Search This Blog

TXAB’s index.

31 May 2016

In Jesus’s name. It’s not magic words.

We don’t use his name to get whatever we want. We us it to seek what he wants.

Jesus told us to use his name when we ask the Father for things—that if we particularly ask for stuff in his name, the Father’d give it to us. Jn 14.13-14, 15.16, 16.23-24 Well, we want the stuff, so that’s precisely we do.

You’ll find a lot of Christian prayers end with the customary, “In Jesus’s name, amen.” Or grander versions like “In the mighty name, and through the precious blood, of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, amen.” However you wanna pad it.

More often it takes the form of JesusName. No possessive; just JesusName, like it’s one word.

But we don’t really think about what it means to use Christ Jesus’s name in prayer. We just do it for traditional reasons.

  • ’Cause it’s Christian custom. It’s how we “hang up the phone” once we’re done praying.
  • ’Cause it’s uniquely Christian. Any pagan could pray to any god, but we pray to the Father of our Lord Jesus, which we make explicitly clear when we mention Jesus’s name.
  • ’Cause Jesus told us to.
  • ’Cause it’s a magic spell: “I prayed in JesusName, and he said if we do that, we get what we want. So I’m getting what I want.”

But all these reasons are incomplete.

What does it mean to ask for stuff in someone else’s name? You may never have had to do this; you either asked for stuff in Jesus’s name, or your own. But some of us have had to use other people’s names. (With their permission, of course; I’m not talking about identity theft.) Your credit report sucks, so you talk your sister into co-signing an auto loan. You can’t get a good dinner reservation under your own name, so you name-drop a more important person to see whether that’ll work—and it does. You can’t get into the gym because you’re not a member, but your Dad is, so you mention him.

That’s what we do when we pray for stuff in Jesus’s name. Yeah, God’s adopted us as his kids, and loves us and wants to do great things for us. But he also wants to see we have a living relationship with his Son. Praying in Jesus’s name implies we have that relationship. ’Cause we do, right?

30 May 2016

Get to know God better.

He doesn’t want us to live in ignorance. He wants us to follow Jesus.

Ephesians 1.15-23

Humans are creatures of extremes. So American churches tend to likewise be creatures of extremes.

Either we pursue God-knowledge with all our might, and make sure our doctrine is accurate and solid… and ready to be pounded into the heads of newbies, skeptics, and people of other church traditions, who we deem as wayward or heretic. Or we pursue godly behavior with all our might, and make sure we’re behaving ourselves and helping the needy.

(Or, with the godly-behavior folks, we fall into a whole second dichotomy: Either behaving ourselves but doing little to nothing for the needy, or devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to the needy but making loads of compromises in our own behavior.)

Why can’t we do both the pursuit of God-knowledge (without the impatient argumentativeness, of course) and the godly behavior—both working on ourselves, and loving our neighbors? I dunno. Too many chainsaws to juggle?

Well. Paul, upon hearing of the Ephesians’ good behavior and faith, prayed God would put more wisdom and revelation and knowledge into ’em. And power. Partly because knowledge is power; partly because God gives us access to supernatural power, and we oughta learn how to tap that, and minister more mightily.

Ephesians 1.15-19 KWL
15 For this reason I too, hearing the about your trust in Master Jesus
and the acts of love towards all the saints,
16 I don’t stop giving thanks for you,
working my memories of you into my prayers
17 so the God of our Master, Christ Jesus, the Father of glory,
might give you the spiritual wisdom and revelation to understand him—
18 flooding your hearts’ eyes with light, so you’d understand.
It’s the hope of your calling. It’s the saints’ glorious inherited riches.
19 It’s the over-and-above greatness of God’s power for us believers,
through the energy of his powerful strength.

Paul prayed the Ephesians would grow. He made a regular practice of it. He knew from experience they’d need the help: They lived in Ephesus, a place which manufactured new religions on a daily basis. (Some of which featured really bizarre versions of Jesus.) They needed to know the truth, and hew to it, lest someone easily lead them astray with some strange but appealing novelty. You know, like nowadays, ’cause Americans are easily convinced that God promised us a safe, comfortable, unchallenging, profitable life.

27 May 2016

Jesus prophesies to the Samaritan.

When the woman at the well realized Jesus hears from God.

John 4.16-24.

John 4.16-19 KWL
16 Jesus told the Samaritan, “Go call your man and come back here.”
17 In reply the woman told him, “I don’t have a man.”
Jesus told her, “Well said, ‘I don’t have a man’—
18 You had five men, and the one you now have isn’t your man. You spoke the truth.”
19 The woman told Jesus, “Master, I see you’re a prophet.”

Well duh he’s a prophet.

Notice when Jesus replied to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, he commended her twice for telling him the truth. Probably ’cause she’d never told anyone the truth before. For all we know, no one in her town, Sychár, knew her whole story. But clearly Jesus did. Yet he was in absolutely no position to know anything, so the Samaritan naturally concluded he’s a prophet. ’Cause he is.

This woman previously had five ándras/“men.” Most bibles translate it “husbands,” ’cause in Hebrew custom, ishí/“my man” (or Aramaic enáshi) meant a woman’s husband. (The Hebrews used to use the word baal/“mister” for husbands, but God told ’em to stop it, Ho 2.16-17 ’cause they kept calling pagan gods by that title.) There is an ancient Greek word for husband, gamétis, but it’s not in the bible—though gametí/“wife” appears once in apocrypha. In any case, if Jesus was speaking of “her man,” it’d usually mean her husband.

Most cultures, Samaritans included, figured if you lived together and had sex, you were married. Our culture doesn’t—we call it “living together,” and more conservative folks call it “living in sin.” That’s because we define marriage by wedding contracts and vows. Comes from Christian custom. It’s not universal. The ancients, including the Hebrews, defined it by sexual activity and living arrangement. Like Genesis describes it, a man leaves his parents, bonds to his woman, and the two become “one flesh.” Ge 2.4 Remember?

This woman didn’t currently have this arrangement. She had something with a man—but he wasn’t her man. Shtupping him, likely; but didn’t live with him. They didn’t wanna turn it into a marriage.

Previously she had five husbands. We don’t know why those relationships ended. A lot of preachers judge, and assume divorce. We don’t know that. Maybe she had a thing for older men and outlived them all. Maybe they were criminals, and the Romans crucified them one after the other. Let’s not leap to the conclusion she was defective in some way.

Because that was her problem. That’s why she was going to an out-of-town well at noon: She was isolated. Either because she was unwelcome, or because she didn’t feel welcome; she was sick of the town’s gossip about her. Either way she kept to herself. Possibly shared nothing with no one—meaning there was no way some wandering Galilean prophet could know about her man. Except he did.

26 May 2016


Are you truly happy? ’Cause the Holy Spirit wants you to be.

Joy /dʒɔɪ/ n. Feeling of great happiness and pleasure.
[Joyful /'dʒɔɪ.fəl/ adj.; joyous /'dʒɔɪ.əs/ adj.]

You’d think I wouldn’t need to include a definition of joy before writing on the subject. You’d be wrong. Not everyone agrees with, or even approves of, this definition.

Joy’s a feeling. An emotion. A positive emotion, one which God wants us to feel. He wants us to experience joy on a regular basis. He wants us to be filled with pleasure and happiness. It’s how his kingdom’s meant to be. No more tears; Rv 7.17 nothing but joy.

But there are a large number of joyless Christians who claim it’s not a feeling of happiness; it’s not an emotion whatsoever. Instead it’s a “state of well-being.” Once you decide, regardless of your circumstances, you’re gonna be okay with things—despite suffering, chaos, or general suckitude, you’re gonna tamp down those feelings of despair and just tough it out—that’s joy. God gives us the power to slog out any circumstances, and psyche ourselves into feeling hope instead of despair. Jm 1.2

Yeah… that’s not joy they’re describing. It’s patience.

And patience—or if you wanna call it by its King James Version word, “longsuffering” Ga 5.22 KJV —isn’t a bad thing. It’s likewise a fruit of the Spirit. It’s an attribute of love. 1Co 13.4 But it’s not joy.

This redefintion has even slipped into dictionaries. One of my Greek dictionaries defines hará/“joy” as “gladness, cheerfulness”—which is correct; or “a state of being calmly happy or well-off”—and no it’s not.

Bust out your concordance and look up all the instances of hará/“joy,” number 5479 in Strong’s dictionary, and you’re gonna find joy hardly sounds like being content no matter the circumstances. Sounds more like being tremendously happy because of circumstances. Here’s a bunch of examples from the New Testament.

Luke 1.13-15 KWL
13B “Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son, and you’ll name him John.
14 He’ll be happiness and joy to you,
and many will rejoice at his birth, 15A for he’ll be great before the Lord.”
John 3.29 KWL
“The groom’s the one with the bride.
The groom’s friend, joyfully standing and listening, rejoices at the groom’s voice.
So this joy of mine is full.”
Luke 10.17 KWL
The 72 students returned with joy, saying, “Master, even demons submitted to us in your name!”
Luke 15.7 KWL
“I tell you, because of it there’s joy in heaven—over one repenting sinner.
More so than over 99 moral people who don’t need to repent.”

25 May 2016

Arminianism, Calvinism, and Pelagianism.

Eek! -Isms!

Some years ago I joined the Society of Evangelical Arminians. (Hey guys! Thanks for helping me tweak the Twitter meme.) Some months ago I also joined their Facebook debate group. Officially it’s called a discussion group, but let’s be honest: Debate happens. Even when we largely agree. Hey, so long as we keep it respectful. Most of us can.

Whenever I mention to people I’m in this group, it confuses ’em. Y’see, they don’t know what an Arminian is. Most of the time they think I mean Armenian, and are surprised: I’m so pasty white! I’ll get sunburn on an overcast day. Don’t Armenians tan way better than that?

Nope, not Armenian. Arminianism is named after Dutch theology professor Jakob Hermanszoon (1560–1609), whose Latin name is Jacobi Arminii, and in English that became James Arminius. He attempted to bring Calvinism away from what he (and we Arminians) considered extreme views about salvation, and get it back in line with the scriptures and historic Christian theology. His objections to what Calvinists taught were spelled out in the Five Articles of Remonstrance, presented in 1610 by Arminius’s followers to the Dutch National Synod. A lot of the reason there are so many Arminians in the United States is ’cause John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was Arminian; and the Pentecostal movement came out of Methodism, so most Pentecostals are likewise Arminian.

Oh yeah, Calvinists. Calvinism is named after French theologian Jehan Chauvin (1509–1564), whose Latin name is Joannis Calvini, or as we know him, John Calvin. He became the bishop of Geneva during the Protestant Reformation, and is arguably the most influential Protestant after Martin Luther. Calvinism stems from his 1536 book Institutio Christianae religionis (“Institutes of the Christian Religion”), where the 25-year-old spelled out his beliefs for the king of France—and anyone else who needs an introduction to Protestant thought. He revised the book throughout his life. His disciples took over the Church of Scotland, started the Reformed, Presbyterian, and Puritan movements. In recent decades a lot of argumentative young theologians have adopted Calvinism as their favorite cause, ’cause they’re under the impression it makes ’em look clever.

Since I’m bringing up those guys, may as well bring up the third major stream of theology we commonly find in Evangelical Christianity: Pelagianism, named for Welsh monk Morcant (c. 354–418), Latin name Pelagius. Greatly concerned about the constant problem of Christians taking God’s grace for granted, Pelagius overcompensated and wound up teaching we’re saved by our own efforts. St. Augustine, and a few subsequent church councils, condemned Pelagius’s teachings as heretic; and since a lot of the early Protestants were big fans of Augustine, they don’t like Pelagius either. However, Pelagius’s views are precisely what pagans believe. And since a lot of paganism has leaked into the church, plenty of Christians are Pelagian too.

Calvinists love to accuse Arminians of being Pelagian, but mostly that’s because Calvinists don’t know what Arminians are, and assume since we don’t do Calvinist theology, we must do none—we think like pagans. Plus they don’t bother to investigate any of the anti-Arminian slanders their fellow Calvinists spread. They have bigger fish to fry.

Hence this article, which’ll sort out the three views.

24 May 2016


How Christians “hang up” on God in our conversations with him.

Amen /ɑ.mɛn, eɪ.mɛn/ excl. Utterance of support or agreement.

Amen comes from the Hebrew verb amán/“[it’s] settled, certain.” Sorta the Hebrews’ way of replying, “True.” For the most part, we Christians use amen as a way to finish our prayers. Like when you say “goodbye” on a phone conversation, or “over and out” on a radio conversation. My Sunday school teachers would even describe it as “hanging up.”

Custom is, we gotta finish our prayers with amen. Or the popular incantation “in Jesus Name amen.” Or, if you want everyone else in the room to say amen along with you: “And all God’s people said…” (or “the church said,” or “we all said”) whereupon everyone would reply, “Amen.” Sometimes the three-syllable “A-a-men.”

As you know, some Christian customs are more than just traditions: We gotta do them. They’re virtually commands. If you don’t end a prayer with amen, it confuses people. Wanna really throw your prayer group? Next time you lead prayer, don’t bother to “hang up.” Just start speaking in general. Watch ’em get all agitated: “You didn’t say amen. You gotta say amen.” As if God is held up until we get “off the phone,” so to speak. Point out you don’t need to end prayers with amen—you realize even the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t end with amen, right? Lk 11.2-4 —and they’ll still go bonkers, like an obsessive-compulsive counter who simply can’t end on an odd number. (Some of ’em will even say an annoyed amen on your behalf.)

But this insistence on capping our prayers with amen misses the entire point of the word. What’s amen mean again? True. Why would you say “True” at the end of a prayer? Because we agree with its content: “What you said is true. What you requested is good. So be it. Amen.”

This being the case, having “all God’s people say amen” at the end of a prayer isn’t just the prayer leader trying to get a little attention and recognition. It’s agreement. Do you agree with what was just prayed? I’d hope so. (That is, I’d hope the prayer leader didn’t pray anything inappropriate. It’d suck not being legitimately able to mean amen when we say it.)

This also being the case, do we really need to cap our own prayers with amen? Seems a little redundant to agree with ourselves.

23 May 2016

When God adopts us.

We literally become his kids. And no, I’m not using “literally” wrong.

Ephesians 1.7-14

In our culture, there are kids without parents. The kids might have biological parents, but those parents are unable, unfit, or unwilling to raise children—which means there are kids without parents. And adoption means someone wants to step up and become these kids’ parents: Take ’em into their family, take legal responsibility for them, and have all the same rights any biological parent would have over their biological children. They become their children.

Yeah, there are people in our culture who have hangups about adoption. They figure these kids don’t literally become the children of their new parents. You can tell by the fact they constantly refer to their relationship as “adoptive parents” or “adoptive children”—just to make it clear biology wasn’t involved, just to make it clear they don’t believe there’s a full parent/child relationship here. Such people might desperately want children… but they’d never adopt, ’cause they figure adoptive kids would never be their real kids. Not truly. And if they ever do choose to adopt, they hide the adoption from everyone, including their kids, lest others (including the kids) realize they’re not raising their real kids.

This stigma isn’t a recent thing. It’s a very old thing. But it’s a very European thing. Medieval Europeans were the ones who were all hung up on bloodlines: They had to make sure their kids were legitimately their kids, born to parents who were married to one another, and their parentage made absolutely certain. (Well, as certain as you could in those days before genetic testing, or even blood tests.) If there was anything irregular about a birth, the kid was “illegitimate” or a “bastard,” and anyone with “legitimate” parentage would try to make sure the illegitimate inherited nothing. Some of these graceless customs are still embedded in European laws, and greedy heirs still try to take advantage of them.

Romans didn’t have this hangup. They regularly practiced adoption. A Roman paterfamilias/patriarch could, and did, adopt anyone he wished. Family members, non-family members, close friends; didn’t matter. A father could choose anyone and declare them his daughters or sons. And so they were—with full legal rights and responsibilities as a daughter or son.

Nope, ancestry made no difference. Because back then, ancestry wasn’t really provable. All you really had was the mother’s word—and as anyone who’s watched the Maury Povich Show knows, some mothers don’t have the most reliable word. So the Roman culture adjusted to this reality: A man was a child’s father because he formally claimed to be. He got up in front of family, friends, and priests, and declared, “This child is mine.” It wasn’t a claim; it was a declaration. Any blood relation can weasel out of their parental duties. But if you stood up and claimed that child as your own, that meant something. (Still does. And should.)

20 May 2016

Samaritans, and Jesus’s living water.

A bit about the woman Jesus met at the well, and her people.

John 4.1-15.

To give you a better sense of how the ancient Judeans felt about Samaritans, you gotta think about how the average Evangelical in the United States feels… about Muslims.

Yeah, there y’go. Distrust. Uncertainty. Fear. The assumption that because some terrorists claim to be Muslim, all Muslims are terrorist. The assumption that because Muslims in various countries live under strict interpretations of the Quran and Hadith, they wanna implement those customs in this country, and inflict their commands upon us. (Never mind the fact a number of Christians wouldn’t mind inflicting our strict interpretations of the Old Testament upon everyone as well.)

Samaritans had a similar reputation in ancient Judea. The Judeans figured they were right, and Samaritans wrong. Really wrong. Dangerously wrong. They considered them pagans and foreigners, and had nothing to do with them.

And Samaritans believe (yeah, they still exist) precisely the same thing right back at Judeans then, and Jews today. They consider themselves the real descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the real successors and keepers of Moses’s teachings, the real servants of God. The Pharisees and Jews were the heretics, who’d added all these extra books to the bible (the books from Joshua to Chronicles—or in Christian book-order, from Joshua to Malachi) and a whole bunch of rabbinical loopholes which the Samaritans found offensive. Worse, they had all this wealth and political power—and heretics with power is frightening, innit?

Oh, there are parallels aplenty between Judeans and Samaritans then, and Christians and Muslims today. And let’s not forget the hate crimes: Some Judean would get a little political power, and decide to go into Samaria and slaughter a bunch of Samaritans. Some Samaritan would get vengeful and attack Judeans as they traveled through Samaritan territory. Not for cause; solely because they were different from one another, and had old grudges. By Jesus’s day this sort of behavior had been going on for the past 400 years. Like the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but without explosions.

Gotta remember that animosity, fear, and rage they had towards one another, whenever we read about Jesus visiting Samaria.

John 4.1-9 KWL
1 Once Jesus knew the Pharisees heard, “Jesus has many students and baptizes, like John”—
2 though Jesus himself wasn’t baptizing; his students were
3 he left Judea behind and went to the Galilee again.
4 He needed to pass through Samaria.
5 Hence he came a Samaritan town called Sykhár,
near the field Jacob gave his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s Well is there.
Jesus, tired from walking the road, was sitting there by the well the sixth hour after sunrise.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water.
Jesus told her, “Give me a drink,”
8 for his students had gone into town so they could buy food.
9 The Samaritan woman told him, “How can you be near me, Judean? I’m a Samaritan woman.
You ask me for a drink?—Judeans have no use for Samaritans.”

Many translations have “Judeans have no use for Samaritans” as the author’s commentary on the situation, not something the Samaritan said. The KJV puts it “no dealings with Samaritans,” but I rendered synhróntai/“make use of” more literally.

Obviously this woman didn’t recognize Jesus’s Galilean accent, and assumed he was Judean. Not that Samaritans and Galileans got along any better. But as we already know about Jesus, he did have use for Samaritans; he came to save everybody. Jn 3.16-17 Samaritans included. Jesus doesn’t do racism.

18 May 2016

Elders: Because we Christians need to grow up.

When we become spiritually mature, we can benefit our whole church.

ELDER /'ɛld.ər/ n. A leader or senior figure in a tribe or other group.
2. Presbyter: A spiritually mature Christian of any age, usually consulted as part of a church’s leadership, usually entrusted with ministerial or priestly responsibility.
[Eldership /'ɛl.dər.ʃɪp/ n.]

The term presbýteros/“elder” is used to describe the senior Christians in a church: The longtime, spiritually mature, fruitful, devout Christians. The folks we can legitimately trust to give us solid advice and sound instructions about following Jesus. The folks the leaders of our churches trust; assuming our leaders aren’t nincompoops, so can we.

Elders don’t have to be senior citizens, if that’s what you’re imagining. Any 30-year-old who grew up Christian is (usually) gonna be further along in their walk with Christ than any 90-year-old new convert.

Yeah, sometimes Christians assume they’re elders, or certainly oughta be considered elders, because they are old. In one of my previous churches, we had a woman who insisted everyone call her “Grandma” (even people her age), and expected them to come to her for sage advice. Which we didn’t, ’cause she had a few screws loose. Y’see, was emotionally immature—meaning she lacked the Spirit’s fruit of gentleness. Her instability meant she wasn’t a safe person to speak with; plus anybody who listened to her advice quickly realized she knew very little about God. But she’d been in church all her life, so she assumed it granted her elder status. Does not. It’s about maturity, not age.

Every Christian should aspire to become spiritually mature. And therefore elders. So we need to follow Jesus. Do as he did. Come under the guidance of some of his wiser followers. Produce good fruit. Practice good works. Live wisely. Be responsible. Obey. Okay, we’re not perfect, but we’re trying, which is all God cares about; and after a certain point our fellow Christians will see the Spirit’s work in us, and naturally defer to our spiritual maturity. Or expect us to take positions of leadership. Or, if they’re already leaders, ask us to take positions of leadership. Thus we become elders.

(Okay, some of these fellow Christians don’t know what constitutes an elder, and ask us to lead because they like our style. Happens in many a dysfunctional church. If you’ve got a spiritually immature pastor, that’s what happened. Usually the rest of the leadership is just as bad. All too common.)

17 May 2016

Sad prayers, mournful prayers, and weepy prayers.

Sharing our sorrows with God. Or not.

When we’re in emotional distress, we need to cry out to God. Not just when we’re angry, although you knew that. But when we’re sad. When we’re mourning. When we’re miserable. In lament. There’s a whole book in the bible called Lamentations, y’know. That’s its point. And there are plenty more passages where people shared their sorrows with God.

King David was an emotional guy. When he got low, he had no qualms about writing the Bronze Age equivalents of the blues.

Psalm 38.1-9 KWL
1 LORD, don’t correct me angrily, instructing me in heat,
2 because your arrows fall on me. Your strong hand has me beat.
3 My flesh’s instability from your indignant face;
my bones lack peace; my sinning moves your presence out of place.
4 I’ve more misdeeds than height! a heavy, heavy load for me.
5 My wounds all stink and rot thanks to my clear stupidity.
6 I’m twisted, bent way down; I walk in darkness all the day.
7 My burning genitals!—unstable flesh just wastes away.
8 I’m numb. I’m very crushed. My groaning heart through which I’ve cried—
9 My Master, my desires and sighs are obvious. Don’t hide.

You notice he blames God for some of his suffering. Like all of us, David sinned; like most of us, David figured his suffering was because God was punishing him for it. (And be fair; sometimes God totally was.) Other times, David blamed his suffering on his enemies—and wanted God to take up his cause, and smite people in nasty ways. In such psalms we see a lot more righteous indignation than weepy apologies. But either way, David didn’t hold back what he felt. Never to God. God knew him inside and out anyway; Ps 139.1 it’d be stupid to try to hide things.

God can comfort the sorrowing. He knows how our emotions work. He did after all design us to have them. He has the very same emotions too, y’know. Although God’s gentleness, his emotional self-control, is absolute. Ours needs a load of work. But part of growing in the spiritual fruit of gentleness means learning emotional self-control directly from God.

Recognize God’s the perfect outlet for our emotions. He wants to be that outlet. Whether we’re deep in sadness, anger, shame, offense, resentfulness, bitterness, loneliness, powerlessness, low self-worth, suspicion, unhealthy skepticism, sense of abandonment or neglect, God can take all of it, guide us through it, and use it to create something better in us.

16 May 2016

Tradition… and why it’s harder to quit than crack.

Our brains are wired to embrace old, familiar, wrong information.


Verses cited:
Mark 7.7.
John 14.6.
2 Corinthians 10.5.
1 Thessalonians 5.21.

15 May 2016


The eighth Sunday after Easter, when the Holy Spirit started the church.

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 KWL
1 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 time
were 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 wondered aloud, “Look, aren’t all these speakers Galileans?
8 How is each of us hearing our own native dialect?
9 People from Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Israel, eastern Turkey,
10 western Turkey, Egypt, the Cyrenian part of Libya, visitors from Rome,
11 Jews and Jewish converts, Cretans and Arabs
—we hear them speaking of God’s might in our own languages!”
12 All were astounded and stunned. Some asked one another, “What caused this?”
13 Others said, joking, “They’ve been drinking port.”

Lots of Christians call this story the “first Pentecost.” It wasn’t. Pentecost comes from the Greek pentikostí iméra/“50th day.” It’s the Greek term for the Hebrew festival of Shavuót/“Weeks,” the first crop of the wheat harvest. Ex 34.22 From the first day the Hebrews began to harvest wheat, the LORD ordered Moses to have ’em count off seven weeks, or 49 days. Dt 16.9-12 On the last day they were to sacrifice some of the grain to God, and take a day off in celebration. Nu 28.26 Somehow, the first day of the wheat harvest became formally shifted to the first day after Passover, meaning Weeks is the 50th day after Passover—6 Sivan in the Hebrew calendar. (In ours, 14 May 2016.)

All male Jews were instructed to go to temple on Pentecost. Dt 16.16 Meaning Jerusalem was full of devout Jews at the time, bringing the LORD their grain offerings—and suddenly a house full of Galileans broke out in every language they knew, spoken as if to them personally. That got their attention.

13 May 2016

John the baptist’s shrinking ministry.

Which he was okay with. Hey, it was his job to point to Jesus.

John 3.22-36.

The gospel of John doesn’t tell us about John the baptist’s arrest and execution. That’s in the other gospels. I’ll get to it. But in all the gospels, John’s role was to get Judea and all Israel ready for their Messiah. Now that Messiah’s around, John’s job was largely complete—as he himself expressed in John.

What prompted John’s teaching was an incident: Someone from Judea got into a debate about katharismú/“[ritual] cleansing.” Here, I’ll get to the scripture:

John 3.22-25 KWL
22 After these things, Jesus and his students went elsewhere in the Judean province.
They stayed there with the people, and were baptizing.
23 John was also baptizing in Aenon-by-Salím:
Lots of water was there, and people came and were baptized.
24 John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 So a debate about ritual cleansing arose among John’s students and a Judean.

We don’t know which sect this Judean was from. Some of ’em ritually washed themselves obsessively, and others not so much. Ritual washing (baptídzo, from whence we get our word “baptism”) required you to immerse yourself, fully clothed, in running water. This’d “clean” you from the various things in life which could make you “unclean”—your own bodily fluids, others’ bodily fluids (and any stuff they touched), rot, mildew, dead things, inappropriate food. Before you entered God’s presence, before you went to temple (or for the Pharisees, synagogue), he wanted you “clean” first.

John’s baptism technically wasn’t any of those things. His baptism was unique: It symbolizes how people wanna leave behind their “unclean” sinful lives, repent, and turn to God. It’s the same baptism we Christians still practice.

Well, that’s not how Judeans did baptism. Uncleanliness wasn’t about sin. In fact you could be totally sinless, like Jesus, He 4.15 and still be ritually unclean: You could unintentionally touch a bleeder, or someone who recently had sex; you could accidentally touch a dead animal, or step on something rotten; you could obey the Law and bury the dead, Dt 21.23 and in so doing become ritually unclean. (Various Christians argue Jesus is so clean, when he touches an unclean person it cleanses them. But if this were true, Jesus wouldn’t have instructed lepers to go show themselves to the priests Lk 17.14 and get officially clean. Lv 14.1-9)

So we don’t know the details of this debate, but we can guess it was the usual:

Judean. “You’re not doing it right.”
Johannite. “We’re doing something different.”
Judean. “Who gave you the authority to do something different?”

You know, the sort of fight-picking we usually find legalists start. They just aren’t happy unless they’re spoiling someone’s joy.

In the course of this fight, Jesus must’ve came up. Likely by the Judean, ’cause it was John’s students who came to John all anxious about it.

12 May 2016


The way a whole lotta Christians like to interpret the bible.

The word literally has two definitions. And they contradict one another.

Literally /'lɪd.ər.ə or /ˈlɪt.rə adv. In a most basic and exact sense, without metaphor, allegory, exaggeration, nor distortion.
2. Used for emphasis or strong feeling, though not precisely true.

I know; plenty of people insist the second definition isn’t the proper definition, and anyone who uses the word like that is wrong. Problem is, words are not absolutes. I know; plenty of people wish they were, and insist they are. (It’s why people still buy the original edition of Noah Webster’s dictionary, instead of something more recent.)

But words aren’t defined by historical precedent—like laws, treaties, or biblical doctrines. They’re defined, and regularly redefined, by popular vote. It’s why we need to keep re-translating the bible; why we need to look up the original definitions of the King James Version’s words when we interpret that translation. Once enough people use a word “wrong,” the wrong definition evolves into another definition. (But if it makes you feel any better, the “right” one still comes first.)

Anyway. The reason I bring up the evolution of language, is because plenty of Christians insist they interpret the bible “literally.” By which they think they mean the first definition: In its most basic sense. In reality they mean the second definition: They interpret it seriously.

I remind you: The first definition means without metaphor, allegory, exaggeration, nor distortion. But the bible is full of metaphors, allegories, exaggerations, and distortions. You knew this. If you forgot, I’ll remind you.

  • Hebrew poetry is full of metaphor and simile. “The LORD is my shepherd,” Ps 23.1 obviously. Not a literal shepherd; like a shepherd. And the psalmist is like a sheep.
  • Jesus’s parables are allegories. Certain prophetic demonstrations, like when Ezekiel built a little siege around a brick with a drawing of Jerusalem on it, Ek 4.1-2 are allegories. Apocalyptic visions are allegories. God used ’em all the time to grab our attention, and teach lessons. Again, not literal.
  • Jesus himself exaggerated. Fr’instance:
Mark 9.42 KWL
“Whoever trips up one of these little ones who trust me:
It’d be even better if you tied a donkey wheel round his neck and threw him in the sea.”
  • Anybody planning to drown kids to rescue them from false teachers? Nobody? Good. I’d be worried. Yet when certain interpreters come across exaggerations—like when David said he could fight a troop by himself and leap over a wall, 2Sa 22.30, Ps 18.29 meaning one of those 30-foot city walls—I kid you not, they’ll claim he literally could. ’Cause some interpreters are just that dumb.
  • If you’ve read the gospels, you’ll notice they don’t always sync up in the order of events. Fr’instance Matthew and Luke have a different order for Jesus’s temptations in the desert. For the authors, timeline didn’t necessarily matter: Sometimes they wanted to bunch Jesus’s teachings together. Or bunch his miracles together. Or show how the Pharisees were getting more and more peeved at him. For various reasons, they moved the Jesus-stories around. Not to decieve—but if timeline is really important to you (and it is to some Christians), you’re gonna find these alterations really irritating.

There are plenty of instances where we can’t interpret the bible literally.

11 May 2016

Sharing. Not proselytizing.

We’re to share Jesus. But some Christians go much farther. Too far.

Proselytize /'prɑs(.ə).lət.aɪz/ v. (Try to) convert someone from one belief to another.
[Proselyte /'prɑs.ə.laɪt/ n., proselytism /'prɑs(.ə).lət.ɪz.əm/ n.]

From time to time, when we Christians share the good news of Jesus with other people—you know, evangelism—we instead get accused of “proselytizing.”

To be fair, it’s often true. Some of us aren’t sharing the good news: We’re trying to ram Christianity down other people’s throats. We want ’em to come to Jesus so bad, we’re not willing to wait till they choose him on their own. We’ll make that choice for them, thank you very much. And if they don’t like it, tough. It’s for their own good, and they’ll thank us when Jesus lets ’em into his kingdom.

Parents push Christianity on their unwilling kids. Kids push Christianity on their unwilling parents. We push our Christianity on our unwilling neighbors. In the United States, we made “One nation under God” our official national motto, even though pagans aren’t always so sure about God, and whether we are under him. We put that motto on our money, in our pledge of allegiance, and if people balk at it, we don’t just accuse ’em of being godless, but unpatriotic. We also insist they let us put up Ten Commandment monuments, or crosses, or other religious iconography, in public parks, public schools, or public buildings. In Texas, we even changed the science textbooks so they state God created the universe about 6,000 years ago, and who cares if actual science suggests otherwise.

And when we share Jesus, we don’t ask people whether they’d like to hear about him. Don’t have time for that. We just corner ’em so they can’t go anywhere, and tell ’em—whether they have the time, the curiosity, the interest, the receptivity. Because they need to hear it: They’re going to hell otherwise. Now is their hour of salvation. Now is not the time for kindness, patience, self-control, or grace. Fruit of the Spirit? Only gets in our way.

If you’re familiar with this behavior, you’ve likely been hanging around dark Christians, the folks who don’t do fruit, and tend to spread Christianism instead of Christ. They’re the ones who leave tracts instead of tips for their waiters. They’re the ones who won’t leave your front porch when you insist, “No thank you.” They’re the reason people believe evangelism and proselytism are the same thing.

10 May 2016

Elisha’s double portion.

No, it’s not about getting twice as much as your predecessor. Just your fellow heirs.

2 Kings 2.9-10

The first time I heard of the idea of “the double portion,” it was in Sunday school, in a lesson our overeager youth pastor taught us about the eighth-century BC prophet Elijah of Tishbe, and his apprentice Elisha. On the day Elijah got raptured, he and Elisha had this conversation:

2 Kings 2.9-10 KWL
9 This happened when they crossed the river:
Elijah told Elisha, “Ask me to do for you, before I’m taken from you.”
Elisha said, “Please assign the double portion of your spirit to me.”
10 Elijah said, “You ask for a serious burden.
If you see me get taken from you, it’s yours.
If not, it’s not.”

Elisha, our youth pastor explained, requested twice the spirit of Elijah. Double the anointing. Double the power. And after he watched Elisha ascend to heaven, he got it—as proven by the fact Elijah performed seven miracles in the bible, but Elijah performed twice that number, a whopping 14. True, one of ’em took place after Elisha died, when a corpse came back to life after touching his bones. 2Ki 13.21 But it totally counts.

Some years later I became Pentecostal, and I heard the charismatic spin on this interpretation: Elijah didn’t just get twice Elijah’s spirit, but twice the Holy Spirit. ’Cause the Spirit inspired 1Pe 1.21 and empowered 1Co 12.11 the prophets. No, this doesn’t mean there were two Holy Spirits knocking around inside Elisha. It means the Spirit empowered him to be twice as mighty as Elijah. Twice as miraculous. Twice as prophetic.

And y’know, had one of Elisha’s students made this same request of him, theoretically this guy could’ve received twice Elisha’s anointing. Elisha did 14 miracles; Elisha’s successor could’ve performed 28 of them. And if this successor passed a double-portion anointing on a third guy, that guy could’ve done 56 miracles. And his successor, 112 miracles. And so on, and so on.

A thousand generations later, devout descendants of Elijah’s anointing and Elisha’s double anointing, could potentially perform so many miracles, they’d do ’em by accident. Sneeze in an elevator, and everybody steps out totally cured of their allergies. Fart and everyone’s gastroenteric problems are gone. And so forth.

How sad, this Pentecostal lamented, that people didn’t have the faith to keep pursuing this “double portion anointing.” They could’ve doubled the miracles in the world with every successive generation.

How sad, I’ve learned since, that people keep repeating this old Christian cliché. ’Cause it proves they’ve clearly not read the other parts of the bible, which clear up precisely what a “double portion” is. Heck, they’ve probably heard it explained before, but some mental disconnect keeps ’em from applying it to the Elijah/Elisha story.

09 May 2016

Paul, probably Ephesus, and predestination.

God has a wonderful plan for your life—if you choose to accept it.

Ephesians 1.1-10

Nine years ago I led a year-long bible study on Ephesians. Seriously, a year. Every Sunday I analyzed the heck out of a verse, or several verses. Some of ’em loved it, ’cause I went way in depth on that letter. Others felt I took too long: I could’ve whipped through all Paul’s letters in that time, yet here I was, taking apart every single verse of Ephesians.

I’m gonna take considerably less than a year here. Let’s start.

Ephesians 1.1-3 KWL
1 Paul, by God’s will an apostle of Christ Jesus,
to those who are holy and trusting Christ Jesus in Ephesus:
2 Grace to you. Peace from God our Father, and master Christ Jesus—
3 blessed God, and Father of our master Christ Jesus!
God’s the one who blesses us,
in every supernatural blessing in the high heavens—in Christ!

Paul wrote Ephesians late in his life, as indicated by his being a prisoner Ep 3.1 in chains, Ep 6.20 possibly awaiting trial before Nero Caesar, who ultimately had Paul beheaded. The “to Ephesus” in verse 1 was blank in the original, ’cause copies were to be made and other cities written there (yeah, like a form letter). But Paul sent out this letter with Týhikos, Ep 6.21 who was from Asia Minor, Ac 20.4 and since Ephesus was Asia’s capital, stands to reason it’d go there too.

Ephesians is also considered a late letter because its theology is way more thought-out than Paul’s other letters. Yep, even Romans. In fact various scholars (probably trying to make a name for themselves with a little notoriety) wonder whether Paul really wrote it, and whether some other clever Christian didn’t compose it as a briefer summary of Paul’s ideas—then tack Paul’s name on it so Christians would read it.

Meh. The idea Paul didn’t mature in his beliefs, or that he only wrote ’em down once (or twice), and definitively so, is stupid. How many Christian authors do you know who only discuss a subject once and for all? Some of ’em rehash their same favorite ideas in every single book. And—unless they’re intellectually lazy—you’ll notice some of these ideas evolve over time. Not necessarily change, but get deeper, show greater insight, show greater complexity—and show greater patience with people who think otherwise. Their writing and preaching style improves too.

My guess is the folks who assume Paul never grew, are the intellectually lazy. They don’t grow, so they project their rotten attitude upon Paul. But when we’re truly following the Holy Spirit, he won’t let us get this kind of lazy. Time doesn’t turn us into caricatures of our younger, unrefined selves, like we so often see in pagans. Spirit-led Christians grow. Which is why I like Ephesians: We can see how Paul grew. Hope we’re growing too.

05 May 2016

Some of the Holy Spirit’s supernatural gifts.

And how those who don’t believe in miracles, redefine them.

1 Corinthians 12.4-11

When the apostles Paul and Sosthenes corrected the church of Corinth regarding the supernatural—in particular about the gifts the Holy Spirit distributed to his church—the apostles listed a few of these gifts. Didn’t define ’em; just listed ’em.

Nothing wrong with that, but the problem is cessationists, those Christians who don’t believe in the supernatural, have redefined these gifts so they’re no longer supernatural. Still gifts of the Holy Spirit, but now they’re the sort of “gifts” that gifted and talented people—those folks we tend to call “geniuses”—happen to have. You know, like the ability to remember everything you read. Or have perfect musical pitch. Or be able to do complex mathematical equations in your head. Or be really physically coordinated.

In other words, natural gifts. Granted by God, of course, ’cause he’s the Creator. And thus the 1 Corinthians passages become all about how God has blessed his church with really talented, creative individuals. Great musicians, artists, preachers, handymen. There’s even biblical precedent for it: Remember when the LORD wanted Moses to build the tabernacle, and all the instruments which went inside it? And apparently he had a chief contractor in mind:

Exodus 31.1-5 KWL
1 The LORD told Moses, 2 “Look, I call by name Bechalél ben Uri ben Hur, tribe of Judah.
3 I filled him with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge,
and every ability 4 to do work in gold, silver, bronze, 5 and stonecutting;
to plaster, to do woodworking—in every ability.”

Seriously, Bechalel could do everything. And did. Ex 38.22

But that’s not at all what 1 Corinthians is about. It’s about nefmatikí/“spirit-things.” Stuff we can’t naturally do; we can’t do ’em at all unless the Holy Spirit does ’em through us. Stuff which proves the Holy Spirit is active among us, ’cause skeptical pagans can’t just brush them off as the talented acts of clever people. They’re forced into a dilemma: Either God’s really among us, or it’s deception or self-delusion. Either he’s real or he’s fake.

So here’s the list the apostles gave in 1 Corinthians—and the redefinitions which cessationists made up for ’em, and why those redefinitions are crap. Starting with the scriptures.

Christians like that will make such a hash of things, and lead themselves and others astray. It’s why, in the case of Corinth, Paul and Sosthenes had to step in and correct them.

1 Corinthians 12.4-11 KWL
4 And there are a diversity of supernatural things—and the same Holy Spirit;
5 a diversity of ministries—and the same Lord;
6 a diversity of activities—and the same God activating all of them in all of us.
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 is given to another.
9 To someone else, by the same Spirit, faith.
To another, by the one Spirit, healing gifts.
10 To another, powerful activity.
To another, prophecy.
To another, the ability to judge spiritual things.
To someone else, families of tongues.
To another, interpretation of tongues.
11 One and the same Spirit acts in all these things,
dividing them to each of his own people however he wants.

I remind you: It’s not a comprehensive list. Nor is it meant to be; we already have plenty of supernatural precedents elsewhere in the bible. But this’ll get us started.

04 May 2016

Covenant: How God makes our relationship official.

Despite what you may have heard, it’s not just an extra-special contract.

Covenant /'kəv.ən.ənt/ n. Committed, intentional relationship. The parties who enter such relationships spell out the duties of one to the other, made with firm, binding promises.
2. v. To enter such a relationship.
[Covenantal /kəv.ən'ənt.əl/ adj.]

Our culture, including popular Christian culture, seldom understands the significant difference between “covenant” and “contract.” Usually because of marriage.

Seriously. Y’see, back when there was no such thing as separation of church and state, the government formally recognized various religious covenants: Baptisms, christenings, marriages, religious vows, and so forth. After the United States decided it was in our best interest (particularly the church’s best interest) for government to remain neutral, our governments nevertheless still kept marriage on the books. Because it comes in handy to know who is married to whom—for the purposes of inheritance, next of kin and spousal consent, parental rights and responsibility and custody, and so forth. (Plus there are tax breaks.) But the problem is our laws don’t legally define any covenant between the two… because a covenant’s about the nature of their relationship. All government does is recognize the legal contract between them. One which, as you know, our governments can easily dissolve. Or redefine, to the outrage of many.

So when your average Christian tries to define covenant, such as one of the many covenants between God and his people in the scripture, they tend to think of marriage. And tend to forget the concept of “marriage” they have in their brains… ain’t necessarily a covenant. Sometimes it is, because they remember it’s a formal relationship. And sometimes it’s not, because they forget the relationship part, and instead emphasize the idea it’s binding.

Of course it’s binding. The people who covenant together don’t merely intend to work together. They intend to be bound together, for life. Like a proper marriage, not a government-defined marriage.

God is relational. He wants a close personal connection between himself and his creation. But God is love, so he doesn’t wish any of his relationships to be a casual, go-as-you-please, Facebook-style friendship. No relationships of convenience: Those are impatient and self-serving, and neither of those things are love. God wants commitment. He wants to bind himself together with us. Hence he makes covenants.

This is why throughout the bible, heavily emphasized, we’ll find covenants. God makes ’em with everyone. He made one with Noah, Ge 6.18 Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Ge 17 Jacob, Ex 2.24 the entire nation of Israel, Dt 5.2-3 and anyone who joins Israel and willingly adopts the terms of God’s covenant. Is 56.6-7 Really, he’s made covenants with all of humanity, Ge 9.15 which is why he has every right to rule and judge us.

And of course we Christians recognize Jesus’s new covenant, in which God’s relationship with his followers involves giving us his Holy Spirit, and that we follow him instead of the stipulations spelled out in the Law. (Although since the Holy Spirit inspired the Law, 2Ti 3.16 we don’t disregard the Law! We simply recognize he supersedes it.)

God continually initiates these relationships because he wants his creations to become his children. He wants to interact with us, and be our loving God. Lv 26.12 He’s always wanted this. It’s why he created us humans in the first place. Our sin messed things up, and ever since, God’s been trying to put things back together.

03 May 2016

We don’t just “have faith.” We have faith in stuff.

Faith can’t stand alone. It always needs a person or thing to have faith in.

You know what a transitive verb is? You might remember, from high school; most don’t. Transitive means you can’t use the verb by itself: There’s gotta be someone or something you’re doing the verb to. You can’t just say, “I wet”—you gotta indicate what you wet. A towel? Your whistle? The bed? Your pants? “I wet” (unless you mean “I [am] wet,” in which case wet isn’t the verb) doesn’t work otherwise. You need an object.

Well, that’s how faith works. Faith is transitive. You can’t just say, “I have faith” or “I trust”—you gotta indicate what you have faith in, you gotta indicate whom you trust.

True, plenty of people don’t realize this, and say “I have faith” anyway. But when they don’t indicate where they’ve placed their faith, it turns into a meaningless phrase. There’s a missing object. It’s like saying “I wet,” but not what you wet.

Complete trust or confidence based on what? Dependent on whom? Well, nobody’s ever asked them that. But if they think about it a moment, they can usually tell us where their faith is placed: “I think everything’s gonna be just fine because I have faith in humanity.” Or “I believe in karma; I have faith in that.” Okay, fine. Their faith comes from the belief people are good, or the belief the universe is good. We might debate those beliefs; Christians sure will. But at least we know the basis of their faith.

Still, there are a number of people who don’t know the basis of their faith. They just “have faith.” They have faith because… well, because they have faith. For them, faith isn’t complete trust or confidence in someone or something. It’s having complete trust or confidence. Period. Full stop. They believe… because they believe.

When that’s the case, there is no basis for their belief. “I have faith” is simply a synonym for “I wish. Really, really hard.”

This is why skeptics tend to mock people who “have faith.” We put our faith in things. But they don’t believe in the things we do: Don’t believe in God, Jesus, prophecy, miracles, apostles, the bible, nor Christianity. None of those things are real, they insist, so there’s no basis for our belief: Functionally, we’re just wishing. Really, really hard.

02 May 2016

Angry prayers, vengeful psalms, and curses.

Hey, there’s biblical precedent for it. But should we pray such prayers?

Imprecate /'ɪm.prə.keɪt/ v.] Call down evil upon.
[Imprecation /ɪm.prə'keɪ.ʃən/ n., imprecatory /ɪm'prək.ə.tɔ.ri/ adj.]

Yep, there’s a whole category of prayer which is all about calling down the wrath of God, or curses, or condemnation, upon people. The old-timey word for it is imprecatory (although not everyone seems to pronounce it properly), which is a nicer way of saying cursing.

The psalms include a bunch of imprecatory prayers. Sometimes King David would get mighty angry with his enemies, and want God to do all sorts of savage things to ’em. And every once in a while, some giggling Christian will joke about how their favorite prayer for a certain politician comes from good ol’ Psalm 109.

Psalm 109.6-13 KWL
6 Place a wicked person over him, with Satan standing at his right.
7 May those judging him return an evil verdict, and his prayers be offensive.
8 May his days be few, and another ruler supervise him.
9 May his children become fatherless, and his woman a widow.
10 May his children wander, wander, begging, digging through people’s trash.
11 May debt seize everything he owns, and strangers steal his labor.
12 May he never find love; his fatherless children never be given grace.
13 May his generation be the last one, and his family name be wiped out.

And so on. You get the idea. David wanted this guy thoroughly crapped upon, because he and his friends had done likewise to David. David wanted karmic justice—for the evildoer to get what David felt was coming to him.

Christians are of three minds about prayers like this:

  • All for it. Evildoers need and deserve our condemnation.
  • Wholly inappropriate for Christians: We’re ordered to forgive. Mk 11.25 Forgive friends, forgive enemies, forgive everyone, or God won’t bother to forgive our own sins. Mk 11.26 What’re we, of all people, doing calling down curses upon others?
  • Only appropriate towards the devil and devilish things, bad behaviors, evil ideas, false thinking, corrupt institutions… but we draw the line at fellow human beings. Never ask God to destroy women and men, no matter how bad they get. ’Cause God made them in his image, Jm 3.9 and wants to save everyone, 2Pe 3.9 not destroy ’em. Everybody’s redeemable.

In my experience, the crowd who’s fondest of condemning prayers would be the dark Christians. Of course. Their justification is that the prophets prayed such prayers; the apostles got a little outraged from time to time; even Jesus had his “woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” bits in the gospels. Mt 23.13-29 (They don’t realize “woe unto you” means “how sad for you,” not “damnation upon you.” Don’t really care, either.)

In life, humans get angry. Christians get angry. Even Jesus got angry. Mk 3.5 Anger is a natural emotional reaction when we wanna see things happen a certain way, but they don’t. It’s even appropriate when injustice takes place. So, in itself, it’s not necessarily evil. But we certainly use it as an excuse for every kind of evil. And a lifestyle of anger means we’re not following the Holy Spirit, who gives us peace; we’re acting out of our own flesh.

So when we get angry, what are we to do? How’re we gonna be angry, yet not sin, and get rid of our anger before sundown, Ep 4.26 instead of letting it turn into bitterness? Well, that’s why such things as imprecatory prayers exist. King David got angry. Lots of Christians get angry. We need a healthy outlet for anger, and sometimes that outlet is prayer. Tell God you’re pissed off. Tell God what you’d really like him to do to all those people who’re frustrating you.