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Showing posts from 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 KWL16 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’—18You 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 duhhe’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 …

Joy.

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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 pow…

Arminianism, Calvinism, and Pelagianism.

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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 ob…

Samaritans, and Jesus’s living water.

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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) precis…

Elders: Because we Christians need to grow up.

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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, becaus…

Sad prayers, mournful prayers, and weepy prayers.

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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 KWL1 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 nu…

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

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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.

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 KWL22 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 th…

Literally.

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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.əl.li/ or /ˈlɪt.rəl.li/ 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 transla…

Elisha’s double portion.

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No, it’s not about getting twice as much as your predecessor. Just your fellow heirs.2 Kings 2.9-10The 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 KWL9 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.”10Elijah 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 ’e…

Some of the Holy Spirit’s supernatural gifts.

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And how those who don’t believe in miracles, redefine them.1 Corinthians 12.4-11When 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 bles…

Covenant: How God makes our relationship official.

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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 …

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 e…