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Showing posts from January, 2017

Intercession: Praying for others… and answering for God.

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It’s not just a prayer ministry. It’s prophetic too. INTERCESSION /ɪn.(t)ər'sɛs.ʃən/ n. The act of coming between one person and another, on the behalf of one (or both) of the parties.2. The act of praying on behalf of another.[Intercessor /'ɪn.(t)ər.sɛs.sər/ n., intercessory /ɪn.(t)ər'sɛs.(sə.)ri/ adj.]Praying for rulers is one of the many forms of intercession, or the more redundant “intercessory prayer.” It’s when we try to help somebody out, by praying for or with ’em. Sometimes because they asked us to pray for them, but of course they don’t have to: We’re talking with God, they’re on our mind, we bring ’em up.There are a number of Christians who’ve made intercession their particular ministry. They don’t go out and physically or financially help the needy: They pray for them. Sometimes for legitimate reasons: They can’t physically help, or haven’t the authority, or haven’t the finances. So prayer’s all they can do. True in a whole lot of cases.Then there’s the illegit…

I’m a self-discoverer? Not really.

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When religious quizzes try to pick out the cliché instead of the Christian.You are a Self-Discoverer

You’re not religious, but you’ve created your own kind of spirituality. Introspective and thoughtful, you tend to look inward for the divine. You are distrusting of all forms of organized religion. You especially dislike religious gurus and leaders, who you feel are charlatans.
What’s Your Religious Philosophy? at BlogthingsWhen I first got into this blogging fad way back in 2004, I used to have a regular feature I called “Stupid Internet Surveys.” People on the internet create quizzes, y’know. It’s not just BuzzFeed; they didn’t start the trend either. But because the other early bloggers didn’t always know what to write about—much like the other folks on Facebook who have no idea what to post about themselves on a daily basis—they were sorta desperate for any junk to fill the blank spots in their blogs. Quizzes made up some of that junk. Still do.So, take one of their quizzes and find…

Deaf ears aren’t opportunities.

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Despite the kingdom’s unlimited resources, let’s not be stupid with them.Matthew 7.6In his the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told the chip and the beam story,Mt 7.3-5, Lk 6.41-42 then immediately brought up pearls and pigs. Or pearls and swine, as the KJV more famously has it. The saying’s only found in Matthew. Figured I’d show it to you in context, since it makes my interpretation more obvious.Matthew 7.3-6 KWL3“Why do you see the wood chip in your brother’s eye,yet not notice the support beam in your eye?4How will you tell your brother, ‘Let me get the chip out of your eye’?Look, there’s a beam in your eye!5You hypocrite, first get the beam out of your eye!And you’ll see straight enough to get out the chip from your brother’s eye.6But don’t give holy things to the dogs, nor throw your pearls before the pigs.Otherwise they’ll trample them under their feet, and they might turn and attack you.”See, the problem with the pearls-to-pigs saying, is we regularly forget it comes right after th…

Who runs the church?

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How’s the leadership of your church structured? ’Cause it matters.Short answer: Jesus.Way longer answer: When Christians are asked who runs our individual churches, sometimes we describe the leadership structure of their church or denomination. But everybody can potentially give the answer “Jesus.” It is his church after all. He is the king over God’s kingdom.But since his kingdom isn’t yet of this world, Jn 18.36 the day-to-day duties of running Jesus’s churches on earth fall to vicars. Vicar is the Christianese word for “deputy,” and means the very same thing: Lieutenants who answer to the guy who’s really in charge, and that’d be Jesus. Hopefully we truly are working on his behalf, and not for ourselves… though I leave it to you as to how well we’re doing.Now, if you were to ask your average pagan who’s in charge, most of ’em assume the pastor is. (Or the minister, priest, father, sister, bishop, apostle, prophet—whatever you call the top dog.) Pastor says “Jump” and everyone respo…

Prophetic interpretation: “God told me it means this!”

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Sometimes the Spirit explains his scriptures. Other times prophets just don’t wanna do their homework.I’m writing this article under the Prophecy category, but I should warn you: It’s not just prophets, wannabe prophets, and fake prophets who try to pull this stunt. Y’know where I first encountered it? Among cessationists, of all people.Yep. All of ’em figure they have the very same Holy Spirit as the authors of scripture. Which they should, if they’re Christians. Since the Spirit inspired the scriptures, the Spirit should also be able to clue us in on what the scriptures mean.Cessationists claim God doesn’t prophetically talk to people anymore. So what’s the point of ’em having the Holy Spirit? Well, they think he’s here for only two reasons:Confirm we’re going to heaven. Ep 1.13-14Illuminate the scriptures.Illuminate means “light up,” and depending on how much the cessationist will permit the Holy Spirit to do, they figure either he lights them up so they can understand the scriptur…

Praying for rulers.

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’Cause we should. Why? Well, let’s look at the bible. After we elect a new president, governor, mayor, or whomever, we Christians tend to remind ourselves to pray for our rulers.Sometimes enthusiastically, ’cause our candidate got elected. And if we’re the really partisan sort, we’ll even rub this fact in other people’s faces. “The patriotic thing to do is to close ranks and back our new leader for the good of the country. So bury that disappointment and pray for your new leader—that’s right, your new leader.” Every so often, the Christian preaching this attempts a sympathetic tone—“Hey, I know it’s rough; I’ve had to do this when your guy won”—but most of the time they’re too happy to care. Or about 12 seconds of the message is sympathy, and the rest is a victory lap. Hey, I’ve been on both sides of it.And there’s mournfully, ’cause our candidate lost. The candidates have been demonizing one another throughout the election, so when partisans lose they’re convinced the End Times have …

Footprints. (My version.)

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How I deal with cheesy stuff is to write some of my own.You might’ve heard of the “Footprints” or “Footprints in the Sand” story, which Christians tend to be overly fond of. Don’t know who wrote it; it arose at some point in the 20th century. Usually it’s printed on a photo of a beach, and sold, framed and unframed, in Christian bookstores.The general idea is this: The poet dreams he and Jesus have been walking through life, and during life’s rough patches Jesus carried the poet through it. Yet for some reason the poet was totally unaware of this, and accused Jesus of abandoning him, ’cause the poet’s an ungrateful, inattentive dick, and a bad Christian.…Well okay, people never notice that aspect of the story. But anyway.“Footprints” is popular, and so many Christians find it inspiring, you wind up seeing it way too often. I do, anyway. For a while there in the 1980s, I think it was mandatory to hang a copy of it in every church’s youth room. As soon as the internet became widely avai…

Don’t judge… by double standards.

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Life is decision-making. Judgment. But don’t do it unrighteously. Be generous.Mark 4.24 • Matthew 7.1-5 • Luke 6.37-38, 41-42I already wrote an article about taking Matthew 7.1, “Judge not,” out of context: Generally people just take those two words and use ’em to forbid anyone from critiquing or condemning anyone. Particularly them. It’s not at all what Jesus meant, and today I get to what Jesus meant.This bit of the Sermon on the Mount comes right after Jesus instructed his followers against worry. It’s appropriate: Don’t prejudge circumstances indiscriminately, and don’t prejudge people unfairly.Matthew 7.1-2 KWL1“Don’t criticize. Thus you won’t be criticized.2For you’ll be critiqued by the very criticism you criticize with.The measurement you measure with, will measure you.”Luke 6.37 KWL“Don’t criticize, and you won’t be criticized.Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged.Forgive, and you’ll be forgiven.”Obviously I translate kríno/“criticize” differently than the KJV’s “judge.” ’Caus…

Shekhinah: Everybody’s favorite non-biblical Hebrew word.

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It’s about how Christians wanna experience God’s glory.Shekhinah /sɛ.xi'nɑ, usually ʃɛ'kaɪ.nə/ n. The glory of God’s presence.2. God’s presence.3. God’s dwelling place.[Shekhinic /ʃɛ'kaɪ.nɪk/ adj.]The Hebrew word šekhiná, which English-speakers tend to spell “shekhinah” or “shekinah,” isn’t found in the bible.No, really. It comes from the Mishna. Sanhedrin 6.5, Avot 3.2, 6 It refers to God’s presence. More specifically the glory of God’s presence—provided we can feel or sense or see any kind of presence. God’s invisible, y’know. But sometimes he makes his presence more visible than usual. Like when he allowed Moses to see his glory Ex 33.18 —from the back, anyway. Or when the Hebrews saw God’s glory in his temple, 2Ch 7.3 or when Stephen had a vision of it. Ac 7.55None of these folks were talking about seeing God himself. The apostle John is entirely sure they didn’t see God himself. Jn 1.18 But they saw something, and what they saw was what God šakhán/“dwells” in. That’s …

Apostles: Those whom Jesus sends out to do his work.

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You might get the idea I believe Jesus still commissions apostles. ’Cause he does. APOSTLEə'pɑs.əlnoun. Person commissioned by Christ Jesus to perform a leadership role.[Apostolic æ.pə'stɑl.ɪkadjective, apostleship ə'pɑs.əl.ʃɪpnoun]Jesus didn’t just have the 12 students. The actual number fluctuated, as some joined the group, Mk 10.52 and others quit in frustration. Jn 6.66 Jesus had loads of student-followers, but designated the Twelve in particular as ἀπόστολοι/apóstolë, “sent ones.” Lk 6.13 Eleven of ’em, plus another student named Matthias whom they promoted apostle, Ac 1.26 became the core leaders of his newly-created church. Apostle still refers to anyone whom Jesus—or the Holy Spirit on Jesus’s behalf—sends forth to do his work.Well, in some traditions.Y’see, various Christians insist the only apostles in human history are Jesus’s original 12 guys, minus Judas Iscariot ’cause he turned traitor, Ac 1.16-20 and plus the apostle Paul of Tarsus. (They’re not always so s…

Worrying has no place in God’s kingdom.

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Especially over meaningless things.Matthew 6.25-34 • Luke 12.22-32Right after Jesus taught we can’t make masters of both God and Mammon, he got to the core reason why we tend to slide away from God and put our trust in money: We trust our money to provide basic daily needs.This is a harder lesson for rich countries than poor ones. In rich countries, we have crazy standards for what denotes “basic daily needs.” It’s not just food, drink, and clothing, as Jesus addresses in the following teaching. It’s having a roof over your head. A bed. Electricity and gas, for the central heat and air conditioning. Oh, and since you have electricity: A refrigerator to keep the food in. Internet and wifi. A phone. An email address. A television—’cause you can’t expect us to watch all our TV on our phones. And probably a car, ’cause you can’t expect us to walk everywhere.Food and drink is no longer just grains, vegetables, and water: We’ve gotta have meat and dairy. We’ve gotta have coffee and beer. We…

Love—as described in the Old Testament.

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It’s not just agápi.When Christians talk about love, most of the time we’re referring to agápi/“love,” which Paul and Sosthenes defined in 1 Corinthians 13. It’s the love which God is. 1Jn 4.16Now agápi is a Greek word, ’cause the New Testament was written in Greek; duh. But way more of the bible consists of Old Testament, which was largely written in Hebrew. Hence when we Christians preach on love, we’re taking our ideas and teachings from the NT… and for the most part skipping the OT.Which is problematic. See, there’s this persistent myth that God is love in the NT, but wasn’t love in the OT; he was more wrath and anger and vengeance and flaring nostrils. 2Sa 22.9 Apparently Jesus calmed him down a bunch, and through his self-sacrifice, got the Father to love us instead of want to crush us like cockroaches.Of course some preachers will attempt to preach love from the OT. Not always well. They’ll crack open their Nave’s Topical Bible and look up every verse which contains the word “l…

Generational curses and fearful Christians.

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Christians are curse-proof. But some of us are convinced family curses still affect us.In the middle of the Ten Commandments, as he warned the Hebrews away from idolatry, the LORD mentioned a little something about how children suffer consequences for their parents.Exodus 20.5-6 KWL5“Don’t bow down to them. Don’t serve them.For I’m YHWH your God: I’m El-Qanná/‘Possessive God.’I have children suffer consequences for their parents’ evil—and the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—when they hate me.6But I show love to a thousand generationswhen they love me and observe my commands.”Elsewhere in Exodus, when the LORD revealed his glory to Moses, he repeated this idea of forgiving a thousand generations, yet afflicting three or four generations.Exodus 34.6-7 KWL6 The LORD passed over Moses’s face and said, “YHWH. YHWH. God.Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Great in love and truth.7Lovingly guarding thousands, putting up with evil, rebellion, and sin.Not cleansing, cleansing those …

When two or three gather in Jesus’s name.

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Christians assume all sorts of magic happens when we group up. Nope. Matthew 18.20Matthew 18.20 KJVFor where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.We Christians quote that verse for all sorts of reasons.To point out the importance of group prayer: When two or three of us pray together, Jesus is there, so he must therefore hear our prayers. (Though getting him to answer “Yes” is another thing.)To point out the importance of small groups. Same reason: Two or three of us are together, so Jesus is there, and supposedly his presence blesses our meeting.To avoid church. “You don’t have to go to Sunday morning worship; you just have to gather with two or three fellow Christians and talk Jesus for a few minutes. That counts.” It doesn’t, but I’ll get to that.But in context it refers to church discipline.Matthew 18.15-20 KWL15“When your fellow Christian sins against you,take them aside and reprove them—just you and them alone.When they hear you, you’ve …

Tattoos require commitment.

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If you’re gonna have something permanently etched into your skin, maybe think about it a bit, okay? Got into a discussion with Mathilda (name changed to protect the feelin’-guilty) and I found it interesting enough to rant about. Even though my views may get me into trouble with both legalists and libertines.Mathilda has a tattoo. I do not. Never got one. Not that I disapprove of them per se. I simply haven’t found anything I’d like to permanently decorate myself with.I know; the older folks are gonna quote bible at me about how you’re never, ever supposed to tattoo yourself.Leviticus 19.28 NIV“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.”The word the NIV renders “tattoo” is qaháqa. In modern Hebrew it means “tattoo,” and it only appears this one time in the bible. Unless you count the apocryphal book of Jesus ben Sirach, which I don’t. (Long story as short as I can make it: Sirach was written in Hebrew, translated into Greek; the Hebrew got lo…

Carrot-and-stick evangelism. (Mostly stick.)

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Why hellfire and brimstone is the worst way to proclaim God’s kingdom.Recently I got to talking with a member of my church about evangelism. She wanted to know how I shared Jesus. Not to pick up any pointers or anything; she just wanted to make sure I wasn’t spreading heresy. (She’s one of those folks who’s not sure anyone’s doing Christianity right but her.)So I talked about how I usually lead pagans to Jesus: First I try to plug ’em into a church. Doesn’t need to be mine, but it should be a fruitful church. They’re more likely to encounter Jesus for themselves if the people in the church know him personally, y’know.She. “And what do you tell them about hell?”Me. “Not much. They don’t usually ask.”She. “You don’t warn them about hell?Me. “I don’t need to. I’ve already got ’em interested in going to church.”She. “But you’ve gotta warn ’em about hell!”Me. “Why?”She. [gonna burst a blood vessel over my perceived stupidity] “Because that’s where they’re headed!”Me. “Oh, they know that. …

It’s 4 January. It’s still Christmas. And this fact annoys you.

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All the way back in 2016, my church decided it was time to begin our 21-day Daniel fast on the first Sunday of the month. Specifically this was Sunday, 3 January 2016. Welcome back from the holidays, folks; no doughnut for you.“Really not appropriate to schedule a fast for a feast day,” I pointed out to one of my fellow church attendees.SHE. “Feast day? This is a feast day?”ME. “It’s still Christmas.”SHE. “Christmas was two Fridays ago.”ME. “Christmas began two Fridays ago. And ends tomorrow. It lasts 12 days, remember?”SHE.What lasts 12 days?”ME. “Christmas. Remember the song? ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…’ and each day the singer just kept getting more and more birds? ’Cause Christmas has 12 days.”SHE. “Who celebrates it for 12 days?”ME.I celebrate it for 12 days. I’m still eating cookies.”SHE. “Well, you can do that if you like. I took the tree down the day after Christmas.”ME. “You mean the second day of Christmas.”SHE. [irritated scoff]Tell many a C…

Good and bad bible translations.

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Stuff I’ve discovered by reading different translations every year.I realize people are gonna find the title of this article through Google or one of the other search engines, and are gonna be vastly disappointed I haven’t provided an easy-to-use chart establishing, “These translations are good and holy and inspired of God… and these translations are the product of an international conspiracy of devil-worshipers,” or some other such extreme. You want fear-ridden nutjobs, you’ve come to the wrong blog.Nope; today’s rant is about the bible translations I wind up reading through—and getting irritated by—when I do my bible in a month thingy every January. That’s right; I don’t merely suggest you do it, and leave you with a big pile of reading material. I do it too. I pop over to Bible Gateway, pick a translation I’m not all that familiar with, and get to readin’. Sometimes I start in December, while it’s still Christmas. Sometimes later in January. Still tend to get it read within 3 to 4 …