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. My complete profile...
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
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
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, the plaintiffs demand that the words "so help me God" not be added to the end of the president's oath of office. - an article on cnn.com
While the tireless pursuit of those who hate/deny God is no grand surprise, what is surprising is how these people actually take themselves seriously. Added? In order to add these words to the end of the oath, they would have to not be part of the oath. What they want to do is subtract these words from the oath in order to satisfy their own atheistic agenda.
Shame on them for their open and unashamed bigotry, and pity them, for they seem to not understand the difference between adding and subtracting...
I originally purchased Little Big Planet™ as a Christmas gift for the family, but, truth be told, it looked so neat, I opened it a few weeks before Christmas and let the family play it.
The game is, in a word, awesome. Extremely family friendly, fun, creative - one of those rare games where age is no barrier or real boon. Its all about getting from point A to point B and having fun doing it.
If you have a PS3 and a family.... I'm just saying... get the game.
Have a good new year.
Oh, the level editor? Twice Awesome. My son is at home right now designing (on paper) an elaborate stage for us to play in eventually. I like this game.
Have you ever had to follow someone in your car - I mean, they know where you are supposed to be, so they are going to drive ahead of you, and you are going to follow them? Before cell phones were growing out our ears, this sort of thing carried some significant stress. In dense traffic, people will cut in between you and the one you are following, and you may loose sight of the one you are following - and you may even get lost if you are in a city you don't know, etc. etc.
Imagine that you have come to a city (where cell phones didn't work) you are not familiar with, and imagine that you are hungry and can't find the restaurant district. Dejected and hungry you pull over and sit on the curb. Eventually a cop passes by, and you flag him down. He pulls up and asks what the problem is. You lament that you do not know this city, and that you are hungry and you want to find a restaurant where you can eat, and ask him if he can lead you to one. He agrees.
Now imagine that you have no intention of following him. You just asked him to lead you because you know that is the sort of thing you should do. So when the cop drives up ahead, going slow, so that you may follow - because you never had any intention of actually following him - you simply put him out of your mind and turn off quick as you can and thereby continue in your hunger and misery.
The only reasons you would do that are because  you don't really believe that following the cop will deliver you out of hunger and misery, or  you are not really desirous of being delivered - that is you revel in your misery, or perhaps it is a little of both.
The solution is not to try and make yourself want to follow the cop - the problem is either you don't trust the cop, or that you only trust yourself - but either way, the problem is a trust problem.
You know the situation before me; You know how I lack grace and patience. Please bless your servant with the grace to be patient and content through this ordeal,
for Your name's sake, and to the glory of your praise, In Christ's name, Amen.
I mean, it will sound pretty good to most evangelical Christians, and few, if any, would find much wrong with it. It seems a good prayer to pray, and has the aroma (if you will) of piety, given that it looks to God, and not self for supply, and given that there is that little flourish of seemingly selfless praise in the closing vamp. All in all, most of us would not think twice about such a prayer, and if any thought were given at all to the matter, we might simply echo the thought - yes Lord, please give that person patience and contentment, and glorify your name through doing so.
The problem with that prayer is that theologically speaking, it makes God a liar, the believer a victimized "hoper", and probably is only paying lip service to God's glory.
Postmodernism has taught many to shy away from putting too fine an edge on anything. Our culture has trained us not to define anything in strong absolutes because that leads to the sort of extremism that causes not only division, but fanaticism and sociopathy. Postmodernism also teaches us that the odds of us actually landing close to the "real truth" are so small, that it arrogant to even pursue the possibility.
Few of us escape passing all that we see and do through our unconscious postmodern strainers.
That is largely because public schools and television share the same social agenda - training us from the very cradle to think and act in harmony with an ideal that depends upon the goodness of man for its success. Anyone who has had their eyes open to the very real corruption that sin has brought into this world, cannot long suffer this wonderfully altruistic, but ultimately and critically flawed world view. Notwithstanding, I say, we are raised from infancy to think that certainty and precision cannot penetrate much deeper than a very shallow surface, so that we can pour scorn and ridicule (at best) upon anyone who thinks that we ought to pursue clarity with any hope of achieving it.
I mention this up front because if you read that prayer and saw nothing wrong with it, the reason is likely because your Pomo-Filter™ kept everything light and fluffy for you. But let's chew on this and see what comes of our dutiful mastication.
Now, we could rip this prayer up ten ways to Sunday - comparing it against the Lord's prayer, for instance, we might note that it isn't following the "formula" of hallowing God's name, followed by a petition that God's will be done, etc. etc. But not every prayer Christ ever prayed followed the formula - and I don't think the intent of His prayer was to give us the correct "structure" so much as the correct "Object" of our prayer - God's glory.
We can likewise, and our Pomo-Filter™ definitely inclines us in this direction, brush aside certain flaws in the prayer as acceptable, since we don't want to be overly critical, lest we turn prayer into something bloated, complex, and artificial, but that is a presumption we will not entertain today. Let us not, for the sake of this post at least, allow ourselves to wave away anything in presumptuous disdain, but engage ourselves with a simple, but pernicious and narrow goal: to examine something closely, and see what we find.
First of all, let's outline what is correct about the prayer. We want to do this because we want to take instruction from this truth: a lie is more believable when mixed with truth; that is, what is wrong with this prayer can be hidden by what is right with it - so we want to be certain that we identify the oil of "what is right" up front, in order that it may be separate from the water of "what is wrong" when we discuss it.
"Father in Heaven"
Correct. It is good and right to recognize God as our Father, and again to recognize that He is in heaven. The profound theological depth of those three words put together like that would take years to exhaust. It is unrealistic to expect that anyone will ever again be able to impart into those words anything that even approaches the infinite depth of their meaning - I say "again" because when Christ spoke in this fashion, I expect He alone could impart the fullest sense of all that these words hold in them into their use. The invocation is correct in word, but more often than not, it is merely a formality; We recite the words because that is a proper form of address.
I am reminded of those big doors with the little doors built right into them at eye level - so that you can open the little door and see who is out there before you open the big door and let them in.
A man can prop a corpse up and knock on the door, but it is not very likely to gain him entry - yet for most of us our salutation is not unlike that corpse - a lifeless formality - a platitude served cold before the King of Kings upon whose forbearance we have, by longstanding habit continuously imposed unimpeded, so that we now regard our liberty in this area as a right, and the notion of thinking any deeper on the matter as a labor beneath our contempt. Surely God isn't concerned about such formalities.
Flowers are so beautiful in bloom, but let them die and their buds, and leaves fall away - all that life produced in them - and offer the kindling of their stalks in a bouquet and you will find that few will accept such a gift. Yet how many of us are routinely in our prayer life offering the same to God?
I say, this part was correct, but only if we imparted in those words the reality of their worth. We can offer God our lip service, but it is our heart service that He regards.
"You know the situation before me; "
Correct, even flawlessly so. God does know the situation. I am reminded here about God's words to Israel supplied many times through various prophets, which, paraphrased basically says that God promises to cause Israel to seek Him even when they have played the whore, that is, even when they turn to something other than God - God promises to make them seek Him earnestly. How? Here I prefer not to paraphrase, but to cite, because God's word is more convicting than any man's paraphrase. Consider what God says To Israel through the prophet Hosea in Hosea 5:15, "I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me." I hope the significance of that isn't lost on you. God is basically saying, I will depart from you and make you needy in order that in the vacuum to follow you will see your genuine need of me - and so seek me, not as you are now - all fluffy and half hearted, filled with your own ways - no, I will make you earnestly seek me by showing you your desperate need of me.
Listen: God does know everything, but His knowledge is not like that of some divine fortune teller who merely knows what is going on - God is a living God, and as Christ testified, He is working still, and continues to work - consider again whether your situation is something that God merely has knowledge of, or whether in fact God is chastising you because you are a legitimate child, or whether God is blessing you with some struggle because that very struggle is going to purify your faith. Do you imagine that faith drops out of the sky out of nowhere and squeezed out of nothing? Does it fall from the sky into your lap Christian? No. Faith is planted into plowed up soil, not fallow ground - and the plowing is often the thing we beg God to deliver us from, rather than walk with us through.
Notwithstanding, there is nothing wrong with assenting to God's omnipotence, even if for the most part we are doing so in a horribly shallow way. It is the next part that starts to get slippery.
"Please bless your servant with the grace to be patient and content through this ordeal"
First Ephesians 1:3 tells us that we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing. I mean, if God emptied all there is on us, then it stands to reason that there is no more, and that calling God to bless further is to suggest that God has held something back.
Right about there the pomo-filter usually kicks back in. What? Are you saying it is wrong to ask God to bless us?
No, I am saying it is wrong to ask God to bless you again, there is a difference.
Okay, you think as you step back from the original feather-ruffling, clearly it is just an argument about word choice and semantics - you mean that it is wrong to ask God to bless you, mentally putting the word "bless" in quotes as though by doing so it now means something else. Listen, it isn't a matter of language or word choice - it is a matter of vague theology being scrutinized under the microscope, and found wanting. Do not dismiss it - examine it. We do not pursue sound doctrine to win doctrinal debates - we pursue sound doctrine because sound doctrine instructs us in correct practice (orthopraxy).
You don't ask God to do what He has already done unless you don't understand that God has done it already. If you believe that God has done it already, and you are still asking for it - then get to the heart of the matter - you don't really believe that God has blessed you.
Follow the prayer again... asking for patience? Patience is not a prayer request it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit! Asking God for patience is tantamount to asking God to give you the Holy Spirit all over again.
POMO FILTER ALERT.
Don't give into the idea that I am being too critical, or too rough, here. Don't suggest to yourself that I should be more sensitive, maybe not for you, but for those baby Christians who might read this, or for those who don't know the Lord who might get the wrong impression about faith. I tell you that though I take no joy in anyone being stung by a bee, I take great joy when something true convicts, because it is no man's work, but God's work, and I rejoice in it. How much less, do I care then if someone has so misconstrued Christ's ministry to this world that they take offense when their imitation is exposed.
No, I say, take it all in. I may be abrupt and even heavy handed with the truth here, but don't take that out on the truth, it isn't the truth's fault if I deliver it all ham-fisted like.
Seriously think this one through then, before you dismiss it, if dismissing it is your natural inclination. Yes, it is holy and humble to acknowledge our desperate need. But it is not holy or humble to ask for a thing we already have. It may be genuine ignorance and it may be seasoned a good bit by unchecked immaturity - but there is nothing noble about ignorance or immaturity. It is only excusable once, after that you are responsible for what you know.
The problem here, I say is not ignorance or immaturity, but something far more earthshaking considering the scope of those who suffer from, and because of it. The problem is unbelief.
Don't brush this off as a teaching for the next person either.
When a person asks for something they already have, it is because they either  don't believe that they have it, or  don't believe that what they have is what it is supposed to be, or alternately [2a] they don't believe it "works" or that they are [2b] doing it right.
Ordeals will come (and do come) to Christians and when they do, they always serve a purpose that is, and must remain, in accord with God's purpose. God's purpose is often obscure in what He allows His saints to endure - but His purpose is never simply to make you ask Him again for what He has already given. Rather all that God has given has been given to serve this one purpose - to strengthen and grow your reliance on God - to take you to the place where your reliance is entirely on God - as is proper for any creature.
Can I ask God for grace? For blessings? For patience? For love? For joy? They are mine already.
But, objects the sinister man in the top hat as he twists the tip of his mustache in one hand, if these things are truly mine already, why is it that I cannot make use of them? Why if I have patience am I not patient? Do I, or must I brainwash myself? Is that what I am to do? Do I pretend that I am really patient, when all evidence screams to me that I am by no means patient? Am I truly expected, in the name of Christian faith to act what I am not, and tell myself that I am something that I am not, and hope that eventually what I practice in my self imposed delusion becomes actual at some point? Is the strength of Christianity reduced to a beggarly intellectual dishonesty whereby I convince myself of something that is neither true or beneficial, and experience bliss only when I can no longer discern what is real of myself?
We all worry about that, I mean if we are thoughtful enough, and sincere enough. We don't want to pretend to be something we are not. We do not become good Christians by pretending to be good Christians - or said in biblical language, we do not actually clean the cup by polishing the outside of it.
This is the part of the conversation where eyes roll because we know the garden path so well by now. We can't do it, God has to do it... yeah, yeah, the leopard cannot change its own spots - we have heard this before, and all that knowledge did was make us feel even more hopeless - since if we cannot do it, it must mean that God is supposed to but isn't doing it for some reason. It doesn't help the eye rollers to know that God does it, because they can't figure out how to make God do it, and therein lies the problem.
You see unbelief is often veiled by our I-am-a-victim complex. It's not -my- fault things aren't working. I regard myself as sincere, and I presume to know myself well enough to say that if I could do something about it, I would - but since nothing is being done, I am left to conclude that I must be doing something "wrong" because God is not providing for me what scripture clearly says He will provide.
Do you see the victimization? I am a victim of my own ignorance, it isn't my fault I don't understand, if I understood, I would do it right. Tell me how to get patience, and I will get patience in the right way...
The myopia is pricelessly ironic. You have all you need right now.
No I don't.
Yes you do, you just don't believe that you do.
Ah - we are back to word games, or the power of positive thinking; you want me to start telling myself a thing is true until I believe its true - one of those "unicorns have to be believed in order to be seen" lines of (faulty) reasoning?
No, no, a thousand times no. That is the way a heart that lacks faith processes things. It refuses to see itself as lacking faith, even in the face of plain and naked evidence.
Listen, if God says that He has blessed you with every blessing - you have all there is. If the Holy Spirit is in you, you have His patience in you. You don't need any more.
Ah - see, I knew it was just a word game. You meant that I personally don't have patience, but that God (the Holy Spirit) has patience in me, such that you can say that "I" have patience, but you mean God in me. Still no help.
NO! That is not what I am saying. That is unbelief looking for justification, looking to paint failure in terms of someone else and not self. Look, I am spelling it out in plain terms, the reason you don't see it is not because it isn't simple or straight forward - you don't see it because if for a moment you loosen that death grip you have on your false hope - exposing something so dreadful you dare not even think it: that in spite of your profession, you are truly faithless.
If I am talking to you, get over yourself. Stop denying what you know is true. Are you going to tell me that you truly believe that Jesus is going to save you, but you doubt that He is sanctifying you in any meaningful way? Are you saying that you have had a profound experience - being transferred out of the kingdom of darkness, and into the kingdom of light by God Himself - and yet now God has left you clueless?
No, listen. There is a place for immaturity. We were all babes once upon a time, and surely we are all childish in many ways to this day. But unbelief is not on par with teething pain - it is the very opposite of faith.
How did Isaiah say it, "Who has believed our report?" - Christians, as one, answer, "us, we heard it!" - but is that true of you? Do you really believe all that God has said, or just the part about you getting saved?
Consider the queerness of your faith if it is able to grasp and hold onto something as profound as justification for every sin you have ever, or will ever commit - but finds itself impotent when it comes to believing that you have every blessing already, or refuses to believe that it has any sort of victory in the arena of sin.
Ah, we are such victims, who hold our own unbelief as though it were virtuous to possess it so long as you feel bad about it, and would change it if you could...
The truth is that your flesh isn't going to get any better, it will always spit up temptations, it will always be impatient, and lustful. That isn't going away, and if you ask God to take it away, you are asking God to kill you on the spot, for until your flesh dies, it will always be a fountain of wickedness. But the "you" that is in that flesh are not enslaved by it, you are in fact set free from its dominion if you are in Christ - and if free, then free indeed (that is, free in deeds as well as in words).
How then is it that I am impatient? I am impatient because I am in the flesh, where I choose to be, for I have the strength of God Almighty at hand, provided by God, intended by God for my sustenance, and given in full measure already - all waiting on me to employ, and when I fail to do so, I blame it on everything but my own lack of faith.
That's what's wrong with praying for patience or asking for blessings. It not as simply as saying God, I don't believe I have these things - it is like saying, these things you have given are clumsy and useless - I don't want to suffer in my sinful flesh relying on your sustaining grace for all - I don't want to believe you, or turn to you because I don't believe You, Jehovah Jireh, will provide. I don't believe you will answer me, because I am such a wretch, I don't believe, because of all these very good and justifiable reasons.... I don't believe because.
Listen, there is no excuse for unbelief, and when we ask God for what we have, it boils down to unbelief. Don't call yourself a believer if you are an unbeliever, just because you said a salvation prayer once and someone told you that you are a Christian - if you think that you believe God for your salvation, but can't believe him for anything else - let me warn you, you are probably so self deceived that you are beyond all hope - excepting that God is ALL mighty, and can derail the train to hell you are riding, even now.
But moving on, in my light hearted way, we get to the final, bloated closing phrase:
for Your name's sake, and to the glory of your praise, In Christ's name, Amen.
How poetic. Is it really for the sake of God's name that you are asking Him to redo what He has already done? Dear God, please for your names sake, accept my unbelief, nay - act upon it - come down from heaven and reward it - for your names sake.
What about the glory of Your praise eh? What's that? Does that mean that God is glorious when He praises someone, or does it mean that praising God gives God glory?
I suspect the latter - that praising God gives Him glory - but can I really call my prayer of unbelief an act of praise that will bring God's glory? Dear God, be glorified by the praise I am going to give you when you provide me with special sin stopping "power", so that instead of needing you moment by moment, to the glory of your praise, now I can ignore you all the time and praise you once... for the momentary glory?
Listen, I didn't grab that prayer from somewhere. I made it up - using the sort of pretty words one often hears employed by practiced public prayer persons. A prayer like that can be said in a single breath, it can sound like Shakespeare, but that doesn't make it a good prayer.
I am reminded of a remarkable incident involving George Meuller, which many of you will already be familiar with. Here it is, in the words of Charles Inglis:
When I first came to America thirty-one years ago, I crossed the Atlantic with the captain of a steamer who was one of the most devoted men I ever knew; and when we were off the banks of Newfoundland he said to me: ‘Mr. Inglis, the last time I crossed there, five weeks ago, one of the most extraordinary things happened that has completely revolutionized the whole of my Christian life. Up to that time I was one of your ordinary Christians. We had a man of God on board, George Mueller, of Bristol. I had been on that bridge for twenty-two hours and never left it. I was startled by someone tapping me on the shoulder. It was George Mueller. “ ‘Captain,’said he, ‘I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon. ’This was Wednesday. “‘It is impossible, ’I said. “‘Very well, if your ship can’t take me God will find some other means of locomotion to take me. I have never broken an engagement in fifty-seven years.’
“‘I would willingly help you, but how can I? I am helpless.’“‘Let us go down to the chart room and pray, ’he said. “I looked at this man and I thought to myself, ‘What lunatic asylum could the man have come from? I never heard of such a thing.’“‘Mr. Mueller, ’I said, ‘do you know how dense this fog is?’ “‘No, ’he replied, ‘my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.’“‘He went down on his knees, and he prayed one of the most simple prayers.
I thought to myself, ‘That would suit a children’s class, where the children were not more than eight or nine years of age. ’The burden of his prayer was something like this: ‘O Lord, if it is consistent with Thy will, please remove this fog in five minutes. You know the engagement You made for me in Quebec for Saturday. I believe it is Your will.’“When he had finished, I was going to pray, but he put his hand on my shoulder and told me not to pray. “ ‘First,’he said, ‘you do not believe God will do it; and, second, I believe He has done it. And there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.’ “I looked at him, and George Mueller said this: ‘Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years and there has never been a single day that I have failed to gain an audience with the King. Get up, Captain and open the door, and you will find the fog is gone.’I got up, and the fog was gone. On Saturday afternoon George Mueller was in Quebec.
You see, faith is not the same as hope - hope says, I sure hope God will do such and such - and this sort of hope is pretty much impotent and useless - it is not faith, but is allowed to masquerade as such in many circles. Faith says that almighty God will do this, period.
Faith isn't a muscle that we exercise as though there was some sort of make-it-happen power in positive thinking - there isn't. God doesn't answer our prayers merely because we have convinced ourself that He will. A call to faith -is not- a call to force yourself to believe something. It is a specific call, to a specific task: believe that God is whom He claims to be and will do what He has promised to do.
You see, the one who comes to God must not only believe that He is, but also that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. It believes that God is truly for us, and not against us, it believes that God is with us and hasn't forsaken us, it believes that God's almighty power - the power that raised Christ from the dead is resident in every believer who is in Christ (through the Holy Spirit), and it acts in a way that is consistent and not contrary to that belief.
Here is the same prayer as in the beginning, see if you catch the difference:
Oh great God; the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, through whom you have called me to yourself, thank you.
I thank you lord for this present ordeal. Not because I cherish suffering, but because I know that my suffering serves this good purpose: it is used by you to draw me to out of all my carnal pretensions, and into an earnest seeking of your face. I have set You aside and set my affections upon myself, I know this because I find myself lacking the fruit of your Spirit, lacking patience and contentment, and my heart cries out for these things apart from you - as though I want them in order to avoid the very thing you are using this ordeal to bring about - my being drawn closer to you. Though you are merciful, and your mercies endure forever, yet I feel in my heart that I am forever trying your patience, so much so that I am driven by the fear of what you could do, rather than the love shown in what you are doing.
I want to thank you therefore God, that the moment I turn from my sin you are there to accept me, and here I am now Lord, not with empty platitudes, but seeing your work in me anew, I worship you - not to make you like me, but because I see how deeply you are invested in me - and I see your glory in the contrast between my lack of worth, and that great investment - your mercy on display before my own eyes, and yet will I ever speak of it? Will I not just hide it away in me - buried like a gift in the soil - hidden because I regard it as my secret - oh, let me share it all, let me praise you with my heart, soul, and lips - as I confess my sin, let the joy of what you are doing daily on my behalf - the joy of you tender care and love -soak me through.
Haven't I abused you, and you have given me every blessing. Haven't I fought you every step of the way, yet you are leading me to the still waters. Have I not refused to bow before you, even as you are placing a crown of infinite worth upon my brow. I don't have to pretend to sing your praises, or to glorify you - I need only say what is true, and you are glorified - oh that I had a thousand eyes to look upon your glory, and a mind that could take it all in, for you are food and drink to my soul Lord, you are bread indeed.
How can I leave the throne? I shall stay in your house forever - thank you for your continued grace, for supplying my every need, against my protests and shouts. This you have done, to put your glory on display, for your own names sake, sending your Son for me, through whom I gladly praise you.
Anyway - the point is, that prayer requires faith, and faith is more than hope. If you don't believe God in prayer, you don't believe God period. Deal with whatever that teaches you.
One of the biggest "foggy" areas in the life of many Christians, has to do with the relationship between self and the Spirit. We ask ourselves, "How do we walk in the Spirit, as opposed to the flesh?". Or, "What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?"
I mean, we see that there are commands in scripture (imperatives in the Greek) which tell us that we are supposed to be walking in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), or, said another way, that we are to be being filled by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Yet for many new believers, and for a good portion of immature long-time believers, these commands remain mysterious.
Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Now, don't get all hung up on the capitalization of "Spirit" - some translations have it capitalized, some do not - the original texts and manuscripts were all written in the same "case" - there was no mixing of upper and lower case, so that whenever you see in your bible that God's name has been capitalized, that is an interpretive help, and not a manuscript thing. In this case, it isn't clear which spirit is being discussed here - man's spirit, or the Holy Spirit, and for that reason, it is left in many translations, uncapitalized.
Yet if we reason for a second that this means "our" spirit then the distinction being made is pretty much a literary flourish - a poetic thing. If we understand the spirit to refer to God's Spirit, then we are being told that the way to discern the line between what I want and what God wants of me - that is, the way to discern my will from God's will, or put into the words of this verse, the way to distinguish the will of my own soul, from the will of the Spirit - is to be familiar with God's word. God's word, when allowed to speak, will show me whether a thing is serving my own interests or God's interests.
Whether or not we capitalize the "s" on spirit, this is true of God's word - this interpretation however makes that explicit.
Paul speaks in Romans twelve of being transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that by testing we are able to discern what the Spirit's (God's) will is (c.f. Romans 12:2). In Romans eight he spoke of the mind set on the flesh and the mind set on the Spirit four chapters later he is still making the distinction - and explains again the means by which we make that distinction - a transformed, renewed mind, not conformed to the world, but conformed to God.
Can I be blunt? That doesn't happen by reading a single, random, chapter of scripture every three or four days and going to church on most Sundays... It doesn't come about by reading a plethora of books about scripture, Christianity, or even by immersing oneself in theology. It comes about by spending quality time daily in God's word - try reading at least four chapters every day of the week, and read through the bible cover to cover again and again and again. Don't fret that you don't understand it all - God will open your eyes on a day of His choosing. Just get to know God's word, because if you don't know His word, you will never be able to discern between your soul and His Spirit - that is, you will never be able to set your mind on the things of the Spirit, because you won't have a clue what the things of the Spirit are.
1 Corinthians 11:31 tells us that, "if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged." [ESV]. I think a good way to start a day is by judging yourself. Who am I serving today? Whom should I serve? Is it just that I serve God? What if I fail? etc. Let the first judgment against sin in your life come from God's Spirit within - let it be condemned in your life, so that you agree with God that it does not have the right to rule you. Condemn in yourself that part of you that desires to sin, don't let it fool you into thinking that it is you. Your will/soul/self is the part that makes the decisions, not the part that spits out desires. That part that spits out wicked desire is called "the flesh" - and if you are in Christ, you have been set free from bondage to it. It will still churn out the same wicked desires, but your will/soul/self no longer has to obey those desires.
Don't be fooled either, your soul will want to obey the desires of the flesh - that is why -you- must discern God's will in every moment of trial and temptation - and his will is that you put to death in the flesh what He has condemned, and more so, that you do this in His strength and the power of His might (c.f. Ephesians 6:10).
Typically, we begin this sort of thing by expecting there to be a sort of mystical feeling or experience that is going to punctuate or at least give us some tangible feedback whenever we are truly walking in the Spirit. We really do desire some sort of indicator to let us know that now we are "in the Spirit". That is partly because we misconstrue what it means to be filled with, or led by or walking in the Holy Spirit.
Listen: The filling is not like filling an empty glass with Holy Spirit water. It is more like filling a sail with wind. The point is to allow the will of Another person (the Holy Spirit) to direct your actions. Not that you sit cross legged, and hum waiting for the Holy Spirit to "possess" you; but that you do simply do God's will in any given situation. A soldier obeys his commander; he walks in the steps his commander orders him to walk, he is filled with the directives of another. It isn't any different, it really isn't.
Walking in the Spirit or being filled by the Spirit should not be thought of as some distant mystical state that we hope to enter into by praying for it hard enough, and waiting for something to happen to us. It is not a second Pentecost, not a series of new spiritual baptisms that we hope to undergo, it is not done to us from without, it is simply making biblical informed choices in our conduct during times of trial and tribulation.
Consider men like Job, Moses, or John the Baptist. The least in the kingdom (the least Christian) is supposed to be greater than even these ...according to Christ's own testimony. How are we measuring up? Are we living in defeat because we are waiting for God to zap us? If any of us is, let us stop at once. Let us put aside forever that walking in the Spirit is a sort of divine poppetry.
Here is what we are called to do -  know God's word so that we can comprehend God's will. How did Spurgeon say it?
"If you wish to know God, you must know his Word. If you wish to perceive His power, you must see how He works by his Word. If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass, you can only discover it by His Word." (C.H. Spurgeon)
Knowing God's word transforms our thinking, or as Paul says it, renews our mind, so that we are able to discern spiritual things. Having some discernment, however much we have - we employ it thus: we discern between what our flesh desires, and what God desires - and reject the desires of the flesh. We call that taking up our cross, or living crucified, or being crucified with Christ, or putting to death the deeds of the body - it simply means we don't do what the flesh desires, even though we want to. If it were easy, we wouldn't use such profound and drastic metaphors (death, death, death!) to picture it. There has to be a profound reliance on God in order to obey Him, and the strength to do that is supplied by God through trusting that it is truly there by God's promise (see Ephesians 6:10 again).
George Mueller said it this way,
"There was a day when I died; died to self, my opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God." (George Mueller)
There is no mystery about walking in the Spirit - it is just a metaphor for obeying God, and we are commanded to do so. His word informs us of His will, and His Spirit convicts us of the truth of it - having comprehended His will, we must choose to either obey what we know to be his will, or deny it in order to gratify our flesh. The path of obedience is to recognize which is which, and set our heart/mind/will on the desires that we know are the Spirit's desires, and carry out what they Spirit desires, rather than setting our affections on, or remaining obedient to, the desires of the flesh...
I once walked out of a movie theatre because in the dialog the script writers, or possibly the ad-libbing actors, wove the name of my Lord into some string of profanity. Its echo was still ringing in the theatre and already I was on my feet and heading out the door.
How pious! Right?
Make no mistake, my soul was offended by the gratuitous use of my Lord's name - it wrenched my gut, but that isn't why I left. I left because I was with another believer, and my Christian reputation was at stake. Had I been alone, I hope that I would have left the theatre motivated solely by the love of my Lord and the desire to honor His name, but on that day I left because I was concerned about my image, about my testimony amongst the brethren.
Recall Peter at Antioch? He had the same problem. He was quite free with the Gentile believers right up until some judaizers showed up, then even the Apostle Peter started behaving in a way that padded his reputation - separating himself from the Gentiles so that, among other reasons, the judaizers would see his piety.
This sort of "for show" piety is poison stuff.
Not because our outward actions are wrong, and not because we are simply acting righteous instead of being righteous, but primarily because doing this will erode and supplant what we are supposed to be doing.
In my theatre example, both motives were there, but I acted primarily upon the wrong one, and in doing so I honored myself and not the Lord. It will happen, as trial and temptations befall you Christian, that you will be given an opportunity to bring God glory and honor - not by what you do, but by why you do it. Seldom (if at all) are you going to have a situation where there isn't mixed motives. Part of you will always want glory, even in what seems to be a pious act. When I walked out of the theatre that day so many years ago now, I was not strengthened to do it by the thought that I was honoring God, I was strengthened to do it because it honored my reputation to do so.
The key through this sort of thing is to find the Lord's glory in a trial or temptation - and walk that path, drawing strength from the glorifying of His name. That is, I think, the only way to come through some trial and feel real joy.
More on this some other time. I gotta catch a bus.
Three men agreed to live together as roommates. One of the room mates had an extensive and costly wardrobe. Coming home one day this same roommate discovered his other two roommates robed in clothes from his collection. Being a kind and forgiving man, he offered forgiveness to both.
The first roommate when he realized that what he had done was wrong and wanting to restore the broken relationship, immediately removed the clothes, returned them, and finally asked to be forgiven. Note again: the purpose of his asking for his roommates forgiveness was to restore a broken relationship. He sought restoration through forgiveness.
The second roommate, feeling guilty at having been caught red handed, wanted to escape any sour consequences his transgression might have brought upon him. Knowing his roommate to be a kind and generous man, he also asked for forgiveness - but wasn't concerned about restoring a relationship, he just to avoid any unpleasant consequences.
Both men asked for forgiveness, but their separate requests  arose from entirely different motives, and  produced entirely different effects.
The first fellow having sought to be restored through forgiveness received just that: restoration through forgiveness. But not so with the other fellow. To use bible sounding language, "even what he thought he had was taken away from him." He didn't understand that the offer of forgiveness is an offer of reconciliation - he thought the offer had to do with getting out of the consequences. So when he was asking for "forgiveness" it wasn't actual forgiveness that he desired, his desire was simply to escape the just outcome of his unjust acts.
Consider how Peter preached the gospel to those religious Jews who were gathered in Jerusalem on Pentecost morning (c.f. Acts 3:19),
"repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away"
The gospel message is not Come to Jesus and He will deliver you from the consequences of your sin. The gospel is that Jesus died to reconcile men to God, and that anyone who believes that God has set Christ on earth for that purpose, and calls on God to be reconciled to Him - the same will be reconciled to God.
The gospel makes no allowance for those who imagine they can be saved without being reconciled. There is no salvation apart from reconciliation - and anyone who is reconciled will not go on sinning like they used to, for God will send His Holy Spirit into that "saved" person - and He will begin to sanctify them starting on that day, and on every day thereafter.
There are a few voices that reject the idea of repentance as being a necessary component of salvific faith. They try and dice up faith so that your faith is nothing more than an assent to certain truths, and if you believe those truths, you are "saved" - whether or not you repent. But such a notion betrays a rather naive comprehension of what our faith is in - our trust is in the reconciliation provided, and not in the benefits of that reconciliation. We either come to Christ for reconciliation, or we haven't yet at all - regardless of how much we believe such and such.
That's how I see it at least. We are not saved by exercising some generic faith in some arbitrary thing - we are saved by placing our faith in God to accept Christ's death in our stead for the purpose of once again bringing us into a right relationship with God. To imagine that we can reap the benefits of that relationship without ever desiring or pursuing it, both prior to, and after our "confession of faith" is (IMO) an eternally deadly mistake to make.
We don't become sinless upon our salvation, but we sure want to become sinless. Listen: Saving faith is a repentant faith - a faith that begins with a focus on reconciliation, as opposed to focused on avoiding consequences.
Spurgeon and the "Yellow Stripe On the Back" Quote...
Dan Phillips had been trying to source an often repeated quote attributed to Charles Spurgeon, he offered up on his own blog, and again on TeamPyro, an opportunity for anyone to source the following:
if God had painted a yellow stripe up the backs of the elect, he'd go around London lifting up coats and preaching only to them"
Several attempts were made to identify the source, and apparently several flavors of the same idea exist (white stripe, yellow stripe, or stamped E? coat tails, shirt tails, or backs? Painted or marked? etc.). While many secondary sources were found (a secondary source is a place where someone shares the quote, attributes it to Spurgeon, but does not cite where or when Spurgeon said it. A primary source, which is what was being looked for, cites where Spurgeon said it, and exactly how he said it.
The oldest citation I could find was actually to a 1983 J. Vernon McGee text, wherein we read:
Because Spurgeon preached a "whosoever will" gospel, someone said to him, "If I believed like you do about election, I wouldn't preach like you do." Spurgeon's answer was something like this, "If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I'd go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I'd give them the gospel. But God didn't do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that 'whosoever will may come.'" Jesus says, "and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." So, my friend, you can argue about election all you want to, but you can come. And if you come, He'll not cast you out. - J. Vernon McGee loosely paraphrasing Spurgeon† †J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. 4 (Pasadena, CA: Thru the Bible Radio, 1983), 405. Commenting on John 6:36-37:
I mentioned my find on the TeamPyro blog, and Nathan Busenitz walked over to the TMS library and found the book. It is his handiwork that I use in the previous citation. But Nathan didn't stop there. I would like to meet the guy, because his sleuthing kung fu is up to chop, if you don't mind the weak pun. Nathan dug deeper, and having found a variation on the quote attributed to Rowland Hill, an evangelical preacher who pre-dated Spurgeon, and even influenced Spurgeon, Nathan then found some references to Roland Hill in Spurgeon's sermons - one of which I copied out, including the reference, from Nathan's comment over at TeamPyro.
Knowing how difficult it is to source quotes sometimes, I decided to copy the efforts here, so that if someone else is looking for the source for said quotation, it can be found more readily.
Hat's off to Nathan, and here is an example of where this quote (or similar quotes) attributed to Spurgeon's actual quote came from:
I remember Rowland Hill’s reply, when somebody said that he ought to preach only to the elect. “Very well,” he said, “next Sunday morning, chalk them all on the back and when you have done that, I will preach to them.” But the chalking of them on the back is the difficulty—we cannot do that and, as we cannot do that, the best way is for us to leave our God to carry out the purposes of His distinguishing Grace in His own effectual way and not attempt to do what we certainly can never accomplish! There, scatter a handful of Seed “by the wayside.” Even if the birds of the air devour it, there is plenty more where that came from and it would be a pity for us to leave any portion unsown because we were miserly and stingy with our Master’s Seed! - Charles Spurgeon† † Sermon# 2843, The Seed by the Wayside, Luke 8:5
1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." - 2 Peter 2:1 [ESV]
There is a real and present danger, in any passage of scripture, to wag the dog of the verse by the tail of your theology, and being well aware of my own understanding of the atonement, I must guard myself (when coming to this verse) from trying to marry it back to my theology regardless of what it "plainly says".
I put "plainly says" in quotes like that because it is common practice for anyone who wants to make a point to suggest that the point is rather obvious, and that it is only obscured by one's presuppositions - we therefore say something is plain, when what we usually mean is that since we believe it means such and such, and we believe that a simple reading of it will always produce that interpretation, the only reason you don't see it is because you want it to say something else.
This verse isn't all that "plain" nor is it all that simple. There is a lot of ambiguity in it, and when we see ambiguity, it is our nature to fill in the blanks with what we think should go there. I am reminded of various optical illusions where this happens - we see colors that arn't there, or dots etc., because our mind is filling in the gaps for us. We are wired, I believe, to do the same thing when it comes to ambiguity - we fill in the cracks with whatever putty is at hand, and whether the putty at hand leans to the left or to the right, as it were, so our "plain and simple" reading will reflect that.
Which is my way of noting up front that many come to a firm conviction with regards to what this verse means without identifying or quantifying/weighing any of the ambiguities in it.
The links given above spell out how the word translated as "Master" here is only ever used to describe God the Father anywhere else in scripture. The word translated as "bought" here does not, and cannot mean "paid for but did not take ownership of". Likewise, When Peter calls to mind the false prophets of the OT, we can look to the OT to find what Peter is talking about, and most agree the passage in Deuteronomy 32:6 is what Peter is referencing - and if so, it stands to reason that if Peter is reasoning from an OT passage, the thrust of that passage is likely the current upon which this present verse is floating - meaning that there is more to consider here than how it reads in the English.
Now, the question that everyone asks of this verse is this: Is Peter, in discussing something entirely different, tangentially endorsing an unlimited atonement - that is, even though Peter is not talking about the atonement, is he assuming that Christ died (atoned) for everyone? Are we right, or is it proper to infer from Peter's language that He believed (and therefore taught and assumed this general knowledge from his readers) that Jesus died for every person who ever lived.
Let's be succinct here. The verse doesn't say that Jesus died for every person who ever lived, but it certainly can be read in a way that suggests that, and we must be fair here, no matter what we believe - it isn't a stretch to read the verse that way.
You may have noticed that I highlighted in red three things when I presented the verse above: the people, false prophets, and them.
One way to "plainly" read this verse is to say, the false prophets will arise from amongst the people and will introduce destructive heresies to the people, even denying the Master who bought the false prophets.
Another way to read this verse is to say, the false prophets will arise from amongst the people and will introduce destructive heresies to the people, even denying the Master who bought the people.
The first interpretation has the false prophets introducing the people (Christians) to destructive heresies then noting that one such heresy would be to deny the Master who bought even the false prophets.
The second interpretation has the false prophets introducing the people (Christians) to destructive heresies such as teaching the people to deny the God who bought them (the people).
I honestly think the second is more obvious than the first.
There are godly people who see it the other way, and would refute my understanding with grace and far more who would refute it without grace. Both camps appeal to verses that inform their opinion, and I don't suggest that this is going to change any one's decided opinion. It was just my meditation this morning, and I will continue to examine it.
I don't believe for a second that when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies on the day of Atonement, he was offering atonement for the whole world. I think the names of the tribes of Israel carved into the epaulets on his shoulders, and again the dozen stones on his breast piece give testimony as to who was being born into the place of atonement - and it was not the Gentiles - it was not the whole world, only Israel was being remembered there - only Israel was being atoned - and I think this is the picture we see elsewhere. Noah's ark wasn't built big enough to hold everyone on the earth, it was designed beforehand to hold just as many as were actually going to be on it. There is no provision made on the cross for those who will not be on it in Christ.
I don't believe that God is trying to save everyone.
Let me briefly qualify that. When Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, I don't believe it was God's purpose to try and save everyone, for were that the case, then God failed, since not everyone looked to what God raised up for their salvation. Rather I think the purpose was to raise up something by which the faithful would be saved; i.e. God's intent was to save all of the faithful from the serpent.
Anyway, the point is not to get into a grand "I am right, you are wrong" kind of atonement argument - for those abound elsewhere, and you are free to grind your axes elsewhere. The point was to just air out some of my thoughts and perhaps in doing so help others who struggle (or ought to struggle) with this verse.
As a Canadian, I don't hold a monopoly on having to sit under a government that I did not vote for. When I was a liberally minded fellow, I voted zealously (and mindlessly) for the left most party. I could care less what happened to the world or the country, I cared about what happened to me, and I wanted a government in place that would be most advantageous to a lazy, down and out schmo looking for an easy hand-out.
After I began my career, started a family, and especially had my eyes opened by scripture to the sinfulness, not only of my own condition, but of all men, my politics took on a decidedly conservative turn.
So it has been that when I was a lazy leftist louse, I was disappointed by the conservative government that ruled over me. As I became a conservative, I was disappointed by the leftist government that was in power during that time of my life. To be sure, as I began to say - I have plenty of experience being ruled over by people I did not vote for.
So do most of you.
But very few people in the first world know what it is like to have a government that no one voted into power, "appointed" over them. Yet this draconian practice is still a real possibility in Canada.
In Canada, a minority government happens when after an election there is no one party that holds a majority of the seats in the house (305 seats = 153 seats for a majority). The leader of the party that won the most seats gets to be the Prime Minister, but really, its a weird situation because in truth, most of the country voted for someone else.
Now in Canada we get one vote for our riding or area. As many parties as can field a candidate in the area will be on the ballot - and perhaps a few independents too - but by and large, you vote for the person who represents the party you want to see governing the country. If John Wayne is the leader of the liberal party and I want John Wayne to be the next Prime Minister, I vote for the liberal candidate in my riding.
To be sure, the individual voter in Canada doesn't get much say in who the Prime Minister is going to be. If the party chooses another person to lead them, they become the prime minister. My vote is, in many ways, a vote for the party - and their governance. It is my saying, I elect this party to conduct government on my behalf according to their whims/dictates/promises, etc. Once my vote is in the box, I have no more say than anyone else about who will be the Prime Minister - the party that wins the most seats in the election selects their leader as the Prime Minister.
Yet in the case of Canadian politics at least, members of Parliament can form coalitions after-the-fact. They can form new parties and even jump ship and change parties according to their own caprice. They can't be ousted by their electorate until the next election.
This means that we, in Canada, once we cast our one vote for a party's representative must hope and trust that this person actually stays in the party they represented on the ballot. They don't have to, you see...
Now put all this together, and say that you have (as we do in Canada), a new minority government. It hasn't got enough seats to rule the house, but it has more than any other party. If however, all the other members of parliament decide to form a "coalition" - kinda like an impromptu "new party" - then they will have the majority and they can select from amongst themselves a representative who will become the Prime Minister. At this point the existing Prime Minister must go to the Governor General of Canada (a stand in for the Queen of England no less), who will either okay the new government or call for a new election.
I am simplifying things of course.
That is more or less what is happening in Canada, but what is amazing about the whole process is that a person who represents a foreign nation (England) has the final say in whether or not we put a newly created majority party in power - a party that no person in all of Canada voted for.
I ask my American readers to tell me if this seems like democracy to them?
Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. "
When an equestrian remarks that he or she has given the horse "free rein", they mean that they let the horse run all out - as fast as it can, for as long as it wants, and wherever it decides to go (individual mileage may differ).
When I say that I have given this verse free rein many times in the past, I mean that I have used it liberally in the past, but today I discovered that I have been using it somewhat superficially. Maybe not 'full on' superficial, but that there is a deeper meaning that I hadn't grasped as firmly as I am holding it today - and I don't doubt that there is more meaning in it that I am presently able to comprehend.
I met with another brother in the Lord today and our discussion turned to a theological point wherein we disagree. We both know we disagree, I believe that he is twisting a definition to accommodate certain verses according to one interpretation, and he, on his part, is sure that I am missing the point because I filter certain verses through my theology rather than allowing them to speak for themselves. We are both content in what we believe, and more so, would like the other to have as much light as we imagine ourselves to possess, and both of us are competitively inclined in our flesh, meaning all spirituality aside, there is included in our discussion the ever present desire to "win" the discussion. Thankfully we are likewise both aware of, and willing to mitigate against the desires of the flesh.
His opinion is settled for him, it is cast in iron, even as my own is. Not that I suggest that we are unwilling to be taught, but to say that we both have come to our opinion through a serious and "God-seeking" study of His word. We have not come by our understanding frivolously, and as such when we discuss what we believe, I learn more than a thousand conversations with someone who is either easily persuaded out of his opinion, or who is simply unwilling to discuss it the moment it sounds contrary to an other's.
I have found that when my understanding becomes galvanized, it no longer is polished by vague opinions, or generalizations, but requires an equally tempered contrary opinion to test it, and refine it.
Iron is not sharped by jelly, or even by lead, which accommodates it - it is sharpened when something just as strong as itself comes along and by virtue of its own rigidity is able by grating against the other to sheer off both grit and wear, and bring what is dulled by such to a state that is more refined, more sharp.
Not that we as Christians are given license to argue with one another - don't read that into what I am saying. There is a discussion that is filled with respect that addresses contrary ideas and examines them with grace but with a firmness that makes the project fruitful - and there is mindless, anger-fueled gainsaying that is more about proving one is "right" than sharpening oneself and the other.
Yet the truth of the verse is there, it takes iron to sharpen iron. The only way to hone those settled theological opinions, is to discuss them with someone of a different persuasion who isn't going to waffle or bow out, or turn the whole thing into an abusive, personal argument.
It is a blessing to have brothers who are soundly convinced in what they believe and gracious enough to discuss how that differs with what you believe without turning the whole thing into a spiritual truth contest. I find that when a man is willing to hold his convictions in the face of my own, and defend them biblically - nothing is more constructive to my own study.
I reason that if a godly brother has studied scripture with all the scrutiny, sincerity, and patience which I, by whatever grace I receive, also do - then (when this same person has come to a settled conclusion on some point that disagrees with my own settled conclusions) the most productive way to test my own conviction is to test it against a contrary one, for the benefit of both myself and the other.
I say, I had a wonderful conversation this morning - and though I am convinced of what I believe, I have been given some serious food for thought. I shall post on it when it bears fruit.