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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.
My complete profile...
The Buzz

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

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

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

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

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

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Monday, December 31, 2007
Not A Lot To Say Lately
Sorry about my posting lately. I have been busy in the real world, and blogging is always the first casualty when that happens. I had a bit of a break over the holiday season, and I have used it to do very little other than enjoy my family.

Like last year, I took our family, and joined some other families we know, to stay for a couple of days at a local Holiday Inn. They have an indoor play structure there that is two stories high, and plenty of fun for the kids, and the obligatory indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and weight room. Our children have more than enough toys as it is, and we would rather make our family time special than simply spend money on more toys and goodies. It is a wonderful treat for the whole family.

There were some hitches this year though. Normally we get a queen sized bed, but this year we got a double for some reason. Also there was a problem with the thermostat in the room - and so for the first night the room temperature was in the high twenties Celsius - (that is the low eighties Fahrenheit), which for me was uncomfortable, and just barely tolerable. On our second day, some person pooped in the pool, and the hotel was less than pro-active in dealing with it. I respect that there is a chain of command and all, but really, you shouldn't need the hotel manager's written permission to close the pool and clean it when something like that happens. At one point the lock on our door simply stopped working, and my daughter and I sat in the hall way for about forty minutes as first one man tried his pass key to no avail, who called another more important man, who likewise tries his pass key to no avail, who in turned called a more significant man, who likewise tried and failed to get in with his pass key - who called the hotel manager to come and open the door. then when it was opened, they spent a half an hour fixing it.

What struck me only afterwards as significant about both the door and the pool incident, is that the hotel staff wasn't concerned so much about the people who were put out by these things, as they were in just fixing the problem. That is, they didn't see the inconveniences imposed upon their paying customers as the problem, but rather they saw the pool and the door as the problems, and so that is where their attention was focused.

Now to be sure, one should not expect too much from the maintenance staff; and I don't. Their jobs are technical and specific, and as I was a janitor for a few years, I wouldn't demand from them any more than they gave. That is, it isn't the job of the maintenance person to smooth over a bad situation, that sort of human relations problem should fall to the management, and the failure on the part of the management to address this stood out.

Now, to be perfectly fair, it is the holiday season, and I expect that many of the regular managers were at home with their families during all this, and that the hotel was being looked after by a (relatively) inexperienced skeleton crew, so I am not overly offended that the service was under par this time. To be sure, the staff knew their jobs and did them proficiently without supervision. The problem wasn't that the staff was lazy, or unskilled - it was that the managment was stretched so thin that everyone was more or less on autopilot. When incidents arose that required a coordinated effort, their was no one to coordinate the effort, the end result, even though the staff was working just as hard as they were any other day, was a pronounced slackness, and rather poor service.

I see in this some instruction for us in the church.

This is what a poorly shepherded flock looks like. Gifted individuals minister in the strength of their gifts as they have always done, but there is a disconnect. Each individual is ministering, but there is no bigger picture, and so long as nothing significant happens, everything is fine, but the moment something out of the ordinary happens, there is no direction, no leadership, and ultimately, just as in the hotel, the end result is that however productive the individual ministries may be, the church overall is slack and rather poorly ministering to their community.

There is much more to pastoring a church than preaching on Sunday. The pastoral staff must not only feed the church, but unite it. The church, or so it seems to me, properly shepherded, is much greater than the sum of its parts.

Let us therefore, who are members support the leadership in our church.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:37 AM   4 comment(s)
Monday, December 24, 2007
Unto Us A Savior..
Yes, Christmas has become increasingly secular.

Yes, Christmas has become commercialism's darling.

Yes, Christmas is a man invented holiday that God never asked anyone to observe.

Yes, Christ was almost certainly not born on December 25th

Yes, the name of Christ (and Christianity in general) is being surgically removed from the holiday

But we cannot forget that God -did- send a Savior. The angel spoke to Joseph saying, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sin."

That is the Christmas message, that God sent Jesus to earth to save a chosen people from their sin.

It is disturbing that Christmas is becoming more a celebration of what Christ came to save His people from, than the fact that Christ came to save His people from it.

Let us who are His people celebrate the salvation He came to bring us. Spend some time contemplating the Savior this season.

And have a Merry God-sent-Jesus-Christ-to-save-His-people-from-their-sin day!


posted by Daniel @ 8:28 AM   4 comment(s)
Friday, December 21, 2007
Everybody's Doing The Michigan Raaaag.
Everybody do the Michigan Rag
Everybody likes the Michigan Rag
Every Mame and Jane and Ruth
From Weehawken to Duluth
Slide, ride, glide the Michigan
Stomp, romp, pomp the Michigan
Jump, clump, pump the Michigan Rag
That lovin' rag!

There actually wasn't a Michigan Rag - they wrote the song for the episode.


posted by Daniel @ 6:39 AM   6 comment(s)
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Why Godly People Will Always Disagree.
[1] I believe that God knew before He ever created Adam, that Adam would condemn himself by sinning.

[2] I believe that God could have kept Adam from sinning had He wanted to (as God did for Abimilech), but determined beforehand not to.

[3] I believe that there God is not to be blamed for determining beforehand to alow Adam to, that is, I believe that God did not have a moral obligation to stop the fall of mankind even though God could have intervened to do so.

I believe these things because scripture paints that picture for me. God knows the end from the beginning, he isn't surprised by history, it was written in God's mind before He ever created it. I believe God could have interceded and stopped the fall, because God has interceded elsewhere and kept others in scripture from sinning, so I conclude that God allowed Adam to fall by design rather than because God was taken off guard, or because God was whimsical and disinterested in the moment.

If I allow my four year old daughter to take up skating knowing full well that in the course of learning to skate she will fall at least once and probably many times - and I know that any one of these falls will hurt - I don't imagine myself morally responsible for the injuries she receives, even if I know she will receive them. It would be reprehensible and wicked for any father to inflict a similar damage directly, but allowing the daughter to skate and suffer the bruises is not reprehensible nor wicked.

In the same way, God knew that Adam would sin, but is by no means wicked or to be blamed for allowing Adam to do so - even if doing so meant condemnation. Had God created Adam and immediately condemned Adam without Adam ever having sinned - that would be wicked and cruel, but God created Adam knowing that Adam would earn wrath.

That little word "earn" is perhaps one seed reason why there is so much disagreement amongst godly people.

There are some who conclude that if God could have caused Adam not to sin, then God was morally obligated to do so because failure to do so would mean that God was creating Adam just to condemn him. They bypass the idea that Adam deserves condemnation because they reason that God would never create Adam unless Adam had a chance...

This is the root of disagreement: presumption. When we hold an opinion about the character of God that doesn't come to us from scripture, but from our own moral presumption - we are going to disagree with people who have different moral presumptions about God, and we will disagree with those who have no moral presumptions about God.

You see, we are all sinners, and as such although all we receive the same truth, we all filter that truth through our own systems - some of less presumptuous, and some more, some are saturated biblically, some less so - and depending upon how well we navigate through what we know about God from scripture and what have presumed about God because we think God would "be like that" - we end up with the core hermeneutic through which we understand scripture: Our estimation of the Character of God.

If I think that God's sovereignty doesn't include the plan to create sinners and condemn them, my understanding of scripture must reflect that. If I think that God's sovereignty doesn't mean His will is done, my understanding of scripture must reflect that.

To the degree that we believe in God's sovereignty, our conclusions will agree.

That having been said, I believe that no matter how men might disagree theologically, yet truly godly men not only are able to agree in the Spirit, but are even required to do so. If there are five men on a counsel, whatever their theology, if they are all truly Christians, they can be agreed in the Spirit if they are humble men.


posted by Daniel @ 5:50 AM   18 comment(s)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Do Not Love The World
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in posses ions - is not from the father but is from the world, and the world is passing away along with it's desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. - 1 John 2:15-17 [ESV]

Is network television supportive of, neutral to, or decidedly against Christianity?

Before you answer that, ask yourself if you have ever heard anyone on network television ever invoke the names of a non-Christian god or prophets as a cuss word? No Allah, no Mohamed, no Buddha, no Vishnu... The only God who is ever blasphemed on network television, and might I add, blasphemed regularly, is the Christian God.

Before you answer that, ask yourself if you haven't seen the name of Christ surgically removed from all religion on television? We see shows about angels working for God, shows about God, shows about demons and hell - but in the past twenty years or perhaps longer, all things divine have been systematically and decisively made generic. Where God isn't being outright ridiculed, he is certainly being watered down to a nice old bearded fellow, albeit with his own problems.

How many movies have come out in the past ten years where God has been one of the characters? Always he is played as a morally indifferent, albeit benign, super human. A God in power, but no more moral or holy than anyone else - certainly not a Judge, but a man of benevolence, tolerance - who just happens to be very, very, powerful.

I was struck an offhand remark made by one of the fellows in my church as we had his family over for lunch on Sunday. He remarked that network television continues to use the God of Christianity as a cuss word, and only as a cuss word. Unless a program is specifically designated as Sunday, Easter, or Christmas "Christian" broadcast, you will not hear anything positive about Christianity.

The standard therefore is, it is okay to broadcast people who blaspheme the Christian God to entertain people, but it is -not- okay to broadcast as entertainment people who worship the Christian God. Yes, we can have "special" worship programs etc. But the Christian God's mention during prime time is reserved for blasphemy and cussing - or for ridicule and dismissal - one can entertain the masses thus, but I haven't seen the name of Christ exalted in prime time in twenty years.

We might remember shows like "touched by an angel" or "highway to heaven" or even "7th heaven" and never have noted the mysterious absence of the name of Christ. I mean, seriously - it's okay to be an angel, it's okay to be a pastor, but it is not okay to speak about Jesus in any context except as a cuss word.

It is a straight forward observation when we bother to examine it - network television is not merely neutral towards Christianity.

Now, we would be foolish indeed to expect a secular thing like network television to be supportive of Christianity. We have been instructed by the media that presenting any religion as valid would be offensive to other religions, and in the name of tolerance we accept that. But this isn't a level playing field is it? We cannot portray any specific religion as valid - but we can isolate Christianity as so entirely invalid that one can openly, repeatedly, and consistently blaspheme the "Christian" name of God during prime time.

Neutral? Uh-uh. Supportive of Christianity? Pffft. Decidedly biased against? That's putting it mildly.

Network television is, by and large, an entertaining form of moral and social programming. It doesn't have that as it's stated agenda, but is driven to air whatever is most wanted by its increasingly carnal audience. It doesn't matter that I am offended by blasphemy - so long as I am a statistical insignificant minority. If by offending 2% they please 28% - then the 2% can go fly a kite for all they care. It doesn't consider itself therefore to be anti-Christian, it is just 'pro world' - and that is why you as a Christian ought to think hard about how much television you watch.

I like to think of it as spiritual adultery - it isn't a question of "how" adulterous I am, if only a little bit, or a lot - it is a question of whether or not I am adulterous at all. If we suddenly see that we are in bed with the world, we know that the love of the Father is not what has put us there, but rather it is the love of the Father that has opened our eyes to show us where we truly are.

Why do I feel so far away from God? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you put off reading the bible regularly, but having missed an episode of the Simpson's in years? Who are you loving Christian?


posted by Daniel @ 5:51 AM   14 comment(s)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
New Policy In Effect Immediately
I have mentioned it in a couple of places, but I am going to make it official.

I will not be commenting on blogs during work hours from now on.

My job is such that I typically have down time that can be filled by offering my opinions to others on the various blogs I read, and typically this can be done without affecting my work load. Yet I have found that some conversations are interesting enough that even if I am busy I will let myself get drawn into them - and this means staying later at work to finish up, and as such can cut into other things.

I think it is healthy to recognize areas where I am providing opportunities to be tempted, and this seems to be one of them. So effective immediately, I will no longer be commenting or answering comments during work hours. It is a personal decision, one I know honors Christ, as I know I will serve my family better if I am home on time, and I will serve my employer better if I am not giving into distractions.

I will still be posting, and commenting - just not during work hours.


posted by Daniel @ 6:11 AM   4 comment(s)
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The "Thing" About Grace...
If you had bothered to read my last post, you will note that I ended on an important and rather spiritually satisfying note: Christ has the power to get the job done, and if Christ is in us, the power to get the job done is in us.

This post is an application of that truth, and for the new Christian it is perhaps the single most important biblical application, because it is foundational. To be sure, there are Christians who have worn the name of Christ for decades but never understood what is truly one of the first truths about Christianity. In fact, it is the tangible reality that springs from this truth that separates Christianity from every other self-help moral system.

The truth I am speaking of is that we are saved by grace through faith.

Huh? Wait Daniel, (you say), that isn't exactly something I don't know. Of course I am saved by grace through faith - I am a reformed Christian! I know that!

Well sir, or miss, maybe you do, but maybe you have only understood them halfway. Don't laugh - it's an epidemic in our day.

Question - what are we saved from? What exactly is it that our faith saves us from? In Matthew 1:21 scripture tells us that Jesus came to save us from something, and that something is sin. In Romans 6:6 we read that those who are truly in union with Christ receive a tangible benefit to that union - they are no longer slaves of sin. In 1 John 3:6 we read that no one who abides in Christ keeps on sinning.

Those are some pretty straight forward verses. I am not cherry picking them out of context either - read the immediate context of each, and you will find that the message is the same in the context as it is in the verse I bring up - the Christian has a new, victorious relationship with sin.

The trouble is, that many Christians don't.

What's wrong?

What is wrong is they were given a gospel that saves them from hell instead of a gospel that saves them from sin.

Hear again the truth made precise: We are saved from sin by faith through grace.

I am going to spell it out, because I know some who are reading this are in bondage, and won't see it, unless it is truly broken down into little tiny bite-sized morsels - such is the way that our flesh works against us. I don't mind breaking it down, in fact I take great joy in the possibility that doing so may open closed eyes, and in doing so bring profound joy to the individual, and great glory to Jesus Christ my God, my King, my eternal and benevolent Master.

Question: What is grace?
Answer: It is unmerited favor!

<buzzer sound>

Okay, yeah. Now let's get past that and really answer the question. I don't deny that grace is God's favor which we in no way can merit - but that answer doesn't really summarize the fullness of grace.

Follow my reasoning here: In Ephesians 3:7 Paul says that he was made a servant according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to him by the working of God's power. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul explains that the grace of Christ is sufficient for Paul - why? because in the grace of Christ the power of Christ was resting in Paul. Understand this - no one overcomes sin without grace. The grace to overcome sin comes in and through the same power that raised Christ from the dead - the power to get the job done. Grace is not merely God's affectionate, undeserved favor - it is a channel of divine enabling that comes through faith.

Do you see that? We receive the power to overcome sin through faith. The Israelites received the power to overcome the Canaanites through going into the promised land and taking it in faith. We receive victory over sin not by struggling against it to try and please an angry God, but by agreeing in our hearts that we are miserable, spiritually bankrupt, sinners whose every effort to "get right" is tainted and therefore wicked beyond measure - that there is no good deed in us, that all of our works are utterly corrupt - and in the certainty of this knowledge we therefore turn to Christ believing that He and He alone will change us. Not a zillion years from now - but right now. We are told to pray in faith - without doubting. We are told that God gives to those who ask, to keep knocking.

The Christian who is walking worthy of the name of Christ is one who, like Christ before him, is walking in utter dependence upon God through the Holy Spirit. It is a walk of faith, because it isn't looking to itself to overcome sin, but exerting faith in Christ to overcome the sin in us.

Not that we are merely trusting Christ to overcome the penalty. Don't get derailed here and make this something beggarly and small. If you want to know why you are still sinning I will tell you right now - it is because you don't really believe that Jesus can or will save you from your sin - and therefore you have "fallen from grace" - the only power available to you to deal with sin. It isn't that you are no longer a justified believer - it is that you are acting like a spiritual babe, and perhaps it is because you truly are one.

Don't be mistaken - there are many in our seminaries, many who have memorized vast portions of scriptures, great teachers of the word who make you feel small and stupid when it comes to the bible, who are still spiritual babes because they never understood grace. They study, and study, and study, and get so smart about all kinds of other things, and they debate with others because in their study they have firmed up strong convictions - but there is nothing spiritual in having a good education, even if it is biblical.

A mature believer doesn't attempt to suppress sin in his own strength, and by no means mistakes the suppression of sin as victory over it - but rather is one who understands the meaning of being saved from sin's power by a continuing faith - a faith that causes God to give the grace to overcome the sin.

Listen: This is why John can say that if you continue in sin you are not abiding in Christ. Amen John a thousand Amens. If you continue in sin - if you keep sinning, you do so because you are -NOT- abiding in Christ, and not merely because "everybody else sins, so it is normal and okay". Do you get that?

We are saved from sin by our faith - by our faith. God grants grace when we exercise faith - faith cannot be exercised except in utter reliance upon God - we call that humility. God gives grace to the humble sinner, to the contrite one. Oh, get this little Christian - get this. You want to stop sinning? Start believing that Jesus isn't just some distant chap far away who is going to one day come back and take you to heaven - believe instead that you are united with Christ, believe that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is in you, believe that Jesus is more than just the get-you-out-of-hell Guy - He is your present Savior, here to save you from your sin, as was told to Joseph in Matthew 1:21.

If you don't believe that Jesus is going to save you from your sin, you will never receive the grace to overcome sin. You will never attain to what Romans 1:5 refers to as the "obedience of faith". Can I add one more? You will never know joy unspeakable. Get this. Get this. Get this.


posted by Daniel @ 6:28 AM   11 comment(s)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunday's sermon - Romans 1:3-4
Do you see how Paul opens his discourse? We know, because we have read the whole epistle before, where Paul is going - but for those in Rome who are receiving it, they do not know where Paul is going with the epistle. Paul’s introduction here is therefore precise, and articulate - full. What Paul says in summary here must agree with, and be flushed out by, what will follow. Paul is therefore careful to inject the truth he plans to elaborate upon concisely in this opening salutation.

The customary epistolary salutation typically had three parts - first the sending party was identified, then the intended receiving party named, and finally, though not always, there was a brief benediction. We see this format in most of the NT epistles, though Hebrews and 1 John do not follow this format.

As Paul begins to identify himself in the first part of the salutation, we see that he immediately goes off on a tangent the moment he mentions the word “gospel.” We want to understand why Paul would do such a thing. Why does Paul in the middle of his own introduction, at the mention of the word “gospel” go off on the tangent does? Instead of simply stating who he is, Paul begins already to inject doctrine into his epistle. Remember that Paul is identifying himself to a church that was most likely started by former Jews and Jewish proselytes who had been converted in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. When these former Jews returned to their homes in Rome, they returned as Christians and began a new fellowship there.

Paul knew that none of Christ’s Apostles had traveled as far as Rome yet. In all likelihood, the church at Rome was doctrinally immature - we see in this knowledge therefore, some good reason for Paul’s tangential foray into doctrine during this, the introduction of himself to the Romans.

We should not dismiss therefore, this doctrinal “aside” in Paul’s introduction of himself - as merely flowery, poetic, or polite and prosy “Christian” nicety. Nor ought we to ignore it completely as we hurry on into the meat of the epistle as though Paul’s tangent here could be skipped on the premise that it is just the eloquent and polite way that Paul is introducing himself. Indeed, I have no doubt that many of us may well who see no more in these opening remarks than polite Christian flattery, and those among us who are of this sort are at risk. First we are at risk of missing the point, and second, having missed the point we are at risk of attempting to parrot in our own conversations, letters, and whatnot - the flavor of Paul’s salutation - as though it is good Christian form to inject such things in our salutations. Paul is not being vain and empty or especially prosy and poetic in his introduction of himself, Paul is qualifying himself in the context of what he is about to discuss..

We must therefore be on guard, not only to understand what Paul is saying, but to understand why Paul is saying it, and why Paul is saying it the way Paul says it! In this way we not only understand the text, but we guard ourselves against such things as vacuously attempting to ape in our own discourses the beautiful, Christ exalting language Paul’s greeting entails, without doing so for any greater purpose than because Paul did it and that makes it seems especially Christian to do so.

Paul is not waxing eloquent here to establish himself as an especially sensitive poet to his readers. Rather Paul, in introducing himself to his Roman readers, anticipates a need to establish the gospel first as the fulfillment of OT promises and secondly as the unifying bond between himself and his readers.
Paul doesn’t leave anything to chance in this introduction.

Paul does not presume his readers in Rome will understand what he means by “a called Apostle” or what it means to have been separated to the gospel, or that it is understood “Who” it was who had separated him to it, or even that his Roman readers understand the gospel within the historical context and prophetic imagery of the Old Testament scriptures.

Paul certainly knows that there are Jewish converts in Rome, but he does not write presuming upon their understanding, instead he writes presuming upon ignorance, beginning as he does, by identifying himself as Paul - the bond slave of Jesus Christ, an emissary who was hand picked by the risen Lord to deliver (as God’s spokesman) God’s message to the nations - the gospel.

We don’t want to miss the import of Paul’s words here by hastening past them - but rather we want to pause at the well and drink. To soak in, as much as the Lord will permit, to grasp as much as we are able, exactly why Paul introduces himself in the way that he does? What does the commission God gave to Paul (and the way Paul expresses) it teach us about our Lord and Savior? What did the Holy Spirit intend for us to understand by influencing Paul to inject doctrine right here in the introduction of himself?

When Paul mentions the gospel that he has been set aside to preach, he cannot leave the mention of the gospel unqualified: Good news? Good news about what?
Now here it does us some good to understand first, [1] who Paul is writing to, and second [2] why that is important when it comes to the word gospel (euaggelion).

We note that Paul is writing this epistle to those who are in Rome, and we note that it is at the word “gospel” that Paul begins to qualify his meaning. We do well therefore to pause here and ask ourselves: why does Paul begin to make these qualifications here? Is there something significant here I should be paying attention to?

I believe that the historical context in which Paul’s epistle was written may shed light on why Paul leaps off the word “gospel” like he does.

After Caesar Augustus died in 14 A.D., the Romans senate declared him to be a god, and Roman citizens were encouraged to worship him. They even renamed the eighth month from Sextilis to August in honor of Augustus.

As an aside, it should strike no Christian observer as coincidental that the declaration of a man as God should come so shortly after the birth of Christ. Is there a more efficient way to discredit the incarnation of God than to flood the market (as it were) with so many incarnations that the neutral observer will gladly receive the idea that if any are fake, they must all be fake. What better way to discredit the genuine than to make it appear to be just one of many false notions?
Augustus had an adopted son - Tiberius. When Augustus died, Tiberius became the Emperor. Because the senate had “made” Augustus a God, some considered Tiberius to be a “living” god - but Tiberius personally refused to be worshipped as such. The reign of Tiberius is mentioned in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:1) to identify when John the Baptist began preaching (it was the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius - about 29 A.D.)

Tiberius adopted a man by the name of Germanicus, but the empire didn’t pass to Germanicus when Tiberius died in 37 A.D., instead it passed to the son of Germanicus - to a man history knows as Caligula.

It was Caligula (the predecessor of Claudius) who, more than any other, injected into Roman politics the idea that the Emperor was a living god. Prior to Caligula the worship of a deceased Emperor was common enough, but living men were not being worshipped as gods. Although it was at first controversial, during Caligula’s four year reign, he required all of those in Rome, including the Roman senate to worship him as a living god.

After Caligula’s assassination, his uncle Claudius was named Emperor. It was this same Claudius (we read of in Acts 18:2) who expelled the Jews from Rome as part of his religious reforms. The Roman Emperors linked religion to politics in order to rule more efficiently. Claudius’ reforms were intended to purge Rome of any religion that didn’t contribute politically to Roman rule.

By the time the stepson of Nero became Emperor in 54 A.D. what has come to be known as the Imperial Cult (or the Emperor Cult) was already a prominent religious element in Rome.

At the time of Paul’s writing, because of both the Hellenistic use of the word, and especially because of its use with regards to the Imperial cult -- the word euaggelion (gospel) had many meanings, especially to a Roman citizen.
In the Hellenistic and Roman language of diplomacy - the word euaggelion was used to describe “news of victory” and associated with the reward one received for being the bearer of good news. In Rome, especially with regards to the Imperial cult, the word was used to herald Empirical pronouncements from the god-Emperor.

Paul, having been born in Tarsus - a Roman citizen - would have been fully aware of how the word euaggelion would be understood by a Roman reader. For this reason we consider that as Paul begins to use the word gospel here, he understands the importance of immediately qualifying the use of this word to his Roman readers. Remember, Paul wrote this epistle before John and Luke (and possibly Mark) even penned their gospels, and certainly before Matthews Gospel enjoyed wide circulation - that is, Paul is using this word before it’s association with Christianity has been firmly established.

Paul wants to differentiate for his readers what he means by the gospel of God: he is talking about the God of the Old Testament - it is the good news of the God of the Old Testament, and not a proclamation given by a worldly, self-deified, god-emperor. Paul begins to express the good news of God as the fulfilling of Old Testament promises made by the only God - the proclamation of their fulfillment in this present day and age by the coming of the only Messiah - Jesus Christ.

In introducing himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, separated to the gospel of God, Paul immediately begins to qualify what he means - to distance his use of the word from the common use of the word at the time.

This is, I believe, is the immediate context of his remarks in verses one through five: In order to rightly identify himself to the Roman readers, Paul had to first qualify his use of a word that they were already familiar with in other contexts (euaggelion). He was Christ’s chosen ambassador to the nations, separated to the gospel of God - but if they didn’t understand what Paul meant by the gospel of God, they wouldn’t understand who Paul was claiming to be.

Paul therefore shows, in the most precise language possible, the magnitude of the gulf between the meaning of the word they were most likely familiar with, and the meaning that Paul presumes in using it.

We do well to note that Paul, in presenting himself as a servant of the legitimate “living God”, immediately articulates by what authority he uses the word.

This is Paul’s style - his experiences, as an apostle to the nations, has no doubt taught him by this time the places where a Gentile thinker is likely to find objection. We see therefore in Paul’s anticipation of objection to the use of the word “gospel” - a discerning mind behind this seemingly simple tangent.
Paul is not beginning this doctrinal masterpiece with empty, flowery, speech; but with the precision and strategy of a master planner, a precise thinker, a logical debater, and a seasoned teacher. Whether this is a brilliant but extemporaneous start, or a calculated, seasoned approach matters little - the genius of Paul’s approach is self evident to those who pause long enough to see it.

“Who is this Jesus that I brings good news about?” That is the question Paul begins to answer as he mentions that word “gospel”.

Is Jesus merely a man who has been declared to be a god - like the Roman counterfeits? Has some senate in Rome declared Jesus to be a God? If Jesus is God, how did he come to His divinity - who “declared” him God?

Jesus was not like the Emperor; He was not merely a descendant of some long ago king who named himself a deity in order to more easily facilitate political obedience. Christ’s kingdom was not of this world. It was not spurious - it didn’t spring up in a day, but has been heralded for millennia - this is not some new religion, not some new deity - this is a declaration of the oldest religion, the only true religion.

It is a declaration of the eternal purpose of God. A declaration that is going to show that God’s purpose is not random or extemporaneous; -This- good news is not some mere temporal proclamation - not just the latest word from some self proclaimed Emperor - it is news that what has been waiting since time began has come to pass - it is good news for mankind, and Paul introduces himself as a vessel chosen by God to declare this news to the Nations.

The news is from God and it concerns Jesus Christ - God’s one and only Son. But here too Paul must qualify himself - he must distinguish who this Jesus is.
Why Jesus? Why not some other guy? What is so special about Jesus? How can we be sure that this Jesus is whom He says He is? Upon what authority do we accept any information about Jesus Christ - the very incarnation of God?

Paul is answering such questions when he appeals to the prophets and the Holy Scriptures for authority. Paul begins by identifying Jesus as a descendant of David, but why does he do that? Would it really matter to a Roman citizen that some Jew could trace His lineage back to some other long dead Jewish king? Why does Paul bring king David into the mix? Does he presume all his readers in Rome are converted Jews?

Recall that Paul is establishing that God’s good news is by no means a spur-of-the-moment happenstance. Paul begins by saying that Jesus was born of the seed of King David - a statement pregnant with meaning to anyone who has studied the Old Testament scriptures, because in them we find that God has promised a Messiah from long ago from the lineage of David.

Paul identifies the Lordship of Christ both according to the flesh and also according to the Spirit of Holiness.

According to the law, Jesus (through his stepfather Joseph, as recorded in the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel) traced his legal heritage back to David through the Judean line of kings, that is, Christ was a legitimate legal heir to the Judean kingly line through his step father Joseph, though in Jeremiah 22:30 we read the curse that God pronounced on Joseph’s ancestor King Jehoiachin: “30Thus says the LORD: ‘ Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.’”

Even though Jehoiachin had children, God himself disbarred them from the throne, and so Judah’s last king was Jehoiachin’s uncle: Zedekiah. Thus, although Jesus had a legally valid claim to royalty through His stepfather Joseph, He could not ascend the throne of David according to the line of Joseph because of the curse pronounced upon Joseph’s ancestor King Jehoiachin.

Jair is really a son of Judah...In the book of Matthew, Joseph’s father is listed as Jacob. But in the book of Luke Joseph’s father is listed at Heli. The contradiction is only a valid contradiction if both genealogies are indeed describing the lineage of Christ’s stepfather Joseph.
In scripture we read of Jair who is described as a son of Manasseh. “41Also Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its small towns, and called them Havoth Jair” (Numbers 32:41) three times in scripture Jair is described as a son of Manasseh, the other two times are in Deuteronomy 3:14 and 1 Kings 4:13. Jair is called a son of Manasseh because Jair’s grandfather Hezron, although a descendant of Judah, was associated through marriage with the house of Machir who was a descendant of Manasseh. (Chronicles 2:21-23 and 7:14-15)

We see therefore that the term “son” isn’t always used in scripture to describe a physical descendant, but is sometimes used to describe one who is considered by association a member of another’s household.

Jesus, having been conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, had no earthly father. Luke traces Christ’s lineage therefore, not through Joseph’s line, but through Mary’s. Joseph is therefore referred to here as a son of Heli - Mary’s father in the same way that Jair is referred to as a son of Manasseh.

Joseph is reckoned as a son of Heli - Mary's Father.Christ’s physical ancestors therefore, were not from the line of Joseph, but from the line of Mary. His ancestors were not from the line of Solomon, like Joseph’s ancestors had been, but from the line of Solomon’s older brother Nathan (who is not to be confused with Nathan the prophet!). Thus Christ was, according to the flesh, the son of David physically through Mary, and not the recipient of God’s curse pronounced on Jehoiachin.

In 2 Samuel 7:14-16 God promised David through the prophet Nathan (who is not to be confused with Solomon’s older brother) that one of David’s descendants would build a house for God’s name and establish God’s kingdom forever.

Solomon built God a physical temple, but the temple did not stand forever, nor did the kingdom that Solomon established, for in the very next generation Rehoboam his son lost control of the kingdom.

The house that Christ established - was not a physical house, but a spiritual temple where each believer is a “stone” that Christ himself lays in His own temple - Christ himself being the cornerstone.

Christ’s kingdom -was- established on earth during the incarnation, and even now Christ rules over this spiritual kingdom from heaven where He presently sits on a throne at the right hand of the power of God (c.f. Acts 2:30 and Luke 22:69). Scripture tells us that a day is coming when Christ’s reign will end - on that day, after the final judgment that immediately follows Christ’s return - Christ will relinquish the kingdom to God the father who will rule forevermore. We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:23-25 - “23But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.”
According to the flesh Christ was shown to be the son of David, but according to the Spirit Christ was shown to be the Son of God with Power. In the Greek the preposition is actually “in” - shown to be the Son of God in Power according to the Spirit of Holiness.

It is this same “power” that Christ sits at the right hand of (Luke 22:69). It is this same power that is ascribed to the gospel itself in verse 16. The Greek word used here (dunamiV) describes the idea of having the “ability” to do a thing. We mustn’t imagine that because the word “Dynamite” is derived from this Greek word that Paul envisioned “explosive power” when he used it. We call that a semantic anachronism when we inject into the past a meaning that is only relevant in the future. Until Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, no one would have read back into the Greek the idea of explosive energy.

The power spoken of here has to do with getting the job done. Christ was raised in power according to the Holy Spirit. He sits at the right hand of the same power even now - getting the job done.

The Holy Spirit declared that -this- Jesus whom Paul looks to in identifying himself to the Roman readers - this Jesus was the Christ - the son of God, and the declaration was made not only by prophetic words, but by power - by getting the job done - by raising Jesus from the dead.

That single act was the defining declaration from God through the Holy Spirit that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, that Jesus was indeed the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.

Christ’s earthly lineage supported his claim to be Messiah, and more than this, God’s affirmation of this claim through the resurrection from the dead settled forever the question of authority. We know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies, not merely because they have all been fulfilled in Christ - but in particular because God raised Christ from the dead (through the Holy Spirit) as an eternal signpost declaring for all time that Jesus Christ alone is the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises to His people Israel.
People often want all truth to have an application. They want to hear a truth, then be shown how to apply that truth pragmatically in their daily walk. How can we apply the raising of Christ from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit to our lives?

Believe that it the same “getting the job done” power that raised Christ from the dead is the power at work in you if indeed Christ is in you. If Christ is in you, he -will- get the job done. The practical application of that is assurance, not some flimsy assurance that you hang on your own feelings, but the assurance of the resurrection itself - looking to the same power that raised Christ, that declared him to be Christ - this same power is working in you to get the job done. And it will be done - not by your might - but by His.


posted by Daniel @ 7:45 AM   11 comment(s)
Thursday, December 06, 2007
The Law Of The Lord Is Perfect...
"...converting the soul."

Psalm 19:7.

The modern translations might read, "restoring" or "reviving" the soul, but the idea of changing from one state to another is the overriding principle here.

The law of the Lord has this one perfect effect: it can change the disposition of the rebellious sinner. Until a person comes under the conviction of the law, he doesn't really believe himself to be condemned. The law does more than define what is right, it carries with it the penalty for failure. It is the heart that finally sees its own condemnation in the law that will allow itself to stir - that will suddenly hunger for instruction, that will suddenly cry out for a Savior; The law is the tutor that brings us to Christ. The law exposes every false hope of escape - it tears away the lie that says God will accept me because I am better than the guy down the street - the law condemns each and every one of us - and the moment we are condemned in our own understanding our heart is suddenly fertile - ready for the gospel seed.

Preach the law to sinners, until they admit their condemnation - then preach grace.


posted by Daniel @ 1:29 PM   3 comment(s)
The Dross.
In order to purify a metal, you typically heat up a chunk of metal enriched "ore" until it starts to melt down. Different impurities have different densities and melting points, and because metal is typically more dense, as you heat it up the metal pools at the bottom, and the impurities form a scum (dross) that floats on top of the refining metal.

The dross is not part of the metal, but has insinuated itself into the ore, and the refining process separates it from the metal. As the temperature increases, different impurities melt, and lacking the density of the metal, they float to the top to form new dross, thus the refining process works like this: The heat comes on - and things start to melt and separate. Dross forms, and is removed, then the temperature is increased. With the increase comes the melting of other impurities that were impervious to the lesser heat - but as these succumb, they too, being less dense, float to the surface and form a dross to be skimmed off. The process continues until no amount of heat will allow for anymore dross to appear. At this point the metal is refined, or as we like to call it - pure.

Certain metals have limited use and value while unrefined. Impurities can make a pliable metal brittle, can make a strong metal weak, can dull what ought to be a mirrored sheen.

Impurities can give a thing properties it shouldn't possess. Consider H20 (water). In it's pure state it isn't an electrical conductor - yet if there are enough electrolytes in the liquid, it will conduct electricity.

I was telling my little ones this morning that there are two types of people who call themselves Christians: The first group hates sin itself, but the other group only hates sins consequences. The first group is at war with sin in their life, while the second group avoids anything that will cause them personal difficulty. The first group weeps over their sin, while the second group is contented enough to put aside only as much sin as they have to. The second group doesn't hate sin, it just hates anything that would be an inconvenience to its own agenda. The first group give evidence of the life of Christ, and the second give evidence that they lack this same life.

In the professing church we are -all- sinners, whether our faith is genuine or counterfeit. We are called to refine and keep pure the professing church, and if we don't the impurities in it will change the nature of it. Though that ought to cause us to shudder, yet I know that many churches would rather tolerate sin than chance offending someone.

I haven't taken a poll, but I imagine that people don't want to confront one another about their sin because if they do, that will leave them open to reciprocal correction - and since we love our sin so much, we would rather keep quiet until we somehow eradicate sin in our own life first. Likewise, we are trained by this world to keep silent about our short comings. God forbid that someone from church should find out that we still haven't had a lasting victory over some pet sin, or that we have lapsed again into some area that we have enjoyed victory in previously.

Look: the church doesn't get any better until it gets serious about discipline, about dealing with sin openly, head on, and seriously. In fact, it only gets worse. Once the church is lukewarm, no one wants to turn the heat up and purge out the dross, for the dross has taken over.

Jesus made a lot of enemies amongst the spiritually dead when He took a whip into the temple - and you will make a lot of people angry if you plan on taking your lukewarm church into the fire. The dross is going to be ugly, and it is going to float to the top the moment the heat comes on. But if it is dealt with properly, you will have a stronger congregation for it.


posted by Daniel @ 11:07 AM   6 comment(s)
Monday, December 03, 2007
The World Famous
Word Verification
Free Association
Game #2
Since David Kjos can't seem to get enough of this, here is the second installment.

The rules are the same - look at your verification word, and use the letters (in order of appearance) as the first letters to each word in a sentence that speaks about some specific topic.

Today's topic is... "haiku". Good luck.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:27 AM   77 comment(s)
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