H  O  M  E          
Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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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.
My complete profile...
The Buzz

Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich

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

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

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

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

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Friday, December 30, 2005
You Supply the Caption...(-I-)
Since Marc over at Purgatorio is going through his mid-blog-crisis, I decided that a good way to cap off this year would be to blatantly rip off the "You supply the caption" post:

posted by Daniel @ 4:15 PM   16 comment(s)
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Do You Love Your Spouse?
If you are not married, imagine that you are for a moment. Imagine what it would be like to have a spouse that actually lived to please you. I mean really! He or she would listen to every word you had to say, thoughtfully and carefully, in order to know you better - so that he or she could love you more perfectly.

You meet your spouse after a day of work, and your spouse has anticipated your desires, perhaps bringing home some Oriental cuisine, or perhaps cooking up your favourite meal.

Your time together begins with your spouse asking about your day, your needs, your thoughts - not that she or he is some sort of servile, self-seeking flatterer - but because he or she takes genuine joy in your life. His or her day is enriched because you are the person he or she wants to spend time with. Your spouse has spent the time away from you thinking about you, and anticipating the time you would be together.

Consequently, there is nothing your spouse would refuse you - unless it was something that would ultimately be bad for you. Anything therefore that you ask of your spouse is done without grudge or guile. In fact, he or she has that wonderful ability to take joy in satisfying your requests.

This sort of thing infiltrates every aspect of your marriage, from the bedroom to the laundry, your spouse is your constant companion, support, and friend, and this admiration and care are the reflection of a deep, all consuming love that your spouse has for you. You are the focus of his or her life.

Okay, we can stop imagining now. None of us really has that sort of relationship with our own spouse (at least not consistently). Some of us are even disgusted at the thought of having such a relationship: we feel suffocated, intimidated, or even put off because we feel an expectation that we ought to reciprocate their doting behavior, and frankly, our suspicion is that this person is only so doting because they expect you to be as doting. If they expect this level of attention, we quickly label them as needy - and even psychologically damaged. Even if the person doesn't expect reciprocation, that sort of behavior strikes us as over-the-top, and (at best) unhealthy. We ask with indignity, "Good gravy! Where is your self worth?"

This ought to be a pretty transparent illustration. We, the church, are the bride of Christ. And the love illustrated above is the level of love we ought to be giving our Lord and Savior. I pause here to mention that this isn't a "here's the truth now fly straight" sort of exhortation. The reality is that we cannot dote on Christ like that unless we love him like that - and expecting someone to dote without love is expecting someone to "pretend to love."

As always, the problem is that there is nothing in our flesh that redeems us. We simply don't have it in us to love God, we never did. If we could love God in our own strength, then on judgment day we could look at everyone who didn't love God and boast about our own love - since the might of our own will generated it, and theirs did not.

I point that out because some of you reading might not yet comprehend what it means to be able to boast. You might be thinking that whatever love you have for God came from the well of your own will - you chose to love God - and when you think like that you are saying that you have something to boast about, since you have done what was right in your own power, and others have not. Scripture shuts up that argument however, because we read clearly that men have nothing to boast about before God. Even the love with which we love God is a gift - it was poured into us through the Holy Spirit.

So when we see ourselves lacking love, that is, when we have see that we have no desire to serve our Groom, we must diagnose the problem and not the symptom. What does the scripture say? He who is forgiven little, the same loves little.

The symptom: lack of love.

We might identify the symptom and begin to earnestly pray about it - Dear God, please, oh please cause me to love you more!! But God doesn't (usually) answer that prayer by hitting you on the head with a magic wand and SHAZAM! - you suddenly find your Grinch-like heart expanding three sizes in a day. No. What happens is you pray, God hears your prayer and begins to prepare you to receive the answer - and when you are ready, God opens your understanding.

In this case, you realize that the reason you love God so little is because you are not meditating on what sort of a horrible sinner you truly are. You have let your sin become so light in your own thinking that there is no real remorse over it. God has forgiven you, so you need not dwell upon what a wretch you are (that is, you lack humility) and because of this lack, you receive no grace (God gives grace to the humble you know...). The gift that God gives is His fellowship - the man who knows how unworthy he is, is far more thankful and loving than the man who has forgotten how wretched he is.

"Why don't we love the Lord?" we ask. Because over time we have made our sins small in our own thinking - and in so doing we have proportionately belittled the perceived grace that God bestows on us. Our comprehension of exactly how much love God is exerting moment by moment upon us as sinners is darkened to the point of blindness. We start to imagine that God hates us when we sin, and loves us when we are good - we fall out of grace, and find ourselves again trying to please God through the law.

Oh I know some of you (because I know my own heart) have the head knowledge - we know that God loves us apart from our sin, etc. But our hearts are deceived in spite of our head knowledge. We have only the most loose union between what we know to be true and what we actually put our trust in. It is a grave error to assume that head knowledge of the truth is equivalent to trusting in that truth.

Applied to this scenario, having a head knowledge that I am a sinner (usually in a very generic and general sense) is not the same as being entirely and personally certain that -I- am "the" sinner.

My encouragement this morning, brothers and sisters - come before the Lord in all honesty - pray earnestly that God would show you what a wretch you truly are. If you shy away from that, you are only shooting yourself in the foot. We can cry about our own "lack of love" all we want. Some of us will be content to simply acknowledge that we are unloving, and continue to ask God to do something about that; some won't even go -that- far. But some of you reading will be truly hungry to know the Lord, truly hungry to live obedient lives, and so sick of poor Christian witness and conduct that we will be willing to go the the throne - and ask the Lord to open our eyes - to search us and try us - to reveal to us every wicked way in our miserable hearts - knowing full well that this, and only this, is the path to greater love. We have to see ourselves for what we are before we can appreciate how much we are forgiven. We will only ever love God in proportion to our understanding of how much God forgives us.

So go the the throne, take nothing with you - and see for yourself what God sees. If you are willing to look at your prayerlessness, your rebellion and treason - your self will and your hypocrisy; if you are willing to go down into the pit of your soul with the light of truth before God, and see what God sees - you will throw yourself on God anew. I promise you that.

posted by Daniel @ 9:17 AM   36 comment(s)
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Celebrate the Savior!
The standardized (but highly inaccurate) caucasian baby JesusI would like to share one thought with everyone this Christmas season regarding the caliber of your Christian witness this year.

Has the Lord used you to bring anyone to Himself this year? Has it been like a river of living water flowing out of your innermost being and into others? Has it been more like a trickle from an old hand pump, even though you have been pumping hard all year... Or maybe you haven't even been pumping this year?

"Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that" - Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Volume 34, Sermon #2019)

Spurgeon was a great soul winner, so when we read this quote (out of the context in which it was made - as it is often quoted -) it seems to say, "If you are not out there winning souls, you are not saved." Spurgeon wasn't trying to make -that- point, but others have used this quote to that end.

Spurgeon was actually defending the practice of teaching men to look to their own salvation before they looked to the salvation of others. Some were criticizing him for this, suggesting that teaching a man to look after his own salvation before he goes out and witnesses to another was teaching in fact teaching men to be spiritually selfish. Spurgeon's reaction to that charge was to demonstrate that the moment a person is genuinely saved, that same person is consequently saved from this sort of spiritual selfishness. This is where the quote came in - Spurgeon made the point that when one is genuinely saved, one is typically saved not only from God's wrath but also (practically speaking) from this very same "hardness of heart" and "carelessness about others" that was being described. This quote, in context is therefore speaking of that softness of heart, and genuine care for others that precedes from a heart in which God has poured out his Spirit.

I would like to expand on that thought a bit.

In some churches evangelism is a carnal work - that is, it is something that the congregation is pressured to do. I am not talking about exhortations, now, but door to door sales - that sort of evangelism where the gospel becomes the product, that the congregation is enlisted to sell to their community. In this scenario, a handful of self-avowed (and no doubt well meaning) "faithful" witnesses are the "cowboys" that prod and motivate the "herd" into doing evangelism "western" style. And not unlike cold call sales - the mentality is a numbers game - if you give the gospel to a hundred, you are likely going to get five nibbles, and maybe one bite. Such that the whole "great commission" becomes a carnal masquerade - human effort, dressed up and labeled divine.

Some would argue that even carnal effort is better than no effort, since such efforts can have (albeit limited) results - indicating, as is argued, a blessing from God upon the effort. But that is misunderstanding - God has blessed the gospel, and even if the devil went door to door preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen - some people would be saved, because God blesses the gospel. For some that justifies any sort of pragmatic approach - even fudging scripture a little to make it fit (I became all things to all men... etc.)

But we ought to be honest - I mean brutally honest. That is where true growth begins. If we don't feel like "witnessing" - either what we are being asked to do is not the "witness" the bible speaks of, or there is something wrong with us.

In Acts 1:8 we read, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (emphasis added of course). This isn't a command, "GO and BE my witnesses!" - it is simply a statement that describes what is going to happen - "when the Holy Spirit comes, you will be witnesses" Not unlike what Christ had to say to Peter, not "I COMMAND you to BECOME a fisher of men", but "I will MAKE you a fisher of men"

Remember what Christ said in Luke 10:2, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Note the emphasis I added? Do men send themselves? No. God sends them. Jesus didn't command the disciples here to go into the harvest - He commanded them to pray that God would send people into the harvest.

Likewise, recall the famous words of Isaiah's following his equally famous vision in Isaiah 6:8 - Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: " Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

I want to pull these thoughts together so that what I am saying is clear. Not every believer has a deep hunger for souls - you probably don't. That isn't to say that you're not ready and willing to share you faith should someone ask you, nor is that to say that you're ashamed of your faith. It is simply that your hunger for the lost is not of earth shaking caliber.

I believe the first thing a real soul winner ever does is to get honest with God about their own lack of love. The next thing they do is they ask God to give them a love for the lost. We often hear preachers put the emphasis on *ME* in, Here am I send me - but the emphasis ought to be on send - Here am I, --SEND-- me. In that prayer is the acknowledgment of David - "...uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You." When we ask God to send us, we are praying for divine empowerment, for genuine enablement - not merely for boldness to do something that we find distasteful - we are praying that God would work a wonderful desire in us so that we are eager to enter into the harvest.

Do you see the difference? Not going into the harvest in our own strength, but being sent by God into the harvest - enabled and empowered. If the thought of witnessing is a hard and heavy burden - you are not entering into it under the yoke of Christ - because his yoke is light and his burden easy. If the yoke you are under is heavy and hard, it isn't Christ's burden, but something man has put on you.

This coming year, pray that the Lord would send workers into the harvest - pray that he would send you. And trust that when he does, he will make you love it - when serving God becomes an odious chore - you are doing it in the flesh. The only reason people serve God in the flesh is because they think that is how it is done. It isn't. God has to be served in the Spirit, and if any of us lacks, we must ask, and God gives.

Get honest with God about your witness this year - if you are afraid of men - confess it and seek grace for repentance - then ask God to SEND you into the harvest. If you are unloving; if you don't want to witness because you are lazy; whatever is keeping you from bringing God's lambs into the fold - confess it and repent as God grants you grace, but all the while beg the Lord to SEND YOU into His harvest.

Have a blessed holy day.
posted by Daniel @ 8:44 AM   5 comment(s)
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Work Gift Exchange...

If you work in an office, you are probably already familiar with the Christmas Gift Exchange at work. The idea is that everyone buys a gift no more or less than some specified value (Say $10-$15), then wraps them up and places them anoymously under the work Christmas tree. During the "Office Christmas Party" everyone picks a number out of a hat and the gift exchange begins.

The rules vary but typically the person with the lowest number begins by selecting a gift from the gift pile. Everyone sees what the gift it, and the person who drew the next highest number is now given an opportunity to either open a new gift, or take the already opened gift. If the person opts to open a new gift the round is over - but if the person takes a previously opened gift from another individual - that individual is entitled to either open a new gift, or take another gift in exchange for the one taken. Typically, you "can't tag the butcher back" - that is if someone takes your gift, you cannot take it back from them as your turn, but must take either a new gift or a gift from someone else. There are many variations on the theme, but some further restrict the exchange such that a gift cannot change hands more than three times in any given round.

The end result is that those who were fortunate enough to select "good gifts" are very much involved in the exchanging - passing gifts back and forth each round, as everyone vies for the "best gift scenario" their particular positional start will allow.

This otherwise joyous time is often the scene of great stress for those who have the misfortune of selecting a gift that no one in their right mind would like.

Having played the game for many years now, I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn't work.

Gifts That Don't Work

1. Themed Ceramics:

I don't care who you are, and I don't care how cute your ceramic little thing-a-ma-jig is, these are boat anchors in a gift exchange. If you are a guy, the other guys in the exchange will look at you with a mixture of relief and pity - relief that they didn't get stuck with that boring "do-nuthin" ceramic door stop, and pity because they know that your pretty much out of the picture from here on in. If you get saddled with one of these, try and look sad whenever one of the girls looks at you. It was likely a girl who bought it, and she might see your disdain, and take it from you out of remorse that her gift was not well received. This is your only hope. If you are a girl, maybe you like this stuff, I can't see why, but whatever.

2. Candles

Colored wax with a string attached to it. Be still my heart! Here again is another door stopper gift. It won't inspire any of the guys (who will avoid it like the plague) though if it is a scented set, you might be able to pawn it off on some of the elderly ladies - still, this gift is more or less DOA.

3. Cookie Jars/Jar sets

. No one wants this ... No one. Why do people buy them - no, why do people make them??

4. Soup bowl sets

Around this time of the year, retail marketers collect all sorts of dorky things that cannot be sold otherwise, and put them in a carton/box with a few bags of dried vegetables, wrap the works in cellophane and accent it with a big bow and - Viola! Suddenly these bowls that nobody in the known history of the earth has ever wanted - are now being purchased in droves by the $10-15$ gift exchange crowd. There is a reason they put these things in boxes at the front of the store - it is so that unimaginative and boring people who don't really care what they buy can more easily find something perfectly devoid of all personality to give as a gift in an office gift exchange. Stay away from these.

5. Overly Specialized Items

Nuff said.

6. Anything "Crafty"

I don't care how gifted you are, and how much love you poured into your pipe-cleaner creation - it is not going to travel around the gift circle. The one who opens this gift is going to turn into a spectator pretty quick - because no one is going to take the gift from them - they won't even get pity from the person who made it.

I could go on, but the bottom line is that some gifts are just not interesting enough for anyone to want them badly enough to take them in a gift exchange.

On the other hand, some gifts are hot commodities:
Gifts That DO Work

1. Green Laser pointers

While red laser pointers are passe, green laser pointers are cool, though a mixed set of red and green would be best (and not just for the cool and obvious "Star Wars" good (green) vs. evil (red) connotations. These would certainly move around the circle a bit.

2. Pocket knives/multi-tools

Again - this is going to move. The moment it is opened, all the guys in the room will collectively move three inches closer to the opened item - drawn inexorably closer by it's radiating coolness.

3. USB stick

You can never have too many of these. Can you say hotcakes??

4. A Sextant

It doesn't matter that nobody knows how to use it - what matters is that it is over-the-top cool. This gift will not only move around for the whole exchange - whoever goes home with it has to be careful in the parking lot. Seriously.

5. A Brass (Collapsible) Telescope

Another sure winner. The whole brass telescope genre is hardly tapped - and these move through the crowd like crazy - everyone wants it (especially those sitting on the sidelines with their sad little ceramic santa cookie jars that looked so promising when wrapped up).

6. Dental picks

This is more of a proof of concept gift - while it may only move around three or four times even dental picks are more useful than a ceramic cookie jar...

Anyway, you get the picture. This isn't scientifically proven information here, and there might be a teeny little male bias - but for the most part I think if you are going to do a Christmas gift exchange at the office this year - this is solid, solid advice that you cannot afford to overlook.

Feel free to offer you own do's and don'ts.

posted by Daniel @ 2:25 PM   7 comment(s)
Monday, December 19, 2005
Mary was human.
Mary, blessed, but human.I was born and raised a Catholic - baptized as a baby, and made to pray to icons, say the rosary, and as confused about justification as those who were teaching me.

Catholicism and reformed evangelical Christianity both believe that Adam's sin tainted the human race forever. The bible doesn't describe the mechanism by which original sin functions - that is, it doesn't say that our souls pick up a taint, or that perhaps our genetics pass along some predisposition to sin - it merely describes the effect of original sin - that sin came into the world (and consequently death came into the world through sin) and that because of sin in the world death spread to all men because all men have sinned thereafter. Through Adam's sin therefore, all men die, that is, as sin reigns - death reigns (c.f. Romans 5:12-21).

The distilled understanding of the verse is that there is "none righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10) - the rest of the doctrine, whether Catholic or Reformed - is a human construction used to explain how it works.

The Catholics define "original sin" as an hereditary "stain" which we are personally born with. It was passed on progenitically (from parent to child - generation to generation) from Adam to us. The stain itself is described as a lack of "sanctifying grace."

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Catholic dogma, "sanctifying grace" is regarded in a practical sense, as something that is possessed by one's soul when one is in a "state of grace." Anyone who is in a "perfect state of grace" at the time of their demise will go directly to heaven, anyone whose soul lacks grace entirely will go to hell, and anyone in between goes to purgatory. This is a greatly simplified explanation - my intent is not to define Catholicism, but to provide enough background information that their take on original sin is comprehensible. Original sin (according to the Catholic understanding) is described as the absence of this "sanctifying grace."

According to Rome, Adam lost this capacity in his own soul, and passed it on to all his children, who passed it on to their own children.

Reformed theology teaches something called "Federal Headship" - the idea is taken from the interaction between Abraham and Melchizedek. When Melchizedek blessed Abraham he was inadvertently blessing everyone who would come from Abraham's loins - including Levi - since all of Abraham's offspring were present in that sense when Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Since the greater blesses the lesser, and it was Melchizedek who was blessing Levi (through Abraham), the author of Hebrews reasoned that Melchizedek's ministry was superior to the Levitical priesthood, and therefore Christ, who is a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, has a ministry that is superior to that of the Levitical priesthood.

Federal Headship builds upon this idea. In 1 Corinthians 15:22 we hear Paul say that "in Adam" all die; Reformed Theology interprets this to mean that since all the human race was in Adam at the time Adam sinned - that "all sinned in Adam" - that is, that everyone born from Adam is culpable for Adam's sin. In this way, we are all born condemned by Adam's sin, which is federally imputed to us such that even if we were to live sinless lives - we would still go to hell on account of Adam's sin.

This contradicts scriptures such as Deuteronomy 24:16 (“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.") and Ezekiel 18:20 ("The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.") Likewise verses such as Jeremiah 31:30a ("But everyone will die for his own iniquity..."), 2 Chronicles 25:4, 2 Kings 14:6 echo the teaching. Some might argue that verses such as Exodus 34:7 ("keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”) show that sometimes God punishes the children for the sins of the parents - but such a position is indefensible - the verses that speak of condemnation agree - no one is condemned for the sins of another. The verses that speak about God "visiting the iniquity" of the fathers upon the sons etc. is not speaking in the condemnational sense, but rather in the temporal sense. An abusive father typically passes on that sinful behavior to his children - the idea being that our sin habits affect not only us - but are visited upon our children.

Either way, that is a digression - the reformed position is that original sin is also passed along from one generation to the next.

Both the Catholic and the Reformed positions on original sin stem from Augustine's battle with Pelagius over Augustine's published prayer "Grant what you command, and command what you desire." Pelagius was beside himself because Augustine was saying that men do not have the ability to obey God, and Pelagius believed that it would not be just for God to command anything unless men had the ability to obey the command. Augustine's argument was that men still had free will, but lacked moral liberty. The Catholics worked that out practically as the soul lacking "sanctifying grace" the reformers worked it out that men are born totally depraved being already culpable for Adam's sin at the moment of conception.

So where does Mary fit into all of this?

While scripture states that Mary was a virgin, it does not teach that Mary was sinless (In Luke 1:46 Mary calls God her Savior - if she were sinless, she would hardly require a savior, since her sinless life would offer her no peril from which to be saved.) But if, according to Catholic doctrine, sin passes from mother to child - then we have a problem. Jesus would inherit Mary's sin.

Clearly, Jesus did not inherit Mary's sin, so either the doctrine of original sin had to be re-thought, or a solution (apology) had to be made. In this case, the Catholic Church went the route of apology. Mary, they teach, was sinless. That means that not only was Mary not deprived of "sanctifying grace" - but from the moment she was born, until she gave birth to Christ - God (in a one-time act of profound grace) kept Mary from sinning. This is called the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception - that is that Mary was born without "original sin" and was kept sinless at least until the birth of Christ.

It is a shame, according to Catholic theology, that Mary was given this grace and not Adam - since had God been on the ball back then we could have avoided this whole sin thing altogether (a notion which when pondered demonstrates just how ridiculous the immaculate conception of Mary really is!)

Some reformed apologists insist that original sin is passed through the father - again, in a "federal headship" sort of way - that it is your father who passes Adam's sin to you, such that Jesus, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit did not inherit sin. Of all the theological guesses, this one is perhaps the most tidy, but it still leaves some questions unanswered.

Nowadays many answer the question of why Jesus was born without sin in this way - God didn't use any of Mary's DNA in creating Christ's incarnate body - that is, Mary was only the mother of Christ in the incubational sense - Christ was not her biological child, she was only the surrogate mother. But this is a rationalization that falls apart when we examine the scriptures. The bible speaks of Mary as the mother of Christ - and of Christ as the seed of David. If Mary were simply a surrogate, Christ would have no legitimate claim to his required heredity.

All that however, is an aside. The point is that Mary was human. She was not sinless as some believe, but a sinner. In bringing Mary the news that she had been elected by God to be the mother of the Messiah, Gabriel addresses Mary thus, "Hail, favoured one..." Catholic apologists argue that this greeting (which they translate as "Hail [Mary], the one who is full of [sanctifying] grace" - meaning that Mary was sinless. As far as stretches go - this is a quite a stretch. Not hearing, someone say, "Bless you" and interpreting it to mean, "God has kept you sinless." Nevertheless - the whole idea can't be taught from scripture unless you allow such stretches.

The reality is, according to what we know from Mary's own testimony, Mary was a sinner, who in no way earned the right to be the Mother of Christ. God elected her to that appointment, not because she was sinless, since "sinlessness" was never a prerequisite, rather the sign was that she would be virgin. If Mary was sinless - surely such a thing would have shown up in Old Testament prophesy, and it doesn't.

Mary was a sinner, blessed in this way by God - she was given the privilege of being Christ's incarnate mother. When Mary died, she went to judgment just as all of us will (it is appointed once for men to die, and after that the judgment!).

Is it right therefore to pray to Mary?

Of course not. She cannot intercede on anyone's behalf any more than any other Christian who has ever died. It is proper to regard her as blessed amongst women - but not to pray to her, nor to assign her any spiritual functions that rest solely in Christ. (Christ is the only mediator between God and man. Christ is the only redeemer, the only advocate, and the Holy Spirit the only comforter and helper!).

Mary has no role in the Christian life, other than as an historical footnote in the story of Christ.

posted by Daniel @ 9:07 AM   19 comment(s)
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Follow your heart?
If I could distill the post modern message into one slogan, it might be "Follow your heart!"

If you have never heard the term Postmodernism, or maybe you have heard it bounced around but you're not certain of its meaning - it is the label given to the dominant philosophy of our day, sometimes it is called by a more descriptive name, Ethical Relativism. Ethical relativism teaches that morality is relative to the norms of the culture you happen to find yourself in. That is, whether an action is right or wrong depends on the moral norms of the society in which it is practiced. What is morally acceptable in one culture, may be morally reprehensible in another therefore it is reasoned that morality itself is relative to the culture one is in.

Defining morality as a cultural rather than an objective standard, introduces the idea that good and evil are not absolute, but relative.

I believe that one of the reasons this particular philosophy is so widely unchallenged in our culture is because it knits so well with our personal liberties as expressed in our legal system. We are (more or less) free to do whatever we please, as long as it doesn't impose upon someone else's liberty.

Things have changed even in my own lifetime. When I was young homosexuality was considered a perversion, there was no swearing, nudity or sex (implied or otherwise)on television. If you said a cuss word in school, you got the strap.

Today things are different. Homosexuality is no longer considered a perversion -- now it is an alternative lifestyle that is glamorized in the media, and taught in the public schools. Failure to get on board with the "new morality" brands you as bigoted and intolerant, and if you think there is too much sex, nudity, or swearing on television - you are a prude. If you go so far as to cancel your cable subscription because you think TV is a corrupting influence - you've obviously joined a cult, or you are way over the top in your religious zeal, and even people in your own church will think there is something wrong with you.

The philosophy of our day is follow you heart, so long as it doesn't offend anyone else.

Since the days of Moses worldliness has been a problem amongst God's people. Not just by loving the world and the things in the world, but also by being accepting of worldly values and philosophies. How many times did the Israelites suffer for adopting the values of the world? It continues today - the philosophies of the world seep into the church as people attempt to wed the church with the philosophy of the moment forming a sort of deism.

The latest flirtation with the world comes in the form of ethical relativism. I call it the "sincerity gospel" - the idea that you get to heaven no matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere in what you believe. Since truth itself is considered relative, the important thing is that you are true to what you believe - or said another way - that you follow you heart.

Scripture doesn't portray the heart as a particularly good moral guide:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick... - Jeremiah 17:9a

Nor are we instructed to follow our heart as the Holy Spirit speaking through Jeremiah makes plain when speaking of the error of the false prophets:

Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, 'It shall be well with you'; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, 'No disaster shall come upon you.'" - Jeremiah 23:16-17

The characterization of one who follows one's heart is that of a hardened and stubborn sinner.

My advice? Don't follow your heart, follow the Lord.

Not that I wait around for voices or impressions from the Lord - that isn't how I follow the Lord. Psalm 32:9 says, "Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you." - God doesn't want to micro-manage us - he wants us to know him so that we can act in accordance with that knowledge.

Bottom line? Don't buy into the culture of our day - ethical relativism assumes that everyone is wrong, that way anyone can be right - and that stuff is poison.
posted by Daniel @ 9:16 AM   11 comment(s)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Common Knowledge?
I thought it might be fun to compile a list of those common knowledge things that everyone seems to know is true, but are (in fact) false. Therefore, in no particular order I present to you, the list:

  1. The Iterative Bible: Many people believe today that the bible was arbitrarily slapped together hundreds of years after Christ, by some cloistered Monks, and since that time it has been revised many times - each revision being a new iteration based upon the former iteration - such that the text we have today is entirely removed from the original text - and even were that not so - the texts we have were just arbitrarily chosen from a bunch of manuscripts of equal merit.

  2. Homosexuality is Genetic/biological: Many people today believe that homosexuality is not an immoral choice, but rather is a genetically determined condition.

  3. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God.

  4. 10% of the population is homosexual.

  5. Evolution

  6. You will get a muscle cramp if you swim after eating

  7. Chewing gum sits in your stomach for years

I could do more I suppose, but I wouldn't mind hearing from others too. What are some false things that are accepted as true according to "common knowledge" that you are aware of?
posted by Daniel @ 10:34 AM   23 comment(s)
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
If you are like me, you noticed that one day Jeremy Weaver's blog, Doxoblogy suddenly had a neatly rendered, but somewhat discordant, logo header. To be sure, I thought nothing of it until only a few moments ago when I found an interesting website that lets you create headers and whatnot like that. Not that "nova" isn't nice, but I think cool metal or perhaps felt, or even something else might have been nice too.

I really liked Marc Heinrich's hyper post today, and C-Train is still working out the bugs in his new template.

The other Dan is getting in touch with his sensitive side, and Frank Turk is experimenting with pretty purples in his comic motif (Note - not too many of us could pull off purple - well done Frank.)

Jim - a newcomer to the blogosphere, is vying for one of Marc's Indulgences with every post, while Jonathan Moorhead is loosing his head over similarities he sees between Islam and Judaism.

Phil Johnson lost his shades in New York - probably because it wasn't sunny out there like it is in CA.

And lastly, those of you who haven't already stopped in to congratulate Bazooka-Joe, you ought to stop in and do so.
posted by Daniel @ 4:07 PM   8 comment(s)
Monday, December 12, 2005
The faithful servant.
Servant Waiting At The Door...I was reading in Luke this morning, and I found that Luke 12:35-48 (the faithful servant vs. the evil servant) really spoke to me.

Now, I believe that one must be careful when one uses anthropomorphism in a spiritual context (for the sake of those who are new in the faith - or what have you.) When I say the text spoke to me, I do not mean to imply that I heard a voice, or something mysterious like that - I simply mean that I understood the text with greater clarity and application than I have yet understood it.

Previously, whenever I had read this text I relegated it to an "end times" sort of passage - to be sure, I have always heard it discussed in this way: We do not know the time of the second coming, therefore, since Christ might return at anytime, you should be occupied constantly so that if Christ should return today you will not be ashamed at his coming.

When I first began to read scripture, I was very weary about reading it incorrectly - you know, coming up with my own novel and bizarre take on what the text means, starting my own cult, and carrying on about how I and only I have understood scripture correctly in the last 2000 years. Well, okay, I wasn't really worried that it would go that far, but I was genuinely concerned that I understand scripture correctly. To that end, I always pray when I read, asking God to teach me and to keep me from error.

In that capacity, I was reading this passage this morning and, as I have said, this passage had always been understood by me in an eschatological end-times context.

This morning however; having read beforehand a few chapters out of Numbers, a few out of Jeremiah, and a couple of psalms; I came to the book of Luke with a certain mindset which (I believe) allowed me to see something I hadn't really noticed before.

Before I go on, I should spend some time explaining my hermeneutic the underlying principles by way I typically interpret scripture. I believe that spiritual truth is conveyed through scripture, such that a passage will convey one or more spiritual truths. I believe that a passage typically has one and only one contextual application, but the truth behind the passage can lend itself to many applications. For example, the passage that teaches that the ox that treads the grain should not be muzzled (in the immediate context) specifically teaches that the ox that treads the grain should be muzzled. The truth that is explored in this passage is directly applicable to that situation but, the truth that lies behind that instruction is also applicable in many situations. Paul exegetes explains it this way, "is it the oxen that God is concerned about or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes no doubt..." (1 Corinthians 9:9-10) Here we see that the text is a literal instruction regarding the muzzling of oxen who tread the grain, but the truth that is taught is applicable elsewhere.

So when I read scripture, I try and be sensitive, not only to the immediate context, but also to the possibility that there is a truth behind the context that is applicable elsewhere.

Now, back to the text. As I said, I have always regarded this text as primarily concerned with the second coming. That is because I had regarded the picture of the master going away and returning as being the thrusting thought in the passage. This morning however, for whatever reason, I understood it in a more practical way. I think that is because my focus was shifted from the absence/return to the alertness of the servant. When the focus shifts to the readiness of the servant, the "return of the master" becomes anything God asks you to do.

The idea being that the servant who actively expects God to require service from them today is going to be vigilant and therefore prepared when God does call on them (as it were). While our looking for the return of Christ is certainly proper, and this text no doubt speaks to that - it also teaches a practical truth - the servant who is expecting God to provide them an opportunity to minister (such as the servant expected his master to return, thus causing him to be vigilant in anticipation of the opportunity to minister to his Master by opening the door...), is far more likely to be prepared for a ministry opportunity than the one who doesn't expect (moment by moment) for his God to provide ministry opportunities.

The application in my own life is that I ought to be expecting God to provide ministry opportunities today - and every day. Scripture teaches this truth elsewhere of course, so it should be nothing new to the well-read believer, nevertheless, I was moved to see it in this text.
posted by Daniel @ 8:44 AM   11 comment(s)
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Anyone else following this?
Interview with Sam Waldron
posted by Daniel @ 7:31 PM   10 comment(s)
Is that -Me- ..?
Before I knew the Lord I remember hearing fiery preachers on the radio. I couldn't really appreciate what they were all worked up about. Why were these guys yelling at people? Were Christians hard of hearing?

When the Lord got a hold of me, and I began to listen to sermons as one who takes instruction, (rather than as a critic) I began to understand that they weren't yelling at people, they were simply full of passion. Well, some of them were, some were simply trying to affect that passion via volume/emphasis modulation in a very mechanical, obviously "put on" histrionic.

So it is with some horror that, having not thought about it for a long time, I one day noticed that as I preach I get pretty loud. For you people who have preached, I am not talking about the parts where you look at your notes - but the other times when suddenly you find yourself ten minutes into some tangent, having left behind that unassuming the little man you (only moments ago) happened to be - the one reading the notes - and are suddenly transformed into a person who, for all the world, seems like he is going to explode for all the passion being channeled through that thought you are currently expounding.

Like a man waking from sleep walking, who suddenly becomes aware that he is in his pajamas and not in bed - and it takes some time for his brain to piece it together - so too, sometimes when I am teaching I suddenly realize that someone has been playing with my volume control, because I am no longer reciting what I have to say, but I am delivering it like a singing telegram.

Now, I remember listening to John MacArthur preach on the radio when I first began to follow the Lord. I prayed, "Lord, please make me preach like that - with passion, conviction, and accuracy." I have thought better of that prayer since that time - not that I don't admire John MacArthur's style - I do - but that I have settled it in my Spirit that I don't want to preach like anyone else. God made me who I am, and my desire now is to preach as God would have me preach.

One of the things I struggle with, both in writing and in teaching, is not coming across as overly scholastic. One of the things that I have admired about truly brilliant men is that they talk on the same level as their audience without talking down to their audience.

I had a room-mate in University who, whenever he wrote, kept a thesaurus beside him and took every opportunity to replace simple words with more complex words - sacrificing simplicity for complexity in order to present an image to the reader that said, "I am highly educated, and have a profound enigmatical vocabulary." The entire university culture reminds me of what Paul had to say about the Athenians in Acts 17:21, "... [who] spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing." In this case they went one step further, and wanted to tell or hear some new thing in words chosen purposely to demonstrate the size of commodious nature of their vocabulary exalted vernacular.

I have always admired those writers who could communicate complex ideas in common language. God is like that. The NT could have been written in classical Greek - but it was written in Koine (the language used for shopping lists and recipes). So in my writing and in my speaking, I have made great efforts to keep my speech simple.

Not that I actually possess genius or hidden stores of brilliance - hardly - but that for me there is a temptation to pride. I love the written word, and a thought expressed well is a thing of beauty to me - and I can savor it as easily as one might savor the fragrance of new mown grass in the spring. So naturally I want everything I write to be beautiful.

There are two kinds of beauty in women- natural beauty - the woman who looks beautiful because she -is- beautiful, this is the sort of beauty that make-up cannot enhance - she is beautiful by God's design and not our own. Then their is the other kind of beauty - the beauty that comes from hair style, make-up, surgery, and did I mention make up? The kind of beauty no father likes his daughter to acquire.

The same is true of writing or speaking - there is a natural beauty, and then there is a polished style that can pass for beauty, and the temptation is always to go for the polished style. The large words, the old archaic erstwhile words from a bygone era, the $20 words that everyone has to look up - how we desire pine for these words to add color to what we have to say. That is the temptation.

Not that colorful speech is evil - hardly - but affected color, is a lot like faking an accent. I love an Irish accent brogue, but there is something fake disingenuous about affecting one in order to sound pretty.

So in the pulpit, and in my writings, I strive to keep it simple, and keep it honest - which is why I, when I find myself filled with a passion induced volume in the pulpit, I have noticed it like a man waking from sleep - huh, what I am doing yelling at these people? Not that I am catching myself being fake -that isn't it - but that I am catching myself full of passion, and perhaps worried that I am coming off as fake (oh pride - how you sneak into everything...Sigh...)

There is a wonderful scene in Star Trek (the original series) where Kirk, Spock, and a few others are in a hallway when some alien entity zaps them. They are all in the hallway, and hear this noise that nowadays wouldn't even be used in a toy car alarm - but they all grab their ears, and do the "intense discomfort pass out" scene. What always makes that scene stand out in my mind is that Spock, being a Vulcan, is supposed to have this ridiculous metabolism, strength, and stamina etc. but like a good actor, Leonard Nemoy takes the direction, grabs his pointy ears, and drops like a bag of potatoes. Kirk on the other hand is still wallowing in his throes after everyone else is down (what stamina!), hunched over in the classic Kirkian hunch (you know the one where his elbows are tucked into his grown, and his sweaty face is looking up wide eyed in pretendfaux bewilderment and pain - his hands spread splayed out like a finger-flower, and then he stumbles this way, bangs into that wall, finally, gets to his knees - only to rise up once under some sheer-will-power driven mania, but pausing there in mock excruciation, he finally succumbs - wait - one last clawing motion as he drags himself a foot or more down the corridor, then he collapses.

No one wants to preach like a "William Shatner death" scene, but it seems many of us like to write like one. It would be okay if we lived like that, picture me asking my wife to pass the milk at the breakfast table <Shatner-over-the-top-ham-acting-voice>Pass....me.. theMilk..It's.. mymilk---It's.. MY... milk...</Shatner-over-the-top-ham-acting-voice>

Okay, okay, I sound like I am complaining about others now - I am not. This isn't about you okay? It is about me. (How can I say that and not sound self absorbed??) I suppose this is just another one of those "this is where I am right now" posts that Frank Turk hates so much.

My point is that I seem to have a real passion that only comes out when I get to talking about God. I have never seen it come out for sports, or entertainment - not even when I praise my own children. So when I find myself filled with that passion, it makes me pause and wonder. Just thinking about it now - I get that same passion when I share the gospel with a ready heart, but I don't yell when I am doing that.

posted by Daniel @ 6:36 AM   7 comment(s)
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Blog updates
Spud Vader!Okay, I have been fiddling with the template again - most specifically, I have included the ability summarize the post, and allow for the "read more" style expansion links to the full page.

The thing about that is that for some reason the posts that were in place before I initiated this change are no longer showing up on the main page with any comments in them - in fact, if you click on the comments, the new page opens to let you comment, and the comments are all there - but if you had posted prior to the changes, the count doesn't register your comments - and furthermore, if you link to the post, it doesn't show the comments either - you actually have to make a comment to see them.

Anyway - that is my fault, I tried to go back and add the feature to older posts, and I should have just gone with a clean slate.

Live and learn.
posted by Daniel @ 6:03 PM   12 comment(s)
CoastingIn any given bike ride, after building up some steam, one will often stop peddling for a while and allow their momentum to carry them, this is called "coasting."

The experienced rider doesn't coast very often - usually coasting and braking happen at the same time - that is, the only time an experienced rider bothers to stop peddling is when they are coming to a stop.

There are times however, (particularly when a strong wind is blowing against you) when even an experienced rider begins to exhaust his or her strength, and begins to coast here and there in order to conserve energy.

Perhaps a better definition of coasting ...would be to stop putting any effort into moving ahead.

Coasting is also something that Christians are inclined to do when they begin to feel exhaustion from their efforts. They short shrift their prayer time, and their time in God's word. They no longer go to the throne of grace with the "little things" - and put plainly, they stop putting a lot of effort into their walk with the Lord.

To be clear on this point, Christianity isn't a cakewalk. Jesus didn't rest on his being sinless as though being without sin was what it was all about. Not that sin is tolerable or something we can overlook, but that even if we were to live in sinless perfection, we wouldn't be Christ-like until we gave ourselves entirely to the ministry of God.

It is a small but important distinction, many of us pursue sinlessness in the hope that by being less sinful we will be more pleasing to God. This is what the Pharisees thought at least, and since they couldn't actually keep the law, they interpreted the law so that at least their own interpretation of it was keep-able. They didn't give themselves to the ministry of God, they gave themselves to a form of pride - personal righteousness. They were trying to earn favor with God, and actually imagined that they had done so. It must have really been a slap in the face for Christ to teach that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.

Some people are obsessed with cleaning - they are endlessly cleaning their homes and refuse to have anyone visit because they are ashamed at the mess - not that the house is untidy - just that it isn't perfect. This is a sort of pride, but it is also the picture of how some believers focus on sin - they believe that they are useless in ministry until they have achieved a sort of sinless state.

Not that they have written out a thesis to that effect - if you were to ask them, they might not be able to articulate the thought - but if you spoke with them for a while, specifically diagnosing what is going on in their lives, you will find (in these people at least) the reason for their lack of ministry is that they are too busy trying to be perfect. They are never at rest because they don't understand what it means to take Christ's yoke, and so they are trying to yoke themselves to Christ through perfection, rather than accept Christ's yoke of grace.

The Spirit within us is going to sour or love of sin, and that will produce an effect in the life of the sinner. We need to trust the Spirit to do that - not that we turn that into an antinomian style liberty, but that we are careful to keep that from being our primary focus. Our focus mustn't be on ourselves and how sinful we are - our focus must be on Christ our God and King.

Imagine yourself in the throne room of a great king. You are given a spotlessly clean robe that covers you tip to toe in order to present yourself. You put it on and enter. The king is about to speak with you but you are distracted because earlier that day you spilled chocolate ice cream on the white shirt that you are wearing under the robe. So you pull your hands in your sleeves, and start rubbing at the stain. The king waits patiently, and you just stay there all day rubbing at the stain. It never dawns on you that the king knows the stain is there and that this is the very reason he gave you a spotless robe to wear - your focus is on trying to make yourself presentable to the king - and in so doing you ignore the efficacy of the robe the king gave you to wear.

I am of course talking about being clothed in Christ before God. We must learn to trust that our standing before God the father is in Christ and only in Christ - we can only present ourselves to God "in" Christ, because we will never be clean enough outside of Christ. We come by faith.

Again, this is not to suggest that we can sin all we want and expect God to fellowship with us just because we are in Christ. Our standing is in Christ, but our walk is either in the spirit or in the flesh. When we are in the Spirit we have access to God through Christ, and when we are in the flesh we do not.

Which brings us back to the idea of coasting.

I testify to everyone reading this blog that I have had deeper times in the Lord in the past than I have had in the recent past. I know more about the Lord now than ever I have, and sadly I know more about my self now than ever in the past. The business of life, church, and mounting obligations have squeezed me. I used to have enough free time that spending time with God was not a sacrifice - it just fit into my schedule. But as I involved myself in the ministry, and in my family, and in accepting whatever obligations I submitted myself to - my "free time" disappeared, and suddenly I found that what was once effortless and purchased with little currency (devotional time in prayer and studying of scripture) was becoming expensive, such that my devotional time came at the sacrifice of sleep, leisure, or even other ministries.

At first I didn't notice the "squeeze" - and then it was just something heavy feeling - like wearing spiritual "lead boots" - but over time I began to notice that I wasn't reading the word as much, and my prayer time was beginning to be awkward. Even knowing something was afoot didn't help much - I had so much on my plate that I didn't have time for self examination. I was riding into the wind, and the effort began to tire me.

Over this past week, I pieced it together - I had been coasting - resting in the momentum I have built up previously - it was easy to worship the Lord when it came at no real cost to me - but when God turned the heat up, my truest heart began to show itself. I wasn't as sold out to God as it had seemed - that knowledge bummed me out long enough that yesterday, because of some business with the church, I suddenly realized I can't coast along like this and expect to be effective in the work of the Lord. So, as much as I was able, I repented - and determined again to start peddling.

That means that I will be posting a bit less than I have been lately, but hopefully what I do post will say more.

God bless.
posted by Daniel @ 7:15 AM   3 comment(s)
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
You may notice that I have a new member on my blogroll - Jim over at Faith Classics.

Stop by and say hi to Jim - I expect to see some good stuff coming from his blog.
posted by Daniel @ 1:36 PM   3 comment(s)
Monday, December 05, 2005

Twas twixt the tweed n' twinkle-briar,
where fast stood he that fatted friar
neath sable ether,
twain field n' sky,
below that silver autumn's eye,
silent neath that twilight's choir,
twixt, tweed n' weed n' twinkle-briar,
hoary head inclined
twain sky n' field,
In mire lo the old knees kneeled,
Yea dawn did find him in the mire
twixt tweed n' weed n' twinkle-briar.

- Daniel

Okay, so there is no such thing as twinkle-briar, and tweed is a textile, but I like the syncopation and the flavor!

Did I mention that I am a flippery fish slimy mollusc again? Woot! (I know I am a little old to be using "woot!" but I thought why not?)

In other news:
Bryan's lawyers have advised him to use the "cloak of liberty" defense in order to justify offending others...

C-Train's blogsphere comeback was pretty funny.

Rose Cole's has entered the home stretch on her current series on TULIP.

Marc over at purgatorio finally entered his seven sevens meme tag blog with his own personally flair.

And beyond all reason - my bizarre and freakish avatar where I morph my face into that of a Tim Burtonesque Lemur type thing and back, has likely generated more hits on the page than everthing I have ever done before - proving once and for all, if you look like a freak, people will stop in to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes...
posted by Daniel @ 12:11 PM   11 comment(s)
Second Sunday on gifts...
Normally at my church our previous pastor (who has retired) does the morning adult Sunday school. To be sure, it typically is a 45 minute sermon with a hand-out wherein people can ask questions. It is not well attended by the congregation, which is both typical I suppose, and sad because of how typical it is. I sometimes thing that if I had to choice to preach in the pulpit or take the adult study, I would take the adult study because you get more time to preach - I am not kidding. Our service begins at 11:00 when someone does the "greeting" and announcements which can run up to seven or eight minutes if there is no "call to worship" (that mini-devotional time where a passage of scripture is read, or what have you), then the singing lasts between 15 and 30 minutes, usually closer to 20 or 25 minutes though. Often times the Pastor isn't in the pulpit until twenty to twelve. We all know that holiness ends at 12:00 sharp, so the pastor is often left trying to squeeze in his message into a 20 minute slot.

Now, praise the Lord, our pastor is not overly intimidated by the clock - yet it is rare to have a sermon last longer than a half an hour. This is no criticism on the Pastor either - if anything it is amazing that he can get a message through in time when the "program" seems to be slowly but surely diminishing his time in the pulpit.

So when I say I almost prefer to teach the adult Bible Study/Sunday School than to preach in the pulpit, I only mean it in this sense - I have almost enough time to teach a full lesson when I do the Sunday School, but in the pulpit people are typically glancing at their watches when I am at the half way point...

Anyway, as the stand-in teacher for the adult Sunday school, I have had the joy of teaching the last five weeks. Our "old" pastor has been alternately away or sidelined - and I have had the privilege of leading the adult study.

Last weekend I did a study on Spiritual gifts, that just got rolling when the time ran out. I picked it up again yesterday, and when we ran out of time I think I had just enough left for one more study on the subject.

It was quite nice. I know some of you hate the "this is where I am right now" posts - well Frank Turk does at least - but it is all I got for you this morning. I am off to work, and can't type another word.
posted by Daniel @ 7:49 AM   2 comment(s)
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Better late than never...
I wasn't going to get into the seven sevens thing - but Jibbs did, and pretty much everything Jibbs does is worth imitating:

Seven things I want to do before I die:
  1. See a genuine world wide revival
  2. Write a book that really helps others know Christ
  3. See my children grow old
  4. Go to seminary
  5. Go to Europe
  6. Write a poem that could capture how much I love God.
  7. Invent something that people actually need.

Seven things I cannot do:

  1. Run a marathon
  2. Hold a grudge
  3. Speak in tongues
  4. Throw a football
  5. Please my in-laws
  6. See far away without glasses
  7. Hide my emotions

Seven things that attract me to my wife:

  1. She is wholesome
  2. She calls 'em like she sees 'em
  3. She likes country living
  4. She gets better with age
  5. She is my best friend
  6. She actually likes being around me
  7. She is a fantastic Mom

Seven things I say most often:

  1. Notwithstanding
  2. Nevertheless
  3. Regardless
  4. Therefore
  5. It behooves us to...
  6. Indeed.
  7. Good Gravy Man!

Seven books/series I love:

  1. MLJ - Romans
  2. Leonard Ravenhill - Why Revival Tarries
  3. Iain Murray - Evangelicalism Divided
  4. Arnold Dallimore - George Whitefield (Vol 1 & 2)
  5. Miguel de Cervantes - Don Quixote
  6. Umberto Eco - Foucault's Pendulum
  7. Autobiography of George Mueller

Seven movies I would watch over and over:

  1. The Emperors New Groove (cartoon)
  2. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  3. Spaghetti Westerns
  4. Treasure Planet (cartoon)
  5. Bruce Lee Movies
  6. Humphrey Bogart Movies
  7. The Incredibles (Animation)

Seven people I want to join in too:

  1. Pecadillo
  2. C-Train
  3. Sojourner
  4. David Kjos
  5. Phil Johnson
  6. Jonathan Moorhead
  7. The Teak

Whew - that took longer than I was expecting!

posted by Daniel @ 7:59 PM   8 comment(s)
You know its sad when...
We all know (or should know by now) that practice of holding a communion ceremony in honor of the birth of Christ - was not something that Jesus asked us to do.

Nor is it likely that the 25th of December is the actual birth date of Christ - we just accept this holiday as part of our "tradition" and shop along with the rest of them.

There is nothing evil about celebrating Christmas in and of itself, and that isn't really the point of this post - there are enough people out there (every season) whining about the pagan origins of our "most sacred" Christian holy-day; that I need not jump on that bandwagon.

My point today is only to lament about the state of our society. In the name of "everyone is right" - we dare not make our Christmas cards too Christian. In fact, Christian themed Christmas cards have become a niche market.

How ironic it seems to me that I have to search in order to find a Christmas card with any Christian content.

The Christmas cards I am finding today bring glory to winter and candy canes, and the occasional reindeer (see typical holiday card above: what a wonderful way to recognize how much we love snow...
posted by Daniel @ 12:43 PM   6 comment(s)
Friday, December 02, 2005
The root problem...
debateThere is a discussion going on over at Rose Cole's blog about Calvinism.

If you are as I am, you have no real heart or stomach to debate theology - and I don't mean to imply that there is a debate going on over there - there isn't, it is a civil discussion about the five articles of Calvinism.

Notwithstanding, I love to share what the Lord has shown me in the past with other believers. But, like most people I find it tiresome to refute error point by point ad infinitim. I have found in my own walk, that it is often think to find out where the root problem is, before jumping in and discussing the conclusions.

My wife, God bless her, had a very rough time with algebra in school, and because her understanding of algebra was tenative and even lacking, she really had a tough time with trigonometry - which in turn made calculus a nightmare. It wasn't that calculus was too complex for my wife to understand - it was that my wife, in her earlier education, had missed some of the cruicial building blocks that should have been in place by the time she was dealing with higher order mathematics.

Really, if I showed my wife the solution to a simple calculus problem she would likely comprehend it, but as the problems became larger and deeper, she would need to fall back on prior knowledge that she either doesn't possess or possesses and doesn't understand - the result being that at that moment when she needs to rely on a firm foundation that isn't there - calculus becomes incomprehensible to her.

In the same way, when we reject, refuse, or simply fail to comprehend the premise we will certainly be forced to reject the conclusion. Explaining the conclusion ad infinitim doesn't help the person one bit, since the reason they reject the conclusion is because they have rejected the premise.

The underlaying premise of Arminianism is that a person's will is sovereign, that is, that people, of their own free will, determine to come to Christ and after they have done so, Christ responds to their repentant cry for salvation by "saving" them.

Now, if you are a Calvinist, your eyes are already open to what is wrong with that picture, and no argument of man can close them. Not that you are more spiritual than someone who doesn't see it - but because you have accepted election at being entirely a sovereign act of God.

Typically, the Arminian has cannot couple the idea of free will with the idea of election, and so in order to compensate for man's free will, the Arminian compromises the sovereignty of God. The most common construct paints God as foreknowing who will chose to follow Christ, and then making His election based upon what men have done in the future.

To suggest otherwise, according to this line of thinking, turns men into robots -- automatrons who do not really have free will.

The implications of that are staggering. If I chose Christ, and His choice of me was only reactionary - that is, a response to my own choosing - that means I have something to boast about, because I am wiser than all those people who don't respond to the gospel arn't I? Surely I am! What sort of fool rejects the gospel? They loved their sin more than Christ, but not me - I am better than that because I freely chose to follow Christ - I therefore loved my God more than I loved my sin - which makes me better than them by any standard.

In fact, I would have every reason under creation to boast - because I made the right choice when others didn't - I weighed the facts and I did the research -- my own intellect drew me to Christ, and when I chose Christ I showed myself to be better than those who don't since I did so in my own strength. I am saved because I made it happen - and I have good reason to boast, because I did better than those who don't choose Christ!

Of course I am using hyperbole to make the point - we know that no one comes to Christ except the Father draws them (john 6:44). "Draw me and I will run after Thee" (Song 1:4) says the scripture. Not that God drags people who hate Him kicking and screaming into hell, while slamming the door in the face of people who are desperately seeking to be with Him.

The bible makes it plain -- no one seeks God (Is. 64:7). That is, the picture of people trying to get into heaven on their own strength runs contrary to scripture. No one (left to their own devices) is trying to find God.

The root problem therefore is that Arminians haven't understood or perhaps accepted what the bible teaches on this point - that no one is seeking after God. Because they do not accept that, they must redefine election in such a way that man elects himself, but God gets the credit (which is why man can apparently lose his salvation effectively un-electing himself).

Pelagianism when distilled, boils down to this - you are responsible to save yourself - the church condemned the thought as heresy in 431 A.D. at the third ecumenical Council (Council of Ephesus), but its zombified revenant continues to haunt Christianity today.

So when I find myself speaking with those who are in opposition to what was taught at the Synod of Dordt, my very first response is to go to the root of the matter.

Now, because I linked to Rose's blog, I ought to add "a rider" to this post -- I am not charging people with heresy over there, nor is my post a reaction to something I saw there.
posted by Daniel @ 12:36 PM   24 comment(s)
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