Sunday, June 25, 2006


Two Weeks. 3000 Push-ups or Sit-ups. 12 Verses Memorized.

The Passage: Romans 8:28-39

I am so excited about all the people who signed on to the challenge. I intend to post some reflections on the verse of each day, as we go through this, as well as reflections about the physical difficulties and soreness that we will be experiencing. I am believing that God will show us some great things over this next couple weeks. Spiritually, intellectually, and physically, we will be challenged. As we meditate on this passage, I am confident that God will speak to each of us in powerful ways - that we will be greatly encouraged. I pray that this next two weeks will prove to be just the start of a consistent lifestyle. I pray that as we recognize who we are in Christ, that we will live that out and experience supernatural growth.

For those of you who are taking part in this challenge, I encourage you to come back to this blog regularly to read some reflections. Also, feel free to comment. Part of this passage is pretty difficult to understand, so I hope and pray that we will do some real intellectual wrestling with the text, and that through this God will give us wisdom.

Let us encourage one another and hold one another accountable - spurring each other on. I believe as we grow together that we will become more deeply united in love and faith - that God will bless our fellowship as we continue to seek His face.


Blogger Dan said...

Day One

Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

This is great news, my friends. God is working everything out according to His glory for the good of those who love Him. Somehow, someway, even in the midst of all the suffering and injustice in the world, we have this promise and this hope which we can stand on by faith. Everything that is going on in your life - whether it is good or bad - God is using it for His glory and for our good.

Sometimes, I don't understand how this works. But we have to remember that we see a poor reflection - as in a mirror - but God sees the entire picture - from the most minute of details to the past, present, and future. From sub-atomic physics to galaxies, from global conflicts between governments to individual people and their families, God is Sovereign. He is in control, and He is working everything out according to His Sovereign plan. We can take great rest and comfort in the truth that God cares for us - and that very deeply.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Day Two

Romans 8:29 - "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

This is a verse that I do not completely understand. What is the difference between foreknowledge and predestination?

Whatever else it may mean, for us who believe, God certainly knew all of our days before one of them came into being. And He has predestined us. We have a destiny to fulfill that God has had for us from before the creation of the world. We are precious in His sight. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

"... that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

I believe that Christ is the "firstborn" and that we who believe in Christ are the "many brothers."

Through Christ, by His sacrifice on the cross, the way has been made available for us poor sinners to come to God. He is our peace, our righteousness, our redeemer, the lover of our souls. He is not ashamed to call us, who believe, brothers. He has blessed us, forgiven us, saved us, and cleansed us.

We, who believe, have been predestined. We are not orphans; we are sons. Let us live out our destiny today.

I don't know about you guys, but I am feeling sore today. Let's keep pressing on!

8:42 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Day Three

I think either this day or the next day or possibly the fifth day will be the toughest. After that, I think we will notice that we have gotten over the hump. Today will be hard. In a couple days, it should get a little bit easier. At least, that has been my experience in the past, and that is what I am holding on to now, because yesterday was hard. I am not really looking forward to push-ups today. But this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we separate the men from the boys, and the disciplined ladies of virtue from the girly-girls. ;)

Romans 8:30 - "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."

Now, I have some theological questions about this, because somewhere - I believe in the gospels, Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen." I think that was in reference to the parable of the wedding feast.

... (reading parable - Matthew 22:1-14) ...

Okay, so, in the parable, it says, "Many are invited, but few are chosen."

Still, this passage can lead to some interesting theological discussions. I encourage you all to think about it and talk about it, but remember to be patient and kind with one another, and to ask God to reveal truth to all of us. Without God's Spirit illuminating the Scriptures to us, we will misinterpret it to our own destruction. We are dependent on God for revelation and for illumination.

So, having said that, Romans 8 seems to indicate that those who are predestined are called, justified, and glorified. The contrapositive of these statements would be, "Those he has not glorified, he has not justified; those he has not justified, he has not called; those he has not called, he has not predestined." For those who might not have studied logic, the contrapositive asserts the same thing as the original statement - from a logical perspective; sometimes the poetry could be lost, or a different poetic and rhetorical theme might be emphasized, but from a strictly logic point of view, a statement and its contrapositive assert the same thing. Having said that, the Bible is also a very poetic book. God uses poetry to communicate to us His word. So, even though the contrapositive says the same thing as its original statement, I am not sure that it is a good practice to take all the contrapositives of all the assertions of the Bible. Some poetic meaning might be twisted by doing so.

The big point of all this is that we who believe are precious to God. He has predestined us, called us, justified us, and glorified us.

Think about the way that God called you. I encourage you all to share that story with us and with other people. I know that since my childhood, I have had a strong sense of God's calling on my life. I remember when I was about 6 years old, (back during my ice hockey days), my Dad would take me skating on a pond in Marlboro, MA during the winter, and we would do stick handling for hours. Some days, the wind would be howling, and my Dad and I would skate as fast as we could with the wind, and then just spread our arms out and let the wind take us. I remember, to this day, thinking and saying to my Dad, "You know what the wind howling is? That's God's whistle." My dad laughed. All through my life, I have had this incredibly strong calling.

I remember another time, way before I ever got saved, I was in elementary school, and I was sleeping over my friend's house (remember sleep overs). Well, my friend was Jewish. I remember asking him about what he believed about Jesus, and when he told me that he didn't believe, something inside of me thought, "How can you not believe?" I actually witnessed to this kid, and told him that he needed Jesus. He wasn't too receptive to that. But this was way before I got saved. I just knew, even though I hadn't given my heart to God, that rejecting Jesus was the wrong thing to do, and so I testified to my friend - Joel. Say a prayer for him, if you think to. I haven't heard from him since elementary school, and I haven't thought of him for years, until this moment.

I remember, the summer before I got saved, getting ready to go back to camp - Deerfoot Lodge - a Christian boys camp up in the Adirondacks of New York State. I had been there every year since I was 12. In 1994, I was heading back there for my fifth summer. Every year, going to this camp, I would have a ball - backpacking, canoeing, archery, swimming, playing with fire. I also remember how close I would come to accepting Christ every year, and wanting to accept Christ, but being afraid to commit.

As I was getting ready to back to this camp in '94, I was building up my defenses. I was not going to let God get through to me. I was not going to come back from camp a Jesus freak.

Yea... God had other plans.

I remember that Wednesday night in July of '94, during devotions with these guys at camp. One of the kids was talking about how "on-fire" he would get at camp, and then how during the school year, he would lose the fire. I remember sitting there, getting convicted. I knew I needed Jesus. And then, I spoke up and said that I could never accept a God that would condemn people from every other religion to hell.

Sinful Dan Hillman had spoken.

And then my counselor put it to me directly: "Do you want to join them?"

Sinful Dan Hillman shut up.

A few days later, on Sunday morning, I woke up and thought, "Today is the day." And then I waited all day. But that night, on a Sunday in July of 1994, I got by myself and prayed. I confessed my sins to God, and asked Jesus to come into my heart. I repented. I committed my heart and my life to Him.

That was not merely a human decision. I was predestined. That night was the night set a part by God from eternity. I had been called - since my childhood - God had a calling on my life. For years, I resisted it. A week before I accepted Christ, I had built up my defenses to resist the Holy Spirit. All to no avail. God had predestined me. God had called me. And when God predestines a person and calls a person, He will justify that person. And He will glorify him.

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

The word of God is amazing. What better verse is there to come after Romans 8:30?

6:14 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Day Four

Romans 8:31 - "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"

For believers, this verse is awesome. But for unbelievers, this verse is not your mail. Do not deceive yourself.

2 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?"

Jesus said that many would come to Him on that Day and say, "Lord, Lord!" And He will say, "Depart from me; I never knew you." So, not everyone who has said the Billy Graham prayer is really saved. Let no one be deceived.

But, for us who truly believe, we have been predestined, called, justified, and glorified. And yet, we are still being called, sanctified, and we will be glorified. The "already/not yet" aspect of our faith is a profound mystery, and I thank God for it.

So, for us who believe...

GOD is for us.
God IS for us.
God is FOR us.
God is for US.

Our God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, has sent His Son to die on the cross for us. He is the Alpha and Omega. The King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Holy One of Israel - the Lion of Judah - the Lamb of God. YAHWEH. Elohim. Savior. Messiah. I AM.

He is God - Holy, Righteous, Jealous, merciful, compassionate, and kind. He cares for you and me.

7:10 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Regarding this: "I spoke up and said that I could never accept a God that would condemn people from every other religion to hell.

Sinful Dan Hillman had spoken.

And then my counselor put it to me directly: "Do you want to join them?"

Sinful Dan Hillman shut up."

Ahhhh! It leaves me speechless. A child expresses such beautiful wisdom, only to be shot down, to be called a sinner, and to be threatened with eternal damnation for his wisdom-- even from his future self.

What a sad story. I guess I'm happy for you in the sense that, you seem to be happy with how it all turned out.

But what a horrid sentiment. A child expresses a very real concern, that many very wise people throughout history have had. That's not sinful-- that's just intelligent.

There are many good responses to that concern, of course. But I'll never understand the "shut up or you'll burn too".

Which is my problem which Christianity and Islam. It seems so often the God they worship is little more than a cosmic bully who threatens "Worship me, Adore Me, and Submit to My will-- or I will torture you forever". This concept of the christian god seems downright satanic.

It's so interesting that you, as a child, expressed that concern over Christianity. But asking "Do you want to join them?" is no reply-- no matter how frightening it may be to said children. For if there is a god who sends a good Gandhi to hell-- I should only hope to be aspire to the same fate, if that is the place alloted for those who will not serve an evil god but instead devote themselves to Truth and Justice.

(Obviously, I do not actually believe there is an evil god sending nonchristians to hell. I just believe any god who would torture good people would be an evil god)

5:35 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


My counselor had discernment. He recognized that I was throwing up a smokescreen - talking about all the people and all the ideas and religions, so that I would not have to talk about me - and what I was going to do about Jesus Christ.

A god who would send good people to hell would be wicked and evil. I would NEVER serve such an evil god - regardless of how powerful he was. I would fight him tooth and nail.

But that is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is holy, righteous, compassionate, merciful, and just. He does not send good people to hell. He sends evil people to hell.

I hope this clears things up for you.

6:47 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Woe to those who call evil, good; and good, evil.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Days Five and Six

I have fallen a little bit behind (only did 50 yesterday). But I feel much stronger now that I did the other day. It is 7:30 in the morning, and I have already done 100, and I don't even feel sore. I hope that you all are finding that you are turning a corner. If not, keep pressing on.

For those of you who do feel like things are getting easier, don't let up now. Keep up the intensity. Now, it is not so hard, but we still have to be consistent.

Romans 8:32-33 - "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies."

The church that I used to go to in Massachusetts - back after my initial salvation experience was this lively Pentecostal church. There was a lot of singing and dancing and shouting in that church. Initially, when I went there, I was a bit freaked out, but I saw that those people were sincere, and that singing and dancing and shouting are all Biblical ways of expressing worship to God.

But they had this refrain where our pastor would shout, "God is good!" And the congregation would shout back, "All the time!" And then we would get down in worship - Pentecostal style. Good times.

But that's what I think of when I think about these verses. Having been forgiven, saved, set free, so many Christians (myself included) often walk around with this whole, "I'm so unworthy attitude." "I'm so horrible. Let me go flagellate myself. I'm such a horrible person. I can't receive God's grace, because I'm so so so bad."

Now, it is true that, without Christ, we are bad people. Before coming to Christ, we were, by nature, objects of wrath. We were wretched pitiful sinners.

But in Christ (and ONLY in Christ), we are forgiven, cleansed, set free, justified.


Justification is the act of God declaring us righteous. Jesus Christ did not merely die a martyr's death. But, by dying on the cross for us, the just for the unjust, somehow, someway, in a mystery that I will never understand or comprehend, God - in His mercy, justice, and Sovereignty - declares wicked rebellious sinners righteous. I don't think I will ever understand this. This is the doctrine that sets apart Christianity from every other religion in the world. In every other religion, people have to work their way into "salvation." They have to do something. They have to earn something. Christianity asserts that there is nothing that we can ever do to make up for our sins. In fact, by thinking that your good deeds get you closer to God, God becomes incensed at the arrogance of your attitude. Our "good deeds" (done without Christ) all add up to filthy rags. There is nothing we can do about it. But then God reaches down and gives us His gift of righteousness. That when God sees us, He sees Christ in us, and He says, "They are righteous."

God is well pleased with His Son. He is well pleased with His obedience and perfection.

Jesus died on the cross for us - the just for the unjust - to bring us to God. It is that simple - and that profound.

Again, for those who are not in Christ, when you read the Bible, you are reading someone else's mail. I again challenge you. 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test."

But for those in the faith, celebration is in order! We have been justified! We are forgiven, cleansed, born-again, set free. So, drop the whole "I'm so unworthy attitude." The attitude is raining on the parade. Humbly acknowledge the truth about what God has spoken to you, and let's celebrate!

He's alive! We're forgiven! Hallelujah!

Here are the words of one of my favorite hymns. Think about these words. They say it all.

Nothing But the Blood

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.


8:12 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Days Seven and Eight

Romans 8:34-35 - "Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus - who died, more than that who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?"

It is so powerful to me that Christ is interceding for us. He knows us; he knows our weaknesses. He knows our struggles. And He does not despise us. He loves us and makes intercession on our behalf to the Father.

How great is the love of Christ! His love is our refuge and strength.

6:16 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Ahh-- so, just to clarify beyond all doubt:

When you say God does not send evil people to hell-- We we saying "God does not send non-christians to hell just for being non-christians" or are we saying "All Non-christians are evil"? :)


You say: "In every other religion, people have to work their way into 'salvation.' They have to do something."

But don't christians have to do something to merit salvation? Don't they have to believe, or "be good" or something? The problem of hell is a big one.

Some religions, for example, feel that EVERYONE will ultimately find salvation. In christianity, this doctrine is called Universalism-- it was quite popular in the early church and is doctrine in several American churches today. Sometimes hell is temporary, sometimes non-existant. Some believe we are in Hell right now.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


Orthodox Biblical Christianity asserts that people are sinful by nature from birth. We are sinners in nature and in practice - in word and in deed.

As such, we are by nature "objects of wrath." Our sin is offensive in the eyes of a holy God, and He is just in pouring out His wrath on us.

Those, who are saved, are saved by grace through faith. We don't earn our salvation by being good. We receive salvation by believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. It is not merely "head knowledge," for "even demons believe - and shudder." It is heart knowledge. "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10) "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves. It is the gift of gift of God, not by works - lest any one should boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:8-10)

So, you see, you don't do anything to become a child of God. You simply believe, but lest you believe that "believing" is a "little work" God says that faith is a gift of God.

"Yet to those who received him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, not of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1)

"In reply, Jesus declared, 'No man can see the Kingdom of God, unless He is born again.'" -John 3:3

Now, this doesn't mean that what we do does not matter. By no means. A bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. By your fruit, you shall recognize them. The point is this: Those who are saved by grace through faith will produce good fruit. But producing good fruit is not an attempt to earn salvation. Rather, it is the mark of the redeemed. Saved people produce good fruit. Unsaved people produce bad fruit. And just as thornbush can never produce apples, an unsaved person can never produce good fruit - regardless of how hard he tries.

He must be given a new nature. And that can only be done by God.

But if someone claims to be saved but produces no good fruit, that person ought to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. For many will stand before God on that day and say, "Lord, Lord! ...." And the Lord will say, "Depart from me; I never knew you!"

Know this: The commands of God merely expose the will of God - not what is possible for you to do. The idea is not to grit your teeth to fulfill the commands of God; that is futile. Rather, the point is to fall on your face and ask for grace, and humbly confess your need of a Savior. A broken and contrite heart, our God will not despise.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Days Nine, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve

Romans 8:36-39 "As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

After listing a bunch of bad things that many people go through in this life on earth, Paul declares on the authority of God that we, God's people, face not only those hard things - but death itself - all the day long. And why? For the sake of Christ.

In this life, we will struggle. We will go through hard times. We may be persecuted. We may become victims of famines or other disastors. We may be poor and needy. We may even have all of those things happen to us at once - like Job did.

But we face them. We face the suffering, the persecution, the disastors, the needs. We don't run. We don't sell out. We don't give up. We are not those kind of people. We are the kind of people who, through God's grace, confront our problems head on, and by God's grace, we are more than conquerers.

More than conquerers. We are not weak. We are not fearful. We are not anxious. God is for us; who can be against us? He has declared us to be - not merely conquerers, but more than conqerers.

Can you say that about your life? Can you honestly look at your life and say, "I'm more than a conquerer." Are you just trying to scrape by? Do you go paycheck to paycheck - just hanging on to a flimsy, artificial human hope that things might get better? Do you go disastor to disastor with a negative, defeatist mentality? Do you see yourself as powerful and effective; strong and brave; favored; confident; and loved? Do you see yourself as "more than a conquerer?"

If you do not see yourself as more than a conquerer, then there are two possibilities. One - you might not be a Christian. If you are not, I encourage you to come to Christ by faith through grace. Until you come to Christ, you are in no position - spiritually legally - to claim any of the promises of the Bible. As an unbeliever, your position is as an enemy of God, a sinner in nature and in practice. You are by nature an object of God's just wrath. If that is you, fly the coming wrath. Tomorrow is not promised to you.

But for those who are in Christ, if you do not see yourself as more than a conquerer, it is due to that old sinful nature. There are strongholds in your mind. You need to recognize that you are born again, and have a new nature. But that old nature is still there. Old natures often die slowly and hard. But you need to begin to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) You need to "take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5) God has spoken: You are more than a conquerer. Don't treat God with contempt by refusing to believe His word.

When I taught Physics a couple years ago, I often had students who would say about themselves, "Oh! I am so stupid! I'm such a loser!" I would often confront such an attitude by saying, "Hey! Stop saying that about my friend. You are more than a conquerer. If you don't believe that, then you are calling God a liar."

More than conquerers...

We often think so backwards. As Nelson Mandella has said (and I paraphrase), we think, "Who am I to be intelligent, beautiful, fabulous, outstanding?" We, who believe, ought to be saying, "Who am I NOT to be all of those things?" You are not your own. You were redeemed - bought with a price. As Christians, you have given up the right to think of yourself and to speak about yourself in ways that contradict what God has spoken.

When Christians think about themselves, "I rock; I am so cool" - that is pride, and that is a sin.

When Christians think about themselves, "I suck; I'm such a loser" - that also is pride, and that is a sin.

Now, I know this screws up people's thinking. They think that speaking lowly of themselves is humble. It is not. It is actually arrogance. It is defiance against God. By speaking lowly of yourself, you are speaking against God who has declared with authority and power that you are more than a conquerer.

A humble man is one who honestly trusts in Christ. Such a person will never be put to shame. He is not haughty. He doesn't think more highly of himself than he should. Neither does he rebel against God by thinking less of himself than what he should. He humbly acknowledges that which God has spoken about him. When he sins, he humbly confesses his sins, asks for forgiveness, and continues in the path of faith. Such a person may indeed go through all kinds of struggles and trials. He might not feel like he is more than a conquerer at times. But he does not shrink back in unbelief. He does not give himself an out - by hardening his heart and refusing to believe. He comes to God with empty hands of faith and He obediently strives to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

So, how do we do this? Do we grit our teeth and boldly declare, "I'm more than a conquerer!" Do we work and work and work to try to become more than conquerers? Do we trick ourselves psychologically?

What we do is this: We trust in God's love. We are with Paul - totally confident that nothing will separate us from the love of God. No problem is too big. No suffering too intense. No power too strong. We are loved by God, and by His love, we overcome.

We might suffer. We might face death all day long. But we will be victorious. For we are loved more deeply and more intensely than we can possibly imagine. And nothing will separate us from Him.

God be praised.

8:24 PM  

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