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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[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.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Does Abstaining from Sex Make You A Virgin?
Provocative title? Check.

I am under no illusion. I know that when you include abstinence, sex, and virginity in the title of a blogpost, you are likely to get more visitors than you would have otherwise. So welcome to my blog you people that wouldn't have come here unless you saw the word sex in the link.

The question is a serious one, even though you can answer it before you read one word of this post. We all know full well (unless we are of the sort of conceit that prompts us to filter reality through the lens of some form of navel-gazing philosophy...) that you cannot produce new state of virginity by abstaining from sex after you lose your virginity. It doesn't work that way, and we all know it.

Given that virginity is not produced by abstinence, and (obviously), that abstinence is likewise not produced by virginity, we might wonder what exactly relates the two notions. I describe it this way: abstinence is a consonant adornment of virginity.

What I want to impart to you is the nature of that relationship. The notion that one does not produce the other, but is rather the natural expression of the other.

We know this intuitively, but I wanted to spell it out so that when I apply it, the application is as clear as possible.

Jesus kept the law of God. It wasn't the keeping of the law that made Jesus righteous. Jesus wasn't born in a neutral state, being neither righteous or unrighteous. He did not become righteous by keeping the law. When Christ kept the law it was simply the natural expression of His inherent righteousness.

Keeping the law (or let's just call it what it is: obeying the will of God) does not produce righteousness in you anymore than abstinence can produce virginity in a non-virgin. Christ obeyed God because He was righteous, and not in order to become righteous or produce new righteousness.

That is an important Christian concept because until we understand it properly, we won't understand what God is teaching us in the scriptures when the Spirit inspired men to write that without faith it is impossible to please God, or that there are none righteous, not even one.

Christ alone is righteous. Unless we have Christ, we do not have righteousness, and without righteousness, we will perish† in the judgment.

Whatever things we do that we think are obedient to the will of God, that is, our "righteousnesses" are described by God as spiritually unclean (cf. Jeremiah 17:9). Nothing we do in our own strength is righteous, and if that weren't enough we cannot take credit for anything we do in Christ's strength. That is, when Chrsit's righteousness is working in us, we err to think it is our own. It is His righteousness that saves us.

I want to unpack that a bit for our Catholic friends. If we say that Christ imparts His rightoeusness to us, we do not mean by that to suggest that Christ takes some of His own righteousness out of Himself, then puts it into us, so that it becomes ours. Nor do we mean by that that Christ zaps us and suddenly we start producing our own righteousness by obeying God - for obeying God does not produce righteousness, it merely reflects it.

If we obey God in the strength of Christ, our obedience reflects not our own righteousness, but Christ's righteousness that is in us through that spiritual union which is the new birth. It is as the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed in Jeremiah 33:16 speaking of the Messiah to come: "the LORD is our righteousness!".

In other words, the Christian is not in the business of making himself righteous. He can no more become righteous by his own effort than he can become a virgin through abstinence. We, Christians are and remain unrighteous in and of ourselves. We appeal to a righteousness that is at once not our own, yet again is ours but only in Christ.

There aren't as many in the church who understand this properly as there ought to be, so bear with me as I dwell on it for the sake of those who are new to this teaching.

The reason all your righteousnesses are as filthy rags to God is because none of them can wipe away the stain of your sin. Present obedience cannot undo former disobedience - and righteousness has nothing to do with sin. The person who has sinned is by no means righteous, and can never attain to righteousness ever again by any act of obedience, any more than the prostitute can become a virgin by subsequent abstinence.

Christianity is not, as some would have you believe, the process by which Jesus spiritually empowers you to obey, so that your newly empowered obedience produces an inherent righteousness in you that becomes the basis for your justification before God. God will not and cannot look to your obedience to justify you. You are a sinner, and even if you have managed to obey God in the strength that Christ supplies - that obedience is not the grounds for your forgiveness. Rather you obey God (in Christ's strength) as a consequence of the fact that Christ has saved you.

Do you see therefore how wrong-headed it is to imagine that your obedience adds anything to your righteous standing? Your obedience, if it is more than just a frightened person trying to appease and angry God in the hope that by doing so they might avoid damnation, is a consequence of God's work in you --not something you do to earn God's favor. If you are obeying the Lord from your heart it is something that comes from Him, and not you - and itself testifies to the fact that God is showing you His favor already. In other words, real obedience does not produce favor, but reveals the fact that God already favors you.

Not that we look to our obedience for assurance, rather we look to the Spirit within us who is compelling our obedience as the assurance that we are God's children.

If keeping the law did not make Christ righteous, but demonstrated that He was righteous already, then keeping the law will not make you righteous, and how much less given that you were not righteous to begin with?

Finally, this righteousness that every sinner needs to apprehend, the righteousness of Christ, is obtained by faith and not by obedience; yet when it is obtained, obedience naturally (and inescapably) follows. That is, as many as are justified by Christ, the same are sanctified by Christ.

This is where we make a distinction between righteous and holy. We are called commanded to be holy. That is to be "set apart" to God. We do this by obeying God (Don't miss this last part) which does not make us righteous, but makes us holy. Do you see that? Do you see that your obedience is expected, because you are commanded to be holy, but your obedience does not make you righteous. Your righteousness is not your own, but Christ's righteousness.

This is what people mess up the most. The moment you tie your obedience to "personal righteousness" rather than to personal holiness, you step on the little mouse wheel of human effort, and no matter how you run, you simply tire and are no closer to your destination for all your effort than you were when you began. You are pursuing a righteousness that you can never, ever attain. But when accept Christ's righteousness, and stop setting about to establish your own, you are free to pursue holiness, the actual avenue through which men are meant to draw near to God.

The one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness shall be filled with the righteousness of Christ, and thereby enabled to pursue holiness in spirit and in truth. Obey God therefore, not to make yourself more acceptable to Him, but because He has commanded that His childnre be Holy (set apart to Him).
† that is, the second death: being cast into the lake of fire to suffer torment eternally.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:10 AM   3 comment(s)
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Wrong Again Mr. Camping
In Matthew 24:36 it says plainly (no need to interpret), - "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

If you would only read this verse, and believe it, I am sure you can spare yourself a third round of humiliation.
posted by Daniel @ 7:18 AM   2 comment(s)
Friday, May 20, 2011
Dealing With A Frigid Spouse.
You can remember the way it was when you first came into the relationship. It seemed you were always holding hands, always together. Snuggling. Hugging. Talking into the night.

Over the years however (because it is so easy to take another for granted), those affections your spouse had for you (which once were so evident) began to cool down.

Suddenly a decade or more has slipped away. Somehow, it seems time has robbed your spouse of that former, willing inclination, and replaced it with a cold indifference. However you might long for the intimacy of former days, you seem unable to breach the barrier that somehow came between you.

So you lay there in the night, beside the one you love, and have loved for so long, knowing that as your heart breaks for them, they could care less, being more interested in their sleep than in keeping you company.

Wasn't it Robert Frost who wrote:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.


He was speaking in metaphor about the demise of a relationship. I remember having to study it in high school.

Yet though I write to you today from the perspective of a lover whose true love has grown cold, I do so because this is the tale of so many Christians. Not that they love their spouses who have grown cold - but rather that they might see in themselves the cold spouse, increasingly indifferent as the years role - not towards their earthly spouse, but rather towards their heavenly one.

I come at it this way because I want to use the common experience of every married person, man or woman, to give us perspective on what our own spiritual indifference truly looks like. Have you ached for the embrace of your spouse when he or she was cold to you, and nothing you could say or do in the moment could change his or her heart? Has some argument, or bitter spell robbed you of some former peace? Have you never fully over come such a thing? Then you know what it means to be on the receiving end of rejection and indifference.

Your prayerlessness - you know who you are - is cold. You heart is hardening even as you refuse to let go of whatever it is that is holding you here. The trouble with madness is that the person who is made doesn't see it that way. They may know full well that what they are doing is destroying them, but they do not connect this knowledge to the moment they are in. It is some distant thing that they know to be true, but not something they concern themselves with in the moment. They hope to one day deal with it, but not today, but each day they grow colder so that they are less likely to overcome this as the days go on.

I don't want to manipulate your affections and emotions. My goal is not to paint a picture, and get you to so emphatically connect with the imagery, that you use your emotions to jump-start a personal revival. Rather I paint these things in such a way as the prophet Nathan painted David's sin to him on the canvas of another premise - that you might see as sin that thing in you that you are intentionally ignoring. If this applies, and for some of you reading, you know it does.

So I call you, even as the scriptures do, to remember your first love. Stop being frigid with the Lord - stop it today. Find some time - make it the exalted and immediate priority of your life - to set your heart before the Lord in prayer - to draw close to Him, and to stay there in prayer until your heart is fully reconciled.

Do this, for He deserves your love, and you cannot express it properly from this distance.
posted by Daniel @ 7:42 AM   3 comment(s)
Monday, May 16, 2011
Job 31:29
Famously, Job, in defending his own righteousness asks, in Job 31:29, "Have I rejoiced at the extinction of my enemy, or exulted when evil befell him?".

I think that is a the best place, for me at least, to begin to express my belated thoughts concerning the recent success of a U.S. military operation wherein a primary military target (Osama Bin Laden) was successfully removed.

When I heard that OBL was dead, I did not rejoice over his death.

Don't get me wrong. This man openly owned enough heinous acts of terrorism, that there was no need for a trial or hearing to establish his guilt. He flaunted his guilt, and compounded that guilt with an utterly unrepentant defiance. He was happy to murder innocent people if it meant that his own agenda was advanced, and he flaunted the fact that he was getting away with it.

Bin Laden certainly deserved to die, not just because he murdered Americans, but because he murdered innocent people. The fact that he had orchestrated the death of thousands only made the cry for justice all the more urgent. But I don't want to confuse the feeling that justice was satisfied with personal feelings of pleasure and/or joy that a man has been executed.

Let me explain that a little. When the priest in Israel offered up the life of an animal for a sin offering, neither the priest, nor the one for whom the offering was offered, rejoiced at the death of the animal. The life of the animal was forfeit as an act of justice, for the life of every sinner was forfeited unless or until it was redeemed. The sacrifice was understood to redeem the forfeited life of the sinning Israelite.

There is nothing untoward or wrong in celebrating and rejoicing over the fact that you have been redeemed, but it is quite another thing to take personal and morbid pleasure in the brutality by which your redemption was accomplished.

We don't spend Good Friday joyfully celebrating the brutal pouring out of Christ's life/blood. We celebrate what was accomplished there, but not the violence that accomplished it.

So also, even as I may celebrate the fact that justice has finally been meted on foreign soil by a crack team of Navy Seals, yet I do not celebrate or rejoice in the actual death of Osama. His dying is not a cause for celebration, it is a cause in the Christian for sober reflection: there but for the grace of God, go I.
posted by Daniel @ 10:28 AM   0 comment(s)
Friday, May 06, 2011
How to read the Bible in 240 days (or less) and other interesting things on a Friday
Here, in no particular order, are a few musing that I had this morning:

Bible Reading
There are 260 chapters in the New Testament. If you were to read a chapter a day from the New Testament, you could be finished reading the New Testament in 260 days.

There are 939 chapters in the Old Testament. If you were to read four chapters a day, you would finish reading the Old Testament in 232 days.

Thus, if you read once chapter in the NT, and four in the old each day - which isn't all that much to tell you the truth - a half an hour of your time - you will finish reading the OT in 232 days, and for the next eight days, you just read five chapters a day from the NT - and ZING! You're done, and ready to start all over again.

Now for those of you who find yourselves not reading the bible regularly, or not with a gusto akin to some former, happier time; that is, for those of you who scoffingly declare in your hearts as you read this: FIVE CHAPTERS!!?? WHO HAS THAT KIND OF TIME!? Well, let me tell you, you do. If you can't give God a half hour a day, your problem isn't time management, it is that you are holding God at arms length and this you are doing because you refuse to draw near to God.

Okay, I want to be fair too, well..., I don't really, but this -is- the Internet and everyone expects everyone else to be sickly sweet to one another (Lord help us if we offend!), so I really should address the people who are quite happy to read the bible at their own pace...

Okay, for you slackers, I am not suggesting therefore that five chapters a day is the "plumb line" of godliness - I am just saying that it is a very do-able number, and anyone with a bible can do it. Now some will say that although they are able to physically read five chapters a day, that they won't be able to absorb five chapters a day - and so they will justify reading only so much as they believe themselves able to absorb. At this point you are probably expecting me to pull back and admit that, yes, if you can't absorb that much, you should only ..yada yada. But the truth is that you cannot absorb even one chapter a day - not even a single sentence a day. These things are not absorbed because you set yourself in some sort of spiritual sponge mode, and Johnny over here is able to absorb Z chapters and Sally over there X chapters. Rather none of us is able to absorb the truths of scripture according to some ability within us - but God opens our hearts and our understandings, as we read.

If Johnny reads five chapters, God will show Johnny something in those five chapters, and what God shows, Johnny will absorb. If Sally reads five chapters, she too will absorb as much as the Lord allows. The ability to absorb truth is not a skill or power that resides within us, or that we are in control of, or that some have more than others, it is rather that God, in His grace, and for His own purpose, provides for us, as we make ourselves available for that provision.

The only difference between the believer who reads five chapters a day, and the believer who reads less, is that God is going to have less to work with in the one who reads less. God can still do great things in that person, but that does not justify slackness. Frankly, the only reason people don't read more scripture is because they have justified their slackness in some way or other.

Thoughts on how long it took Noah to build the ark
Noah had to cut down the trees, plane them into planks, and form them into a giant boat while everyone mocked him for this effort. It took 120 years from start to finish.

What I find noteworthy about the 120 years of Noah's labor, is that 120 years is also the longest lifespan we should ever expect to see this side of the flood.

Noah labored each day of an entire "lifetime" completing one task - the building of the ark. I am encouraged by this because we have one task that we are to work on in this lifetime - every single day - our obedience by faith. The daily surrendering of our will - a single labor that will last the remainder of our lifetime.

Let us be diligent therefore for God Himself is at work in us, giving us the will to go on, and the strength to go on - so that the burden is light, and the yoke easy.

Excusing our disobedience
In Matthew 21, after our Lord clears the temple, the chief priests and elders asked him by what authority was Christ doing such things, and Christ, rather than answering them directly, asked them instead a question to expose their hearts.

Think this through till you see it. They had already rejected Christ by the time they asked these questions of Him. They wanted Christ to say something that would justify their rejection. That is the only reason they were asking Him questions.

Christ exposed this fact when through his own question of them, He forced them to walk through the (non) logic of their rejection of John the Baptist. They didn't want to say that John was from God, because that would mean they should have heeded John, and they didn't want to say that John was not from God because that would make them look bad to those who believed John was from God.

So their answer to Christ concerning John the Baptist displayed the consistent problem that remained in their own hearts: they rejected John, not because of anything John said or did, but rather because if John was from God, then the things that John said were said on God's authority. Their rejection of John was not a rejection of John, for John did not speak of His own accord, but spoke only what God had sent John to speak. They were rejecting God's rule over them - but they did not want to admit that this was what they were doing.

Do you see that? Do you see that they refused to accept any more demands that God was making of them? They were content with their present effort, their present religious activity - and because they were content in the deadness of their trespasses, they rejected God's commands as they came through John the Baptist. If they reject God's commands as they came through John the Baptist, they likewise had already rejected Christ as the Messiah, and then they failed to recognize God as the authority behind John, they demonstrated that they were in fact rejecting God's authority altogether.

Here is one parallel I see in my own life, and you will see in yours also if you are a believer who has ever struggled with sin. I know that I am playing games with myself when I get to the place of saying that I am not sure whether or not such and such is sinful, and so, in my "ignorance", I am willing to entertain the doubtful activity because I haven't got some clear indication that it is sinful. That is, I tell myself that Christianity is pretty foggy at times, and when I am in the fog, I am not really responsible to obey, since I don't know what obedience should look like in such a time.

That sort of thing is really the deceitfulness of sin in our own heart. We tell ourselves that we aren't really sure, when the truth is we are sure of one thing - we don't want to surrender some thing to God, and so we tell ourselves that we aren't sure, in order to justify our rejection of God's rule in that area of our lives.

I am convinced that these things are in scripture for our sanctification - so that we will not be blind concerning the way sin would have us reject our Lord - so that in the comfort of our ignorance, we continue to sin - no, I think God takes the wool from our eyes, and lays us naked before His truth, so that sin can be seen for what it is, and so that we will have no excuse for our disobedience.

It is easier to commit a sin when we tell ourselves that we aren't sure it is really a sin - it is much harder for us to knowingly and blatantly commit sin. That is why, I think, the Holy Spirit peels back the deceitfulness of our heart, and lets us know ourselves more and more as we are sanctified - so that our Love for Christ will have teeth - a blind folded man who swings his fist may strikes his own daughter whom he loves. Yet because he is blinded, he may continue to swing his fists, excusing himself on account of his blindness - yet the same man cannot excuse such strikes when the blindfold is removed. Love stays his hand. So the Spirit is at work in each of us, making us know our sinfulness for what it is, that we may, for the love of Christ, turn from it.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:33 AM   3 comment(s)
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Abba Da Da?
You have probably heard from the pulpit that in those three places in scripture (Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6) where the Aramaic word "Abba" has been transliterated into Greek, it means "Daddy".

One might imagine, because this teaching is so widespread, that this teaching has been the understanding of the church from day one, but in fact it is a recent "translation".

I want to start with a bit of a history lesson. When Judah went into exile in Babylon for 70 years, the generations that were born there were taught to speak the language of the land: Aramaic. This would have been their "native" tongue. That isn't to suggest that all Jews stopped speaking Hebrew, rather it is to say that through this exile, the language of Babylon came to Judah, when the exiles returned - and even in Christ's day, though Greek had become the language of commerce, Aramaic was still spoken in Judah.

It should surprise no one who lives in a culture where more than one language is commonly spoken (in Canada both English and French are spoken, for example), that some words from one language find their way into other languages.

Such is the case with the Aramaic word "Abba". Not surprisingly, "Abba" means father. I say not surprisingly because the three times it is used in scripture, it is immediately translated into "father" for the reader.

Well, we might ask, if "Abba" means "Father" - why are pastors correcting their translations by telling their congregations that "Abba" really means "Daddy"?

Without getting into the details, a Lutheran scholar named Jechoniah Jeremias hypothesized that the word Abba grew out of the same kind of baby talk as ma-ma or da-da. That is, the formal word for father being "Ab" - it followed (sort of) that Abba was an especially intimate form of address because the word, according to this speculation, grew out of baby talk. It wasn't long before that turned into "Abba" equals "Daddy" - and once that was out, it spread like wildfire!

Now, it is important to note that although Jeremias originally held the view that the word implied a special, indeed a unique, intimacy, yet he later stepped back from that view, regarding his former opinion , and I quote, as "a piece of inadmissible naivety".

Notwithstanding, the cat was out of the bag, and so it has remained to this day.

Of course, one could sidestep all the scholastics, and just look at an early Aramaic NT. There we find the word Abba indiscriminately translating the Greek word for father. No special meaning. No fuss.

What would have been profound to the Pharisees, had they heard our Lord praying, is that Jesus was addressing God in prayer using familial (ie. the language of family) language - not simply referring to God in the second person as His Father, but addressing God personally as Father.

What is profound for us, is that we can pray to God using the same familial address - Christ even taught us to pray thus, "Our Father, which art in heaven". Early Christians picked upon the Lord's words, and prayed, using the exact same phrase "Abba father" just as we see in the other texts where this word "Abba" appears (Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6.)

Now, you know those people who talk normal the rest of the time, but, for whatever reason, pray to God in English that sounds like they are reading from a King James Bible (Dear Lordeth, Thou art mine Godeth, and I praise Thee Thine Glory, yada-yada-eth.). Don't follow their example and start praying each prayer with the opening phrase, "Abba Father" because that is how some did in in the NT. Good gravy - copy their heart, not their first century mannerisms!

But I digress.

Comparative texts at the time show that "Abba" was the form of address you used to address your father, regardless of whether you were a child or a full grown adult. The connotations we breath into the word "Daddy" simply aren't there in the word "Abba" and the moment we put them there, we displace the true meaning of the text with a spin that implies something that the scriptures themselves do not imply.

This is what it looks like to "add" something to scripture. It isn't that we tack on ten more verses here, or twenty there (though that would be adding also), it is that we have added some nuance that is foreign to the text, and in doing so we paint both God and Christ in hues that God Himself hasn't supplied.

The problem for us is that this particular twist jumped out of the academy, as it were, and into commentaries and even dictionaries, but was never removed from those when it was shown to be naive (at best). The end result is that a cursory or superficial examination of the word may not be sufficient to undo the damage that is already done to this. You may need to dig beneath the surface a little.

Try googling "does Abba mean Daddy" and you will find commentaries and dictionaries that say it does, and you will also find commentaries and dictionaries that say it does not. Unless you are willing to put them all in order and piece together the history of the last 50 years or so, you may not see how the word came to be abused, and is only now being (reluctantly in some circles) restored.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:25 AM   9 comment(s)
 
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