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

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

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

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

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

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

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009
What does putting in a minimal effort say?
Well I s'pose it is no secret - I haven't been posting a great deal lately. I have been, and remain, somewhat preoccupied with other pressing matters in life. I hope together back into the swing of it soon, 'till then I trust in the continuing patience of my dwindling readership.

posted by Daniel @ 3:59 PM   2 comment(s)
Friday, October 09, 2009
The Pursuit of Christ
In Matthew 18:12-14 our Lord describes a man who has an hundred sheep. The ninety and nine are gathered together but one has strayed. Our Lord leaves the ninety and nine to go and recover the strayed sheep.

We all understand that this is a metaphor. That the story Christ is telling is about more than sheep.

Typically I hear the metaphor explained thus: the man represents Christ, the flock represents His church, and the stray sheep represents an unsaved sheep whom Christ is pursuing. How many pictures and songs depend upon that understanding? Plenty.

How many of us have noted the post positive conjunction at the beginning of verse fifteen? You know, it is usually translated as "but" or "yet" - and tells us that what is about to be said is related to what has just been said.

In other words, when we read, "but if a brother should sin..." (εαν δε αμαρτηση) we are reading a passage that is directly related to, and expressing/expounding the same thought as, the man with the hundred sheep going after the one that strayed. What was spoken in metaphor is now exposed - and (sadly) most people miss that.

We have "section A" cut out with a nice border around it: Here is a story about what a dedicated Savior we have. Then we have "section B": Here is some other thing that tells us how to discipline sinning believers... The grammar says these two things are related, but our translation puts white space and thematic headings between the two and we (naively/ignorantly) conclude that they are not related at all, and then we build both our theology and our practice upon a half understood passage that has been artificially spliced for us.

Is it not so?

You see, the picture of the man who leaves his sheep to pursue his stray is the picture of the one believer who goes to his brother and shows him his sin. That is what it is a picture of. It is the Spirit of Christ in the first brother, pursuing the wayward believer through the conviction of sin.

Why is that important?

It is important because the modern church has turned Matthew 18:15-17 into the "church discipline" passage, rather than the "Christ pursuing his stray lamb" passage, so that when one believer goes to another believer and exposes his or her sin in private - the whole thing is regarded as disciplinary by the church - when it is not disciplinary, but restorative - it is how Christ has said He will pursue His stray lambs.

People love to talk about "doing the work of Christ" or "letting Christ live in and through them" - but many who parrot these lines haven't the first clue that Christ does these things in accord with His word - that is, He said beforehand "HOW" He would accomplish these things in us, but we miss it because we have learned to read without understanding.

Do you not see it, I have laid it bear I think, Christ has said that He will pursue His straying lambs through believers. Those who obey the commands of the Lord -will- , should a brother sin, approach that brother and expose the sin. That is how Christ has described Himself as pursuing His wayward lambs. That isn't "church discipline", it's Christ pursuing a wayward lamb.

If the lamb is not found, there is no rejoicing. Note the structure in verse 13, "If it turns out that he finds it [the sheep], truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray". Did you catch the fact that it isn't always a given? The metaphor is not a man finding a sheep, it is a man searching for a sheep. If he finds it [1] there is rejoicing, and [2] the sheep is carried back to the fold - but if he does not find it [1] the search is abandoned, and [2] there is no rejoicing.

If a believer should sin we, as fellow believers, are expected to expose that sin (i.e. pursue the straying sheep). If the believer repents of the sin (is no longer straying, but becomes "found") he is restored (taken back into the fold), but if a believer refuses to repent (cannot be found), he is not taken back into the fold.

When we use this passage, I hope we come at it the way it is meant to be understood - it is Christ pursuing the wayward sheep through believers who in obedience are willing to expose sin for what it is, for the sake of all (Christ, the church, and the even the wayward believer).

If we think of Matthew 18:15-20 as a passage on how to administer a proper "spiritual spanking", we don't get it - whether we be on the giving or the receiving end. Christ has expressed exactly what He is doing in that situation to everyone who has ears to hear it. If you plan to "go all Matthew 18" on someone - I hope you understand what you are doing - and again, if you are on the receiving end of someone who is going to Matthew 18 on you - receive it from Christ for what it is, and not from the one who is handling it. Whether it is done in love, or is a bungled hatchet job - the one who is at work in it is Christ.

One final note: When Jacob had made up with Esau, he bid Esau go on without him; because Jacob had with him some little lambs, and would not drive them as hard as he would a mature flock, because doing so would only kill them. When it comes to expectations in this matter, as in any spiritual matter: be discerning. Expectations must reflect the maturity of those involved.
posted by Daniel @ 2:43 PM   3 comment(s)
Friday, October 02, 2009
Holy, Holy.
Somewhere between grade six and grade nine we learned a thing or two in science about volume and displacement. The easiest way to measure volume was to put something into a water filled, graduated cylinder of glass, and see how much water the thing we were measuring displaced. If the water level was resting at 200 milliliters, and you put in some object so that the water level rose to 300 milliliters, you knew that whatever you had dropped into the water had a volume of 100 milliliters.

If the cylinder could only hold 500 milliliters of water, and you added 500 milliliters of liquid mercury, the mercury would displace the water entirely.

The Holy Spirit instructs us, through the writing of Paul in Ephesians chapter five, to be being kept filled with the Holy Spirit. When I first began both to study, and to try (as best I could) to live out the imperative therein given, I found that I didn't know what this was supposed to look like. At that time I was made aware of a passage from some of Dwight L. Moody's writings (c.f. Secret Power, D.L. Moody, Ch. 2) wherein Moody wrote:
Turn to Acts 4:31, and you will find He came a second time, and at a place where they were, so that the earth was shaken, and they were filled with this power. That is, we are leaky vessels, and we have to keep right under the fountain all the time to keep full of Christ, and so have a fresh supply.
For those of you who do not remember, Acts 4:31 records the filling of the Holy Spirit following a time of prayer. These were believers upon whom the Holy Spirit had already fallen at Pentecost, and after this prayer for boldness, the building they were in shook as in an earth quake, and -all- that were present were filled of the (tou in the Greek) Holy Spirit. Given that Peter was there, this passage is used to argue that while there is One (spiritual) baptism (the new birth), there can be many spiritual "fillings".

Moody isn't alone in understanding these intermittent fillings as normative of the Christian experience. I have listened to more than one misty eyed Christian recall some bygone day of blessing, and seen with my own eyes the lingering dissatisfaction associated with any day that isn't so "filled". There is ever a gnawing hunger within these for a new and fresh outpouring of God's Spirit upon them. Is it any small wonder, given that this verse is often pointed to as proof positive that God pours out blessings again and again? Why no blessing today?

In those days when I was only vaguely familiar with scripture I was understandably naive in my faith, and therefore more willing to accept (at face value) whatever anyone taught concerning scripture, as true. We all do that in our infancy - we presume that because people are sincere, and honest, and even godly, that they must be right also. It was so with me at least, and having come under the influence of those who had been previously influenced by Moody, my understanding of my current state was that I was like a "broken cistern that could not hold water" (c.f. Jeremiah 2:13). The imagery was swiped, as noted, from a passage in Jeremiah that had nothing to do with Spiritual Filling, but rather likened the worship of false gods, to turning away from an artesian well (God), and relying instead upon faulty reservoirs that you yourself dig out (false Gods). I don't know if Moody himself ever mangled the text like that, but there were people who were influential in my early Christian walk who had some practice in stitching together disparate ideas as though they spoke of the same thing, so that what I heard at that time, was a bunch of scripture that seemed to bolster the point.

The imagery of myself as being an empty vessel in dire need of spiritual filling caused me to spend a lot of time begging for fillings that never seemed to come. I naturally began to question the validity of my faith, and the validity of the Christian faith altogether. If God is real, surely He ought to be answering the prayers of His children when they cry out day and night for "the filling" by which I was made to understand, the entire Christian endeavor was made not only possible, but easy. I will go one step deeper, the filling by which I might have that perfect rest in God whereby I perfectly understood what God expected of me, and whereby I was perfectly at peace doing whatever that was.

The idea that I was a broken empty vessel, more than any other imagery, kept me on the mouse wheel - calling out to God for victory over sin in my life, and secretly blaming God for the lack thereof. If God truly is at working in me both to desire His will, and to work out His will - why was He dishing out the fuel to do that with an eye-dropper? Why was I -always- empty?

Now, the word used in Ephesians five to describe our being kept filled, is better suited to the wind filling a sail, or to a person being "filled" with remorse over the loss of their spouse, than it is to the filling of a bucket. I like the wind filling the sail picture better, because if the wind is blowing, that doesn't automatically mean the sail is going to be filled. In order for the wind to fill the sail, the sail must be set before the wind. It isn't that the sail is a vessel that has some capacity, rather the sail is the means by which the wind that is already there is able to work for the one who has raised their sail.

If, in order to picture the filling of the Spirit we are forced to use the analogy of a glass being filled with water, then I would suggest in order to picture it properly we must maintain that the glass is -always and ever- filled to the very rim with water. Anything in our life that is self serving, could be thought of as liquid mercury that is displacing the water - the more mercury we fill ourselves with, the less water room there is for the water. The notion then, to be being kept filled with the Holy Spirit - would place the emphasis, as the text does, on not being filled with other things. The way in which a person becomes filled with God's Spirit, therefore, is not to beg God to poor more in, but rather to beg God that what is displacing Him in your life would be removed.

Now when scripture says to work out your own salvation, you can understand what it is talking about. Now when scripture says that you are to plow up the fallow ground, you have some imagery that makes sense - Don't sit there filled up with your sin, and beg God to pour more spirit in on top of your rebellion - rather rage war against that which rebels against God in you. Paul often uses the imagery of the believer as a soldier in God's army, not (primarily) because we are in battle every day, though that is certainly true - but because we are not in our own army, but in God's and as soldiers we can rely upon the provision of Him who supplies us with the weapons of our warfare.

We are often like children who cry out for more wind when the problem is that we refuse to unfurl the great sail we were given when we were ushered into God's family through our faith in the promises of God - through our faith in the redemptive work of Lord Jesus Christ who by His own blood reconciled those who call on Him, to God.

Being filled with God's Spirit happens by default. You don't have to try and pray it down - you have to get out of the way. That is why the message of the apostles was that you are to die daily, to take up a cross, to not be filled with the things of the world, etc. etc. It isn't that you beg for God to pour something in - He already has, rather your job is to deal biblically with whatever is filling you that isn't God - you make war with that, and if you don't or aren't interested in doing so, there is something very, very, very wrong with your faith. Judgment day is coming, and I want to warn the sinner, especially if he or she considers himself or herself a Christian, that if sins cooing voice has turned your fight to slumber, and you rest content now in your sin - Good gravy! You're a heartbeat from hell, and think your last breath will take you to heaven.

Think again.

It is not the ones who cry, "Lord, Lord!" who will are being saved, but those who through faith and patience inherit the promises -- not the least of which is the promise that we will be given a new heart and a new spirit. I can't stress it enough - if you are at peace with sin, your Christianity is only lip service, and you are hell bound no matter what church you attend, no matter how moved you were, no matter what experience you had. Your experiences, and your lip service have nothing to do with the faith that saves sinners from sin. I say to you, what Christ has always said: repent and believe the gospel, that you might be saved from your sin.

To the rest of you who struggle trying to be filled with the Holy Spirit; I say stop! You're trying to do what you cannot do, and what has already been done. Instead do what scripture directs and commands you to do: present the whole of yourself to God - you want to know how that looks in a practical way? Nothing could be simpler. Recall in the OT how various Judean kings were "good" and others were "bad"? Consider and learn from what the good kings did as soon as they came into their kingdom - they cleaned out all the gunk that the bad kings let build up in God's temple. They restored the beauty and holiness of His temple. Sound familiar, that's because the NT says that this is God's will for you: that you be sanctified. How can I spell that out in clear language? It is God's will that you deal with sin daily and directly. You clean the temple, not because you are worried that if you don't God will spank you, you clean the temple because you love God, and desire God to fill the temple. Good gravy, it's not rocket science; If you want to clean the temple in order to make God like or accept you, you aren't worshipping God, you are just trying to pacify Him. The whole point is that you work out your own salvation (from sin) with fear and trembling - because it is God who works in you both to will (He is the one who causes you to hunger for fellowship) and to do (He will strengthen you to every good work He has ordained beforehand for you to walk in - your sanctification being the PRIME one), and all this because it pleases God to fill you, to fellowship with you - to make His home in you.

Don't play at Christianity brother, sister - you have only so many heartbeats left, and each one brings you closer to judgment - my desire is that every last one who reads this will enter into that judgment in Christ - unashamed workers, and not disillusioned slackers who thought they were genuine, only to discover their error too late. If God convicts you today, don't put it off till tomorrow.
posted by Daniel @ 1:03 PM   12 comment(s)
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