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Showing posts from October, 2015

Positive. Encouraging. White. K-LOVE.

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My least favorite radio network.
’Cause without that space, they’ve simply misspelled “clove.”I stopped listening to radio in the early ’00s, ’cause I got an MP3 player. It wasn’t the iPod I wanted; I finally got one of those in ’04. It was a pocket computer, a Windows PocketPC; imagine a smartphone which wasn’t a phone, or a tablet which was more phone-sized. Among other things, it included a mobile version of Windows Media Player. I also discovered podcasts around that time, and even though I still had dial-up internet at home, I set up my good ol’ Gateway to download a bunch of shows overnight, and I started ripping every CD I owned into Media Player files. Loaded up the SD card and never looked back.(The pocket computer still works, by the way. I used it till I finally bought an Android tablet. I like to use my technology till it completely dies, or is so obsolete I can’t really use it anymore. Still got my clamshell iBook too. But I digress.)The last radio stations I regularly li…

He lives within your heart.

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Oh, you thought I was talking about Jesus, huh? Nope. Lots of Christians get that one wrong, too.Indwell /ɪn'dwɛl/ v. Be permanently present in someone [namely their soul or mind]. Possess spiritually.[Indweller /ɪn'dwɛl'ər/ n.]Only Christians use the word “indwell” anymore, so it’s pretty much our word. You’re not gonna find anyone talking about how they indwell their apartment. Or how there are mice indwelling the walls. Nope, it’s pretty much a word we Christians use to describe a spirit living in someone. Either it’s a demon possessing a demoniac, or the Holy Spirit living in a Christian.I know evangelists like to tell people, “If you invite him, Jesus will come live in your heart,” and I know popular hymns go, “He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today… you ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart.” I also know those folks are mixing up their persons of the trinity. It’s not Jesus who lives in my heart; he’s too busy at the right hand of the Father, adv…

Context? Who needs context?

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CONTEXT'kɑn.tɛkstnoun. Setting of an idea or event: The larger story they’re part of, the circumstances or history behind them, the people to whom they’re said. Without them, the idea is neither fully understood nor clear.[Contextual kən'tɛks.tʃ(əw).əladjective.]“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” It’s not from the bible, although from time to time someone will claim it totally is, and therefore it’s a divine command. It’s actually from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act 1, scene 3. Might not be bible, but Shakespeare’s no slouch either.Why do people quote it? ’Cause they literally mean it. Don’t borrow; don’t lend. If you don’t borrow money, you won’t go into debt. If you don’t lend money, you don’t have to fret when your friends never repay you. Simple, prudent advice. Words they think we oughta live by.Okay, so why’d Shakespeare write it?Well, we don’t give a rip. We know what we mean by it. Don’t borrow; don’t lend. We assume Shakespeare meant the very same thing. It’s st…

The word became human, and explains God.

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This is the reason he came to us. Not atonement; he could’ve done that invisibly. But to reveal God.John 1.14-18John 1.14-18 KWL14 The word was made flesh. He encamped with us.We got a good look at his significance—the significance of a father’s only son—filled with grace and truth.15 John testifies about him, saying as he called out, “This is the one I spoke of!‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first.”16 All of us received things out of his fullness. Grace after grace:17 The Law which Moses gave; the grace and truth which Christ Jesus became.18 Nobody’s ever seen God.The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb, he explains God.We Christians have had the darnedest time translating and explaining this passage, because while it’s in really simple Greek, it’s deep. It’s profound. It tells us the word of the LORD, the Son of the Father, God of God, God from the Father’s womb (usually translated “bosom” because human fathers don’t have wombs, and any language w…

Happy Halloween. Bought your candy yet?

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It’s Happy Halloween, not “Happy holidays.” Wait… wrong holiday.
A perfect opportunity to show Christlike generosity—and give the best candy ever. But too many of us make a serious point of being grouchy, fear-addled spoilsports. Image swiped from a mommy blog.For more than a decade I’ve ranted about the ridiculous Evangelical practice of shunning Halloween. I call it ridiculous ’cause it really is: It’s a fear-based, irrational, misinformed, slander-filled rejection of a holiday… which actually turns out to be a legitimate part of the Christian calendar.No I’m not kidding. It’s our holiday. Christians invented Halloween.No it sure doesn’t look like Christians’ original intent. That’s because we let the pagans take it over. By “pagans” I mean non-Christians—not the capital-P religious Pagans, whose nature religions date from the 1960s, but who claim they revived ancient pre-Christian religions. Pretty sure the ancient religions didn’t believe their gods were only symbolic archetypes of…

TXAB’s 2016 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

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Just in case you were worried about the current crop of candidates.Every presidential election year in the United States, we get doomsayers claiming this or that candidate is probably the Antichrist. Or wannabe prophets claiming one of the candidates is Jesus’s personal choice; if he held American citizenship (and I’m surprised one of the political parties in Congress hasn’t voted him an honorary one by now) he’d totally pick that guy.Of course, none of these folks have any insight, supernatural or not. They’re proclaiming their own personal politics. Some of ’em do it every election. In the process, any such “prophets” are unwittingly exposing themselves as false ones, even when their favored candidates win. Because God’s will is for Jesus to reign, not some party, nor some politician. Lucky for them, we no longer stone false prophets to death. Man, would that be satisfying.However, I will point out it’s totally possible to determine which of these contenders might actually be the Be…

A religion that’s a little of this, a little of that.

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Something many pagans are most proud of: The clever little personalized religions they’ve invented.Eclectic /ə'klɛk.tɪk/ adj. Belongs to no recognized school of thought or organized religion; selects such doctrines and beliefs as they wish, from various religions and schools.[Eclecticism /i'klek.ti.siz.əm/ n.]One of the more popular platitudes you’ll hear among conservative Evangelicals is “I don’t have a religion; I have a relationship.” By which they don’t actually mean they’re irreligious; they do to to church and read their bibles and pray. They just don’t do dead religion—rituals which mean nothing to them. (Or so they believe. Just for fun, ask ’em sometime for the definitions of certain Christianese words. Sometimes they have no clue.) My point is they do so have a religion; there are plenty of things they do which reveal they devoted themselves to Jesus. Any pagan can see it. And they should; if there are no such signs, that “relationship” we claim to have is gonna suc…

When God tells us no.

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Because God’s not a wish-granting genie. If you ever go looking for books on prayer—and even when you don’t; when you’re browsing in your favorite (or less-than-favorite) Christian bookstore, and the book titles simply shout at you—you’ll notice a whole lot of them are about being successful at prayer: How to pray effectively. How to get our prayers answered. How to know our prayers actually reached God’s ears. How to be persistent at it, and thus get what we want. How to have the right prayer attitude, and thus get what we want. How to pray as God would want, and thus get what we would want. Yada yada yada.What makes a prayer “successful”? Obviously, getting what we want.Of course we won’t always admit this. We’ll try to make our answers sound less greedy, more spiritual, less self-centered. “Um… A successful prayer gets us closer to God.” Yeah, nice try Bubba. Closer to God for why? So we can get what we want.Look, I already pointed out it’s okay to ask God for things. The Lord’s Pr…

Faith. Real, legitimate, not-imaginary faith.

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As opposed to the unreal, imaginary sort. FAITH /feɪθ/ n. 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.fəl/ adj.]“Faith,” wrote Mark Twain in his travelogue book Following the Equator, “is believing what you know ain’t so.” Nontheists consider this their very favorite definition of faith. It’s the definition your average pagan also holds to. And, sad to say, many a Christian. “Faith” is the magical power to believe in goofy rubbish.According to them, if I “have faith,” I have the power to believe in everything. I can believe in God, in angels, in fairies and elves and leprechauns, and I can fly like Peter Pan. I can believe in TV preachers, in pastors with bad comb-overs, in politicians with bad comb-overs, in giving all my money to some nonprofit which doesn’t…

Recognizing and embracing the light of the world.

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Light is a metaphor for a lot of different things in the bible. Here, it’s life.John 1.1-13John 1.1-5 KWL1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God.2He’s in the beginning with God. 3 Everything came to be through him.Nothing that exists came to be without him. 4 What came to be through him, was life.Life’s the light of humanity. 5 Light shines in darkness, and darkness can’t get hold of it.In his first chapter, the author of John (probably John bar Zebedee, “the student Jesus loved”) pins a few metaphors on Jesus. We got word. We got light. And later John the baptist uses lamb. (Or ram; it depends on how meek or badass you wanna make Jesus sound.)The word created life, and the author quickly started calling life “light” Jn 1.4 then said Jesus is the actual light coming into the world. Jn 1.9 In fact later in this gospel, Jesus made this claim about himself twice: "I'm the light of the world." Jn 8.12, 9.5 He comes to give us life. Abundant life i…

Synchrobloggery.

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Sometimes you just wanna know what other people think about the same topic. Really, this is a story, not a non-sequitur: Back in 2007 my mother took a college course on Christian apologetics.Since I’m the seminarian in the family, Mom kept picking my brain. And I’m really not the brain you wanna pick. Thanks to my Fundamentalist upbringing, I spent years studying apologetics… and trying it out on Dad, who’s atheist. Then I spent a few more years inflicting it on various other pagan skeptics. After some years working with real evangelists, who share the gospel instead of arguing it, I came to a rather heterodox view of apologetics.Bluntly, apologetics are cessationists’ thoroughly inadequate substitute for testimonies. You don’t tell people about what God’s done in your life, ’cause as far as you believe, all his acts are theological, spiritual, invisible, and largely hypothetical. You don’t talk about what he’s shown you through your faithful obedience, ’cause you’ve not done a lot of…

Why we gotta have freedom of expression.

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And in this age, we have Blog Action Days.
I’m participating in the Blog Action Day thingy, an attempt to get bloggers and their readers to focus on a particular worthy issue. This year it’s #RaiseYourVoice, an attempt to speak up on behalf of journalists, photographers, bloggers, writers, and pretty much everyone who’s not allowed to speak up for themselves.In the United States, freedom of expression is pretty much the content of our Constitution’s first amendment: A guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, the press, and to petition government.Among us Christians, freedom of expression is a tricky thing. Because not every Christian is agreed we have freedom of expression. Or should have.I know many a Christian who’s outraged, outraged, by some of the stuff on television. It’s just filthy. So, they tell anyone who’ll listen, they got rid of their TV. They threw it right out. They don’t watch it anymore.…Well okay, they watch stuff on the Blu-ray player. And off Netflix. And sometimes …

“Call me Pastor.”

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Some Christian leaders wanna make really sure we get their titles right. Three years ago I got into a conversation with some guy at a Starbucks. It’s usually in coffeehouses such conversations take place; I’m in them so often. (I’m in one now as I write this.) He asked my name. I gave it. He gave his name as “Pastor Todd”—although Todd isn’t actually his first name, ’cause I changed it for this story, ’cause he’s not gonna look good.Todd struck up a conversation with me, quickly found out I’m Christian, and we got to talking about our common beliefs. Like most people, he assumed since I’m not clergy, I must know nothing about theology. Which is a really naïve assumption, ’cause there are a lot of dangerously overeducated laymen like me around. Something I learned back in my journalism days: Never underestimate people. But never overestimate ’em either. Find out who they really are.There are a lot of dangerously undereducated clergy around too. It just so happened Todd is among them. H…

There’s evangelicals, and there’s Evangelicals.

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EVANGELICALi.væn'ʤɛl.ə.kəladjective. Has to do with the evangel, i.e. the gospel.2. [capitalized] Holds to the Protestant tradition of individual conversion to Christianity (i.e. being born again). Plus Jesus’s atonement, the bible’s authority, and an active Christian lifestyle.[Evangelicalism i.væn'ʤɛl.ə.kəl.ɪz.əmnoun.]I once heard a pagan define Evangelical as “somebody who actually believes in all that [synonym for doo-doo].”I like it, but technically that’s not quite it. She was confusing the lowercase-E with the uppercase-E: She got her evangelicals and Evangelicals mixed up.Every Christian is the lowercase kind of evangelical. We all believe in this [dooky]. We may not agree about miracles, worship styles, how to interpret the bible, and whether electric guitars are of God (and I say they totally are). But we all agree Jesus is God the Son, our Lord, conceived by the Spirit, born of Mary, suffered under Pilate, crucified, died, buried, resurrected, ascended, coming back …

Introducing the Book Pile.

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Hey, just be glad this isn’t a book-review website. There’s this well-known pastor in my denomination. I’ve heard him preach, and found it impressive. When I found out he had a blog, I decided to subscribe to it. At the time it was mostly things he’d discovered in the process of writing his sermons, and the occasional rant about his politics. But two years ago it turned into nothing but book reviews.Y’see, once your blog starts racking up the viewers, book publishers find out about it, and start offering you books for review. They hope your readers might wanna become their readers. And they’re not wrong; I’ve come across some really interesting books through some of my favorite blogs. So when they contacted me, I figured why not.But lest you worry, Christ Almighty! is not gonna turn into a book blog, like that pastor’s site did. He began with books on Christian discipleship, branched into novels (and his novels aren’t my cup of tea), and doesn’t bother to write about Jesus anymore. I …

Word!

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Since Jesus is the word of God, Christians have produced a whole lot of weird theology around “word.”John 1.1-5John 1.1-5 KWL1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God.2He’s in the beginning with God. 3 Everything came to be through him.Nothing that exists came to be without him. 4 What came to be through him, was life.Life’s the light of humanity. 5 Light shines in darkness, and darkness can’t get hold of it.Many Christians are fascinated by the word “word.” Mostly ’cause of the passage above. The word existed in the very beginning, was with God, and is God… and became the man we know as Christ Jesus of Nazareth.Why’d the author of John (whom, for tradition’s sake, we’ll call St. John) use “word” to describe the pre-incarnate Jesus? For centuries, the assumption was lógos/“word” came from Greek philosophy. Blame the gentiles: The early church’s writers didn’t know what the Pharisees taught, but they did know Greek philosophy, and insisted on interpreting bibl…

On hearing from God. Or not.

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Too many Christians use “God told me” as a way to tell people, “So the discussion’s over.”In this story I’m gonna bounce around in time a bit. Bear with me.
So much easier to hear God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.Ten years ago. My pastor and I were discussing church stuff, as we did. We were chatting about the reasons why people join or leave a church. I casually mentioned that when there’s no obvious reason to quit a church (i.e. abusive people, leaders who won’t lead, heretic teachers, false prophets running wild, it’s a cult, etc.) people have no business leaving unless God tells them it’s okay.“You know,” he blurted out, “in 20 years I’ve never heard a person say ‘God told me’ as much as you do.”Yeah, it was a bad habit I was in. I’ve since got out of it.No, not because God wasn’t really talking to me. Nor because he’s stopped. He still does. I just don’t point it out as often. Because people get the wrong idea, like my pastor did.See, in his experience, Christians tend to us…

Do you know the Holy Spirit?

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If you tend to refer to him as “it,” I’m betting no.Years ago a pagan relative of mine asked me, “You keep saying ‘Holy Spirit this, Holy Spirit that.’ What do you mean by that? What’s the Holy Spirit?”“Oh,” I said, half-surprised, half-not-all-that-really-surprised, that she didn’t know. This being the case, it was time not to be Mr. Theologian. “Holy Spirit is another name for God.”“Oh,” she said. And our conversation moved on.That’s really all the explanation we need to give most people. Trying to explain the trinity is going to become a big long discussion, and one we oughta save for new Christians. Mainly because they’ll want to understand the mystery… not mock it.The Holy Spirit (KJV “Holy Ghost”) is God. Therefore “Holy Spirit is another name for God” is a quick-’n-dirty explanation which points people in the right direction.As opposed to the wrong direction, which is the more common view. Too many people think the Holy Spirit is a force, a power: God’s might, by which he gets …

Trinity: The paradox in the middle of Christianity.

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Be wary of anyone who says they have a simple, logical explanation.Trinity /'trɪn.ə.di/ n. The godhead as one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[Trinitarian /trɪn.ə'tɛr.i(.)ən/ adj.]The Trinity is the hardest concept in Christian theology. It’s brought far wiser men than me to ruin. It’s based on two ideas. Both are absolutely true. And both absolutely contradict one another.There’s only one God.Three individual persons—Jesus, his Father, and the Holy Spirit—are God.Got that? Good. Hold both ideas in your head at once. Accept and believe both. Never dismiss one idea in favor of the other, or try to explain away one by using the other. And there ya go. That’s the trinity.“Well no,” some folks are gonna object. “It’s not a contradiction at all. See, when you think about the trinity this way, the ideas don’t really contradict. It’s like this….” Then they proceed to give their explanation, which appears to sort out everything, but really does what I just told you …

Pagans and heathens and nonchristians; oh my!

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Believe it or don’t, it’s a Christian term for unbelievers.Pagan /'peɪ.gən/ adj. Holds religious beliefs other than those of Christians (or other major religions).2. Neo-Pagan: Practices nature religions, magical and occult traditions, or revived ancient polytheistic religions.Heathen /'hið.ən/ n. (chiefly derogatory) A pagan.2. An uncultured, inappropriate person.I tend to use the word pagan to describe nonchristians.Yeah, I know capital-p Pagans have appropriated the word to mean their religions. It’s just another one of neo-Pagans’ many historical inaccuracies. Ancient pagans never called themselves pagans.“Pagan” is a Christian word, from the Latin paganus, meaning rustic or country-dweller. As opposed to Christians who live in the “City of God,” his kingdom. It’s not derogatory, nor is it meant to be. It’s just a way to indicate those inside Christendom, and those outside. (Whom we wanna invite inside.)Heathen, on the other hand, has always meant “uncivilized.” As in “Wha…

Introducing Jesus. Well, his gospels. Well, him too.

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The four different perspectives on Jesus.Mark 1.1 • Matthew 1.1 • Luke 1.1-4 • John 1.1-18Mark 1.1 KWL1 The start of the gospel of Christ Jesus, son of God.Luke 1.1-4 KWL1 Because many attempted to compose a narrativeabout the things which had been fulfilled in our religion,2 just as the first eyewitnesses handed things down to usand became servants of the word,3 I also thought, having closely, accurately followed everything from the start;I wrote you, honorable Theófilus, 4 so you could know about what you were taught.An accurate word.Matthew 1.1 KWL1 The book of the genesis of Christ Jesus,bar David, bar Abraham.These are the introductions to the synopticgospels, the three gospels in the New Testament which tend to sync up with one another. Obviously there are differences in their intros. Mark starts abruptly, and in the very next verse gets straight away to John the Baptist, who leads into the story of Jesus. Matthew refers to the genesis of Jesus: His ancestry and birth. From here…

The spiritual gifts test.

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Because we don’t really know how God’s supernaturally empowered us till we’ve filled out a few bubbles on a Scantron.Some weeks ago I was obligated to take a spiritual gifts test. If you’re not familiar with what this is, it’s basically a written test which deduces what our spiritual gifts are. Allegedly.Most Christians never bother to ask, “What are spiritual gifts?” Instead they nod their heads knowingly, as if they’re totally familiar with the concept. Then we ask ’em to list a few and they stammer out, “Um… uh… kindness? Friendliness? Encouragement?” No. Spiritual gifts aren’t talents which make us more “spiritual” (which, to many Christians, means “churchy”). They’re special abilities the Holy Spirit give us. Supernatural special abilities. Like these.1 Corinthians 12.7-11 KWL7 Each individual is given an individual revelation of the Spirit—to bring together.8 For by the Spirit, while a word of wisdom is given to one,by the same Spirit, a word of knowledge is given to another.9 T…

The comic book End Times. (Part 5.)

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Finally we reach the end of the End.
Wrapping up the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts:1234 Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not an End Times expert. ’Cause there is no such thing. There are only people who know how to grammatically and historically exegete the bible, and people who think there are no such rules and the bible means whatever makes ’em feel warmest and fuzziest. End Times “prophecy scholars,” who are neither prophets nor scholars, are only experts on all the semi-historical factoids they’ve collected to interpret their individual End Times Timelines. They don’t know, any more than any Christian knows, the specifics of the End. And since they’re expecting a straight-to-heaven rapture, instead of a joining-Jesus’s-invasion rapture, they’re gonna be mighty confused when things immediately take a 180-degree turn away from their expectations.Folks, learn the lesson of Isaiah 53. That’s Isaiah’s vision of God’s suff…

The comic book End Times. (Part 4.)

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Trumpets, helicopters, Armageddon, Babylon. Just another day in the End Times.
More on the fearful future within the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts:1235 There are two ways people respond to my critique of John Nelson Darby’s beliefs about premillennial dispensationalism and the End Times. And it depends on whether they’ve utterly swallowed Darbyism. Some folks have just casually accepted Darby’s beliefs—“Hmm, that sounds reasonable; guess I’ll believe that till I hear a better explanation.” Sometimes they think my explanation is that better explanation, and sometimes they don’t. It’s okay; End Times views aren’t make-or-break doctrines. We’re free to disagree. (Just please, if you’re gonna quote bible at me, quote it in context.)Then there’s the other camp. They’ve not only embraced Darby: His teachings are foundational to the way they live their lives. They’ve invested a lot of time in their Scofield bibles. They’ve p…