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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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The Buzz

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

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

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

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

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

There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Monday, November 15, 2010
It isn't that I was ever living on the edge or anything. I lived a more or less quiet life. People died now and again, but by and large I didn't really have to deal with death very often. For my daily life, death was not something I really had to deal with. I knew my own death was coming "one day" but like everyone else, I was taught that thinking about your own death was just depressing and morbid - and was something entirely discouraged by everyone in the culture.

As someone who grew up Catholic, I believed that there was a God, and that Jesus died for sins. I didn't know the gospel, but I believed that if I was more good than evil when I died, I stood a pretty good chance of getting a better afterlife. In fact the very first time I ever took a serious look at my own mortality was when an evangelical pastor shared the genuine gospel with me.

I had showed up asking to be a missionary because I had broken up with a girlfriend, and though the best way to get over her, and look cool at the same time, would be to spend a few months in Africa digging wells or something like that. I opened the phonebook, called the first church that used the word "missionary" in their ad, and made an appointment that very day to come down and talk about becoming a missionary.

I naively thought that you just showed up, and said, "I am willing to go" and they just sent you off somewhere, but the pastor had a lot of questions for me. First he wanted to know how long I had been a Christian. I didn't understand what he meant, I had been a (non practicing) Catholic all my life. Did me mean to ask me how old I was? I explained that I was baptized as a baby. So he asked me specifically when I had been born again. He may as well have been talking another language. Born again? What?

So because of my confusion, he asked straight up if I knew whether I was going to go to hell or not when I die. I said I sure hoped not. He said I could know for sure - that the bible tells you whether or not you will wind up in hell. I was a little put off by that because it seemed quite arrogant. The idea that you could "know" how God was going to judge you seemed to me to be the most presumptuous thing on earth.

I have wrote of my conversion before, so bear with me if this old hat...

Well, because he had said something about the bible, I allowed him to continue, and opening the scriptures to the third chapter of the book of Romans, the pastor began to systematically prove from scripture that everyone is a sinner, and in short order, I was quite convinced that I was guilty before God on account of my sin. The pastor then showed me that the judgment was already pronounced; that the wages of my sin was death, not merely the death of the body, but the "second" death - being cast into the lake of fire.

I think this was the first time in my life that my own mortality meant anything to me.

I mean, I had been careful not to die - I mean, we all work to preserve our own lives, and not only the life itself, but the quality of it - but in that moment when I realized that I was one breath away from God's judgment - in that moment I suddenly was aware how very mortal I was.

Not to dwell on my conversion, but the pastor then shared the true gospel with me, and I surrendered the entirety of my life to Christ in His office, and thereby was reconciled to the very God that moments ago I hated with all my being for condemning me on account of my sin. At the time I had no idea how love suddenly overwhelmed me so that I was willing to turn from my sin even at the cost of every earthly pleasure, and submit myself to God's just rule - but I was overcome in a heartbeat and in that same heartbeat, I repented, I believed, and I stood up justified.

There is something that happens in your thinking whenever your own death becomes a suddenly real possibility. Many an unbeliever, like my former self, has come to his senses by being suddenly waked from their dough-headed slumber, to take not only this life, but the afterlife seriously.

It is one thing, then, when an unbeliever stares down the barrel of his or her own mortality - to turn to God; but quite another when a believer suddenly finds themselves near death and realizes that their profession of faith isn't giving them any comfort as death draws near.

I write for you believers out there. If you had a week to live, would you be praying and asking God to please, please, please, give you more time? What if you were dying slowly, and in great discomfort? Would you be begging God for comfort, and healing? What then when your discomfort increases? Do your prayers make you feel like God is far away or near?

Most of us have a picture of our own passing that is preciously ideal. There we are on our deathbed, tired of living, ready to go, and more or less waiting for death to suddenly take us. Perhaps we are surrounded by loved ones, perhaps we picture ourselves saying something awesome just before we go - you know, like, "I see my Lord!" then Plop! we keel over.

Few of us imagine ourselves dying over the course of months of increasing discomfort. Few of us imagine that this is going to be the greatest challenge to our faith that we will likely face in this life. How will I respond to God when I cry out to Him in my distress and nothing happens? When my prayers for deliverence from death bounce off the ceiling. When I am satisfied to die, but my life lingers painfully on. Where is my God when I am suffering the last fight of faith?

You see, your typical genuine, but sadly shallow, Sunday morning faith isn't ready for that. Believe me, there are believers who come to the end of their life unprepared, who lack assurance to begin with, and disintigrate when they find themselves suffering - believing that God has abandoned them in their hour of need - because all they want is to get well, they don't want to go home. Or maybe they want to go home, but they are made to tarry here and suffer.

If God is not your *real* comfort today, you are going to be hard pressed to find that comfort when your every thought is monofocused on the ending of your life. I am writing to you believers who somehow manage to get through every day without prayer, without a real certainty that God is not only with you, but for you. Work at that relationship today, so that you are not scrambling to piece it together when you need it most. It doesn't have to be your own demise - it can be some other great suffering.

It is like the parable of the virgins and the lamps. You have an opportunity that diminishes each day that you fail to take advantage of it. Today if you begin to invest your time in the Lord, you will be thankful tomorrow - but if you put it off, and put it off, you will remain shallow, and when your need comes upon you, you will find yourself abysmally unprepared.

Consider therefore your own mortality, consider that you will face not only death one day, but profound temptation to despair; I don't believe that the time before you leave this earth is going to be a time you want to feel utterly alone.

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posted by Daniel @ 1:16 PM   1 comment(s)
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
WD7500BPVT and the Macbook Pro 13 (7.1)
I spent some time the other day upgrading my 13" Macbook pro at home. I had previously bumped up the RAM to 8 GB, and this time around I determined to upgrade the 250 GB HDD to what is supposed to be the largest 9.5 mm (height) SATA drive that can fit (comfortably) in a 13" Macbook Pro: a 750 GB Western Digital HDD (WD7500BPVT).

Several things complicated this particular upgrade, the most major being that it didn't fit snuggly, but I will get to that later.

I had ordered a drive enclosure, which was delivered separately from the drive itself. For those who aren't familiar with the term "drive enclosure" it is basically a case that you put around an old hard drive so that you can use it as an external (USB) HDD. If you have a drive enclosure when you begin the upgrade, you can simply put the old drive into the enclosure, put the new drive into the system, and boot up from the old drive (holding the "alt/option" key when you boot to bring up the alternate boot options). In this way you boot to your old drive, then set up the new drive, and copy everything over using disk utility.

Not having the enclosure meant I had to make a bootable image of my current drive - which I did. I saved the image to one of my back-up external HDDs (I have two). Likewise, using a tool called WinClone, I saved an image of my Windows 7 Partition on the same external HDD. That added several hours to the project that I could have avoided if I had the drive enclosure.

Well, I don't want to bore you with the details, it is enough to say that once I had the image of my current OS X Partition created as a bootable image on my external HDD, I removed the old 250GB drive, and installed the new 750 GB drive. That went pretty easy, so I booted the computer up, having my external drive connected via firewire, and holding the "alt/option" key I brought up the boot options screen, and booted from the image on my external HDD. I then ran "Disk Utility" and (at first) set up two partitions on the new drive, one for OS X the other for Windows 7. I knew however that this particular drive was an Advanced Format Drive, which meant that there was a possibility that Disk Utility wouldn't set up the allocation table in an optimized way - I wasn't sure. Also, because I was using a cloning tool, and restoring the image, I was concerned that there might be some flim-shaw there I would have to worry about.

So I set up the two partitions, and attempted to restore the Windows image - but as it turns out the tool (WinClone) wouldn't let me restore the image onto the partition I prepared because I was running OS X from an external HDD. So I restored the OS X image first, and rebooted.

So far all was well - yet I remembered the last time I played around with the partitions (I wanted to increase the Windows partition at the expense of the OS X partition), I had to use BootCamp to do it "proper" - at least that is what the stuff I was reading at the time said, and so once I booted to the new drive, I deleted the previously made "Windows" partition (using Disk Utility) and then expanded the OS X partition to use the whole drive. Then I closed Disk Utility and opened up BootCamp, and set up the windows partition from within BootCamp. Then I fired up WinClone, and using the image saved on the external HDD, I recreated my Windows install into the new Partition. That worked fine.

Then I disconnected the external HDD, and booted up, holding the alt/option key to be sure I could see the Windows partition - it saw it and I booted into Windows. Well, not quite. Rather because the file allocation table was now using 4K sectors instead of 512 Byte sectors for it's block size, and again, because the last time the image was used it reported a drive size that was much smaller than the current drive, I was immediately thrown into a serious three-part check disk session. That took over an hour, but when it was done, I could boot into Windows 7 fine.

I mentioned before that because I was restoring a cloned image onto a new partition, there might have been some misalignment with the advanced format on the drive - so I downloaded a tool from Western Digital which was supposed to align the misaligned sectors if there were any - and apparently there weren't.

Everything appeared to be over until I picked up the macbook and was surprised by a little clunky sound.


We have these laptops at my work that when you grab them from the middle, you can feel them flex in your grip - it is a little unsettling. My Macbook Pro however, is solid. SOLID. So when I heard this little clunk I was confused. Did that come from my Macbook, ...MY Macbook? After a moment or two of experimentally manhandling my MBP, I realized that it was the internal HDD I had just installed.

There is a screw down piece that (supposedly) secures the internal HDD, and my assumption was that I must not have secured that tightly enough, so, with some discontent, I opened the back again and looked. Sure enough, the drive wasn't snug - but not because I had failed to do anything, rather the drive itself was just physically a wee bit smaller than the one it replaced, so that the friction which held the previous drive in place could not do the same for this new drive.

I felt like I was in a Greek tragedy at that point. How could it be that his drive, this wonderfully "bigger" drive (750 GB vs 250 GB) was in fact smaller physically, and why was there no way to adjust the thing that held the drive in place so that this drive would be held tightly? the last thing I want in a portable computer is to have the HDD clanking around inside - even if it is only a few millimetres?

I thought about putting a shim in - perhaps a piece of cardboard? Ew! Like I want to put a folded up chunk of paper in my Macbook Pro? What if it comes loose? A metal shim? Pfft. Worse. Then I remembered that I had some spare rubber shims in my bike bag. They were left over from when I bought a new headlight to mount on my handlebars - that is, if your handlebars were too skinny, you could use these high quality rubber shims to make up the difference. At this point, I wish my wife could have been there to see, because she always pokes fun at my being something of a pack rat. I would surely have said, "Ha! In your face woman!" or something like that. These shims worked perfectly - I mean seriously perfectly. I got the drive in snug, better than it was.

But then, in the moment of my triumph, a new tragedy. As I was putting the screws back on the back panel, smiling smugly to myself about how awesome it was that the rubber shims worked, I decided to use a teensy bit of threading tape on each of the ridiculously tiny screws. All was going well, until I dropped one - or rather it spun out of creation and into the void before my eyes could see where it got to.

I spent the next half hour with a rare earth magnet combing the floor and table for the thing, but it was gone. I had to choose which of the seven hard points I would leave open, and would have to find some aftermarket seller of tiny screws in order to replace it. How does a little screw like that just disappear??

Just as I resigned myself to the less than perfect end of my project, I picked up my macbook, and it seems the screw had, by way of the threading tape, somehow stuck to the case of my macbook pro, and suddenly decided to make itself known. There it was - so I threaded it up, and put it in.

All in all, I would not recommend doing the upgrade yourself if you aren't comfortable taking things apart, and using software tools to make things happen - and this especially if you are using bootcamp and have a Windows Partition.

The key "take away" for anyone upgrading their 13 MBP to a Western Digital Scorpio Blue 750 GB HDD - is be prepared for some clunking afterwards. I found that the drive is just a hair smaller than the one it replaces, and that unless you fabricate a shim (and I would -only- advise a high quality rubber shim) and pop it in, you better be able to live with the clunk, clunk of a drive that is just clanking around in there.


Well, as providence and the grace of God would allow, when my drive enclosure showed up, I found I couldn't isntall the old drive into the enclosure because there were these four fancy chrome screws sticking out the sides of the drive...

Suddenly I felt really stupid.

Well, you know what happened next, right? I opened up my MBP and sure enough, in my haste I totally failed to notice that even though the drive wasn't screwed down by these screws, the screws themselves were sorta like pegs when screwed in, and fit into little holes that I totally missed in my mad dash to re-use old rubber...

So I put it in sans rubber shims, and it is all snug now.

The only problems I have run into are the fact that the drive has its own motion sensors which conflict with the Macbook's sensors (had to disable them), and because of the way the Macbook likes to control when the drive sleeps, I had to run an after market utility to set the advanced power management on the drive so that the drive wasn't being put to sleep every couple of seconds and generating needless load cycles - but that's another story.

All in all, it works fine after the tweaks.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:45 AM   6 comment(s)
Thursday, November 04, 2010
What is expected of a member in a local, Christian congregation?
I don't think church covenants are biblical. That's not all that fascinating. I doubt anyone would argue that a church covenant is biblical. I think some folks like church covenants because they are so practical when it comes to pointing at something and saying, "See! This is what you signed your name to when you became a member!"

I mean, don't get me wrong, I like pacts as much as the next guy, but I think I would rather appeal to God's spirit and church discipline than to a signed contract both when it comes to discipline, and when it comes to encouraging someone to go deeper in their walk with Christ.

Again, I think it is very good --nay, imperative to have clearly defined expectations of what membership means when someone is considering joining a local congregation. I just don't think it should be a pact - since that inevitably will end up in someone making an appeal to a page you signed rather than to God and your sin.

I don't think a list of expectations has to be overly formal, but it should be clear and well explained from scripture. Truly, you could summarize such a list in a single sentence: "We expect you to conduct yourself according to the commands of scripture" - the trouble is a lot of Christians don't know the scriptures, and as such couldn't articulate off the top of their head, such notions as I am about to articulate off the top of my head.

I think a list of expectations of membership in a localized Christian congregation should begin with the expectation that a person is actually a Christian.

You could write something like this:

Above all else, members of the local body (congregation) of Christ are expected to be genuine Christians.

Then flesh it out thus:

According to the scriptures it is God's breath that has imparted life to each and every one of us. God breathed into Adam and Adam became a living being (cf. Genesis 2:7), and if God gathered to Himself this same breath by which we have our own lives, all flesh would perish together (cf. Job 14-15). When Adam disobeyed God, that act of disobedience brought into being a separation between God (the source and sustainer of our life) and mankind. The bible describes this as Adam's sin bringing death into the world (cf. Romans 5:12). Furthermore, God cursed all of creation in the wake of Adam's disobedience (cf. Genesis 3:14-19).

We are, by the nature of our existence, obligated to obey our Creator who, by His own grace and mercy, sustains our daily lives. Yet every person condemns themselves when they begin to obey their own will and (in enmity against God) reject God's rule over them (cf. Romans 5:18, 8:7).

To be sure, the scriptures teach that one significant effect of our having become estranged from God in this way is that no one by themselves will ever want (or can ever secure) reconciliation with God (c.f Romans 3:10-12).

In order for a sinner to seek reconciliation (and thereby salvation), the scriptures tell us that God Himself must draw the sinner into it (cf. John 6:44,65). The sinner is by no means the instigator of this salvation, but Christ (in response to the will of God the Father) initiates faith in each and every believer (cf. Hebrews 12:2).

Scripture teaches that before the foundation of the world God chose or determined (elected/predestined) exactly who He was going to extend mercy to, and that He likewise determined to bring a just judgment on those whom He did not determine to show mercy upon (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Romans 9:15,18).

Scripture teaches that the grace that God extends to those whom He justifies is not something God is obligated to provide, lest it no longer be grace, but a wage that must be paid (cf. Romans 11:6). When God's extends grace to one sinner, that does not obligate God to extend the same grace to all sinners.

Even though no person can seek God unless God Himself has already chosen that person, this does not make God culpable in commanding all of mankind to do what no individual is able to do (repent and believe the gospel). The scriptures teach that no person is able to keep -any- of God's commands; in fact the scriptures plainly state that the purpose of God's command is to teach us the truth about ourselves - that we are sinful to the core, and in need of a Savior.

Given that no person on earth is able to repent in and of themselves, God must (and does) grant (as a gift of His grace) this ability to those whom He draws to His Son.

Thus a Christian is a sinner in whom God produces a desire contrary to the world, a desire that eventually drives the sinner to surrender the rule of their life over to God (i.e. repent), and who abandons their own righteousness, having instead believed the good news concerning salvation - that God has provided a way for sinners to be reconciled to Himself by exercising faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, whereby those sinners who repent and believe are baptized into Christ who becomes their sin, and is put to death by God for the same sin, which upon Christ's death satisfied God's wrath that was directed at those sinful believers who were united together with Christ by faith through their baptism into Christ, so that when Christ died, the debt of their sin was paid in full, and again, when Christ was raised, they were likewise raised with Him by reason of that same Spiritual union by which Christ was able to become their sin - in this way His life becomes the life of all who were in Him by faith.

We expect, therefore, members of the local congregation to have surrendered the rule of their life to God, and to have been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. While we do not expect everyone who has been reconciled to God through a repentant faith to articulate all aspects of their regeneration, we do expect every member to be able to articulate without confusion, the gospel by which they themselves entered into the Christ's kingdom.

I mean it doesn't have to be perfect, but it should make clear the fact that you're not a Christian if you haven't ever surrendered your life to God's rule and turned to Christ in faith to be saved from your sin. Who knows? Maybe expecting your members to be Christians is a little over the top for some, but I am picky that way.

Again, I would say the next thing you would expect from a member is that they understand that membership is not optional. It isn't that they have to join themselves to your congregation - but that if they are going to obey God at all, they -must- join themselves to a local congregation of believers.

So I would probably put in something like this:

All believers everywhere are expected to become a member of a local body;

I would then offer some explanation such as this:

The Author of Hebrews writes that members of a congregation are to obey their leaders and submit to them because these same leaders not only keep watch over the souls of the congregants but will have to give an account to God concerning how they have kept the flock (cf. Hebrews 13:17).

From this passage we conclude that merely gathering regularly with a body of believers does not (and cannot) constitute membership in that body. Membership in the body necessarily requires a would be congregant to submit himself or herself to the leadership of that body, who likewise accept the responsibility, and will answer to God for, the keeping of their souls.

Likewise from this same passage we conclude that a congregant should not be a member of more than one local body at any one time, since that would require there being more than one elder or group of elders taking spiritual responsibility for the soul of the congregant at the same time.

Furthermore we conclude from this portion of scripture that what God commands, God intends. That is, we conclude that it is God's intent for every believer be joined to a local congregation in order that each believer may either be recognized as a leader and enter into the ministry of keeping the souls of the congregation, or again recognized as a member who willingly and in obedience to scripture submits himself or herself to those same leaders whom God has appointed over them.

Finally we conclude from this passage that those who profess faith in Christ but who likewise refuse to become members of a local congregation, are not rejecting the ordinance of man, but the ordinance of God.

Having clarified that you need to be a Christian in order to be a member of a local congregation, and then again, that every legitimate Christian must (if they are to be obedient to the Lord) join themselves to a local congregation), I would begin to summarize what proper Christian conduct looks like, and present that conduct as an expectation of membership.

I might flesh that out too, you know with a heading like:

What the local congregation expects from every member

followed by a quick summary like this:

The local congregation expects every member to act in accord with the teachings of scripture in all matters and at all times. Yet specifically, as pertains to "church membership" the following items have been highlighted.

And then a grouped summary on various points like this:

1. Members of the local body of Christ are expected to conduct themselves in all aspects of their life, both in and out of the church, in a manner worthy of the calling to which they have been called.

In Ephesians 4:1-3 the Apostle Paul urges the believers at Ephesus, and through them, urges every believer everywhere, to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling to which God has called them. We are commanded to conduct ourselves with all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in patience and love, being eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Because God commands all believers everywhere to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling to which they were called, we must expect members of the local body, by extension, to do the same.

For this reason we expect every member of the local congregation to continually conduct himself or herself in humility. Humility, in this sense, does not mean that we regard ourselves with a self deprecating eye, rather it means that members of the congregation are expected to pursue in themselves a more perfect obedience to God's will; having (or working towards) a settled and uncompromising submission to God's clearly stated will.

Likewise, for this reason we expect every member of the local congregation to pursue (in all things): gentleness, patience, and a genuine love for the brethren, in order that the unity of the local body will emanate from a mutual submission to God's will.

I would probably have to say something about the expectation of a member respecting the authority of scripture:

2. Members of the local body of Christ are expected to submit to the authority of scripture on all matters pertaining both to individual and corporate Christian conduct.

In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he describes all scripture as inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness in order that believers may be adequately equipped for every good work. (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

From this passage we conclude that the whole of scripture is given by God to the church not only for instruction, but also for correcting errors in understanding of the things of God, and again for reproving transgressions against God. The local member is expected not only to [1] freely acknowledge the scriptures as the final authority on all matters of doctrine and conduct, but likewise to [2] resist the intrusion of any authority that contradicts the authority of scripture.

And something about the expectation that every member would maintain the purity of the gospel:

3. Members of the local body of Christ are expected to affirm the gospel of Jesus Christ and again to oppose and expose any and every attempt to corrupt that gospel in the local assembly.

Scripture teaches that false people will eventually join themselves to a congregation and by their actions destroy the unity of the congregation, and undermine/water down the truth of the gospel (cf. Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29).

Members are expected to recognize and oppose/correct/expose any teaching or teacher who teaches a version of the gospel that contradicts the gospel as found in scripture.

Oh, let's not forget the expectation that Christians actually grow:

4. Members of the local body of Christ are expected to pursue grow up into spiritual maturity, and provoke others to

In 2 Peter 3:18, The Apostle commands Christians to grow both grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. By extension, members are expected to obey this Apostolic command through regularly reading/studying of the scriptures, through prayer (both individual and corporate), and through submitting themselves to the clearly stated will of God in scripture.

It is God's will that:
[1] we be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4),
[2] we find out what His clearly stated will is (c.f Ephesians 5:17)
[3] we abstain from drunkenness (c.f. Ephesians 5:18)
[4] we be filled with the Holy Spirit (c.f. Ephesians 5:18)
[5] we be sanctified, abstaining from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
[6] we submit ourselves to those whom God has placed as authorities over us, both political (1 Peter 2:13) and spiritual (Hebrews 13:17, Peter 5:5, Ephesians 5:23-24)
[7] we confess our sins to one another (cf. James 5:16)
[8] we pray for one another (cf. James 5:16)
[9] we encourage in our walk and in our faith daily (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13)

And what of the expectations of good stewardship?

5. Members are expected to be faithful stewards of all that God has given to them, and also to support, whenever applicable, the work of the Spirit in the local congregation (by and through whatever variety of resources they find themselves in possession of).

Children: members are expected to diligently instruct their children in the Christian faith (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6), to discipline their children when they err (Proverbs 13:24).

Time: members are expected to make the most of the time they have on left on this earth in the service of their king, abounding in the work of the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58, Ephesians 5:16)

Wealth: Members are expected to honor the Lord with their wealth (cf. Proverbs 3:9)

Talents and Gifts: A talent is a skill you have developed through practice whether natural or affected, and a gift in this context is a spiritual endowment whereby you are motivated by the gifting you have received from the Holy Spirit on the day that you were baptized into Christ through faith. Whether a talent or a gift, we expect members to magnify God and bring glory to His name by employing both talents and gifts according to every opportunity and all our ability.

And you can't have elders in two congregations both answering to God for the same souls:

6. Members who are elders are expected to keep watch over the souls of the local congregation, knowing that they will eventually have to give God an account of their ministry. Likewise members of the local congregation are expected to submit themselves to the spiritual authority of those whom the Lord has set over the congregation for this purpose.

Let's not forget purity - how many people engage in impurity regularly - we potential members to know that this is not acceptable Christian conduct:

7. Members are expected to flee from all manner of sexual impurity

Members are expected to live free (and if applicable, to genuinely seek freedom) from all manner of sexual sin including, but not limited to: pornography, masturbation, premarital sexual activity (this includes everything from a kiss you wouldn't give your grandmother to copulation), extra-marital sexual activity, lust, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality.

Members are not to live in "common-law" relationships, which although accepted by our culture, are not acceptable to God given that they cohabiting with a sex partner who is not a spouse.

Sexual sin is an abomination, and members are expected to live in freedom from these sins.

We could go on, touching on church discipline, what is expected regarding submission to elders on spiritual matters, that as a member they a person is expected to minister with their gifting to the body they are joined to regularly, whether that means something formal, or informal, and maybe how we expect every member to be making war (and not peace) with the sin in their life etc.

The point is that a list of expectations is probably a good thing. You can even have a prospective member sign some form that says they have read what is expected of them and agree that what is expected is biblical, but I would personally stop short of turning such a thing into a signed commitment (read: pact/contract/covenant) because I believe that we have something better to appeal to than a signature on paper - and I think you know what I'm talkin' about.

I don't write this today arbitrarily either. My congregation is meeting tonight to discuss these things and I want my head on straight before I get there. Sometimes writing out my thoughts helps me to organize them. Should churches have church covenants, or is that just a carnal crutch? What should a covenant look like, or a statement of the expectations of membership? Is a statement of expectations all we need? How should we present whatever we present? Should it be a signed commitment (a covenant by any other name), or just as an informational summary of what is expected of every believer? Do we go beyond scripture on the grounds that we are being "orderly" or do we guard ourselves against pragmatism etc.?

My hope for our congregation, and yours if you are reading this and thinking about your own situation, is that whatever we do we do it for God's glory, and that whatever we do informs potential members of what is expected of them in the local congregation.

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posted by Daniel @ 1:51 PM   6 comment(s)
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Reformation Day Lesson is up...
I know, you prefer to refer to October 31st as all Hallow's eve, or 'Halloween', but it is also the day that Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door, and the reformation was ignited.

Following along with William Gurnall's the Christian in Complete Armor, this past Sunday's lesson was on answering the question of our spiritual posture when we are vexed by the enemies accusations over our sin - of the four answers Gurnall supplies, we discuss the second - which is to rehearse again the cause of our justification.

Thus this teaching deals primarily with the facts of our justification, examining the Old Testament shadow in the temple sacrifice, to the New Testament reality in our Lord Jesus, showing that it is by grace and mercy freely given and this as a gift, and not according to something we provoke in God, but rather something God provokes in us.

It is next to impossible to squeeze all that we could say about justification into a forty minute lesson, and that task is even more impossible when we are discussing our justification as it pertains to our spiritual posture when standing against the accusations of the enemy. Nevertheless, the study attempts to broach the impossible, as it were, and deal with the matter biblically and bluntly.

You can stream the audio from that study (October 31, 2010) straight to your computer right now by locating it in the right hand margin (in the "SermonDrop" widget under the heading "Adult Bible Study") and double clicking on the October 31 lesson, which (being presently the latest) should be the one on top.

Alternately, if you wish to download the audio file in MP3 format and listen to it when you are away from your computer, you can go to the Doulogos page on SermonDrop and download not only the latest lesson, but any one of (or all of) the past several lessons by clicking here.

These same lessons are available on my Church's web site (see: Faith Community Church of Winnipeg), but the bandwidth requirements on our host does not stream the audio, and that which can be downloaded there has been compressed to save space, which in turn degrades the sound quality somewhat. I am hosting the audio portion of my teaching on the sermondrop server because it allows me to stream the lessons in a widget on my blog - the fact that the sound quality is monumentally better is just a nice side effect.

If you do give the lesson a listen, feel free to comment on the contents in the comments.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:44 AM   2 comment(s)
Monday, November 01, 2010
Thoughts on Immortality and the Soul.
Plato reasoned (and I am grossly paraphrasing here) that every instance of a concept as found in our reality was merely an imperfect reflection of an ideal form of the actual concept. These "forms" were not only the ideal that was only imperfectly expressed (or recognized) in reality, but were in fact the "cause" of the expression. Thus Plato reasoned in the Phaedo that since the soul is living, it must participate in the "Form of Life", and as such the soul cannot ever die.

I start here because in my opinion Plato, more than any other ancient source, was able to aggregate and harmonize into one expression the various pagan concepts of immortality - and this in an articulate and rationally pleasing way. He began with a proposition - the soul is immortal, and supported that proposition with the rational that the soul was caused by the "form of life" and was therefore an expression of this ideal. That kind of reasoning seems nice and tidy when you apply it to other things and so we have an expression that allowed Plato to argue in favor of metempsychosis (reincarnation), since the soul was immortal, it stood to reason that reincarnation was "possible".

Those who are inclined to imagine that Christianity is just another religion that borrowed various elements from other, preexisting religions, have argued that the Christian concept of the soul is merely a hand-me-down pagan concept. Were that not enough, there are others who recognize that while most bible believing Christians would reject any sort of pagan influence in theory, their understanding of such things as immortality and the soul are in fact a patchwork of both biblical and pagan ideas that have never been separated in their thinking by any real study on the matter. That is, they believe what everyone else believes, not because they have studied the scriptures, but because they can't be bothered to challenge "common knowledge".

I am inclined to agree that there are probably a significant number of Christians, and I would guess these would be (sadly) the majority, whose understanding of such things as the soul and immortality are more influenced by pagan ideas than they are by scripture.

One of the songs of Solomon (not "the" song, but a Psalm, #127 to be exact) states that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. I believe that is true. Whatever I manage to offer up here today whether advice or wisdom is only going to benefit you, the reader, insofar as I stay close to the words of scripture. God help us to understand His word, and to apply it correctly to our lives.

As can be guessed from the word "mortal", the concept of mortality and immortality differ in that one describes life as it pertains to this present creation, and the other describes a life that will transcends this creation. To possess mortal life is to possess that tangible breath of life that is breathed into all living creatures in creation, but to possess immortal life is to posses a life that that will transcends this creation when the flesh dies.

Thus when the Apostle Paul writes to Timothy (see 1 Timothy 6), that Jesus Christ alone possesses immortality, we must stop and examine what that means. According to what I have just said, it means that No other person in creation possesses a life that will transcend this creation - that Christ is unique in this way.

It is pretty easy to go wildly astray at this point, given that there is plenty of room for ambiguous ways to interpret what I meant in saying that. Let me therefore, be precise in expounding the thought.

First let me explain what I don't mean when I say that, and I think I should start with what our Lord said in John 5:28-29. Here John writes the very words that fell from our Lord's mouth": "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." I presume this will be the same day that Christ returns - the day in which our souls and bodies are reunited (hence the resurrection). So when I say that no other person in creation possesses a life that will transcend creation - I do not mean to imply that because no one but Christ is immortal, that no one but Christ will be resurrected, since every person who has died will, according to Christ's own testimony, be resurrected. I mean only that no person other than Christ has immortality in and of himself. If we live, our life is dependant upon something other than our self. What Paul is saying is that Christ alone possesses (in and of Himself) immortality. If we live again, it is because something acts upon us from without, rather than from within. Our life is dependant, His life is independant.

That is what I think Paul is saying there, and that fits perfectly with what is said elsewhere concerning the life of Christ, and again within the context of the doxology from which the text was pulled.

That Christ alone possesses immortality is significant because if we are to partake of immortality, we must partake of Christ who alone possesses it.

Ezekiel described God as owning every soul, and in the same breath, describes every soul that sins as dying. This Ezekiel records in Ezekiel 18:4, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die." Looking into the context, we find that Ezekiel is talking about God's dealings with individuals in the here and now. That is important because if we fail to see that, we may infer from the passage something that isn't there in the text. Consider the flow of the passage: The argument Ezekiel is responding to is that God was punishing the (then) present citizens of Israel for the sins of their fathers and their father's fathers. That is, the (then) present generation was saying that they personally didn't deserve the punishment which God had hung over them, and that God was (in essence) "unjustly" punishing them for the sins of their ancestors> Ezekiel argues that they are guilty for their own sin, and that God is responding, not to the sins of their parents, but to the sins of that present generation. Thus the life or "soul" that Ezekiel speaks of here as being owned by God is, in the context, referring to the daily lives of those individuals in the (then) present generation.

To be sure, the "soul" here is simply the life that an individual possesses. Job describes this well in Job 34:14-15, "14"If He should determine to do so, If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust." - that is, we are all, those of us who are alive at any rate, in present possession of a life that is currently being sustained entirely by God. When we die, this "life" returns to God, and our flesh returns to dust. At the resurrection, life returns to our flesh, and inbetween death and resurrection our life, depending on whether it was in Christ or not, goes immediately into Christ's presence, or withers in Hades, but both remain there awaiting the resurrection and judgment (though those who are in Christ will not be condemned at this judgment, even though will have to give an account of themselves. Those who are not in Christ will likewise give an account of their lives, the former will be welcomed into the marriage supper of the lamb, and those who are not in Christ will be cast into the lake of fire).

In Genesis 2:16-17 16 the Lord God commanded Adam saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." Question: Did Adam die on that day or not?

Clearly Adam's physical life continued; yet the Apostle Paul writes in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans, that death entered the world through Adam's sin. Thus God's warning, or so Paul tells us, was not an empty threat: Adam did die that very day (if we understand what it means to die); but more than this the corruption of life that Adam's sin produced, remains in the world to this day.

When we speak of light, we speak of a thing that can be measured. It is visible, it is even tangible, on some levels - it has properties that can be measured. Darkness however is nothing, it has no substance, it has properties to measure, in fact it is just a consequence of "lightlessness". We use the word darkness to describe the absence of light.

In the same way, death is likewise nothing of itself, except that it describes what happens in the wake of life ever since Adam's sin corrupted life itself. The consequence of Adam's sin was that it corrupted the life that was already in creation, it separated man from the source of life (God). It isn't that Adam's sin brought something "tangible" into existence, because like darkness, death is nothing in and of itself, rather it that Adam's sin produced a separation between creation and the life that sustained it - a separation that we call "death". Adam's sin corrupted creation by introducing a disconnect between creator and creation; just as outer space is an airless vacuum, so also Adam's sin introduced a life vacuum so that all things that have life, perish.

We are right to ask therfore what it was that "died" on that day. Was it physical? Was it spiritual? Mythical? What?

Well, I think the answer is found in the gospel that Christ preached to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John's gospel. There our Lord instructed Nicodemus that he needed to be born from above. That is, Nicodemus had been born into a physical life, but that physical life could not carry him beyond the grave - if Nicodemus wanted to survive the grave he needed to be born once more, but not in the same manner as the first birth.

Stop and think for a second. Before you were born, did you possess a life? No. You didn't. You began to possess life at the moment you were conceived; prior to the moment of conception you did not exist in this creation.

When Jesus speaks about being born in a completely new way, He is not speaking about having this present life (that will perish) simply be fortified so that it continues beyond the grave. Jesus was talking about coming our into a new life that exists apart from the one we are presently living. For the scripture describes sinners as "dead" in their tresspasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1) - our physical life is manifest, yet we are described as already "dead" by the Apostle.

If sinners, though physically alive are described as dead in their tresspasses and sins, what the Apostle Paul says about believers is all the more astounding for he teaches that believers have become partakers of Christ's life while they are still living in this present world in their current mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 4:10-11). This treasure (the life of Christ) is held by the believer in an earthen vessel i.e. in their own sinful flesh (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). We come into possession of the life of Christ as our own life through a spiritual immersion into Christ that is described in Romans 6:3 - a spiritual union that unites our mortal lives to Christ's immortal life; we become, as the Apostle Peter writes, partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world (2 Peter 1:4).

In order for our Lord Jesus and the Apostles to write about the new life (Christ's own life) that believers become partakers of, we must conclude that what Adam was cut off from, and what believers are reconciled to is one and the same source of life.

Don't miss that.

On account of Adam's sin a separation took place between the believer and the source of life itself. This separation was a spiritual and experiential separation - we died immediately in our spirit, and immediately began to experience the consequences of being separated from God in that we began to deteriorate and die.

We conclude that our life consists of at least two components - the physical and the spiritual. The physical dies during our sojourning here in creation, and the spiritual died in Adam already so that though we live, we are already dead in our tresspasses and sin.

Thus even a sinless babe is born separated from the life of Christ - not condemned on account of his or her own sin, as there is no sin in the babe yet, and God cannot condemn the child for Adam's sin, for that contradicts His own words whereby a man shall die for his own sins and not for his father's sins. The babe being sinless is not condemned for Adam's sin, nor condemned for his or her own sin (yet), but is separated from God so that if the babe should die he or she needs no Savior on account of his or her sin - but nevertheless requires a Redeemer to reconcile himself or herself to that life that they born separated from.

I believe that God, in His mercy, reconciles all children who die in their infancy to Himself - reconciling them to Himself even as Christ suggested in Luke 18:16 ("Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these"). They do not need to confess their sin, for they have none, nor are they condemned for Adam's sin for that violates the word of God, but they do need to be reconciled to God through Christ's life, for they are born spiritually dead just as the rest of us are.

We see this same kind of mercy unilaterally poured out on children in the wilderness where the children of the Israelites were not put to death for their parents sins on account of their being children. God had mercy unilaterally upon all the children up to a certain age. This is a demonstration of God's unchanging character, and I think it is consistent therefore to conclude that all children who perish in their infancy will go to be with God, and this reconciliation will take place through Christ as an act of mercy consistent with God's actions in the past.

In Job 14:1-2 we read, "Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers, he also flees like a shadow and does not remain." The thrust there is on the fleeting nature of man's life. It happens, then it is gone. This the psalmist agrees with when he says, "Thus He [God] remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return." Our life, our physical life, is fleeting. I don't think we need to study the scriptures to learn this - but we do need to study the scriptures to make sure we understand that much of what is said in scripture concerning our "soul" or "life" is actually directed at our physical life, and not directed at that which died when Adam sinned.

Our Lord Jesus, in speaking to the multitude spoke of the mortality of our souls in this sort of round about way, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." (John 6:53). The wise Jew would understand this to be a statement running parallel to the temple sacrificial offerings. A sinful Jew took a sin offering to the temple, and stopped in the gate to symbolically transfer his own sins unto the head of the animal by laying his hands on the beast and confessing his sins. The animal was then slain, and both the sinner and the priest ate of the sacrifice. Once the sacrifice was dead, the punishment was symbolically over, and by eating the flesh you were taking the propitiation itself into your body - God's wrath was spent in the killing of the animal who was "holding" your sins - and when you eat that flesh you took into yourself its propitiated flesh, and in doing so you were "united with" the that which had already satisfied God's wrath. Christ in describing the eating of His fleah, and drinking of His blood is aluding to the means of propitiation in language that while symbolic should have been understood by those who understood the symbolic meaning of the sacrifices.

What we note though in this verse is that Christ says they do not have that life in themselves - they (people who are not united to Christ by faith) lack the life of Christ, which alone is immortal.

In John 5:21, and again in John 10:27-28 Jesus spells it out for us, that He is the one who gives eternal life. Given this we presume that we do not presently possess an immortal life and will not possess one until He gives it. That life we know from other verses is in fact Christ's own life which we become partakers of through faith.

I may be overstating the point, but what I want to articulate is the fact that mortal man is not in possession of a self-sustaining, immortal life. The bible doesn't say that God gave Adam a living soul (c.f. Genesis 2:7), it says that God breathed life into Adam and Adam became a living soul (some translations "became a living being").

Thus when a person dies, the breath of life that they borrowed from God returns again to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and the body turns to dust. So long as the breath of life is in a man, he is a living soul, and when that breath leaves a man he is no longer a living soul. In Psalm 146:4 we read, of the death of a man in this way, "His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." - here what departs from the dying person is called his spirit. Note that here the scriptures say that the man's thoughts perish. Consider the girl in Luke 8 who died, and whom Christ subsequently revivified. We understand that when Christ said that she was not dead He was not suggesting that they had misdiagnosed her condition, rather His remark demonstrated His understanding of the reality that all people live to God (c.f. Luke 20:38).

Putting it all together, the life that we presently live is corrupted by the death that Adam brought into the world through sin, and spiritually speaking, we are born spiritually dead in tresspasses and sin so that unless we are united to Christ's immortal life through faith, we are spiritually dead already.

If scripture said nothing else on the matter, we would probably conclude that when you die you you lay dead in the grave until Christ returns, at which time everyone who ever died is resurrected, the just to their reward, and the unjust to their condemnation.

Yet our Lord Himself describes Lazarus and the rich man at whose table Lazarus begged, as both having died, and both experiencing a conscious afterlife. In Revelation 20:14, we are told that following the judgment, Hades will be cast into a lake of fire. When Christ describes the rich man as being in Hades, it seems to indicate that the example Christ is giving demands that there must be some conscious state in between death and the final judgment, since Hades has not yet been cast into the lake of fire in this example that Christ gives.

Paul is torn between competing desires in 2 Corinthians 5 - to die means to go immediately into Christ's presence, and to live means to continue on ministering here. Paul seemed convinced that when he died he would immediately enter into Christ's presence which would be "gain" (Philippians 1:21). The thief on the cross who repented and turned to Christ was told by our Lord, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." - suggesting that both He and the thief were off to Paradise immediately following their death here on earth.

There are several passages in scripture however which on the surface seem to paint our demise as a sort of end; the dead do not praise God (psalm 6:5), in death there is no rememberance of God (Ecclesiastes 9:5), etc. How do we reconcile these perspectives?

I think the answer is right there in the way I have worded the question: perspective.

From the perspective of men who continue to live after other men die - they see these corpses and conclude that the corpses do not praise God, are silent, as it were, and have no rememberance of God etc. They are correct of course - corpses do not do these things, but if the righteous go to paradise to await judgment day, and the unrighteous go to hades to await judgment day - and if on judgment day these people are resurrected, the just and the unjust, we understand that something of our life continues beyond the grave, either going to paradise or hades, there to dwell until judgment day when every righteous "soul" will be reunited with his or her earthly body, which itself will be redeemed and forever after incorruptible. The unjust will likewise be resurrected to the judgment, and condemned. Then will be the marriage supper of the Lamb, followed by a new heavens and a new earth, and the new Jerusalem descending etc. etc.

I think the summary of scripture is that those who have been joined by faith to the life of Christ will, upon physical death, immediately enter into Christ's presence, never to be separated from Christ. On judgment day these same will return with Christ to earth, and their former corpses shall rise from the grave to meet them in the sky, transforming as they go into redeemed and incorruptible bodies. Those who are in Christ on His return shall likewise rise up to meet Christ in the air, having their corrupt bodies likewise redeemed and transformed in the twinkling of an eye. I think that the angels will come just prior Christ's return to remove all that offends in the earth - bringing it to justice. If a just man and an unjust man are standing together, the unjust man will be taken away to judgment, and the just man left to be claimed by Christ who is coming. I could be wrong about the timing here, but that is how I see it in the scriptures.

Okay, time to wrap this up.

To summarize, Christ alone possesses immortality, the rest of us are dead in our tresspasses and sins. When we exercise justifying faith in Christ, we become united to Christ (and therefore partakers of His immortal life). It is this life, and this life (the life of Christ) alone that will survive to the new heavens and the new earth. Everyone who is a partaker of this life will likewise, on account of their union to Christ) survive to the new heavens and new earth - passing through the judgement in Christ even as Noah and his family passed through the judgment in their day.

Every person's consiousness will depart their body and go immediately into the Lord's presence upon their demise - from the innocent infant to the guilty sinner - all will go and reside either in Hades or in Paradies, awaiting the judgment to come.

On Judgment Day the angels clean out the rest of the sinners from earth, and those unjust who died outside of Christ before this day will be resurrected for judgment, and those who are alive on that day will be harvested by the angels for the judgment - and they will be condemned, and cast into the lake of fire.

On Judgment Day Christ Himself will return to earth, along with the life of all those who died in Christ, whose lives will be reunited with their former bodies which will be resurrected on that day as incorruptible - and those who are still upon the earth, will rise up to meet their Lord, and their sinful bodies will likewise be redeemed, changning to incorruptible bodies in the twinkling of the eye - and these shall be off to the judgment also to give account for themselves, but not to condemnation - they shall receive their rewards, then it is off to the marriage supper, then the new heavens, earth, and new Jerusalem.

The souls who were condemned will be in torment in hell - some argue that they live forever thus, some argue that at this point they death is eternal but they do not experience it eternally, etc. I will hold off on my opinion on that for now.

A soul therefore, depending on the context, is either the life we are living now, or that which retains our consciousness when we die and go to either Paradise or Hades.

I don't think that any person's life is immortal in and of itself, given that the scripture describes Christ alone as possessing immortality. Their physical life is fleeting, and the persistence of their consciousness depends entirely upon God from whom they borrow life itself.

I think that if we want to call that which transcends this life and progresses to either Hades or Paradise as "the soul" that's fine, but we need to be careful to distinguish that concept when the language in a particular passage is intended to describe not that which transcends this life, but that which describes this life.

Finally, immortality then describes a life that survives not only the physical life, but the final judgment.

I write all this not to wax on about immortality and souls, but to establish a few points which I can point to when I am counseling people who suffer from obessive compulsion disorders as they pertain to the notion of selling your soul to the devil.

Can you sell your soul to the devil?

No you can't because you don't own your soul - God does. That means that if the devil wants to purchase your soul, he can't purchase it from you, but would have to purchase it from God.

Of course that supposes that the devil (who doesn't even own his own soul) has some sort of currency by which to purchase your soul, and again, that God is actually selling souls - both of which are preposterously ridiculous notions, steeped entirely in superstition and error.

You can't sell what you don't own, and the devil can't buy it because he doesn't have any currency, and God is the one who would sell it, and God is not selling the life that He breathes into you.

Bottom line - you can't sell your soul, you can't lose your soul, you can't touch or see your soul - and even if you manage to convince yourself contrary to all that the scriptures teach, that there is some way to sell you soul - it wouldn't make one bit of difference - when you die, if you are in Christ you will pass through the judgment, and if you are not you will be condemned - regardless of whether you have been duped into believing you can sell your soul or not.

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posted by Daniel @ 2:43 PM   5 comment(s)
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