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Showing posts from October, 2016

“Be careful, little eyes…”

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Nobody’s temptation-proof. But not everyone’s tempted by the same stuff. Some years ago when I finally got round to reading the unabridged edition of The Stand (which, I remind you, is my favorite End Times novel, and not just ’cause it’s way better written than those stupid, stupid Left Behind novels), I casually mentioned to a fellow Christian ( let’s call her Asha ) I was doing so. Wrong Christian to mention such things to. Asha was horrified. I think she was afraid I’d lose my salvation over it. You think I’m being facetious, but some Christians actually do believe there are such things as mortal, unpardonable sins. To Asha, Stephen King novels are apparently one of ’em. Y’see, King is known as a horror writer. So he’ll write about evil spirits, vampires, werewolves, devilish magic creatures, and so forth. He’ll also write about non-supernatural things, like sex and violence. He’ll use the F-word, and take the Lord’s name in vain. Pagan stuff like that. Therefore Asha

“If my people pray, I’ll heal their land.”

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2 Chronicles 7.14. Today’s out-of-context verse is really popular with civic idolaters , those folks who assume when Jesus returns, he won’t overthrow the United States: It’s the one exception to the kingdoms of this world which must become part of Christ’s one-world government. To them, it already is his kingdom, and Americans already are God’s chosen people. It’s just we’re heavily mismanaging things. But once we call upon God… well, lemme quote their beloved bible verse. 2 Chronicles 7.14 KJV …if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Right. If our Christian nation returns to God, and returns to proper Christian values (as defined by popular Christian culture ), and makes big shows of repentance like public prayer and voting for the prolife political party (and never mind what the party’s candidat

Resisting God’s grace. (Don’t!)

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It’s sad. But it’s possible, and it happens. God dispenses his amazing grace to everybody, as Jesus pointed out in his Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5.43-48 KWL 43 “You heard this said: ‘You’ll love your neighbor.’ Lv 19.18 And you’ll hate your enemy. 44 And I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors. 45 Thus you can become your heavenly Father’s children, since he raises his sun over evil and good, and rains on moral and immoral. 46 When you love those who love you, why should you be rewarded? Don’t taxmen also do so themselves? 47 When you greet only your family, what did you do that was so great? Don’t the foreigners also do so themselves? 48 Therefore you will be egalitarian, like your heavenly Father is egalitarian.” Our Father doesn’t skimp on the grace. He provides it, in unlimited amounts, to everybody. To those who love him, and those who don’t—which is why Jesus instructs us to be like our Father, and love those who hate us. To tho

The prayer journal: Keeping track of prayer requests.

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It’s good to have a written record of God’s answers to prayer. PRAYER JOURNAL /'pr(eɪ.)ər 'dʒər.nəl/ n. Daily (or regular) record of transactions with God. [Prayer journaling /'dʒər.nəl.ɪŋ/ vt. ] A prayer journal is a sort of diary, but rather than listing everything you did during the day (and all your innermost secret feelings about them), your prayer journal is about what you prayed—for yourself, and for others. I realize not everyone keeps a diary. It’s for the same reason not every Christian keeps a prayer journal. We don’t think our lives are interesting enough to record, or can’t remember to keep it up to date… or fear what’ll happen when the wrong person reads those innermost secret feelings. Well, a prayer journal isn’t necessarily about personal secrets. (Unless you requested things from God which you’d really rather other people not know: “God, please cure my butt pimples” and the like.) It’s how to keep track of what you’ve prayed—and how and when God a

Jesus’s first command: Love God.

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The most important of the commands to follow. When Moshe ben Maimon of Spain (1135–1204, also called Maimonides by westerners, Rambam by Jews) wrote the Sefer Hamitzvot /“Book of Good Deeds,” he sorted God’s commands into a list of 613. His first command was the first of the Ten Commandments, which in Jewish reckoning is this verse: Exodus 20.2 = Deuteronomy 5.6 KWL “I’m your god, the L ORD , who took you out of Egypt’s land, out of the slaves’ house.” Makes sense, right? It’s the first one the L ORD declared aloud from Sinai. But when Jesus was asked the most important of God’s commands, he listed two. Respectively, they’re Moshe ben Maimon’s fourth and 13th commands. Mark 12.28-31 KWL 28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion. Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees , he asked him, “Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer: “First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One. 30 You will

The love we oughta see in supernatural gifts.

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We do untold damage when love’s not part of this ministry. 1 Corinthians 13.4-8 When Christians write the about the bit from 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love, we almost universally take it out of context. Myself included. ’Tain’t necessarily a bad thing: We quote it when we’re defining love. What love is, as opposed to what it’s not—as opposed to what popular culture, and sometimes even Christian culture, claims it is. The apostles defined it properly, so we’re adjusting our concept of agápi /“charity” accordingly. But in context , the apostles defined it because they were correcting the Corinthians’ misperceptions about the supernatural. If you’re gonna strive for greater gifts, the only valid way to pursue them and do them is in love. If you’re not doing ’em in love, you’re doing ’em wrong. And if you’re not entirely certain what the apostles meant by this “love” concept, permit ’em to straighten you out a bit. 1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL 4 Love has patience. Lov

Saying grace.

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You know: Praying for your food. The most common type of prayer—the one we see most often, and probably the type taken the least seriously—is the prayer before meals. We call it “grace.” Not to be confused with God’s generous, forgiving attitude. Why don’t people take it seriously? Because it’s dead religion. Christians might pray it as a living act of religion , one of the acts we do to further our relationship with God. But Christians and pagans alike say grace before meals as the dead kind of religion: We do it ’cause it’s just what people do in our culture. It’s custom. It’s tradition. It’s habit. But it doesn’t mean anything. Nope, not said out of gratitude. Nor love. Nor devotion. Nor even as a reminder of these things. We say grace because if we didn’t say grace, Grandma would slap the food out of our hands and say, “You didn’t say grace!” We say grace because Dad would take his seat at the table, fold his hands like you do for prayer, and give us kids dirty looks until

Things I want when I’m in a coma.

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Just in case there’s any question… and in case anyone remembers I blogged on it. The subject came up recently. It's kind of a morbid subject, but honestly, you never know when you might wind up in a coma. I’m not expecting to go into one anytime soon; no, I’m not suffering from anything. But I know people who went from hale and hearty (or appearing so) to dead in very short periods of time. If I ever go into one, I should make my wishes nice and obvious. So I’m sticking ’em on TXAB . Somewhere, in the back of someone’s mind, they’ll remember I listed ’em here. Here ya go. If I’m ever in a coma, this is what I want. Keep me plugged in. Keep the feeding tubes going. Keep the oxygen flowing. I wanna live , dangit. If I ever change my mind on that, I’ll stop trying so hard to live, and just die. So if I’m alive, assume I wanna be alive. Keep me alive. Don’t disconnect the food and air; that’s a nasty way to go. I’ll make an exception if I’m brain dead. Then, obviously, I’m

Perfect love—without conditions.

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Matthew 5.43-48, Luke 6.27-36. Sometimes I joke the two commands Jesus said were most important Mk 12.29-31 —love God Dt 6.5 and love your neighbor Lv 19.18 —are respectively the easiest and hardest commands. Really easy to love God. But the neighbors are such a pain. Some respond with a laugh. Others disagree: They struggle to love God, but people are relatively easy for them. ’Cause people are visible and God is not. And, they figure, the neighbors are easy to love. Of course by “neighbor” they mean “people who are friendly,” kinda like in Jesus’s story of the kind Samaritan. Lk 10.29-37 Kind people are easy to love. Unkind people not so much. And yeah, it’s not hard to love people who are always nice to you, but I find when you really know and spend time with people, they’re not always gonna be nice. Gotta give ’em credit for trying, but everybody slips up. I sure do. That’s why we Christians gotta be gracious. Since God obligated the Hebrews to love their neighbo

The supernatural without the Spirit’s fruit.

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Yeah, contrary to popular belief, bad Christians can work actual miracles. 1 Corinthians 13.1-3 If phony supernaturalism irritates you, you’re hardly alone. It annoys me too. Just because I believe in the supernatural, a lot of folks expect I’ll believe any stupid thing. Those who don’t believe in the supernatural at all, presume I believe in every single one of the outrageous behaviors we find in the loonier fringes of Pentecostalism. Those who do believe in the supernatural expect me to accept their appalling behavior as legitimate—and are very annoyed when I won’t. But I can’t. Jesus warned us there’d be frauds out there. He told us to keep our eyes open, look out for them, and judge whether they’re legit or not. And some of these self-described apostles, prophets, healers, and ministers are simply frauds. People always try to make counterfeits of something valuable. It’s our duty as Christians to test these would-be miracle workers, see whether there’s anything to them—and

Doctrine: Christendom’s fixed ideas. (Mostly.)

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And whether it’s safe to question them. Doctrine /'dɑk.trən/ n. Official belief, or group of teachings, held by an organization. 2. Decree: A decision by officials as to how they choose to interpret an idea, or handle a controversy. [Doctrinal /'dɑk.trən.əl/ adj. ] Doctrine is a formal word. A lot of Christians don’t realize this, and fling it around anyway. I know of one pastor who used to title his podcast, “Doctrines for Today.” Even though a lot of what he taught was more his interpretations of the scriptures; it wasn’t actually his church’s official stance. Well… was and wasn’t. Y’see, he pastored one of those churches where the pastor runs the whole show. Nobody oversees him, nobody vetoes him. It’s a dictatorship. Hopefully benevolent, and I’m sure he’d like to think of himself that way, but he was super sexist, so I’m sure the women of his church didn’t consider him benevolent. But I digress; my point is his stances functionally were his church’s official

How we Christians imagine God’s presence.

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Sometimes up. Sometimes by the cross or the Jesus picture. Sometimes on the church’s stage. It varies. OMNIPRESENT /ɑm.nɪ'prɛ.zənt/ adj. Everywhere at once. Ubiquitous. [Omnipresence /ɑm.nɪ'prɛ.zəns/ n. ] We Christians believe God is everywhere. Not just that he sees everywhere; Ps 33.13-14 he actually is everywhere. He’s not limited by space. ( Nor time, although a lot of Christians only use the whole “sees everywhere” idea to discuss time. Not me. Everywhere also means every- when . Jn 8.58 ) The way David put it, God has no such limits. Psalm 139.7-12 KWL 7 How can I leave your Spirit? How can I run away from your face? 8 You ’re there if I climb to the skies, or rest in the grave: Look, it’s you! 9 I wear the dawn’s wings. I pitch a tent on the far side of the sea— 10 yet even there your hand guides me. Your right hand holds me. 11 I can say, “Yes, darkness surrounds me; night is ‘light’ around me”— 12 yet even darkness isn’t dark to you. N

Standing with Israel?

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My views on Israel are not conventional. So, of course, they’re controversial. The average American Evangelical believes that the Jews are God’s chosen people. ’Cause they are. Ek 20.5 There might be a few antisemites hiding out among Evangelicals, but for the most part we believe God chose Abraham, God chose Abraham’s and Israel’s descendants, God demonstrated salvation by freeing Israel’s descendants from Egypt, God set a king over them whom they called Messiah, and Jesus of Nazareth is the final and greatest and eternal Messiah. (Or Christ, as gentiles tend to call him. Means the same thing.) Our religion is a descendant of the Hebrew religion. We even swiped their holidays. The average American Evangelical also believes the nation of Israel is a nation of God’s chosen people. God promised ’em the land of the Levant/Canaan/Palestine if they kept covenant with him, and upheld his Law. God encouraged the nations round about Israel to support it and ally themselves with it

Strive for greater supernatural gifts!

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’Cause the Holy Spirit wants us to be a wonder-working church. 1 Corinthians 12.28-31 Part of the reason the apostles brought up the subject of supernatural gifts was so Christians wouldn’t be ignorant of ’em. 1Co 12.1 There are all sorts of gifts, empowered by one and the same Holy Spirit, 1Co 12.4 distributed among Christians so they can contribute to Christianity’s unity. This being the case: Do we see all Christians stepping up to the different ministries these gifts can energize? Do we see all Christians practicing these supernatural gifts? Miracles breaking out everywhere, mighty acts of power convincing the world God is really among us, the weak and sick flocking to churches because they know God has the cure, the lost and confused seeking out Christians because they know God has answers? I wish . And I’m sure plenty of Christians also wish it were so. Not to mention Christ himself. But we don’t see it. What we see are naysayers and cessationists. People who reduc

Postmodernism: Why we can’t take “truths” for granted.

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It’s a worldview whose starting point is doubt. And it’s everywhere. Heck, I have it. Postmodern /poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn/ adj. Reflecting an attitude of skepticism and distrust of “modern” grand theories and ideologies. 2. Anti-modern. [Pomo /'poʊ.moʊ/ abbr. , postmodernism /poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.iz.əm/ n , postmodernist /poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.ist/ adj. , postmodernity /poʊs(t).moʊd'ər.nə.di/ n. ] I grew up postmodern. I just didn’t know it had a name. I also didn’t realize it scared the heebie-jeebies out of Christian apologists. The label’s not new. It first cropped up in the 1950s. Artists and architects started using it to describe the hip, exciting things they were doing. The current scene was “modern,” but they claimed they were beyond that; they were post -modern. Whatever modern was, they were no longer that. “Pomo” is the popular abbreviation. Gradually people began to claim postmodernism was their worldview , their interpretation of the society we live in. Like

Bad candidates, Big Pictures, and false prophets.

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Woe to you when you call evil good. Even in election years. I live in California. My state is two-thirds Democratic. Only liberal Republicans get elected to statewide offices anymore. Otherwise we elect Democrats, same as we have in the last six presidential contests. Barring some freak occurrence, we’re electing a Democrat to the Senate this year, and all our 55 electoral votes are going to the Democratic nominee for president. So it’s out of my hands. Doesn’t matter whether I vote with the Democratic supermajority or against it. I suppose I can concentrate on the other elections—which stand more of a chance of affecting my daily life. Got a city council race. A congressional race. State propositions. But I keep coming back to the presidential race. Mainly because the candidates are so galling. The “third party” candidates are barely worth mentioning: One is greatly uninformed (and probably useless every day after 4:20 p.m.); one has demonstrated she’s more interested in being