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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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The Buzz


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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Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Last First, First Last.
1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' 5So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' 16So the last will be first, and the first last." - Matthew 20:1-16 [ESV]


Okay, if you just skipped over the bible verses, first of all shame on you, second of all, go back and read them all - and even pray before you do - that is God's word friend, and you do well to read it with some reverence and discernment.

Okay, now we are ready, unless of course, you skimmed over God's word, or forgot to pray as you were reading it - then this is just entertainment, so don't blame me if you don't get anything out of it.

Okay... now we are ready for sure.

I am going to explain what this parable means, and I am only going to do it once, so pay attention. The parable is talking about the various dispensations, and how it doesn't matter which dispensation you are in - the oldest whereby you had the least light, toiled the most in your own strength to serve the Lord, and have the longest history - all the way to the era of the Messiah, the eleventh hour - where you have the coming era of the Christian who will, from the Jewish perspective be the Johnny-come-lately-to-the-party people. The Jew who had only the Mosaic covenant will not fare better than the Gentile who has come in the eleventh hour, hasn't had to bear the heat of the day (as it were), but has come last to the work - he shall receive the same reward as the Jew - in fact the reward is the same in each dispensation no matter where a believer falls - the first, the middle, the last - all receive the same reward.

And God is not evil for giving the OT Jew the same reward as he gives the NT saint, the OT Jew who had to toil in his own strength to keep the law, is not going to finish with more than the NT saint who has a new heart and is empowered by God unto obedience through the indwelling Holy Spirit is not going to fare worse simply because he didn't have to toil as hard as the OT Jew. God is right and just to give the same reward because that was the agreement.

Yes, the parable teaches many other things - but I think this is the primary teaching.

Discuss.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:25 AM   19 comment(s)
Forced To Switch...
Today I was forced to switch to the new blogger format.

Forced!

Previously Blogger offered it to me as an option. They tried to sell me on it with all the bells and whistles, but frankly I wasn't all that impressed, and I don't like jumping on new things just because they are new. I prefer to wait and see if all the buzz outweighs all the baggage that comes with it. Given a choice therefore, I would not have switched, at least not yet - but I wasn't given that choice - there was no way to avoid the "Switch Now" page, and that kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

I mean, it is a free service and all, but this "forced conversion" came without warning. There was no email telling me that if I didn't voluntarily convert, I would be forced to convert with my blog held as a ransom in the balance until I did.

I confess, I am no fan of that sort of thing. I can see that Blogger would want me to convert, but I didn't expect to be rail-roaded like that.

Humph?

Anyway, the winter of my discontent is passing. I have learned to be content in whatever state I find myself, and mention it only as one of those, "Hey, that smells like injustice" sort of ejaculations that come out of you when you notice something that just ain't right.

Maybe I missed some link, some small bail-out-now-if-you-don't-want-new-blogger-rammed-down-your-throat button or something, but I did look for one, and I even logged in through another means, and tried to get to my blog through the back door (as it were), by going to my own blog while logged in, and clicking the post edit icon (that little pencil) - which would normally have taken me the edit post area of my blogger account - but nope, it took me right back to the "Convert or Die!" screen.

So there you have it. I am, through no fault or desire of my own, a new blogger now. Huzzah.. huzz..... <snore> .... zah...

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posted by Daniel @ 9:06 AM   2 comment(s)
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Internet Expl-horror...
I have been been fiddling lately with a new template look (you can go here to preview). It if you are using firefox, it looks pretty good, but if you are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer (complete with its mind numbing proprietary way of handing style sheets!), then it is still pretty messy.

Anyway, if you have firefox, let me know what you think. I am still a week or so away from changing it.
posted by Daniel @ 5:14 PM   9 comment(s)
Monday, January 22, 2007
2007 Pastors Conference...
I will be in Minneapolis on February 5, 6, & 7 for the Desiring God Ministries 2007 Pastors Conference.

Anyone else going?
posted by Daniel @ 5:58 PM   7 comment(s)
In Christ...
Now with all the audio finesse of a wounded bullhorn!Continuing my study on Galatians, I did a bit of a detour on Galatians 1:22 when the discussion turned to being in Christ.

Let's see now, the highlights: I lost both my voice and my place a couple of times, and come across as a bumbling stooge for some of it, praise the Lord for a patient congregation. I make some mistakes, but I cast myself upon your collective patience.

If you are inclined to listen. the link (in WMA format) is:

->here<-

The sound quality is just miserable - I had to turn the software volume down to less than half, then the hardware volumne up, but there it is. We don't get into the discussion about being in Christ till I am about half way through. I hope this is mostly review.
posted by Daniel @ 2:11 PM   7 comment(s)
Friday, January 19, 2007
Transit in the Winter.
Winter in Winnipeg is cold.

The colder it gets, the more likely a person is to bundle up. I think of that as a law of supply and demand. God supplies mind-numbing cold, and our bodies demand that if we venture out into that cold, we provide at least ten inches of layered thinsolate between our flesh and the sort of cold that literally damages exposed skin cells in under 60 seconds.

In Winnipeg, when it is really cold, we put on multiple layers, so many in fact that we can no longer bend our arms or legs, and must be lowered into the final layer or two by crane - but that is another story. Typically, it is during the last few layers, that we begin to pre-perspire. This isn't the mother load of perspiration, it is just the sort of stuff a nurse might mop off the face of a surgeon - enough to get in your eyes and cloud your vision, but not enough to cause organs to shut down or whatnot.

By the time I am halfway to the bus stop I am usually in a "full" sweat, and although discretion demands that I spare you a description of that, I can say that it is only a passing phase, as the radical -10% humidity quickly sucks any moisture out of my apparel and into the air where it quickly freezes to the surface of whatever I am wearing. This adds the wonderful effect of making me glisten in the morning twilight - which is helpful for crossing the street.

By the time I get to the bus stop the possibility of passing out from heat stroke has been replaced by the possibility of slipping into a hypothermia induced coma. Thankfully that sharp, arctic bite of angry cold that hits you wherever it finds a chink in your thinsolate armor, like a knife in the kidneys, keeps you from passing out - at least for the first couple of minutes. Eventually you do pass out, but not before losing a toe or two to the cold, and to be sure, usually you die of exposure before you pass out.

It is on days such as I have just described that I have looked into the face of pure evil and seen in darkest majesty (if there is such a thing) the full effects that "the fall" had on mankind.

For on such days, otherwise civilly minded socially conscious bus drivers are conscientious and considerate people, but for some reason, the cold acts like a drug on them - unleashing their darkest depravities - which invariably plays itself out in their sadistic (and might I suggest criminal?) mishandling of the bus' heating system.

On days where 90% of bus patrons are dressed in every article of clothing they own, and some 60% of these have learned that they can increase their odds of keeping all their toes by close to 20% by merely wearing two pairs of boots (one six sizes bigger than the other, and worn over top of the other) - and that even if the extra boot doesn't save one from losing a toe or two - it does stave it off for a few minutes longer - on these days the younger, cooler, hipper bus drivers like to crank the heat on the bus from "too hot", past "inferno" - and all the way up to "writhing in the torments of hell" such that although men are stumbling onto the bus fresh from the challenge of waiting in an open field for a bus that is 25 minutes late - stumbling I say, unknowingly into this tropical hell on wheels - only to experience what a radical shift of 120 degrees in under ten seconds can do to the human body.

For those of us who wear glasses, our first clue that we are on a sadists bus is not the bus driver himself, it is the fact that our glasses ice up before we even pull out our bus pass. You can actually hear the ice snap and crackle as the moisture in the air (read: evaporating sweat of the other patrons) condenses on your cold glasses, and begins to rapidly knit a white crystal powder over the whole of your glasses. Were a person not encumbered at this point under layer after layer of cold-be-gone type clothing, surely they would be able to remove their glasses before any permanent damage (to their corneas) was done. But even though a man knows he is defeated before he begins, nevertheless he frantically [1] wriggles out of a few dozen pairs of mittens, [2] braces one arm against a nearby pipe or even another frozen (read: yet to be thawed) passenger and [3] heaves the full weight of his body against the pipe or whatever, in the vain hope of starting a collective "bend" in every one of their collective layers of clothing, in order that [4] they might be able to bring that newly bent arm up (in time) to remove their glasses before the crackling ice formation actually reaches their corneas.

Not that kaleidoscopes aren't fun and all...

The bus, is always late during cold days because every ounce of "extra" power is being diverted to the furnace, er, heaters - making the actual top speed something like nine miles per hour, but in order to keep the heaters from becoming stressed they keep it under six or seven mph.

Not that we can actually see the bus driver for the first ten minutes of the ride anyway! It is only after the external layer of condensed ice melts that we get our first glimpse - and what do we see? There he is, in all his rancid splendor - wearing a pair of shorts and a short sleeved shirt. How is that for a sick, ...sick ...sense of humor?

Okay, I admit, I have exaggerated a bit about, ... about the mittens - you know, half a dozen pairs is closer to the truth - but I kid you not about this sadist wearing shorts! - I mean, he looks like he just came in from playing a game of beach volleyball.

As I melt into my seat I feel sort of odd. The outside clothes are starting to thaw, and I am gaining some flexibility (the middle layers are still stiff and cold but the inner layers are already drenched in my sweat as my body tries to cool itself down by making my entire wardrobe (which I have on) a walking body-diaper.

As I take my seat I find myself sitting in what can only be described as "discomfort" if one is charitable to the point of being grossly misleading and is perhaps less charitably described (though far more precisely) as becoming at peace with the rapid erosion of my sanity and looking forward to the extreme dementia of heat stroke that I know will eventually begins to work its mind-numbing magic. Sure, there is screaming for the first little while, and maybe it is coming from me - but it is hardly noticed in the chaotic cacaphony of the bedlam bus - once the numbness kicks in, I know I will be just fine.

Don't get me wrong, I love the bus, the odors, the shrieking - did I mention the odors? This is the very spice of life (not unlike pepper spray in your eyes) - and I even like the sadist bus driver whose desire to live in a perpetual sauna is being lived out creatively at my expense. I am not complaining. I am just saying that there is a moment on rides such as that, when time seems to slow down, and everything gets quiet, and the bus driver glances at your suffering in his over-sized rear view mirror - when you see him smile, and you know you are looking into the face of pure evil.
posted by Daniel @ 2:45 PM   8 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Foundational
Building upon a good foundation.
" "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. " Matthew 7:24-26 [ESV]
For the greater context, we need to go back to the start of this sermon that Jesus was teaching, we see find it here:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:17-20 [ESV]
now, if you have been a Christian for more than a month, you have probably heard a sermon on this passage of scripture, so I doubt I can add much to that, but I wouldn't mind discussing one aspect of it, if I may.

When we talk about this passage we should ask [1] what does the house represent, [2] what does the foundation represent, and [3] what does the flood represent; and we should bear in mind as well that if "truth" is being expounded here by Christ, then even if we mine one truth in particular from this passage - that same truth can be multi-faceted. That is, Paul recognized that when God gave instruction about muzzling an ox - that the truth behind it was applicable elsewhere, and that the instruction was given not on the account of the ox, but on account of the truth represented by the example.

Like most of you, I was taught that this "foundation" is "Christ" and even though that doesn't really knit well with a Jew instructing Jews on how to be correct in their Judaism - yet I accepted that unreservedly and less than critically. Surely Paul echoes the thought in 1 Corinthians? No?

I awoke this morning from a dream. In my dream, I remembered a jade necklace I had given my mother for her birthday when I was six or seven years old. The chain was of that extremely cheap "imitation" gold stuff, and the jade piece itself was a flat rectangle, sort of rounded on the front side, and engraved in some "hippy" font was the word "LOVE" - with the "L" at the top close to the chain, and each consecutive letter underneath the last so that the "E" was farthest from the chain. I had only enough money to buy it, and my father tried hard to dissuade me, knowing that my mother would never wear the thing, but I thought it was precious beyond anything I could imagine - a treasure, made more rich because it said "LOVE" on it. The thing was well received by dear old mom, who even wore it for the rest of that day, and kept it for many years after that. I don't know why I dreamt of that necklace, and to be certain, dreams are at the best of times meaningless and flighty - and this one seemed to be no exception - the necklace seemed to be the hub around which the rest of the dream was revolving, but there was a critical flaw in the necklace that I couldn't comprehend - it was so intangible - I felt it and knew it, but I could not articulate it.

Dreams are weird like that. I think that truth works that way sometimes - you know what it feels like to be wronged for example - and you can take that feeling and apply it elsewhere. So too with dreams - sometimes you come to an understanding of a thing subconsciously, and your brain tries to match that up with something concrete, so it sifts through your memories and finds something that matches the feeling - matches the intangible truth, as it were - and gives some context (however obscure) to what you are thinking about. I am no psychologist, and even if I were, I wouldn't attach a lot of weight to that - but I mention it so as to give context to my overall point.

When I was younger, and I saw my wonderful gift laying in my mother's jewelry box day after day - never being worn and therefore, according to the extention my reasoning assigned, never being cherished - I asked her to wear it. Whether she did or not I really don't remember - but if she did it went back in the Jewelry box soon enough to lay dormant. I probably haven't thought thrice about that thing in the last 30 years, I really don't remember - but I do know, especially as a parent how impractical it was.

When I woke from this dream I immediately turned to the Lord in prayer and asked if there was something there that I should know. Not that I am given to mysticism, but rather I believe in a sovereign God, and I don't doubt that if I am too stubborn to understand a thing the normal way - God is able to open my eyes to truth using the back door as it were. Immediately I asked the question, I began to be acquainted with the similarities between the jade necklace and a poor foundation. Had the necklace sufficed for its intended purpose - to adorn my mother's neck - it would have done just that. But the fact that it stayed in a Jewelry box, forgotten and sequestered away in some drawer tells me that it did not perform as expected. Every intention was good, but the outcome demonstrated that there was something fundamentally wrong with the "gift."

Not that the Lord speaks to me through dreams - I don't want you to get that wrong impression, but rather (I hope) if you are always thinking about the Lord, and constantly submerging yourself in truth - then every aspect of your life can be used to train you in truth - even your dreams. If a dream comes and opens my eyes to some thing I find in scripture - I say "Thank you Lord" and move on. I don't pretend that God is talking to me or anything odd. I do the same if I am whittling a stick and find that the shavings remind me of something from scripture - I don't pretend that the shavings are spiritual - they were just the vehicle by which I came to understand a thing in scripture - not spiritual in and of themselves, but used of the Lord none-the-less if in fact they help me to understand more clearly the word of God.

I hope I have sufficiently defended against any charges of mysticism, but you never know.

Now, as I was pondering this in the first few moments of wakefulness this a.m., I came to understand again how the flood is sin, and how the foundation is our union with Christ. The house that we built is our "pious" activity - and whether we build industriously or carelessly makes no difference with respect to sin - if we build anything upon the sand - that is, in the flesh - it does absolutely nothing to guard us against sin - sin will continue to have dominion over us - and we are right to fear the coming flood, because we know that the work of our hands is not going to do much for us on that day when we are truly tempted.

Now, that is easy enough to see I suppose, but what struck me was how -instructional- that truth is when we come at it backwards.

Why does an otherwise religious fellow, one who hates sin as surely as a homebuilder in a flood plain must hate the floods - why does such a one continue to give into sin? Answer: Because there is something wrong with the foundation. He is a branch just as surely as the other branches - but he is withering and dying while they are healthy and fruitful - why is that? It is because this one is not attached to the vine - all his activity comes from himself and not through a living union with Christ.

That ought to cut through the hoobaloo we sometimes give in to. You know, where we tell ourselves that everything is fine and dandy even if we continue in sin. We tell ourselves God forgave instead of God forbid.

This leads me to ask, the question: what did Christ consider foundational? Certainly faith - I mean, that is a given. But you can't have genuine faith without repentance - (though some misguided, but well intentioned believers would argue otherwise...) But is that where the buck stops? Is repentance foundational? Do we slur our theology a little and teach that Christ is foundation because scripture teaches that Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church)? Some would argue that Christ was referring to Himself as the "rock" upon which He planned to build his church; but I fancy that when Peter said to Christ, "You are the Christ the Son of the Living God" - and Jesus replied that flesh and blood didn't reveal that to Peter, but that this revelation came from God - and that upon this (revelation from God) Christ planned to build his church - that is, not with human hands - but through revelation from God - and if I wanted to be theologically precise - I would say revelation by the Holy Spirit.

No one comes to Christ except that they are called, and no one repents except that God grants them the repentance, and no one comes to faith except that God grants them the faith.

When I look back to the moment I first believed, it wasn't that I was trying to generate assent to the truth - it was that the scales suddenly fell off my eyes, and I suddenly saw the gospel for the first time. It was obscured somehow, and then it was clear as anything - God was calling me, and I had to answer, He chose exactly when he would call me, because I knew there and then that I was either going to give my life to God or not - it wasn't me sitting down with a bunch of facts and calmly reasoning out whether or not I could believe such and such, and deciding that this was true and then intentionally praying to this God whom I had decided was certainly there - and laying claim to some promise of eternal hope because I understood that such existed and I wanted it. Nuh-uh. No - in a moment of agony I realized that God was real, and that I was a sinner - that God was Holy and that unacceptable as I was, God was pointing his finger at me and commanding me to be reconciled with Him, and I had the choice to obey that command and be reconciled, or to continue in my hardened rebellion and disobey it.

The foundation it seems plain enough - is not simply my repentance, nor the faith that comes by God's grace through granting us repentance (said another way: by God's grace through granting us the ability to humble ourselves - to be willing to be eternally obedient to God) it isn't through the act of being willing to obey that Christ consider the foundation - it was the work of the Holy Spirit this is fundamentally foundational, I think that might be a little fine grained for most of us, but the theological implications are sound.

Why do I sin, I sin because I am building a house that lacks the correct foundation - I sin because I am engaged in a Christianity that is robust and industrious and lacks only one element - walking constantly in the Spirit - and that is why I have no heart for missions, that is why I do not evangelize, that is why I am dead inside for all my external effort - oh the house is glorious, but it falls every time sin comes in like a flood - and just as the branch that is seperated from the vine cannot bear fruit, so too there is no power to deliver me from this sin so long as I continue to remain aloof from the branch - I abide in Christ through the Holy Spirit, and not through my external pious conduct. To forego this union with Christ, even if I act in every other way as a Christian ought to act - ministry and devotion included - is to build upon sand, and it is a beggarly thing - like pushing a car that is in gear rather than starting it up and driving it.

I think this is the truth that I pulled from all that. I am not suggesting that this is the "correct" exposition of the text in Matthew - but that this is one truth that I found there.
posted by Daniel @ 11:20 AM   3 comment(s)
Monday, January 15, 2007
Galatians 1:16
old time radio...
"was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;" Galatians 1:16 [ESV]


am running a study through the book of Galatians verse by verse on Sunday mornings. If you are like me, and are curious about what the voice of people from the blogs you read really sound like - you can give this study on Galatians 1:16 a listen (.wma format).

Seldom have I messed up on so many verse references in one study! I could have put up something with polish, but I thought it would probably be best to put up something that was not polished.

Anyway, there it is, with all its tarnish.
posted by Daniel @ 9:39 AM   13 comment(s)
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Stop and Think...
Everyone has an opinion....If you run in the same circles as me, you are already aware of the differing opinions about Pastor Francis Chan's gospel video. On the one side you have people who are saying that this is a fair presentation of the gospel, even if it isn't exactly how they would do it. On the other side you have people saying that this presentation is lacking some things that they would never leave out and because it is lacking, they say that whatever else it is, it isn't -THE- Gospel™.

I probably know more about the gospel than most first century believers ever did. That isn't meant to sound high handed, it is meant to recognize that 2000 years of NT scholarship have increased and polished our understanding of the gospel. It hasn't changed the gospel, but it has allowed us to describe it far more precisely than our fore bearers ever did.

If we continue at the pace we are going, I suspect that in one hundred years time someone will be able to articulate the gospel with even more precision than we are able to articulate it today - which is not to say that the gospel we have today is insufficient, or that the gospel that saved the thief on the cross was insufficient - but rather it is to say that the effectiveness of the gospel is in no way dependant upon the cleverness of men to describe it. It is one thing to say a thing that is contrary to the gospel - that would be a hindrance, an error - a grievous mishandling of a divine truth. But it is quite another to say that unless the gospel is perfectly articulated it is no longer the gospel.

I mentioned the thief on the cross. What was gospel did he hear?

He heard the Chief priests mocking Christ as one who saved others but seemingly couldn't save Himself. He even took part in their taunting Christ. When they demanded that Christ demonstrate His messianic claim by saving Himself from His fate (c.f. Luke 23:35) and coming down from the cross (c.f. Matthew 27:40) he hung there beside Christ - a man he knew to be innocent - and watched forgive those who were crucifying Him. He knew that once you were put on the cross it was over - that there is no eleventh hour mercy from the Romans - no one was pulled down alive - once you were up there you came down dead and that was it. He knew therefore that this gracious benevolence was some last minute ploy to charm his tormentors into releasing Him - this was an innocent man full of grace, and as he watched the Messiah speak to His disciple John, and commit the care of His earthly mother into John's hand - this man was not trying to seduce out of the Romans a stay of execution - He was here to die, and He knew it - He was being put to death unjustly, but He wasn't fighting it - he was forgiving those who hated Him even as they mocking Him in His demise. In this hour the thief understood something - this was the Christ.

When the thief "came to himself" he said a few things that tell us a great deal about where his heart was in that moment; he asked the other thief, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." Luke 23:40b-41 [NASB]. Somewhere between mocking Christ and death, this thief realized that this was it. Now was the time to make peace with God. In that statement we see the admission of guilt - he knew himself to be a sinner justly condemned for his sins by men, and now about to answer to God immediately following his own demise. In this torment, the thief cried out for mercy saying only, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.." In that one statement the thief demonstrated that he recognized Christ as the messiah, and was asking for mercy - he didn't try and justify himself, but just asked for mercy when Christ came into His kingdom - and what was Christ's reply?
"You shall be with Me in Paradise."


Make no mistake, this man was saved by grace through faith - but was the gospel that he received that day plainly articulated by Christ, and if not - was Christ a poor minister of the gospel? Was Christ deficient in presenting the whole counsel of God? Do we sleight or criticize the Savior for doing less than He could have? Is there no room for the sovereignty of God in what Christ said and did not say on the cross?

I believe that if Pastor Francis Chan's presentation was an act of obedience to Christ, then we ought to praise God for our brother's obedience in the matter, and trust in the sovereignty of God to fill in the blanks - and perhaps more so - to trust that the blanks are even sovereignly there, just as they were with the thief on the cross. In these things we ought to rejoice if we trust God is doing exactly what he plans to do.

If on the other hand we believe that Pastor Francis' gospel presentation has merit only in proportion to how comprehensively it details -every- aspect of the soteriological process, then we are free to invalidate Pastor Francis' presentation on the grounds that, soteriologically speaking, he didn't use the same buzzwords we would have or possibly even because he didn't place his emphasis in the same place or way that I would have.

Bottom line? The seed that is being sown here is the gospel, even if Pastor Francis didn't do any plow work beforehand to prepare the soil for it.

Really, I think that is what is at the heart of this confusing disagreement: knowing where to draw the line between the seed and the soil.

Listen: If there has ever been even one moment in your life where you didn't fully obey the God of Abraham, that is, if there was ever even a moment of independence from God in you - you are a sinner, and you will in no way enter into heaven because your sin makes you imperfect - and no one can go to heaven unless they are perfect before God - there are no exceptions. Until you fully feel the weight of God's condemnation upon you - God pointing the finger of eternal damnation at you personally - you are not even close to the truth. But when you see yourself as absolutely condemned right now - when you see that there is nothing you can do to change this - that doing good deeds from now until the day you die cannot even begin to repay your sin debt - that you are without hope in this life because your very first rejection of God was accepted in full, and now you stand to reap what you have sown and all your tears and hope for mercy are not going to change that guilty verdict even if you could earnestly cry about it from now till they lay you in your grave - your tears, your efforts, your emotions, your hopes, your prayers - none of these can change the verdict - you are condemned to hell sinner, and there is not a thing you can do to change that.

When I tell you this I am taking the light of truth, and shining it on your ignorance. I am taking the sword of the Spirit, and cutting a path to your heart through the ground that is currently being held by the enemy - and if that light can shine upon you so that you see it - I am preparing you for the truth just as a wise farmer prepares the soil for the seed - I am plowing through the fallow ground that your self confidence and ignorance have allowed left unattended - I am breaking soil so that the gospel might take root.

But I don't mistake this plowing for sowing. I don't mistake this plowing for the seed itself.

The seed is the gospel: the sure promise that if you call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved.

I might, because I don't want to fool you into thinking you are saved by reciting some prayer, explain to you that you will never be able to really trust God to save you until you turn to Him in earnest - that is, I may mention that unless you repent you will certainly perish - but even that profound truth can't be called "the gospel" proper - it is certainly soteriologically related and important - but failure to mention it does not mean you have flubbed a presentation of the gospel, it just means you haven't plowed as deep or as thoroughly as you could/should have.

I make a distinction between presenting the "way of salvation" and defining the gospel. The gospel is the pinnacle soteriological truth that you are saved from your sin by faith in Christ and not through any self effort - but is typically the "punch line" of the whole soteriological process. Some no doubt feel that this distinction is artificial and/or overly precise, and I accept that without criticism. We are splitting hairs after all.

What Pastor Francis's video has done is brought a bunch of people out of the woodwork who are willing to express where they draw a box around the gospel - around the truth that saves, or around the whole soteriological process, or somewhere in between.

If I say that Pastor Francis -has- presented the gospel, then I put myself on the side that draws a line between the soil and the seed, and recognizes that Pastor Francis has indeed sown the good seed - even if I think he has done no ground work up front in preparing the soil to receive it.

If I say that pastor Francis has not presented the gospel, then I see the preparing of the soil as part of the gospel message, and the burden is on me to show even one example from scripture that does this.
posted by Daniel @ 3:13 PM   14 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Prestidigitation.
Sleight of hand is my speciality...Now that I have a logo I can commence with the blatant Pyromaniacs-style, "branded" images rip offs. What? Imitation is the highest form of flattery!

But onto a serious subject, prestidigitation.

Some of you who, like myself, played Advanced Dungeon's and Dragons in your past, will no doubt already be familiar with the term prestidigitation because the level title for a "level one Magic User" was "Prestidigitator - and being a geek, you had to know what that word meant in order to sleep one night - and so you went to your dictionary and discovered that a prestidigitator was one who practiced sleight of hand (prestidigitation).

As I woke this morning I had a sweet moment in prayer - just sharing openly with God on a level of intimacy that was deeper than I am used to. I wasn't trying to manufacture it or anything, I was just so at rest and contented in the Lord's love for me that I fell into it quite effortlessly and naturally. As I was so engaged I was thinking about how -this- is what some professing believers miss - they miss the relationship with God.

Every good illusionist knows that the key to successful prestidigitation is to redirect focus from what is really going on to something that only seems to be going on. Splayed fingers point here or there or large circular gestures catch your attention for a moment: These gestures are not emtpy showmanship; these are done so that your eyes follow the movement and not the "magic." You need only be distracted for a split second and the illusion is complete.

It seems to me that there is some manner of subconscious prestidigitation going on in the pursuit of the Lord for some people.

They study books, they read, they attend - they talk a good talk - but they don't know God, they just know about God. It isn't that study and whatnot isn't good - it is critical for all believers to be filled with as much truth as they are able to take in - but it is that some mistake the pursuit of knowledge for the pursuit of God. That was the error of the Gnostics (though admittedly - they took it to an extreme.)

While it is true of some far more than most - all of us stand in danger of sometimes pursuing knowledge about God instead of pursuing God personally. He is a person, not an idea. Sometimes just remembering that God is not an impersonal force, but a living, feeling, loving Father who desires our company can do wonders for a dry prayer life.

Think about how great you feel when you meet someone who has a genuine interest in you - you married people, that was your spouse. There is something about a person who sincerely wants to be with us that makes them attractive - no?

Talk to God today - He is listening.
posted by Daniel @ 2:35 PM   6 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
New "Doulogo" ...
posted by Daniel @ 5:47 PM   13 comment(s)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Two Minute Meditation...
Shadows on the wallOur youngest daughter is only three, she is a more difficult child than any of her siblings had ever been, but we consider that to be God's blessing upon us, because if she were not so difficult we might ignore her in favor of the others whom we are presently homeschooling - praise the Lord that he can find a way to bless you even against your own subconscious inclinations! So until we realized what a blessing her attitude really was to us - a bonifide gift from God - we were a little put off by it. Once we saw it for what it was, we were so thankful. Notwithstanding, she is the very poster child for the strong willed child.

So when a few months ago, she began to show signs of sciophobia (fear of shadows), we were pretty concerned - because she really could, although only three years old - make herself stay up all night crying, and do so again and again.

This morning, as she began to cry anew - I found myself in prayer, "Lord, give me something here - anything. I don't want to deal with this in the wrong way, and I am powerfully tempted to follow my own heart" that sort of prayer - when the thought came into my mind that we as believers can be just as sciophobic with our heavenly Father - and by "we" I mean me. The thought persisted - hadn't I ever been afraid of something as empty as a shadow? I had the Lord's promises - more solid and substantial than the bed I slept in, yet was there not ever a shadow of doubt that caused me anxiety? Indeed! The shadows of doubt that had fallen upon my faith in the past did cause me anxiety, but thankfully God was far more patient with my weakness - my fear of shadows without substance - than I had been with my daughter. What a blessed thought!

You know? I really do love the way the Lord breaths His own life into us to strengthen us - He reveals something of His own heart with us to give us perspective that becomes our own. What a great God we serve.
posted by Daniel @ 8:19 AM   3 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Doctrinal Inheritance...
Monkey see... Monkey do...Proverbs 20:21 says, "An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end." [ESV]. With that in mind, consider the following scenario:
There once was a man who, although poor was both driven and industrious, and because of this inclination he eventually rose above his circumstances to become a millionaire. This fellow was a "first generation" millionaire.

This same man had a son and because he himself was a self-made man, he wanted the same for his son. So on a day when the lad was old enough to understand it the man informed his son that there would be no inheritance forthcoming. It was understood that upon the father's demise the fortune would go to a certain charity and that the son would by no means inherit even a penny of it.

In growing up, the boy was given every opportunity that wealth could afford and used these opportunities to eventually become a competent and industrious businessman in his own right - and in his father's lifetime he began his own business and he too became a millionaire. This son, even though his father was a millionaire, ultimately he was also a "first generation" millionaire.

When this son had a child of his own, he decided he wasn't going to do to his son what was done to him by his own father - and so he made it known to his son that one day his entire fortune would come down to him.

This last son, because he reasoned that his inheritance was guaranteed, and because he currently enjoyed the sort of freedom his father's vast wealth afforded - saw no point in pursuing anything outside of his own amusement, and where both his father and grandfather were driven men of industry - he was slack and lazy. He understood how to make a fortune, but had no real interest in doing so. When his father died he simply invested his father's fortune and lived richly off the proceeds. This son was a "second generation" millionaire.

When this last son himself had a son, the boy grew up in privilege and ignorance. He didn't understand why he was wealthy, and didn't have a clue how to become wealthy if he should somehow come to be poor - he only knew that he was rich, and in no danger of poverty - so he engaged himself in whatever amusements offered him contentment. This was a "third generation" millionaire.

The fourth and fifth generations eventually depleted the family fortune, and by the sixth generation they were as poor as their forefather had been. The family remained in obscure poverty until one industrious man again rose above his circumstances and made himself a millionaire... etc. etc. etc.


Consider the new believer who is saved from a deep bondage to sin - having been set free by Christ, this one's sudden and profound love for God drives him or her deep into God's word. The intensity of their need to know God is an unslakeable thirst that must be answered. They are not content in ignorance nor have they learned to lionize teachers above the plain reading of scripture - in short, they have not been institutionalized into the church yet - and unless/until they do, they will burn with a bright light in the church. Some cool down surely, but some remain red hot.

Contrast this person to the one who is born into the church, grows up with Christian values, is made to attend all the various "churchy" pastimes and events - is given the checklist of things you have to believe in order to be a Christian - and assents to them - and more or less is taught doctrine pragmatically: this is right, and this is wrong - believe the right stuff and you can hang out with us, but believe the wrong stuff and we will burn you at the stake. They have ridden into their faith on the coat tail of their parents because no one taught them any better. They can quote all the right verses, attend all the meetings - but you know what? Many of them aren't even saved, and most of them don't know what a relationship with Christ is all about - all they know is how to be a the kind of church-goer that no one complains about, and their kids typically do worse than they do.

I know, I know - Daniel, Daniel - you are so judgmental! You are not supposed to notice that sort of stuff, and if you do, you should hush up about it. No one wants to think about the difference between empty religion and living faith - and no one wants to talk about where it all starts.

Maybe there is some wisdom in that - but I am going to go out on a limb and mention this sort of stuff anyway. I speak the gospel to my children all the time - all the time. My eldest is only nine, but he reads between six to ten chapters of scripture each morning - why? Because I have made it very plain to my children that they are sinners who will not be freed from sin simply because they are my children - that they cannot come to God through me, but that they must come to God just as I did - through Christ, in humility and genuine repentance - turning away from every other way and trusting only and solely in Christ to save them from the thing that has been killing mankind since Adam fell - sin.

As a parent, my greatest hope is that I will, as a parent, model a loving trusting relationship to them so that they may understand their true Father more clearly. I want to wean them from depending on me, and wean them into a living, utterly dependent relationship with God through Christ.

I fear that the trophies we struggled to win on the spiritual battlefield quickly collect dust when we enshrine them in empty religious activity. Do we not stand in danger of populating the church with Christians who do not know how to be Christians? Do we populate the future church with progeny who have learned to slumber away the years contented because they are certain to receive the only "Christian benefit" that was ever preached to them - a get out of hell free card? Are we training our children as much about sanctification as we are about justification??

I encourage you, parents, use your time wisely, sow now the good seed, and reap later a good harvest - neglect the time of sowing, and you will regret it come the harvest - give your kids the whole gospel don't just stop at freedom from sin's penalty - let 'em know that they are sinners who are going to be enslaved to sin all their life and that there is nothing you can do about it except to point them in the direction of the only one who can help - Christ. Do this often, sow in season and out of season - and sow with intention.

Oh, and Happy New Year!
posted by Daniel @ 3:07 PM   4 comment(s)
 
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