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Satan’s fall.

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Revelation 12. One of the popular myths about the devil is how Satan used to be an angel. Not that it pretends to be one, 2Co 11.14 but straight-up was one—the mightiest angel in the heavens, named Lucifer. Got deposed, but it used to be a big, big deal. I’ve challenged many a Christian to actually read their bibles and prove any of this theory from scripture. And I gotta give ’em credit; they do try. But they don’t succeed. It says nowhere in the scriptures Satan used to be an angel. Doesn’t even say Satan was a heavenly being; we just presume so because Satan appeared before God in Job , and we’re kinda assuming they were all in heaven, or thereabouts, at the time. ( Job never says where they were.) Satan’s species is never once identified. Given Satan’s reputation as a liar, Jn 8.44 I’m mighty suspicious about any stories about its origin, like the Lucifer story, which try to make Satan look like it was a big deal at one time. Or still is. During Jesus’s temp

Lucifer: The myth the devil used to be a big deal.

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Isaiah 14.12-15. As I said in my article on the devil, the bible doesn’t tell us where Satan came from. It just shows up in Zechariah to accuse the head priest Joshua; Zc 3.1-2 then shows up in 2 Chronicles to get David to sin; 1Ch 21.1 then shows up in Job to challenge the L ORD ’s perception of Job. Jb 1.6-12 It’s not till Revelation was written that we definitively found out the serpent in Eden was Satan all along, Rv 12.9 so it was around from the beginning—and, as Jesus points out, a dirty liar and murderer from the beginning. Jn 8.44 Popular Christian culture insists Satan’s origins are totally spelled out in the bible—if you know where to look. Ask any semi-knowledgeable Christian about where it came from, and they’ll track down this specific passage in Isaiah . Here, they claim, is where the devil went wrong. Isaiah 14.12-15 KJV 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the

Our ancient foe, the devil.

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Yes, Satan exists. But in both popular and Christian culture, Satan has been profoundly misrepresented. It’s intentional. Like Sunzi said in The Art of War , all warfare is based on deception. True of spiritual warfare as well. The devil gets a leg up on us humans by making us believe all sorts of disinformation. Like the popular rubbish that it used to be the highest angel in heaven, second to God himself. There’s no evidence at all for this in the scriptures; it’s entirely taken from Paradise Lost . Yet people still claim it’s in the bible somewhere, and come up with the darnedest proof texts as “evidence.” Talk about lying on your résumé; in fact if you were hiring Satan at your business and found absolutely nothing in a background check, you’d be far more likely to believe your applicant’s a dirty liar, than people do Satan—who’s a known dirty liar. But a mighty successful one. Which is why Christians still think it’s an angel of light, instead of how Paul and Ti

When a church holds firm. Or doesn’t.

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1 Thessalonians 3.6-10. The biggest worry for any apostle, for any ministry leader or missionary or evangelist, is their work might be for nothing. That everybody they’ve worked with were only running high on emotion: They were excited about this new thing they were trying out, were feeding off the adrenalin and other people’s zeal, were feeling their own endorphins instead of the Holy Spirit… or were faking it because everybody else seemed to be so into it. That as soon as the apostle leaves, everything they built just collapses, because nothing else was holding things together. Because this happens. Has happened before to a lot of apostles. No doubt happened to Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Acts records the places Paul went, and the churches he either found there, or started there… or didn’t. It doesn’t mention the churches he started which flopped. Sometimes that’s because Luke simply didn’t have the data. But if failed churches weren’t a real thing, the apostles who 1 T

Watch out for fake and fruitless prophets.

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Matthew 7.15-20, 12.33-35, Luke 6.43-45. Right after Jesus’s teaching about the narrow gate, Jesus gives this warning about people who pretend be prophets, but aren’t. What, there are fake prophets? Of course there are. You’ve met a few. Pagans tend to define a prophet as someone who foretells or forecasts the future. But properly a prophet simply hears from God, and shares what he said. It doesn’t have to be a message about the future. Most of the time people just wanna hear that God loves them and cares for them, and has their back. Most of the prophecies I’ve ever heard, have been simply that: Reminders that God’s here, knows us very well, and isn’t going anywhere. And usually that’s all someone has to tell people in order to be a convincing fake prophet. Do a little mentalism trick which makes it look like they know things they can’t possibly have guessed, then encourage people with common Christian platitudes. “God has a great plan for your life,” or “God knows the

Prima scriptura.

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There are a lot of ways God reveals himself to people. Obviously there’s the fact Jesus appears to people, either in the real world or in dreams, and talks to them. Obviously there’s prophecy; the Holy Spirit will speak to a person firsthand, or speak through a prophet secondhand. And obviously these two situations aren’t good enough for most people. Because either they don’t want Jesus to appear to them—they claim they do, or think they do, but if he ever actually showed up, they’d freak the f--- out, same as the Hebrews when the L ORD did it. Exodus 20.19 KJV And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. Same with prophecy: They either refuse to believe the Spirit’s actually speaking to them, or refuse to believe those prophets are real prophets. Hence there are a lot of skeptics—Christians included—who insist God doesn’t speak in such ways to people. Not anymore, anyway; maybe back in bible times.

“I don’t care what the bible says.”

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Lemme start by saying I do so care what the authors of the bible have written. Particularly about what Jesus teaches. But y’notice the title of this article is in quotes… because I’m referring to when other people don’t care about the bible. Because sometimes they don’t. Back when I was 7 or 8 years old or so, my Sunday school class was doing some activity, and one of the other kids was interacting badly. Picking fights or swearing or some other less-than-Christian behavior, and our Sunday school teacher decided to correct him by quoting bible at him. “You know, Joonas, you ought not do that, because the bible says…” “I don’t care what the bible says,” announced little Joonas. And the rest of us backed away before the lightning struck him down. Except it didn’t, because we follow Jesus, not Zeus. But the teacher was likewise taken aback: How, how could he not care what the bible says? Everybody cares. Or should. Now yeah, when you’re a kid, especially when you’re sh

The guy who tried to delete the Old Testament.

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I’ve touched upon Marcion briefly before. Thought I’d discuss him in more detail today. Marcion (Greek Μαρκίων / Markíon , though English-speakers keep pronouncing his name 'mɑr.ʃ(i.)ən ) was born round the year 85 in Sinope, Pontus, a city south of the Black Sea which is today’s Sinop, Turkey. Back then Pontus was a Roman province, and Marcion’s dad was the bishop of its Christian church. Marcion himself was a shipbuilder and sailor, and we don’t know much about his Christian life till he got into his fifties. At that point, in the late 130s, we hear of him trying to join the church of Rome, and offering them a big donation of 50,000 denarii. (Roughly $120,000 American.) And of course they take it; you can help a lot of needy people with that money! But within five years, they booted him from their church and gave him back his money, ’cause they concluded he was a dangerous heretic. He insisted Jesus only appeared to be human; he wasn’t really. Theologians call this doc

Worries, faith, and confirmation.

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1 Thessalonians 3.1-5. 1 Thessalonians lists three authors: Paul, Silas, and Timothy. People presume Paul’s the one who really wrote it, and included those other guys as a courtesy, but that’s not how letters were composed back then. All three really did write it. It was written by dictation. The reason you may not realize it’s dictation, is because we translators try our darnedest to make it sound like a coherent whole—and succeed. But in so doing, sometimes we lose a little bit of the sense of tag-team preaching. The apostles spoke—sometimes Paul, sometimes Silas, sometimes Timothy. Maybe Paul spoke most often; then again maybe not. Sometimes they interrupted one another, which is why the original text is full of sentence fragments, and translators wind up tearing our hair out because we want complete sentences , dangit, with proper subjects and predicates. Other times we get big ol’ run-on sentences, with only one proper verb at the beginning of a 13-verse stretch. S

The narrow gate. Or door. Either way, tricky to get in.

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Matthew 7.13-14, Luke 13.23-24. Most people are universalist , meaning in the end—if not at Judgment Day, at least way, way further down the road—God’s gonna relent, and let everybody into his kingdom. Doesn’t matter how much they want nothing to do with God in this life. They might be full-on atheist. Might embrace another religion altogether. Might not even be good; they’re selfish, wicked, rebellious, downright evil. But people figure God loves everybody, so in the end he’ll just forgive all and let ’em in. Every last bloody one of ’em. Even traitors, child molesters, genocidal mass murderers; they might have to spend a few thousand years in hell first, but eventually they’ll get out and go to heaven. You get the kingdom, and you get the kingdom, and everybody gets the kingdom! (That last line works best if you can imagine it in Oprah Winfrey’s voice. But it’s not mandatory.) The problem is Jesus said he’s not gonna let everybody in. More than once. Today’s verses ar

Christians who don’t want you to fast.

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As I elsewhere said, if fasting weren’t in the bible, it’d nonetheless be a fad. One Christians still frequently use as a spiritual exercise, because it does strengthen our self-control. When seeking God in prayer takes priority over sustaining our very lives, it’s this kind of hardcore behavior which makes us less likely to give in to the many temptations which comfort offers us. So what keeps Christians from fasting? Usually it’s those very same comforts. Years ago I was in a prayer meeting where the leader challenged us to fast for a week. Really, diet. He wasn’t telling us to utterly go without food. Just go vegan for a week, and set aside sweets and coffee. Set aside a few comforts so we can focus better on God. And my knee-jerk reaction was, “I just went to the grocery store yesterday and bought a bunch of yogurt. I don’t want it to go bad …” as if we were gonna be dieting that long. Wasn’t really about the expiration date either. It’s ’cause I love yogurt. So as