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

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

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

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

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

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
 
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
No Bravery Without Fear...
Daddy, what can I do when I don't want to obey you because I am afraid?

You've probably had to explain to your own little ones that unless one is afraid of something, one cannot act in bravery. I mean, every person knows fear (or should) but what makes a person brave is that they do not let their fear control their actions.

When my five year old is afraid of the dark, and because of this fear refuses to go to bed, we sit down and have "the talk". I explain first that there is nothing in the dark to fear, and that this fear is therefore unfounded; but because such information has never pacified a single five year old in the history of mankind, I am inclined to move onto step two, where I explain that in order to be brave you need fear, and that it is time for bravery in the face of this fear. etc.

My post isn't about parenting or fear, or bravery for that matter, but I believe understanding these things will help one to understand the metaphor I plan to use in the following spiritual encouragement.

What do I do, when I don't want to obey God?

Here is where the fear/bravery thing comes into play. If bravery requires fear, we might also say that obedience to God (when sinners are inclined against obedience) requires one to overcome self. Now before we get too far on that road, let me say right now that no one in their own strength can truly overcome self. We need, as Paul taught, to reckon our "self" as dead to sin, but alive to God.

The lesson isn't that in order to obey, you first need an inclination to disobedience, and thereafter you must "buck up" in your own strength, and this bucking up shares some sort of kinship with bravery. Rather the lesson is that in order for you to obey you must overcome the flesh in Christ.

That might sound like just a trite Christian phrase, "overcome the flesh in Christ". I bet some of you reading will say to yourself as you read that, "If I knew how to overcome the flesh in Christ, I would be doing that!"

But the phrase is deceptively precise. The trouble is that many Christians don't know what it means to overcome the flesh in Christ. They picture Jesus doing the work of overcoming in such a way that they are passive on-lookers. They imagine themselves, metaphorically speaking, pushing the "Jesus-do-this-spiritual-thing-for-me-now" button, and KAZAM! Victory! So they continue to look for the magic formula that will wake our slumbering Lord and cause Him to pour out victory on them now that they know the magic word to make that happen. But that isn't a right image of what is meant by "in Christ".

Perhaps it would be better to think in this way - in Christ means, in utter surrender to Christ. Utter surrender means utter abandonment - but even these words evoke an image of some soul "letting go and letting God" - which isn't the picture I am trying to paint. Surrender is not about letting go, it is about hanging on - hanging onto God's promise in Christ.

The promise is the gospel promise - which itself, for most believers, has been watered down to mean only the message of salvation that results in justification. That is, many believers think the gospel is for getting you into heaven, and after that you teach "doctrine" and "theology". But the gospel message is that God has done what you could not do. It is the hope of the Christian, not merely to spare them from God's wrath, but also to carry them as believers in their sanctification (drawing near to God).

The way we are called to obey is by faith; by trust in what God has promised, has done, and perhaps more importantly: is doing. We do not overcome our disobedient inclinations by trying harder to obey or by forming the habit of suppressing our sinful inclinations. That is the fluff of other world religions - we overcome our sinful inclinations by trusting in Christ.

I am going to be straight up with you. That sounds, to the uninformed ear, like a lot of spiritual posturing. It sounds good, and even Christian, but to many reading it also sounds rather obtuse, and even spiritually opaque. How is trusting in Jesus going to disincline me to sin?

Well, when we say trusting in Christ, we are not simply trusting that there is a Jesus, or worse, trusting that He is going to act in a situation according to our interpretation of what ought to be done (Stop me from having sinful desires right now Jesus!). What we mean is that we trust that Christ is with us, is in us, and is working out our salvation (from sin), regardless of the situation or how we feel. We trust that this work is not dependant upon ourselves, but rather something Christ is doing in love on our behalf, and not in answer to, or as a response to, our obedience.

The fact of the matter is that we enter into obedience, whenever that obedience is exercised in spirit and in truth, only because of Christ's work in us. This obedience does not come to us because we have pulled it down in prayer, or because we have earned it by our sincerity - it comes to us by grace, for we are saved by grace, and not by works.

So just as fear is the furnace from which true bravery comes, so also faith in Christ is the furnace out of which true obedience flows. I know that is going to seem counter-intuitive to many (immature) Christians, because when we become Christians, we begin to flee from sin because we loathe the fact that we indulge in it. We become like the runner who is so afraid of what is following him, that he dares not risk a glance back. lest in doing so he slows his pace, and is overtaken. The guilt of our sin so burdens us that we dare not risk adding more to it by setting aside our (sometimes strict, sometimes slack) war against sin.

But if the weapons of our warfare are entirely carnal, that is, if we battle sin with the same weapons that every other world religion battles sin (adhering in our own strength to some external standard of righteousness), then our war against sin is really an empty farce --all light and no heat. Our weapons must be spiritual; and that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The notion that we can overcome sin by faith seems nice, but impractical.

It isn't until some crisis, or perhaps some lasting spiritual draught causes us to abandon our false oasis, that we begin to take seriously the plain instructions of scripture, and begin to make Christ, and not church, religion, or daily devotions, the object of our faith. When we do this, in earnest, we grow in grace and find our inclination to obey stronger than our inclination to disobey - and this because we are drawing near to Christ, rather than trying to appropriate righteousness apart from Him (and that in order to please Him, as though our setting aside of Him to pursue a righteousness apart from Him would or could possibly please Him).

We grow into these truths, so don't be put off if they seem difficult to understand at first blush. The main point is that your focus needs to be on Christ, specifically on drawing near to God through Him. Do this, and everything else falls into place (Seek you first the kingdom...).

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posted by Daniel @ 6:55 AM   0 comment(s)
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
What the fall did to all mankind...
This gadfly gets it.

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posted by Daniel @ 2:11 PM   5 comment(s)
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Remember Achan?
In Deuteronomy 7:6, we read something very germaine to our understanding of what eventually happened to the Israelites, on account of Achan. The passage reads, "And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction."

This instruction was fairly straightforward: If you know that God has devoted some thing to destruction, and you knowingly bring that thing into your house, you invite force God to devote you to destruction, in order to protect those around you from your corruption.

So when we get to Joshua 7, and are introduced to Achan as someone who secretly brought into his tent some of the spoil (from Jericho) that God had devoted to destruction, we begin to understand why it is that when Israel attacked Ai, God was not with them. By setting aside the command of God, Achan had not only devoted Himself to destruction, but by extension, devoted all of Israel to destruction.

Some may cringe at the judgment against Achan, for he was singled out, and stoned to death along with (presumably) his family. We might cringe I say at the thought of his family being stoned to death, then burned, then buried under a heap of stones because, although they were (again presumably) willing to silently harbor the forbidden spoil, they hadn't been the ones who brought that spoil into the camp.

Yet in making that distinction we set ourselves up to naively assume that the judgement against Achan (and his family) was harsh because God wanted to send a strong message, or maybe we might imagine that the judgment was simply a punishment for disobedience, and if we imagine that, then we are left to wonder why God seemed rather lacking in mercy when it came to Achan's family. We may reason that Achan rather deserved the punishment, but his family should have received a lesser sentence or something like that.

This again, because we presume that the judgment was more about what Achan did, and not about the consequences of what Achan did. You see, when Achan brought in the things that were devoted to destruction, he literally devoted all of Israel to destruction - including himself and his family. It is like when one allows a single drop of deadly poison into one's water - you throw it all away rather than straining out the poison.

When Israel went up against the city of Ai, God was no longer with them, because Achan's treachery had caused God to devote all of Israel to destruction. That is why dozens of Israelites died when they attempted to take Ai the first time. Recall that the Israelites had come to expect their victories to be flawless. In Numbers 31, we read that 12,000 Israelites went to war against (and utterly wiped out) all of Midian without losing a single Israelite (cf. Numbers 31:48-50). In the original assault against Ai, Israel fled from the battle, and three dozen Israelites were killed.

Now, three dozen may not sound like a lot of men - certainly it sounds to our ear like Joshua was over doing it a little when he fell down on his face at this news, and remained prostrate before the Lord for the remainder of that day. I mean, to our ear, we think: This is war! So what if 36 men out of 3000 fell. I mean, they were routed after all, to lose only 36 men would seem almost like an impossibly small loss. But when you are used to, and expect, flawless victories, the loss of 36 men screams one thing: God is no longer with us (Israel).

God wasn't punishing Achan for what Achan had done. Rather Achan had devoted himself, his family, and all of Israel to destruction by bringing what was devoted to destruction into his tent, and into the camp of Israel. When judgment came down on Achan and his family, it came down on them because Achan had willingly subjected himself and all of Israel to the same destruction that God was meting out on the Canaanites.

I don't write this merely to give us insight into what exactly was going on with Achan. I write this because I want those who themselves are professing believers, to have more traction in their own understanding when it comes to making a clean break from sin.

Not that I am saying, "Look at how Achan devoted all of Israel to destruction by compromising God's command, and tremble, for unless you make a clean break, you will likewise perish!" - which would more or less be telling you to pick yourself up by your own sinful bootstraps and fly right from now on --or else! Which itself would be an encouragement to do something you will never be able to do no matter how noble it might sound to try.

No, what I am saying is that sin's corruption (rightly understood) alienates you from the promises of God. You must turn away entirely from trusting in your own righteousness, for no matter how strong and vigilant you are, or imagine yourself to be, you will eventually do (ad nauseum) just as Achan has done. That is to say that no matter how many (seemingly) good things you might imagine that you do in your life, eventually you will mix these with such corruption that unless you were in Christ, God Himself would devote you to destruction just as certainly, and just as severely.

Given this; it is imperative that you learn, Christian, to stop thinking of Christianity in terms of conforming yourself to a regiment of religious duty (attending church, reading your bible, praying, and being involved in no less than two ministries), and begin to think in terms of drawing near to the Christ who has taken all (that has been devoted to destruction in you) to the cross. Christianity is lived out when you learn to draw near to God (through Christ) by faith. It is the fact that you draw near through Christ that is key. Make Christ the focus of your life Christian, and as you do, all the things that you would have done to try and imitate Christianity (attending church, reading your bible, praying, and ministering to others) will flow out of that naturally and abundantly - no longer will you draw these things laboriously from the well of duty, but they shall flow out of you like (living) water from an artesian well.

The sooner you learn that Christianity is all about living in the knowledge of what Christ has done, the better.

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posted by Daniel @ 8:30 AM   4 comment(s)
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The Law and Love
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' - Mark 12:28-30 [ESV]


I want to show two, radically different things from this text today. There is a string that binds the two things together, but it may not be evident until I am through, and then again, only if I succeed in what I set out to show you.

First I want you to pretend that Christ returned five minutes ago, and you are standing before the judgement seat of God. Christ asks you two questions: [1] What was my greatest commandment? and [2] Did you make that, your greatest pursuit on earth?

I mean, if you're reading my blog the chances are good that you attend church regularly, read the bible, have a "prayer life", and would answer a hearty, "Yes!" to the question, "Do you love God?". Yet how many of us could answer Christ in the affirmative if that second question were put to us on judgment day?

I think, deep down, some might console themselves by thinking secretly that their lack of love was not truly their fault. I mean, you can't force genuine affection, it is either there or it isn't, and if it wasn't there, well... you surely wanted it to be, and isn't that the best you could have done anyway? So these console themselves in the conviction that even if they aren't pursuing daily the most important command given to men, that it doesn't really matter in the end, since they are going to heaven when they die anyway, and so what if they get a little less reward? There wasn't much they could do about it anyway, since faking love would be more offensive than failing to show love at all.

Now you might think that following a thought like that I would immediately encourage you to buck up, and make this commandment your live verse or something. Maybe you are expecting that I am going to tell you, in no uncertain language, that you have to start making this the priority if you ever want to be certain of your salvation, or maybe just if you ever want to have life more abundantly in the here and now.

Instead I would rather remind you that this command - the command to love God, is an old testament command, and part of the Mosaic Law. You can no more keep this command in your own strength, than you can keep the command not to covet in your own strength.

Which is really a nice segue into the second point: Telling believers that they must start loving God more is tantamount to preaching the law over and above the gospel.

The gospel is the news that [1] Jesus has come and done what we could not do (He kept the law), and [2] that Jesus saves (from their sin and God's wrath) those who put their trust wholly in God's promised provision, and that [3] all that was accomplished in and by Christ is ours if we are united with Christ by faith.

When we tell a believer that they must love God, or else! We are saying that whatever Christ did on behalf of the believer will only be applied if the believer keeps the law.

We call that sort of stuff the Galatian Error because it basically presumes that sanctification is accomplished by keeping the law.

The fact is that if you have come to God in Christ, it is Christ's love for God that you must stand upon and not your own. Whatever affection you are, or ever will be, able to muster will never suffice to satisfy the command of God.

Here is a delightful twist for you however. The more you learn to rest in what God has done - the more you will love Him, the more inclined you will be to obey Him - not to satisfy the law, but as an act of worship - the very thing that the law couldn't produce in you.
posted by Daniel @ 6:59 AM   7 comment(s)
Monday, June 13, 2011
I will show you what he is like...
Do you remember these words? They come from Luke 6:47, “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show you what he is like:” [ESV]

There are three conditions that have to be met in order for you to be like the man that Christ describes (the one who builds his house on the solid rock):

[1] You have to come to Christ. That may sound overly simple, but you would be surprised how many people think coming to church is the same as coming to Christ.

[2] You must hear Christ’s words. Don’t laugh, you would be surprised how many people hear only what they want to hear, and disregard the rest.

[3] You must do what Christ demands. This is a rubber meets the road condition. If you are not doing what Christ demands, then you are not building your house on the rock.

That third point is so elegantly simple it cuts through all the clutter of religion, doesn’t it? One could answer the question, “is all your labor in vain?” by simply asking, “are you living in obedience to Christ, or are you just following good habits?”

When we talk about a Christ-less Christianity, we are not talking about someone else who lives far away and is the exception - typically we are talking about someone in your church, maybe even you! We are talking about the person who invests himself in everything Christian but Christ.

My encouragement to you, if you are struck by these words, is to take a long look at your brand of Christianity, and then look at the words of Christ. Put yourself in the right box, then deal with it, rather than justify it.

Just saying....
posted by Daniel @ 5:01 PM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Does Christianity Cure Homosexuality?
Can Christianity cure homosexuality?

The best place to start with a question like that is to lay all my cards on the table at the outset, then go from there.

First of all homosexuality is not a disease, therefore the notion of curing it is irrational. One does not cure homosexuality anymore than one cures lechery, or pride, or arrogance. So the short answer is that Christianity cannot cure homosexuality, because cures are for diseases, and have nothing to do with giving in to sinful desires.

In the first chapter, book of Romans, in verses 26 and 27, the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostle Paul communicates what God the Father thinks about homosexuality:

"For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." - Romans 1:26-27 [NASB]


Which is to say that when a person desires to gratify himself or herself (sexually) with a person of the opposite gender, that desire is in accord with the natural, created order. Conversely, when one desires to gratify himself or herself contrary to the created order, that desire is contrary to the created order, and as such is described as abominable, as opposed to only sinful.

Note that in both cases, the desire is to gratify one's self sexually, but what makes this gratification abominable is when one attempts to gratify that desire contrary to the created order.

I describe desire in this way (the desire to gratify yourself sexually) because it is more precise than saying having sexual desires for people of one gender or the other. The desire you have is to gratify yourself - that is the desire - you may excite this desire according to nature, or contrary to nature, but the desire itself is a desire for sexual gratification.

I want to frame the discussion in this way to avoid the sort of confusion that arises when we dig deeper into the issues at hand. It is common and easy to come at these things rather superficially, and then with a bigoted mindset, and as much as I am able, I want to avoid that. So I am careful to be as precise as possible, lest what I am saying be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

Every married person on the planet eventually experiences a desire that will tempt them to consider gratifying themselves sexually with someone other than their spouse. It can be a passing thought that is immediately dismissed (that is, it can be a temptation that is not pursued, and therefore does not become a sin), or it can be an unchecked desire that the one who experiences ends up fostering, whether or not that leads to a consummation or not. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was temped by sexual desires when He Himself walked among us in the flesh, we know this because the scriptures tell us so (c.f. Hebrews 4:15 - "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." [NASB]), but our Lord by no means indulged or pursued these temptations. In the same way there is no sin in being tempted by a desire, but there -is- sin in pursuing that desire if the desire runs contrary to what God has allowed you as an individual.

You see, sin is, in its simplest expression, willful rebellion against God's rule. God says, "No", and you say, "Too bad, I want to do it, so I am going to do it even though you have forbidden it." Not that you coherently express these things when you sin, but rather that you set aside the way God has ordered things in favor of the way you want things to be. That is what Paul describes in Romans 1:18 when he writes, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness," [NASB]. In order live with your own conscience when you pursue a known sin, you must suppress the truth about what God has commanded. Sin is rebellion, and no one who honestly believes there is a God whom they will answer to one day, will willingly rebel Him, so that in order to pursue things that God denies mankind, that is, in order to willingly rebel against the command of God, one must convince himself or herself that there is no God - that is, one must suppress the truth of God.

Thus the married man who pursues a desire to gratify himself sexually with someone other than his wife is sinning. It isn't defined as sin according to whether the man desires to gratify Himself in accord with, or denial of, the created order, rather it is defined as sin because it goes against the command of God. Yet if the man desires to gratify himself contrary to the created order, his sin is not only sinful but abominable as well - which is worse in that it is doubly wicked.

Now I want to be clear here. It is the pursuit of a gratifying yourself sexually through some forbidden avenue that is sinful, and not the temptation to gratify yourself through some forbidden avenue that is sinful. In other words, whether the desire to gratify yourself sexually is excited through a heterosexual temptation or a homosexual one, unless you pursue that temptation there is no sin.

That might be difficult for some to swallow, but what I am saying is that the problem with homosexuality isn't that you want to gratify your sexual desires contrary to nature (though that remains an abominable desire); the problem is that have decided to gratify yourself sexually in a way that God forbids.

You see, God doesn't just forbid things that run contrary to His created order, He forbids things that do not run contrary to the created order as well. You are not allowed to have sex with your sister - even if your parts are compatible. You are not allowed to have sex with anyone or anything outside of marriage - even if their genitalia is compatible.

If we are going to suggest or pursue a Christian "cure" for homosexuality, will we also pursue a Christian cure for those heterosexual desires that, while not abominable, are equally sinful (adultery, premarital sex, etc. etc.)?

I think it is the business of every believer to turn from sin. If you consider yourself a "homosexual" - that is, if your desire to gratify yourself sexually is excited contrary to the created order - it is my duty to Christ, to call you to turn from this sinful desire, and if you engage in it without repentance, it is my duty to come to you and both encourage your repentance, and support you in it. If you reject that, I am to come to you with other believers, and together we are to encourage you to turn from this course of rebellion in following these sinful temptations into sin - not that we call you to try and change what excites you sexually - for that is not what we are called to do - we call you to turn away from indulging in that which is forbidden, and if you still persist, I am to take you before the whole congregation, giving you another chance to turn from your rebellion, and if you love your sin more than obeying the Lord, I am to cast you out of our fellowship, since you unrepentant heart is like a cancerous leaven that must be purged, lest others in the congregation are emboldened to rebel against God according to whatever sinful desires they want to indulge.

I will be the first to say that the desire to gratify yourself sexually is a universal desire amongst physically mature human beings. I don't think that this desire is excited in us, one way or the other, because of genetics. I mean do we mean to suggest that the man who finds overweight women more attractive does so because of his genetics? What about liking blondes? or preferring long legs to a nice smile? I expect that we will never know entirely (or at least definitively) what it is exactly that moves us to be excited by one thing over another. Maybe we have control over these things, maybe we don't - but I think the answer to that is moot.

In other words, Christianity is not interested in "curing" people who have desires that run contrary to the commands of God. Hello? I have a thousand desires (er, that's an hyoperbole) that run contrary to the commands of God each morning before breakfast. Newsflash - this flesh in which we find our souls presently bound, is called "sinful flesh" for a reason. Even we who are believers have not yet had our flesh redeemed - we still live in it, and it continues to churn out (daily) ungodly desires. There is no cure for these desires, that is, we cannot make our flesh stop desiring sin - and guess what? This is true whether our sinful desires run contrary to God's created order, or are in harmony with it. There is no cure for the flesh, therefore there is no cure for its sinful desires. We cannot "cure" homosexuality anymore than we can cure greed, or gluttony, or selfishness, or adultery.

I say, we cannot cure these things, but we are called to live apart from them - to put those desire to death daily. This is the work of the believer, and every believer that sets that work aside, and refuses to take it up, but wilfully sets his or her mind to continue indulging their sin rather than turning away from it, must be (if we are to be faithful to God's command) put out of the church.

Here is the kicker: If we attempt to put to death the deeds (note: deeds, not desires) of the body, by denying our sinful desires in any other manner than by faith - our efforts will remain superficial, and powerless. We will not overcome sin, but sin will overcome us. The Israelites did not take the promised land from the Canaanites because they were stronger or more numerous than them - they took the promised land because they believed that God was giving it to them. So also we must overcome sin, not in our own strength, but rather by faith.

Make no mistake, some people use Christianity as an excuse to foster a xenophobic hatred of homosexuality. I hope that nothing I have said here will be used to encourage such behavior. My point is that Christianity does not, and cannot cure homosexuality. What Christianity can do is reconcile you back to God, and put in you a new desire (through the indwelling Holy Spirit), to turn away from your sinful desires, and obey God's will.

That means that the Christian man, even if he wants to engage in sexual activity outside of a God sanctioned (ie. consenting man and woman) marriage, denies that desire and instead conforms himself, heart and hand (meaning, in both his thinking and his acting) to the will of God. No special case is made for, or required for, the person whose sinful desire would be called by the world a "homosexual" one. There are really only two categories of desire - righteous, and sinful, and one need not have homosexual desires to have sinful desires.

Thus I regard the whole curing of homosexuality as seldom more than glorified reprogramming. Human effort, with human results. God doesn't call us to stop having sinful desires - for we cannot stop that from happening - he calls us to stop acting on them, the very thing He died to make possible.

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posted by Daniel @ 8:56 AM   1 comment(s)
Sunday, June 05, 2011
Deuteronomy 7:17-18 applied to your struggle.
If you should say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I; how can I dispossess them?’ You shall not be afraid of them; you shall well remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: - Deuteronomy 7:17-18 [NASB]


This passage pictures the difficulty behind, and the solution to, the main hurdle of our sanctification.

In the context Moses is addressing a very real sense of hopelessness that was threatening to paralyze the Israelites, as they prepared to conquer Canaan. It seemed an impossible task, given the strength of their enemy, and the weakness of their own might. Recall that this was the very reason they were made to wander in the wilderness in the first place - because they chose to believe that the inhabitants of the land would destroy them even though God had promised them victory.

We understand, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:11, that "these things" referring in general to those things that happened to the Israelites in the wilderness, "happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.". The instruction we want to take from this passage concerns our own sense of hopelessness, not in overcoming the inhabitants of Canaan, but more gravely, in overcoming the sin that rules us in our life - that is, in overcoming our bondage to sin.

There is a parallel, I say, between Romans 6 and the conquering of Canaan, one that you, as a believer, must come to understand if you are to benefit from the word God has left us. The land of Canaan was given to the Israelites - promised to them (hence the promised land) - before they ever set foot in it. God said to Israel, in Deuteronomy 11:25, "No man will be able to stand before you; the LORD your God will lay the dread of you and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot, as He has spoken to you." - That is a powerful promise indeed. They hadn't even entered the land yet, but they were promised it, promised victory over the inhabitants of the land - even though those inhabitants were greater in number and power than the Israelites.

In Romans 6 Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin, that we who are in Christ have been set free from sin's power. A truth as true as the promise given to Israel concerning the land of Canaan, and yet (perhaps) even more difficult to appropriate, given the Christian's certain knowledge that sin owns him entirely.

The first hurdle to our sanctification then is similar to the hurdle the Israelites had to face - unbelief. They had to overcome the thought that they could not defeat the Canaanites, and trust, not in their own strength, but in the victory the Lord would give them if and when they eventually began to take hold of the promised land. The Christian, likewise, must believe over and against his own experience that he will truly be able to overcome sin, or more specifically, to believe that in Christ he has already overcome his former bondage to sin, in spite of how things seem. Just as Peter looked to the fierceness of the storm and began to sink, when he ought to have been looking to Christ (both literally and figuratively), so too we, when we take our eyes off the truth of what God has said, and focus instead on the way things seem to be - we also fail.

We love our sin so much that we are ready to believe that our sinful disposition is "greater than I" - and without Christ it certainly would be - even as without God the Israelites would not have stood a chance against the Canaanites - yet gripped by this concern, we are unable to see how we could possibly overcome this bondage. As I said, the problem, at the root, is unbelief. We think that God will not deliver us because our bondage is so great - even as the Israelites feared that God could not give them victory because their enemy was so strong. Do you see that that is like saying that God can only deliver us from those situations wherein we could have delivered ourselves in our own strength? In other words, we refuse to believe that God -will- help us. We accept that God could help us, but we believe that on account of our own wretchedness, God will not help us.

Oh how our enemy has a field day in a flock that doesn't know what is going on when they think themselves so miserable that God won't keep His promise to deliver them! Convincing men that their failure secretly proves that God is not for them, but is in fact their enemy waiting to judge them - thus keeping them from turning to Him who is their Helper. Our enemy is a master strategist who has honed his craft over millennia. Don't be surprised then when you find yourself wallowing in his wiles - but don't for a second imagine that this wallowing is supposed to be normative. The defeated, suffocating Christian, however common in this present age, is not the intended Christian norm.

It is imperative then, that you, Christian, who are struggling in sin and unbelief, learn from this passage the way of escape that God Himself points you to. The encouragement given to the Israelites was that they should remember the great works of God, works done on their behalf in the past - works that testify to the fact that God is for them, and not against them, and thereby renew their trust in God.

The cure for that sense of hopelessness, that sense that you will never overcome sin - is to renew your trust in God. Meditate of what God has done, and what God says He will do and is doing, and soon your trust will not rest in the miry clay of what seems likely, but in the anything-is-possible-for-Him glory of God who is at work in you to will and to do His good pleasure.

Listen: Typically we fail in this because we are more persuaded by our guilt, shame, and self loathing, than we are by the love of God, His promises, and His faithfulness. My brothers, this ought not to be.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:37 AM   3 comment(s)
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Thought for the day: Thursday
Thought: It should be a criminal offense to hijack the "back" button on a browser so that when you click on it to back out of a page, you end up reloading the same page all over again (ad infinitum). I hate it when I follow a link into some page that I don't want to be on, but can't back out of because they hijacked the back button. And you hate it too.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:46 AM   7 comment(s)
 
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