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You say “faith,” but you mean religion.

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FAITHfeɪθnoun. Complete trust or confidence in someone/something.2. Religion: A system of beliefs and practices about God.3. A strongly-held belief or theory, maintained despite a lack of proof.4. A name Christians like to give their daughters. My niece, fr’instance.[Faithful 'feɪθ.fəladjective.]I bring up the definition of faith because today I’m addressing the second definition: A system of beliefs. A religion.A lot of Evangelicals in the United States have this idea that religion is a bad thing. It’s because they mixed up religion with dead religion, and they don’t practice that. They don’t go practice rituals they don’t believe in; they’re not just going through the motions. They have a real relationship with God. Which is why they’re so quick to tell everyone, “I have a relationship, not a religion.”Since they really don’t wanna use the word “religion” except to rebuke and mock it… how are they gonna describe their system of beliefs and practices? Simple: They’re gonna call i…

Love—as described in the Old Testament.

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When we Christians talk love, most of the time we refer to ἀγάπη/aghápi, the type of love Paul and Sosthenes defined in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s the love which God is. 1Jn 4.16Now aghápi is a Greek word, ’cause the New Testament was written in ancient Greek; duh. But way more of the bible consists of Old Testament, which is mostly written in ancient Hebrew. Hence when we Christians preach on love, we take our ideas and teachings from the NT… and for the most part skip anything the OT has to say on the subject.Which is problematic. See, there’s this persistent myth that God is love in the NT, but isn’t love in the OT; he was more wrath and anger and vengeance and flaring nostrils. 2Sa 22.9 The way too many Christians depict it, Jesus’s self-sacrifice sated his bloodlust, and now the Father loves us instead of wanting to crush us like cockroaches.Some preachers try to preach love from the OT, but not always well. Usually it’s with a bad word study: They crack open their Nave’s Topical Bib…

Praying for stupid things.

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I realize the title of this piece is gonna bug some people: “There’s no such thing as praying for stupid things! People can pray for anything and everything! People should pray for anything and everything! Stop discouraging Christians from prayer!” And so on.I don’t wanna discourage Christians from prayer. We should all pray, and we should all pray more; most of us honestly don’t pray enough.But yes there are stupid prayer requests. Come on.No I don’t mean praying for ordinary stuff, like for the traffic light to change, or for the spaghetti to not overboil, or for your basketball team to do their best. God’s cool with such prayers. They may seem small and petty and irrelevant to pagans, but only because they don’t care about the little things in our daily lives. God does.No; it’s more like when you’re praying for your basketball team, you happen to pray for the violent death of their rivals. Now we’re getting stupid.Stupid is a synonym for foolish. When we’re being stupid, we’re clea…

The faith statement. (And mine too.)

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Typically when Christians talk about what’s orthodox Christianity and what’s heresy, we usually mean what we consider orthodox and heretic. Not what Christianity as a whole considers orthodox and heretic. We don’t think about the whole; honestly, too many of us suspect most of our fellow Christians aren’t real Christians.But when you talk to individual Christians, we tend to not have all our Christian essentials, our “mere Christianity,” sorted out all that well. What’s the minimum requirements for Christianity?—well, for a lot of us it’s usually these.Gotta believe in Jesus: That he’s real, was literally born, literally died, literally rose from the dead, and is literally coming back—to do what, varies. And his teachings are important… though how well we literally follow himalso varies.Gotta believe in the trinity. Though whether we actually understand trinity well enough, also varies. (Too many Christians don’t really understand what the Holy Spirit does, so they’ve largely replaced…

What passes for love among Christians.

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In C.S. Lewis’s 1960 book The Four Loves, he wrote about four ancient Greek words which English-speakers consistently translate “love.” They aren’t the only four. I found a fifth when I was poking through my bible software’s Greek dictionary. I’ve found others since. But here’s that fifth love:ΞΕΝΊΑ (xenía) zɛ'ni.ɑnoun, fem. Welcoming attitude towards a guest; receptiveness, hospitality, love for strangers.2. A guestroom. Ac 28.23, Pm 1.22Ever heard the myth of Philemon and Bauçis? They were a old married couple, and one day two strangers visited their farm. They showed their guests such hospitality—such love—the strangers later rewarded them for it by rescuing them from a flood. Turned out the strangers were the gods Zeus and Hermes. The Greeks loved to tell this story as an example of how we need to be hospitable to everyone—for you might be entertaining gods unawares. Or as the author of Hebrews reworded it, angels. He 13.2 KJV In any event, this story is exactly why the people…

Did this coronavirus originate with God?

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As I write this in March 2020, the world is going through a pandemic of coronavirus, specifically COVID-19. We don’t have a vaccine yet—and plenty of fools will refuse it anyway once it’s developed and available—so meanwhile we’re largely under quarantine. I live in California, and people here are expected to stay home. It’s not illegal to leave home, and hopefully never comes to that… so long that people wisely stick to our leaders’ wishes instead of being defiantly libertarian. The thinking is if we all stay apart, the virus won’t spread, and we can spare some of the people who might be hit hardest by it. So for the most part we can only interact via internet, and can go out only for supplies—or if we have essential jobs. (I do, and have been working a lot of overtime.)And yeah, since I’m posting this on the internet, you knew this already. I’m explaining ’cause people may read this article years from now, and know nothing about it, or have forgotten most of it.Naturally people wann…

When two or three gather in Jesus’s name.

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Matthew 18.20.Matthew 18.20 KJVFor where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.We Christians quote this verse for all sorts of reasons.To point out the importance of group prayer: When two or three of us pray together, Jesus is there, so he must therefore hear our prayers. (Though getting him to answer “Yes” is another thing.)To point out the importance of small groups. Same reason: Two or three of us are together, so Jesus is there, and supposedly his presence blesses our meeting.To avoid church. “You don’t have to go to Sunday morning worship; you just have to gather with two or three fellow Christians and talk Jesus for a few minutes. That counts.” It doesn’t, but I’ll get to that.But in context it refers to church discipline.Matthew 18.15-20 KWL15“When your fellow Christian sins against you,take them aside and reprove them—just you and them alone.When they hear you, you’ve helped your fellow Christian.16When they don’t hear you: Take one or…

The Judean senate.

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The Judean senate. Something Americans need to be reminded of, from time to time: Ancient Israel was never a democracy.Originally it was a patriarchy, run by the male heads of the Hebrew families: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and their descendants. That is, till the Egyptians took over and enslaved ’em.Then the LORD rescued Israel’s descendants from Egypt. So Israel became a theocracy, where God and his commands ruled Israel… with Moses and the judges serving as the LORD’s deputies.Of course, since the judges weren’t proper kings, Israelis fell back on patriarchy, ruled as they pleased, didn’t obey God, and triggered the cycle time and again. Read Judges. It’s a mess.Then monarchy, the rule of kings. The people wanted the stability of human kings (such as it is), so the LORD gave ’em kings. In theory these kings were to function the same as judges, with the LORDreally in charge. In practice they ruled as they pleased, same as the patriarchs.Then foreign kings: The Babylonian empero…