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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.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[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.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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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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Friday, March 04, 2011
Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. - Hebrews 3:13 [NASB]

The author of the book of Hebrews is talking about encouraging one another in the faith - in particular, encouraging one another to persevere in the faith.

When I think of encouragement, I sometimes picture a coach who pushes his team harder than they would have pushed themselves - and gets more from them than they would have given had they been left to their own devices. He provokes them to greater effort by interceding in those moments when they would settle for less than their very best. He pushes them out of the "comfort zone" and into that excruciating badland where only grit and determination can keep you moving forward. He encourages them be positively reinforcing the thought that they can do it if they just continue the course - if they just keep from giving up.

I can also picture the tender mother with the small child who is just learning how to speak. Here she is listening to the babe make a noise, there is the smile and squeals of joy, the mother imitates the child, and they go back and forth until the little one begins to imitate the mother - and what a show of smiles and hugs when the little one does! She is overwhelmed by the mother's outlandish show of love and support and so is provoked, even in her tender age, to pursue such adoration by making the noises that provoke it.

I can also imagine the father who has just watched his son strike out and lose the ball game. He sees his younger self in that boy who can't make it off the field fast enough - the tears welling up in his face as he is close enough now to look into Dad's eyes. This small "failure" eats the father's soul as easily as it devours the joy in the boy - and into this the father begins to apply words of comfort, as dressings on a wound. He reminds his son that it is the pitcher's job to strike out batter's and that several other boys have struck out today. He tells the son that he knows how it feels, and that the best thing for it is an ice cream - and isn't it hot out today anyway? "Don't let it get you down son," he says, "Don't let it beat you - you're better than that."

But I don't think any of these examples fits the picture of encouragement the author of Hebrews intends. This encouragement is not the encouragement to clench your teeth, put your head down, and just keep going when you feel like your a Christian failure. It is neither a doting and exaggerated celebration of every spiritually insignificant event we see in others, nor is it merely a timely empathy, and comforting words.

These sorts of things motivate us through our desires - through our emotions. They depend upon manipulating the essence of our fallen nature. Don't get me wrong, I -want- to be comforted when I fail, but such a desire is not a spiritual thing - it is a desire that rises straight out of my pride, and my demand to be loved and respected by everyone all the time. If I need to push past my comfort zone, I may well be motivated to do so with words that cater to the glory of my own success. Yes, -I- can do it; it won't be easy, but when I am done I can say I did something a lesser man would have given up on. The stroking of an ego can carry a person far beyond their comfort zone. Again, I love to hear how great I am - who doesn't? But that only reinforces that sinfully profound contentment we all have with our own bad selves.

No, I think the encouragement the author of Hebrews is talking about is not a worldly encouragement - not something that depends upon, and caters to our mortal frame. It isn't a message of persevere because you're so awesome, or persevere because you can do it, or persevere because we all fall off the horse and must get back on. The encouragement I think the author is talking about is an encouragement that only God can give.

Do you feel like your faith is crippled? Do you feel like you have been in a downward spiral in your faith? Are you burdened by the weight of your own indifference to obedience? You know you should obey all the time, and find yourself more disobedient than obedient - and the guilt of your failure is suffocating you? I want to offer you encouragement today, but it isn't the encouragement the world offers - in fact I am not even offering it to you, I am just telling you about it, and if you are encouraged, you will be encouraged by God. I don't say that to sound sappy or to come off as humble by painting myself as just a mere servant. I say that because Paul writes in Romans 15 that it is "God who gives perseverance and encouragement" to the saints. So what I am about to write, will encourage you only if God Himself gives you that encouragement by opening your heart to it. If you are encouraged to persevere therefore, understand who it was who was encouraging you - and marvel at it.

Here then is your encouragement. Right now, Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you (cf. Romans 8:34). Does that sound stale? Is it not encouraging enough? Hear then the conversation in heaven on your behalf:

Father - I know this one is failing. I know this one is losing confidence in Me - I know this one is spiraling down - a failure... but Father, look to what I have done for this one - this ransomed sinner -must- -not- -fall-. See my wounds? The name of this ransomed sinner is written on my palms - did you not give this one to me? Is this one not my bride? What you have made one, will you now allow that to be torn asunder? Forgive, strengthen, and preserve this one.

I don't pretend to know what the intercession of Christ looks like, or sounds like - but I do know what Christ has done for me, and what He has done all who are truly His. He will not let even one of us fall - His finished work on Calvary demands satisfaction.

Thus, our encouragement is not to persevere because if we do it'll be awesome. Our encouragement is that everything which burdens us now cannot hinder the finished work of Christ. It is the devil's work to burden you thus - and how he rejoices to see you stumble beneath it - but I tell you, Christ's work will. Not. Fail. No matter your emotions, no matter your burden - Christ will not fail you. When Paul writes to Timothy, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13) he means that even when our trust in God wanes, he remains faithful - that is, that his trustworthiness does not wax and wane according to our own trustworthiness - but remains unchanged, unshakable, even in the wake of our own "faith" failures.

Be encouraged then, that you serve a God who is faithful to you. Don't let yourself be only superficially comforted by the passing thought that God will sustain you because He is faithful: drink this truth into your soul. Think long hours about who God is. Don't let God remain a benign but vague notion in your thinking - meditate on God as often as you can. He is faithful. Meditate on the work Christ is doing daily (even moment by moment) on your behalf - talk to yourself about what it is Jesus has done, and is presently doing for you. Pray and thank God, pray and plead, pray and pray and pray - and if you aren't doing it already, read the bible as often as you can, for as long as you can.

The encouragement that comes from God is not a warm fuzzy feeling, it is the certainty of what He is doing and what He has done. We love Him, John writes, because He first loved us. We will never believe God's love if we constantly ignore it. Think about what God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are doing in your life. Don't stop thinking about it.
posted by Daniel @ 8:53 AM  
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