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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.
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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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Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The nature of Repentance

I should like to answer a misconception regarding repentance....

If those witnessing to me would have attached repentance to the message of salvation, I believe I would not have listened.

Here is where some seem to stumble, and I wonder at it.

The gospel is called an “eternal” gospel in the book of Revelation - that is, the gospel that saved Abraham is the same gospel that saves you and I. We are saved by grace through faith, and that not of our selves, it is a gift of God, not our work for if it was, we could boast about. -That- is the gospel, and has always been the gospel. If God saves a person, that person is saved through the eternal, unchanging gospel.

The New testament writers describe John’s ministry as preaching repentance. Isaiah prophesied about him as the voice in the wilderness “Prepare, all of you, the way of the Lord. Make, all of you, His path straight”. I can think of no better definition of repentance than the one Isaiah gives – a repentant heart is one that is prepared (willing) to walk in the way of the Lord.

When Jesus cried out, "Repent and believe in the gospel!" (Mark 1:15), He wasn’t changing the gospel – that is Jesus wasn’t “attach[ing] repentance to the message of salvation” – as though it hadn’t been there before. He was describing the process of salvation – that is the seed of the gospel takes root only in prepared soil. Likewise, when Paul explained that the gospel he preached was “repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ: (Acts 20:21) he wasn’t “adding repentance” to the gospel either, but understood that the seed that falls on hard, thorny, or stony ground will not produce a salvific faith.

When we therefore talk about the gospel, we are talking about a faith that is born of repentance. Not that we are to instruct the one who receives the gospel to “repent” as though it were a work they do in their own heart (c.f. Acts 11:18, "When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.", and 2 Timothy 2:25, "in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,"). Repentance, according to scripture, is something that God grants.

I want to stress that this is not my "take" on it either – as though I had mined this nugget out of my own imagination – this is, as far as can be seen - the gospel plain and simple, just as it appears in both the Old and New Testaments.

The error that some seem to make, is that they think of faith and repentance are two separate things – as if one could have the one without the other. But the two are related in scripture, and we do well to remember that. They are inseparable entities combined together inseparable in the greater context of grace.

Repentance in the context of salavation must not be confused with the Catholic notion of penance.

When I (or any soundly reformed person) speaks about “repentance” in the context of salvation - I am not talking about arresting our sin habit - GOOD GRAVY!! If we could do that, Christ wouldn't have had to come and save us! We would all just choose not to sin, and wait for the day of His coming. We are helpless to deal with the sin problem.

I should digress here for those who have never thought of it. Think hard on this, and don’t stop until you see it. You cannot heal your corrupt nature by “resisting” sin. Did you get that? You CANNOT heal yourself. No amount of clenching your fists or biting your tongue, or singing “la la la la la” in your head – or whatever little thing you do to try and resist sin – none of these will change even a smidgeon of that part of you that loves to sin. You may be able to keep yourself from sin for a whole week – but it won’t change you a lick.

In the wake of that awesome truth re-examine what you think repentance means. Is it possible for you to repent? Can a leopard change his spots? Think hard here. Can you repent?!?? Stay here until you understand that you cannot repent in and of yourself – and that you never could, nor could anyone else.

That is what it means to inherit Adam’s corruption – however it came to us, we recognize this in ourselves (if we are alert) – while we may be able to resist “a sin” – that resistance is not the path to defeating the corruption of sin.

So when I (or any reformed believer) speak of "repentant faith" I am not suggesting (as is continually, but erroneously inferred) that the gospel I preach begins with demanding a person stops sinning so that they can receive the gospel. It may be painted such by well meaning, but otherwise ignorant people – but that is not the gospel that I preach. The gospel I preach recognizes that repentance and faith are indivisible – that without repentance a man can no more receive the gospel than hard packed earth can receive a seed. I don’t demand that people stop sinning - I simply tell them to have faith in Christ, knowing full well that the seed may fall on good soil – soil prepared beforehand by God Himself – or it may fall on other soil. That is not to say that I shy away from preaching repentance, but rather to say that when I preach repentance I am not preaching some “work” that more than anything else resembles Catholic penance.

In Catholicism they introduce the idea of penance - that is, that in order to be forgiven you must "repent" of the sin. In Catholicism you sin, confess, then agree to do penance to demonstrate your “repentance.” If you fail to do penance, you should not expect to be absolved of your sin. In this way forgiveness is yoked to works.

Some Evangelicals are still mired in Roman thinking – they replace "penance" with “repentance” – and shuffle a few ideas, such that at their heart they are still following a form of Catholic penance. Some never see through the disguise, and I write this paragraph here that the veil might be lifted. In these circles, a person sins, confesses, then "repents." As though they had the capacity to even do so.

Oh wicked heart, let’s drag you out into the light of day for a moment – look here. See that you have never been able to generate real and lasting “repentance” of this nature? If you could stop yourself, you wouldn’t have sinned in the first place. This sort of “repentance” is an illusion. If we could muster within ourselves enough remorse to stop sinning a sin – we wouldn’t have sinned it in the first place! Let the light of God’s truth come down like a hammer on the shackles of those still in bondage here! No amount of profundity will bolster your “sincere” commitment to never sin that sin again! Oh wicked liar that I am – why do I play games here with God? If I refuse to be “poor in Spirit” and refuse to admit that I am a wretch, to admit that I am hopeless, helpless, and without strength – How will I find peace? If I continue to regard “repentance” as something -I- do then I remain a liar and my walk is, by definition, in darkness. I lie, you see, because I think I have repented, when I most certainly know I have not. This same liar that I am is not "practicing the truth" - and must remain in darkness until I give up playing games with God.

How many souls are in this jail I wonder? Souls whose conscience whispers the awful truth - that their “repentance” is a sham that they mustn't ever admit to. They tell themselves that it’ll “have to do” for now. Are they not like a man who stands between the law and grace who at the same moment is unable to sustain a grip on the one nor let go of the other.

No, children - repentance in the context of the gospel, is a change of mind so that one's views, values, goals and ways are changed so that they are now lining up (sincerely) with God's plan. It in no way implies some sort a "preamble" as though the gospel in a nutshell were this: “Stop sinning then believe in God.”

Repentance is an ongoing change of heart, and not a momentary work. It is so closely mixed in with our faith and God's grace, that it is almost ridiculous and near impossible to discuss it in a vacuum. Repentance is perhaps understood more fully by regarding what repentance isn't - apathy.

So when I talk about repentance being a part of the gospel, I am not talking about some work that has to be performed, I am talking about the nature of the faith expressed. Repentance is something God grants - not a work that we do. A repentant faith hates what God hates and loves what God loves, and consequently an unrepentant faith (the kind that doesn’t save) is indifferent to what God loves or hates - and is in fact, indifferent to God - other than having a misplaced sense of “appreciation” in believing that God is going to save that one.

I don't wonder that people resist the idea of repentance when it is painted the way some have painted it. I would to!

posted by Daniel @ 11:32 AM   13 comment(s)
Monday, January 30, 2006
"Free Grace"
If you have heard the name Antonio de Rosa, you have heard about "free Grace." Antonio has been beating the "free Grace" drum for a few months now, and made some waves in the Christian blogosphere, not because he has anything particularly important to say - surely the one tune he plays on his droning drum has been heard before - no, Antonio is becoming somewhat infamous because of his Quixotian zeal to promote his pet theology. And like that famous Don I am certain that Antonio regards his solitary axe grind as a noble and worthy thing. But just as Don Quixote lowered his lance at the windmill, so too our dear Antonio champions his charge - and there is sort of a tragic beauty in it. Just as Quixote held our interest because he obstinately refused to interpret reality properly - so too, we see Antonio's eisegesis, exposed and corrected by learned men and children, only to watch in morbid fascination as he ignores it all, and continues to beat his drum.

I admire that level of gusto, but at the same time I find it tragic and dangerous; tragic for Antonio, and dangerous for those who don't see the wolf for the wool.

So as I was typing out a response to a comment Antonio made - trying in vain to say how wrong it feels in my soul to examine his teachings in greater depth, having rejected the core about which all his teaching seems to orbit - as I was typing this I say, I decided to make it more general, and simply speak of "free Grace" and the root problem, rather than speaking directly to Antonio - as though this didn't apply to all attacks against the gospel of grace.

Surely our command of the Greek language has shown us that the word "pistis" (faith/belief) has no perfect synonym in English. Likewise, we know full well that when we employ the verb form of the word, we amplify any asynonymity inherent in the verb. How then (when we lack an English word that carries all the subtleties of the Greek) do we flesh out the nuances that are in the Greek which cannot be translated into English? We must translate the word into its closest English equivalent yet retain in our understanding the full spectrum of nuance the word carries in the original context, culture, and grammar. We do ourselves damage if in translating a word we neglect its full meaning. I think we can all agree that this is a sound principle.

Sometimes however, scripture gives us more information about a word than we might realize. For instance, if we want to know more about "pistis" (belief) we can see examine the other side of our sword. Scripture is, after all, a double edged sword, and we learn as much about "belief" by examining what scripture says about unbelief. No tricks or gimmicks here - just rightly dividing the word.

When we look at the way "unbelief" is used in scripture (that is, in opposition to belief) we will necessarily form a more complete picture of how "belief" was understood. To this end we must not fail to observe that in various places in scripture we see the same word ("apeitheo") translated as unbelief and elsewhere as disobedience. God be praised for this sort of consistency in scripture! Even were we so careless in our translation as to drop the nuance of obedience from our understanding of "faith" - yet we see from the other half of the double edged sword, that the meaning is retained!

So when I talk about faith, I am talking about that same faith that is described in verses like Romans 10:16 ("But they have not all obeyed the gospel") that is, I recognize that "faith" is synonymous with "obeying the gospel" - genuine faith is characterized by obedience ; and simultaneously a faith that is not genuine is characterized as apathetic/disobedient.

That is why when I read how Paul describes the gospel that he preached in Acts 20:21 ("testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ") I do not imagine for one moment that Paul was "adding repentance" to the gospel - or inventing some new "two step" gospel, whereby repentance comes before faith - as though the idea of obedience was foreign to the concept of "faith." I rather believe that Paul is articulating clearly (for the benefit of people who need it spelled out to them...) what genuine faith looks like - it is submissive - mixed if you will or at least inseparable from "repentance."

It is for this reason that when scripture speaks of "belief" or "believing" - I do not extract the idea of obedience from the word just because the closest English equivalent lacks that particular nuance; when I read, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" - I understand that the "faith" spoken of would have been understood by the first century hearer as a trust born of a submissive spirit.

When I talk of repentance being a part of saving faith, I am not saying that it is a two step thing - obedience then belief. No, no, no! No one I know believes that! That is painting a picture that makes obedience a prerequisite for faith - and that is not the way it works. It isn't that you have to be obedient before you can have faith, as though in order to have faith you had to do some sort of repentance as a qualifiying act. That is a slanderous characature; twice wicked because those who paint it ought to know better. I believe Paul mentions Repentance towards God as being a defining characteristic of "faith towards Jesus Christ" - that is a "trusting submission" as opposed to an intellectual decision.

Can a child have "faith" in his or her parent's "parenting" if that faith fails to includes submission to the parent's authority? Of course not. If the child rejects the authority of the parent, it demonstrates that contrary to whatever their mouth may profess - they in fact do not have "faith" in their parents ability to parent.

In just this same way, a faith in Christ that lacks submission is in fact defiant and "dead." Faith is never placed in "the facts" as though "believing the facts" about something could ever save a person (c.f. John 14:42) such faith is counterfeit, cheap, and worthless. No, faith has only one object -the Lord Jesus Christ- and unless that faith is described/characterized by submission to Christ - it is not saving faith.

My faith looks like this: Jesus Christ is the Lord, and I trust that if I am a child of the Kingdom, Christ my King will save me. The moment I was saved was the moment that I bowed my knees to my King, trusting in Him and Him alone to save me. My bowing before the king cannot be separated from my trusting the king to save me. He is -The- King and any trust I place in Him that avoids His crown is by definition illegitimate. I cannot trust the King, and at the same time reject the Crown. The King is the King, and I must accept Him as the King or my trust is not placed in Him - but in some bizarre doppleganger - a man made reflection of Him - as impotent as it is idolatrous and ineffective. I do not worship a God that my own mind has made - and I see great folly in doing so.

If a King declares that He will save all who come to Him - that is, all who come and partake of His Kingdom, only those who are "in the kingdom" (that is, those who have bent their knee in fealty) can expect to be saved by Him. Those who imagine they are children of the Kingdom because they one day decided to "trust that the King will save them" may have entered the fold - but they are by no means a part of the flock - they have come into the fold some other way and not through "the Door." Such as these may put all the trust they want in the king, but that trust is impotent not being founded on the person of the King, but rather on the fact that the King saves people. Truly, a subtle, but horrible mistake to make.

This false faith is the faith that "free grace" (easy believism) strikes me as embracing. Some, not content to simply embrace this false hope, go about promoting it with a hellish zeal - such cause me to shudder.

With regards to Free Grace, it should be obvious that at the very heart of the gospel itself, we disagree - since those in the free grace camp take faith to mean much less than our own understanding of scripture would suggest it means. Surely, we cannot admire any theological house that might be built upon such faith, since from our vantage that house is already sinking in quicksand. That is, I can't really respect much of what a "free grace" person teaches knowing that this particular leaven, leavens the whole lump.

Thankfully, the "easy believism zealots" tend to ring the one and only bell they have loudly ad nauseum and praise the Lord for that, because it makes their error easy to spot for those who have eyes to see.

My hope and prayer is that "free Grace" is exposed as deficient and that those who have been deceived will begin to understand what faith really is, and recognized that the "faith" that they teach disqualifies them (in the estimation of those who oppose them) from the office of 'reputable' teacher. Scripture teaches us to stay ignorant of evil, which is why I do not spend much time studying heresy - except to expose it.

So please excuse me when I reject what I consider a wayward man when I see that the man has been soundly corrected two or three times yet rejects the rebuke. Even were I not guided by scripture to reject such a one, yet reason itself teaches me that we are at best, at an impasse.

Thus, lacking agreement on what faith really looks like, it behooves me to avoid "Free Grace" sites. If their theology is sound, and my own is lacking - God help me, because I am blind indeed!
posted by Daniel @ 11:33 AM   24 comment(s)
Friday, January 27, 2006
The Nautilus Machine

This is called a Nautilus NT-CC1 Smith Machine, and yesterday I became the humble owner of one.

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you will recall that I took up cycling last year, and through cycling to work (15K one way) and changing my eating habits I lost about 35 pounds or so. When the snow began to fall, my cycling came to an end for this season, at least until April or May.

Don't get me wrong, desk jobs are great, but... they tend to produce an undesirable body format. So my plan was that come winter (that is, September or October here in Canada) I would start a weight training program. Nothing special mind you - really, I would love a six pack and buff-ness, but who am I kidding? All I really want is a few more pounds of muscle to stave off the loose joints and flubbery of middle age. Sitting in one place all day lends itself well to atrophy, and unless I combat it with radical moderate weight training, it is probably just going to get worse.

So for the price of a temporal membership at a gym, I purchased the behemoth above. I will be assembling it tonight (possibly) or tomorrow. It looks just like the picture, and the reviews I have read on it were all pretty good.

More news as it comes.

posted by Daniel @ 9:58 AM   12 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Death ...and dying in America.
I was reading today on Challies.com something Tim had written a few years back regarding a discussion he and his son had about death and dying. In reading it, I was reminded of the way death is swept under the rug in North America.

In our modern culture, we go out of our way to avoid seeing people die. Most of the people we find at the funeral weren't at the bedside - but could have been. It is the way we have been culturally programmed - death is a private thing, and we ought not to intrude upon it. Death has moved behind the curtain; out of sight out of mind is the American motto when it comes to leaving this world.

If hiding our dying people were not crippling enough, we tend to medicate people who are dying - such that it is a very rare thing these days to die lucid. Most of us (unless we dictate otherwise beforehand) can expect to be zonked out of our tree when we die - unable to put two words together. Dying can be a noisy affair after all, and junking someone up makes it look more "peaceful" since they aren't screaming in fear and/or agony.

Nowadays we read accounts of death such as "Passed peacefully" or "left quietly" etc. We don't often read accounts anymore such as:
...he rose suddenly and opening his eyes, he seemed to fix them on some distant object, and half rising from his bed he shouted with uncommon strength, 'GLORY! GLORY! I SEE THE KING! Then the spirit left him, and he settled back into his bed, leaving behind that contented and even smiling shell that had once held him."

Likewise, we don't often read in the paper the other kind of accounts - the sinners desperately but ineffectively trying to find God as the clock strikes the final hour. Blasphemous cursing, wide eyed fear, visions of hell and torment. We don't see that because we immediately hide the passing behind a curtain, and thereafter, behind a soothingly quiet chemical lobotomy.

What a bizarre thing that is. I often wonder if we do these things because we are so afraid of death, or rather in order to make people more afraid of death. I confess, I am inclined to think it is by design and not accidental.

Anyway - that is just my take on it. I personally want to be lucid when I go, and I want to be at the bedside if I am planning on going to go to the funeral.

posted by Daniel @ 12:20 PM   7 comment(s)
Monday, January 23, 2006
The Frustration Driven Church™
Typically unless a church begins as a splinter group from a previous church (for good or bad), it begins as a house church.

A missionary begins to meet regularly with new believers in a house, and eventually, there is enough believers that the assembly begins to refer to itself as a "church" - and we say that a church has been planted.

Praise the Lord for church planters!

Alternately, in countries where Christianity is unpopular (read: you take your life in your hands by naming the name of Christ), believers will meet in houses, caves or wherever, as a means of prolonging both their own life and the lives of those in the church. Wherever open meetings are detrimental to the lives of those involved, house churches flourish.

Persecution, we note, produces "hard-core" faith because those who are persecuted aren't going to risk their lives to join a social club. Persecution cleanses the church that way - it purges out the chaff.

We read that the early church typically met in synagogue and when they were thrown out of the synagogue wherever there was room. Paul taught for two years in Ephesus at the school of Tyranus - and when in Rome we assume he taught in his own rented house (being confined there...) Christians met "house to house" - that is, they visited and ministered with one another - but that is not to suggest, as some have, that the early church met exclusively in houses.

What we see from the new testament, is that when there was no persecution, the church met in the temple and in the synagogue, and even in schools. We further see that when the church was under persecution, it typically got smaller and leaner - such was the nature of persecution (as I have already stated).

Today we see many however, trying to "build" the biblical™ church as though it were a question of capturing the right first century methodology. John MacArthur once said, and I am paraphrasing,

If you want to have a church like they did in the New Testament, you need to
submit yourself to the Holy Spirit just like they did in the New Testament.
The idea being that "doing church" isn't about whether or not you wear togas and sandals, but about whether or not the Holy Spirit is in control.

Many of the house churches we see today, have a thinly veiled, and sometimes open antagonism towards what they call "churchianity" - the established way we do church. They are not so much attacking doctrine as orthopraxy. Church buildings are evil, sermons are unbiblical, large congregations are unbiblical, meeting in houses -is- biblical, small groups -are- biblical, etc. The list is actually quite long and based mostly on a woefully inept/corrupt/fabricated portrait of church history.

There is one horrible little book in particular written by a man I have no respect for, (Wolfgang Simpson, "Houses that change the world") - which teaches a "brand spanking new" way to "do church" but dresses it up as if it were reclaiming the "new testament" methodology. While most of us with even a hint of discernment will recognize that the problem with "church" nowadays is not the buildings, but the people in them. We need to be in prayer for our leaders, in prayer for our congregation - to keep it simple, we need to be in prayer!

Anyway - this is just a vent - not against house churches - but against ignorance. I expect that most of the people leaving the "church" for "house churches" are doing so because they have been sold a bill of goods, but even if they see it for what it is, they ignore it anyway because they are so utterly frustrated with the bureaucracy in some of the church organizations today.

Maybe more on this later.

posted by Daniel @ 12:36 PM   8 comment(s)
Friday, January 20, 2006
Book Review...
Now, to be certain, I am probably the worst person you could ever imagine to give a book review; perhaps that is because I am critical (bordering on polemic) when it comes to truth - I see things in black and white, and I have little patience for fluff.

That might sound like a good thing, and I have probably framed it in its best light, but it really is just a nice way of saying that even were a book filled with light, I would likely dote on the dark bits. I am only somewhat comforted that this was the Lord's approach in the book of Revelation (in the letters to six of the seven churches) - that is, he didn't pat them on the back for all the good they were doing, but called them to repent for the things that they were doing wrong.

So too when I write about the book, I am not going to spend a lot of time on the things that are "right" about it.

Charles (Chuck) Swindoll is a godlier man than I, and has been serving the Lord longer than I have been on this earth. I am not the man's judge, and I don't pretend that anything I write is in judgment against the man, his ministry, his sincerity, or his love for the Lord.

I do like caveats don't I?

A friend of mine (who was reading Charles Swindoll's biography) expressed to me during a conversation one day his impression of the man painted in that biography. I was no fan of Swindoll to begin with - having heard his radio broadcast ("Insight For Living") a few times, and having found nothing particularly compelling about it. So when I heard this good report about the man himself from a person whom I have a deep respect for, I suppose I was "primed" for what would happen next.

I was interested in filling out my library a bit so about a month before Christmas I ordered a couple of books. The shipping is free if I order more than $39.00 CDN, so I had a couple of books that I wanted (Why Revival Tarries - Leonard Ravenhill; and The bondage of the Will - Martin Luther), and needed to add another book to bring up the total. I wanted to find something that dealt with legalism, and came across Swindoll's book. To be sure, had my friend never given such an account of Swindoll's life, I would have kept looking, but wanting to extend grace to Mr. Swindoll, I ordered it.

When the books arrived I looked them over.

One of the things I absolutely hated about "The Purpose Driven Life" was that they 1]had made the ink a sort of soft red/brown; 2] gave the pages a nauseating rosy tint, and 3] spaced each row far enough away from the previous that the combined effect would be to increase the number of pages by 35% without adding content. I mention that because just as that sort of mummery set the stage for what Warren's "take your teeth out, you won't be needing them for this meal" approach; so too when I opened the latest edition of Swindoll's book, I found that the ink wasn't quite black, more of a very dark brown/yellow - like a darker shade of the yellowed page, and the same bonus 35% pages via creative line spacing. I doubt that Swindoll had much to do with the fluff-mongerers who did this to his book, yet never the less, it does set a tone even before you read the first word. (NOTE: I do -NOT- endorse TPDL - I found it so awful I couldn't finish reading it - that coming from someone who has managed to finish a Dave Hunt book!)

I confess, I was expecting an indepth examination of grace; specifically an examination of those biblical texts which describe grace and its function in the Christian life - that is, a detailed analysis of how grace works itself out in the life of a believer. I was particularly expecting the book to plainly point the reader towards Christ.

In this I suppose I set myself up for a fall - and my apologies to anyone who has read this book and was greatly ministered to by the Holy Spirit through it - my own experience was less so.

I did find a few thoughts in the book edifying, however, the things that I did find edifying were not the things being discussed, but were mentioned in passing or in support of some other thought. He was definitely on the ball about how wrong it is to go beyond scripture with lists of "dos and don'ts" - only going over the line a bit when it comes to remorse over sin.

If I could put my finger on any one thing - I suppose it would be how he regarded self esteem as a positive thing - that seemed to underscore the whole text. I got the sense that the grace he was teaching was more whitewash than substance. By that I mean, and perhaps I am reading him wrong, but it struck me that without actually saying so, he was teaching that trusting Christ involves tossing your conscience out the window.

That is a harsh criticism, I know, and it is probably my own bias and inability to comprehend what he was saying that allows me to say it, but I didn't come away from this book "awakened" to grace, at least not according to the meal he was serving up.

Stylistically, this book was more like wiener-water than gravy - relying on a lot of anecdotes, and personal experiences to carry what he was trying to get across. Reading some of the Amazon reviews for the book, I wonder what I am missing?

One beef: I am disturbed when people turn to the dispute between Barnabas and Paul and use it as if they were a Catholic with a mitt-full of indulgences. That is, I am opposed to the notion that the Holy Spirit included this passage to teach us how to "disagree with grace" I think it is an injustice to the text and God to even suggest such. We err when we absolve ourselves of pursuing unity in the Spirit by citing this verse as our precidence. Yes, godly men disagree - they disagree because one or both of them are not being "godly" at that moment. If a Christian needs a text to guide them in times of dispute, I strongly urge them to explore 1 Corinthians 6:7b "Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated?"

Everything said and done - I won't be reading this book again or passing it on to other believers. A mature believer won't get much out of it, and I would be concerned that an immature believer might get too much out of it.

If you have read it, let me know what you thought of it.
posted by Daniel @ 9:03 AM   9 comment(s)
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Answered Prayer...

you can click on it if you want to see a non-shrunk image.

It says:

Dear Mr. Daniel

Subject: Conversion From Temporary to Permanent Status

As per article 5:05 of the MGEU Collective Agreement this is to confirm that your status has been converted from temporary to permanent effective January 21, 2006.

We wish you every success in your future responsibilities.

Yours Truly,

<purposely obfuscated name>
Manager Human Resource Services

(CC) Payroll
Branch Director

Now if you have been following my blog, you will remember that back in September I posted about how I have been a term employee for the last four and a half years (well, five years as of Jan 26th), and was called into the bosses office along with every other term, and we were told that they could not guarantee that any of us would have our term contracts renewed after March 31, 2006.

At that time I said, "I trust the Lord to provide what He will..." and today I am sharing the details of His provision because I know that some of you have prayed for me.

On Saturday (Lord willing of course) all the term employees in my office will be converted to a permanent employees. I mention the others, because I know that some of you were gracious in your prayers and have prayed for them as well.

God is gracious indeed - Praise the Lord.

I was remarking last night to the chair of our leadership team that one of the dangers of trusting the Lord so much is that you get so used to Him answering your needs, that you neglect to give Him glory and praise. You just assume that having your every need looked after is "normal" and we forget the grace in which we live. We talked about how quickly we forget the grace of God, in giving us that confidence in Himself, and how we need to remember the loving care with which God shepherds His flock.

What a great God we serve - and not just because He answers prayer either...!

posted by Daniel @ 11:30 AM   9 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Are you a heretic??

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
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posted by Daniel @ 4:42 PM   12 comment(s)
The Herman Munster Principle
I remember an episode of "The Munsters" from my youth. In it, Herman was being examined by a doctor who marvelled because, as he said,
"You seem to have every disease known to man, and yet, while all of them are working to kill you, none of them are able, being held in check by the rest - it is as if a hundred men were all trying to scramble through an open doorway, but none were able to because of the others, such that no one gets in, although all are trying"

Somethings stand out in your memory I guess. And this one quote stood out for me, in that I am reminded of it when I think about posting. Sometimes I won't post for days - not because I don't have some things I would like to say, but rather because I have too many things that are competing for a post, and I don't have ample time to write even one post about them that is sufficient.

Perhaps I have to take a page from some of the other blogs I have read - where I tackle a big topic in many posts (Part one, Part two etcetera...) Specifically, I wouldn't mind making a post about how the "Frustration Driven House Church" - that is, how frustration with "churchology" and ignorance of church history have combined to give fertile soil for the house church movement.

Likewise, I would like to take some time to talk about why most Christians don't share their faith "worth a can of beans" - and how to deal with that.

I would like to discuss the new covenant, and perhaps my own end times philosophy (I believe Christ is coming back.... ;-D)

I am almost finished reading a book by Swindoll, which I would like to review, (not to mention that I have quite a load of books sitting in the queue waiting to be read.)

There is more, but if I take any longer I probably won't even post this much!

posted by Daniel @ 11:13 AM   4 comment(s)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Am I the only one who sees an image of St. Frank of Christian Retail on this piece of toast?

Granted, some of the Catholics reading this blog will insist that this is the face of Mary, but I myself see Frank.
posted by Daniel @ 8:33 PM   21 comment(s)
Perpetual Motion...
One of the people I really admire in my congregation came up today after our bible study and announced wryly that he had come to understand perpetual motion - that is, that he understood for the first time that there truly was a living, working pertetual motion machine.


I loved it. The more you pray, the more you pray.

What a perfect picture that is. Thanks Don!
posted by Daniel @ 2:05 PM   5 comment(s)
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Medicine Hat Update
For those of you who are unfamiliar, please read my other "Medicine Hat" entry first...

I spoke with Lou again earlier this evening. It isn't looking like I will be called there, but you never know. I learned a bit more this time. Lou isn't speaking on behalf of the whole congregation, and was offering me the opportunity to come and preach one or twice if I was able, and hopefully drum up some local interest in evangelism.

Their situation makes me sad, no converts in about two years (though Lou himself has led a fellow to the Lord in this last year, but he ended up going to a different church), and no organized leadership. The pastor is sort of a part time guy, but he is more or less running the show and has no real time to devote to long term goals etc.

The church is mostly seniors (which would have been my dream church! all that wisdom and grace under the same roof - a perfect church for a new pastor), but as I listened to Lou I sympathize with his frustration, nevertheless, he is not really authorized to be speaking for the whole of his congregation. He and three other couples are considering leaving the church unless it gets its act together, and his call to pastor Bill was originally for advice, and not that he was seeking a pastor for his church, but rather counsel, prayer, and possibly evangelical meetings.

So I thank everyone who has prayed for me. Pray still that the Lord would help this church. I am going to stay in touch with Lou and continue to pray for him and his church, but unless the Lord moves in an unforseen way with this, I think this isn't going to end in a call.
posted by Daniel @ 10:32 PM   14 comment(s)
Friday, January 13, 2006
Poison to my soul.
2 Corinthians 10:12 says, "Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding."

This morning I woke up and immediately began to thank God. It is my prayer habit to do so. I thanked God for the sleep I had, the bed I slept on, and as I was thanking God I was groggy and sleepy, and really only half awake. In that state sometimes you fall right back asleep but this morning I suddenly understood the gap between my thankful prayer and true thankfulness.

I should explain. Thankfulness isn't about appeasing or flattering God. I think we all know this on an intellectual plane; thankfulness is about appreciating what God has done so that we perceive with greater clarity that it is God who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Thankfulness is our window into God's tender care for us. Yet this morning, for a brief moment I understood that I was trying to just say thank you because I "should" say thank you. An obligatory thank you. And in my Spirit I felt that familiar little "check" - you know the one, it is like a distant odor, so subtle you can ignore it if you want, but naggingly persistent, demanding recognition.

The check was that I wasn't really thankful - I just knew I should be and my mouth was engaged without my heart backing it up. As my awareness clamped onto the gulf between what I knew to be right prayer, and the stuff I was offering up - my eyes opened a little. Not just my physical eyes, as the realization brought greater consciousness to my sleeping body, but also my spiritual eyes as this truth brought greater communion between myself and God.

So I got up and had a prayer time which included a more focused thankfulness - that is, I was saying thank you to God because doing so properly is edifying to myself. As I began to thank God for the things he was doing, I was aware that my understanding of what God was doing was drawing me closer to God. The command to be thankful - like every command God gives, is all about God giving to us. When God commands us to do something, it isn't a restriction, it is the condition by which a holy God can justly bestow blessing. Into a thankful heart the Lord pours something of Himself - a closer union brought about by the realization that the things we are thankful for are things we ought to be thankful for - which have been given us for the purpose of setting our affections, hopes and attention on Jehovah Jireh.

As I was thanking the Lord I brought to mind a wonderful miracle he has done in our congregation. One of the newer church members has had crippling arthritis - so much pain in her hands and whatnot that it was genuinely incapacitating. Perhaps ten days ago she simply prayed one morning that God would take the pain away - and the next morning she woke up for the first time in 20 years without pain in her hands. She went out that morning to shovel snow! What is fantastic about this healing is that it is genuine and reflects so well our Lord's mercy. She doesn't consider herself a healer or in possession of some sort of special power, spiritual or otherwise - she is just a newer member in our congregation who happened to have faith to pray a prayer that resulted in a merciful act of our God.

So I was thanking God for that - not only that he healed this lady, but also that it wasn't a big show in our church - we don't get to see a lot of healing, but no one doubts for a minute that God heals. Such that when she was healed there was no dog and pony show, I was sincerely filled with joy to see God respond so mercifully. There was a time when seeing someone healed would have bolstered my faith - that is, there was a time in my early walk when I wanted to see a miracle to prove there was a God. In my heart at that time I knew it was wrong - I knew that my heart wanted to put God to the test, so I prayed a funny prayer, "Lord please don't let me see any miracles until my faith doesn't require it" - that is, I didn't want my faith to rest on signs and wonders but on the word of God, and (implied in that) the God of the word. So it was that when I saw this great work I was overjoyed - because I was not the least bit surprised by it, nor doubtful that it was genuine.

So (as I said) I was thanking God for that, and wanting to spend time in earnest praise, I should mention that I asked God prior to this to line up my heart so that I could praise Him in earnest - then I remembered what God had done, and my heart soared in praise for that - which opened another door in my faith.

It works that way.

As I was filled with joy - real joy - for what God had done for this sister, I realized that it was easy to praise God when I saw something with my own eyes - yet I know that God is doing things that I cannot see. Why was my praise so slack in these areas? The only answer that is honest is because I don't think about them, and if I am brutally honest - I don't really think things are going on. Isn't that awful? My intellect acknowledges that God is working in my life here and there and everywhere - but my heart doesn't get behind all of that. The moment my eyes see something - WHAM - my heart is there with joy and praise. I was gently rebuked in my prayer this morning for that, and I began to examine those unseen things in my life that God was doing, and giving more earnest and honest praise to God for that.

It was also in my prayer time this morning that I understood how poisonous the praise of men can be. As I was praising God, my mind skimmed over some of the wonderful things God was doing in my life - and how men have praised -me- for them, as though I were the author. My intellect knows that the glory belongs to God alone, yet sometimes the praise of men lingers in my ears like a dry morsel that I am trying to swallow. It should pass straight through me and onto God, but I let it hesitate in my ears long enough to take pleasure in it. Not the good pleasure of seeing God's glory, but the wicked pleasure of assuming it is my own.

When we hear something that was right (especially in this world where that is increasingly a rarity) we want to encourage the person who said it, and typically the way we do this is through praise. We may praise the pastor for the stirring sermon, or praise the little old man in church whose transparent prayer stirs us on to greater faith - we want to acknowledge those things that God uses to build us up, and sometimes we praise the person as much as we praise the Lord (or even more!) Now that is just spiritual poison for the person. It really is. At least it is to me - every word of praise I hear is a temptation to my soul - a part of me wants Gods glory, wants to ignore that whatever is being praised in me was wrought entirely by God in my heart, and that I fought it every step of the way.

To be sure, If I have ever done something that appeared to warrant praise, it would be fun to hear a brother or sister say, Daniel - Praise the Lord, even though every fiber in your body has resisted that message, and even though you have fought God on this for perhaps the greatest portion of your life - yet finally God had the victory in you, and in spite of your wickedness, in spite of your pride, your ego, and your desire to usurp everything the Lord has given you to imagine that your own hand and cleverness has given it to you - in spite of all of that, God has managed to squeeze out of you and through you something that has built me up. I thank God that he was able to use even someone like you, messed up as you are, to speak to me. Praise God for that Daniel - Praise God!

For it is certain that I have nothing but what was given, and even that I would hold onto with all my heart and fail to share, were not God Himself constantly working to pry it out of my hands to share with others. What a wretch I am, to be served by God in this way. And I didn't make a typo there either - I am served by God just as Christ washed the feet of Judas, so He continues to serve us today, ministering to us daily, even by the hour. The more I understand my God, the smaller I become. How can our great God be so humble?

Praise the Lord. Man, if you can't praise the Lord right, Good gravy! Get on your knees and repent. God is so awesome, and we are so awful and undeserving. How many of us are standing here today letting the Lord wash our feet - and we remain silent? Oh man. When I get to the other side and I see all my pride and indifference - when I see with clarity the magnitude of God's humility in ministering to me daily contrasted to my profound disinterest in it, my lack of praise, and prayerlessness - my cold indifference, yea - they will be gnashing of teeth, I will be the loudest! How I ignore praising my God!

Anyway, sorry about the rant - I am just risen from prayer and the zeal of it is still on me.
posted by Daniel @ 6:16 AM   3 comment(s)
Thursday, January 12, 2006
You supply the caption II
I miss Marc.

posted by Daniel @ 4:17 PM   18 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Medicine Hat

UPDATE: I spoke with a representative from the Medicine Hat congregation yesterday, Lou. What a great old saint! I hadn't personally spoken to anyone from the congregation, having only been informed that my name was given as a possible candidate to shepherd this flock. Along with that information I was given Lou's phone number as a contact and encouraged to call. Not wanting to put it off for too long, I called yesterday before leaving for prayer meeting. Lou and I spoke for ten minutes and thirty four seconds (digital phones... pffft), but in that time I got the sense of a man who loves the Lord. Apparently many of the larger churches in the area are following in the footsteps of Saddleback and Willow Creek - and some of the faithful who see the danger of this are pulling out and congregating together. Lou wasn't terribly specific about the need though. The impression I got from Pastor Bill (my mentor) was that this congregation was looking for a full time pastor because they didn't have one. After speaking with Lou I was left somewhat confused.

I should explain - Pastor Bill's hearing loss makes it sometimes fun when he passes on information from say, a telephone conversation with Lou to an in person meeting with me. :-D So when he passed on the information to me, there were gaps that needed filling.

I contacted Lou as soon as politely possible just in case he was expecting a call immediately. I didn't really have time to talk, so the purpose of my conversation was to establish that I had spoken with Pastor Bill, and that Pastor Bill had given me his number and some information about Lou's situation - and that I would call him for a more substantial conversation when time permitted - likely tonight or tomorrow.

He briefly described their situation, and I wasn't entirely sure at the end of the conversation exactly what they were looking for. It sounded sort of like they want to bring in an itenerant "outreach" minister - an "evangelist" (if you will) to either drum up some converts, or more likely perhaps to come in and organize/direct an evangelical campaign in the area.

I didn't want to press him at that time to clearly define the ministry position - so what you have read is my take on it. I will post more when I know more. At this point I suspect there may have been some miscommunication somewhere between Lou's originally stated interest and what was eventually transmitted to me via Pastor Bill - recall that P. Bill doesn't have the best ears anymore...

So for the first seven minutes or so Lou and I introduced ourselves, and Lou gave me a very brief description of what they were looking for. I explained that I was calling to establish a report, and that I would be available to speak more fully to the matter in the next day or so - then we prayed together and said good bye.

So I am still requesting prayer. It may well be that their current pastor is itenerant, it may be that they are seeking an itenerant, etc. These points were sort of glossed over in our conversation. I plan to have them cleared up next time I speak with him - either way their congregation needs prayer too; They obviously are distraught with the direction the major churches are taking in Medicine Hat - and they will need wisdom to deal with this whether I am called to that congregation or not.

Thanks for the continued prayer.

Medicine Hat is a small community in Alberta Canada (population: 56K), and it also happens to be the place where a small group of believers (about 40 or so) meets regularly without a shepherd of their own.

Why is this Important to me?

The pastor who has been mentoring me both in shepherd's college for the past five or six years and also in a weekly one-on-one mentorship for the past year publishes a newsletter wherein he mentioned recently that he had a young man in his mentorship that he personally believed was ready for the pastorate. I don't subscribe to his newsletter so I am telling you this secondhand.

I am the candidate that he was referring to - and I mention medicine hat because my old pastor was approached recently by one of the members of this congregation. They are currently meeting together regularly, but do not have their own pastor, and this fellow has asked my mentor to have me contact him in the event that I might be a suitable candidate for candidacy.

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I take a calling to shepherd quite seriously - trembling before the thought of being spiritually responsible for others. So when an opportunity like this presents itself specifically and only to me - I stop and take note.

Now, it is significant to me that I have been rather careful not to pray for a ministry. Like Jonah, I have gone far out of my way to avoid being called to the ministry - I say this to my own shame. I am well established in my church (in my own opinion at least), and that level of spiritual investment is difficult to walk away from. But yesterday morning, I prayed earnestly that the Lord would open a door to full time ministry for me. In the back of my heart, unspoken but certain, was the hope that such a ministry was still fifteen or twenty years off - you know the scenario - my call to ministry would be a retirement thing, once I am eligible for pension I can retire and go into full time ministry - secure in my pension payout, such that the wages of ministry would only augment my income - that is, I would be free to flop on my face bringing without bringing financial ruin to my family.

I say it is significant, because I have avoided being entirely up front with God on this - and yesterday morning, I finally prayed in earnest that God could direct my life and give me a ministry if he really felt I was capable.

So when I went for mentoring last night I was a little stunned to hear that this congregation was interested in speaking to me about ministry.

Now, I have been considered for candidacy before - and while I was careful to put it before the Lord, yet I didn't think I was free in my spirit to really answer these calls - and putting them to the Lord, they came to nothing (that is, whatever original interest was expressed in seeking my candidacy didn't grow beyond that) and I praise God for that. It wasn't that I went and candidated and was rejected, but that the original interest in candidacy didn't pan out into a candidacy. I say that I was careful to bring these things to God's throne, but while my pastor had already begun to pray that God would provide a ministry for me, I neglected to do so. I was intimidated by the thought - much like the little bird in the nest - I wasn't going to hop out on my own.

Well, as it happens, I battled with that for a while, and like I mentioned, yesterday I finally gave it up to the Lord. God seems to be answering this prayer with great speed - but I am cautious. I suppose that some would immediately assume that this is God's will because it appears to be an immediate answer to a very specific prayer. Never the less, I am not convinced thus.

Which is the point of this post. I need to consider these things prayerfully, and I would appreciate prayer on the matter.

In particular, I see that I am hesitant to leave my current financial security - which demonstrates to me that I have shuffled some of my reliance on God to reliance on my job. I need to be free from that regardless of whether I am called to this ministry or not. Mostly I need discernment. I don't want to miss the will of God on the left hand or on the right. Perhaps my zeal for ministry would cause me to go ahead of the Lord? Perhaps my concerns about security would cause me to make excuses to avoid God's will? Perhaps I am not really called, but sorely deluded. All such avenues must be considered, and considered prayerfully - so I appreciate any prayer that you might be inclined to offer.

If I could even direct your prayer specifically - ask God to treat me like a total imbecile - making His will utterly clear to my dense understanding.

posted by Daniel @ 10:42 AM   16 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Question: What did Jesus experience on the cross in our stead?
Answer: God's wrath on account of our sin.

Question: And how much of God's wrath did Christ experience?
Answer: All of it - that is, all the wrath that was supposed to be ours.

Question: So how much of God's wrath is left for us when we sin?
Answer: ?

Indeed, we read in Habukkuk that God "...cannot look on wickedness" (Hab 1:13), in the Psalms we read that the Lord's face "... is against evil doers" (Psalm 34:16), and would that both time and patience permitted, I am sure I could demonstrate that "...God is angry with the wicked every day." (Psalm 7:11) . Many of our pastors do not fail to quote such verses to their congregations - painting a picture of God being angry with those redeemed in the congregation who are sinning. The message we hear is even though God loves us, yet somehow
God manages to hate us when we sin.

This message is ...confusing.

Now, some would say that God doesn't hate anyone - he just hates sin. But one would only be excused for believing such nonsense if they had never read a bible. While various philosophies tout the idea that love and hate form a yin/yang one or the other sort of relationship, the truth is that love and hate are not opposites. God is entirely able to love us and hate us simultaneously. The bible teaches us plainly enough that God loved us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), and that God hates all sinners (Psalm 5:5) . There are enough verses available to demonstrate this truth, so I am not going to belabor the point.

We sing "Jesus paid it all"- yet how many of us assume that God hates us when we sin? Fess up now - you know who you are. We read all the verses that speak about God hating sinners, or the many more that plainly describe God's hatred for sin - and when we sin, we pour all of that on ourselves. We say without words, "God hates me because I have sinned!"

I would agree with that entirely except for the tense.

You see, God has hated you already - when He poured His wrath out on you in Christ. How much of God's anger and hatred and wrath did your sin receive in Christ on the cross? All of it. How do I know there is no more wrath left for me? Because when God raised Christ from the dead, I was in Christ, -- when God raised Christ He raised me too - God declared --me-- (once and for all) acceptable to Him (in the Beloved).

So when I sin, I can sit in a frump all I want - it doesn't cause God to love me any more, or cause him to spare his wrath poured out on Christ one bit. All it does is make me feel like I am earning the right to be in God's presence. A little wet-eyed remorse and I am certain that I am once again in God's good books.

Do you see that this mentality is poison?

Do you see that I am acceptable to God, not because I am righteous, but because I am in Christ? Do you see that the only thing that has ever made me acceptable to God, and continues to keep me acceptable to God is that I am in Christ?

If I imagine that my sin separates me from God I am half right. My sin separated Christ from God - and every verse in scripture that tells me how much God hates my sin, and hates the sinner - these are verses that describe what happened on Calvary - all of it meant for me - all of it applied to Christ. There is nothing, nothing at all, left for me.

Paul encouraged Timothy with the words, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." - I have been describing to you "the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

Some of us have a very weak understanding of this "Grace." We stick to linear definitions - "Grace = unmerited favor" - such that every time we read grace we do a word substitution, "for by unmerited favor you were saved through faith..." - but this is the stuff of a puddle deep faith. Why do we meditate on the meaning of grace? So we don't reduce what Christ purchased for us on the cross to an intellectually pleasing, but spiritually void word substitution.

Think this through brothers and sister - and think hard: How will your relationship change when you begin to walk in the confidence that Jesus really did pay it all? There is a freedom that comes with surety - but surety is hindered when we believe that our relationship with God depends on our own ability to maintain a sinless state. We might not articulate that thought - but if we find ourselves running for the garden shadows along with Adam when we sin - we have missed grace, swallowed the lie, and are crippling our trust in both Christ and God.

My encouragement to you who are reading this today - look to the cross. Look to the cross my brethren. Look at what was done there - all of it. Teach yourself what grace really means - then stop walking the Christian life cut off at the knees.
posted by Daniel @ 1:04 PM   11 comment(s)
Monday, January 09, 2006
Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

Above you will note the traditional Chinese figures for Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

Not surprisingly, the things that the world desires are often preached in the pulpits, and we are all too familiar with this particular worldly skew.

If I were to name the three things that have most hindered my reliance on God, what do you imagine they would be? That's right, sickness, poverty, and sorrow. No, wait - when I am in sickess, poverty or sorrow, I always turn to the Lord; the reality is , when I am healthy I forget to thank God for my health, and I begin to trust in my own strength (surely I will go with you on that business venture next month - what could happen?), likewise when I am wealthy I need not ask God to provide - why bother, I have enough already! And when I am happy - do I even think about God? No! I am way too busy being happy.

Without exaggeration, if I needed to come up with three things that have kept me from relying on God, I could say without hesitation: Health, Wealth and Happiness.

I am therefore not surprized that just about every system of philosophy is preoccupied with securing these things. Surely anyone who has them is going to be extremely hindered in coming to God. I think that is what Christ meant when the rich young ruler was walking away - unsaved. To His disciples Christ remarked that it would be more difficult for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom.

That is why I cringe every time a modern day Balaam preaches health, wealth, and happiness to God's children - they are preaching a gospel of separation, they are paving the way to self reliance. Nasty stuff as far as I am concerned.

posted by Daniel @ 11:21 AM   6 comment(s)
Friday, January 06, 2006
Shadows and whatnot.

Here is an interesting quote from the Talmud (tractate Yoma, chapter IV (Gemara):
The rabbis taught: Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the lot never came into the right hand, the red wool did not become white, the western light did not burn, and the gates of the Temple opened of themselves, till the time that R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: "Temple, Temple, why alarmest thou us? We know that thou art destined to be destroyed. For of thee hath prophesied Zechariah ben Iddo [Zech. xi. 1]: 'Open thy doors, O Lebanon, and the fire shall eat thy cedars.'"

A bit of background for context sake:

The Talmud is a collection of Jewish traditions (considered authoritive to the Jews) comprising the Mishnah (instruction/oral law - mostly halakic Jewish traditions compiled about A.D. 200 and made the basic part of the Talmud) and Gemara (authoritive "commentary" on the Mishnah forming the second part of the Talmud).

Tractate "Yoma" is speaking about "Yom Kippur" - that is, the "day of atonement" (c.f. Leviticus 23:27), that is, this particular "tractate" (treatise) is considered by the Jews an authoritive source for information about the Day of Atonement.

Leviticus 16 describes the "Day of Atonement". After Aaron's son's offered profane fire to God (recall: God destroyed them by fire), the command was given that Aaron and his children (that is the high priestly line) were not allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies at just any time "let they die" - they were permitted to come before the "propitiatory seat" in the Holy of Holies but once per year, and only the high priest was so entitled. The high priest had to be arrayed in the holy linen tunic, trousers, sash and turban according to the command - only after he had washed his body in water.

Two kids of the goats were taken for a sin offering for the congregation, and a ram as a burnt offering for the congregation - and the high priest would also offer a bull for himself and his family.

The high priest would then take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the temple - here he would cast lots for the two goats, one for the Lord (this was slain as the sin offering) and the other the "scapegoat" (this one was set loose in the wilderness.)

The goat for the Lord was slain, and the high priest took the blood of the bull into the Holy of Holies to atone for himself and the blood of the "sin" goat to atone for Israel. When he came out of the Holy of Holies, he would take the live goat, and confess the sins of Israel over it, then (by the hand of a suitable man) release the live goat into the wilderness to take the iniquities of Israel somewhere else (specifically, to an "uninhabited land").

Okay, so that is our Levitical "reminder" - the Day of Atonement was a day where two goats would be taken for the sin offering, one to be slain, the other to led outside the camp bearing the sins of Israel.

Now we must add an historical reminder:

In 70 AD The Roman General Titus sacked Jerusalem, and burned the temple putting a permanent stop to the daily animal sacrifices. According to the Jewish Historian Josephus, the temple was burned to the ground after an unruly soldier, “moved by some supernatural impulse,” (War 6.252) threw a firebrand into the
sanctuary - though Sulpicius Severus’ "Chronica" attributes the decision to burn the Temple to Titus himself. Whatever the case, the temple was indeed burned to the ground in 70 A.D.

Recall, that the temple was not only the temple, but also the Jewish treasury, and that the inside of it was coated with gold. When the temple burned, the gold melted and descended into the cracks and crevices of the stone foundations. Josephus also records for us that in order to get to this gold, the Roman tenth legion ordered the Jewish captives uproot every stone, not only of the temple but of the whole city. Such that all of the temple, and most of Jerusalem was literally leveled, "having not one stone upon another"

Okay, so why do I mention this?

Recall that I am not looking at Christian stuff here, but historic sources that cannot be described as "harmonious" or even sympathetic to the Christian cause. Certainly those Jews who reject Christ as the Messiah, are not going to go out of their way to make a case for Christ.

This brings us back to the Talmud, the last place one would expect to find support for Christ.

You see, the Talmud tells us that It became a tradition in the days of the Temple to divide a crimson thread, tying a part of the thread to the horns of the scapegoat, and another part to the door of the sanctuary. Every year, when the goat reached the wilderness the congregation would look to the thread at the sanctuary door. If it turned from crimson to white it was taken to mean that the sins of the people had been forgiven. This was interpreted as a fulfillment of the verse in Isaiah 1:18 "though your sins be a scarlet they shall be white as snow."

This isn't Christian stuff here, but pure Talmud.

Now, 40 years might sound arbitrary - and perhaps it is, but to me it seems a significant number. First, it mirrors God's judgment against Israel in the wilderness - when they rejected God's rest the first time. But secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it coincides with the approximate date of Christ's crucifixion.

It makes perfect sense to the Christian that with the coming of the Messiah, those things which were only shadows (such as daily sacrifice in the temple) would no longer have any value. The lot could no longer fall to the right hand because Christ had already been sacrificed and was already seated at the right hand of God - the goat that was represented by the right hand lot could surely not be used as the sacrifice because the "right hand" had already been sacrificed once and for all. Likewise we would expect the crimson thread to remain crimson since the true sacrifice was not in effect - that is, the shadow (the goat sacrifice) was no accepted as the placeholder once the true substance (Christ on the cross) had become a reality.

Jewish scholars are divided on how they right that off. Some choose to discredit Josephus, but most are satisfied to say that there were plenty of other reasons why this might have been - not the least of which is the idea that God was punishing the remaining Jews for those who had turned to Christ.

I am fascinated when unsympathetic, and even hostile traditions and histories give clear testimony to the reality of Christ.

Anyway, food for thought.
posted by Daniel @ 1:27 PM   4 comment(s)
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Wooden Nickel Award
centuri0ns wooden nickel awardDoulogos has won centuri0n's soon to be prestigious wooden nickel awared for "TTLB Impaired blog!"

Most of you who read my blog are already familiar with Frank Turk of Centuri0n fame (that is a zero by the way, and not an upper case "o"), so I won't bother introducing Frank - but if you are amongst those who are not familiar, Frank is a prolific blogger and dedicated follower of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (and not necessarily in that order) - his blog is found at http://centuri0n.blogspot.com.

I am thrilled to be a recipient of one of these awards (there were several categories), though I thought my best shot was in the "Best Toady" category (I almost nominated myself in that category, but I thought that would be too gauche.)

The awards provided some fun for those of us who read Frank's blog regularly, and I was happy to see his efforts well received, and really, who doesn't want a wooden nickel?

On a side note - Narnia was great fun! I am definitely going to buy the DVD when it comes out.
posted by Daniel @ 11:19 AM   22 comment(s)
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Holiday Season Over...
You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much lately.

It being the holiday season I have been busy with other things, and of course the first casualty of my current industry is going to be my hobby ministry.

I expect to start posting with more daily rigor soon, though today I expect this is the extent of it. On boxing day I picked up a new digital camera. My wife actually took a two year photography course in college while we were dating - sadly, all it qualified her to do was take great photos and find work at one hour photo labs (yeesh! Talk about educational over kill!). Anyway, the bottom line is that she is a much better photographer than I am, and so I have heeded her advice in purchasing a digital camera.

Not that she said - "Go out and buy a digital camera that is such and such" - but rather, she said in years past, "DO NOT BUY A DIGITAL CAMERA!" much to my chagrin. As a "techie" I like to play with electronic gadgets, and am even allowed to sign out stuff from work and play with it at home. A few of years ago our work purchased a top of the line digital camera (3.1 Mega Pixels!!) and it wasn't long before I brought it home and played with it. My wife thought it was almost on par with an entry level "analog" camera, and so I could NOT convince her how desperately we needed one.

So each year I have had to wait patiently for her to decide if this would be the year that the quality/price ratio was satisfactory for a purchase. The year before last, and last year my techie desires met with obstinate resistance. But this year there was a boxing day sale for Minolta 5 MegaPixel cameras (8 x Optical zoom) for $299, and 512 MB SD memory cards were only $34 (CDN). I was given the thumbs up, and the purchase was made.

So some of my time has been spent taking inane and myriad photos of my family, doing all sorts of things like, sitting, standing, walking, coughing, -- you name it. Every moment in my house recently has been a Kodak moment.

Anyway, so you are likely to see the Avatar change a few more times as I fiddle, but I expect to post again with substance sooner than later.

Today the family is going to go and see Narnia. I hear it is pretty fun. We haven't taken the whole family to see a movie in a while, so I am thankful for the family outing.

If you are of that rare variety of Christian - the kind that prays often and earnestly - pray for my old Pastor, Pastor Bill. He has a tumor that is bleeding (He is in his late eighties now), and we want to see him recover from it so that he can have another operation for a different ailment.

I'll thank you now, and I'll thank you again on the other side if I remember. ;-)
posted by Daniel @ 9:41 AM   4 comment(s)
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