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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

Context? Who needs context?

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CONTEXT 'kɑn.tɛkst noun. 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).əl adjective. ] “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 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 1.14-18 John 1.14-18 KWL 14 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 L ORD , the Son of the Father, God of God, God from the Father’s womb (usually translated “bosom” because human fath

TXAB’s 2016 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

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Every presidential election year in the United States, we get doomsayers who claim this or that candidate is probably the Beast of Revelation 13 , or as popular Christian culture calls it, the Antichrist. Or wannabe prophets claim one of the candidates is Jesus’s personal choice; if he held American citizenship (and I’m surprised one of the parties 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” unwittingly expose 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. I will point out it’s totally possible to determine which of these contenders might actually be the Beast. Seriously. Becaus

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 som

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 1.1-13 John 1.1-5 KWL 1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God. 2 He’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

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 d

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 Netfl

“Call me Pastor.”

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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. He tried to instruct me in certain areas he clearly knew little

There’s evangelicals, and there’s Evangelicals.

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EVANGELICAL i.væn'ʤɛl.ə.kəl adjective. 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.əm noun. ] 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, re

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 an

Word!

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Since Jesus is the word of God, Christians have produced a whole lot of weird theology around “word.” John 1.1-5 John 1.1-5 KWL 1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God. 2 He’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,

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, C

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 d

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 1.1-18 Mark 1.1 KWL 1 The start of the gospel of Christ Jesus, son of God . Luke 1.1-4 KWL 1 Because many attempted to compose a narrative about the things which had been fulfilled in our religion, 2 just as the first eyewitnesses handed things down to us and 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 KWL 1 The book of the genesis of Christ Jesus, bar David, bar Abraham. These are the introductions to the synoptic gospels, 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 th

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 KWL 7 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 i