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Theological, Doctrinal, and Spiritual Musing - and whatever other else is on my mind when I notice that I haven't posted in a while.
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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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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, July 29, 2009
The Living Dead...
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." - Philippians 1:21 [NASB]

You're walking along in that part of downtown where there are a lot of street people begging. You feel justified in not giving a lot to these because you really don't know whether giving them money would do more damage than good. It is one thing to give to one who is in need, and quite another to give to a man who is unwilling to work (c.f. 2 Thessalonians 3:10). But it does happen that you will find, from time to time, someone who is in genuine need, and my presumption is that when you encounter such a one, you willingly give the change in your pocket up to help this one along.

My question to you is why do you stop there? Why, is it that when you see a legitimate need, and are even provoked within you to give something, you do as little as is humanly possible?

The question is actually a rhetorical one. I plan to tell you why you do that, and hope that in doing so you are edified.

Let's ask our selves that tired old cliche, "What would Jesus do?". But, let's not ask that question intending for the answer to become the motivational squeeze that forces our hand to act. That would be using our understanding to "guilt" us into activity. That would be using guilt as a motivation - or worse, fear of spiritual repercussion as a motivator. We don't want to ask that question in order to provide some motivation, we want to ask that question as a diagnostic, so that we can see the gulf between ourselves and Christ. If Christ would do more than we are willing to do, that tells us something.

You see, the reason we would do as little as possible is because our old man is dead in trespasses and sin. It is the old man who sees the situation, and has no love within him for someone else. The old man can be motivated by guilt and fear to a level of civic virtue, but there is nothing spiritual in a virtue that is born of guilt and/or fear.

I should explain what I mean by civic virtue. Anytime a person does something that outwardly is perceived as a charitable or good work - that person is performing a civic virtue. Whenever a Muslim gives money to the poor, the external act is indeed a civic virtue, but the Muslim is not performing this seemingly virtuous act in response to a prompting by God's spirit. From the Christian perspective, we reason that the Muslim is simply responding to guilt or fear of repercussion. The Muslim would disagree, but I am speaking from the perspective of a Christian. Now, what I say of the Muslim is true of any world religion, Buddhism, secular moralism, atheism, Hinduism, etc., and unless a person is acting in Christ, it is true of the Christian who performs a civic virtue also.

When the moral wherewithal to help the needy descends upon me, it is always coupled to a carnal indifference, and my default reaction to this tension is to satisfy them both. Give to the needy satisfying the moral imperative, and give as little as possible, satisfying the carnal indifference. You do that too.

That is why at the moment the moral imperative comes, we ought to consider how far Jesus would go to help this person. Would Jesus dig into his pocket, set consciously push past the bigger bills, to find the smaller coins, and then hand them over, and move on? Would Jesus give all the money in his pocket and then move on? Would Jesus stop and talk to the person? How far would He go?

Now, why is it that "we" don't want to go that far? Because the "we" in that question is what the bible calls the old man. It is the old man that has no interest in the things of Christ. It is the old man that we obey by default. But that old man is twice dead and we need to reckon on both deaths if we are going to live as Christ lived.

Here is what I mean by twice dead. The old man is dead in his tresspasses and sin. What the old man desires is what death itself desires. The old man is a dead man, and the desires of the old man are the desires of death. Death, here means that which is void of life. Everything that the old man desires translates into that which has no life in it. The old man lives in, and thrives in death - that is, he thrives in all things in from which life is absent. The desire of the old man is to flee anything even remotely connected to life. This isn't meant to be some ethereal, metaphysical, and therefore vague and unfathomable thing I am saying. I am speaking in plain and literal English. I do not use metaphors here, I mean exactly this - the old man is not dead in some figurative sense - but is the well of death that flees from life in all that it desires. It has no desire for life - it hates life, and Jesus is Life.

That's the first dead. The second dead in what I meant by "twice dead" is the fact that the "old man" of every genuine believer was crucified with Christ. Our old man died on Calvary. The death of the old man on Calvary freed every believer from our bondage to sin, and through sin, our bondage to the death that the old man was "living" to produce. This may well be difficult to understand for some, so it is enough (for now) to understand this second "dead" as meaning that the desire of the old man to flee life, is no longer binding on you.

When you come to the beggar then, and the old man desires one thing, and the Spirit another, we are called to obey the one by reckoning on the death of the other. That is the way to fully obey the Spirit is not to compromise with the flesh, but to consider how Christ wrought the death of the old man on Calvary - consider that the thing which wants us to be indifferent is actually a dead man walking - a thing that flees from life, and has always and ever been at work to produce and maintain an absense of life in us - it is a murderous thing bent on our eternal destruction, a thing whose only desire is death, a desire that Christ Himself gave his life to free you from the power of.

You have heard it said, "Make war against sin" - don't take that to mean make war against individual sins as they come up - it means make war against giving into the desires of the living dead within you. Don't feed it by obeying it's desires, but reckon it dead - identify what it desires, and do more than simply turn away from them - for the sake of our Lord, turn to Christ, and obey the desires of the Spirit instead.

Let me tell you, the only thing that is stopping you from being like Christ is your own habitual willingness to compromise your obedience - your willingness to obey the death that lives on in you. If that thing and its desires find no purchase in you - let me tell you, you will not be the same person. You will be as the Apostle Paul described - crucified with Christ.

Knowing this puts you one step closer to acting on it. But you cannot act on it in your own strength. First you must be convinced from scripture that this is how is is supposed to be - then you must learn that you yourself need grace to act, and that grace comes from the throne of Christ. You cannot enter into this without deep, prayerful repentence.

Your days are numbered, so don't put it off for too long.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:52 AM   7 comment(s)
Monday, July 27, 2009
Soul Winning versus Gun Notchin'
This post isn't really about soul winning, but I will sprinkle that notion here and there to make the point I intend to make.

Paul the apostle was an evangelist - and by evangelist, I mean he was someone whom the Lord called to be a missionary; someone whom the Lord appointed to be His envoy to the Gentiles. Paul didn't do that in his own strength because if he had, he would have failed to do what the Lord called him to do. He might have, if he were inclined this way, made up for his lack by using marketing techniques - that is, he might have displaced God's provision with his own marketing scheme - and depending upon how attractive Paul could make the gospel, he would have been successful - not in sharing the gospel, but in marketing his religion.

Most of us who read the bible for our selves know this. We know that Paul was gifted, called, appointed, and working in the power that came from the gift, calling, and appointment - that is, working not in the strength of his personality to peddle the gospel, but working in the strength provided by the risen Lord in order to do the very work that Paul was called to do in our Lord's name. We don't have to be convinced of this by a blog post.

When I say that the Lord provide the strength that Paul ministered in, I mean two things: first I mean that Paul was given a driving desire to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way, and that when he did so, the effect was not because of his personal effort but because of the Lord whose Spirit was in it.

I am persuaded that this same thing is true of every believer. Not that every believer is appointed as the Lord's apostle, or that all of us are gifted and called to be missionaries. Hardly! No, I am persuaded that each of us is gifted to do what the Lord expects us to do so that we work in the strength He provides - that is we are driven/motivated to do what our Lord has called us to do. We have "new" desires. They aren't mystical and magical, they feel like any other desire we have - except for the fact that they run contrary to everything our flesh wants. What did Paul's carnal self care about Gentiles living hundreds of miles away? His carnal self couldn't care less. If the Lord hadn't put a new desire in Paul - a desire to go to these people and proclaim the words of life to them - then Paul would have had to make himself do the work begrudgingly - and that isn't a light yoke, and is by no means an easy burden. The burden was light, and the yoke easy because our Lord gifted Paul with the desire to do the very thing He had called Paul to do. That is what a gifting and calling look like. It isn't some other worldly phenomenon - some ethereal "spiritual energy" that overwhelms you or that you intuitively (and suddenly) tap into whenever you want. Yet that is how some people imagine their calling and gift operates (or rather, is supposed to operate). They believe that you sort of point your finger and pronounce something spiritual, and it happens if you have "the gift". Maybe they aren't that theatrical, but whatever they believe boils down to something like that - and when it doesn't happen, they figure they haven't got any gift, or they never learn what their gift is because nothing miraculous happens to show them how they are gifted.

Whole forests have been leveled to produce the pulp and paper required to fill book after book on how to know your gift, and what the various gifts are, etc. etc. People don't know their gift because they don't know how the gifts operate. You tack the word "spiritual" in front of things, and people immediately expect the mystical and miraculous, rather than simply ask what is new about me since I became a believer - what desire do I have that cannot be coming from my flesh? They have been expecting their spiritual gift to come with a tangible tingle, a "liver shiver" whenever it is exercised - they can't imagine a spiritual gift operating without some experiential phenomenon - and preferably something otherworldly to boot.

When I became a believer, I didn't understand my gifting, and most of the believers I knew, and much of the literature I devoured on the subject was filled or simply mixed heavily, with the sort of quackery that we come to expect from the experience driven church. Book dedicated to finding your gift by taking tests, finding your gifts by polling others, finding your gifts by trial and error. Like most people I wanted to know what my gift was, and so, being young in the faith, I looked all over the place to try and find some authoritative voice that would identify my gift.

In the mean time, I noticed that not all Christians were like me. I loved God's word, no, that isn't quite accurate. I loved the truth that God's word was articulating. I loved to understand it and to open other people's understanding of it. I remember how shocked I was when I learned that other people in the church I began to attend were not reading twenty chapters of scripture or more each and every day. Why didn't everyone study Biblical Hebrew and Greek? Why weren't other believers driven to understand the deep things of God? My conclusion, in my infancy, was that there was something wrong with most believers, and my secret suspicion was that most of them weren't saved, because if they were saved, they would have exactly the same Christian appetites that I had.

One of the godliest men I know had a deep and passionate desire to see souls won to Christ. In fact, unless you shared his desire to win souls he believed there was likewise something wrong with your faith - because it seemed to him that the Christian experience ought to be universal - even as it had seemed to me.

I learned a lot from this because I didn't share this man's desire to see souls saved. I remember the turmoil in my soul - Lord! where is my desire for Your lost children? I had a profound desire to see the body edified, and built up - knit together and coming to know their Lord more fully, more perfectly - how I burned for that - but frankly, I didn't lose a wink of sleep at night mourning over those who were lost - not even amongst my relatives. Why was I so cold? What was wrong with my faith?

Don't get me wrong, I want as many as will be saved to be saved, and I consider it an honor and a joy to walk through an open door and share the gospel to a heart that is prepared by our Lord to receive it - and I have done so whenever the opportunity has presented itself. I want to see people saved - but that desire could never make me someone like Paul. I could never go door to door peddling the gospel, and I actually began to resent the way this godly fellow implied that unless you were burning to see souls saved, you weren't saved yourself. The one thing I used to simply detest, was the numbers game. How many souls have you led to the Lord? How long have you been a believer? I mean, for most of us, the truth is we lead very few people to Christ: our children, perhaps a sibling or two - and maybe, over the course of our lifetime, a few others. So if in twenty years we have only led three or four people to Christ, and someone comes along and implies that this is because you are spiritually lazy or worse, a deceived unbeliever - resentment comes rather naturally.

I am not going to pretend to be more spiritual than I am. I haven't personally led too many souls to the Lord, but then again, I think of leading someone to Christ as entering into work that has been going on long before I got there. The one who leads a soul to Christ is just the last rung on a long ladder - many other workers paved the way for that moment, and ultimately, if a person believes it isn't because the salesman is better than all the rest - it is because that is the day that the Lord opened the ears of the deaf, and opened the eyes of the blind so that the person could see and hear, as it were, for the first time, the truths that had been previously spoken, but never understood.

So I say, I resented this pressure to win souls to Christ, and worse, I resented the notion unspoken notion that you were a better Christian the more souls you led to Christ. The whole thing was being painted to me like gun slingers notching their guns every time they won a soul so that they could compare their notches and see who was spiritual and who was not. On the one hand I felt like I was a great sinner because I wasn't willing to make soul winning a priority in my walk, and on the other hand I felt like I was a sub standard Christian because I didn't have this consuming desire to see the lost saved.

It occurred to me at some point that either I wasn't truly saved, or there was something wrong with the whole picture. I spent a lot of time examining myself to be certain that I was in the faith. My first thought is always that the problem lies within me - why blame others first? But after months that stretched into years, I learned that the problem wasn't with me. I was as saved as I could be. That meant that the problem wasn't with me or my faith, but with the expectation.

I began to see that our gifts show themselves through our motivations - through what consumes us spiritually. I began to believe that this new found desire to understand the truth and articulate it to others for God's glory - it wasn't coming from me, and it wasn't a universal experience. I was different than other believers in this. There were some who shared it with me, but not all. In the same way, I began to see that some believers have a profound desire for the lost, a passion that springs up within their affections just as a desire for the truth had sprung up in mine. A gift, not of their own making, but a partaking of the nature of God's Spirit - for these desires are not our own, but the desires of God's Spirit made manifest in our own affections. A sharing of the divine Nature.

I have a friend who is gifted in this way: he desires to see other people love the Lord the way he loves the Lord - to see them rest in Him, and look to Him for all their needs. This fellow's hunger is for souls to bask in the love and provision the Lord provides. Guess what? He wants us all to love one another and love the Lord. I have a friend who is discerning - he wants us all to be discerning. I have a friend who is generous, and he wants us all to be generous. My merciful friends want us all to be merciful. Do you see where this is going?

We are given gifts to build one another up in the faith. The merciful Christian aches for those who are suffering, and is merciful because that is how you deal with such an ache. The generous Christian is certain of the Lord's provision for themselves, and longs for others to know Jehovah Jireh - they ache to make God's provision real in the lives of others, and give of themselves because of it. The leader desires to follow the Lord in all he does, and his heart burns to guide others into the same. The teacher hungers to understand God's word, and to make God's word understood in the church. It isn't rocket science. God gives us a desire to build up the church in some way, and when we respond to that desire, it isn't contrary to what we want to do - it is in harmony with it.

What can happen though is that we, in the infancy of our understanding, assume that the desires that we have are universal - that all Christians have the exact same spiritual desires that we do. When we do that we then think there is something wrong with everyone who isn't gifted in the same way we are.

I was a member in a church where we were (pretty much) expected to go out knocking on doors and winning souls to Christ - we even had days of the week when we were supposed to be doing it. I was horrified by this. It seemed about as carnal a thing as I could imagine; but the man pressing us to do this painted the whole thing as the great commission - as though failing to go knock on doors was an act of sinful rebellion - tantamount to admitting you aren't a genuine, or at the very least, committed Christian. Because the fellow was well respected, people went out and begrudgingly did as they were expected. Most of them hated it, and were only doing it because they had been pressured into the obligation. A few enjoyed it - and guess which few? Those who were inclined this way already.

I learned through this not to insist that every Christian be a carbon copy of me, and that forcing them to act upon desires that I have and that they do not, forces them to minister in their flesh, rather than in the gifts of their Spirit. It is like saying that my gift is more important than their gifts. The blind arrogance of that horrifies me. To think that I not only imagine myself to know better than our Lord how to build His church, since I discard those gifts that the Lord has given others, and exalt my own gifts as the lens through which all must know the Lord, but beyond this - to think that I have the ability to do so. I shudder at the thought.

The Lord will build His church, and as He does, all the powers of hell will not be able to hinder Him. I believe that. I believe that when the Lord opens a door to share the gospel, that the believer for whom that door was opened ought to share the gospel - but I do not believe that every believer is gifted to be a missionary, so that when we pressure believers who are not so gifted, to go out and minister in the strength of their flesh - I think we are not building the church up, but weakening it.

Histamine is what causes a mosquito bite to swell and itch. The swelling makes it easier for white blood cells to attack any foreign pathogens introduced by the mosquito. Histamine is "good" when it is doing what it is supposed to do. But if a person has an allergic reaction - that same histamine can kill the person, because the body begins to produce more histamine that it can handle - causes enough swelling to kill the person.

So it is when any one gift is exalted at the expense of the others. The church that has everyone acting like a missionary when they are not missionaries is certainly going to swell up, but that doesn't mean that this body is healthy. That isn't meant to poo-poo large churches. Some churches grow large because they are healthy. I think it was John MacArthur who said that his job was to grow the church in the knowledge of the Lord, and that it was the Lord's job to grow them in number. I say amen to that. John MacArthur's church is not small - but it didn't get big through a histamine injection - it got big because it was healthy.

My point in all this is to draw attention to the fact that not everyone has the same gifts. It is good for us to want others in the body to see the Lord in the light that He has given each of us - that is what building one another up in the faith looks like. It is not good however to take any one gift and impose the light of that gift as the rule for the church. Are you burdened for the poor? Don't imagine that other believers are false simply because they haven't the same gift as you. Do you hunger for the lost? Don't imagine that others are not believers just because they don't share your gift. Learn what your gift is, and share it in the body. Don't put notches in your gun every time you do something in the strength that the Lord had given, and then compare yourself to those whom the Lord has given strengths elsewhere - it will only make you resent others, and cause them to resent you.


posted by Daniel @ 6:31 AM   1 comment(s)
Saturday, July 18, 2009
God is not lost...you are.
I was just chatting up my old pastor. He stopped in for a visit and during the course of that visit we spoke briefly about a mutual friend who is struggling to know God. This person has followed teacher after teacher, trying to find the Lord by having God explained in the best way possible - as though God could be known more intimately if someone else could just paint Him more clearly for us.

We all have this struggle at times. We often pursue teaching and teacher because we convince ourselves that if we just understood a thing better, we would respond to God better. We tell ourselves that our rebellion is a product of our ignorance, that if we could just overcome our ignorance we would find the *real* means to obey. We look for God in teachings, and in teacher - we look for God as though God were elusive. My old pastor put it right when he said, "We seek for God as though God was the one that was lost, but it isn't God who is lost, it is we who are lost. When we try to find God it shows, it cuts God out of the loop, we put pressure on ourselves to learn how to make God real, when what we need to do is stop trying to find God, and simply repent.

That is what is happening when you are trying to find God - you are trying to find God in teaching and information rather than in faith and repentance. It's just that simple. Most of us want to have the fellowship and relationship up front - because we hope that if we have this nice, experiential relationship - it will cause us to repent. We want repentance to overcome us, ... to overwhelm us. We think if we can just get the right clue or hint, or message, or read the right book, or hear the right sermon, or hang with the right people, or join the right church - these things will cause us to know God, to find God; we want something to knock the fight out of us so that there is nothing left in us but repentance.

But that hasn't happened. It hasn't happened for me, it hasn't happened for you, and guess what? It hasn't happened for the authors of the books you want to read, it hasn't happened in the church you admire more than you own - wherever the grass is greener, brother, sister ... it hasn't happened there either.

It doesn't work that way. Repentance happens when grace finds you, and grace finds you when you step into Canaan in the strength of God's promise, with your sword drawn. In other words don't wait for the divine zap. The divine zap doesn't come to those who excuse their spiritual dormancy, i.e. excuse their lack of repentance (to keep it simple) by telling themselves that because God's grace initiates repentance, they should wait around until God grants them repentance, and in the mean time try and figure out why He never seems to be doing that no matter how hard they pray or cry out for it. God will provide sustenance to those who are willing to lift their hand from the bowl of his provision and put the food in their mouth - but the man who is so lazy that he expects God not only to provide, but to feed him too - this man doesn't get it.

So if you are wondering where God is, I will tell you - He is on the other side of repentance, where He has always been.


posted by Daniel @ 9:41 PM   12 comment(s)
Friday, July 17, 2009
When Assyria was God's Rod...
In Isaiah 10 our Lord spoke about the coming judgment of Israel through the prophet. He explained in vivid imagery that nothing remained for those who stood condemned, but the coming condemnation. In this case, God was going to rouse Assyria against Israel (Judah). To frame this judgment, the Lord says through Isaiah, that Assyria doesn't intend to be God's rod of correction; that they are merely another wicked nation and that this plundering of Israel is merely an expression of their own corruption. Once God has used the Assyrians to judge Israel, He will then judge Assyria.

Consider the walled corridor that connects a holding pen for cattle to a killing floor beyond. Once an animal begins to walk in that corridor the narrow walls keep it from turning around. It goes to the killing floor on its own initiative. The Assyrians were acting in accord with their corruption - God wasn't imposing some new corruption upon them in order to force them to come to Israel - rather God was directing their path towards Israel so that their corruption was spent serving God's purpose. It isn't that God was forcing them to be wicked, it is that God was directing their wickedness at Israel in order to judge Israel. In His mercy, He chose to prune Israel by the hand of the Assyrians, rather than wipe her out altogether.

How did Paul say it? All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Calamity, however, isn't always judgment. Job was the most righteous man on the earth (in his day) according to the Holy Spirit, and yet calamity befell him - not as an act of judgment or chastisement, rather as an appointed calamity through which God's sovereignty and man's depravity were put on display resulting in the glorification of God, and the rewarding of a humble servant who remained faithful throughout the trials that befell him.

Providentially, our Lord is working all things together for good for us - even if he does so by means that shake our understanding. Sometimes our pace slackens for so long, that unless the Lord prunes us, we would stop altogether. He doesn't have to bring a wicked nation against us, it could come through sickness or financial upheaval - but even if He does, we can rest knowing that whatever the Lord allows to happen in our lives, He does do so out of loving concern and not out of wrath or malice. The Lord chastens those whom He loves. I would hazard this guess, that He never "over" chastens. When He allowed Assyria to come down on Israel, I think it was because anything less would have meant losing Israel altogether. Just as we sometimes have to amputate limbs to save the body - so too chastisement, which is always intended to "save the body" (as it were) can be quite severe - but as I suggest, never more severe than is required.

My point in the post today however is that the Assyrians didn't have a clue they were acting in accord with God's will. They were simply acting according to their nature. Not that God desired them to be wicked - that is, it wasn't God's desire that they be corrupt and rebellious, but rather even though God allowed them to continue in a rebellion that was never His desire, yet this same rebellion could not hinder God's plan, and taking their rebellion and corruption, God used it to bring about good - that is God used it to chastise the nation of Israel in order to bring Israel again to a place of genuine repentance. In this we see the complexity and majesty of the divine will.

The Lord wasn't controlling the Assyrians like robots, but allowing their sin and corruption to be the means of bringing Israel out of rebellion and idolatry and into repentance. Not mind control - but simply a demonstration that: no matter what individuals or nations do (according to their own will) God can and does use them in spite of their personal rebellion, to bring about His will.

One might argue that because scripture says that God desires that all men everywhere repent - that there is some contradiction here. If God desires all men everywhere to repent, that includes the Assyrians. So how can God desire for the Assyrians to repent on the one hand, and use their impenitence on the other, to bring about His will? Wouldn't that require God to desire both repentance and impenitence from the same people?

The answer lies in understanding the difference between what God prefers, and what God allows. God really would prefer it if everyone repented, but God has chosen to allow sin in the world. Sin by definition is disobedience and rebellion. God has chosen to allow disobedience and rebellion. The point is, even after allowing disobedience and rebellion - God's plans cannot be thwarted,

I love that the Assyrians were clueless in that even though God was wielding them like a weapon against Israel, they thought they were just going around and plundering and pillaging. They would have denied that God was involved in their activities, they even denied that the notion that the God of Israel was the one and only God, and yet...


posted by Daniel @ 6:15 AM   0 comment(s)
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I am not one to complain... but...
On June 25th, 2009 I spoke over the phone with a representative from Rogers Canada, my wireless provider. I had been looking at the latest iPhone, the 3GS, and decided that I would upgrade my current handset - hence I was talking with a Rogers representative who informed me that the upgrade would go through and that I should expect to have the phone in my hands three to five days after it was shipped. He took my email address so that I could get a tracking number when it shipped.

My expectation, of course, was that in a week to ten days (tops!) I would have a new handset.

Well the first week went by, and no email came announcing an impending shipment, but I was still okay with that. I even ordered a few accessories - a dock, an extra charging cable for the office, and a Griffin™ Reveal™ case. I was a little put out when I learned that the case was sold out, and probably wouldn't even ship until the middle of July. "Oh well," I thought, "I will just have to be very careful with the handset for the first week or two."

When the second week came and went without a whisper, I began to wonder whether or not my order had actually gone through. Did I mention that Rogers is a wireless provider? I mean, they spam me now and again with text messages etc. Surely, if there was some sort of delay, someone would call or at the very least (however impersonal) send me a text message: "Sorry about the delay on your upgrade, please be patient, we are out of stock and backordered." I mean, they have my phone number in their billing system, and they send out mass marketing spams - as a programmer I know how little work it would be for them to type one message and send it to everyone who is affected by a shortage...

I am not one to be impatient, but I can have my patience tested. By week three, my patience was being tested.

My accessories came in two shipments, the first shipment arrived at the beginning of week three, the second (the case) came at the end of week three - but still no phone. Had I not seen the new 6 GB data plan tacked onto my account, I might have pursued the thought that my order had slipped through the cracks, but seeing the data plan on my statement meant that the order had gone through.

This marks the beginning of the fourth week after the order was placed. In that time I have had some opportunity to consider whether or not I should have even bothered with an upgrade. As the calendar flipped through the days, I began to ask myself why I wanted the iPhone in the first place. The data plan was good, sure, it would sync nice with the new Mac Mini at home, okay... my palm pilot is as good as dead, yeah... but really, on judgment day when all that is hidden is brought to light, did I want the phone because it was a practical necessity, or did I justify the indulgence because there were some practical benefits?

There is a passage in Isaiah (3:14) that reads, "The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people,'It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses.' " When I read, "the plunder of the poor is in your houses" - I don't picture these Judeans going around and mugging poor people, then returning home and adorning their houses with whatever paltry things they managed to pilfer from the poor. Rather I think it means that one of the ways that sin manifested itself in the Judeans - one of the ways they rebelled against God - is that rather than look after the poor with the abundance God gave them, they looked after themselves. They filled their houses - their lives - with the plunder of their own abundance, and when God says they were robbing the poor, He means that their abundance is not given for their own comfort and ease, but for the easing and comforting of those who lack.

This time of waiting has been fruitful for me, in that I have given the grace to reflect upon some of the choices I make without thinking. I have been reading on a few forums the angst and anger of many who, like myself, are waiting for their new iPhone from Rogers. Where is my phone? Why didn't they tell me they don't have any in stock when I ordered? Why don't they notify us telling us when we can expect the phone, etc. etc. Yet I find myself thinking only about the idols in my life, and whether or not I will ever be godly enough, and possess enough wisdom to see them for what they are. Is my house full of plunder? Will the Lord excuse excessive living simply because everyone who I know lives that way? Does the Lord judge on a sliding scale? Oh, you lived in an affluent land, so your decadence couldn't be helped...?

Anyway, those are my thoughts this morning.
posted by Daniel @ 9:20 AM   4 comment(s)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A few on the burner... but...
I would have posted a yesterday, and again the day before, and even something of greater substance today, but I wasn't able to articulate my point the way I would have preferred.

I had a post on the first chapter of Isaiah, that just got a litle too big, then a post explaining how the marketing has learned to use the pavlovian response to sell products by catering to our vices - and showing that the more liberal a society, the easier it becomes to sell things to them - the point being that the medium that controls advertising is going to flourish under liberalism far more than it could under conservatism, and that since the cultural norm is easily shaped by the media in a single generation, we can expect that where capitalism rejects objective moralism, liberalism will increase. But that got a little heady.

So I thought I would just post about nothing.

There. Done.
posted by Daniel @ 10:50 AM   2 comment(s)
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Worldly Wisdom..
I have posted several times on worldly wisdom. At the heart of all worldly wisdom is the idea that life is sacred, and the sustaining of it the greatest virtue. Hence anything that takes life away, or lessens the pleasure of it, is considered immoral, and anything that sweetens life or protects and sustains it is considered moral.

A friend sent me an email containing "50 life lessons" supposedly gleaned by some 90 year old newspaper columnist. Turns out the list really was from that columnist, but the columnist was by no means 90 years old (the article was written just prior to the columnist's 50th birthday).

I was going to write my buddy back with my thoughts on some of the "wisdom" found in the list, but I thought I would do that here instead.

I begin with a disclaimer: I am not 90 years old. In fact, I am not even 50. If I have wisdom it hasn't come to me through living a long life, but through God's word studied and believed. If I lack it, it is only because sin can make a person willfully blind.

My next disclaimer is that I understand that much of that list was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and conversationally funny.

One item in the list read this way:
You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
I have heard this repeated many times in many places, and usually (at least in Christian circles) with a nod towards Paul's disagreement with Barnabas, (i.e.: Hey! the Apostle agreed to disagree, therefore disagreement is godly!)

The truth is that when two parties disagree it is because one or both of them is either wrong or failing to articulate themselves. But consider the wisdom offered in that item: what is really being exalted in the notion of agreeing to disagree? I will tell you: Tolerance (note the capital "T").

In a world where life itself is an idol, anything that upsets life is an act of desecration. Christ taught that truth -was- divisive. What He came to proclaim was going to be so divisive, it would divide even the closest relationships (family). His message was not that we should agree to disagree, but rather that those who follow Him, and therefore hold to an objective truth will find doing so costly. This is what it means to count the cost. If you are willing to compromise truth for the sake of a relationship then you are not ready to follow Christ; scripture says you are not worthy of Christ. Unless you love Christ more than every other relationship, you are not fit to follow Him. Our Lord anticipated where compromising the truth would be most evident, as those who refuse to compromise will feel it in their relationships. If you accomodate error for the sake of maintaining a pleasant relationship, you are a compromiser, and not worthy of Christ.

Yet that is a very harsh thing to a worldling.

The world teaches that harmony is more important than truth. It does so in language that speaks of right and wrong, rather than truth and error, in terms of good and bad rather than good and evil. Yet the notion is clear enough: getting along with one another is more important than upholding truth or correcting error. Why is that? Because no one cries or dies when we tolerate error - everyone just gets along.

You have to remember: life is sacred, and therefore the quality of life is also sacred. In the short term it is always more pleasant to get along than to disagree, and for that reason the shortsighted and morally bankrupt will reason that the moral highground is held by the one who just wants to get along.

Listen: Sincere Christians disagree with one another all the time. There is enough sin in my life to blind me in ways I cannot imagine. Sin insinuates itself in us in this way: we want to believe some things because it pleases us to think that way. We are typically oblivious when it happens, though when we are delivered from some error we can see how our own desires had obfuscated the truth. Do I feel justified in hating my father for the trainwreck of an upbringing I have had? Do I give everyone else forgiveness, but not him? Guess what? That kind of sin is going to cause me to justify certain behaviors, and in doing so, I will be unable to see some truth that another may see clearly. Maybe it is some other sin, or many sins - the point is that a sin that is justified is a sin that is embraced - and where we embrace sin we become blind. We -ALL- do it, and we all do it by default, that is, it isn't some malicious choice we make to be evil, rather it is deep in us, so much a part of who we are, that we cannot distinguish it from ourselves. We suppress the truth in unrighteousness, not because we are insincere, but because we are sinners. Christ sets us free from this, but because sanctification is a process, it means that not all of us are going to be on the same page, and that means that well meaning, sincere believers are going to have real disagreements over items of faith.

What is clear to my brother may be obfuscated to me, and vice versa. This doesn't mean that it is okay to disagree. Understanding why we do a thing doesn't justify doing it. Thus agreeing to disagree is like agreeing to continue in sin, it's short sighted, foolish, worldly, and (dare I say it!) sinful.

Rather what we should do is agree to pursue the truth together recognizing sin blinds us, and that we may never agree because of sin in one or both parties involved, but not to allow this truth to cause us to make peace with sin by agreeing to disagree, which is really agreeing to let sin have its way in one or both of us. There is no love in that.

Take again another item from the list:
Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
The proposition itself is wise, but the supporting reason is worldly. The reason we shouldn't compare our lives to other lives, according to this wisdom, is because we don't know enough about someone else's life.

Consider why one would reason this way. Why does this wisdom say it is wrong to compare? The reason given is because we don't have enough information to make a sound judgment. Think this through with me. That would mean that if we had enough information it would be okay... right? Yet, I don't think this "wisdom" is suggested that it is ever okay. I think what is being suggested is that no one ever has the right to compare themselves with anyone else. That being the case (IMO), the whole "walk a mile in my shoes" pitch is just a dog an pony show to meant to make the premise seem reasonable.

It -is- wrong to compare ourselves to anyone else - but not because we lack information. Rather because we understand the sovereignty of God. What do we have that we can say our own right arm has given us? If we have received all from God, then how can we boast? If I have received "x" from God, and someone else has received "y" from God, and neither of us has "caused" God to supply for us, then it is ridiculous to think I am better than someone else because I received "x" from God and they received "y".

Then there is this gem:
It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
Wow. Where do I start? Okay, let's be clear, it is not okay to be angry with God. That's like saying, "It's okay to sin, God can take it." Anger itself is not a sin, but the only way anger can be directed at God is if one charges God with wrong. Think that through. It is -not- okay to be angry with God, even if God can take it.

Here is another gem:
All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
Isn't that the hope of very false religion in the world? I mean, who doesn't love their own? What matters is not that you loved, but Who you loved.

If you love the God of scripture, you will truly be able to love others through Christ in you, which is really Christ loving through you, and not something your flesh or will, or heart managed to produce on its own. If you do not love the God of scripture, you will only "love" those who reciprocate your love, or love others to put your love on display for your own honor and glory - either way, your "love" will be entirely self serving - an animal reflex, and hardly worthy of anything more than eternal damnation.

There were a lot of good things on that list, and when I say good, I mean biblical, but these were nestled alongside worldly wisdom, and when that happens, spiritually speaking, the purpose is to sell the error by yoking it to truth. The powers and principalities that are opposed to God's rule have learned long ago that a spoonful of suger helps the medicine go down.

Be discerning in all things.


posted by Daniel @ 9:12 AM   3 comment(s)
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
12:34:56 7/8/09....
Once every hundred years the clock and calender line up sequentially from one to nine.

For me that happens in half an hour (12:24:56 on July 8th, 2009).


posted by Daniel @ 12:04 PM   4 comment(s)
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Struggling With Unbiblical Expectations...
When an adult turns to Christ and away from the errors of this life, they come into saving faith with a lot of baggage, and (typically) a very confused image of what Christianity is supposed to look like.

Their understanding of what is "good" is all messed up by humanistic and secular moralism. Their understanding of God is colored by the things they have learned about God while under the (sole) influence of worldly thinking. How many times have you cringed when a Christian leader has a horrible public scandal? ...they immediately doubt the authenticity of their faith, rather than the authenticity of their supposition How many times have you heard the "golden rule"? How many times have you seen nominal Christians fight like cats and dogs over trivial things, and in doing so shaming that great name that they co-opt for themselves? Frankly, when a worldly comes in out of the rain, as it were, they are soaking wet, and there is a struggle in their faith at first as they have to unlearn all the bogus things that they have come to expect from Christianity and imagine Christianity to be.

What happens when a new Christian is expecting some sort of Christian experience to happen and it doesn't? Let me tell you what happens - they immediately doubt the authenticity of their faith, rather than the authenticity of their supposition. They assume that something is wrong with them because they pray that God heals the sick and raises the dead, and it doesn't happen. They think something is wrong with them because they can't understand foreign languages, or even hear a voice in their head like they assume others do.

When I first came to Christ I thought I could heal people if my faith was right. I was quite surprised, and a little ashamed when I couldn't do it, and I thought there must be something wrong with my faith. Maybe I am not a REAL™ Christian? Then I would toil of how I could be sure I was really, really saved... That is what immaturity looks like. It includes a lot of confusion about what Christianity is supposed to be like, and when our experience differs from our expectation, we immediately presume the problem in in our faith and not in our expectation.

You who are older in the Lord, it is good for you to remember how that worked, and how long it took (and still takes for some of you) to deal with that - to come to the place where you depend on the God of scripture rather than the pop culture version of God that is infiltrating every aspect of the media driven, Christian religion. Remember to gentle with those who are sensitive to their faith - it isn't meant to be a burden to you to help others who struggle, it is meant as a blessing, for in imparting what God has shown you, you are reminded again how far you have come, and how great your Master in heaven is to you.

Grace to you, little ones.


posted by Daniel @ 12:35 PM   1 comment(s)
Happy 4th of July To All My Southren Friends.
As a Canadian, I feel obligated to wish you Americans well on your nation's celebration of the declaration of Independence. As the Australians are fond of saying, "Good on ya, Mate!"
posted by Daniel @ 12:31 PM   1 comment(s)
Friday, July 03, 2009
The Sting of Obligation
There is a man who while riding home from work determined in his heart to perform an act of kindness to his wife that night. He knew there had been company that day (a kids party, and coffee for the attendant adults), and company last evening so that the supper dishes were set aside. In short, he knew that it was his wife's turn to do the dishes, and that the pile was nigh biblical in proportions, and having set his affection on his wife, he determined to surprise her by immediately doing the dishes when he got home.

As is often the case with such things, he dreamed about how happy this would make her, and relished in the thought all the way home.

When he came in the door, even before he had set aside his working clothes, she accosted him at the door, "I have been waiting all day for you to get home, I am going out - I need a break! - do you think you can do the dishes while I am gone?"

This same man who spent the last half hour waiting impatiently to get home so that he could pour out his generosity on his wife in the act of doing dishes, suddenly has a change of heart. What was to be a generous gift, an opportunity to extend affection and kindness - now smells of obligation. The thought that his wife, whom only moments ago he sought so well to please, now expects some service from him stinks in his nose - that kind soul who was but fifteen minutes ago transported by the raptures of heart in the thought of doing some wonderful service for his wife, is not to be found in the wide-eyed, rebel that presently is chafing under this untimely obligation.

His heart churns within him, "She has turned what was supposed to be an act of affection into an act of servitude, and in doing so, spoiled everything!"

What just happened? Did the work load suddenly change? No, he had planned to do the dishes all the way home. Why then does his heart wring itself over this expectation? Not for the work itself, but because the work is expected of him. If it is his idea, then it is a joy, if it is someone requiring it of him, then it is an unwelcome obligation.

That is what rebellion looks like. It has nothing to do with the request, and everything to do with the heart. The rebellious heart says, "I will not have the Lord rule over me!" - that is the default condition of our flesh. We love to serve the Lord when it suits us to do so because our service is a generosity poured out of a sovereign life - but let us feel the yoke of obligation, and that same service is begrudgingly given, and that with much secret resentment.

Everything about the flesh is ugly and sinful. That is the way the flesh is - it hates to be under the yoke of obligation. It doesn't matter what is expected of it - as long as it is expected to do something, or not do something, it instantly rebels against the yoke.

When we see this about ourselves, we see why we mustn't walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The flesh is not just a nest of sinful temptations - it is in rebellion against God, and will not, and cannot be made subject to God. That doesn't mean that we can't obey God, it means that obedience - a "right" obedience - cannot rise up from the flesh. All the flesh will do is rebel against any and all obligation.

Understand this about what you do. The bible tells us to do what we do unto the Lord for a reason. The man, had he set his heart on serving God in doing the dishes, rather than in serving his wife in doing the dishes there would have been no room for an upset when the wife dumped on him. Perhaps he would have even smiled to think that the Lord prepared him for it.

Apply this kind of thinking to your walk. When scripture tells us to do what we do unto the Lord, don't let that just be an empty command, dig into it - taste and see that the Lord's way is good, even perfect.
posted by Daniel @ 7:12 AM   4 comment(s)
Thursday, July 02, 2009
The Morning Plug In.
When I get to work, I plug in no less than three electronic do-dads. That's my morning plug in. Two phones and a bluetooth headset. One is my personal line, the other my work line, and the headset works with both.

I figure, most of my readers who work away from home likewise have a morning plug in. It might be fun to share and see how many we all have. I expect the mean to be between one and two for those who do have a morning plug in, but perhaps my guess will be shown to be wrong if enough people comment leaning to one extreme or the other.


posted by Daniel @ 8:05 AM   7 comment(s)
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
A little life
His name is Joel, and he is eleven months old. He has a very rare terminal condition - a syndrome I can't even pronounce.

His grandmother Sylvia was a Sunday morning "walk in" a couple of weeks ago. I was with one of the other leaders in the church, Ron, when she came in. We introduced ourselves, but Ron, being far more gifted in the congenial department, was already asking where she was from and how she came to be in our assembly that morning. She came from Prince Edward Island, and was in town to help care for Joel for as long as she could - a few weeks. Joel's syndrome required him to be fed every four hours, day and night - a duty that took one and a half hours to complete each time. I assume the procedure involved tubes with plastic bags attached to them, etc. This family had for the last eleven months, spend one and a half hours, every four hours on the clock, feeding this little guy, and there was still concern daily that he wasn't gaining enough weight.

The family has known about the syndrome, I believe, since before the birth.

The prognosis is horrifying, eventually he will begin to have seizures, which will mark the beginning of the end. He will experience pain throughout most of his life, but once the seizures start it will be a rapid decline into much, much worse pain. Eventually internal bleeding will become uncontrollable, and he will die.

This much we were told, and the picture I got in my head was of some little bald baby, connected up to tubes, more or less dormant and already lifeless. It was a heart breaking picture already.

Sylvia came to our prayer meeting that week, which is how we are aware of most of this, as we have been praying for this little life, and for the stamina of those who presently, in love, are spread thin in sustaining him. She came the Sunday after that, and again, to last night's prayer meeting. We had been praying for Joel, and she brought some good news, he had managed to sleep, for the first time in his life, for a few hours on end, three or four, I forget exactly how long. He had seemed to be putting on weight too, since she had arrived to help, more good news. But with this good news came a very hard reality, he also had experienced his first seizure, the long dreaded, but inescapable harbinger of the coming end. Things will grow worse from here on in.

Sylvia also did something I am so thankful for, and even now the tears are welling in my eyes, she brought Joel to church with her. He wasn't some bald little sickly looking child, not some dormant, vacant shell - but a regular looking little baby, smiling, cooing, and a real person. I know you people reading this can't appreciate the reality of it - I found myself rather clinically detached from the horror of suffering up close - I mean I knew it was real, but it was no closer to home than any atrocity committed on the other side of the world. We hear about these things, and pray about them, but our hearts are almost frozen because these things are so far removed from our day to day lives. We would care if these things could be made personal, but are numb because they never become personal.

Well, seeing little Joel with my own eyes, hearing him coo, watching him smile, and listening as his grandmother broke down in tears at the thought of what is coming ... it broke a dam in my heart, and (I am sure) in the hearts of many (if not all) of us who were gathered together to pray last night. We, as christian, are encouraged by God's word - no one in our meeting was concerned about this child's eventual destination - it was the journey there that broke our hearts, and caused us to find comfort in the God of God's word.

Do you understand what I mean when I say that? God's word isn't your comfort, it is just the thing that reveals the God of all comfort to you. To speak out loud that Christ called the children unto Himself isn't comforting unless the Spirit rips your heart wide open to show you who Jesus is in those words.

Listen: Pray for this little life, and the lives that are touched by his. We all want the miracle healing, but God appoints a day for all of us, even Joel. I marvel in my soul to think of the love that is being poured out on this little broken boy. How some might have seen all the suffering to come, the effort in caring for the child, the profound loss at his inescapable demise, and chose to terminate that life in the womb, and these would have never known the profound joy and privilege to meet this little life. These would have never seen what fallen people will sacrifice for the love of a broken little boy, and would never have come one step closer to seeing first hand how God can love us who are broken in sin, how God's reserves cannot be emptied - you must see it? If parents can love like this - with no hope of the rewards we expect from our children, how does God love us?

Do you meditate? Meditate on that. and keep Joel and his family in your prayers, they are real people.


posted by Daniel @ 11:05 AM   4 comment(s)
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