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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The Nashville Statement
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, April 29, 2009
The Fabulous Bentley Brothers...
I really appreciate Rhett and Link. You might recognize Rhett from the video of him playing tic tac toe with Albert Mohler. I stumbled across yet another incarnation of these guys, doing what they do best.

The Book of Genesis

The Book of Leviticus

My kids loved it, yours will too. Check out their other vids as the Fabulous Bentley Brothers...
posted by Daniel @ 8:30 PM   15 comment(s)
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Husbands, Calloused and Clueless.
This post is especially written for newly wed fellows who, while bright and sincere, are nevertheless clueless about how intimacy works.

Gentleman; you know that feeling you get when you get left to watch a whole mess of children all alone? The first few hours go well enough, you try all your tricks, but sooner than later the well runs dry, and you find yourself looking at the clock with increasing irritation and urgency because you really can't handle this anymore - but you have to because until the parents return, you are under a responsibility that cannot be shirked. What is happening is that you are finding yourself sorely desiring some space to yourself, and the desire for it increases as the frazzle index rises. When the parents arrive to pick up their little angels, the last thing you want to do is immediately open the door to another batch of kids. You want some down time.

Here me; learn from me if I am older: your wife is sometimes going to be overcome by the trials of the day. It doesn't matter a bit if you think her day was swell, and bearable - you don't have hormone attacks every few weeks! Listen, the first thing you will want to do is try to solve the problem, but the problem can't be solved by trying to convince your wife that she should ignore it, or that it is all in her head, or worse, that she doesn't really have a right to be as put out as she is "pretending" to be. You're going to have a very lonely marriage if you don't understand this, so sit up and listen.

Do you really expect your wife to be overcome by your charm when her soul has been leaking out at the seams all day? Good gravy man! To everything under heaven there is a season. Plainly stated: Your wife sometimes needs space more than you need a hug. On a side note, don't try and convince your way into her charms either - that's just sad. Don't whine, cry, insult, or complain, you're a man, act like one; and not like a little child who is having a tantrum because he can't get his way. Don't try to turn your wife over to the dark side either - if she has just barely held it together all day, the last thing you should do is try to manipulate or coerce her out of her "mood" - we can be like the proverbial bull in the China shop, except we are more calloused and clueless. All I am saying is that to everything there is a season so don't try for sunshine when the forecast clearly calls for rain.

Another way in which you might be denser than mercury requires you to have had a normal childhood.

I want you to try to remember when you were a small child. Did you ever get a sliver that was in so deep your dad or mom had to cut it out? I know, some doctors nowadays tell you to just let it come out by itself - but back in my day dad would get out his pocket knife, or mom would get a sewing needle, and my heart would fail me. I loved my parents, and (normally) trusted them, but when that sliver was all infected and tender, and dad had the "I'm gonna get that sliver out of you no matter what!" face, I could only imagine a world of hurt coming, and I wanted no part of it.

I can tell you frankly, that for all my father's love, I still didn't trust him - not because he wasn't trustworthy, but because my sliver was so tender. I knew that in order to have the sliver removed, I had to let dad do something that could hurt me. That feeling of dread at being so vulnerable is probably as close as I can come to describing something a lot of men are clueless about. Your wife is probably smaller and weaker than you are - and that means that in order to be intimate with you, she has to put herself in a very vulnerable place. Men are typically clueless about how much trust, and the kind of trust that is involved for a wife to fully embrace her husband intimately, but let me say this - it is the kind of trust that is quickly eroded by treating your wife poorly all day. Hurt feelings cause this trust to evaporate, and even though they know their husband loves them, they don't feel safe. I chose that word carefully too.

Seriously, if you are a jerk to your wife all day, she isn't going to feel very open to your charms in the evening because God designed her to respond that way. She isn't reciprocating because you haven't loved her the way God designed her to be loved. Cherish your wife, period. If you treat her poorly/abrasively all day long, how can she suddenly open her heart in trust to you just because you feel its all better now? It just doesn't work that way - women are not wired like that.

The bottom line is that intimacy in marriage, *real* intimacy -the kind where your souls are ever joyously open to one another- doesn't just happen spontaneously and without effort. You really do have to humble yourself for it work.

There are several things you can do to really foul things up for yourself, so let me give you some pointers.

[1] Don't treat your marriage (or your wife!) like a piece of property that exists to serve your needs and purposes. Marriage exists to put the glory of Christ's union with the church on display.

[2] Don't assume that your wife is the problem, more often than not she is reacting to you.

[3] Give your wife space when she needs it.

[4] For goodness sakes, I don't care how good you are at selling, arguing, debating, or convincing - no doesn't mean convince me, it means no.

[5] Whining or complaining (or worse) because you can't get your way is called a tantrum. If you want your wife's respect (and I know you do), you are actually going to have to deal with disappointment like a man.

[6] Remember that intimacy, for your wife, requires her to become physically vulnerable before you - that requires trust, and if that trust has been eroded because you have been a jerk all day or all week - don't blame your wife if she doesn't trust you, blame yourself.

I could go on, but it's late, and I need some shut eye. God intends for marriage to be mutually awesome. I hope the pointers I offer here are practical, helpful and accurate, for I have learned that genuine intimacy begins in the heart, and begins where selfishness ends.

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posted by Daniel @ 11:36 PM   6 comment(s)
Swine Flu Map...
Here is a link to a Google Map tracking of the Swine Flu.


posted by Daniel @ 3:23 PM   0 comment(s)
Generational Christians
"Christianity is just two generations from extinction. The first generation embraces it passionately, the second assumes it, and the third forgets it."

The quote itself comes from the meta of my last post, but the sentiment has been around for a long time. I was asked my thoughts on that by the same reader who mentioned it in his or her comment, and specifically, What approach I take when instilling spiritual disciplines/knowledge to guard against dead religion growing in my own children and this without neglecting instruction also. So this post is going to touch on all of that (I hope).

The first thing I, as a parent, and as a preacher never, ever do. I never assure anyone else that they are God's child. It isn't my job, and I could be wrong about a person. When I refer to a truth in the pulpit I will often say, "if you are in Christ, this is true of you", rather than say, "this is true of some of you" or some other thing. I make my children understand that they are not Christians unless they personally become so through Christ, and not through me. I speak of sin and its consequences both in the here and now (pain and suffering in the world) and in eternity (condemnation and wrath) openly and pointedly - there is a judgment coming, and anyone who is not in Christ needs to know about it. I don't spare mentioning it out of concern that it might cause an undue fear or trembling in the hearer - even if that hearer is my own child. It is good to dread condemnation - it shows you understand it.

I think that unless a person agrees with God regarding their condemnation, they can not be saved. They have to see sin for what it is, and see God for who He is - see clearly that they deserve hell, and understand fully that God will pay them the wages of their sin - that is a very hard place to get to when everyone around you is crying "peace, peace" - because you begin to believe there is peace when their is no peace. That is why, I believe, we are seeing children grow up in Sunday school and youth groups, and then live like the world till they eventually abandon the faith they never really came to.

My plan is simple, I don't say it's perfect, nor do I suggest anyone else follow it, I mention it only because I am asked. I believe the scriptures, and teach them to my children when I get up (five days a week at least), and when we go to sleep (each night), and when we eat (at supper) together. I talk about the whole gospel to them, often, including hell and damnation, and make it very, very clear that just because I am God's child, doesn't make them God's child. That unless they see themselves as God sees them, they will never come to Christ in earnest. I don't assume that the soil of their heart is good soil, I assume it is hard, rocky, and full of weeds, and I plow, plow, plow.

I have to leave for work, or I would right more. Perhaps I can pick it up in the meta.
posted by Daniel @ 6:46 AM   4 comment(s)
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Age Segregation in the church: Culture vs. Scripture.
Every Sunday my family and I congregate with our church family. When we first arrive, the children go downstairs to the "Sunday School" rooms and attend Sunday school in classes that are segregated by age; meanwhile, any adult who isn't teaching a Sunday School class is free to attend the adult Sunday school class in the auditorium.

On judgment day, every Christian parent will have to give an account of himself or herself with regards to how he or she answered the clear directive for parents (especially fathers) in bringing up their own children in the admonition of the Lord.

It is true that Sunday School teachers will have to answer for anything false that they might have wrongly imparted on some Sunday morning, but the job of instructing children is biblically assigned to parents, not Sunday school teachers. The one will answer for their failure to disciple, the other will only answer if they add something wrong to the mix.

I think every church that runs Sunday School programs gives vocal assent to this: Parents, it is your job to raise your children up in the fear and admonition of the Lord; Sunday school is not meant to be a replacement for this. Yet for all that, the local church then immediately forgets what Sunday School actually was invented to do.

Remember that Sunday School was originally intended, not to educate the congregation's children - but to educate the children of those who were outside the church - a program intended provide biblical instruction to children whose parents were not Christian.

Somewhere along the way, Sunday School stopped being about the unchurched, and became the way we "churched" our own children.

But this post isn't about Sunday School, it is about what came in riding on the coat-tails of Sunday school: Age segregation.

Now, for must of us who were educated in the public school system, age segregation is about as natural as watching television every night. We tend to reason that since we were brought up that way, and we turned out alright (why do we always presume we turned out alright?), that the notion that there is something wrong with this is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot - a small thing, so small in fact that we can dismiss it and disregard it without even thinking about it. It is "obvious" we say, that age segregation is fine.

In fact, people go much farther than being indifferent, they even begin to demand age segregation.

Why should I have to put up with crying kids sitting next to me when I am trying to hear the sermon?I recall reading a series of snide comments on another blog years back now, about this very thing. Why should I have to put up with crying kids sitting next to me when I am trying to hear the sermon? Who do these people think they are, bringing their unruly children into this sacred assembly to disrupt what goes on here by their endless distractions? How dare they!

Seriously, you would think they had paid admission to a concert the way they imagine themselves to possess a god given right to "hear the sermon" in perfect, undisturbed, tranquility. I suspect it hasn't occurred to these "church is here to edify me only" sorts, that the purpose of our congregating might actually be bigger than hearing this Sunday's sermon.

Seriously, you would think they had paid admission to a concert the way they imagine themselves to possess a god given right to "hear the sermon" in perfect, undisturbed, tranquility.I bring my children with me into the morning service - all four of them, the youngest being three, the oldest, 11. Guess what? The eldest sits through the whole service, attentive, and without my having to constantly goad him to be that way. In fact, I haven't had to correct his behavior in years. My second oldest is going to be nine in a few weeks, and she too knows how to sit still and listen, my five year old is an unchained, boisterous ragamuffin, who couldn't care less about the service, and her little brother, now three, hasn't got a clue.

Do I think my children are getting anything out of the sermon? Pfft. Of course not. I mean, my oldest is sometimes edified, and is always thoughtful, but he is mostly there because he has to be. My eldest daughter is more concerned about where she sits than she is about what is said, and my two youngest are hardly aware that a sermon is going on at all, except that they are restrained during the sermon from being disruptive.

So why do I put them through it?

Well, perhaps I am missing something, but I don't think the sermon is the main point or even the highlight of our time together. My children are learning from my wife and I what is important to us. They are learning what it means to sit as a family, they are learning what it means to respect others, and they are learning that they are part of the church family no matter how old they are.

There is that old pithy line, the youth in Christ are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church right now. See, I don't think of that as a nice catch phrase that we all can nod in agreement about then toss out as if we never said it. I take that as truth. My children, the ones who are in Christ, are as much a part of the body as anyone else in the assembly - they are called to congregate with the whole body, and not just those in the body who are there own age. This notion of segregation did not come from the bible, it comes from man's wisdom, and let me tell you my opinion of man's wisdom: it isn't very wise.

As I have said, my children go to an age segregated Sunday School, but this takes place before we assemble as the body of Christ. When we assemble, I prefer not only my children to be there, but everyone else's too. Let 'em cry, let 'em fuss. I am not there to watch a show, I am there to fellowship, and to share my life with all of them, not just those who are mature and able to sit through a sermon without distracting others. I am there because I am called to be there with all of them - and anyone who would put the children, or the elderly, or the women in a room by themselves so as to make the hearing of the sermon more pleasant for the remainder, either doesn't understand what they are there for, or they they are "doing church by default" - that is, falling into cultural habits that seem right since that's the way we do everything else.


posted by Daniel @ 4:02 PM   21 comment(s)
Monday, April 20, 2009
2009 Giant Seek 1 Review.
If you have read my blog at all in the past five years, you will know that I am a cyclist - commuting 20 miles per day (round trip) five days a week, rain or shine.

Having put around, I don't know, around 10,000 miles on my 2005 Giant Yukon, I had been in the market for another set of wheels. Manitoba weather is harsh in the spring and fall, and my route to work involves a lot of grit and water - things that really, really, wear down components like gears, chains, and derailleurs (and their component cables etc.) quickly. So I had been considering the merits of an internal gear hub (remember your old three speed?). I wanted to get away from derailleurs altogether, since you have to constantly babysit them if you actually use your bike daily. I do not like having eight gears at the back, but only being able to use five of them.

Another thing I truly found annoying about my Yukon, was the disk brake system. 2005 was sort of the break-out year for disk brakes, and alpha innovators were paying for it a bit in that after market items such as pannier racks and fenders did not play well with the clunky braking systems. Even changing the 'worn out too quickly" brake pads was something a minor headache, and were that not enough, the pads didn't wear evenly, so you had to swap 'em around to try and get more life out of them. I would go through two to three sets of brake pads a season (at $45 a wheel), while by buddy would spend ten dollars for a set of "old fashioned" rubber pads, once every three years. I could go on, but it is enough to say I was looking to move out of disk brakes altogether in my next purchase.

So I began a few months ago to look at the various prospects. I quickly settled on a Shimano Alfine (It is the high-end model of Shimano's Internal Gear Hub (IGH)), and considered very closely a 2009 Brodie Ocho. But it had the mechanical disk breaks, and a teensy 39t (39 tooth) crank (that's the big front sprocket that the pedals attach to), both of which were cons. The price was $1250 CDN, which isn't really all that restrictive for me, as I am buying something that replaces about $600.00/year of bus passes (i.e. it pays for itself in two years, so I think of it as an investment in my health, that eventually saves me money). Just a note, my kind of riding chews through those cheapo Wal-mart bikes about three a season, so I don't even bother.

I wanted a Brodie though, partly because I really like their frames, and the Brodie used the eccentric bottom bracket (the thing the crank connects into) rather than a drop out and derailleur style tensioners on the back (it's technical, if you don't know what I mean, don't worry about it). It was in the running, but the only shop in town that deals with Brodie bikes, didn't have one in my size.

I then came across a Giant Seek 1, and immediately thought - yuck! White?? The seat and pedals were so... so... so... positively plain, that no one in their right mind would keep them on the bike. But it had a manly 45t crank, in fact, it had the entire Alfine drive train - including hydraulic disk breaks.

Now, I am no aficionado, so I wasn't sure if I would like the second coming of disk brake technology - but the hydraulic disk brake set up had this going for it, they put the brakes in the right place - so that you could put standard pannier rack and fenders on the bike with little or no modifications, the components were higherend, and the ugly simplicity of the bike began to grow on me - especially considering it came in at $250 less than the Brodie.

So this weekend I bought one, and today I rode it to work.

First impression? Well, the brakes were ... fantastic. I was not merely surprised, I was converted. Hydraulics are the way to go. I wonder if I can ever ride a lesser bike again? The IGH can change gears at a stand still - no pedaling required, you can gear up, or down at will. Changing to a bigger gear while standing on the pedals in a sprint seemed to work fine - the gears changed quietly, and without complaining. The one thing, though I was expecting it, was that the spread between the gears was much larger than a bike with more gears. But I find all those inbetween-y gears seldom get used anyway. There was a lot of torque through the first five gears, but after that you began to feel it, and by the top gear you know you are pushing a little gear with a great big one. Still, it was nice.

The stock tires are 700x23 racing tires (presta valves) - Maxxis Columbierre, they are pretty much skinny little slicks, which don't do bumps all that well given their 100 psi. The rolling resistance is down though, and if you ride on pristine concrete all the way, you will like them a lot. They are a bit of a change from my old mountain bike tires, which had a slick bead for city streets, but knobby ridges for cornering in dirt. I am probably over compensating, but I feel I shouldn't be popping curbs while riding this bike.

I did ditch the seat, in fact I bought a new one right there in the shop where I bought the bike, and they gave me a $20 trade for the stock seat - which I thought was quite generous. I had some decent clip pedals, so I put those on, and a rack, and fenders - as well as my lights, speedometer and bell when I got it home.

All in all, a great ride so far. The back tire looks to be a hassle to change a flat on, but I can take that in stride. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

So far I have only put about 22 miles on it, so this is a preliminary review. Perhaps, if I remember, I will give it another review later on in the season.

Update: Well, here I am now at around 300 miles or so. I had my first flat on the rear tire. Changing the tube wasn't all that hard - you just have to remember to pull it out from the brake side and not the chain side - you will see why if you try it. I also oiled the chain for the first time yesterday. It was running fine, though I may need to adjust the chain tension (still have to figure out how to do it!) When I figure that out I will probably update the post again.

No complaints so far.
posted by Daniel @ 6:34 PM   13 comment(s)
Friday, April 17, 2009
Walk By Faith.
So there you are, struggling against some tempatation, or struggling to overcome some habitual sin. You hate it, and you hate that you continue to give into it; you chastise yourself for the inherent hypocricy in your profession of salvation, because clearly, you do not see yourself as having been saved from this besetting sin. So you cry out for grace until that cry becomes a lifeless habit - you ask for grace, expecting none to come, but hoping, just maybe, God will zap you into obedience. You're waiting for God to either judge you or help you.

I have known this struggle, and let me tell you, it happens not because we are insincere, but because we are deceived about what God will and won't do for us. We really don't want to be free from some particular sin (or sins), but we are fully convicted that we ought not to indulge them. We transgress our conscience with every rebellious surrender to sin, and worse, we grow accustomed to doing so. Our prayer for deliverance is just lip service, and even though we know it, we continue to ply the same old impotent strategies to get out from under it.

Here is a practical bit of advice: when you suffer from periodic failure you are walking by sight and not by faith.

By that I mean that you may be waiting for God to change something before you do anything; indeed, you may well be harboring the notion that the only solution that is going to work is for God to mystically zap you so that you suddenly experience a painless victory.

Now, let me say right off the bat that God does provide the occasional painless victory. Recall Israel under Hezekiah, marching out from the seige of Jerusalem to find an abandoned camp full of spoil? I mean, that is pretty sweet when the battle is fought entirely by the Lord. Yet the overwhelming majority of battles fought, were fought with the Lord - not that God appeared in armor and led out the troops - but that the troops went out to fight the Lord's battle in the confidence that He was with them.

Your struggle, if it is against sin, is the Lord's battle. Jesus is the one who overcame (won a victory over) sin and death - there was a battle, and Jesus won that battle. We know this, but sometimes, because we deal with sin and temptation daily, we forget that the war against sin is only ours insofar as we are in Christ who overcame. When we say, "the battle belongs to the Lord" we don't merely mean that the Lord is going to win it - we mean by that that the battle is not our battle, it is the Lord's battle - we are partakers in His battle, if we are losing the battle it is because we are fighting it instead of the Lord fighting it in and through us.

But how can we go from us fighting the battle to the Lord fighting it in us? Here is were some become confused. They know that Christ is supposed to fight the battle, so they expect Christ to zap them so that they can have victory - but it doesn't happen, and they presume that there must be something wrong with them (or Jesus) because Jesus isn't providing them with the victory in the way that they expect it to come.

Here is where we need to understand what it means to walk by faith. Walking by faith does not mean that I trust that God will make my flesh suddenly desire to do only good and stop desiring to do evil; No, walking by faith means that even though I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I trust that God is with me. In other words, even though wicked desires continue to demand that I satisfy them, I must refuse to do so in nothing more than the certainty that God is with me as I refuse them. I trust in His strength to accomplish what I myself cannot do. I embark on the right course trusting God to make the path straight. Did you get that? I don't wait for a straight path to open up for me - I embark upon what I know to be the right path, and I do so trusting that God Himself will make the path that I am to walk straight, even though it is not straight when I step on it.

To take that out of the allegorical, I mean that in a moment of temptation or (and perhaps especially) in dealing with habitual failure in the sin department, I stop waiting for some mystical deliverance beforehand, and instead set my mind on the things of the spirit - that God is with me, that He is my strength, and that the battle belongs to the Lord, for this is His war - I am a soldier in His army, and my flesh is the field of the battle. The day God granted me grace to believe through faith, is the day that I set my foot upon this field which is my flesh - and where my foot has fallen, the land becomes mine.

Walking by faith is how we overcome sin. It isn't that we get zapped, the victory is almost mundane seeming by that standard. We trust and obey; yet not a vague trust in the amorphous goodness of God, but a specific trust that God is with us, that He will strengthen us, and make our paths straight, and that the battle is His and not our own. We -must- however, put our foot down on the path in faith, and not remain aloof in failure waiting for victory to overcome us. In other words - when you are about to enter into the same old pattern of sin, or if you find yourself five paces, or ten, or twenty - whenever it is that you come to yourself and realize you are in the mire - in that moment you must resolve to fight sin, and not to make peace with it; you must do so knowing that you will not get a mystical zap to make it all easy. You must actually resist the flesh even though you have failed in this a thousand times before - but you must do so resovled in the certainty that God is with you, and will make a path through it that you can follow. He isn't going to carry your sword and swing it for you - that is not what a general does - he is going to point to the place you are to go, and you have to trust Him that if He told you to go there, He will get you there too.

It isn't a let go and let God do it for you thing. It is a leper being told to go and present himself to the priest even before He has been healed. Faith, my friend, trust, that God is not absent in His own battle. Your struggle with sin is really a struggle of ignorance if you don't know these things, or with unbelief if you do.

Remember, it is by grace that you're convicted of sin. If you are praying for God's grace, and all you get is conviction, conviction, conviction - remember that it is the work of the Holy Spirit (His very ministry) to convict both of sin and of righteousness. God's grace is sufficient for you, the conviction of what not to do, and what you ought to do is sufficient, I say, to set your feet on the path when you are resolved to trust in the strength of the Lord to see you through it.

I believe that God doesn't want or intend for us to tarry in a pathetic limbo of habitual sins - but has provided the means for our deliverance. Just as the Jews missed their Messiah because they expected something else, we too can miss being delivered from sin's power if we are looking for the divine zap.
posted by Daniel @ 7:13 AM   0 comment(s)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Once I Got Sooooo Drunk....
There is no glory in having been drunk, so don't imagine that this is where the post is going.

Yet having been genuinely, thoroughly drunk on several occasions before the Lord began holding my affections, I have some perspective that perhaps those who grew up in a good home and church may never have. There is nothing neat or cool about having that perspective for it only helps me now to understand the nature of sin better, and really, there are things I would prefer above sin to understand with greater clarity. But I am what I am, and as I lay falling asleep last night, I recalled how on more than one occasion, as I lay down to sleep entirely, and excessively drunk, I couldn't even be bothered to prepare for bedtime properly. I am not talking about merely forgetting to brush my teeth - I am talking about laying down on the stairs, too drunk to walk up them or get entirely undressed, and in drunken indifference deciding to just fall asleep there - letting the chips fall where they may - knowing that this was a dumb thing to do, but consoling myself that I wouldn't really have to deal with the fall out until I woke up.

My mindset at the time is what prompted me this morning to write this post. It seems madness to me now, so many years later, to think that I could be so overcome by drink that even though I was quite aware that my actions would have consequences, I was able, by way of wine, to suppress the part of me that cares about consequences. The well from which I drew this unholy strength was the thought that because I was too drunk to deal with it in the now, it was okay to set that reality aside and respond to my situation as though tomorrow would never arrive. I knew at the time it was ridiculous, but I didn't care because drink can do that to a person. It is a kind of deceit that doesn't mean you don't know what is going on, but that you don't care what is going on because you have convinced yourself that you will make it right later on.

Sort of like buying a thing on credit. You think, yeah, it's night right to fall asleep half undressed in a stairwell, but I can't deal with that now, so I am just going to go ahead and do it, and later, when I am sober, I can deal with it properly...

There have been enough moments like this in my earlier life for me to reflect upon as I was falling into sleep last night. It struck me then that I when I am deceived by sin that deceit is not unlike the deceit of drink.

I wasn't tricked by alcohol into doing something evil, the deception took place in my reasoning - I reasoned that my current indulgence didn't matter, given that I intended to deal with it later - and that is the deceit of the thing, I allowed myself to believe that, and when later came, guess what? I didn't get out of the pickle I was in, I just put up with the consequences.

We are doing that whenever we indulge a sinful desire. What we are doing is telling ourselves that while it definitely not okay to sin, we shall give into it this time and deal with the sin later, and we don't realize that we are actually making peace with sin - we are like Joshua making a treaty with the Gideonites.

I want to drill down on that thought for a second, because it will help to clarify the main point I am making. Joshua made peace with the Gideonites because he was deceived about where they were from. He did not believe them to be inhabitants of the land, and so rather than drive them out, he made peace with them. Listen: every temptation you give into, you do so because deep down you believe you will be able to oust the Gideonites later on, but it doesn't work that way, and you probably have your own litany of failure to prove it.

The deceitfulness of sin is not that I am tricked into believing that I am not *really* sinning, it is that I am tricked into believing that the sin I am committing doesn't have to be overcome right this minute - I can let it slide and deal with it later - that's the picture of a heart that is making peace with sin. It doesn't happen in a day, but over time, and it is a slide you must get off of if you find yourself on it.

Treat every sin as a thing foreign to you. Use the example of the promised land, and the inhabitants who were supposed to be driven out. Don't be like Israel and allow a little leaven to eventually leaven the whole lump, but purge out the leaven.

On a final note, don't try to do this in your own strength or you will fail, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. By that I mean that victory happens when we begin to trust God that it will - we turn to Him in our temptations, trusting that He will lead us out of them. Of course, if we actually do this, we quickly learn that the deeper problem is that we don't want to be led out of our temptation... That is where the real war takes place, we are (for all intents and purposes) as people drunk with sin, so that our temptation is to make peace with a sin, rather than war. Stop falling for this deception. You not only can deal with sin in the "right now" you must. I don't care how big the temptation is, or how many times you have failed under it - the solution is not to make peace with sin, but to war against. We are not like Uriah whom Joab abandons at the wall where all the fighting is. When we take the fight to the enemy, our Lord is with us - that's His name, Emmanual. We call Him the Lord of hosts (armies).

Think on it. It is good to meditate on these things. And also, if you are prayerless lately, return to Him from whom you are fleeing.

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posted by Daniel @ 6:50 AM   7 comment(s)
Sunday, April 12, 2009
More on Repentance...
In the meta of a previous post, Mitch writes: To me you are conflating a fruit of the gospel with the Gospel; the fruit (in this case repentance) is not the Gospel. We should not confuse the Gospel with the effects that result from the Gospel.

This is the sort of observation that I enjoy responding to, because it is not only a very legitimate concern, but it is a common one. I hope this post can clear up the conflation.

First, and perhaps most critical, we need to remember that in theology, in order to speak of individual facets of a single act of God, we artificially) dissect the single act into component parts. This we do in order to articulate as precisely as possible each facet of the single act.

What happens however is that once we separate related components, we then need to relate them back to one another, and typically part of this relation is the imposition of a chronological order. We like to say this causes that, this precedes that, etc.

To articulate the single act of salvation we typically splice it into two related facets:
[1] salvation from judgment (justification), and
[2] salvation from sin (sanctification).

This, for the sake of clarity, is a legitimate thing to do. It aids our understanding, of eternal security (for instance) to isolate what it means to be justified by grace through faith by describing justification as happening "in a single moment of time". Likewise, it helps our understanding of sanctification to see it as a process that is begun in the same moment that our justification "happened" etc.

Yet what can happen when we make these academic distinctions, is that we can forget that they are academic distinctions. When we begin to speak of justification as happening in an instance, for example we do so in order to highlight the immutability of justification - to underscore the reality that once we are justified eternally we do not flutter in and out of that justified state. The most efficient way to describe such a thing to temporal beings such as ourselves, is to speak in language that conveys these things chronologically. Justification happens in a moment, we say, and sanctification happens over time. Now, having introduced the concept of time into the equation, naturally we want to divide these two further, into antecedent and subsequent categories, and so we think of justification having happened "first, and sanctification as following that.

We make such distinctions, not because the bible does, but because it is easier to consider these acts as being separate and related, rather than being facets of the same act. But, as I have said, this separation is academic and therefore artificial.

The biblical teaching is that our justification and our sanctification are part of the same reality. They have the same genesis, the one comes with the other, and neither is antecedent, neither is primary, neither is exalted over the other.

It is correct to note that repentance (sanctification) does not and cannot precede justification, but we enter into non sequitur when we suggest that because sanctification does not precede justification, it must necessarily follow it. The truth is they come together, neither one precedes the other, nor follows the other.

But, since we think of justification as happening in a moment, and sanctification as a progression over time, we may forget that they happen simultaneously, and conclude that sanctification "follows" the moment of justification, rather than express it in a more biblically accurate language, such as, "In the moment that sanctification begins, we are justified."

I don't believe, therefore, that grace initiates justification, and that justification produces sancification - for this makes justification antecedent to sanctification, rather than placing them in similitude. Grace initiates (simultaneously) faith, justification, and sanctification. To suggest that the effects of grace are themselves initiators of subsequent effects is, according to my understanding, not accurate.

It doesn't overly affect one's theology to blur these distinctions, unless (until) one uses them to isolate one aspect of our salvation from another. The one who imagines that the gospel is about being saved from hell (try and find that in the bible!) will naturally truncate the act of salvation (and therefore the gospel) into just the justification part; thus the gospel under this scheme is about saving you from hell, and has nothing to do with saving you from sin (sanctification).

Anyone who, for whatever reason, truncates the gospel into "justification only" is likely going to draw a hard line between justification and sanctification: seeing the one as preceding and initiating the other. The only danger in this is that we can start to preach the gospel as being saved from hell (not in the bible) instead of being saved from sin (Matthew 1:21).

If we are being saved from sin, as every genuine believer is, we will see evidence of that in our lives. Typically the person who has spliced salvation into the justification/sanctification dichotomy describes this truth by saying that every genuine believer begins to repent after they are "saved", and that those who do (thereafter) repent, are not genuine believers - and for these the distinction I am making is academic. They will think me wrong (at best), and imagine I am suggesting that sanctification "comes first" in that I say that in order to believe one must be repenting. That is, they don't recognize why I am making the distinction, so they conclude, as best as they can, what I must be on about, and since it sounds different than what they believe, it follows that I must be saying something opposite to what they believe - and so they imagine I have fallen off the other side of the horse.

But I make the distinction because this level of precision is necessary in identifying where exactly those go astray who have reduced the gospel into what we call, "easy believism."

You see, some believe that in order to be saved you must be presented with, and assent to certain facts about, and promises made concerning, Jesus. They regard faith as purely intellectual, and salvation as a contract that obliges God to save every person who can muster up even a single, fleeting moment of intellectual assent to the gospel, even if this one time act of believing is instantly replaced by a lifelong refutation of the same - so long as there was an instance of intellectual assent, God is obliged to save them from hell on that last day. They regard sanctification, therefore, not only as something that may or may not happen, but critically, as something you are personally responsible to make happen. They teach that if you want lots of goodies from God after you die, you should pursue repentance, but if you could care less about eternal goodies, then you just won't have as much as others when you get in.

By reducing salvation to such a state, they necessarily reduce the gospel to that which will produce this, and regard everything else as "add ons" which they believe will clutter up and confuse the presentation of their gospel, thereby making it more difficult for would-be believers to assent to the truth.

I am quite opposed to that scheme, as are any who know and exalt the gospel.

Understood in this context I believe the distinctions I am making are necessary ones in our day and age. I am not saying, as might be read into my words, that I believe we must repent in order to believe, or that repentance must precede faith - I am trying to articulate the fact that we enter into faith and repentance simultaneously. I was able to believe because I was able to repent. I was able to repent because I was able to believe. It is the language that fails me because I seem only able to articulate the moment of salvation in terms of a symbiotic causality. The truth is that grace produces faith and repentance simultaneously - neither faith nor repentance causes the other - both are caused by grace, and come working together from the very start. Academic distinctions between the two work well when we are discussing post salvation roles; but these same distinctions necessarily cloud our understanding of the moment we are saved, if we cannot unite them in that moment properly.

For many believers, the distinction may well be pointless, since after we are saved, what does it matter? But if we are concerned with the glory of the gospel, and again, with identifying false gospels, the level of precision I labor to articulate is needed.

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posted by Daniel @ 2:00 PM   3 comment(s)
Resurrection Sunday
Indeed, Our Lord -the only means by which sinful man may be reconciled to the only God- has risen from the grave! Death has no claim upon the sinless soul of our Lord, and more than this - our Lord was not raised alone, but all who are in Christ are raised to life in Him and are seated presently with Him at the right hand of God on High. Victory, glory, honor, praise - there is not enough glory in this creation to praise Him sufficiently for what He has already accomplished - yet let all that has a voice praise the name of Jesus!

Halelujah (Praise be to Yah!)

What a day, what a magnificent, spectacular day!


posted by Daniel @ 2:00 PM   1 comment(s)
Thursday, April 09, 2009
On Repentance And The Gospel.
In describing the gospel that he preached, (Acts 20:21) Paul said, that he was solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We read that Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God even saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (c.f. Mark 1:14-15).

The author of Hebrews describes faith and repentance as elementary and foundational (c.f. Hebrews 6:1), this is the gospel - the foundation of which Christ is the Cornerstone, and upon which Christ is building His church.

When I say that a person cannot be saved by a faith that does not come wrapped in repentance, how I am understood will depend upon how repentance is understand; so let's start with a description of what repentance isn't, and then look at what it is.

Repentance is not the stopping of sinning and the starting of doing good works. That is called "works", and while genuine repentance always produces good works, one can perform works that seem good without ever having repented.

Repentance is turning away from self as your master and ruler, and surrendering that rule to Christ.

One does not need to be a Christian to do things that are of benefit to others - things that the world would call, "good works". There are other world religions wherein good works are the necessary wages of a better afterlife. Almost every religion teaches that if we do good it will go well for us both in this life and the next. Which is presents a point that is critical: One does not need to repent (in the Christian sense) in order to do what the world regards as good works.

This morning I asked my son why he obeyed me. Was he afraid of me? Was he afraid of the consequences of not obeying me? Did he obey me in order to purchase my favor? His answer was that he obeyed me because he loved and trusted me. I asked him if obeyed me in order to generate this love and trust, and he said no, he loved and trusted me, that was the fountain from which his obedience sprang.

Although I was the one directing our conversation, I wanted to see if my young son was able to discern between the cart and horse of repentance and obedience. He didn't have any trouble, so as I lay it out here, I hope you too will see it.

Repentance is not an obedience that we produce in order to demonstrate love and trust; repentance is a surrender that is produced by and through loving and trusting our Lord.

In the moment my Lord saved me, a lot of things happened seemingly all at once. In the moment that sin truly condemned me, I hated God with all my being. I wondered at how anyone could be saved, into which the truth of the gospel dawned in my heart like light in a great darkness. God would forgive if I turned to Him in faith. But I didn't want to turn to God - that would mean becoming <GAH!> one of those sickly goody-good Christians that I really couldn't stand - and more than that; I didn't want to let go of sin. I loved my sin, and refused (in my heart) to set it aside for anything, and that thought brought me great despair, because it really was in that moment that I understood that I wasn't just bad - but that I was wicked to my core, and loved my wickedness more than the God who created me and even in that moment was sustaining me. I knew I didn't want Him, and I knew I would never want Him more than I wanted sin - that is, I knew I could never give myself to Him "for real" - and I knew that I couldn't fake it, and that filled me with great despair. Yet into that despair, and hatred, and frustration came something unexpected - and in came in like a flood - love and trust.

Suddenly where moments before I had only loathing for God, and an utter inability to desire Him, now I had a desire that came upon me as contrary to my being as it was life giving to my soul. Suddenly, unbidden, a love for Christ came into me that I could not deny - I suddenly didn't want to deny - and I found myself suddenly, inexplicably able to do in that moment what I have never been able to do since - I gave myself heart, mind, soul, and strength utterly to Christ.

This was an utter surrender of self, and in the moment I received that grace to believe - I believed.

Now, I want to be clear here. Prior to that moment I certainly assented to the facts. There was a God, devil, hell, Jesus, etc. These all were as they are presented in scripture, there was a gospel, the gospel was such and such. blah. blah. I believed all that was true, but I certainly wasn't trusting the person Jesus to save me.

Can I go back a ten years prior to that.

There I was, in the Billy Graham crusade children's ministry (as a child), reading off the back of a little booklet how to be saved. Pray this prayer, and you will be saved, and not only that - you will receive a free KJV of the bible! The words were clear enough that even as a ten year old I understood them. Jesus I confess that I am a sinner, and ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died to save me from my sins, and I ask you to blah, blah, blah. I believed at that time that Jesus was the only Savior, that He did indeed die on a cross to save me from my sins, and that saying this prayer obligated Him to follow through on His promise.

But I wasn't believing Jesus - I was believing about Jesus. Not to put too fine an edge on it, but it is one thing to believe that everything said about Jesus is true, and to trust that these true things apply to you, so that if you pray to Jesus, he will hear you and answer your prayer, and quite another to believe that Jesus Himself has truly forgiven you. This is subtle, so I will continue: believing that it is true that Jesus will save you, and believing Jesus is going to save you may sound the same in print, and may well be so subtle that only those who already know the difference will see it - but I lay it out there anyway. The one is an assent to the facts, the other a living agreement with God Himself in the person of Jesus. One is trusting in the facts, the other is trusting in the Lord - but I know that there are some who think the one is the other - or even go further and say the latter is not necessary.

Which brings us back to the topic of repentance.

You see, one is a faith that has no repentance, and the other a faith that was born of it. Here is why we must understand what repentance is - because if I say that a faith does not have repentance, I do not mean that it lacks good works, I mean that it lacks that the surrender that flowed out of the love and trust we received in the moment we received Christ. I believe that no one who has shut the door to this love and trust has come into life, regardless of whether they believe the truths are true.

That offends people.

In particular it offends those who have sought to reconcile their continuing sin with the profession of faith, by reducing the gospel to an intellectual assent, and all this for the sake of assurance - for it is the lack of assurance that most upsets the sinning Christian.

I believe this "solution" is misguided, but compelling because it does give assurance to people who are genuine Christians. The problem however is that it also gives assurance to people who are not Christians, but have made a false profession of faith.

When I say that this is the gospel: repent and believe; and another says, No, this is the gospel: Believe! We may be saying the same thing, but chances are we aren't. The fault line (geothermically speaking) typically falls on the word repent, because the one side reads repent - and they read into that the idea that you are saying that in order to be saved you must [1] produce good works, and [2] have faith - and they want to argue that good works will not save you - and while the point is true (good works will not save you) it is being misapplied here. They will also describe this as teaching works plus faith - and reject the notion without every really considering whether it applies or not.

But when I say this is the gospel: repent and believe; I mean only turn away from your self rule and allow God His rightful rule and believe that God will receive you when you do.

I think there are genuine believers out there hawking a different (stilted) gospel than the one that saved them - and they are doing so because they are looking for assurance.

Here is a right assurance: I love God and in the strength of that love I do His will, so that when I find myself obeying God in a strength He Himself only provide to His children, I am assured that I am His child.

Here is a wrong assurance: I do good deeds in order to prove that I am saved so that when I feel doubts about my salvation I know I am saved because I do good works.

Repentance (turning to God) is not something you can generate in your own strength. Yet doing the sorts of good deeds that this world regards as "good works" -is- something anyone can do in their own strength. If we equate repentance with works, we have totally confused the horse for the cart.

The gospel is not do good works and believe the facts - for one can do that and not be saved at all. The gospel is turn to God and believe Christ - two things you cannot do yourself because the desire to do so is spiritual, and we are all spiritually dead until Christ gives us life.
posted by Daniel @ 11:13 AM   4 comment(s)
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
What Calvinist Does Not Mean...
When I say I am a Calvinist, I do not (by saying so) mean to imply that I am a follower of John Calvin.

I mean only to apply to myself a commonly understood label - a label that identifies me as understanding biblical soteriology from the "original", reformed perspective.

I came to that understanding, I suppose, in precisely the same way the original reformers came to that understanding: I read the bible believing it to be true.

I want to qualify that for clarity.

I did not grow up in church, nor was I tutored by anyone in the doctrines of grace, but having come to faith as an adult, and having determined in my early faith to read the bible and believe every last bit of it - I came to understand my soteriology as those early reformers understood their theology - before I every knew what words like soteriology and theology even meant.

So when I call myself a Calvinist, I mean only that I believe that form of soteriology that I have always found in scripture, which historically has been labeled Calvinism, accepting the label that is commonly associated with that my understanding scripture - because it is commonly associated with my understanding of scripture.


posted by Daniel @ 2:10 PM   4 comment(s)
Monday, April 06, 2009
Sunday School on Temptation...
One of the real joys of my life is that I get to teach the Adult Sunday School class every Sunday morning. This Sunday the lesson was on Temptation (you can listen to the lesson here).

One of the main thrusts of the lesson is to identify how we typically [1] brush off little temptations (handle them in our own strength), and [2] what we are really doing when we handle any temptation in our own strength, so that [3] we learn the necessity of dealing with every temptation in a godly way.

If you give it a listen, I should like your feedback.


posted by Daniel @ 9:11 AM   1 comment(s)
Friday, April 03, 2009
An Interview On My Faith.
Question: So Daniel, how long have you been a Christian?
Dan: I first understood and believed the true gospel at around 19 or 20. I don't remember how old I was exactly because the day after receiving Christ, I gave into my first significant post-justification temptation to sin. I thought I had lost my salvation, and after much weeping and groaning, I just consoled myself that God would have at least one fan in hell (no pun intended). Seriously though, I honestly thought that I had blown my one chance, and that I could never be saved again. But a little over a decade ago I met a fellow who knew the scriptures, and convinced me after a while that God hadn't forsaken me, but that I had been deceived in my ignorance by a false notion - and very shortly after that I was as alive as I could ever be in Christ.

Question: Has it always been easy? Were there hills and valleys and all that?
Dan: Easy? (looks thoughtful for a moment) I will have to go with a qualified "no." This is the qualification, I spent one evening, over a decade ago, on my bed pouring my soul out through my eyes to the Lord. I was being "judgment day" honest about my sin, and about my fears and concerns - and especially about my lack of faith. I believed He was there, and that Jesus was who He was, and did what He did - that is, I believed that God was who He claimed to be, and did all He claimed to do - but I didn't believe He was really listening when I prayed, or cared about me personally. I felt that everything I was doing was wrong and tainted and that God couldn't accept anything from me until I cleaned up my act. In short, I didn't believe God, but I was honest with him about it - and I clung to Romans 10:17 in that prayer laying out before God's face as Hezekiah laid out the Assyrian letter in the temple before God's earthly throne - and I (with more boldness than anyone but the ignorant would ever proffer) laid the blame for my future faithlessness, (conditionally) on God, because I determined that night that I was going to read God's word - not just once, or twice - but three times at least, and maybe over and over again for the rest of my life - and more - I was determined that I would believe every last scrap of it no matter what - and if after doing this I found myself to still lack faith - well, it wouldn't be my fault!

I woke the next morning hungry for God's word, and for years I was able to devour twenty chapters a day. I attended no less than three, but usually around five bible studies a week, and everything in my life was bent towards knowing God. If you had asked me in those days if it was easy, I would have said that my "devotions" were quite easy - but I was also struggling against sin in my life.

Question: When you say struggling with sin in your life, what do you mean by that?
Dan: Well the first struggle any male usually endures is the struggle to purify the flesh, all the devotions in the world don't count for a hill of beans when you are tempted in the flesh. What matters is trusting that God really has set you free, and acting on that truth rather than on your own convictions. I truly believed that in spite of what scripture said, I had no control over my sin. But this struggle - the Romans seven struggle (if you will) was crushing me. Everywhere I looked in the church, everyone else seemed to have it together, but here was I, going to five studies a week, being filled with knowledge of God's word - and the compounding conviction that came with my ever growing understanding was tearing me apart inside. How could I call myself a saint and give into sinful temptations again, and again? I felt myself a great hypocrite, and wanted nothing more than to run and hide. I would even loathe prayer if they fell on a day of spiritual failure - because I felt that the only way God would accept me after my sin, was if I could somehow make it up to Him by being especially servile.

That was the gist of my struggle - my understanding of scripture seemed to be outpacing my ability to walk in what I knew to be the will of God.

Question: You mention walking in the will of God. Can you explain how that is done?
Dan: Some of the people in my early days of genuine faith were significantly influenced by the idea that God speaks to us in nudges, impressions, feelings, and even (though rarely) in mystical voices. That was very, very difficult for me, because I felt like a sub-Christian. God wasn't nudging me, nor giving me impressions, nor were my feelings getting the Holy flush† - I seemed, when I compared myself to these people I knew and regarded as "holy" to be inert spiritually.

Now I want to be clear here. I am by no means dead to conscience - I know when I transcend my conscience - not because some voice, impression, nudge or nuance pricks me - but because I have informed my conscience through scripture, and when I transgress something in scripture my conscience soundly, and swiftly brings that to mind. I don't regard this as mystical, but practical - Paul said he did his best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men, and so do I. Scripture describes my conscience as a thing which bears witness to me, through my thoughts so that I am either accused by them, or defended by them in whatever I do or plan to do. Having an informed conscience, and ensuring that I do not wound it by ignoring it - is not a mystical thing, it is a practical thing.

But I don't confuse having a conscience with my own imagination - and this is where it was difficult for me in my early walk. I was hearing believers speak of hearing God's word as though they had a chit chat with God every morning. I was being told that the reason we didn't hear God was that we weren't listening, and then I was seeing people claim that God was leading them through their day by a series of not only pious impulses. The impression I was getting, and that God was giving me impulses to control every aspect of my day, and that if I didn't obey them I was sinning against the Holy Spirit.

Now, it is never a good thing to ignore your conscience, but it is quite another to say that every stray thought that enters my mind is from God - or even that any stray thought is from God. One day I found myself in prayer, begging God not to ever speak to me in voices, nuances, or any such thing - but to make me satisfied, ever and always in the sufficiency of His word - which until then, and ever since then, is all I have ever had by way of revelation.
Not the potty kind of flush

Question: So walking in the will of God would be what then?
Dan: Sorry, it would be obeying the commandments of Christ, foremost of which is to love the Lord your God, and if you do that you will not be able to help obeying every other commandment - the most obvious being the second which is like it - to love others.

No one can love God and do something hateful to someone God loves - whether that be to others, or even to oneself. God's will is not some riddle we try and solve - not some hidden thing we try to uncover by being really, really, quiet in our souls and listening really hard - it is plain, and well stated in scripture, and if those who listen for still small voices would instead listen to commands clearly stated in scripture - they would do better for themselves and for others.

Question: It sounds like you are suggesting that God doesn't speak to His people anymore. Is that your meaning?
Dan: Well, yes and no. God doesn't speak to his people like that anymore. Remember Hebrews 1:1-2, God spoke in all sorts of ways before Christ came and completed God's redemptive message to mankind. God's message to us is simple: Repent, and believe. Whatsoever you do, do it to God's glory, do it with all your strength and heart - don't wait around for special revelation from God - as though he left you talents, told you to invest them, and is now whispering in your ear how he wants you to invest them - that isn't how the story goes. God speaks, but He speaks through His word - that is, the Holy Spirit ministers God's word to our conscience, and ministers to us through our understanding of God's word. I haven't heard a voice, I haven't had a nudge, I haven't experienced a feeling, nuance, impression or any such thing, my hope is built on something better than these - even as Peter writes, I have the inspired word, and in it I rest. I have no need of voices beyond God's finished work. If God sees fit to start speaking to me in voices, perhaps I will change my mind - but I won't pretend that my imagination is something spiritual! How many other world religions train their converts to interpret the voice of their own thinking as being God's voice? Are we so blind?

Question: What gets you passionate about God?
Dan: (thinking) Passionate? Well I love to hear the gospel preached clearly and boldly. It just excites me in a way nothing else does. I feel like cheering. But what makes it so exciting is that it exalts God - to see/hear God exalted boils my blood in a good way. There is nothing on earth that can touch the joy of that - nothing to compare with it.

Question: Would you describe yourself as a soul winner?
Dan: No. If the devil preached the gospel right, people would be saved. God is the Soul Winner. If there are a thousand unsaved people in an auditorium, and I preach the same gospel to all of them so that ten of them receive Christ - have I done anything, or has not the wind blowed wherever it wished, and have I not heard the sound of it, but even having heard that sound I still cannot say how it came or where it would go. This is how it is with those who are born of God. The Gospel is offered to all, but all reject it - even those who eventually receive it reject it. All are condemned "already" because of this. Yet in spite of this - for God loves in this way - the Spirit moves and God saves those who believe because the Spirit moved them to believe - God loves in this way, I say, in that He offers the gospel to mankind, who universally rejects that offer, but in spite of their rejection, God grants eternal life to some of those who are condemned already - by sending the Spirit to quicken them so that they believe and are saved.

Question: Do you mean that God could save everyone, but doesn't?
Dan: Yes, that is what I mean. When David defeated Moab, He measured the captives with a line, making them lie down on the ground; David measured out two lines and put them to death, because they all deserved to die - but he measured one full line to keep alive because he was merciful. Unless (until) a person understands that every sin deserves death, they will never understand that mercy is not a commodity that people are owed - and that when it is given to one, it does not oblige the giver to give it to all. God could have saved every last sinner, but just because God can send His Son to receive the condemnation of a guilty sinner, doesn't mean that God is obliged to do so for every guilty sinner. Listen: We are guilty, we deserve hell. God, if He is righteous, is obliged to send us all to hell. Do you get that? That is -all- any of us deserves.

That question makes so little of the death of Christ is makes me angry and ill at the same time. It rises from a place that says, yeah, I am a sinner, but if God saves some other sinner, then he has to save me too or he isn't fair. HELLO?? it isn't like God is just letting some people off the hook - HE IS SENDING HIS OWN SON TO DIE IN THEIR STEAD! Get that! I mean, really, really get that. It cost God something that He was by no means obligated to pay - and you are now saying that if God is willing to put his son in the place of one sinner - then God should do the same for everyone. Is the life of God's Son Jesus so little in your eyes man? This is the Son of God you are bandying about! You are saying, hey, God should kill His Son for everyone if he kills Him for one. Ack! Do you forget that people actually deserve hell? Do you forget that they actually hate God? They want everything God has, but they don't want God. Do you know what that is? That is envy, strife, ...murder. They are not fit for life, -we- are not fit for life, God has every right to put us down like we would put down a child-eating dog.

God could save us all - but what a crime that would be! His glory demands better. I could spend the whole interview on this point however, and those who hate this doctrine would still be as blind at the end of it for all my words - God has to open eyes, or people won't see it. Nothing testifies to our sinfulness so clearly as the rampant inability to see this truth - that God is perfectly just in damning sinners, even if in His mercy He saves some of those sinners by uniting them with His innocent son, and damning them in Him so that even as Christ partakes of their damnation and dies, so to, they can partake of Christ's resurrection, for death could not hold that Innocent One.

Question: Okay, can you give any advice for fellow believers out there? Non believers?
Dan: Sure, for believers, I would say, examine yourselves to see whether or not you are in the faith. By that I don't mean, find out if you are *really* a Christian - though such an examination ought to show whether you are or not; but I mean examine yourself and see if your walk, your Christian habit is entirely biblical, or whether it is a hash of things biblical and things which contradict scripture, or are never found in scripture. If you think you should be healing people, and you are fretting because they never seem to get healed, then go to scripture and study it - does your understanding of how this is supposed to work mirror what is in scripture, or does it simply mirror what you imagine should be happening because that is what you have always thought, or that is what you were told, or read, or what have you. Don't think that just because you are in a "bible believing" church, and because you are sincere that you are going to be free from every snare. The Devil is no fool - he is a brilliant strategist, and has had millenia to perfect his craft. He is a liar and corrupts through deceit, through half-truths, through bent truths, through misapplied truths. His lies line up with worldly wisdom, so that they seem right to us if we are not saturated with God's word - which is the next bit of advice - read the word of God, read it as much as you can, don't wait to feel good about reading it, and don't stop yourself from reading it just because you feel guilty - just pick it up and read it - and pray when you do - ask the same God who inspired the text to open your heart to it - ask this every single time you read it or think of scripture.

Listen to every criticism that people level against you. Your critics are far more honest about your flaws than your friends typically are. They may exaggerate your flaws, or put them in their worst light - but they often put finger on things that others are simply too polite to mention.

Pray earnestly - make time for prayer.

Stop trying to "fix" the church: that's Christ's job. You, follow Christ! I mean, don't be an idiot or anything, it is good to be concerned, good to follow what scripture dictates, but stop trying to re-invent church as though the only valid church is one where everyone is dressed in togas, wearing Sandals, speaking Aramaic, gathering in the house of the richest person in the assembly, and eating grapes, pita bread, and otherwise trying to recreate first century Palestine as though it was God's intention a culture separated by two millenia and thousands of miles ought to become the rule of thumb. Jesus said He would build his church (congregation), and that the gates of hell (a reference to powers and principalities that are opposed to this work) would not stand against it. Be discerning, but don't be a quack.

For the non believers:

Ask yourself where everything came from, why you believe that, and what proof you *really* have of it - then re-evaluate Christianity. Repeat until you get it.

Question: One final thing: What do you want written on your tombstone?
Dan: I am hoping Christ returns so that I can be changed in the twinkling of an eye, rather than actually have to go through death - but presuming I do, I don't really care what my headstone says, I care what God will say on the day my headstone is required, and I hoping it includes, "Well done".
posted by Daniel @ 9:48 AM   4 comment(s)
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Dealing With Daily Defeat
On the day that my Lord saved me, what was I saved from? Why do I still sin if I am saved from my sins? If the power of sin has been broken on the cross, and I have given my life to Christ, why do I still desire sin, and why do I still give into that desire? Why do I crave righteousness even as I cling to and reach out for sin, and more sin?

These are the questions that a soul being sanctified starts to ask when it comes to the end of itself.

You see, no matter how pious we are, no matter how filled with the truth we are, no matter how perfect our knowledge, how correct our orthodoxy, or even how pure our desires for righteousness might be - we still try and make ourselves righteous by acting righteous. That is how we come out of the box - and eventually we come to the end of our strength. We get to the place where, deep down, we really don't want to put in the effort anymore - since it isn't having the effect we were expecting.

We came in full of zeal, looking for a victory that we seemed to be drawing nearer to as the months rolled along. But somewhere along the way we must have got lazy or missed something, because slowly, we began to peter out, so that we find ourselves desiring sanctification, without having a desire to actually pursue it any longer, and we wonder what went wrong, and especially, how we can fix it.

And by "fix it" I mean, how we can make the same boat we just ran aground not only float again but take us further up stream.

The problem with that is that even if we nurse a few more leagues out of the old wreck, it is clearly not the light yoke and easy burden that scripture describes, and it isn't long before we beach the wreck anew.

Some, I suppose, drag their boat down the beach for a while, or just keep trying the same old things and continue to experience the same old failure.

It is amazing what lengths we will go to, isn't it? I mean, what lengths we will go to in order to avoid what Christ tells us we must do if we are to follow Him.

Stop taking up the sorry wreck of your own effort, and take up the cross of Christ. The answer isn't to try harder, the answer is to release that death grip on controlling your life. The reason you struggle is because you refuse to die. You are trying to do in the strength of your flesh, what can only be done in the strength of Christ - a strength that comes when you rest in peace - and I am choosing my words carefully here. Resting requires no effort on your part.

Here is the thing: Christ has called -YOU- (and is calling you right now!) to surrender everything to Him, ...and you not only haven't, you refuse to do so. You tell yourself it is because you don't understand this or that, or because you are too weak, or whatever it is that allows you to continue on in the way you are going - it doesn't satisfy you, but it does keep you from doing anything about it. You don't want to obey all the time, you don't want to give up control - and control here is really a synonym for "your life". You don't want to go to the cross with Christ because you will die there, and you don't want to die - and the reason you don't want to die is because you don't want Christ to rule over you. You think your problem is disobedience, but really it is far uglier, and much deeper than that - your problem is that you know that if Jesus really rules over you, you won't be able to do what you want to do - and you reject His rule because of it - even as you desire to be saved from this very thing.

So what do you do when you come to this place? The first thing you do is get honest with yourself and with Christ. Recognize that you can't make yourself desire righteousness - that God himself has to bless you with that desire. All you can do is confess your lack, and trust God to provide for you.

Did you get that?

If you confess your sin, Christ is going to be faithful - even just - not only to forgive you this sin, but to cleanse you from it. He is going to do that by bringing you to the place where sin is handled - the cross - the place where you give up that death grip you have on the control of "your" life - and there you will either lay down your burden and be freed from it, or you will refuse to and continue dragging your shipwreck around.

What must be seen, is that Jesus isn't going to make your flesh better - he is going to do something in spite of your flesh when you surrender control of it to Him in faith. There is a theological word for this that some might find surprising: repentance.

I say some may find it surprising, because they have come to think of repentance as the willful suppressing of a behavior we know to be sinful, rather than surrendering to Christ total control of our life. I can make myself stop doing a behavior for a time without (and more precisely... instead of...) surrendering control of my life to Christ.

I say, we learn early on in church to bring our behaviors in line with what is expected of us - this we do through identifying what is sin, saying we are sorry about doing it, then doing our best to stop doing it, and eventually doing it all over again, cyclically. We learn to confess and suppress rather than to confess and repent, and it is an error that eventually leaves us dry on the branch, gasping for life.

My Lord and Savior sacrificed His own innocent life to purchase my own - and more, to provide His own grace and strength to overcome the sin that reigns in my present reality, so that in spite of my sinful flesh, and in spite of the sinful world, and in spite of the powers and principalities that conspire together to snuff out the flame of His glory that was kindled in me on the day that He raised me from the deadness of my sin into the life through faith - I say, My Lord did this to set this captive free, and when He did, I became free indeed. So have you.

When you were a child, you thought like a child, acted like a child - lived like a child. But by now, isn't it time you put away childish things? Your problem, if this is you, is that you really don't want what Christ to rule over you, and you need to go to the cross with that - you need to repent.

The Lord's final message to the churches was not go out and make disciples, but six times in the book of revelation we read, "Repent!"

It helps to know what that means.


posted by Daniel @ 9:29 AM   3 comment(s)
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Because I gotta post sumphim...
I had last week off, and spent it finishing stairs in the foyer of my chateau, and adding baseboards to the remainder of my home - as well as installing cork flooring in my bathroom. In doing so I developed a new found respect for the art of finishing carpentry. I had some left over hard wood flooring, and so I decided I would use some of it in the entryway as sort of a wainscoting, upon which I would rest the molded baseboards that have been waiting these last five months for an install. The trouble is our Foyer flanges out from our living room with some pretty nasty angles, and in order to have the baseboard follow the angle of the stairs that go up into the living room, it required a compound angle cut - one which was mathematically easy to figure out, but entirely a different matter to implement given the precision of the tools at hand, the wobbly nature of walls, and the imperfections of materials at hand.

Suffice to say, I had opportunity to learn contentment, and appreciate the skill involved in doing something I had always (arrogantly) presumed was pretty simple. I must have wasted an hundred dollars worth of wood just cutting in this one angle. I would post pictures of it, but I am ashamed of how sloppy it looks.

I finally finished the rest of the house on Sunday evening, but not before entombing the whole place in a (not so fine) layer of sawdust, though I made every effort to keep the dust down.

Monday and Tuesday I was on a course, so this is the first moment I really have to update the blog, and though there are a few things of substance I should like to blog about, this is all I have time for at the moment.
posted by Daniel @ 10:48 AM   2 comment(s)
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