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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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Friday, January 22, 2010
Romans 8:28 and James 2:2
One of the fellows in my church volunteers in a ministry that serves street people, and those whom society at large would consider beneath their dignity to acknowledge. I think the colloquial term most often used (in mid-western Canada at least) is "bums". Praise the Lord for this brother of mine and the grace that imparts to him a willingness to set aside everything our culture, our enemy, and our flesh would say to persuade us to leave such a mantle to another, and find more "glorious" ministry for our delicate hands. I do not write today to praise my brother, for I know who is working in him, and it is that One who deserves the praise. I should add further that I am neither writing today to simply draw attention to that sort of ministry or encourage anyone in that direction, but again if the Lord will use what I have to say to that effect, I shall rejoice.

This fellow I write of one day began to bring his volunteer work home with him, and by volunteer work I mean people, and by home I mean into the company of God's family that congregates on Sunday. I think some of us, in the beginning at least, may have been a little guarded. Men will do all kinds of good things if they think other men approve, and this is never more pronounced I think, than in those who minister carnally to conform themselves to some imagined "standard" of religion. So when some of us see someone do something that would be regarded by many as "above and beyond the call" (which really is the very heart of our call, but made to seem exalted by the profound lack of anyone doing anything in that direction), these same regard the matter as an effort of showcased religion. Isn't it nice that this young fellow is putting on the show for us, these say to themselves through misty eyes that already recollect the fervor of their own early walk - when they too put on the show for others. They tell themselves that this fellow will soon learn how empty such things are, and come down to earth with the rest, and so with they give reign in their hearts to that form of patronizing that says, I am a better Christian than you because I am not faking it like you are.

Please do not be alarmed that I write such condemning things about our brothers and sisters, I only do so because I am no stranger to my own heart, and knowing myself and the sin that would reign over me, I -know- every other sinful heart as though it were my own. If I am able to express things, it only because I daily inhale the stale stench of my own sinful condition that I am able to see into the hearts of others, if I see anything at all.

At first the people this fellow would bring had only one thing in common - their poverty. Not only that they were poor, but that they were poor because of poor choices they not only had made in the past, but continued to make in the present. They were the sort of people who choose to do what destroys them daily, and for all our "Christian" love some of us continued to see only down and outers who were coming for no better reason that it was a warm place to be for an hour. Yet this young fellow continued to encourage these people, and eventually some of them began to gather with us regularly.

It is peculiar, I admit, but most in our congregation were outwardly friendly to these who made it their practice to congregate with us. Some were even careful to learn the names of these fellows whom began to show up regularly, going so far as to engage them in superficial conversation, and even warmly shake their hand regularly. If smiles and light conversation were love, then these men were well loved by many in our congregation.

So it continued for months on end, until one day one of these fellows spoke at our prayer meeting.

Let me tell you about my heart in particular before I go on, for I was sitting directly next to the man during that prayer meeting, and every word that fell from his lips drummed into my soul, and not a word was dropped.

You see, I write of these people in our church as though they were some horrible fringe group, but let me say this, that when I sat down at that prayer meeting, the man who was seated beside me was, for all my wisdom, just some guy, probably a drunk, maybe a junkie, certainly troubled but not really a "contributor" (whatever that is) - and while I knew his name, and while I held no particular dislike for him, or ill will, neither did I really care to "invest myself" in him. He was a pretty quiet fellow for whom English was either his second language, or maybe someone who simply wasn't very articulate, I never really bothered to find out, though I was quick to give him a hearty salutation on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. I even took some joy in speaking to him from time to time about the scriptures and what they said - but by and large, the man was a stranger to me. I knew we had been praying for his health, and that he might have cancer or something like that, but really, I never took enough time to get to know him better.

Yet that evening, he arrested our prayer meeting by speaking a word of testimony. No one asked him to do so, nor was his testimony an expected event - he just spoke up suddenly, as though he had been patient long enough, then (with painfully slow and labored words) he began to tell us who he was and why he was there.

His words came so slowly to him, and with such long pauses in between each word that many of us (or so I found out afterwards) just assumed he was drunk and muttering. I never really considered that English might not be his first language, nor that he might be under strong conviction as he spoke - I only saw a man stammering in a deep, rumbling baritone, and a sudden awkwardness in the room given that we all wanted to be polite, but likewise didn't want to give up our prayer time for some drunk to spend fifteen minutes trying to say something none of us could understand.

And yet the grace of God was with us because no one said a word. At first he began to speak about someone pushing needles under his fingernails. We were confused? What is he on about? Is he talking about a television show, is this a metaphor for something? What is this fellow trying to say, and why is he taking so long to say it? Seriously, there was such a pause between each word that unless you were carefully listening, you would easily lose the trail of his thought, and yet again those who were congregated there that night were given grace, for we all seemed to hang on each ponderous word, wondering within whether this was a pause in between words, or if he had decided to stop speaking in mid thought.

You see, this man had been a believer in El Salvador at a time when people were being rounded up and slaughtered in a genocidal affront that didn't get a lot of airplay in the news. You can read up on the genocide in El Salvador if you want, but I totally unaware of it until that night. He had been taken from his home and tortured daily (the needles under his fingernails), beaten so many times into unconsciousness he couldn't count. He was locked away daily in a box smaller than the typical kitchen cupboard for so long that his leg muscles shrunk to the point that when they took him out to torture him (daily) he could no longer stand up straight. He told us about how he knew that he would be executed - talking briefly of the struggle in his faith at the thought that one day they would take him out of the box, and after torturing him, they would put a bullet in him, and the soul deep dread of that thought, and how it was only Christ with him that gave him the strength to face it.

Somewhere in the middle of his testimony, the pauses in between each word because necessary because it took that long to let each word sink in - like daggers into my own heart they sunk as I listened to this unexpected and profound testimony. The day came, and they took him out, and I don't remember if they tortured him that day or not, I only remember that they took him to a deep hole, and put a gun to his back then pulled the trigger as they kicked him into his grave.

No, there was no mercy there. Not from men. They really shot him. But whether the kick was off, or whether it was his weak legs that bucked as he fell, the shot took him in the arm, but when he hit the bottom of that hole, he laid still, in a pool of his own blood, and was left for dead.

Days later some children found him, still in the hole. He had come in and out of consciousness during that time, even being aware of the swarm of flies feeding of the blood that still tricked out of him. The children returned with adults, and the adults returned with red cross workers, and they pulled him out. His arm was so infected that the infection should have killed him. He had been bleeding so long that he should have died from shock, and yet they pulled him alive from that hole where his executioners had left him for dead. They pumped him full of antibiotics, but the infection was winning, and they were prepared to amputate his arm to save his life. But before they did, he had a vision of our Lord, or some messenger of our Lord placing his hands on him even in his delirium, and healing him. In that instant, he said, the antibiotics suddenly began working, and he lived through the event.

Instead of being angry with our Lord for allowing this, this fellow was filled with praise for the nearness of his Lord throughout the ordeal, and ended his testimony with such a plea for us all to understand the glory of the Lord and the nearness of our Savior, that (frankly), every heart was instantly knit to the man.

I have seldom been rebuked in my faith, but I tell you, I was rebuked that night. We all read James 2:2 and tell ourselves that we will certainly not be like those hypothetical hypocritical Christians that regard someone in poor apparel as less than themselves, and true to form we greet everyone no matter how they are dressed, with the same superficial salutations that commonly follow us into the auditorium Sunday mornings. Yet let a man come whose soul is dressed in troubles, whose life is dressed in grief, and whose manner is dressed in something peculiar, or something less than the norm, and we make excuses within our selves to remain aloof. We may not set that man to sit in the back row of the church, but he certainly is seated as far from our affections as we can manage - and here, up front we keep close our friends, our back slappers, the popular and the fun.

Let me tell you something I left that prayer meeting a different person, and better for having been in the presence of someone whom I had regarded as less having beforehand presumed much about, and all to my shame.

But it doesn't' end there.

You see, I mentioned James 2:2 in the title, but I also mentioned Romans 8:28, and here is where that comes into play. Some might wonder why God "allows" bad things to happen to good people. The answer to that question begins with pointing out that the question itself is invalid - there are no good people. Even a new born babe is not "good" since he or she has never done anything good or bad. He is simply "not bad" (yet). The new born babe is born pre-separated from God on account of Adam's sin, so that the moment the child can choose between good and evil, he or she will always and ever choose evil - for that is our curse. There is no good in any of us, even a new born; our hearts are inclined to sin, as sparks fly upwards, even before the very first time we act on our ever present inclination to sin - that is, even while we ourselves have yet to sin, even in the long past innocence of our infancy, we were bent towards evil, and never has there been anything good thing in any life that was ever born in Adam, so that we don't ask why God allows bad things to happen to good people, because there are no good people.

Better to ask why God allows evil at all. For it is on sin's account that there is death and suffering in the world. Sin brought it in, yet God allowed sin to continue (instead of destroying Adam in the garden). He did this because rather than destroy the work of His hands (as justice demanded) God was inclined to be merciful and full of grace, even as His own perfect righteousness demanded.

So that for the sake of those whom God determined beforehand to show mercy and grace to - those whom He elected before Adam was even created - these God was showing mercy and grace when He allowed the world to continue existing after Adam's sin. He allowed life to continue, and with it sin, all for the sake of the elect - for the sake of those to whom God had determined before hand to save by and through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus, the incarnate God and only Messiah. Did I say His mercy demanded it? His grace demanded it? Listen: God's glory demanded it. If God's glory were not put on display, it would be a crime against God. His glory is -worthy- of proclamation - worthy of being displayed, so much so that failure to do so, even be it God, would be sinful, and God cannot sin.

So we ought not to ask why God allows bad things to happen - he allows them to happen for the sake of the elect, for the sake of His mercy, and for the sake of grace and glory.

But what about the little babe who is dying, who has never done anything wrong in his life? Where is God when the innocent die?

My question to you would be why do you think God -owes- that innocent babe life? Where do we get the idea that innocence is a commodity by which one can demand life from someone else? Don't forget that God created life. It belongs to Him even after He gives it to us. It isn't like He gives us "life autonomous" whereby once it is ours we no longer need God to sustain it. We are parasites who are sucking the God that God supplies as though it were ours by right. Then we bristle if anyone suggests that God doesn't "owe" it to us. We say, how is it that God can take a unborn, or a new born babe? They haven't sinned! Why does God take their life?? As though there were some cosmic contract bigger than, and binding upon, God that said that God must continue to supply life once (in His grace) He initiates it. But there is no cosmic contract - there is only God, and life itself is a gift we have no claim upon whatsoever. Sinlessness does not purchase it, nor does it give us a "right" to it. Even if we are without sin we have no "right" whatsoever to demand that God continue to supply us with the life we are stealing from Him.

Thus the dying babe dies, not because God is evil, but because God is more concerned about the next life than this one.

But why does God let a babe like that suffer? Why not (if God is going to allow an infant to suffer) snuff out the life in some painless way - or even as Job asks of God when distressed by the multitudes of his sufferings, "why then have You brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!" - I can taste Job's anguish, why, why, why did you let me live if you knew that I would suffer like this? Better that I died in the womb than be born into suffering! But even as the Lord (eventually) answered Job, so scripture answers us - God allows what He allows and we have this certainty from Romans 8:28, that whatever is allowed in the of a believer will be turned to good.

It doesn't say that everything that happens to a believer will be "good" nor that every experience will be pleasant because we are believers. Jesus, after living a perfect life, endured an horrific death. If we are rewarded with a fine and pleasant life for all our innocence (and we most certainly are not), then Jesus has a lot to complain about. How much less we, who have no such perfection of our own to lean on, imagine ourselves to be deserving of comfort on account of our (spotty) obedience, or better yet, on account of our being His children. God has shown in Christ that even His own children will suffer on earth; but even as Christ's suffering was to no purpose, neither is ours or any other believers.

You see, you might read what I have recorded of that testimony given by that fellow (it really happened), and wonder why or why God ever allowed that to happen, but I will tell you, nothing stokes the embers of faith, like a testimony that clears away in one breath all the fog of our complacency and sleep - I tell you, though we have no idea what our suffering could possibly do, yet years later, even decades after the fact of our suffering, the Lord can use that same suffering for God. That is what it means that all things are turned to good - not that all things become good, but that God is at work in this sinful world, where nothing escapes the corruption of sin - and even in a world filled with sin and the rebellion, hatred and death that proclaim it - even where all is tainted, God can turn these things to a good purpose - things which by themselves are by no means "good".

How I marvel at the magnitude, my heart flutters at the majesty - my Lord, my God, my King! Daily you show me yourself, you testify to your glory, your beauty is made visible to the eyes of my understanding. I do not hear some whisper in my head, nor some voice in the night - but in life I see your footsteps, I see the work of your hands, and I marvel in ever widening awe!

God is glorified in all things glorified. He uses all things to provoke His children to see Him as He is, and not as we imagine Him, in our ignorance, to be.
posted by Daniel @ 11:39 AM  
5 Comments:
  • At 10:22 PM, January 22, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Daniel,

    Thank you for sharing this story and how it exposed your vulnerability.

    Your point on our tendency to second-guess the motives of those who are doing what they are supposed to be doing is a two-edged sword in my heart.

    BTW, you did not mention the time frame of this man being brought to the fellowship of your church. Is he still there with you?

     
  • At 7:38 PM, January 23, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    The fellow is still with us. I happened only a couple of weeks past.

     
  • At 9:08 PM, January 23, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    That's awesome. May God continue to be glorified in the work of His people.

    Psalm 12:5 "Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise," says the LORD; "I will place him in the safety for which he longs."

     
  • At 11:12 PM, January 23, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    Daniel,

    Since coming back to the blogosphere a couple months ago (at least sort-of anyway) I must tell you that your blog is HANDS DOWN the one I look forward to reading the most. I only wish you had time to post more often.

    Any chance you can quit your job or something?? :)

    JIBBS

    word verification: wingso

     
  • At 6:36 AM, January 24, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    JIBBS,

    I am encouraged that some of the things I serve up here are regarded by some as fit for consumption.

    The hardest part about blogging is not the time, thought that is certainly difficult. The hardest part about blogging, for me, is having something edifying to say.

    :)

     
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