H  O  M  E          
Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
My complete profile...
The Buzz

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

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

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

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

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

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Now my furniture looks old and ratty.
There is a welcome harmony between old carpets and old furniture. People walk into a room where the carpet and the furniture are equally aged, and both compliment one another so that the room itself, however dated, is consistent to itself. Yet when one puts in new hardwood floors, suddenly one's old ratty furniture seems incongruous; the walls look yellow, and even the window panes look weathered and dry.

I believe I understand how it happens that even smaller renovation projects sometimes skyrocket into larger ones. It seems there is a sort of impetus that comes about when something new contrasts the old of everything else, and by that contrast shames you into trying to make everything new. Pride has a lot to do with it, and unless one has the strength to step back and say, "Hey, we are not going to redo the whole house just for pride's sake!" one can really be drawn by the sneaky pull of pride...

Also, for those who haven't had the joy of home renovations, I believe it is fair to extrapolate from my own experiences, that such renovations always cost more than you think (about 150% on average) and take longer than you think (again, about 150% on average).

Those are my fun thoughts for the day.


posted by Daniel @ 7:59 AM   1 comment(s)
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
When I was 18, I was (for some reason) much stronger and more fit that I find myself today. I notice this especially when I wake up in the morning after a day of "real" work. Not that being an IT professional isn't physically punishing, it is - I mean, sitting and wiggling your fingers for hours on end? I know I have increased by touch typing speed at least 15 wpm since I started out in the trade - but the punishment from my job is that because you sit all day it slowly wreaks havoc on your back, and there is a danger of carpal tunnel syndrome, or some other typing related repetitive stress injury.

On Sunday, starting at about three o'clock in the afternoon I began to tear out the carpets and underlay in my house in preparation for the install of some hard wood floors. My oldest daughter developed eczema shortly ever a bad bout of chicken pox, our hope is that the HWFs will ease some of that.

After twelve hours of bending over and tearing, and plucking a zillion staples, I woke up fresh as an aching daisy, to work another eight hours on helping the guys who came over to do the install. I say, helping, but really it was mostly standing around - yet, (as we say up here in Canada), "I gotta tells ya" I am feeling my years this morning. Part of the work is hauling furniture from one room to another, and trying to lift a full size sofa from the basement to the upstairs by yourself can be tiring and frustrating. It also brings into a very harsh light, the gap between the "you" you were at 20 and the "you" you are today. Maybe my memory is rose colored - you know, maybe I think I was much more fit that I was - but it seems to me that everything is heavier now, makes me tired faster, and even takes much longer to recover from than it used to be.

I finally got the computer connected again today, but I am too busy to babysit the blog. I thought vacations were supposed to be restful?


posted by Daniel @ 8:09 AM   0 comment(s)
Friday, August 22, 2008
Brief, But Critical, Thoughts On Accountability.
Have you ever wondered, or better yet, explored how false religions maintain their external moral sheen? I mean, if Christ actually saves Christians from sin while other "faiths" just hide sin behind religious facade -- how then do false religions produce outwardly moral people?

Before I scrape the surface - let me say up front that I think accountability, for all its good intentions relies upon the fear and guilt of fessing up to failure to motivate us to holiness, rather than turning to God in faith and being sanctified in the same manner in which we were saved.

There I said it.

How do other religions produce holiness? Do you clean the inside of their cup? No. They clean the outside. How does one go about cleaning the outside of the cup? Suppression. By the strength of our own will, either solo, or enhanced by guilt and fear of failure - we simply stop doing what we want to do.

Has anything changed in us? Are we holier? Of course not. If sanctification were entirely external, there would be no teaching on cleaning the inside of the cup. This is, I think, where many Christians go astray in their pursuit of holiness. They do not pursue it by faith, but by works of the flesh - such as through accountability.

Men, do you have a problem with porn and ... shall we say, auto-erotica? Instead of whitewashing your failures to some accountability partner week after week after week - try repenting, and by repenting, I mean turning away from your sin and towards Christ just like you did when you were saved. If you can't do it, recognize the problem - the problem is that while you claim to love Jesus with your lips, your heart betrays you, because it goes after every foul thing there is. Do you think your accountability friend is going to set you free from that? How about fear and failure? Personal loathing? How about habit breaking? Get real with God, if you think God is failing you in the help department - if you think it isn't working because God is dropping the ball - tell Him so. Tell Him you expect him to do such and such, and that He isn't living up to your expectations. Or at least get to the place where you begin to hate sin instead of love it, and are willing to cry out to be free from it, and not just free from it's penalty. Stop playing at being holy - stop trying to get holy as if God were keeping it from you. Are you hungry for righteousness? You --will-- be filled, if you aren't filled, you aren't hungry for it.

The trouble is we do all sorts of pointless, useless, dead works to try and tear down spiritual strongholds - and that keeps us so busy that we haven't really noticed that two years, five years, or ten years of failure have gone by. Did we justify ourselves? Do we then go and sanctify ourselves? If God has begun the work, do we keep it going? Do we finish it?

I confess, this is a sore spot for me. So much of the Christianity I see around me does not come from scripture, but from long standing habit and tradition handed down to them so that they swallow it without even sniffing it to know where it came from.

Yes - we are to pray for one another - to confess our faults to one another for that purpose - not the purpose of shaming ourselves into obedience, but for the purpose of calling others into seeking God's power on our behalf to deliver us from temptations - from sin's strangle-hold wherever it may be found. When you get serious about sin, and about being in fellowship with God - you start to care less about what people think, and you start to seek out serious prayer - you want people to pray for you, you want them to pray without ceasing until the ground upon which you have put your foot down becomes yours - you begin to see yourself as taking the promise step by step - not in your own strength, but in the lord's strength, not alone, but as one individual in the Lord of Host's army.

I know that when I ask for prayer some people will heave me up to the Lord day after day after day - striving in prayer for me - and I know who they are too - people who have been released by similar prayers from others who are serious. I know likewise that many will pray once and forget about it. God never answers prayers anyway... right?

I love it if I have a brother in the Lord who has walked before me and been delivered, who is willing to hear me confess that I sin and to listen as I lament my failures - not to encourage me by shame to do better (or else!), but to offer such encouragement as is appropriate - reminding me that it is God's work, reminding me that the devil is going to attack me by causing me to doubt - to drive me away from the source of deliverance - faith. To take my hand in prayer and in fellowship and walk with me towards the path of faith - and to walk with me in that path - yes, there is a place for confession and prayer and contrition and calling out for help - but this is not what most of us mean or think of when we speak of Accountability™

We tend to think of accountability as meeting with someone else in order to expedite personal holiness through "holding one another accountable" for sin. We think this is a good and right thing to do because it seems very serious, and (after all) we're trying to overcome sin in our life - and isn't that commendable? Yet what we end up doing is coming together, and cleverly lying about how we have been struggling with sin over the week, in order to justify the fact that we haven't had lasting victory in years. Then we pray for one another in the most superficial way imaginable, and do it all again the next week.

Now I know some of you have had only wonderful, edifying experiences with accountability, and I am happy for you. But I think accountability - at least as it is typically practiced, is bunk - a work of men and not of God.

I am open to be corrected in my understanding however.


posted by Daniel @ 4:58 PM   5 comment(s)
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The Gospel.
Witness: Excuse me, can I have a few moments of your time?
Prospect: What? Me? Um, sure... I guess,
Witness: I am doing a survey, ...can you tell me whether you know for sure that if you died right now you would go to heaven?
Prospect: There are a lot of presumptions in that question. I am not sure if I can answer it.
Witness: Presumptions? What do you mean?
Prospect: Well, first of all, you are assuming that we go some place when we die, and secondly you are suggesting that one such place is called heaven.
Witness: Okay, I see what you're saying. Let me try again. Do you believe that anything spiritual happens after death?
Prospect: It's possible. I mean there have been some people who have "died" and come back, and they tell some pretty bizarre, but entirely inconsistent stories...
Witness: So you are open to the idea that there may be something spiritual that happens after death?
Prospect: Well, yeah, I am open to it, in that I really don't have any hard evidence to "prove" that there isn't anything spiritual.
Witness: Didn't you just mention that there are witnesses who have died and come back? Wouldn't their testimony, inconsistent as it is, stand as some sort of evidence?
Prospect: I don't think so. I mean really, how are we defining death now? My heart stopped beating for a couple of minutes - that is hardly dying. The body is starting to shut down, sure, but the fact that people come back from that state suggests that death hasn't really taken place yet.
Witness: What about brain death? Would you accept the testimony of someone whom science has shown was braindead and came back from that?
Prospect: No. I mean seriously, just because we build a machine that gives us a measurement, does that really mean that we know all that there is to know about how an organ as complex as the brain works? I think there is room for a healthy skepticism when it comes to things like measuring brain activity. Sure, we measuring something - but whose to say there isn't something else we never though of or tens or hundreds of things we haven't thought of that we could be measuring that could show us more precisely whether a person's brain had actually stopped functioning, or whether it was simply functioning in a way that science has yet to measure.
Witness: So you wouldn't accept the testimony of someone who "died" and came back to life?
Prospect: Oh no, don't get me wrong. What I mean is that I don't think someone is dead just because their life couldn't be measured for ten or fifteen minutes. If you dig up an hundred year old corpse and get him to talk about the experience, I for one am ready to listen!
Witness: How about a corpse that had been dead for three or four days?
Prospect: Um... sure, I mean, if the corpse was already rotting and whatnot - I would accept that person as really having been dead.
Witness: Okay... so unless you have hard evidence, such as talking to a rotting corpse, you will not believe that anything spiritual happens after death, right?
Prospect: I didn't say that. I just said that I don't take the testimonies of people who seem to have died as authoritative. As I said before, I am open to the idea, because I have no proof to the contrary.
Witness: Okay, assuming that that there is something spiritual that takes place after death...
Prospect: Okay, assuming there is...
Witness: Do you know for sure that you would go to heaven if you died?
Prospect: We are back to the presumptions again. I mean if no one has ever come back to say what is there, how can I say that I would go to heaven? That itself is another presumption - whose heaven? Nirvannah? Valhalla? Paradise? I mean, pick a religion - they all have their "happy hunting grounds." I take it by "heaven" you are a Christian/Catholic/Morman/Jehovah's witness?
Witness: I am an Evangelical.
Prospect: Does your bible even say that you go to heaven when you die?
Witness: Yes, of course it does.
Prospect: Really? When I read it, it said that God will create a new heaven, and a new earth - which heaven will you go to?
Witness: Um,... w-what? Hang on... The, ah, the new heaven.
Prospect: And you base that on what?
Witness: Well, if the old heaven is going to pass away, then I will be in the new heaven. It is a chronological thing.
Prospect: A chronological thing... right. So you will be in heaven. Where can I find that in your bible?
Witness: Well, I mean, I can't think of any direct reference... Let's see... <flipping through bible> um, here, in 2 Kings chapter two it says that Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind.
Prospect: Was he dead?
Witness: Um. No... but,
Prospect: No, no - let's be reasonable. If he wasn't dead, upon what authority to you say that we who die can go there? And what does that word heaven mean in that verse - that he was taken up into the sky, or that he was taken up into some sort of non terrestrial place - the abode of God?
Witness: We interpret it to mean heaven and not sky.
Prospect: Why? Doesn't sky fit?
Witness: Well, if he just went up into the sky he would run out of atmosphere and just die. So we assume he went into heaven.
Prospect: Um, couldn't he have gone up into the sky, then been placed into Abraham's bosom? or Hades, or some other place - why insist on heaven?
Witness: That's how I have always understood it.
Prospect: Well that's nice for you, but how is that going to convince me? I mean help me out here. If there is some concrete connection there, I want to know.
Witness: Well, its concrete enough for me.
Prospect: Is that your own reference then? Doesn't the bible say that no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven> Doesn't that seem to argue against the whole going to heaven thing...
Witness: um, where is that?
Prospect: Are you kidding me? That's the third chapter of John's gospel - what, did you only memorize John 3:16?
Witness: Well, I just didn't remember the reference... Okay, yeah it says that, but I don't think it means that only those who came down from heaven can go there. I think it just means that Jesus came down from heaven and he will go back there.
Prospect: Okay, is there any reference in all of scripture to anyone or anything being in heaven?
Witness:Yeah, God is in heaven, the angels, and those angels who followed Satan were there, and Satan too. Um, the Son was in heaven has returned there... um... the t... there is a temple in heaven, and um.. hang on... <flipping to the book revelation> oh yeah, and here - there are armies in heaven, the tabernacle of the testimony, ... um...
Prospect: So other than this army, it is basically God and the angels?
Witness: Well, I think Moses and Elijah are there too...
Prospect: Now are we talking the new heaven now, or the old?
Witness: Um Moses and Elijah were in the old, but will be in the new.
Prospect: and this army?
Witness: Um, let me see now... that, uh, that comes before the chapter on the judgment, so I am gonna say... the old heaven... but that's sort of provisional and speculative because the book of revelation is sort of all prophesy and involves a lot of time imagery, and I am not really sure what I think about that yet...
Prospect: yet you expect me to believe that when we die we go to this place which may or may not be the new heaven?
Witness: The new heaven. I mean, after judgment day its all the new heaven - and even if it is the old heaven, then you will just get shuffled into the new. Oh and hey - there were the martyrs too - they were under an altar in heaven.
Prospect: Do you think that might have been figurative? I mean, how big was that altar? Perhaps this is figurative language?
Witness: Um, okay... let's just put that aside for now... Would you agree that if there is an afterlife, something spiritual - do you think that you would do well on judgment day?
Prospect: Um, okay - I am willing to say that if there is an afterlife, it may well be the one that your bible describes, and if that is the case, then I expect that there will be a judgment day...
Witness: So how do you think you will do?
Prospect: I think I would be pretty much average I mean, I haven't killed anyone...
Witness: yeah, but have you ever hated anyone?
Prospect: Sure, lots of times. I hate you even. <grin> Just kidding.
Witness: Well the bible says that the sin of hating someone carries the same penalty as killing someone - that to hate someone is the same as killing them. Do you know what that means?
Prospect: Sure. It means that I would be just like everyone else.
Witness: That's right - guilty. And do you know where guilty people end up?
Prospect:... according to your religion?
Witness: Yes, according to my religion...
Prospect: I suppose they end up in hell.
Witness: That is right! <zeal increasing> So if the bible is true, you can be certain that you will be going to hell. Would you agree?
Prospect: Wait - all that we have established is that if the bible is true about judgment, that I will be found guilty. I mean, I have heard many Christians debate about whether there even is a hell or not. I take it that you are in the "there is a hell" camp?
Witness: There is a hell. Christ references a place of torment when he tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man - he speaks of a place elsewhere where the worm never dies and the flames burn forever. That sounds like hell to me.
Prospect: Okay, so if I am found guilty, then yes, I agree, that the punishment for my guilt is hell.
Witness: Now don't you want to be saved from that?
Prospect: Assuming I was persuaded that there is an after life, and that your religion is the correct one to describe it, and that I am guilty sinner condemned to hell - it seems that a just God could hardly excuse me - I mean, if he excuses me, wouldn't he have to excuse everyone?
Witness: Not everyone. I mean, only those who ask Jesus into their heart.
Prospect: Ho! What's this now? We go from judgment and pleading to asking Jesus into our heart? Gracious - how does asking Jesus into my heart trump this God's righteousness?
Witness: Well, if you know you are going to go to hell when you die, then you can avoid that by asking Jesus to come into your heart. it is a pretty simple prayer, and I could lead you in it so that you could know you are going to heaven when you die, and not hell.
Prospect: I thought we weren't decided on the heaven thing just yet...
Witness: Well, you could say the prayer and escape judgment then...
Prospect: let's say that I was interested in your offer, but unsure of your authority... That is, how can I be sure that if I repeat after you something I will escape this judgment?
Witness: Well, if you believe hard enough God will hear you and once you ask Jesus into your heart He has to save you.
Prospect: from hell?
Witness: Yeah, that's what Jesus does.
Prospect: And where do I find that written out anywhere? Is that in the bible?
Witness:Of course it is, <flipping.... flipping.... flipping....>
Prospect: ?
Witness: Um, well, it isn't spelled out quite exactly like that - but it does say that if you call on the name of the Lord you will be saved.
Prospect: Saved from what?
Witness: From hell!
Prospect: Where does it say I will be saved from hell.
Witness: Um... it just does.
Prospect: Do you really expect me to just take your word for it? I mean, this is some pretty important stuff if it is true, wouldn't you say?
Witness: Hang on... here is an internet kiosk - let's do a word search in the bible and see where it talks of being saved.... tappity-tap-tap ... ENTER... Here we go - Matthew 1:21 - You will call His name Jesus for He shall save His people...
Prospect: From what?
Witness:... from their sin.
Prospect: Are you saved from your sin sir?
Witness: What?
Prospect: Just a question. You want me on your bandwagon, so I want to see if it's connected to a live horse or a dead one. You just showed me the text - it said that Jesus would save His people from their sin - are you saved from your sin?
Witness: Well, it means from the penalty for sin... and I...
Prospect: It doesn't say penalty anywhere - why do you add that. Doesn't the bible itself warn you against adding things to scripture?
Witness: I am not adding, I am...
Prospect: Yes, you are. I mean, it doesn't say anything about sin's penalty, it just says that Jesus will save His people from their sin.
Witness: But we interpret that to mean...
Prospect: I don't doubt that you interpret that to mean that - the question is, is that a valid interpretation. I mean that's a big, big, difference. So I ask you again, have you been saved from you sin?
Witness: Well, yes, from sin's penalty...
Prospect: Skip the penalty thing - have you been saved from sin - yes or no.
Witness: well, no, I mean I still sin, so no.
Prospect: Well then sir, I have some good news for you.
Witness: What?
Prospect: I have listened patiently to you blunder on about this stuff, are you willing to give me your ear now.
Witness: Look, I am a Christian, and I am satisfied with my faith. I will listen, but don't expect much.
Prospect: That's interesting, because I am a Christian, but I wonder if we have believed the same gospel, since I am saved from sin, and you are merely saved from hell.
Witness: You're a Christian? Why didn't you say so brother!?
Prospect: Because anyone can call them self a Christian, but not everyone can say they have been saved from sin.
Witness: Well I have been saved from sin... from sin's penalty.
Prospect: I am not so confident of your profession as you are.
Witness: You don't think I am saved?
Prospect: I don't think you even know the gospel.
Witness: <spit-take> WHA? I know the gospel, if you sin, you're a sinner, sinners go to hell, to escape hell you say the sinners prayer, and God will save you as long as you really mean it.
Prospect: Did any of the apostles preach that gospel?
Witness: All of them.
Prospect: Where?
Witness: Well, it isn't spelled out like that anywhere, but that's what they preached.
Prospect: Friend, can I call you friend? You admit you are a sinner. right?
Witness: Yeah, we are all sinners - Christians are just "saved" sinners.
Prospect: If Christ died to save His people from their sin, doesn't being a saved-from-sin-sinner strike you as a little off?
Witness: ?
Prospect: Seriously. Christ died to reconcile you to God. That was the point of it all. It wasn't to save you from hell, it was to save you from sin.
Witness: But if you are reconciled to God, aren't you saved from hell anyway?
Prospect: Yes -if- you are reconciled to God. The question is, do you actually get reconciled to God when your gospel is all about getting you into heaven without being reconciled to God?
Witness: Wait a second... something is... I ...say that again?
Prospect: The gospel you presented to me was little more than - say this prayer, and believe it, and you don't have to go to hell. You (more or less) were right in showing me that I was a sinner, but then you started selling me on getting out of hell rather than being reconciled to God. Sin is wicked because it has separated me from God - separated YOU from God. God -IS- life, and if you want eternal life, you must be reconciled to God. It isn't about side-stepping God and getting heaven through Jesus doing something for you - so that God forgives you... it is about being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ in order that you may be grafted back into life itself - the life that you were severed from by your sin.
Witness: So what are saying? That I am not saved?
Prospect: I don't know if you are saved or not, and it isn't my job to know. But I can tell you that salvation involves being reconciled to God. Christ's work on the cross was not about getting people into heaven so that they could have a nice afterlife - it was about providing a way for repenting sinners to be reconciled to a righteous God.
Witness: Go on...
Prospect: The gospel is simple, turn away from your rebellion against God, and turn instead to that right relationship with God. You have been disobedient and wayward, but God calls all to repent of this, and to turn again to Him - to turn again to a relationship wherein God is your sovereign - your king - the one you obey...
Witness: Oh, I was with you right up to the word obey. Now you just sound like a legalist.
Prospect: In Luke's gospel, in the nineteenth chapter Jesus speaks of a man who traveled to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, who would then return at a later date. There were some who rejected this man's rule even before he received that kingdom, and after it was received the man bid them to bring those who rejected his rule before him and slay them. Who do you think is the man who goes away and returns a king?
Witness: Jesus.
Prospect: And what did Jesus say He would do to those who reject His rule?
Witness: <gulp> Um, slay them. But...
Prospect: Shut up.
Witness: Hey, that's not polit...
Prospect: Shut up. Chew on it instead of trying to justify your own rebellion.
Witness: You're saying that unless I obey Christ perfectly I am going to go to hell, and I don't buy that for a minute. If I could live sinlessly I would.
Prospect: Listen, I am not saying that you have to live sinlessly to pass through the judgment, but you -must- accept Christ's rule. It is one thing to strive against sin in one's spiritual infancy, and quite another to give up the fight, or never start it. The moment I tell myself I am going to heaven whether I obey or not, I am on a slippery slope, and I have to ask myself whether I am desiring to be reconciled to God, or just get to heaven. If I am desiring reconciliation - I will hunger for righteousness, I will desire to obey, and I will yearn for, and strive towards maturity.
Witness: But...
Prospect: No buts. Just listen. If the gospel you believed had all the right players in it, but spoke more about getting into heaven than being reconciled to God - if you find that the biggest problem in your version of Christianity is that you don't love God, and don't want to have anything to do with Him - other than admire Him from a distance, you probably need to hear the rest of the gospel...
Witness: The rest of...
Prospect: The rest of the gospel. Listen: God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Not every person who had ever been born, but every person who turns away from rebellion and sin, and seeks to be reconciled back into an obedient, right relationship with God. None of us could ever do such a thing without Christ, and even if we could, it wouldn't reconcile us to God because He is righteous, and we are sinners.
Prospect: But God found a way to have a relationship with us without doing injury to His own righteousness. He sent His own Son, out of heaven, to come and be born as a man, to live before Him perfectly, and to supply His own life as the means by which unrighteous sinners could be ==made== righteous.
Prospect: As many as repent of their rebellion, and turn to God in faith - the same are united together with Christ through the Holy Spirit - a spiritual union that places us on Calvary with Christ where God poured out His wrath on our rebellion and sin - slaying us who were guilty, and slaying Christ in whom we were eternally united through the Spirit. Yet because Christ was innocent, God could not allow Him to remain dead but was required by His own righteousness to raise Him from the dead - and because we who turned to God for reconciliation were placed into Christ - united with His life - when that life is restored, our life is restored - not the old sinful one that received God's wrath - but a new life - Christ's own, eternal, life. That is what we have been joined to.
Prospect: Now we who have been joined to Christ start off as babes - we don't know how to behave as we ought, but God puts His Holy Spirit in us, to convict us of sin and of righteousness. He likewise left us the bible to teach us who He is, and through that knowledge, whom we are to be like. Our obedience is not wrung out of us out of fear that failing to obey will mean damnation, rather it is the desire of the Holy Spirit in us that wars against our flesh which by no means wants to obey - such that we find ourselves wanting to obey by the spirit, but wanting to follow our own urges in the flesh. This is the state of immaturity that we all begin in.
Witness: I think that's me...
Prospect: Why don't you obey?
Witness: I can't. I tried, and tried, but I never am able to.
Prospect: Jesus did something on Calvary you know. He rendered that part of you that says "I can't" powerless. We find that in Romans 6:6. You can, but not in the strength of your flesh - forcing your flesh to obey God because you are afraid that if you don't He will not save you is not exactly worshiping in spirit and in truth.
Witness: How did you know I feel that way? I have never been able to put it into words, but that is how I feel - like I have to obey otherwise I might not really be saved. I mean, I want to obey, but that sort of guilt motive has never carried me very far...
Prospect: I guessed. But I based my guess upon my own initial failures, assuming that scripture is correct in describing our struggles as common to one another. The point is that although this is normal for a baby Christian, it isn't really acceptable to stay there once we know better.
Witness: How can I obey God? I pray all the time that he would fill me with His spirit, and give me a bigger greater love for himself, but I continue to find myself floundering up and down - one day I feel okay, one day I am elated, then for weeks on end I feel like God secretly hates me because I am such a failure. Then my church sends us all out on these out reach assignments, and I feel like if I don't bring in the numbers everyone will know what a big fake I am...
Prospect: Yeah... That happens. If the Holy Spirit isn't working, we presume we are supposed to do the work and "blame" it on the Holy Spirit because we know He is the one who is supposed to be doing it. Look, in a nutshell it works like this. First off, don't confuse your own morbid feelings of guilt with God's truth. Read the bible and learn that God's relationship with you is brokered entirely in Christ, and His finished work - and that you have never, and can never do anything either to have initiated it, or to continue it - that you were, are, and will be saved by God's grace entirely - you have been brought into something God is doing - you haven't brought Him into something you are doing. So be done with the guilt, it is the enemies greatest weapon, but the cure for darkness is light. Know the truth, and the enemy won't have a strangle hold on your faith.
Witness: Okay, but how do I love God? I mean, I can't just force myself to love Him... ?
Prospect: Well, if you can't force yourself to love Him, the least you can do is look at Him, and see if He is worthy loving. I don't mean to look at paintings or images, or try to imagine what his nose looked like (so full of hawk-like justice...?), I mean when you find yourself putting words in God's mouth or attitudes in God's head (God doesn't REALLY love me) - get your sword out (scripture) and start swinging. God loved you while you were still a sinner, and he doesn't love you any less now that He has begun a work in you. Begin to meditate on why you want to obey Him - and ask yourself where does one desire to be loves another?
Witness: Um, you want to be with the one you love?
Prospect: Sing it brother! So if God calls you to obey Him, and God loves you - where do you think you are going to find God?
Witness: What do you mean?
Prospect: Well, God through the prophet says that you will find him when you seek for Him with all your heart. So how do you seek God?
Witness: By...<light bulb turns on.. heart beat quickens...> By going where God is, and God is in the obedience - he is calling me to obey him because that is where a person in a right relationship with God must be - and God can't very well come and straddle my sin with me - I must go to him - I have to have clean hands and a pure heart to ascend the holy hill - yes, it all makes sense now - If you love Me, you will obey my commandments - not that you prove your love for me, but that the one who wants to love me searches for me with all his -heart- the search is a love search, and it is begins by seeking that reconciliation with God - and the first place of reconciliation is humble surrender - so that every act of obedience is really an act of seeking...
Prospect: I think you are starting to get it. Next time you share the gospel, don't try and get people into heaven without reconciling them to God. Look at all the damage it has done to your faith, and learn.


posted by Daniel @ 12:24 PM   12 comment(s)
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Free Will.
God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

After a Hebrew slave had formed a brick - that brick was hardened, either by letting it dry in the sun, or perhaps by firing it in a kiln. The slave dumped a mix of clay and straw into a brick mold and pressed it into the shape of a break - then the "brick" was hardened into that shape forever. Prior to this hardening, the clay was malleable, but once the clay has set (hardened), it stayed in the shape of the brick. That is what it means to be hardened - it means that the brick is in a state whereby it is no longer malleable - no longer able to change.

Likewise, when we say, "let's get to the heart of the matter" - we mean, let's get at the central issue - the core, the very essence of what we are dealing with.

Understanding these concepts, we regard a phrase like God hardening Pharaoh's heart, to mean, not that God had physically vulcanized the blood pump in Pharaoh's chest, but that God was causing Pharaoh to remain in that state of rebellion that Pharaoh had freely chosen to embark upon.

Scripture describes repentance as something that God grants to sinners, which means that in order to repent, God has to intervene in the life of a sinner. That is an important thing to understand, because when we talk about God hardening Pharaoh's heart, it may well mean only that God refused to intervene in the life of Pharaoh; that is, that God decided not to give grace to Pharaoh in causing him to repent. If God refused to cause Pharaoh to repent, and if repentance is something that fallen man is incapable of, as scripture teaches, then the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is nothing more than allowing Pharaoh to continue unchecked, down the road of his own choosing.

Whatever role God played in Pharaoh's hardening, one thing is beyond debate - God's role was active, and it had a purpose.

If we are able to discern that God allowed Pharaoh to continue in rebellion in order that God's purposes were fulfilled, and this is really beyond debate as well, then we are saying that while God does not force a man to rebel against him, God can and does use the rebellion of men to bring about His will.

We see this sort of thing in the crucifixion of our Lord, where Luke tells us in the book of Acts (c.f. Acts 4:27-28), that God had predestined the death of Christ to occur. We do well to cogitate on the question, "How could a good God predestine the most heinous crime that would ever be committed?"

The answer to such riddles lies in separating the big picture from the little picture.

I love my children. It is never my will to see them suffer in pain. Yet when each of my children were babes I gave them into the doctor's hand. She then jabbed an inoculating needle into each of their pudgy little thighs, causing pain to them. Was I lying when I said that it is never my will to see my little ones suffer in pain? No, I was not lying. Yet even though I took no pleasure in their suffering, I allowed it for the greater purpose it served. Likewise, when my little daughter desired to learn to skate, I allowed her to do so, even though I knew that she would eventually, and often, fall on the hard ice whilst learning. Do I desire her pain? No, yet I suffer it in order to allow a greater purpose - her learning to skate.

God took no pleasure in the death of His son, it was not His will that Christ suffered, or that any of us suffers - yet in order to serve a greater purpose, God allowed Christ's suffering.

The same logic helps us understand how it is that even if it is not God's will than any should perish, and that all should come to repentance - yet that is balanced by God's greater purpose which required that God not grant repentance to Pharaoh.

Now you may be asking, what does all this have to do with free will?

I bring up Pharaoh because scripture plainly tells us that God hardened Pharaoh's heart - that is, that God withheld repentance from Pharaoh (God didn't intervene in Pharaoh's life, granting Pharaoh repentance). If God chose not to intervene in Pharaoh's life, and if repentance is, as scripture describes it, something God grants us, and not something that we can just do ourselves, then whatever options were open to Pharaoh - repentance was not one of them.

Pharaoh was free to choose between the red pill and the blue one, because those were his options, God hadn't put the green one on the table. Pharaoh's free will was by no means violated by this limiting of choices. Repentance was not in Pharaoh's nature, any more than it is in my nature or your nature - the option of repentance, for Pharaoh was an intellectual mirage - it was there, but he had no ability within himself to desire it. It was an option only in the sense that he could will his body to behave in a fashion that looked to be in accord with genuine repentance - and in this way he appeared to almost repent several times - but he could not mean it, because it wasn't an option open to a sinner whom God had determined not to grant repentance to.

We are only free to choose from amongst those options available to us. If we insist, contrary to scripture, that we have in us the ability to repent, that is, if we insist that we are by no means in bondage to sin, and therefore morally capable of repentance, we commit a well known heresy: Pelagianism. If we try and water that down, as is vogue today, so that we agree that we are very, very, morally corrupt, but just not completely corrupt, that is, we are pretty much in bondage to sin, but not entirely - and we imagine that there is some sliver of light within us that can repent of its own accord - we still make the same error, even if we try hard to lean away from it with all our might.

The battle for free will, is not really about whether or not we are robots, it is actually about whether or not we are morally capable, for if we -are- morally capable, then we have more options open to us in our decisions. If we are not morally capable, our options are limited. Our freedom to choice doesn't change - but our choices do.

The problem is that many who argue for "free will" imagine that those who oppose them oppose the notion of "free choice" - as if by opposing "free will" we imagined that God was in the business of manipulating the thoughts of men. Has ever a straw man been so puffed up?

I right understanding free will looks like this: We are free to choose anything we want, and God doesn't impose himself upon our intellect to limit it in any way. Yet we are only free to choose those options which are within our nature - and unless God personally intervenes and adds "extra" options (such as repentance), which are entirely alien to our nature - we will by no means choose them.

This granting of repentance as a moral option is called "grace".

Free will is not any less free because of moral inability - all that changes is the number of choices available.


posted by Daniel @ 8:57 AM   1 comment(s)
Monday, August 18, 2008
Consciousness And The Will...
Though my consciousness is only aware of the present, my memory and intellect allow me to note the passage of time. I recall starting this post moments ago, though that moment has passed - yet the freshness of it in my memory, my sense of reason, and even the continuity of my memory between now and then tells me that only a short time has passed since I began typing this thought out.

I am always and ever riding through time between two fronts - behind me is the past, and before me is the future, and I am betwixt the two in the present. I am not aware of any events in the future, though I may anticipate events, as I anticipate ending this post in a few minutes - but I am not there yet, and as such I have no awareness of what that time will be like - though I can probably speculate with some precision. Likewise, though I can remember things in the past, my awareness is not in the past, it is always in the present - in fact the only way I am aware of my past is because it has left it's imprint on my mind, and I am able to (in the present) examine that imprint that has been left on my mind.

It should be self evident (to most of us) that our consciousness - our awareness if you will - is limited to the present. We can contemplate the past and the future by virtue of our reason and memory, but any such contemplation takes place in the present, where our consciousness dwells.

We could say that our consciousness is therefore limited by both time and location - that is, we are only really conscious in any one place at any given time.

Given this truth, consider the decision making process, with respect to our awareness moving through time and space. We become aware of some need to make a decision, and information is gathered into our memory, and we, in the present, consider this information, so that even our considerations become memory - and eventually, at some point, our information, and reexamination of information provides us with enough impetus to decide something - and then even that decision is in the past, and now just a memory upon which we may act, but we can also change our mind, since the decision is no longer present, but has passed.

But let us pretend for a moment, that our consciousness was not limited to that infinitely small instant between the past and the future, that vacuous slice between what was and what is to be - and instead let't pretend that our awareness stretched out over say, ten seconds into the future, and again, ten seconds into the past - so that our awareness spanned a full twenty seconds of time, rather than just an every fleeting instant...

In order to do this mental exercise properly, first consider that I am already aware of what has happened in the past ten seconds. Yet I am aware of it through my memory of the past ten seconds - it is not the same as if my consciousness were there "still" - for if I remember the past, it is my present consciousness sifting through the impressions of the past that are left in my memories - it isn't that my consciousness is there, it just remembers (in the now) being there in the past. Thus, we don't want to make the mistake of imagining our consciousness being merely a perfect recollection of the past, or a perfect augury of the future as contemplated by the same stuck-in-the-present awareness - rather we want to extend our awareness ten seconds either way.

If that were possible, we would mark our reality according to our awareness - that is, I can say I am here in Winnipeg, on this date at such and such a time, and in one second, that will change by one second, etc. If my awareness stretched over twenty seconds - the perspective of my reality would change radically.

Anything that happened within that twenty seconds encompassed by my awareness would be "now" to me. Consider therefore the concept of change...

We readily understand change since our awareness is limited to the instantaneous - that is, because (for us) everything moves from present to the past as soon as it is happens - we regard change as something that doesn't happen in the instant, but happens over time. If our awareness however, stretched over time, our perception of change would be radically different.

Consider the opening of a can of pop if our consciousness were there both before the can was opened, and after - and in every moment in between. The "opening" of the can would not be seen in that moment as a changeable thing - but as a single, unchanged, reality. That is, if our awareness stretched over the whole event, the event itself would be, in our awareness at least - immutable - at least during the interval wherein our consciousness was aware.

Thus, if in the stretch of our consciousness we "will" to open the pop can, and do so before the deed has moved beyond the scope of our conscious awareness - we can say that our will was immutable - unchanging and unchangeable during our awareness - for if we were going to change our mind, that change would be in our awareness so that our will would reflect that change and not our present course of action. Thus, because our consciousness stretches over time, whatever happens in the expanse of our consciousness is immutable, and whatever is determined during that time cannot be changed during the interval of our consciousness.

We don't normally think in these terms, so I don't expect everyone to follow the reasoning - but for those of you who persevere, I suggest now that God, who is unchanging and immutable, and who knows the beginning from the end, is not merely living like you and I - with a consciousness that is only aware in the present, so that His understanding of the past is just the bringing of that (substantial) intellect to bear upon the contemplation of remembered history, nor is his knowledge of the future merely bringing the same intellect to bear on infinite possibilities - or worse, on merely foretelling what is going to happen, as though the future were something that God hadn't already created, but was something God was moving into just like the rest of us, and was only aware of because of some ability to look forward into a time that didn't exist even for Himself yet.

I say, God's consciousness is eternal and infinite. He is not isolated, as we are, in one time and in one space - for such restrictions can only apply within creation where such things as time and location exist. God, who existed when there was not "when" and where there was no "where" cannot be boxed by such concepts - and the best word we can use to describe God's relationship to creation is with words like 'transcendent' or 'alien' or, 'outside of' - the bible uses words like 'Holy, Holy, Holy!' He does not sit in one place at one time, and another place at another time as though he were a created being living in creation - but rather God transcends time and space; His consciousness is not bound by the ideas of time and space.

When scripture teaches that God sees the end from the beginning - it isn't painting a picture of a creature who, trapped in time and space, is looking forward in both to another time in space, and is able to "see" all the stuff that is in between. Rather it is describing the perspective of an eternal awareness - there is just as much of God's consciousness here and now, as there will be someone else and later, or was elsewhere before. God doesn't go anywhere, He -is- everywhere. He doesn't learn anything new, because in God's consciousness, there is nothing new - He is aware in every moment so that His will is not something that is decided at some point in time, and changes later - but rather is settled from eternity.

God's will is not mutable, never changes, never flutters or fades - it is the same yesterday, today, and forever, because in God's consciousness, these distinctions do not come outside of his ever-present awareness.


posted by Daniel @ 9:12 AM   4 comment(s)
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The Missing (Discipleship) Link...
The sermon today was a call to [1] contrast how we think of discipleship with how discipleship looked in scripture (inviting people into our lives, rather than inviting people out to [a] bible studies or [b] our weekly services. Not that there is anything untoward about either having a study, or inviting someone to a study, or a weekly service - for such things are certainly "okay" - we just mustn't imagine that this is how we make disciples. The charge was to first understand that discipleship is an real commitment/investment in someone else's life - to lead them in the way they are to go - not merely through formal (or informal) methodologies such as a weekly bible study, or an "accountability group" - or some other weekly appointment (again, not that there is anything untoward in any of these in an of themselves, but that these by themselves, regardless of how well structured, or established, do not constitute "discipleship" unless they are part of a sharing of one's life.)

I think the message was apropos for our congregation, and very likely for yours as well, since you're reading this and we serve a providentially sovereign God.

Here I think is where the Lord is so beautiful, for He gives different gifts to the same body, and expresses the same desire through many gifts at the same time. To that end, as I listened to the sermon I was burning with the understanding that while this is all true and good, the reason the members in our congregation, as a broad rule, do not each produce a brand new, mature-and-ready-to-reproduce disciple every two years is because, frankly, they don't have "it" in them.


They don't have "it" in them? What -is- this "it"? The Holy Spirit? Grace? What is lacking?

I will tell you what I think it is - the one thing most professing Christians lack ...is that God is their treasure in words only. I mean, they pay lip service to the notion that God *is* their treasure, and they may even -believe- that God is their treasure; but that's only because they believe themselves to be something by default and not by examining themselves.

Don't get me wrong - These will certainly regard God as a very -big- treasure, one of their biggest - but He isn't the pearl of great price to them, His worth, however ultimate in theory, is quite limited in their personal practice. Their "big treasure" is getting to heaven and avoiding hell.

You see, if you come to God in order to avoid hell and get into heaven, then the moment you begin to feel that you really will go to heaven when you die - that is the moment that your faith begins to dry up on the vine.

It isn't that you stop "believing" - for you continue to believe that you will go to heaven, it is that this belief hasn't helped you with the *real* sin problem in your life. Don't get me wrong - you have done a good job cleaning the outside of your cup - I mean, you probably stopped swearing, and maybe you have even overcome some bad habits - smoking, drinking, and even course joking and, well, and sorts of obvious sin. People see you in church and they see the holy Christian sheen that everyone is expected to wear. You all take your places in the pews week by week - and nothing changes.

Now when I say that nothing changes, I don't mean that you aren't learning how to act the role - you are! You may even love to pray, or read the bible, or maybe you are particularly insightful or clever, and your grasp of scripture is more firm than most - and you *love* to talk about doctrine, because you're good at that, and you love the praise of others almost as much as you love to be right, and love the sound of your own voice. But religion is not unlike a good stout beer - the more you drink it, the more you acquire a taste for it, and I suspect that a great many who walk right past God in their affections, and look forward either with hope or with certainty to heaven - these have missed the boat...

You see, as I said, if all you came to God for was the ticket to heaven, the moment you feel you have a lock on that ticket, God is no longer useful to you, and though you give a nod in His direction, by prayer and religion, and whatever activity you do in order to maintain your grip on the "prize" - it is all, I say, empty and sad.

There is an old Johnny Horton tune called, "The mansion you stole", that goes like this:
The mansion I own has captured your heart
You said it was love dear but you lied from the start
I wanted true love but you wanted my gold
Someday you'll be sorry for the lies that you told

You've stolen my heart and you cheated on me
But someday my darling I know that you'll see
A house without love can make you so cold
And you will be lonely in the mansion you stole
The song is, of course, about a gold-digger who marries some guy for his mansion, pretending to love him in because that was the means to the ends - to get the prize - the mansion and the gold. The marriage was just not one of love, but one of conniving deceit - a mockery and a farce.

There are some who come to the Lord, not to be reconciled to Him, but because that is what you do in order to avoid going to hell. There are some who came originally to be reconciled to God, but whose love has over time grown cold (c.f. the rebuke in the book of revelation against the congregation at Ephesus [Rev 2:4]), whatever the cause - they either have never sought God (having sought religion or heaven), or have stopped seeking after God, and for that reason they have never grown in their faith.

I am talking about sitting in a pew for ten years, and slowly drying out, if ever there was life, or slowly running out of their own strength. Their faith becomes a burden to them, and they grow colder, and more distant inside, regardless of how vibrant a show they put on every Sunday.

Now, I am painting a picture with some dark colors here, in order to capture what is going on. If it comes across as over the top, I am sorry about that, but I write that way in order to make the point plain. Here then is where a great many people are confused, twisted, stunted, or drowning in their faith.

Do you know how many times I have heard earnest believers question how it is they are supposed to obey God? They know they are suppose to obey, and they know that the yoke is supposed to be easy and the burden light - they know that God is supposed to be working in them to will and to do His good pleasure, but they cannot for the love of them find out how that goes.

Now I spent a lot of time in this nowhere land, and in my shame and pride, I prefer not to mention how long I spend thus - but God was gracious one day in lifting me out of this mire, I believe, and whenever I get the opportunity I like to pass on practical advice.

I say practical, because I believe that there are enough people attending church Sunday to Sunday, who have never been instructed in how to walk in the faith - they have never learned how God works in them, and where to draw the line between "what we do, and what God does" - and since this is really the very *heart* of discipleship, I want to go over it for anyone reading who has never been taught this...

First - there is no way that someone who is living in the flesh week after week is ever going to want to "go out into the harvest". They are still trying to make sure they are saved, and frankly, even though they have filled the pews of some church for years, or decades (as may be), they have never rounded first base in their faith. They don't know --how-- to be obedient. They reject the idea that you just "keep the law" - knowing that would make you no better than a Jew - but they try and keep the law anyway, because they have to do something. Likewise, they reject the notion that because Christ died for our sins, anything we do, even if formerly it was considered sin, is not "not" sinful, because we are in Christ - that is, they reject the notion of using their "salvation" as a cloak for vice. But they cannot find the in-between place that they know is there, and no one has ever explained how it works.

Have I primed this pump long enough? We will see.

Here it is. The purpose of genuine faith is reconciliation with God. Unless/until one desires to be reconciled to God the Father (through Jesus Christ the Son!), all religion and religious activity is external, carnal, and temporal. One can go a whole life pursuing moral excellence in the strength of their own flesh and conviction, in the hope that doing so will secure them a place in heaven, and spare them a place in hell - but pursuing this liberty is not the same as pursuing God, and redemption is not about us going to heaven, it is first and foremost about us being reconciled to God.

I think that some mess up the gospel sorely on this point - using the fear of hell to draw people into wanting to be reconciled with God. They try to make people want to be reconciled to God, by vividly portraying the consequences of failing to be reconciled - and for those who have an eternal care for their soul - this draw is often enough to cause them to cry examine the promises of God seriously. The one who is convinced of their eternal damnation is certainly open to hearing the promises of heaven...

The first commandment is to love the Lord your God will all your mind, soul, heart and strength. We can seek God all we want, but we will only find him when we seek for him with -all- of our heart. Christ said, if you love Me, you will obey my commands.

I want to piece together for you the way of the yoke, if you will - the yoke of love.

It works this way:

If I find that my faith doesn't really want to know God, or care about Him, so long as I go to heaven when I die - there is something categorically, and devastatingly wrong about my faith, and before I even try anything else, I need to examine myself and see how my faith is an affront to God. I cannot use God to get into heaven - as though heaven were the goal. God is the goal, and until that is the baseline, there is no Christian walk - no walk of faith - there is only an illusion - or rather a delusion.

When I realize that it is all about knowing God through Christ, I then need to go about "seeking God" so that I can "find Him". He isn't lost, but I am unholy, so that in order to ascend His holy hill, I must have clean hands. Now, here is where some people go off the road. They get that far and say to themselves - "OH! I get it, I am supposed to obey because if I do it enough, I will start to have clean hands, then I will get to experience God in some bigger, better, more affirming and realistic, experiential way - and I am all for that, so I will start to obey now!" - and what they do is they try to look to some future reward as the impetus to their obedience. The trouble is that no matter how marvelous a future reward may be - we are so sinful that even a great reward will not long motivate us to obey. We just get slack, and we get there fast.

We need clean hands - but here is where people need understanding - to avoid the mess. You see, God calls us to obey, because -that- is where we find Him.

I am tempted, even sorely tempted to end this post right there - because the rest of it is just restating that last line. God doesn't command us to obey Him in order to make our lives miserable, he commands obedience because the only way one can obey God is to seek Him in the obedience. Does God give grace to the humble? What is humility - it is surrendering one's will to God's will.

You must understand -ONE- thing, if you are going to be a disciple, that is that you cannot go halfway. You are either seeking God with all your heart, or you are not seeking Him at all. You are either in the game, or you are playing another game.

That is why it is so important to understand that God sent Jesus to us in order to reconcile us to Him (God the Father). If we do not want that reconciliation, that is, if we want heaven, but not God, we can't grow in our faith because we are not walking in the light, we are in darkness. If I want to be reconciled to God, I will not stop seeking Him until I find Him - and if God tells me to be obedient, then I reason that God is not leading me away from Him, but towards Him - that is, the path to God is through obedience.

Do you see that if I truly want to be with God, and if the path to God is through obedience, then I will view every act here on earth as an opportunity to draw near to God, that walking in the path that God sets beneath my feet is the path to God - and I will not regard obedience as an unfortunate kill-joy in my earthly sojourn as I wait patiently for death to bring me into a godless heaven. Look: the only motivation you will ever receive for obedience is because that is the path to God - if you refuse to walk it, it is because God is not your treasure.

If God is not your treasure, you need to prayerfully re-examine your faith before the Lord, and stay there until God -is- your treasure, not until He is -a- treasure, as being perhaps one amongst many other treasures - but until God is all in all, that is, until God is God. When God is not your treasure, it isn't God, it is a facsimile, a doppelganger - an image that looks like God, but is not. For God has no rival, and when you see Him for the treasure He is, you will desire no other treasure.

So in order for discipleship to get off the ground, one must desire God, for desiring God is the way in which the burden is light and the yoke easy - if every act of obedience becomes an opportunity to draw near to the one you desire to be near - the struggle with the sinful flesh has a way out - a way of escape, and that way is the way of love - the love of God. Walking in that love is the way one is supposed to be a Christian, and discipleship is all about learning to walk in that love consistently.

If that helps, let me know.


posted by Daniel @ 12:58 PM   1 comment(s)
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Ephesians 5:26

Translating this as literally as I know how, I get something like:
"In order that He should sanctify it, cleansing [it] by the washing of the water in the saying" - author's translation
I apologize for the wooden nature of my translation, and even the poverty of it for those who have greater skill. I could certainly have used words that were more flowery, or had more English eloquence, but doing so would come at a cost to my understanding of the text.

There are a few things here that need to be understood:

First, one of the words in the text (λουτρω), while it means bathing (to the extent that one washes as one bathes), it also is used elsewhere in a figurative sense to speak of water baptism. That use, coupled with the mention of water, is enough to embolden those who hold strong opinions about baptism, to hijack this text and try and make it say something about baptism -- even if it is clear from the immediate context that Baptism by no means has anything to do with instructing husbands in how they ought to love their wives.

Secondly, we have that word "ρηματι" which means to make a declaration, or to utter a thing - to say something. In English, because we don't speak so much about the process of speaking, and prefer our references rather be tied to what is said - we would typically, and stylistically chose to translate that as "word" - and any quick glance at parallel translations will show that this is the path the majority of translations follows. It therefore can be charged against me that I am an arrogant translator because my translation does not ape the way the majority translate the text.

I confess here that though I probably -am- arrogant, it doesn't feel that way to me. If anything, like most people, I would prefer to keep my opinions and thoughts in line with the majority - then instead of having to look the fool outside the camp - defending and answer for my opinions, I could instead share in the warm glow of the "high fiving" majority. My preference is, of course, to travel the path of ease where I am not discouraged by the friction my opinion produces in others whose own opinion cannot tolerate even a small challenge.

That as may be, I have chosen the words of my translation on purpose - to avoid certain confusions that may spring up because of habitual, English word associations. I have often pined long into the night about how unfortunate it is that we have inherited a tradition of failing to translate the Greek word "baptize". We instead transliterate it - and in doing so we almost erase the original meaning of the word because the transliterated word has an abundance of baggage that is brought with it every time it is used. Should we smell even a hint of the word - many immediately presume the text is speaking of the moment a Christian is baptized into water.

Likewise - words like "saved" suddenly lose all semantic range and only and ever mean "saved from hell" - or even the word "word" itself, which, because Christ is the "logos" and logos can be translated as "word" - causes some to immediately conclude that whenever an English bible uses the noun "word" it is fair game to mystically capitalize the "W" and presume that it also means Christ.

It is this last unfortunate association that drives me to translate ρηματι as "saying" rather than "word". Since I don't want to introduce an opportunity for those who are inclined to this sort of word association (no pun intended), to bring that baggage to the text.

Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, I translate the preposition "εν" in its most simplest, and literal sense: "in" - even though that is rather clumsy stylistically - most translations pick another English word from the semantic range - either "with" or "by" - since the English flows better using either of those words.

There is therefore, even in many of the translations, the building blocks of bias in the text. If I come here with my eyes full of baptism, guess what? I see baptism in the text. I don't deny that certain words within their figurative use have such meaning elsewhere, but I prefer to see first if the text makes perfect sense without imposing such baggage upon it - and then to check if it makes "better" sense to impose the baggage.

Given all that - the text is saying first, that it is Christ who sanctifies the church. I think this much is plain. The problem is the metaphor that Paul works into the text here - "the washing of the water in the saying (declaration)". But before we even consider the metaphor, we need to answer the question about the word "saying"... What is the declaration? What is the saying? What is this utterance, that in it Christ sanctifies the church??

Here we begin the work of interpretation. We ask of the scriptures, "What is there within your frame that speaks of cleansing, and washing - what utterance causes such things?" Then we pour over the texts of scripture, looking for references to cleansing - what causes it? In the OT it is the sacrifices that cleanse - and so if we stopped there we would use reason to conclude that since Jesus replaces the OT sacrifices, that if the blood of bulls cleansed us in the OT it must be the blood of Jesus who cleanses us in the NT, and this is easily bolstered by the abundance of English translations which translate ρηματι as "word" - since Jesus is the "logos/word" - we can make our mystical inference and feel like we have done a fair job of understanding the text.

The problem there is threefold, first, there are references to cleansing in the NT that we are ignoring to draw that conclusion, and second, we are appealing to a mystical connection that is more coincidental than biblical (ρηματι = saying and therefore, more or less = word which = Jesus), and third, we are building upon the certainty that this refers to Jesus, but since the OT refers to the blood of sacrifices, this must refer to the blood of Jesus - which is sort of a theological "smudging" or hashing of things.

That hashing however, is not without some very strong support - consider Hebrews 9:14, "how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? ". Here we have a NT reference that has one foot in the OT, and the other in the NT, and concludes that our consciences are cleansed from dead works by the blood of Christ. That has its own interpretational challenges of course. What does it mean to have my conscience cleansed from dead works?

It means, I think. that in the same way a man was defiled in his flesh in the OT (and therefore unfit for temple worship, etc.) by touching a dead thing, and had to be cleansed of that defilement before he was allowed inclusion in "camp" as it were - and that this cleansing involved a blood sacrifice (and the sprinkling of a solution that included the ashes of a red heifer), in the same way, Christ's blood is sufficient to cleanse us from our having touched dead "works" - we are therefore, by virtue of Christ's blood, entitled to inclusion - having been "cleansed" in our flesh by the blood of Christ. In the OT there was no physical change that took place when a person was "cleansed" from defilement - it was symbolic that something had to be done in order to facilitate inclusion - and this something was that Christ had to spill his blood - we who are now the recipients of that spilled blood, not through the symbol, but through the actual - are therefore "cleansed" from the dead works that exclude us, and are able, by that blood, to draw near.

I think that is what is meant in the Hebrews text - that is, the text in Hebrews seems to refer to the blood of Christ's one time sacrifice being applied once to all to cleanse us so that we are included once and for all in the covenant.

The cleansing in Ephesians may well refer to this in part - for Christ has certainly cleansed us - but the text in Ephesians also speaks of Christ making us holy - sanctifying us - not a one timer, but an ongoing thing, which speaks not merely of an inclusive work, but of a progressive work - something that would make sense in the context of a husband loving his wife - it isn't a one time deal, but an ongoing effort to give oneself for one's wife, even as Christ gave himself, and continues to give himself, for the church.

There is another passage in the NT that speaks of cleansing - this time in Acts 15. In fact, it is the exact same Greek word, with an identical parsing - the only other instance of this same parsing in the NT. Here Peter gives an account of how the Gentiles at Cornelius' house were converted, he says in verses 8-9, "And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith." - what did the cleansing here? Faith. Their hearts were cleansed by faith.

Is this what Paul is speaking of - that our hearts are cleansed by something? If so, what do we mean here by hearts? I'll risk this, that hearts here means the same thing as when we say "Let's get to the 'heart' of the matter" - that is, or when we say "with all our heart" - we don't mean the blood pump, nor do we mean merely our emotions, or our mind - but our whole being, or the what is at the core of our selves - that is, what was being cleansed by faith.

Because we drill down a bit - it is good to step back and remember what we are trying to understand here. We are fishing, as it were, for a proper understanding of the word I translated as "saying" - and we are setting about to establish if anything else is cleansed in the NT and if so, what that is, and how it is cleansed in order to gain a better grasp of what this word ought to mean.

If we say that our hearts are cleansed by faith, and if we are open to the idea that this same cleansing is done by Christ - that is recognizing faith not as a power in and of it self, by which cleansing happens, but rather a vehicle through which Christ cleanses - then we may well be open to the notion that Christ is the link between cleansing and faith - and so we recall another link - one pertinent to our verse here in Ephesians, and that link is found in Romans 10:17, "so then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the "saying" of Christ." - I use "saying" again, because it is the same word we find in Ephesians 5:26, - ρηματος.

Faith (and therefore cleansing) comes to us by the declaration of Christ. Even without Ephesians 5:26, we can piece that much together. The thing is, does that knit with Ephesians 5:26, or does it upset it? It seems to me to fit it like a glove.

What is the declaration of Christ? Why it is the declaration of the apostles - it is the gospel, faith comes through it (and thereby justification), likewise sanctification comes through it too. Doesn't this same Paul chastise the Galatians who after having started by faith set about trying to be sanctified by works? Sanctification is by faith - and the message of faith is the gospel message. The same faith that save, when exercised, sanctifies - and if we want to drill down on that - it is really Christ who is sanctifying through the washing of the water in that declaration.

But we have forgotten to unpack the metaphor, haven't we?

The "washing of the water" is a metaphor. Yes, one of the words has a figurative use elsewhere that describes baptism, as I have said previously - but such a notion is foreign to the text, both in the immediate context, and in the surrounding context. The meaning here seems to be a metaphor.

In order to see the metaphor, let's replace it with other metaphors, and forgo the clumsy "saying" and use the noun "word" - without mysticizing a captital "W" into the text:

In order that He should sanctify it, cleansing [it] by that getting-the-job-done-power that is in the word

In order that He should sanctify it, cleansing [it] by the "washing of regeneration" that is in the word

In order that He should sanctify it, cleansing [it] by the pruning power in the word


Do you see that the washing of water in the declaration means only that the declaration carries with it a cleansing ability that is likened to the washing of water? That is, I think all that ought to be read into the text.

Now, why bother here. I mean, why spend all this time nit picking the text - why bother translating it with such literal force? Is the truth encapsulated there so important? Can't we just translate it into a more flowing oratory form of English, and interpret it with no more thought than we might give to a nursery rhyme?

The text is speaking of a profound truth, profound, I say, to anyone who has ever struggled against sin. Do you not here it - Christ is sanctifying His church, and He is doing so through the gospel. He isn't just building His church through the gospel, He is building up His church through the gospel - and there is meat here for those who are starving. For those who are floundering in their faith - wondering how they should "be" Christians - what should they do, what does a right Christian walk look like? How should they conduct themselves?

The answer is bundled here for all to see, if we have eyes and ears for it. Listen: We walk by faith - not because doing so merits something with God - for even if we lived sinlessly we would merit absolutely nothing - we walk by faith because that is the path by which Christ Himself makes us holy.

There is nothing "holy" about an atheist who lives according to perfect "godly" morals - even if he is more moral than every Christian who has ever lived, there is nothing sanctimonious about his morality - since it is not founded upon faith, it does not produce in him anything that makes him fit to be in God's presence. If we want to ascend God's holy hill - that is, if we want to experience real fellowship in the Spirit with God, I am convinced that we must hands that have been cleansed by Christ Himself through our faith. It is not that we do good and our goodness makes us holy - it is that by surrendering our lives to Christ in faith we draw near to Him, and in doing so we partake more of His nature - and like the shining face of Moses, that nearer glimpse of glory stays with us, works in us to draw us closer, and deeper.

In the context, therefore, husbands ought to love their wives in the same way that Christ loves the church - giving Himself for her - by always building her up so that she may be all she is called to be. Paul uses the image of Christ building us up to instruct husbands in how they are to love their wife - there is, in my opinion, no room to inject an argument for the mode of baptism into this text, as some do.

Anyway - that's my brief look at the text. I am a laymen, I am no Greek scholar, nor am I a celebrated thinker - I am just a guy who reads and believes, and tries not to paint new meaning into a text just because I really like the new meaning.

My encouragement to you, dear reader, is that you guard yourself against being a doctrinal fop. You know, someone who can't have an opinion unless your hero has it first - don't adorn your faith in fashionable doctrine just because it is fashionable, and don't always embrace the majority view just because it is the majority view. On judgment day you will have to answer for how you understood scripture, and saying, "well, I believed thus because someone else did, and I thought he was wiser than me" - is not going to cut it with a God who promises to give wisdom directly to anyone and everyone who asks for it personally. So be critical as you read the opinions of others - don't be a fop.


posted by Daniel @ 10:41 AM   20 comment(s)
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Suit and Tie.
I was at a bible study once where the leader of the study made a reference to Aaron's priestly garb being created for glory and for beauty (c.f. Exodus 28). He then went on to "prove" that since Christians comprise a royal priesthood (c.f. 1 Peter 2:9), it followed that all men should wear suits and ties when we gathered together on Sunday.

Yeah. I am not kidding.

Just to keep the record straight, Aaron's vestige was not a picture of wearing our Sunday best to church, it was a picture of putting on the Lord Jesus Christ.

I said as much in the study, and the rational that came back was pretty standard. If you were invited to go and meet a king, wouldn't you wear a suit and tie?? If you would, then why won't you wear a suit and tie to go visit the King of kings?

That kind of reasoning is flawed of course. First of all, I am with God every single day - when I shower, go to the bathroom, eat breakfast - even as I sleep. God is always with me, so I never "go to see Him" as it were. Likewise, if I am living obediently, my very life is an act of worship, so I cannot try a switcheroo there and say, "Yeah, but when you go to worship Him it is different!", because it is no different - the only difference being that when we as a body are congregated together we are congregated thus for the edification of one another - and in that edification God is more greatly glorified. We are not (or should not be) "especially" worshiping God - rather our worship ought to be a continuation of our day, and continue when we leave. If a person is not practicing this - that is, if a person starts worshiping when they get there, and stops when they leave - that corrupted "walk" is hardly the model we ought to be using to determine our dress.

My response to this line of reason is that we are to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. The truth is we are not going to visit some stranger whom we do not know, but we are going to congregate with our brothers and sisters in the presence of our father who is always with us. How many of us demand that our children wear their "Sunday best" to breakfast, lunch, and dinner? None of us do, and do you know why? Because to dress up special just because we are together is not only pointless it could only lead to the sort of bondage and pride that some are trapped in today.

Now that isn't to say that we should dress immodestly, or unhygienically - or worse, that we should instead of wearing suits, determine to dress in some other artificial way - like say, always dressing casual, or always wearing shorts, or always wearing our worst clothes, etc. Look: dress modestly all the time, and if you can be clean that is a bonus - but don't stay away if your coming from work and haven't had a chance to change - good gravy - come dressed in Christ and you won't have to worry about what you're wearing, because if you are clothed in Christ, you will wear something appropriate.

Now a word for you few who think that it is a sin to congregate in anything less than your best clothes. Consider your ways.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:54 AM   5 comment(s)
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