen a lot, but sometimes I get very busy - work, church, and home commitments pile up, and since my blog is way down on the bottom of my priority list, it happens that I can go days without posting.

So I thought I should put in some "filler" - here is a nice picture of a flock of sheep that seem to be lacking a shepherd. In the spirit of Purgatorio's "you supply the caption" - perhaps it would be fun to find a caption for this picture?
posted by Daniel @ 6:37 AM   23 comment(s)
Friday, October 06, 2006
Where's My Barber?
I updated my blog photo this morning (down the left column). Where did that extra chin come from? Anyway, once in a while my schedule is so tight I don't get to the barber - and I grow hair --fast--. So I thought before I get it all chopped off and conform to the standard conservative do, I should update my blog picture. I am still contemplating letting it grow until my 40th Birthday - you know, the last hurrah sort of deal, but really I have no great desire to have hair in my eyes all the time. But since I made the change, I thought I should explain the motly mop.

Oh and that is what I look like at 3:50 in the A.M. - I am not sad, I am just taking a picture of my self on the self timer - a process for which I am certain their is no appropriate facial expression - so I go for the "don't do anything at all" pose.

I am working on a few instructional posts, but I may not get anything of substance out today.
posted by Daniel @ 4:59 AM   18 comment(s)
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Where I Am Right Now...
With God --Part I
You are Here... at your keyboard...If we are at all familiar with Frank Turk's moratorium on the standard, "This is where I am right now" type of posts, it is because in doing a rash of "this is where I am right now" sort of posts suddenly sprang up throughout the blog-o-sphere in answer to Frank's wise advice.

Frank, being the entrepreneur-provocateur that he is, did not let the momentary fame of that particular sentiment settle into the dust without providing at least one T-Shirt to commemorate it. (I personally would have preferred it better if the guy on the T-Shirt wasn't kneeling in front of an empty cross - but was actually on the cross being crucified himself "in Christ" - but I can appreciate how a picture of a man being crucified "in Christ" might not translate well into the visual media - so I am okay with it.)

I want to discuss a struggle today that would typically be addressed early on in a Christian's walk if that Christian were being rightly discipled, and no, I am not talking about pornography or the "m" word. I am talking about the answer to this question: "What does God think of me right now?"

Oh, you might think that is a silly question to answer, and I can certainly understand why, scripture makes this plain enough. But believe it or not, some people find it difficult to navigate their way to an answer to this question that resonates with their personal experience.

I know, I know, some of you have one foot on the soap box already - personal experience? Personal experience is no measure of the truth of a thing - and rest assured my zealous friend, you will find no argument against that in this post. Yet how do we speak with those believers who allow their feelings to dictate to them their understanding of what their relationship to God is like right now. Telling such a one that "this is the truth - believe it!" may well work for some, but others are not wired that way. They find that acknowledging the truth of a matter does absolutely nothing to alleviate intense feelings of separation and abandonment. Trapped in a cycle like this the weaker brother or sister eventually may stop reaching out for help, and simply dry up while putting on the "good face."

You see it all the time. New believers, coming to the church for a couple of years faithfully, then slowly their attendance begins to suffer - excuses are made and accepted, and perhaps eventually someone notices the death throes and ministers to them where they are at - but more often that we would wish they simply fade away and no one really notices;

I don't want to go on a tangent about how unhealthy that is for a church - but I am powerfully tempted to follow that particular rabbit trail.

So today I set out to explain as clearly and fully as I am able, exactly where you stand with God right now.

Of course, this could be summed up in a trite little verse or phrase, but for those who struggle with this, the problem has never been solved by summary - and so we submit ourselves to the process, and pursue the answer more thoroughly by looking at the big through the lens of a whole lot of little pictures. I plan to answer this question for both sorts of people, those who are not in Christ, and those who are.

Where "Those Who Are Not In Christ" Are Right Now... With Respect To God.
I want to be clear about whom I am referring to when I say "those who are not in Christ" - I am speaking about anyone who hasn't been put into the body of Christ by Christ Himself through the working of the Holy Spirit in response to a saving faith in Christ's work on their behalf on the cross.

The gospel is this:
God made Adam and Eve, but they gave into a temptation initiated by Satan and rebelled against God by disobeying God's direct command.

The bible describes God as so entirely pure that no impurity can survive in God's presence (I am paraphrasing of course, but really it means that any act of disorder, on behalf of the creation, cannot co-exist in harmony with a perfectly ordered Creator - that is, God cannot tolerate or overlook disorder (sin) because it is not in the nature of the Creator to do so.)

God is just, and being just God must "correct" any deviation from perfection in order to perpetuate a reality that reflects the nature of the Creator.

God has only one solution for sin - death. The bible describes two deaths, the first being physical, and the second being spiritual. When Adam sinned his punishment was the death penalty - not that God slew him physically, but that God drove him away from:
[1] The Garden where God was providing all of Adam's needs without Adam having to toil for them.
[2] God's own presence, and
[3] The Tree of Life that had been sustaining Adam with life.

We inherited from Adam the fruit of this condemnation - a world where we must toil and work for ourselves, a reality where we have no tangible sense of God's presence, and a body that is subject to aging, disease, suffering, and eventually death.

Being born into a reality wherein we have no tangible sense of God's presence (not that we have no evidence of God, but just that we have no sense of God), that is, being born into a moral vacuum - we naturally follow our father Adam in disobedience. We call this "original sin" - not a genetic thing that is passed on from father to son, but that spiritual vacuum we all are born into on account of Adam's sin. The result is as soon as we are able to, we begin to listen to our own counsel.

Scripture describes this counselor as "self" - or sometimes as "The flesh" or our "old man" - whether we understand it or not, there is something inside us that motivates us to look out for #1 at all costs. The bible describes this as "the sin" that came into the world through Adam - and I fancy that it is really just the knowledge of good and evil - we know deep down when a thing is "right" but having been separated from God we were also separated from the only source of objective morality there is - so we use this knowledge to make ourselves like God. Really, that was the original temptation - twisted by Satan - that if we followed Satan's advice we could be like God - as if one could be like God apart from God.

So we find ourselves today, slaves to sin. That is what scripture says. That every living person on earth is a sinner - disobedient to God, and condemned because of their sin.

Some might argue that they do nice things - and Christianity doesn't argue that. The bible says that all the good things we are are actually tainted and unclean - that whatever we might think of them, God regards them as flawed and therefore not "acceptable" - that is, not at all "good" as we would hope or imagine. What that means is even the best of the best of us - the ones who seem to do no evil, and only do "good" - these same people God does not consider "good" - Jesus himself remarked that -no one- is good except God.

Likewise some might argue that they never have really been bad in their life. But that is a mistake we sometimes make when we reason using our own experience as the measure. We might say that since we have never killed or raped anyone, that we haven't really done anything bad. But honestly, whatever our own impression of "bad" happens to be, will have absolutely no clout with God. If I shoot and kill an innocent man in cold blood, I cannot use as a defense that I didn't think it was bad - my opinion on the matter has no effect on the law - and when I go to court it isn't going to matter how sincerely I believed it. So it is with the Lord - we must use his rule with regards to what is bad.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment in all of scripture was to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and that the second commandment is to love other people too. That means that if ever there was a point in your life that you weren't loving God from the tip of your toe to the top of your head - or if you ever hated anyone, or even simply failed to love them - you will have disobeyed God's greatest commandments. Let alone if you ever told a lie, or slept with someone before you were married, or looked at dirty pictures to lust, or had lustful thoughts, or cheated a little on your taxes, jaywalked, ran a red light, told a white lie, etc. etc. It doesn't matter which link in the chain is broken, when one link is severed, the chain is broken. So it is with sin. You don't need to tell a million lies to be a liar - you only need to tell one lie. You don't need to sin in every possible way to be a sinner - you only need to sin once, in any way.

That is a polite, and hopefully convincing way to say - you, dear reader, are a sinner. If you haven't yet obeyed the gospel, with only this much information I can tell you plainly what the bible says in answer to the question, "Where are you right now with regards to God?"

The answer is you are a condemned sinner, and the moment you die God is going to judge you guilty. You may try and hold up your good deeds before him to sway the verdict, but He will show you that what you regard as "good" he regards as soiled. You may say on that day that you didn't have enough information - but he will remind you of the day you read this post. You may argue that you weren't really all that bad - but he will show you that it was only your sinful arrogance that allowed you to try and put your own fallen interpretation of what is moral above God's own. You may kick and scream, and even gnash your teeth together - but ultimately, as the angels drag you away from the judgment seat, you will know a fullness of regret that will never leave you throughout all eternity. You will have looked on the face of God, and you will finally see that God ought to have been your sole desire - you will certainly understand the magnitude of His glory, and how worthy He is to receive it - your heart will then long for God, not because you are about to be punished, but because you will see for the first time the greatest love there is - the perfection of communion, every desire of your heart held before you in incomprehensible fullness - and I don't doubt that the most horrible part of your eternal torment will be the full knowledge that this same God whom you willfully and knowingly rejected all your life, will accept as final your rejection of Him, and cast you away. So profound will be your sense of loss as you are tossed into a lake of burning sulfur, you will be thankful for the eternal distraction.

You need not wonder about whether or not this is your fate. There are no loop holes, there is no other option - if you have rejected Christ and continue to embrace sin instead of God, you will eventually get the wages of your effort - there is no alternative, and never will be. The story of your life can be closed, except for the details about how you died physically.

So in answer to the question where are you at right now? You have only a certain number of heartbeats and breaths left in your life - and you are exactly that far away from the most wretched eternal suffering imaginable.

Not that this should make you seek Jesus - but I am not going to lie - it is good to fear God if you are a sinner.

The good news is that it doesn't have to end like that.

It isn't God's desire to see even one of us suffer like that. We were made to live in God's presence, and only in God's presence will we find genuine joy. God, knowing that we were all condemned before Him found a way to justify us even though we are sinners.

You see, God has to do something about the sin - and that something is death. There is no slippery way to get around this. Every sinner has a body that dies (having been separated from the tree of life) - and every sinner has a soul that will be destroyed. The problem for God was not how to save our bodies, but rather how to save our souls from His own wrath. The solution God provided we call "the gospel" - and it is so deceptively simple that some people miss it because it is so simple.

God exists in three persons who are one - we call God a Trinity, that is that God the Father is God, God the Son is God, and God the Holy Spirit is God - all three are entirely God - not that God is split into thirds, and each takes up a third, but rather all three are fully God, though separate persons. It is a spiritual reality for which there is no worldly model - we cannot imagine three persons being at once separate and united - but that is the picture we find in scripture.

God the Father sent His Son Jesus into creation - to be born as a human, to live as a human, and to die as a human. Jesus was God before He was ever born - but Jesus emptied himself of all his deific privilege - that is, Jesus lived entirely as a man, having open to him only the benefits that humanity afford - with one exception - Jesus was conceived by a virgin, and did not inherit the condemnation of Adam and so he lived with a tangible sense of God's presence, and being united with God in a way that no other human has known since Adam and Eve - Christ did not sin. At a time appointed by God, Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit in the Jordan river - and began an earthly ministry in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit - His ministry had this purpose to identify Him as the Christ - God's anointed - come to earth to offer Himself as a sinless sacrifice on behalf of mankind.

You see, Christ, although innocent, was crucified on a cross - and there God did something unprecedented - he allowed Jesus to unite his own soul with everyone who ever called upon, or would call upon the name of God for salvation from sin - God granted that Christ could unite with these on the cross - and that God could punish each and every one of them in Christ on the cross. Every last one who was in Christ was destroyed along with Christ on the cross.

The good news is that Christ's sacrificial death allowed God to fully punish all those who were in Christ when God crucified Him on the cross. That union with Christ didn't end on the cross - but all who were in Christ are still in Christ - they were in Christ in death - and when God raised Christ from the dead - they were in Christ - and when God set Christ once again in heave at the right hand of His own throne - they are there to - in Christ.

That means that even if you find yourself a breath away from an eternity without God - yet you can even this moment accept what God has done in and through Christ for you - yes, for you - and "call on the name of God" to save you from your sin.

It isn't complex - you just have to accept that there is absolutely nothing you can do to persuade God that you are good, or that you aren't bad - you have to trust that Christ was good, and that Christ wasn't bad - and that if Christ took you into Himself on the cross - then his righteousness is imputed to you because you are in Christ. It is something that you do by faith - God has given you the truth, so that he can save you by it - but you must believe your way into it - that is you must turn away from every other way - and fully embrace the one and only way to be saved from God's wrath. Only utterly surrendering yourself to God's merciful and single provision can save you from God's wrath - You can pray to God that he will make real in you what He promised - God is no liar, and no respecter of people - if you ask God to save you, he will save you if you ask in faith. There is no special prayer you must pray - you just have to work it out with God - no one can intercede for you but Christ Himself.

If you do that, and you truly believe - God will save you, and the way you will know it is the Holy Spirit will enter into you and witness to your spirit that you have new life. You should probably seek out a bible believing church as well - and talk to some bonifide believers. Likewise you should read the bible - and believe it - it is all true, no matter what you think.

Next post - Where I am right now with God Part II - those who are in Christ.
posted by Daniel @ 3:00 PM   1 comment(s)
 
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