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30 September 2016

Multiple levels of truth.

Which we Christians shouldn’t have.

Matthew 5.33-37, 23.16-22

Thus far the Sermon on the Mount stuff has had parallels in the other gospels. This teaching doesn’t. It’s only found in Matthew.

Matthew 5.33-37 KWL
33 “Again, you heard this said to the ancients: You will not perjure. Lv 19.12
You’ll make restitution to the Lord for your oaths. Dt 23.23
34 And I tell you: Don’t swear at all.
Not ‘By heaven!’—it’s God’s throne. Ps 11.4
Not ‘By the land!’—it’s the footstool of his feet. Is 66.1
Not ‘By Jerusalem!’—it’s the city of the great King. Ps 48.2
36 Nor should you swear by your head; you aren’t able to make one hair white or black.
37 Make your word, ‘Yes yes; no no.’ Going beyond this is from evil motive.”

Yes, Jesus used to punctuate certain sayings with “Amen amen,” Jn 1.51, 3.3, 5.19, 6.26, 8.34, etc. and the LORD used to punctuate certain commands with, “I’m the LORD.” Ex 6.2, Lv 18.5, 19.3, 21.12, 22.2, etc. Arguably these too are oaths; stuff our Lord said in order to make it crystal clear he’s not kidding.

But there’s a huge difference between the Lord’s motives for swearing an oath, and ours. His is to underline. Ours is to say, “Okay, you know the rest of the time I’m a horrible liar. But now I mean it. Now I’m telling the truth. The rest of the time… well, I’m generally truthful. But now you can trust me. ’Cause I swore to God.” Or one of the other things people swore by in Jesus’s day, like swearing by the land of Israel, swearing by Jerusalem, swearing by one’s head. Nowadays it’s swearing on your mother’s grave, swearing on the lives of your kids, swearing “by all that’s holy.” Whatever you consider holy.

But you see the inherent problem with this, which is what Jesus wanted to highlight: The fact we have to swear to tell the truth, or swear to do what we say we will, implies we’re unreliable liars the rest of the time. Which is not what he wants his people to be.

28 September 2016

Spontaneous fruit?

The Spirit’s fruit won’t grow in Christians who won’t cultivate it.

There are a lot of fruitless Christians out there.

Why is this? Laziness, mainly. People, especially when they’re from wealthy countries, just wanna sit on their rear ends and receive. That’s what they think Christianity consists of: Since Jesus took care of our sins for us, they presume he takes care of everything for us. We don’t need to do any heavy lifting whatsoever. It’s all monergism: God does all the work, and we do absolutely nothing.

  • Instead of resisting temptation and obeying God’s commands, we have cheap grace.
  • Instead of demonstrating we’re Christians by our love, Jn 13.35 we demonstrate it by rattling off our statements of faith.
  • Instead of pursing a continual relationship with God, we say the sinner’s prayer, and figure that’ll do us till kingdom come.
  • Instead of testimonies about what God’s currently doing in our lives, we tell the same old 30-year-old come-to-Jesus story, and figure that’s the only testimony we need.
  • Instead of going to church, and becoming an integral part of that support system, we find a church where we only need bother attend 60 to 90 minutes a week. Or not, ’cause now they stream their services on their website. No, we won’t be awake then, but we can watch it later, like from Starbucks. Isn’t technology wonderful?
  • Instead of sharing Jesus, we share Facebook memes.
  • Instead of tithing, we offer lots of moral support. And hey, there’s more where that came from.
  • Instead of reading our bibles… nah, we don’t offer any substitute. We just don’t read it. We did watch that The Bible miniseries when it was on Netflix, though.

When it comes to fruit of the Spirit, we figure it works the very same way as salvation. God does all the work; we do all the receiving. When we become Christians, we suddenly just… grow fruit! All on its own.

Yep, I’ve even heard testimonies about it. “So one day, after I became a Christian, I got into an argument with a co-worker, and he just made me so angry, I was gonna take him out back and punch his lights out. I did that sort of thing all the time before I became a Christian, y’know. Just curb-stomped people. But for some reason—I really can’t explain it!—I didn’t wanna beat the sauce out of him. I just felt this weird, peaceful feeling. I felt love for that guy. I can only think it came from God.”

Now, a lot of fruitless Christians lie about what constitutes “fruit” in their lives, so I wouldn’t put it past ’em to lie in their testimonies. God’s fruit of love isn’t typified by the fact he keeps us from a rage-induced act of felony battery by spontaneously turning us gay. Yes, God can do such things if he wanted, but it’s far more likely our latté got roofied.

And there are red flags aplenty in the testimonies of fruitless Christians. Love doesn’t look like love, kindness ain’t all that kind, joy is just a bit evil, and I’ve met pagans with way more patience. Fact is, they’re describing the one moral victory they experienced, within a lifetime of capitulation and doing as comes naturally. This isn’t their habitual fruit of the Spirit. They have no such thing. That’s why they constructed whole stories about these rare exceptions.

Real fruit isn’t a rare exception. And it doesn’t come naturally. We don’t “just change.” We obey God. That’s the soil the Spirit’s fruit grows in. No soil? No fruit.

27 September 2016

Needing not that any man teach you.

The verse the go-it-alone Christian uses to evade accountability.

1 John 2.27

Ever heard of a “life verse”? It’s a Christianese saying. Means a bible verse which isn’t just a Christian’s favorite verse; it’s one they kinda consider their own personal mission statement. It’s one they base their life, or lifestyle, upon. Heck, there are a few of these “life verses” found in the very same chapter of 1 Thessalonians.

  • People who are big on joy: “Always rejoice.” 1Th 5.16
  • People who are big on prayer: “Pray without slacking.” 1Th 5.17
  • Big on prophecy: “Don’t dismiss prophecy.” 1Th 5.20
  • Big skeptics: “Put everything to the test.” 1Th 5.21

Anyway, I once worked with this woman… and Random Name Generator is gonna call her Svanhildr. Okay, why not. (Doesn’t that mean “swineherd”? Probably not.) Anyway, Svanhildr’s “life verse” was obviously “I need not that any man teach me.” Not just because she quoted it all the time: Nobody could teach her anything. Nobody was allowed to. She wouldn’t let ’em.

The whole verse, in the King James Version, goes like yea:

1 John 2.27 KJV
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

“The anointing,” Svanhildr figured, is the Holy Spirit, who comes to live in us when we turn to Jesus. John called this anointing “it” instead of “he,” but she figured John was using a metaphor; it’s the Spirit. You know, the Spirit who “shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Jn 14.26 KJV Since the Spirit teaches us all things, what need is there for any other teachers? They’re all just fallible human beings anyway.

Bluntly, this is the favorite bible verse of the go-it-alone Christian. We’ve got loads of them in Christendom. Some of them won’t even go to church, ’cause the pastor and elders insist on trying to teach ’em stuff. The rest do go—’cause you gotta, ’cause it’s all part of being a good Christian, ’cause it’s in their bibles somewhere—but try their darnedest to keep people from telling them anything.

Since I teach, I regularly run into this type. Paradoxically enough, they’ve even attended my classes. But the instant I tell ’em something they don’t wanna hear, up comes this verse like it’s their shield.

Svanhildr did go to church; not mine. She picked one of those fiercely independent anti-denominational types, ’cause if she didn’t answer to anyone, why should her church? But if the pastor dared cross her, she’d go find another church and take her kids with her. She didn’t really need a pastor anyway. She had Jesus.

Didn’t read bible commentaries; don’t need bible scholars when it’s just you ’n Jesus. Didn’t read books by other Christians; can’t trust men, and all she needed was a good King James bible. Whenever she read it, and came to conclusions about it: Didn’t need anyone’s contributions, insights, or especially corrections. She had license to interpret her bible any old way she liked. If someone asked Svanhildr, “How’d you come up with that?” she’d tell ’em; if someone objected, “But the context says otherwise,” she’d point to this verse and proudly proclaim her independence—from any tradition, any preachers, any scholars, any denomination, any fellow Christians.

And while we’re at it: Logic, reason, context, and fruit of the Spirit.

26 September 2016

Getting hold of our lusts… before we end up in the trash.

It’s the metaphor Jesus used when he brought up ge-Henna.

Matthew 5.27-32, 18.8-9 • Mark 9.43-49 • Luke 16.18

In case you didn’t read the last lesson on how the command “Don’t murder” Ex 20.13, Dt 5.17 is connected to anger, I should remind you: Christians too often read these teachings, and assume Jesus condemns people for being tempted towards anger. He doesn’t. Everybody gets tempted. His teachings are warnings not to act on these temptations. Same thing with his next lesson on adultery—and how it’s connected to lust.

Matthew 5.27-28 KWL
27 “You heard this said: ‘You will not adulter.’ Ex 20.14, Dt 5.18
28 And I tell you this: Everybody who looks at a woman to covet her,
has now adultered with her in their heart.”

(The Textus Receptus has “You heard this said to the ancients.” It borrowed “the ancients” bit from Jesus’s previous instruction, Mt 5.21 to make it line up better.)

First of all, I need to remind you of the historical context of adultery. Our culture assumes it means extramarital sexual activity. (Popular Christian culture includes all nonmarital sexual activity.) But that’s not what adultery meant in the 14th century BC, when the Ten Commandments were declared; nor the first century when Jesus taught. It had to do with patriarchy. Women belonged to someone. Either as subjects under the head of their tribe or family, or as property—as slaves. If you weren’t her patriarch, husband, or owner, she wasn’t yours. If she wasn’t available to become yours, sex with her was adultery.

God, and our current laws, did away with patriarchy and slavery. Yeah, various sexists try to re-implement it. Nevertheless, in the United States anyway, we live in a free society. Married women voluntarily belong to their spouses. Underage girls belong to their parents till they reach an age where (supposedly) they’ll be responsible. Every other woman is free: She belongs to no one but herself. And if she doesn’t agree to be yours, sex with her is rape.

Yep. That’s what Jesus’s teaching now means in today’s culture.

If you thought doing away with patriarchy made things lighter, or gave us a bunch of loopholes, it really didn’t. Everybody who looks at a woman to deliberately covet her, who has no business nor permission to imagine such things of her, has raped her in their heart. People object to radical feminists (or even ordinary feminists) using such terms to describe the way men leer at them, or referring to their objectification as “rape culture.” Turns out they’re absolutely right.

And I remind you: Jesus’s instruction was addressed to the young men in his class, but it applies just the same to women. Covet a man who’s not yours, and it’s either mental adultery or mental rape. So don’t go there.

23 September 2016

Doesn’t matter how “prolife” the president is.

Abortion politics don’t actually do anything. ’Cause we need to do something.

I’m prolife. By which I mean I’m anti-death.

I know; most of the time when Evangelical Christians call ourselves prolife, we really mean anti-abortion. We’re against that kind of death. All the other kinds?… Well, some of us are against the other kinds. The rest of us only care about preventing abortion: The unborn are the epitome of innocence, and totally undeserving of death. The rest of humanity: Meh, they’ve sinned already. Screw ’em.

In case you’re not clear what I mean by “all the other kinds” of death, let me spell a few of them out for you.

  • Death due to criminal or terrorist activity.
  • Death due to domestic violence or child neglect.
  • Death due to inadequate healthcare.
  • Death due to inadequate gun laws.
  • Death due to inadequate prison supervision.
  • Death due to unnecessary, unjust war.
  • Death due to unnecessary, unjust police shootings.
  • Death due to inconsistent implementation of the death penalty.

Christ Jesus came into the world to defeat sin and death. Problem is, your typical “prolife” individual only frets about one form of death. But has no problem with implementing death for every other form of sin. Not only that, they’re annoyed if we don’t implement it. All murderers should be executed, they figure, instead of clogging our prisons. All terrorists should be shot. Forget humane forms of execution; bring back drawing and quartering.

For that matter, they’ve no problem with death being the unfortunate side effect of their access to guns. They’ll bellyache against unrestricted access to abortion because it’s “too convenient,” but make ’em sit through a 5-day background check to buy a gun and they’ll lose their tiny minds. But I digress.

No, I’m not saying we need to abolish the death penalty. Nor am I saying we should ban guns, or never go to war. Stating, “The system has problems, so let’s be rid of the whole system,” is stupid. Doesn’t matter whether a liberal or libertarian says it.

But as we’re waiting for Jesus to return and overhaul our system top to bottom, let’s be good and faithful servants. Let’s do what we can to make it work as best we can. Let’s fight sin, and also fight death.

Reducing “prolife” to only being against one form of death, is also stupid. But let’s be blunt: The prolife movement isn’t really a Christian movement. It’s a political one. It exists for the sake of winning the absolute loyalty of prolifers to the Republican Party, so long that this party claims to be prolife. Meanwhile in practice, the Republicans do jack squat to reduce or prevent abortion. If they were serious, they’d’ve been successful. They had the authority. For eight years, from 2001 to 2009, they had control of the White House, and majority control of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the statehouses. Eight years. Changed nothing.

Seriously. Substantively. Nothing.

Well, they did in that time finally get me to stop putting my faith in the Republicans. I already trusted neither the Democrats nor the third parties, so now I’ve been disabused of any such naïve beliefs. I’m only registered as a Democrat for pragmatic reasons: If you ever want access, you gotta be in the system somewhere. May as well be in the party where if people claim to be prolife… it’s because they truly mean it, ’cause the party sure ain’t gonna nominate you.

22 September 2016

One Spirit for the one body of Christ.

So stop dividing the body for the sake of your particular gift!

1 Corinthians 12.4-27

The way pagans in the first century understood the supernatural, there were many different supernatural abilities—and each ability was produced by a different spirit.

  • If you wanted healing power, you prayed to Apollo.
  • For wisdom, Athena.
  • For speaking in tongues, Dionysius.
  • For mighty acts of power, Zeus.

You get the idea. Different abilities require the intercession of different gods. Or lesser gods, little helper gods, personal gods, known as daimónia, from which we get our word “demon.” Nope, not real gods. Unclean spirits.

Of course, when these gods did no good, as was usually the case, you do realize there were other gods. Apollo wasn’t the only Greco-Roman healing god. There was Asklipiós, Panákia, and Ygihía. And if the Greco-Roman gods didn’t work, there were always the Egyptian gods, the Persian gods, the Norse gods…

Today’s pagans still think this way. First they try western medicine. If the doctor’s no help, they go find a second opinion. If no doctor can help, often they keep trying: They look up researchers who are trying experimental cures. (Some are legitimate; some are cranks who try untested herbal remedies, vitamin therapies, or homeopathic cures.) They dabble in non-western medicine, like traditional Chinese or American Indian methods. They try psychic healers, medicine men, witch doctors. Whatever it takes to get well.

But Christians properly understand regardless of the method, there’s only one source of our life and well-being: God.

1 Corinthians 12.4-6 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.

The doctors at the hospital, the faith healers, the herbalists: They can only cure you if God granted ’em the knowledge to diagnose your ailment, the scientific technique to treat you, or the supernatural power to heal you. If they don’t depend on any of those things, you’re not getting cured. At best, you’ll heal up naturally, and think your quack cured you. At worst, you’ll get tricked into thinking you were cured, and die anyway.

Same with any other supernatural thing you encounter. It was all done by God. Otherwise it was a trick. Devilish trick or human trick; doesn’t matter. ’Cause there’s only one Holy Spirit who dispenses the power. There are no others.

21 September 2016

Heresy: When we really get God wrong.

When we’re wrong about the non-negotiables of Christianity.

HERESY /'hɛr.ə.si/ n. Belief or opinion contrary to Christian orthodoxy.
[Heretic /'hɛr.ə.tɪk/ adj., heretical /hə'rɛd.ə.kəl/ adj.]

Basically we define heresy by how we define orthodoxy. ’Cause they’re opposites. If it’s not orthodox, it’s heretic; if it’s not heretic, it’s orthodox.

There are other words people throw around, like unorthodox or heterodox. Technically they’re synonyms of heretic. But that’s not at all what Christians mean when they use ’em. What they really mean to say is, “I’m gonna question certain beliefs we take for granted,” or “I’m gonna say this in a way you’re not used to hearing.” But they’re not heretic; not at all. They’re orthodox. It’s just the way they explain their orthodoxy comes from an unexpected direction. They’ve chosen a unique way to describe the same traditional beliefs. It’s just unorthodox means heretic, and heterodox means “other than orthodox,” and therefore heretic.

Yeah okay; sometimes the way they’ve chosen to describe an orthodox belief goes too far. Fr’instance the Christian who’s trying to explain the trinity, and in the process winds up describing God as three gods, not one. Whoops; heresy.

That’s why I’ve gotta make it clear: Most heresy is unintentional. People aren’t trying to be wrong! They think they’re describing God properly. They think the way everybody else describes him—the way the church councils sorted him out, the doctrines our traditions have passed down to us, the faith statements most of us hold to—got it wrong. And they studied their bibles, or had some special revelation, or saw something everyone else missed, or revived something the ancient Christians called heresy. They got him right. Come into the light with them!

But yeah, they got God wrong. As we all do. It’s just their particular wrongness has to do with one of the non-negotiable beliefs, and stands a really good chance of leading people away from God, his grace, and his kingdom. It’s not a little error. It’s a whopping big one.

20 September 2016

“Can I pray for you?”

Most people don’t mind at all if you do.

When you don’t know what to do, talk to God.

Not only is this always good advice to follow, but it’s good advice when dealing with others. When other people share their difficulties with us, we don’t always know how to respond. Prayer’s one of the best responses—if not the best, period. It’s turning to God as our first resort.

I know; plenty of people think they know just what to do when they hear someone’s troubles. That’s why they immediately offer it: Advice. No, the person sharing their woes didn’t ask for it. Often they just wanted to vent to someone. But that’s not gonna stop people from inflicting bad advice upon ’em anyway.

Remember Job’s friends? For a week he kept his mouth shut, Jb 2.13 but then he made the mistake of lamenting in front of them, Jb 3 and it opened up their floodgates of bad advice, naive statements, sorry platitudes—you know, the same stuff people still offer as advice, which just goes to show they’ve never really read Job. It pissed the LORD off, ’cause nothing they said about him was correct. Jb 42.7 Like I said, shoulda gone to him first.

Me, I try to keep the unsolicited advice to a minimum. If you want it, I’ll offer it, with the usual disclaimer that I’m hardly infallible. But really, the best response is, “Can I pray for you?”

And when we offer to pray for them, let’s not do the similar platitudinous “I’ll pray for you.” Mostly because among Christianists, “I’ll pray for you” means one of two things:

  • “I’m really offended by what you just said. Go to hell. No, wait; I need to sound Christian. ‘I’ll pray for you.’ Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
  • “Oh Lord, I don’t care about all your miserable problems. I’ve got my own stuff to deal with. How do I get out of this dreary conversation? ‘I’ll pray for you.’ Good; now I can leave.”

It’s seldom based on sympathy.

Well, don’t be one of those unsympathetic jerks. If you’re offering to pray for them, no time like the present. Stand right there and pray. Doesn’t need to be a long prayer; doesn’t need to be perfect words. Just needs to be you, telling God to help ’em out.

19 September 2016

When our anger gets us into trouble.

Because people respond to anger with reciprocity, or worse. Not grace.

Matthew 5.21-26 • Luke 12.57-59

In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, after explaining he’s not come to do away with the Law, he proceeded to give his commentary on the Law. These are the bits which follow the pattern of “You heard this said... and I tell you.”

Typically bibles translate Jesus’s followup as “But I tell you.” (KJV, NIV, ESV, NLT, etc.) It’s because the generic Greek conjunction de, which is meant to connect sentences to one another, can be translated…

  • “And” if it’s connecting similar ideas.
  • “But” if it’s contrasting dissimilar ideas.
  • “Or” if it’s comparing options.
  • “Then” if it’s showing a sequence of ideas.

Yep, it can be translated whatever way the interpreter thinks would make the clearest English. But really it’s got no more meaning than a semicolon. (I’d even translate it that way… if it didn’t wind up producing giant run-on sentences.)

Here’s the problem: Interpreter bias. When we correctly recognize Jesus isn’t throwing out Old Testament commands and replacing (or significantly updating) them with his; when we realize he’s explaining the LORD’s (i.e. his) original intent when he handed ’em down, we’re gonna translate de generically. Sometimes “and,” sometimes a semicolon, sometimes we’ll drop it ’cause it’s redundant.

But. If we incorrectly believe Jesus is inaugurating a new dispensation—or we at least think Jesus is trying to add to the Law, despite Moses telling the Hebrews they don’t get to do this Dt 4.2 —we’re gonna wind up with the usual “but.” True, interpreters may only mean Jesus is just expounding on the idea—“You oversimplified it this way, but here’s what this really means”—dispensationalists can still claim the “but” backs their bad theology. So I went with the simplest option, and dropped de as redundant.

On to Jesus’s lesson. In Matthew he began his commentary on the Law with the “Don’t murder” command from the Ten Commandments.

Matthew 5.21-24 KWL
21 “You heard this said to the ancients: ‘You will not murder.’ Ex 20.13, Dt 5.17
Whoever murders will be subject to judgment.
22 And I tell you this: Everybody angry with their sibling will be subject to judgment.
Whoever tells their sibling, ‘You dumbass,’ will be subject to the Senate.
Whoever says, ‘You moron,’ will be subject to a trash-heap of fire.
23 So when you bring your gift to God’s altar,
when you remember your sibling has anything against you,
24 leave your gift there, in front of God’s altar.
First go make up with your sibling. Then come back and bring your gift.”

Popularly, this passage is interpreted all kinds of wrong. Namely it’s explained, “Hating your fellow Christian” (or hating anyone) “is just as bad as murder. Because you’ve spiritually killed them.”

Yeah, it’s in that way where “spiritual” means “imaginary.” You were so angry with ’em, you killed them in your mind. You imagined them dead. Maybe even imagined you killed ’em. For extra fun, maybe imagined it was gruesome, painful, slow torture. In any event the usual Christian teaching is you were bad for doing that, and should feel bad.

Then we wonder why so many Christians feel incredibly guilty all the time. It’s because we’ve basically taught them that whenever they’re tempted, whenever we permit one of these fleeting violent or vengeful thoughts to pop into our heads, it’s sin.

No it’s not sin. It’s temptation. And everybody gets tempted.

16 September 2016

Is it worth our time for me to be the advice guy?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I don’t know how I turned into the advice guy. It just sorta happened. Years ago I was contributing to a couple different websites, and I had my own personal blog, and out of the blue strangers started asking me religion questions. Guess I sounded knowledgeable to them, so they figured they’d test my knowledge.

So what’s the best bible translation? Or what do I know about a particular Christian denomination? Or what have I heard about this or that book?—this or that preacher?—this or that theological idea? Am I Arminian or Calvinist, and why? Pretrib or posttrib, and why?

It’s not a new experience for me. I got questions like this from my students in Sunday school classes or Christian school. Or from newbies in my church who found out I knew stuff, and consider me less intimidating than our pastor. (Intimidating for no reason, I should add; he’s a very friendly guy.) I joke all the time, “I learned all this stuff so you don’t have to. If you’ve got questions, go ahead and pick my brain. That’s why God gave it to me.” So they do.

But writing stuff for the internet means now I also get email and direct messages from friends and strangers, also wanting to pick my brain. I don’t even have to solicit it. It just comes.

Since I’m always coming up with topics for TXAB, I’ll take some of my answers and turn ’em into full-blown articles. Lots of TXAB’s posts are the result of someone asking me, “What do you know about [subject]?” I even used to have a regular question-and-answer feature. (On my personal blog, back when I had one, I called it “Questions and Rants.”)

Only problem with having a Q&A feature: Certain other people take it upon themselves to rebuke my answers and offer their own. They do it in the comments section. Sometimes actually try to get ahold of the person who emailed me the question, and try to respond to them directly. It’s not a matter of people correcting me ’cause they disagree with me. It’s people who object to me offering any answers. They wanna be the advice guys. Not me.

There’s a paranoid belief you’ll frequently find among dark Christians. It’s that if any Christian teaches any error, it‘s intentional, and they’re knowingly working for Satan. That’s what I’m pretty sure I’m dealing with: People who think they’re “liberating” my questioners before they fall under my spell and believe every single thing I teach, and are thus led astray. Even though I regularly make a point of teaching I’m hardly infallible.

So they keep trying to hijack my advice. I used to think this was just a bizarre form of jealousy. I told ’em: Create your own blog, wait for people to come to you, and answer their questions. Since their unsolicited advice is often impatient and jerkish, I can certainly see why nobody goes to them for advice. But their misbehavior quickly became tiresome, so I banned ’em. They adopt new usernames and try again, and I ban ’em again. After I switched to the Disqus comment system, I’ve been blacklisting ’em as soon as they pop up again, and so far so good.

Now it’s fine if you don’t agree with something I write. I can be wrong, y’know. When I am, I honestly do appreciate the constructive criticism. Not so much when the criticism is more hostile than constructive, but still.

I never bothered to create a Q&A feature for TXAB. I usually give the answer and don’t post the question. Some people are really anxious about my posting their questions (and certainly their names) anyway. Fine; I’m not out to embarrass anyone. Well, not out to embarrass most people. Some of you could use a little embarrassment. Namely these wannabe advice guys.

15 September 2016

When we remake Jesus in our image.

No surprise, we’re gonna find Jesus agrees with us nearly all the time.

PROJECTION /prə'dʒɛk.ʃən, proʊ'dʒɛk.ʃən/ n. Unconscious transfer of one’s ideas to another person.
[Project /prə'dʒɛkt, proʊ'dʒɛkt/ v.]

When we’re talking popular Christian culture’s version of Christianity, i.e. Christianism, we’re not really talking about what Jesus teaches. We’re talking about what we’d like to think Jesus teaches. We’re talking about our own ideas, projected onto Jesus like he’s a screen and we’re a camera obscura. We’re progressive… and how about that, so is Jesus! Or we’re conservative… and how handy is it that Jesus feels precisely the same as we do?

Y’know, the evangelists told us when we come to Jesus, our whole life would have to change. But when we’re Christianist, we discover to our great pleasure and relief our lives really didn’t have to change much at all.

We had to learn a few new handy Christianese terms:

“I think…”“I just think God’s telling me…”
“I strongly think…”“God’s telling me…”
“I feel…”“I just feel in my spirit…”
“I don’t wanna do that.”“We should just take that to God in prayer.”
“That scares me.”“I just feel a check in my spirit.”
“That pisses me off.”“That just grieves my spirit.”
F--- you and the horse you rode in on.”“I’ll pray for you.”

and we learned a few handy ways to act more Christian. Like learning all the Christian-sounding justifications for our fruitless behavior. Like pointing to orthodox Christian beliefs as the evidence of our new life in Christ; it’s way easier to learn and repeat than to develop fruit of the Spirit. Like how to act like Christians when surrounded by Christians, but be your usual pagan self otherwise, and never once ask yourself whether this is hypocrisy.

As for what Jesus actually teaches, for actually following him: Christianists figure we do follow him. ’Cause we believe in him. Jn 6.40 That’s how you get eternal life, right? Jn 3.16 Just believe. Nothing more. So we do nothing more. We’ve got faith, God figures this faith makes us righteous, Ro 3.22 and being righteous means we’re right. God rewires our minds so everything we think is right and good and usually infallible.

Problem is, that’s not how we become right. That’s how we stay wrong. That’s how we wind up arrogantly assuming the way we think, is the way God thinks. That all our depraved, self-centered motives are spiritual insights into how God’s gonna bring glory to himself. How God’s sovereignty and God’s kingdom works. How God’s sense of justice and wrath is gonna affect all the people in the world who, coincidentally, are the objects of our ire, spite, and disgust.

God’s ways are not our ways. Is 55.8-9 All the more true if we never bother to study God’s ways. But when we’re Christianists we think we know his ways, ’cause we have his Spirit (whom we barely follow), learned a few memory verses (some even in context!), skimmed a bit of bible, heard Sunday sermons for the past several years… and all our Christianist friends believe the very same way we do. There’s no way we could all be leading one another astray.

14 September 2016

Priests, under Jesus our head priest.

Every Christian is part of God’s nation of priests. Elders especially.

Priest /prist/ n. Person able to perform a religion’s rituals, and therefore intercede between God and his followers.
[Priestlike /'pris(t).laɪk/ adj., priestly /'pris(t).li/ adj.]

Protestants tend to translate presbýteros as “elder,” by which we mean the senior Christians in a church.

Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and some Lutherans, translate it “priest.” Properly “priest” would be the Greek word yeréfs—but for the most part, I don’t disagree with this translation. Y’see, the elders of the church are our priests.

Technically every Christian is a priest, for it was after all God’s intention to create a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. Ex 19.6, 1Pe 2.9 Jesus made his followers, us Christians, a kingdom of priests to our God and his. Rv 1.6, 5.10 Elders in particular happen to be able and mature enough to perform priestly functions. They can preach, prophesy, lead us in worship, perform baptisms, anoint sick people, distribute communion, lay hands on people for dedication or commission or anointing, intercede for others in prayer, and perform weddings.

Although the state tends to get picky about who can do that last one—separation of church and state regardless. It’s primarily for that reason certain churches only permit priestly duties to ordained elders, certain leaders who’ve been carefully selected and prepped. In those churches (and they aren’t just the Catholics, Orthodox, and so forth) not just any Christian can serve as a priest.

And a lot of us Christians are really picky about who can serve as priest. A new believer can anoint and heal a sick person, same as any elder. God can use anybody, y’know. But whenever we’re sick, and we want a fellow Christian to pray for us, whom do we usually go to? Right you are: An elder. A mature Christian. Not some newbie, who doesn’t yet have the hang of hearing the Holy Spirit; not some longtimer who lacks spiritual maturity. We want someone whom we know can minister to us properly. Some Christians won’t permit anybody to minister to ’em but an elder; and in a lot of cases they only want the senior pastor of their church, ’cause they’re sure that guy knows God. (Hopefully so.)

That’s why, when a newbie came running to the front of the church, hoping to preach a little something, they’re not automatically gonna get the microphone. We tend to keep priestly functions in the elders’ hands. We permit newbies to do it only under an elder’s supervision and training.

Or when there’s absolutely no one else available. Or when they’re the pastors’ kids. Or when nobody else knows how to play the piano so well. Or when they’re interns who’ve been really good at hiding their hypocrisy whenever the grown-ups are around. Let’s be honest; we’ve got cracks in the system. But generally we’ve screened people before the minister as priests.

I should add many of the same Christians who claim presbýteros means “priest,” never bother to translate the feminine presbytéra/“elder (woman)” 1Ti 5.2 as “priestess.” Relax. I’ll get to that.

13 September 2016

We’re not the only ones who do grace, y’know.

Grace is not unique to Christianity. Much as we’d love to think so.

Scott Hoezee told this story in his 1996 book The Riddle of Grace. Philip Yancey was so impressed by it, he retold the story in his 1997 book What’s So Amazing About Grace?

The story is told that, many years ago, a conference was convened to discuss the study of comparative religions. Theologians and experts from various fields of religious studies gathered from all over the world to tackle certain knotty questions relating to Christianity and its similarities or dissimilarities to other faiths. One particularly interesting seminary was held to determine whether there was anything unique about the Christian faith. A number of Christianity’s features were put on the table for discussion. Was it the incarnation? No; other religions also had various versions of the gods coming down in human form. Might it be the resurrection? No, various versions of the dead rising again were found in other faiths as well.

On and on the discussion went without any resolution in sight. At some point, after the debate had been underway for a time, C.S. Lewis wandered in late. Taking his seat, he asked a colleague, “What’s the rumpus about?” and was told that they were seeking to find Christianity’s unique trait among the world religions. In the straightforward, no-nonsense, commonsense approach that was to make Lewis famous, he immediately said, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” As the other scholars thought about that for a moment, they concluded that Lewis was right: It is grace. No other religion had ever made the ultimate acceptance by the Almighty so absolutely unconditional. In other faiths, there is usually some notion of earning points. Whether it was karma, Buddhist-like steps among the path to serenity, or some similar system, the idea was that to receive the favor of the gods one had to earn the favor of the gods.

Not in Christianity, at least not in true Christianity. Hoezee 41-42

Hoezee says he heard it from Peter Kreeft at a speech in Calvin College, and no doubt he did. Too bad it’s gotta be bunk though. Told to make C.S. Lewis sound clever—smarter than those religion experts, who had to have heard about the uniqueness of Christian grace from G.K. Chesterton, at least.

But Lewis, and any religion scholar who’s not a chauvinistic ninny, would know full well grace is found in other religions.

12 September 2016

Jesus’s most misinterpreted teaching.

He didn’t do away with the Law… much as dispensationalists love to think he did.

Matthew 5.17-20 • Luke 16.16-17

Matthew 5.17-20 KWL
17 “Don’t assume I came to dissolve the Law or the Prophets.
I didn’t come to dissolve but complete:
18 Amen! I promise you, the heavens and earth may pass away,
but one yodh, one penstroke of the Law, will never pass away; not till everything’s done.
19 So whoever relaxes one of these commands—the smallest—and thus teaches people,
they’ll be called smallest in the heavenly kingdom.
Whoever does and teaches them,
they’ll be called great in the heavenly kingdom:
20 I tell you, unless morality abounds in you, more than in scribes and Pharisees,
you may never enter the heavenly kingdom.”

This connects to Jesus’s similar teaching in Luke.

Luke 16.16-17 KWL
16 “The Law, and the prophets up to John: From their time on,
God’s kingdom is proclaimed as good news, and all struggle to get into it.
17 It’s easier for heaven and earth to pass away
than for one penstroke of the Law to fall.”

Despite this very lesson, many Christians do in fact teach Jesus did come to dissolve “the Law and the Prophets”—the way people in his day referred to the bible, our Old Testament.

As in Luke 16.16-17, Jesus is not announcing the termination of the OT’s relevance and authority (else Luke 16.17 would be incomprehensible), but that “the period during which men were related to God under its terms ceased with John”; and the nature of its valid continuity is established only with reference to Jesus and the kingdom.

D.A. Carson, Expositor’s Bible Commentary at Mt 5.17

It’s still relevant, still authoritative; it’s why Christian bibles still include it. But it’s no longer valid. It no longer counts. Fun to read, useful for historical context, and we can even pull a few End Times prophecies out of it. But follow it? Nah.

Exactly how is that not dissolving it? See, katalýsai/“to dissolve” refers to breaking stuff apart, like in water. Pour water on a sugar cube to dissolve it, and it’s no longer solid. Can’t construct any sugar-cube buildings, like we did in grade school: It’s useless for any function which requires it to be solid. That’s precisely what Jesus said he didn’t do: He didn’t turn the Law and Prophets into crumbling, insubstantial mush. Yet that’s precisely what we claim he did: Rendered it moot. Invalid. Not binding. And therefore, really, not relevant and authoritative.

This idea exposes a huge, huge error in the way Christians think about God, his commands, the Law, and legalism. Worse, this false idea worms into the rest of Jesus’s teachings. Really, every instruction we find in the bible. As a result, Christians use grace as a loophole, an excuse to ignore Jesus’s teaching—or misunderstand it, misapply it, even violate it.

Gonna be a lot of “smallest” Christians in his heavenly kingdom.

09 September 2016

My favorite End Times novel.

And no, you’re never gonna find it on

Years ago, I was complaining about one of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind novels. Don‘t remember which one, but I do remember my complaint—for once—wasn’t about the terrible Darbyist theology, but about the poorly-developed characters. Caricatures of characters, really.

The fellow I was ranting to was a bit of a Left Behind fan, so he didn’t appreciate my critique… although he admitted the writing “felt rushed.” There, I don’t agree. My beef wasn’t with how fast the Left Behind novels were cranked out. Some authors only need a month, start to finish, to produce a book. But they produce three-dimensional characters, whereas the Left Behind books produced melodramatic heroes and villains.

“Well fine,” he said, “what’s your favorite End Times book?”

“Easy,” I said, The Stand.”

Yep, this book.

When I realized I meant the Stephen King novel, he was outraged. Which I get. After all, King uses swears in his novels. And some Christians have never forgiven King for his depictions of manic dark Christians in his previous novels Carrie and The Dead Zone. (His Christian characters are way better in The Stand and The Green Mile. But I digress.)

Yes, I have read other End Times novels, books, and so forth. I may as well tell you about a few of ’em, so you’ll know why I picked The Stand over the others.

08 September 2016

Quitting Jesus.

And whether we can lose our salvation.

APOSTASY /ə'pɑs.tə.si/ n. When one leaves a religion.
[Apostate /ə'pɑ.steɪt/ adj.]

About half the pagans I meet say they used to be Christian. They grew up Christian, or at least grew up in church. Some of ’em even think they’re still Christian—though their nonchristian beliefs clearly indicate they’re pagan. Whatever their churches taught, they no longer follow. They left that behind. They went apostate.

I know; a lot of folks think “apostate” is a bad word. It’s really not. It comes from the Greek afístimi/“steps away.” Lots of us step away from things. I used to ride a bicycle everywhere; I’ve since discovered I prefer walking, and gave away my bicycle. So I’m an apostate bicyclist. (Nothing against bicyclists though. Whatever works for you.)

In the case of apostate Christians, they left Christianity. In my experience most of ’em no longer consider themselves Christians, or don’t consider Christianity to be valid. A minority quit God and went nontheist. Or joined another religion, like Islam or Wicca.

Why’d they leave? The usual reasons.

  • They had the crisis of faith. But nobody guided them through it, or their so-called guidance consisted of “Turn off your doubts and just believe really hard.” Well, they couldn’t, didn’t, and left.
  • When they had the crisis of faith, the Christians didn’t step up—but their nontheist friends, or friends in other religions, did. So they believed those guys, and left.
  • They never did believe. They went through the motions of Christianity because their parents, leaders, or peers pressured ’em to. Once they got away from those people, they left Christianity behind too.
  • Cheap grace: They believe God’ll let ’em into heaven no matter what they believe. So it doesn’t matter if they believe nothing. Or aren’t religious at all.
  • God didn’t come through for them in the way they expected or demanded. So they’re pissed at him, and aren’t coming back to him.
  • They’d like to be Christian. But all the Christians they know are a--holes, so they simply can’t affiliate with such people. They try to follow God in their own way. (Which isn’t easy without a support system.)

And some of ’em insist they have their own ideas about what should constitute Christianity—which of course don’t mesh with orthodoxy. But technically these folks aren’t apostate, ’cause they didn’t leave Christianity. They’re just significantly wrong about it and Jesus, so we’d call ’em heretic. Whole different category.

07 September 2016

Lukewarm Christians.

It’s not about being emotionally be excited. That’d be a way easier problem to solve, right?

Revelation 3.15-16

I give youth pastors a bad rap sometimes. Okay, often. Because I believe a lot of them fundamentally misunderstand their job. As did most of the youth pastors I’ve had to deal with, both decades ago as a teenager, and in the years since as I’ve worked with kids and young adults. Their job is to minister to the young people of the church, and share Jesus with the young people of their communities. You know, like any other pastor. Only with youth.

Problem is, many of the YPs I’ve run into, don’t think that way at all. Sometimes because their churches don’t think that way. My church, growing up, thought of the YPs as our babysitters. They were to make sure the church’s members’ kids behaved ourselves, and stayed Christian—at least till college. Once we graduated high school, we weren’t the YP’s responsibility anymore. My YPs made this fact quite clear to me when, shortly after my 18th birthday, they asked me to leave the high school group. Just like those parents who tell their offspring, “You’re 18; you’re outa here.”

Others of ’em think of the YP job as an internship, or “paying their dues” before they get their real ministry working with adults. Meanwhile they get to practice on us kids, and hopefully not screw us up too much. My first youth pastor was one of these. He really did make an effort with us kids… till that senior pastor job opened up in Colorado, and off he went.

Anyway, he was the one who first introduced me to the concept of out-of-context scriptures. He quoted the following Jesus statement from Revelation, then talked about how his fellow YPs typically misinterpreted it.

Revelation 3.15-16 KJV
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Y’see, this is a verse which comes up in youth ministry a lot. It’s because a lot of us kids are identified as “lukewarm.” Because the term, it’s believed, describes our lack of zeal.

And let’s be honest: Kids aren’t always all that zealous about God. See, the bulk of us had grown up Christian. We were led to Jesus when we were little kids—which is great; never stop sharing Jesus with your kids!—but children tend to believe most of the things adults tell ’em. Then they become teenagers, and learn to doubt. Which is fine: Let’s get those doubts out into the open, and deal with ’em! But babysitter YPs don’t deal with them. They tamp down the doubts with platitudes and quick fixes. After all, their job is only to keep the kids Christian till college. Then, in college, like so many other kids who grew up Christian… they can unthinkingly embrace those doubts and become pagan. Or even atheist.

Our YP, at the time, addressed some of those doubts. Good on him. And he made sure we’re aware of the existence of out-of-context scriptures, by correcting a few of the misinterpretations. Like what it means to be “lukewarm.”

06 September 2016

Coming together. Or not.

Jesus wants his followers to be one. Let’s not make excuses for not obeying him.

Ecumenical /ɛk.jʊ'mɛn.ə.kəl/ adj. Representing multiple Christian churches or denominations.
2. Promoting unity among Christian churches, regardless of affiliation.
3. Representing all Christian churches, regardless of affiliation.
[Ecumenism /ɛ'kjʊ.mɛ.nɪz.əm, ɛk.jə'mɛn.ɪz.əm/ n.]

One of Jesus’s commands was that we Christians love one another, Jn 13.34, 15.12, 1Jn 3.23 and one of his prayers was that we be one, like he and his Father are one.

John 17.20-23 KWL
20 “I don’t only ask about these, but about those who believe in me by their word,
21 so they could be one—like you, Father, in me, and I in you.
So they also could be in us. So the world could believe you sent me.
22 The honor which you gave me, I gave them, so they could be one like we are one.
23 I in them, you in me, so they can be perfected as one,
so the world could know you sent me, and love them like you love me.”

Originally we Christians were one group. Or at least every Christian church was affiliated with every other Christian church. Didn’t take long for that to change; for individual Christians and church leaders to insist, “We’re real Christians, but they aren’t.” Happened among Jesus’s students; Mk 9.38-39 happened among the Corinthians; 1Co 1.11-13 happened throughout Christian history. The reason there are a thousand denominations is because we Christians don’t obey Jesus’s command to love one another.

Well, ecumenism is about undoing all that. It’s about overcoming our differences and recognizing we all share and follow the same Lord. It’s about loving one another, like Jesus ordered. Sometimes working together; certainly not working against one another.

Yet there are many Christians out there who insist ecumenism is devilish. (And they’re in every church, so don’t go blaming the Fundamentalists for this one.) Not only that, many of these isolationist Christians insist one of the tricks the Beast will try to pull off during the End Times is to get all the churches to recombine into some devilish one-world religion. It’s based on a profoundly out-of-context interpretation of Revelation 17-18, which you can read for yourself and notice it says no such thing.

In any event, these isolationists insist we’re not to overcome our differences. We’re not to love one another—’cause those other churches aren’t real churches, and the Christians they consist of aren’t real Christians. They’re phonies who’ll do nothing but corrupt us. So keep ’em at arm’s length. Interact with them only to try to win people away from their compromised, poisonous churches. Stay separate and independent and pure.

05 September 2016

The world’s light.

We’re to show our good works to the world. Sorta.

Mark 4.21 • Matthew 5.14-16 • Luke 8.16, 11.33 • John 8.12

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his students they’re the light of the world. And multiple times in John, Jesus is declared the light of the world. Here, I’ve got one of those passages lined up for you.

Matthew 5.14 KWL
“You’re the world’s light.
A city can’t be hidden when it lies on a hill.”
John 8.12 KWL
So Jesus spoke to them again, saying: “I’m the world’s light.
My followers shouldn’t walk in the dark. Instead they’ll have life’s light.”

So which is it?

Both, obviously. It’s not a contradiction. Jesus is the true light who entered the world; Jn 1.9 as long as he’s in the world he enlightens it; Jn 9.5 whoever believes in him needn’t live in the dark; Jn 12.46 he reflects the fact that God is light. 1Jn 1.5 And we’re the light of the world when we follow his example, and reveal to the world God’s kingdom is near, same as Jesus did. Once we were darkness, but now light, Ep 5.8 for since God’s now our Father, we are light’s children, 1Th 5.5 shining as lights in this dark world. Pp 2.15

Yep, this light metaphor is all over the bible. Wouldn’t hurt us to read up on it, and see all the different ways God wants us to carry his light. 2Co 4.6

Starting with the city-on-a-hill idea. Nowadays we don’t create cities on hills. When developers create a town, they place them somewhere convenient: Outside bigger cities, near main roads, a place easy to access. Hills aren’t so easy, plus there’s all the hassle of building on a hill. Put a city on a hill, and it’ll nearly always be an expensive city. But back in ancient times, rulers worried about invasion, and figured a hill was easier to defend than a plain. Plus they could see their enemies coming. The down side was their cities were very visible-especially at night, with all their torches burning.

That’s the trait Jesus wants his followers to have: We oughta be nice and obvious. (True, it makes us more visible to enemies, but let’s not hang up on the negative.) If Christianity is a city on a hill, we Christians need to be visible. No hiding our faith. No concealing who it is we follow.

02 September 2016

The sucky starfish story.

My take on an overdone sermon illustration.

I grew up Christian, as some of you know. As a result I’ve heard hundreds of sermons.

Seriously, hundreds: I grew up Christian, and never took any longer than three-month break from attending a church. (And during that time, I was going to daily chapel, which was mandatory in seminary.) So, since I grew out of the childcare program at the age of five: One every Sunday, and sometimes two. One during many a midweek evening service. One every time I went to chapel, both in school, and when I taught school. Three to ten during conferences. At least one every time I listen to preacher radio, or download a church’s podcast. I listen to my own pastor’s sermons twice: Once on Sunday morning, and once again as I scrub the audio for podcasting. So no, I’m not kidding when I say hundreds. It’s possibly thousands.

Since many of these preachers tap the very same sources for sermon illustrations, the result is I’ve heard thousands of clichés. Some of these preachers haven’t been Christian as long as I, so they don’t know these stories are clichés, and even if they do, they inflict ’em on people anyway. Sometimes they love these stories, so if they weren’t clichés already, by golly these preachers would make them their own personal clichés if they could. They’ll trot ’em out over and over again, like a dog breeder who loves to show off his prize-winning poodle, and doesn’t notice the poor thing is 15 years old, covered in bald spots, and limping.

About a decade ago I was obligated to listen to some Christian radio, and the announcer decided to tell the starfish story again.

If you haven’t heard it by now, your church attendance sucks. It’s a mainstay of maudlin preaching. Goes like yea: Starfish washed up on the beach; there’s a kid throwing them back into the ocean; an adult notices this and comments, considering the number of fish, how futile this activity is, and “what difference will it make?” The kid, undeterred, states, “It’ll make a difference for this one,” and flings that starfish into the sea. And this is a parable to encourage us to plug away at any impossible-looking task. We may not change every life, but we may change one.

Now all it needs is to be made a poem, and people will put it on posters. Well, I beat y’all to it.

With a bit of a twist. See, when I tire of things, or grow irritated with them, I deal with them by parodying them. If you were expecting my poem to warm your heart… that’s not gonna happen today.

01 September 2016

The best of all possible worlds.

When Christians assume “God’s will” means good fortune.

You mighta noticed my articles on God's will thus far, mainly focus on what God revealed in the scriptures to actually be his will. His commands. His instructions. His wisdom. What he literally wants us to do.

Problem is, whenever Christians wanna know about God’s will, that’s not what we mean. Nor what we want.

Poll the Christians you know, and our overwhelming attitude about God’s commands is they’re either “too hard” cf. Ac 15.10 or “old covenant.” We don’t care about the commands. Well, unless they make us feel good about ourselves ’cause we’re already obeying them—whether intentionally or accidentally. (And if we’re not obeying them, we offer our excuses.) Or unless they justify our prejudices, ’cause it appears God doesn’t like certain sins any more than we do.

But whenever we Christians say, “I just wanna know God’s will for my life,” you gotta understand we don’t mean God’s commands. We don’t wanna be directed to the Sermon on the Mount, or the Proverbs, or anything having to do with God’s revealed will. Instead we’re talking about the unrevealed will. God’s secret will. His plan for the cosmos… and where we fit in it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he loves us and wants to save us and give us his kingdom. Lk 12.32 We know about salvation and eternal life and resurrection and heaven. That’s not what we mean either, ’cause that’s not part of the secret will; that’s common knowledge. We want the insider knowledge. We want the stuff that’s none of our business. Ac 1.7 We wanna know the details of our own personal futures.

Specifically: We want a heads-up on all the significant decisions we’re ever gonna make in our lives. Whom to marry. Where to go to university. Which career field to pursue. Which job to take. Which ministries to dabble in. The best financial investments. The best schools to put our kids into. The perfect things to say at particular moments in time. God knows all the possible outcomes of these decisions. We’re not asking to know all the outcomes; we just want God to point us to the best one, so we can do it. ’Cause we assume that’s God’s will: The best of all possible worlds.

“I wanna know God’s will for my life” really means we wanna make certain we’re not just getting some ho-hum, lackluster, not-reached-its-potential, regret-filled future life. We want the best future life. The fun high-paying job. The spouse and kids who never tell us no. The ministry which requires no sacrifice whatsoever. We want God pouring out blessings like the world’s loosest slot machine.

Not God’s commands. Not his righteousness. Not the good works he set out for us to do. Ep 2.10 Screw that. It’s too hard. And it’s the old covenant.