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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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Monday, July 31, 2006
Boooo, scary booooo!The number of the beast, as recorded in Revelation is sixhundred and sixty six. It isn't "three sixes" - but a numeric value - twice three hundred and thirty three, or six times one hundred and eleven.

The Greek language, in which the book of revelation was penned, didn't have these nice Arabic numerals 0-9 that we use today. So they used letters to represent numbers.

If you read a person's name, and translated the letters into numbers, you could "calculate" the number of his or her name. We don't do that anymore, since we have long since adopted the Arabic decimal number system, so instead, when people want to calculate the number of the beast - they often dream up some number formula that will generate a value of six hundred and sixty six.

For example. If we wanted to calculate the number of "Doulogos" so that it added up to 666, we would add the positional values of each of the letters together:

D = 4th letter in the alphabet
O = 15th letter in the alphabet
U = 21st letter, etc.
L = 12
O = 15
G = 7
O = 15
S = 19

Adding these we get a value of 108. Now we simply divide 666/108 and viola~~! We have a constant that we can use (37/6 or 6.1666666).

So if we say that:

A = 6 1/6
B = 12 1/3
C = 18 1/2
D = 24 2/3
E = 30 5/6
F = 37

We can add up the new values for "Doulogos":

D = 24 4/6
O = 92 3/6
U = 129 3/6
L = 74
O = 92 3/6
G = 43 1/6
O = 92 3/6
S = 117 1/6

Adding it all up? Why 666 of course.

Faith Classics adds up to 129 - so the constant there would be 5.162791
>Doxoblogy adds up to 119 - so the constant would be 5.596638655
>Frank Turk adds up to 120 - so the constant there would b 5.55 even.
Jesus adds up to 74, so the constant there is a clean 9
Jesus Christ adds up to 157, so you would have to use 4.242038217
The Pope adds up to 86, which requires 7.835294118

Anyway you get the idea - anyone with a calculator, and five minutes of spare time, who isn't completely out of their element working with grade seven algebra - can come up with a formula to turn any name into a bonifide calculation that produces the answer six hundred and sixty six (or any other number we should want).

The thing is when John said "calculate" he wasn't talking about plugging numbers into a formula - he was almost certainly talking about the use of letters as numbers - and very likely the Greek letters, since that is the language he was writing in.

I am not going to speculate about whom John was referring to, but I will say that I suspect the warning was not for our day, but for a day when letters were commonly used as numbers - such that calculating a persons name would not have involved a history lesson first.
posted by Daniel @ 5:00 PM   22 comment(s)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Font Changes and Fun
Try turning your head to the left and looking at it...You may have noticed that I changed the font size on the blockquotes and the permalink page comments part. The small font was really beginning to annoy me.

I still want to put the names first in the comment section, but that will be another day - don't want to do everything all at once!

Here is a picture. Can you figure it out?
posted by Daniel @ 3:08 PM   18 comment(s)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Sin enters into the human race, and death through sin...Pronunciation: 'for - en,
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English forein, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin foranus on the outside, from Latin foris outside
1 : situated outside a place or country; especially : situated outside one's own country
2 : born in, belonging to, or characteristic of some place or country other than the one under consideration
3 : of, relating to, or proceeding from some other person or material thing than the one under consideration
4 : alien in character : not connected or pertinent
5 : related to or dealing with other nations
6 a : occurring in an abnormal situation in the living body and often introduced from outside (a foreign body lodged in the esophagus)
6 b : not recognized by the immune system as part of the self (foreign proteins)
7 : not being within the jurisdiction of a political unit (as a state)
"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" - Romans 5:12 [ESV]
Here we read that sin "came into the world" - I might add, the world was already created at this time - that is (for those of you who are paying attention) sin is -not- a part of God's creation. When God pronounced His creation good, there was no such thing as sin. Sin came into the world through Adam, and we are told, that along with sin, came death.

When we read that death came through sin let us guard against simply nodding our assent and moving on - we ought to really get a handle on that first, because I think a right understanding of what happened in the garden will give us a more accurate insight into what Paul is about to express.

The Tree of Life

We see from Genesis 2:9 that the "Tree of Life" was planted in the middle of the Garden of Eden. It was a real tree which bore real fruit, and was really located in the middle of the Garden - which elsewhere is referred to as the Garden of the Lord (c.f. Genesis 13:10, Isaiah 51:3).

Consider that scripture elsewhere teaches that God alone is the source of life (c.f. Acts 17:25), for it was God who breathed the "spirit of life" into Adam (c.f. Genesis 2:7; 7:22). But here as the ornamental centerpiece, the very heart of Eden, the Tree of Life, which Adam and Eve were directed to eat freely of, along with every other fruit in the garden (except of course, the forbidden fruit).

When Adam sinned, He and Eve were exiled from the Garden to prevent them from eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, as we see in scripture:
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever" therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. - Genesis 3:22-25 [ESV]
I think some of us picture eating the fruit as a one timer - that if Adam could have gotten to the tree in time, he could have taken a bite - and faster than you can say SHAZAM! - He gets eternal life apart from God.

I add "apart from God" because the scenario I painted - the one where one nibble gives eternal life - is one in which a created tree imparts the ability to achieve eternal autonomy from God.

I think that scenario is wrong.

We see the tree of life once again in the book of Revelation, where is it planted? Why, smack-dab in the middle of heaven, that's where (c.f. Revelation 2:7)! Is it described there as the sort of thing you would nibble once and never need again? Let's see... Revelation 22:2 says, "through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. " - Why would such a tree bear fruit each month, if we only needed to eat from it once?

We need food in order to continue living - that is something we all can relate to. If we stop eating, we will eventually die of malnourishment. In a very practical and real way - this pictures the tree of life. So long as one partakes of its fruit, life is sustained - but when one stops taking of its fruit - life is no longer sustained.

Speaking of God, Habakkuk says, "You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,..." - Habakkuk 1:13a [ESV]. We reason that when God ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden, it was because God was no longer able to tolerate their presence. Let us not forget how many times God "broke out" against the Israelites when they were wandering through the wilderness - I believe that God, in order to preserve Adam and Eve's life, sent them out of His presence.

I would further add, that if you wanted my definition of "original sin" it isn't some genetic thing we are born with, nor is it some tangible flaw that we inherit progenetically - as though at the moment of conception I inherit some "taint" from mom - I think original sin is just that - I inherit the consequences of Adam's sin - I am born into a world that is already separated from the very Author of life. This is why the Tree was in the center of the Garden - it pictures God, it pictures life - it pictures the centrality of God, the necessity of God, the primacy of God as the sustainer of life. When Adam was driven from the Tree of life, he inherited a vacuum where the life of God used to be - and His children inherit that same vacuum - this is original sin. We are born into a spiritually lifeless vacuum - If God is life, the absence of God is death - and this separation from life is mapped out clearly enough in Genesis that we shouldn't wonder how death came into the world through sin - it came in because sin drove out life, and death is merely the vacuous wake that is left in its stead.

We reason therefore that the Tree of Life pictures Christ, the Vine (c.f. John 15), and that those who abide in this Vine have life, and those who do not abide do not have life. Our daily bread - manna - the bread of life that comes down from heaven - all picture life in Christ, and sin therefore produces the absence of life - that is, sin produces death.

We could go the extra mile and say that Christ came to restore us - to reconcile us - to make it so that we are once again fit for God's presence, and can once again partake of the tree of life. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Sin Is Foreign

As I mentioned previously, sin itself isn't a "something," neither is death for that matter - sin is the absence of obedience, and death the resulting absence of life. But we tend to discuss these things as though they had substance. In Romans 5 Paul explains that these things entered into the human race through Adam - they were not part of God's creation and are therefore foreign and even incompatible with God's creation. We may well reason that it is just as inappropriate for us to die as it is for us to disobey God. Creation simply was not designed that way.

When Paul begins in Romans 7 to talk about sin dwelling within him - we need it clear in our mind that sin is something foreign to creation, and subsequently, foreign to who we are. But let's not jump ahead just yet. We come to Romans seven through (or by way of) Romans six, so we ought to follow this through Romans six first.

When we get into Romans six, Paul begins to explain the relationship between life, death, sin, God, and the Christian. This chapter answers an anticipated charge of antinomianism - Paul reasons that when the Jews hear that a man is saved by faith and not works, it is essentially teaching that you are free to sin like devils because your righteous standing before God rests on your faith and not your works. I have heard it said that any time you really preach grace you will always run the risk of someone calling you antinomian - and I for one believe it. Here Paul says that you won't continue to give into sin because when you became a Christian, Jesus set you free from sin's dominion.

Paul loses more than a few people when he describes "how" that happens, but basically Paul is saying that if you are a Christian, then that which you inherited through Adam ("The Sin") - that separation from God which was producing death in you - the very heart and source of all your disobedience ("sinn-ing") - that void within you so alien to creation - this was taken by Christ to the cross - and there God poured his wrath upon it until the life of Christ was spent - and when it was, our judicial separation from God was over. The power of sin was death - separation from life - and Christ closed the gap on the cross, releasing us from that which held us, releasing us from death!

Paul explains that sin no longer has dominion over (reigns in ) a Christian, that they are reconciled to life, and that the life that they now life, they can live to God.

But this is a seriously difficult concept to understand (and I probably have some, or much, of it muddled up myself), yet the heart of what Paul was saying in Romans six is that the Christian doesn't continue to sin, because he has been reconciled to Life, and life doesn't produce sin - death does!

The Law and Sin

In Romans 7 Paul anticipates Jewish objections - this time anticipating a charge that righteousness through faith must necessarily contradict the Law, and Paul begins to show that the purpose and function of the law was not to produce righteousness, but to identify sin in such a way as to show the sinner that they are in fact condemned and not righteous - a realization that ought to cause the sinner to genuinely seek God.

In Romans six Paul explained that those who were in Christ when Christ died on the cross are truly dead in one sense - and since they are dead, he explains (in Romans 7) that the law (which only binds the living) no longer condemns the Christian. The purpose of our death in Christ, Paul explains, is to facilitate our genuine obedience to God. Having been released from the law (condemnation) we are free to serve God "in the Spirit."

Paul again anticipates that the reader will not be able to picture how this could possibly play out - so Paul (in the latter half of Romans 7) begins to paint the picture: He begins by laying out a few facts: [1] the law is good, [2] the law reveals our sinfulness, [3] and sinfulness continues to produce death (separation from God). He then argues that "the sin" not only dwells in the flesh, but enslaves it, so that a man is not able to overcome the flesh - even if he has the law.

There is a lot of discussion about whether Paul is talking about a Christian or a sinner. I say that is beside the point. Paul is describing how the flesh is [1] enslaved to sin, and [2] how the law cannot correct that. If an unsaved person is trying to conquer sin through the law - that person is going to fail. If a Christian or a Jew, or a Buddhist, or anyone for that matter tries to have victory over sin through the law - they will fail. It doesn't matter if Paul is speaking about before or after he is saved, it doesn't matter if he is discussing himself hypothetically or not - he is describing a truth - the law cannot free a man from sin, but that what the law could not do - Christ does!

Gives ya the shivers, don't it?

Being in Christ sets us free from this body's enslavement to sin and death. The flesh remains enslaved, but we are no longer obedient to the flesh because Christ's spirit is in us, and we have been set free from the enslavement to the body through the cross of Christ.

That is why we start Romans eight in victory - No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. God did in Christ, what the law couldn't do - free us from sin's dominion. By the Spirit we can appropriate victory over the deeds of the body - specifically - by setting our minds on the things of the Spirit (walking in the Spirit), rather than the things of the flesh.

That isn't some religious mumbo-jumbo either - it is life itself. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. We are obligated to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh, since obeying the Spirit produces life in us, and obeying the flesh produces death.

I want to be clear when I say that - when I say "produces death" - I am not suggesting that walking in the flesh causes us to lose our salvation - I am saying that walking in the flesh causes the life that should be flowing into, through, and out of the believer and into others - it pinches the flow of that life off, and instead of life producing righteousness in the believer, and life in others - the absence of life is seen instead - that is death is being produced.

I could go on, and perhaps I will do another part on this - but the point I wanted to get across was that sin is foreign to humanity - and that the necessary flipside of disobedience (sin) is separation from God (death). That for the Christian, life is setting the mind on Christ (as opposed to the law), and that this is where life and victory are at - and not in Romans seven where you spin your wheels trying to keep the law.


My encouragement - if you are one of those Christians who finds themselves on that big old hamster wheel, running in place - spinning out in the mire - never getting closer to God, but always busy, busy, busy... If you are having devotions every morning, yet you yourself lack devotion - brother, sister, remember what is on the cross with Christ, remember who was raised with Christ, remember where you really stand - stop trying to get to God on your own dime! You cannot, nor will you ever! You need to count on the cross of Christ, and if you feel you can't seem to reckon yourself there - then brother/sister, allow me to remind you that no one comes to the cross by being good and/or worthy. The first surrender, dear soul, is to surrender yourself to the knowledge that GOD... WILL... DO... IT...! Your job is not to try and make it happen, your job is to rest in Christ, and wait. He will do as He promised - it's time to walk by faith, and stop walking by sight.

Go in grace.
posted by Daniel @ 10:19 AM   10 comment(s)
Sunday, July 23, 2006
A Wonderful Couple!
That's Neil on the left...If you have gone through all the links in my blog roll already, then you are already familiar with Bugblaster (Neil) and Kim. If you have been following their blogs at all, you will know that this weekend their eldest daughter celebrated a birthday away from home (she is a camp counselor this summer), and Kim and Neil stopped in to visit her this weekend. Their visit put them in my neck of the woods so we arranged (if possible) to get together when they came through. As it turned out, it was possible - and frankly, their visit was a real treat! If these two seem like great people in print, they are doubly so in person. My wife and I had a wonderful visit!

There was the awkward moment when they realized that I am not as bald as I was last summer when I shaved my head, nor do my eyes actually hypnotize people with my lemur like stare - but such awkwardness cannot last long when little drooling five month old babies are around Neil. He seems to have a great affinity for babes, and soon had our youngest hope snuggled up and asleep.

Neil and I chatted in the living room for a while, then we joined the ladies in the kitchen. In the meantime Neil had told me a story about how one of their children snuck into their bed once and put his cold feet on them. It must have been quite a traumatic incident, because Kim told the exact same story to my wife in the other room! That was funny - in the "old married couples start to look the same and dress the same" kinda way.

Neil and I chatted about bible translations, church, blogs a bit, and some bloggers, family, and all that sort of stuff. Had we had more time I expect we would have been exchanging testimonies. A shame that... - I really love to hear testimonies of what the Lord has done in other people's lives.

I don't really know what my wife and Kim chatted about yet, as my wife has since gone to bed, and we haven't compared notes yet, but when the boys decided to join the girls in the kitchen the conversation ranged from preaching styles to homes chooling to our favorite pastors and teachers. The kids stayed downstairs and quiet for our whole visit - which was nice too, it allowed us to visit without having to parent - and if you have kids, you know what I mean - it was a real nice visit.

When it was time for them to leave, it felt like we had known them longer. My wife and I sure hope they stop in again if they're ever in this part of the country again, and our prayers are that God would continue to bless this couple, and continue to make them such a blessing to others. They were just a great, couple!
posted by Daniel @ 11:04 PM   14 comment(s)
Friday, July 21, 2006
I was reading a post over at Jonathan Moorhead's blog and found the discussion there quite interesting.

If you follow the link to the thread and read the meta you will see that Matthew (A.K.A. Dyspraxic Fundamentalist) is teaching that saving faith is (or can be) temporal - that is, you can believe the gospel for a second or two, and having believed you become "saved" - and now that you have a lock on heaven you need not believe anymore - in fact, you can live another sixty or eighty years as an Anti-Christ, Muslim, Buddhist, or simply as an Atheist - and be as soundly saved as anyone else.

One would wonder what one has to do to be an apostate under such a soteriology, but one needn't wonder long, because Matthew defines apostasy as just another sin committed by a Christian that Christ will forgive them for:
A believer may potentially fall into apostasy and do the work of an antichrist. - Matthew (A.K.A. Dyspraxic Fundamentalist)
I think this is an error on Matthew's part.

I draw your attention to something John the apostle wrote:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us --eternal life. - 1 John 2:18-25

It is clear that John believes that those who leave the Christian faith demonstrate that they were not -of- the Christian faith. Whatever profession of belief they may have made was in fact a false profession - they demonstrate by their apostasy the fact that they were never saved in the first place.

I am reminded at this point of that law case a while back, where a fellow's heart stopped on the operating table. The fellow, having a life insurance policy, thought he had hit pay dirt, since his heart and breathing stopped long enough for him to be declared clinically dead. The judge took one look at him, pronounced him "alive" and threw the case out of court.

I confess - that's my kind of judge!

The fellow was hoping, no doubt to frivolously cash in on the wording of his insurance clause, but the judge wasn't swayed by the man's tomfoolery. It was clear that the policy was a "life insurance" policy - and that the man couldn't cash in on that policy while still being in full possession of the life that was insured - no matter how the claim was worded.

It happens from time to time that we read of someone handling God's word with all the tender care of a man trying to get something fraudulently on account of the text - as though the intent of the scripture could be circumvented by ignoring context in favor of some grammatical "possibility." I call this, well, it doesn't matter what -I- call it, it is enough to say that we shouldn't do it if we can help it.

When Jesus Christ opened my eyes to the truth - something happened. They were opened in such a way that they could never again be closed.

That is, I cannot deny the faith that saved me, it would be like denying truth itself - I could mouth the words all I wanted, but I know... I KNOW the truth, and while I may ignore it, or while I may walk all over it in my pride and sin, while I may refuse to bend to it - yet I cannot deny it! Truth is like that - I cannot deny that my wife gave birth to four children - I was there when each of them was born. You could as soon convince me that I was Napoleon Bonaparte as try and tell me that my wife didn't give birth to these four children. It isn't that I "believe" it - as though I could simply make a choice to believe it or not - it is that I am in possession of a truth that cannot be denied by a sane and rational mind. It isn't something some persuasion that I can be argued out of - it is truth itself. I know that my eyes were opened, and that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God - and I know that however I might fail my Lord, I can never deny that Jesus is the Christ.

If you are born again - neither can you.

That is to say, that no believer can stop believing, apostasy is not a Christian option. If you are a believer, you cannot stop being a believer. It doesn't work that way. Anyone who can stop being a "believer" has never believed. End of discussion. That is what John is saying. They went out from us because they weren't of us. They named the name of Christ for a while, but they were never Christians. They wore the label "Christian" and came to the love feasts, but they were false as could be.

Apostasy isn't the sin of a believer, but the sin of an unbeliever. It isn't that you are Christ's and then you fall away, it is that you joined the church superficially in the face of genuine truth - and having always rejected the truth, you eventually fall away from the church. That is apostasy.

The "believer" who believes for a time then falls away is no genuine believer and never was. An apostate was never saved in the first place. Apostasy can be forgiven only once - when a person comes to genuine faith. After that, there is no such thing as apostasy - since the reality of Christ cannot be denied by anyone who has received Christ's Spirit in truth.

Apostasy is not a genuine believer falling into sin, it is a counterfeit "Christian" finally laying aside their hypocrisy.

Believers can fall into sin, and have trouble getting out of it - they can look, for all the world to be fruitless - but they cannot deny Christ with their hearts - their mouths might be able to mumble something - but they won't believe it - they cannot.

So when I read Matthew's quote, I am left more than a little confused. It is as if he defines apostasy as being a period of backsliding - and not as unbelief, or possibly when Matthew (A.K.A. Dyspraxic Fundamentalist) says "believer" he isn't speaking of someone in possession of saving faith, but rather someone who has come to a "momentarily persuasion."

This sort of confusion can only lead to more confusion.
posted by Daniel @ 10:17 AM   12 comment(s)
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Flesh or Spirit??
One of the best questions I have ever been asked is, "How can we know (other than hindsight) whether we are in the Spirit or in the Flesh?" - that is, how do we determine if anything we do is being done "in the Spirit" or whether it is being done "in the flesh" - really, it is asking "How do we walk in the Spirit, or know we are walking in the Spirit?"

I say it is one of the best questions because it is the kind of practical "how do I" question that cuts through all the fluff. Recall in John 9 the man born blind? The one Christ healed by making mud with his spittle and putting it on the man's eyes? The man was brought before the Pharisees and asked how it was that he was healed - and he told them. He didn't know Jesus from Adam, but he knew that Jesus had healed him - and marvelled that the Pharisees didn't understand that this man had to have been sent by God. Later, after they had cast this man out of the synagog because he had rebuked them in their blindness, Christ sought him out. Recall how this played out in verses 35-38:
Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you." He said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

That is an honest faith, and I love how practical it is. Who is he that I may believe? - there is no guile in a question like that - and I see the same integrity in the question "How do I walk in the Spirit?" That is, the one who asks such a question isn't asking so that they can take the information somewhere else and use it in a theological debate - they want to know so that they can put it into practice right here and now.

Praise the Lord for people like that!

Perhaps the best way to answer such a question is to first examine what "walking in the Spirit" is not.

It Is Not Mystical Buffoonery.

I don't think it escapes the notice of any new convert that in scripture men who were not Jesus Christ did miracles. When I first came to Christ, my expectation was that I should also be able to perform the miraculous - if my faith was genuine.

As a new believer, to be sure, my experience in scripture was so naive that I hadn't noticed nor grasped as significant the fact that not every believer was doing miracles - but only the apostles, and perhaps the deacons in the church etc. My understanding of scripture was vague and this vagueness grieved me with doubts about the validity of my own faith. Surely, I thought, if my faith is genuine, I should be experiencing these miracles as a matter of course.

My expectations were based upon my understanding of God's word, and my weak understanding produced some rather unrealistic expectations. As I began to read scripture more and more, I began to notice the context of these miracles, and who was doing them and why - which explained to me why I wasn't able to generate my own miracles.

I wasn't really understanding what scripture had recorded, and my ignorance produced mystical expectations.

Ignorance works that way - we may have enough information to draw a conclusion, but until we examine the information we have carefully our conclusions are going to be questionable.

Now there are a variety of ways to deal with failed expectations:

[1] I could have decided that since I wasn't able to cure the blind and raise the dead that scripture was bunk - that is, I could have concluded that it was all a big lie.

[2] Likewise I could have concluded that scripture was true, but that I wasn't really a Christian (this was my personal favorite), since I wasn't experiencing what I thought scripture described as the normative Christian experience

[3] Furthermore, I suppose I could have decided that I lacked some key component - likely faith - so that if I could just hunker down and "believe hard enough" (picture me clenching my teeth and going purple in the face) then I might be able to do a miracle. That is, I reasoned that something was "wrong" with my faith, and if I could correct it, I would be raising the dead in no time.

[4] Or I could have (and this was where I eventually wound up) continued to study the text, certain that there was a rational explanation for why I wasn't experiencing what I was expecting. That is, I could presume that I had made an error somewhere in drawing my conclusions.

The first scenario isn't really all that mystical - it is simply unbelief.

The second scenario recognizes that scripture is true, and presumes our understanding to be likewise accurate - therefore it rationalizes the discrepancies between what is expected and what is experienced by assuming that there is something insincere about one's faith.

The third scenario, like the second, recognizes that scripture is correct and also assumes that the believer has a correct understanding of that same scripture - but doesn't go so far as to presume that the believer is in fact unsaved - but rather assumes that the blame lies in some personal deficiency.

It is from the third scenario that mysticism gets it's greatest support. Many a believer is convinced both that scripture is true, and that they are saved - but these truths seem to contradict one another since their own experience doesn't line up with the expectations that their understanding of scripture demand. The result is that they begin to pursue "what's missing" - not in their own understanding (as would bring them to the truth) - but rather they are looking for "experiences" to validate their faith. Many "charismatics" camp here.

These same sorts are prone to interpret anything and everything as having deeper meaning. Did your skin tingle once when you were praying? Probably God's Spirit! Did you think about Africa while you were on the bus? Probably God wants you to be a missionary! Did you not like what the pastor said? Probably the Holy Spirit is moving you to identify sin in the pastor's life! These are the ones whose speech is often peppered with "The Lord told me to say this to you" and other such nonsense.

Walking in the Spirit is -NOT- characterized by acting upon every whim that enters into your thoughts. That would be called "anarchy" and our God is not the Author of confusion.

There is no "inner voice" - no special "divine feeling" no measurable, magical, phenomenon that accompanies the doing of God's will. Walking in the Spirit is not mystical, not something we do based upon unseen tingles, impressions, and whatever other tomfoolery you might imagine.

Setting Your Mind On The Things Of The Spirit

Remember Romans 8 verses 5 to 8?
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Before we look at what it means to set you mind on the flesh or the Spirit - we should also remember what Paul said only a few chapters previously in Romans 6 and verse 16:
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Likewise, let's look at the first couple of verses of Romans 12:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Putting it all together we see that "spiritual worship" of God is this: that we are moment by moment willingly offering God free reign of our lives by being ready and determined to obey what we know to be God's Spirit within. Whenever we are indifferent to God's Spirit, or determined to go our own way - we are in the flesh. Being "in the flesh" is our default condition. Being in the Spirit is an active form of worship that says, "I am willing to obey right here and now."

Mysticism Part Two...

Okay we say, we are willing to listen to whatever the Holy Spirit tells us to do. But here we might go just as awry as we were previously in danger of going. How do we know when God is talking to us, and when we are just being idiots?

Knowing the will of God isn't a matter of sitting cross-legged, emptying your mind, and trying to "hear his voice" while chanting a soothing mantra and sniffing incense. It is first a matter of knowing God's word intimately. Consider what scripture says about how God speaks to us today:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son... - Hebrews 1:1-2a
That is how God speaks to us today - through His Son Jesus.

Not that this puts us in the same boat we were just previously in, but with a new name to chant to (Jesus) - but that we understand this to mean scripture.

Recall Peter's declaration, "though art the Christ the Son of the Living God!" - what was Christ's response? It was to say that upon this rock He (Christ) would build His church. I don't care if you think the "rock" was Peter - your loss. The rock is "the teaching" that Jesus is the Christ. Peter's declaration is (in summary form) a description of everything the apostles would eventually teach. That Jesus was the Christ - consider the new Jerusalem (not a place but a people - c.f. Revelation 21) whose 12 foundations where the teaching of the apostles. The church is built upon -that- foundation - that is what Christ was going to build the church on.

When we talk therefore about the God speaking through Christ, we are not talking about mystical voices - we are talking about the message Christ gave to the apostles and has been recorded in and as the New Testament. Instruction that opens our understanding of the old testament so that it can never be closed again.

So it isn't some mystical voice - it is a knowledge of God as given through scripture, that is understood not because we are wise, but because God imparts wisdom liberally to those who ask for it.

I know that it is not my wife's will to have, say, extremely spicy food for supper tonight. I don't need to consult with her about it, because I know her. She isn't going to suddenly have a hankering for some Cajun. Having this knowledge any time I determine to have Cajun cuisine - I do so at the expense of that knowledge - that is, I can be certain that anytime I put aside what I know to do what I want - I am certainly acting in my own interest.

It is the same with God's will. God hasn't made His will a mystery, but plainly states His will in scripture:
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Timothy 2:3,4

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. - Ephesians 5:17

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, - Ephesians 5:18

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; - 1 Thessalonians 4:3

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. - 1 Peter 2:13,14

not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, - Ephesians 6:6

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. - 1 Peter 3:17

God's will, and I am borrowing from John MacArthur's wonderfully concise work on the subject "Found: God's will" - wherein he makes the case that five things are God's will for you - first that you be saved; second, Spirit filled; third sanctified; fourth submissive; and fifth that you be willing to Suffer for doing what is right. He reasons that if you are saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and doing right to the degree that you would even suffer, you won't have any trouble knowing God's will because if you are doing these at any given moment, you won't have room to do your own will - and as Psalm 37:4 points out - you will be delighting yourself in the Lord and when you do, you should expect psalm 37:4 to be true for you - that is, your desires will reflect God's desires.

As noted above, Romans 12:2 summarizes it - offer your life as a living sacrifice - that is, be willing to set aside your own plans and goals, and be willing to do God's will - and when you do you won't be conforming to this world, but you will be transformed by God and your mind will be being renewed and little by little, you will begin to discern what is the will of God - and that will manifest itself as [1] good, [2] acceptable and [3]perfect.

Bottom Line

So how do I know whether I am in the Spirit or in the Flesh? Picture the exodus of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 12). Recall how God had slain the first born of Egypt, but spared the firstborn of the children of Israel who had the blood of the passover lamb on their door posts and lintels. They were told to eat the passover lamb with their belt fastened, sandals on their feet, and their staff in their hand. I think that is a good picture for us of someone who is in the Spirit, not slacking about, but ready and waiting for the command of the Lord. They weren't told to do this for show or for fun, but so that they would be ready to leave immediately the command should come. So it is that the one who is in the Spirit is ready for God's command because he is prepared for it, anticipating, and eagerly waiting for it. He is doing all that God has specified is His will for us, (see above), is in no way quenching the Holy Spirit by ignoring his conscience - and is resting in the certain knowledge he will do whatever God calls him to do.

Not that he will hear some inner voice or must be careful to survey the various impressions of the day to see if perhaps this isn't God trying to tell him something. God tells us not to be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you." (Psalm 32:9) By this we understand that walking in the Spirit isn't a matter of God micro-managing your affairs - as though God were some great puppet master, and wants you to consult him before deciding to take your next breath.

Truly, when a thing is coming from your flesh and not your spirit, it will be for the benefit of your flesh and not for the benefit of your spirit. The more we know God the better we are able to know what is good for our spirit, and what is the nature of our flesh. If a person wishes to be certain they are in the Spirit, they must be certain of the will of God - and in order to be certain of God's will - they must know God (and not just about God).

Knowledge about God comes from scripture and as we walk in the light of what God shows us, as God Himself is in the light we will have fellowship with God - and move from knowing about God, to knowing God as a person - much in the way that a husband and a wife know one another.

While a son or daughter may be related to his or her father - they don't really know them unless they spend time with them. It is the same with God. So the bottom line is, spend time with God. There is a difference between walking in the light and studying what walking in the light looks like. One yields a relationship - the other puffs us up with air.
posted by Daniel @ 4:37 PM   5 comment(s)
Monday, July 17, 2006
Peer Review...
What's My Gifting...?
From time to time, though I am not as severe about is as Frank Turk, I do like to check out who is linking to me from time to time.

It was in such a pursuit that I came across a fun post on John Wendell's blog.

John is doing a series on Spiritual gifting, and in this part of that series - I would describe it more - but it is more fun if you just follow the link and go see it for yourselves.

But it got me to thinking - you know, about my own gifting.

A few years back, I took a spiritual gifting test that a pastor friend of mine had in a Bill Gothard seminar text he had received. Gothard believes that you only ever have one gift - and frankly I am not endorsing that idea by mentioning him - nor am I a "Gothardite" (Honey? How dare you leave this house without a turtleneck and scarf!!) - but I took the test anyway, and contrary to Bill's assertions, I found that, according to his "test" at least - my gifting was teaching and discernment.

Now, sometimes when we take such tests, we are not answering what we are, but what we aspire to be, and as fair as I try to be in answering such things - I do leave room for my own bias.

So I ask you gentle reader, what do you think Daniel's Spiritual gifting is? I will start you off by telling you up front, it isn't miracles or tongues (not that I know of at least).
posted by Daniel @ 11:31 AM   14 comment(s)
Friday, July 14, 2006
Pie-In-The-Sky Optimism...
(Drinking In Moderation)
Augustine has said (with a most excellent brevity and accuracy) what others have spent entire books trying to articulate:
"Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation."

Surely, most of you reading are by now well aware of the recent SBC resolutions regarding abstinence. This sort of "Denominational Prohibition" doesn't sit well because, well let's face it - it is more than a little legalistic.

I abstain from drinking alcohol myself, and precisely for the reason articulated by Augustine - not that I am prudish. Being saved as an adult, it is my unfortunate testimony to admit that I am no stranger to drunkenness and debauchery. After I came to Christ, I stopped drinking. I wasn't an alcoholic, I just saw nothing edifying in spending the money God provided for my life on alcohol - even if it was only to drink "moderately."

That fact is, I understood that while scripture condemned drunkenness it didn't do so by way of commanding abstinence. But alas - I was hanging with some a rather legalistic crowd at the time - at least legalistic when it came to alcohol - and frankly, if I had been seen sipping a wine - well, what a kerfluffle that would have been! So I reasoned that it was easier for me to simply abstain that to put a stumbling block before my weaker (legalistic) brethren.

I truly would have no real trouble drinking a beer or sipping wine if absolutely nothing else were available, and I were so entirely dehydrated that I needed to get some liquid in me right then and there. But living in North America - there has never been a time or place where I have had to make such a choice, and I expect it will never happen. I suppose I am saying that I can't imagine a real scenario wherein drinking alcohol would be something necessary or beneficial.

That is, I don't imagine for a moment that drinking alcohol is something I will ever need to do, or something that cannot be avoided - but in the same breath, I wouldn't insist that having a beer is sinful.

Now, having said that, some people may drink a glass of wine with a good meal - you know, sipping it over the course of an hour or so - while they eat. They don't have a second glass, and they don't drink wine except when they are having a big meal (It does help the digestion you know) - and really, I have no problem with that. It is often a cultural thing, (though sometimes it is entirely an ego thing "look at me, I am so cultured! - Teehee!") - but really, this sort of "drinking" isn't really drinking - it is just "fancy eating."

But there are some - typically younger people who grew up in legalism, and having fled legalism - they began to rebel against boundaries in general - such that they use their liberty as an excuse to excess. Postmodernism plays right into this particular trend. Let me tell you, moderation is amorphous enough without being fortified by the postmodernism mindset that denies objectivity, such that "what is moderate for you, may not be moderate for me."

So it is that I find Augustine's thoughts on the matter so relevant today - into this postmodern culture his words could never have been more true - in a culture where truth is no longer considered an absolute, and moderation can be argued to mean whatever you want it to mean - it most certainly is easier to abstain than to moderate.

One parting thought: Our liberty was never intended to fuel our indulgence. I am disgusted (and I am sure most of you are too) by some who set out to champion "Christian Drinking" - not out of a desire for a clear understanding and application of scripture - but because they love the world and the things in the world, and they desire to live in the world without being hassled by "the man."
posted by Daniel @ 8:40 AM   23 comment(s)
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Artistic Integrity?
Flush!Friends of ours subscribe to a movie rental service that caters particularly to Christians, and other people of moral persuasion. It does so by renting DVDs that have been modified to remove all overtly offensive content from the movie. Nudity, violence, and language are all "scrubbed" from the DVD, and a "non offensive" product is then rented to the subscriber.

I don't have to tell you the disappointment of going to see a movie that looked to be harmless - only to find that someone has thrown in superfluous blasphemy, coarse language, nudity, or what have you. I say superfluous because these elements add absolutely nothing to the story, and you leave the theatre in the middle of the movie because what looked to be harmless entertainment, somewhere along the way became an offense to Christ within you.

The notion of renting a movie that has this sort of superfluous content edited out is quite attractive to the movie buff who doesn't wish to overtly offend the Spirit of Christ within.

The other day, Judge Richard P. Matsch's decided that Cleanflix, a service selling versions of popular movies edited to remove violence, nudity and other elements, was in violation of U.S. copyright law for selling these edited versions.

Now, as you can expect, Hollywood was all on about "artistic integrity" and "censorship." How dare these people take the "art" of Hollywood, and censor it! (Apparently they have no problem doing just that to run the show on television if it means a few more buck$ later on down the road - but hey, let's not go there!).

If you have been living under a rock most of your life, you may not have noticed that "corporate morality" is overwhelmingly being programmed into citizens of first world countries through "entertainment" - music, television, movies/theatre, and even the various internet medias all have this in common - they collectively, progressively attack and bring to an open shame - objective morality. Don't believe it? When I was a child homosexuality was a perversion - now it is a lifestyle. Why? Because for the past 30 years we have been inundated with messages from every media that have villainized the view that homosexuality is a perversion - and simultaneously (and successfully) promoted the idea that homosexuality is natural, common, and even healthy. That is a -radical- moral change (for the worse) that has happened in only one generation.

What would have been considered too risque for lingerie forty years ago - we now find in the "twelve year old girl" rack at Target - in fact, it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy clothes that leave any room for modesty.

Not that I am going to go on a tirade about how far and fast our culture has fallen - we all have eyes to see, and we all see it. If you are in the world and love the things of the world you will find nothing wrong with it - and really, how could you?

One might expect therefore, that I would be opposed to Judge Matsch's decision - but I am not.

On one level I can appreciate those who rise up against this decision - who say, "We have a right to be entertained without being morally raped!" - they are saying that they believe that entertainment shouldn't have to be 'polluted' - and that if someone wants to offer a moral alternative - they should be free to do so.

But I think that is a confused and essentially selfish position.

You see, on the one hand, they don't want to be morally manipulated by offensive content. But on the other hand they are willing to overlook how they are financially supporting the makers of the offensive media for the sake of their being "entertained." That is, they are concerned about being entertained more than they are concerned that they are supporting an industry that is hell bent on moral decay and secularism.

I therefore applaud the judges decision because it makes it difficult for people to put blinders on their eyes as they are actively support moral decay. Frankly, I think God's hand is in it.

I am not insisting that everyone who rents or has seen a "scrubbed" movies is "evil" - or desires to support the industry that made the movie so foul that it had to be "scrubbed" - many who watch such movies probably haven't given it much thought - really - surely doing the good is better than doing the worst - even if it comes at the expense of the best. I do believe however, that some simply stiffen their necks - that is, they know/suspect they are supporting an industry that is destroying the moral fabric of their culture - but they are willing to overlook that in order to see that "cool" movie with all the great effects because it looked like it was going to be entertaining - and hey, apparently my being "entertained" is so important I am justified in a little compromise.
posted by Daniel @ 11:55 AM   9 comment(s)
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Psalm Five
O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee.
Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my meditation.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry,
my King, and my God:
for unto thee will I pray.
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning,

O LORD; in the morning
will I direct my prayer unto thee,
and will look up

I love the way the King James English captures the ebb and flow of this prayer! King David wrote this when he was distressed by his enemies, and the remainder of the psalm addresses that - but here we see David's opening remarks in prayer to God - the simple hope of the shepherd, asking God to hear his prayer. I shiver sometimes to hear David say "My king and my God" - O there is beauty in that simple statement, there is longing in it, here is a man who knows how to pray.

I read this and I just -love- David's heart - King David, the apple of God's eye, humbly asking God to simply hear what he is about to pray. Perhaps such humility is so beautiful to me because it reflects something of God's humility.

It rebukes me for all those times when I have leapt into prayer as a one who gives thoughtless dictation to his secretary, how dull and lifeless my own prayers seem compared to this simple, and eloquent introduction.

Would that we all regarded God as God - all the time.
posted by Daniel @ 11:02 AM   9 comment(s)
Monday, July 10, 2006
This was dumb - but so what?
I was over at Matt's blog and thus inspired I did one of these surveys that tells you if you are nerd-like or not.

I am nerdier than 90% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

It is silly, but that is what Monday's are for.
posted by Daniel @ 12:20 PM   25 comment(s)
Friday, July 07, 2006
But What If I Don't Want...
A Wilderness Experience?
The wildernessSometimes we read or hear about the great Christians of the past (and even some in the present) who have lived through what has come to be called: a wilderness experience.

In the meta to this post Jim brought up something that I think ought to be clarified. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was driven into the wilderness immediately after the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him (a spiritual annointing - hence the title "Messiah" - annointed one) during His water baptism in the Jordan. Christ's experience in the wilderness was unique. Scripture tells us that he was tempted for forty days (not just thrice at the end) by the Devil - and there is no reason to imagine that Christ's experience was a chastisement by God.

The "Wilderness Experience" experience I am about to talk about borrows it's name from Christ's experience in an actual wilderness - but has come to represent any time of spiritual struggle in our walk with the Lord. Christ's wilderness was a spiritual struggle for certain - but it wasn't entered into because he refused to obey God - rather it was the place where Christ began to demonstrate His utterly unshakable tenacity in relying on the Holy Spirit to direct every aspect of His life.

In discussing this phenomenon experienced in Christian life, commonly referred to as a "wilderness experience" I want to be certain that we understand that we are not drawing parallels with Christ's experience in the wilderness by way of nomenclature - but rather we are giving (and discussing) a description of what passes for a "wilderness experience" today.

I remember that (as a newer Christian) I sort of glamorized the idea of a wilderness experience - not really understanding what it was. I pictured myself as one day going through such an experience. I had heard it described as both a period whereby the presence of God was not felt such that your faith was tested to the max; and I had heard it described as a time of cleansing and purging whereby God dealt with some garbage in your life. The whole image was, for me at least, positively romantic!

As I say, I pictured myself one day noticing that the presence of God was diminished or absent. Oh, I fancied myself as suffering while the joy of my salvation waned. What a picture of misery! Of course, in my fancy, I was steely-eyed, and full of persevering power. This was but a test of my faith - and I would run the course like a tragic champion, wounded, almost dead, but pulling myself through it - oh, the glory! When I came out of it, my faith would be the flaming beacon in the darkest night that shone for others to find hope.

Needless to say, I was more than melodramatic about the idea - I was filled with pride and ignorance.

First off, obedient Christians won't get a Wilderness Experience. The Refiner's fire isn't for the obedient, but the disobedient. I don't sing that old Vineyard ditty "Refiner's Fire" because although "my heart's one desire is to be holy" my preference is to be obedient without having to be chastised into it.

Make no mistake - the Wilderness Experience is a self imposed torture. The chastising of the Lord reserved for those who know better, but flee from obedience. Recall that Jonah was called to prophesy at Ninevah. He fled from this duty - God called him specifically to do it, and he fled. The story of how God (ahem) persuaded Jonah to fulfill his call is a well known story - a legend that is known throughout the world even amongst those who know nothing of the bible.

If I may postulate for a moment, I believe the wilderness is entered into in much the same way as Jonah embarked unto Tarshish - that is, we flee from God, and it is our attempt to avoid the Lord's will in our life that causes us to "flee into the wilderness."

It is in this wilderness - this self-imposed separation from God - that we are forced to examine whether or not we really love God - or whether are we just playing at being a Christian. Here our rebellion keeps us snared - and here it is that the character of our true faith begins to show itself. Everyone is willing to obey the Lord when it suits them, but what about when obedience to the Lord requires a person to do something he or she doesn't want to do?

Here it is where we learn that absence makes us long for the Lord - until our Love for God overcomes our desire to disobey. Here that old self of ours either finds the cross or keeps us from fellowship. We either die with Christ and give in to God, or we stand aloof and wither, wither, wither.

But this isn't glorious, pleasant, or even something most would want to admit they are going through. No. The wilderness is usually humiliating and something most who experience are proud enough to keep quiet about. When they come out of the other side - then they talk about it openly - but when they are going through it - many are too proud to even ask for prayer, or if they do, they ask for it in a way that diminishes what they are going through - they are ashamed that they are such failures, and that shame (pride) is partly what holds them there. These are usually the pillars in their church, the rising stars - the ones whose professin of faith produces something - they are respected for their knowledge of the bible, their public reputation, their outward godliness, and certainly their consistent generosity and kindness.

Oh they don't want anyone to know that they have fallen into a religious habit! They must hide their unwillingness to yield entirely to God. God has had as much of their life as they were willing to give up, and for some, that was plenty - but now they see that God wants it all, and they have found themselves strangely unwilling give God the reigns. They stop short of the cross - unwilling to be with Christ there in utter obedience - and so they have exiled themselves, and there in the wilderness they suffer for it.

It is sad, but I believe some (most?) who go into the wilderness never come back. Yet those who -do- come back have put aside the games of their spiritual youth; their walk with God is no longer "yes and no" - it is just "yes."

Dear brother or sister, have you run your faith into the wilderness? Has God called you to something that you refuse to do? Has Christ given you a cross that you are unwilling to bear?

Then brother, sister, you are in your flesh and you need to get real with God. Does your church have a prayer meeting? Make sure you attend the next one - and beg your brethren to pray for you - confess your weakness - let them know where it is in your life that you refuse Christ's rule - and have them pray for you. Don't fail to meditate on your current state - you call yourself a Christian, but you say in your heart - "I will not have you rule over me!"

Oh, how quickly we would obey if only Christ would show up in His glory, point His finger at us and command us to do something. Truly - even an unsaved person would obey - the fear of disobeying such a powerful and glorious being would make anyone obey - but we must not goad ourselves to obey the Lord out of a fear of what could happen if we disobey - but rather our obedience must be in love. When we refuse to obey God, it isn't because we aren't afraid as we should be, it is because we are not loving the Lord enough to obey Him - and (amongst other things) we need prayer for that.

If you find yourself presently in the wilderness, and you want to come out - there is only one way, and that is surrender. The prodigal son didn't return home until he was willing to serve, and you know in your heart (if you have God's Spirit within you) that it is your own rebellion that is keeping you in the wilderness.

Oh beloved - here is joy! Even from rebellion in your heart Christ can set you free!Have faith in that. Do you imagine that your God can't or won't free you from your rebellion? If you could stop rebelling, you wouldn't need the Holy Spirit! Is the Holy Spirit not your helper sent by Christ to help you? Do you plan to change your spots all by yourself? You can't, but He can. Set your heart to obey, set your feet in God's path - and trust that God is going to change your heart as you begin to obey. Until you actually take a step, you aren't walking, you're just thinking about it. You aren't coming out of the wilderness until you surrender, and that surrender isn't going to be real until you take that first step. If you fall, get up and take another step.

posted by Daniel @ 8:05 AM   9 comment(s)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Jeremiah 17:9
not the blood pump...Usually one would expect an expository devotional when one sees a verse reference given as the title to a blog post. Well, not today.

Jeremiah 17:9 says:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" - [ESV]

If this were an expositional post, I would begin with some history, describing the time and place and culture into which this remark was presented. I would show the context of the remark with regard to the [then] current situation. I would answer questions like, who is saying this, why is he saying this, and to whom is he saying this. Then I would get to the matter of what exactly is being said - starting with the grammar and what it would have meant to the hearers at the time - then preceding into the overall meaning in the context, and finally, and perhaps especially, what does this teach us today - that is, what does our Lord desire us to understand from this text.

Instead, I will just pluck from it something that is true, whether we knead the text for months, or glance at it in a moment: The heart is deceitful and desperately sick.

Now, some go about and say, well, this is may have been true before you were saved, but once you were saved you were given a new heart that replaced your deceitful one, and now your heart is not this way. They come to this conclusion I think by looking at Ezekiel and finding the text that speaks about God taking away Israel's heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh (see Ezekiel 36); and again in 2 Corinthians 3 where we read that we [Christians] are epistles of Christ, written not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. Likewise, we read in 2 Corinthians 5 that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation - that old things have passed away, and all things have become new.

So it seems reasonable, if we put these passages in a blender to conclude that perhaps, just maybe at least, our hearts are no longer deceitful, and no longer desperately sick.

But when we speak of the heart, we are not talking about that internal organ that pumps blood throughout our body - we are talking about who we are at our core.

Recall that Aaron, in the wilderness, during Moses' time on Sinai, listened to the voice of the people (instead of restraining them) and instructed them to gather some gold he received it from their hand and made a molded calf out of it. The people then called it the God who delivered them from Egypt - and when Aaron heard this, he built an altar to set before it. When Moses confronted Aaron, he didn't seem particularly repentant - he justified himself and even denied forming the calf himself, but rather that the calf came out of the fire when they put the gold in. What did God do to Aaron for this mind-numbing disobedience??? He forgave him.

"Yes," you say, that is our God, forgiving, tender, merciful.

In Numbers 15 however, we see a man collecting sticks on the Sabbath. This happened after the whole golden calf fiasco. The man was caught, and the congregation asked Moses what they should do with this man. Moses consults God Himself on the matter, and God tells Moses that they are to take this man out of the camp and stone him to death.

Here is a good opportunity to examine the deceitfulness of our who we are at our core - to examine whether there isn't something in us that is desperately sick.

How do we "feel" about the man having been stoned to death for picking up sticks on a Sabbath?

The deceitful heart, if I may be so bold, may "write it off" in order to avoid dealing with the moral implications:
[1 - the example] Yeah, it was harsh, but God wanted to make an example of this guy in order to protect the rest of them from making the same error - it was an understandable sacrifice for the greater good. God didn't really want to do it, but it made sense to do it.

[2 - the misunderstanding] The scripture only records that he was picking up sticks, but he was probably doing so in an especially evil way - perhaps he was motivated to collect sticks to burn sacrifices to another God, or make an idol out of them? Clearly this was not some man simply gathering firewood - but an example of a very evil person caught in the act of supplying themselves for their nefarious, and wicked plans.

[3 - etc.] I could dream up a variety of ways in which we "justify" God's action - but that is the point - that the deceitful and desperately sick heart seeks to justify God's action here. It says that God needs to be justified in this, because clearly, it is morally reprehensible to kill a man for collecting firewood, so God must not have done that, and therefore the narration must either be missing something, or it must be explained in a way that agrees with my morality.

That last item (#3) really hits it home.

The reality is that God wasn't being a bully by instructing Israel to stone this man to death. God had every right to take away the life he had been sustaining the moment that life rejected His rule. We are all familiar with the cliched "robot gone awry" story plot. The Robot runs amok, and it must be destroyed to save everyone else. We cheer as the hero finally unplugs the thing for good, and we don't think about it again. When God "unplugs" his wayward creation, it isn't evil, it is his prerogative. Life is not something we have earned, therefore it is not something we have a "right" to. It is a privilege that can be revoked at any time, for any reason, by the one who granted it.

If God determined to revoke this man's privilege because he had disregarded God's instruction - we cannot find fault with God for doing that. There is no fault in it. It is that deceitful and desperately sick "core" within us that would impose our own sense of morality on God - demanding that God show to this stick gatherer the same mercy shown to Aaron; and when that doesn't play out - that same twisted morality within us says, "God has done something I would not have done" - and so it seeks to "justify" God's conduct so that it lines up with its own twisted and humanistic (man centered) morality.

If I have quadruplets, and I come home one day and for no other reason than I love my children and am generous - and I give to three of them some ice cream - I have done nothing wicked or evil, but have only been generous and kind. If you have a wicked heart within you however, you will demand that I give ice cream to all four of them - because you project that situation into your own life - and the thought of someone else getting something for nothing and you being left out - the greed within demands that you get some too - and so you see injustice, when what is really there is greed, and that your own.

There is some discussion about whether or not the "new nature" replaces the old nature, or simply co-exists with it. I think it replaces it personally, but I would qualify that by saying I believe that our "flesh" isn't suddenly changed when we receive the Spirit of God - it is still just as sinful as it ever was, all that has happened is that where once we had no desire to obey God, and were at best indifferent - now we have his Spirit within us that drives us to obey. Where before there was no conflict within, because we did whatever we wanted, now there is conflict within, because we suddenly find ourselves failing to obey God and feeling miserable about it!

I won't get into that today, but I bring this up by way of self examination - is my heart still deceitful? Am I still finding fault with God in my heart?

The question is valid, because it is one we ought to be asking as we examine ourselves daily. Are my hands clean - is my heart pure? A pure heart rejoices with the Lord, and doesn't find fault in Him at all - it doesn't have to intellectually justify God's behavior - it is on the same page.
posted by Daniel @ 10:18 AM   5 comment(s)
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
The Myopic Error...
Click on Image to find out what it is...Have you ever seen those "what is it" sort of picture things, where they blow up one portion of a photo so that when you look at it out of the context of the picture it is from you cannot really understand what it is a picture of?

Surely you have seen such a picture, and well, if not, try and picture what the above photo is snipped out of - then click on it and see how close you were.

In an earlier post I mentioned the parable of the Sower. In the parable Christ describes the seed (the word of God) as either producing fruit in a person's life (thirty, sixty, or an hundred fold), or not producing any fruit either because their heart is wholly (this is the seed that fell on the hardened path), or partially (the thorny and the rocky soils) impenitent.

My description of the rocky soil and the thorny soil as representing unregenerate faith was particularly offensive to some, not because scripture doesn't paint that picture - but more because they look to themselves, acknowledge that there are times when they have let the world run the show - and at the same time they know themselves to be saved.

Thus they allow their experience to trump what scripture is saying.

Now, they do this because they know themselves to be as saved as they can be - they have believed the gospel, and have never stopped believing it - they understand themselves to be saved, and therefore they reason that since the thorny ground and the rocky soil both seem to describe their own lack of productivity at times, that these soils must therefore represent genuine, but momentarily unproductive faith.

Because most of us reason that our Christian experience -must- always line up with scripture - we must (if we wish to have a consistent faith) make an apology for every discrepancy, or seeming discrepancy.

In this case, many look to the parable of the Sower and reason that since their own faith has suffered periods of worldliness, or false/empty growth - that these soils must represent genuine Christian faith, since they plainly can be made to explain, on one level at least, what they would consider the "normative" Christian life.

The trouble with doing that however is that they are making a categorical error. That is they put themselves in the category of one of the unproductive seeds because they have had periods of unproductivity in their Christian experience. But the parable doesn't describe the seeds as being momentarily unproductive - rather it describes the life, beginning to end, of the seed as having been entirely void of any and all fruit - and then gives the reason - because the soil remained fallow, either rocky, or thorny, throughout the entire life of that seed.

This is not the picture of the seed that bears fruit in its season, it is the picture of the seed that doesn't bear fruit ever.

We can look at the soils of the parable, as one who scrutinizes just one part of a picture to the exclusion of everything else - and if we do that we may say - this describes "me" - because I have had unfruitful moments. Our conscience readily pointing to the similarities - convicting us that this behavior describes "us" - and it most certainly does - in the "little picture."

But if you are genuinely saved, it does not describe the bigger picture, does it? I know that I have had moments of unproductivity in my walk with the Lord - even long periods that looked to all the world to be fruitless - but they weren't entirely fruitless - love is a fruit, and I managed to love God through all these periods. If I looked closely, I would see that there was always some fruit, even if it was surrounded by thorns, even if most of the growth was leafy because of the shallowness of my roots - I may have resembled the poor soils in the little picture, but not in the bigger picture.

The thorny and rocky soils describe compromise and emptiness, while all of us will compromise at times, and all of us will enter into empty works - yet those who are genuine will manifest their sonship by bearing some fruit - they may experience seasons of drought, weed, and shallowness - but in the end some fruit will have been found in their life.

But those for whom no fruit is found throughout their whole "Christian" walk - these are the ones who are pictured in the parable of the sowers, these are the ones who will cry "Lord! Lord!" on that last day but will be told to depart. This is not the struggling Christian who, in periods of weakness or selfishness, have given into worldliness and fakery during the course of their growth from infancy to maturity. These are not the ones who always and ever turn again and again in renewed repentance to Christ. These are not the one who have a history of yielding to the vine, even if only "thirty fold" rather than an hundred fold. These, whose whole life lacks even the smallest fruit - these are not Christians.

As I said before, we tend to understand that our experience must line up with scripture, and when it doesn't we must ask ourselves what is wrong. In the case of those who interpret all soils in the parable of the Sower as describing regeneration - I believe they do so because they are pressing their understanding of scripture into their experience - when they should instead be framing their experience into scripture. If a professing believer cannot frame his or her experience into scripture they are either not genuinely saved, or they don't rightly understand the scripture.

In this case, the growth found in the "bad" soils represents not momentary fluctuations, but the entire life of the plant.
posted by Daniel @ 11:33 AM   21 comment(s)
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