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Prophecy and preaching.

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Prophecy is when we hear God and share with others what we heard.It’s not a complicated definition. It only gets complicated when people don’t wanna define it that way. When they wanna claim prophecy is only for the very, very few (not every Christian, like Joel described Jl 2.28-29); that it’s a special office, and they’re one of the few officeholders, so heed them. Or when they wanna claim prophecy ended in bible times ’cause God has since turned off the miracles.Today I’m dealing with the second group, the cessationists. And if prophecy is when we share what we heard from God, but nobody hears God anymore… are there prophets anymore? Can there be prophets anymore?Some’ll say no. Which is a problematic belief. If there’s no such thing as prophets and prophecy, what’re we to do with all the verses in the scriptures where we’re encouraged to prophesy, 1Co 14.5 and discouraged from rejecting prophecy? 1Th 5.20 Do we set them aside, ’cause they no longer count in this dispensation?Other…

Love of God.

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Jesus was asked about the most important of God’s commands, and instead of picking just one (as the great Pharisee teacher Hillel did), he picked two.Mark 12.28-31 KWL28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion.Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees, he asked him, “Which command is first of all?”29 Jesus gave this answer: “First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One.30You must love your Lord God with all your heart, life, purpose, and might.’Dt 6.4-5Second is, ‘Love your neighbor like yourself.’Lv 19.18No command is higher than these.”So let’s talk about those commands. Because the Holy Spirit empowers us with the love necessary to obey ’em.Starting with love for the LORD God. The Spirit hasn’t granted us his fruit solely so we love other people. It’s also so we can love him. A fruity Christian loves God. Loves Jesus too, ’cause he’s God. Loves the Holy Spirit, ’cause he’s God.Fruitful people look forward to time spent with God. W…

And now, a word of prayer.

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WORD OF PRAYERwərd ə preɪərnoun. Prayer, usually meant to invoke God before a function.2. Small sermon, disguised as a prayer. Brace yourself.Right before we do something important—like take a meeting, drive someplace, eat lunch, get a really large tattoo on our back, or whatever—Christians frequently say, “Before we do that, let’s have a word of prayer.”By which they never mean one single word; it’s not literal. Neither is this gonna be a short prayer. “Words of prayer” tend to be mighty wordy.Why’s it called “a word of prayer” instead of simply “a prayer,” as in “Before we do that let’s pray”? My guess is it used to mean a short prayer, like saying grace before a meal, but over time it got longer and longer. Just like when your boss tells you, “Can I have a word?” and it’s never just a word. Maybe the intent was for it to be short—or to sound short, so you won’t dismiss it with, “Don’t have time; sorry.” The same is true about words of prayer: It’s supposed to be a brief invocation,…

Four main End Times theories.

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At some future point, Jesus will return.Mt 24.42, Ac 1.11, 1Th 4.16-17, 2Th 2.1, Rv 22.20 Not maybe, not we really hope he might: Will. It’s in the creeds; it’s considered orthodox Christianity. Any self-described Christian who claims Jesus isn’t coming back, or who describes his return as metaphorical or “spiritual” (by which they mean imaginary) is heretic. Sorry, heretics. He’s literally returning.But even though Christians are unanimous in our belief “from [heaven] he will come to judge the living and the dead,” we’re not universal as to how it’ll happen. Jesus didn’t give us specifics. He gave us apocalypses, images which represent what God’s up to, but aren’t meant to be taken literally. (Not that some Christians don’t try.) His Olivet Discourse—the bit in the synoptic gospels where he talks about the End Times—and his revelations to John in Revelation are full of such apocalypses. Jesus told us what the End is like, but not what it is. The details are not for us to know.Acts 1.…

Pentecost.

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I’m a Pentecostal… and weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never notice when Pentecost comes round. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little.Anyway, Pentecost is the last day of Eastertime, the day we Christians remember the start of the Christian church—the day the Holy Spirit gave power to Jesus’s followers. Like so.Acts 2.1-4 KWL1 When the 50th day after Passover drew near, all were together in one place.2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds,and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them,and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit.They began to speak in other tongues,in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability.4 The Jews who inhabited Jerusalem at the timewere devout men from every nation under heaven.5 When this sound came forth, the masses gathered, and were confused:Each one of them was hearing their own dialect spoken to them.6 They were astounded, and wond…

Christian perfectionism and “Be perfect.”

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Matthew 5.48.God doesn’t want us to sin. You knew that already. We’re meant to be good, to do the good works the Father spelled out for us, plus anything else which comes to mind.The scriptures constantly warn people against sin. It alienated the first humans from the LORD, which is why he had to boot ’em from paradise lest they live forever in their sin. It obligated the LORD to inform Moses and the Hebrews what he expected of them. It’s why the prophets warned Israel time and again: There are consequences for all this evil. It’s why Jesus died: Sinful humans killed him, and he let ’em because he knew his innocent death could plaster over humanity’s sins and restore our relationships with God.So we’re told by parents and pastors: Stop sinning! Start acting like God’s children, instead of devils who sin like they’re trying to piss him off. Be better. Be perfect, if possible—and it is possible, ’cause the Holy Spirit can make it so.In preaching against sin, Christians will trot out thi…

Compassion.

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The ancients didn’t believe we feel emotions with, and in, our hearts. That’d be the medievals.The ancients believed thought, logic, and wisdom emanated from the heart. Emotion came from the intestines. Despite the medievals reassigning it to the heart, the idea still managed to trickle down to our culture: People have a “gut reaction” or “visceral reaction” to various things, which means they’re reacting without thinking. It’s pure irrational emotion. And some of ’em have learned to trust their guts, ’cause they said bye-bye to logic long ago. But enough about them.Some gut reactions are good ones. Even fruitful ones. When we truly love others—love our fellow Christians, love our neighbors, love our enemies—when we see them suffering we’re gonna feel empathy towards them. We’re gonna take pity. We're gonna have compassion.You know, like Jesus does when he sees the needy. Here’s some examples from Matthew.Matthew 9.36 KWLSeeing the crowds, Jesus felt for them, because they were be…

Having clergy pray for you.

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One of my previous pastors was invited to a birthday party. So was I. So we’re all hanging out, chatting about something irrelevant; probably weather. And the lady of the house came out of the kitchen to tell everyone lunch was ready. So… “Pastor?”Yep. It might be her house, her daughter who was celebrating the birthday, her lunch which she had put together. But Pastor, even though he was a guest, was expected to ask God’s blessings over the food.Which he did, ’cause he knows how it works. It comes with the job.It’s one of the things clergy regularly experience. Bishops, pastors, chaplains, friars, nuns, ministers of every sort: People expect them to lead prayer. They don’t even ask; they just take it as a given. “Pastor?” That’s your cue to pray.I once had a pastor who grew tired of this, so he tried something which he thought was kinda clever: He turned to one of the other people in the room. Sometimes an elder in the church whom he knew could pray; sometimes one of the newbies or t…

Tribulation, great tribulation, and not-so-great tribulation.

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TRIBULATIONtri.bu.la.tionnoun. Great suffering.2. The cause of great suffering.3. An End Times period of suffering around the time of Jesus’s second coming.[Tribulational tri.bu.la.tion.aladjective.]Tribulation is an old-timey word which, to many people and Evangelicals in particular, has to do with the End Times. Hence writers find it useful: You wanna talk about suffering, but wanna make it sound like really awful suffering, as bad as suffering can be? You call it tribulation.Thing is, when “tribulation” comes up in the King James Version, it means any and every kind of suffering. Not just the worst-case-ever kind of suffering. I mean it is used to describe that, Mt 24.21 but it’s used for all the other kinds. ’Cause suffering is part of the world we live in.John 16.33 KJVThese things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.Life is suffering. But Jesus has conquered the world.So w…