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“It counts as church, right?”

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Though four out of five Americans identify ourselves as Christian, only one of these five actually go to church. Nope, not kidding. Yes, the polls indicate about half of all Americans are regular attendees. In part because people play mighty loose with what “regular” means: They think it means once a month or more. Once a month counts as “regular.” How often are Christians expected to participate in church? Well check out the standard expectations found in the scriptures: Luke 9.23 KJV And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Looks like the first Christians took Jesus’s “daily” idea and ran with it: Acts 2.46-47 KJV 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as shoul

The living word. Whom the apostles have seen.

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1 John 1.1-4. Just as John introduced his gospel by pointing to the Word who became human, Jn 1.1-5 he also introduced his first letter by pointing to the living Word again. The Word who’s with God and is God, Jn 1.1 the Word who created everything in the cosmos, Jn 1.3 but specifically the Word who’s in the beginning. Jn 1.2 This is the person John proclaims, and writes about, to the recipients of his letter. Some have argued John’s really writing about the Father. After all, the Father’s there in the beginning. But John wrote this person is with the Father, 1Jn 1.2 so he’s clearly not the Father. He’s a different person. So… which other person was with the Father in the beginning? Well there’s the Holy Spirit… but nah, John’s writing about Christ Jesus. Yeah John doesn’t come right out and bluntly say he’s writing about Jesus. But did he really have to? Are we that dense? Well… maybe those of us who insist John’s writing about the Father. Everybody else, who isn’t

Scriptures for advent.

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Each advent season I focus on scriptures which are related to advent topics. Namely Jesus’s first coming, and his second. So expect to see some such articles… but if you can’t wait that long, here’s some stuff I’ve written already. Nativity stories. Word! Jn 1.1-5 Why identifying Jesus as “the word” was so profound to the first Christians. Recognizing and embracing the light of the world. Jn 1.1-13 The true light came into the world—and we get to see him. The word became human, and explains God. Jn 1.14-18 Getting a really good look at God through Jesus. One heck of a birth announcement. Lk 1.5-25 Gabriel’s announcement to the father of John the baptist. How Mary became Jesus’s mother. Lk 1.26-38 What sort of person God selected as his mother. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Lk 1.39-56 When Jesus’s mother and John’s mother both prophesied about his coming. The birth of John the baptist. Lk 1.57-80 And his father’s prophecy about just what sort of

Hanukkah.

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The Hebrew calendar doesn’t sync with the western calendar. That’s why its holidays tend to “move around”: They don’t really. Not like Easter, which is determined by the full moon, and therefore doesn’t sync with Passover like it oughta. In any event Hanukkah does fall on the same days every year: 25 Kislev to 2 Tevet. (And in 2021, this’d be sundown 28 November to sundown 6 December.) Christians sometimes ask me where Hanukkah is in the bible, so I point ’em to this verse: John 10.22 KJV And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. The “feast of the dedication” is Hanukkah. The word חֲנֻכָּה / khanukká (which gets transliterated all sorts of ways, and not just because of its extra-hard kh sound) means “dedication.” Other bible translations make it more obvious— John 10.22 NLT It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. —because their translators didn’t want you to miss it, where

Advent Sunday.

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Four Sundays before Christmas, the advent season begins with Advent Sunday. That’d be today, 28 November 2021. (Next year it’ll be 27 November. It moves.) The word advent comes from the Latin advenire /“come to [someplace].” Who’s coming to where? That’d be Jesus, formally coming to earth. We’re not talking about his frequent appearances here and there, but the formal appearances: Either the first time around, when he was born in the year 7 BC , which is what we celebrate with Christmas; or the second time around, in the future, to take possession of his kingdom. Historically this has been the time for Christians to get ready for his coming. Which we do for his first coming, by getting ready for Christmas. But Christians, Evangelicals in particular, forget it’s also about getting ready for his second coming. We might tell ourselves we oughta always be ready for that event—and we oughta!—but advent’s when we particularly pay attention to the idea. He’s coming back, y’kn

Thanksgiving Day.

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In the United States, we have a national day of thanksgiving on November’s fourth Thursday. Whom are we giving thanks to? Well, the act which establishes Thanksgiving Day as one of our national holidays, provides no instructions whatsoever on how we’re to observe it. Or whom we’re to thank. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the last Thursday in November in each year after the year 1941 be known as Thanksgiving Day, and is hereby made a legal public holiday to all intents and purposes and in the same manner as the 1st day of January, the 22d day of February, the 30th day of May, the 4th day of July, the first Monday of September, the 11th day of November, and Christmas Day are now made by law public holidays. —77th Congress, 6 October 1941 House Joint Resolution 41 The Senate amended it to read “fourth Thursday in November,” and President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law. So it’s a holiday

Read your bible!

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Just about every Christian teacher—myself included—tell Christians we gotta read our bibles. ’Cause we gotta. We live in a biblically-illiterate culture, folks. Heck, it’s darn near illiterate in general, because Americans simply don’t read. They read snippets; they read social media posts, or paragraphs, or really short articles, or devotionals whose daily reading intentionally takes up less than a page. Give them a long article to read, and about six paragraphs in, they’ll complain, “How long is this thing?” and quit. They’re not gonna read a novel, much less bible. So the bits they do know of bible are entirely out of context. They’re individual verses, quoted to prove a point in a sermon, or turned into a meme and posted on social media. They’re the memory verses we use to defend ourselves: “No I don’t give to beggars, because if you don’t work you shouldn’t eat. That’s biblical.” It is, but again, context. The bible references people know, are often a lot like tha

Thanksgiving. The prayer, not the day.

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In the United States, on November’s fourth Thursday, we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving. Today I’m not talking about the day itself though. I’m talking about the act. Americans don’t always remember there’s such a thing as an act of thanksgiving. Our fixation is usually on the food, football, maybe the parade, maybe the dog show. If you’re pagan, you seldom even think to thank God… or anyone. Instead you conjure up some feeling of gratitude. You have a nice life, a decent job, good health, some loved ones, and got some stuff you’ve always wanted. Or you don’t have these things, but you’re grateful for the few things you do have. Or you’re not grateful at all, and bitter… and in a few minutes, drunk. But this feeling of gratitude isn’t directed anywhere. Shouldn’t you be grateful to someone or something? Shouldn’t there be some being to thank? And that’s a question many a pagan never asks themselves. I know of one family who thanks one other. Civic idolaters m

The Lost Sheep and Lost Coin Story.

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Luke 15.1-10. Jesus loves sinners. Not just because he loves everybody without discrimination, because God is love, but because he knows the most effective way of getting a sinner to repent is by loving ’em. Show them grace, and they respond with gratitude. Unless of course they’re entitled jerks who think of course they deserve God’s kingdom… like we see in a lot of Christians nowadays, and like we see in the scriptures whenever Pharisees have a problem with Jesus being too liberal with people who deserve hate, scorn, and explusion. In the gospels, two groups tend to be singled out for Pharisee ire: The publicans , natives of the Galilee and Judea who worked for and with the occupying Romans, and were considered sellouts and traitors and unclean apostates ; and “sinners,” by which Pharisees meant irreligious people. For some reason people tend to naïvely assume everybody in ancient or medieval times was religious. Every Egyptian believed in the Egyptian gods, or eve

The gospel of Peter.

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It’s not really the gospel according to Simon Peter. There were rumors among ancient Christians that Peter wrote a gospel. Serapion of Antioch (191–211) mentioned when he visited a church in Rhossus, they were reading a Gospel of Peter —which he read, and didn’t find legitimate. Nope, it wasn’t actually by Peter; it’s Christian fanfiction which claimed to be from Peter. Probably composed in Serapion’s day, in the mid to late 100s. Eusebius Pamphili (260–339) said he heard of a Gospel of Peter , and that it was heretic and no real Christian saint taught from it. Origen of Alexandria (184–253) and Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393–457) mention and dismiss it. Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, 342–420) condemned it, but probably secondhand, ’cause he read Eusebius, not the gospel itself. That’s about it. Yeah, Evangelicals popularly teach the Gospel of Mark is really the gospel of Peter,’cause tradition has it John Mark was Peter’s disciple. Or, in some traditions, his son. S

Earthly sovereignty, and God’s sovereignty.

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As I wrote in my article on God’s sovereignty, humans have some messed-up ideas about how it, and God, works. Largely because we confuse human sovereignty with divine sovereignty, and think God acts like we would act, were we sovereign. Jean Calvin (1509–64), who came up with various beliefs about how salvation works which we nowadays call Calvinism, was a medieval theologian from France. If you know European history, you know France for the longest time was an absolute monarchy , in which the French king ran his nation like a dictatorship. His rule was absolute. He wasn’t bound by law, because he made the laws and could unmake them at will. He wasn’t held in check by any parliament or court. He answered to no emperor. He didn’t answer to the pope either; if he didn’t like the pope he’d just get rid of the current one and appoint a new one. I’m not kidding; French kings actually did this more than once. “ L’état, c’est moi” /“The state; it’s me” was how Louis 14 (1643–1715) p