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Showing posts from December, 2018

Why you’re not gonna read the bible in a year.

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Well you’re not . Let’s be upfront about that. It’s because you’re doing it wrong. January’s coming, and with it come a lot of new resolutions, many of which you’re probably gonna break; I already discussed why. Among them will likely be a resolution to read the bible. The whole bible; not just your favorite bits. So you’ll grab one of the popular reading plans and get started. And won’t finish. You’ll peter out around March. Maybe sooner. No I’m not just saying this out of pessimism. Nor lack of confidence in your ability to be self-disciplined. I’ve known plenty of Christians with plenty of self-control, yet for the life of ’em they can’t manage to get through the bible. It really frustrates them. I know why, of course: They’re doing it wrong. How do you read a book? Well, we first gotta assume you read for enjoyment. Many don’t. Therefore they’re already not gonna enjoy reading bible, ’cause they don’t enjoy reading anything. Their reading-comprehension skills aren’t go

Give to the truly needy. Not the greedy.

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I read a number of blogs. Some because I like the writers; some because I like the subjects the writers bring up. In one of those blogs, for the past two weeks, the authors temporarily quit writing articles about Christ Jesus and how to argue with others about how to view him follow him better. Instead they’ve been writing ’bout why their ministry is so meaningful. They do this every December. That’s because they’ve set up a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, and can take donations. Since it’s the end of the year, and maybe you’ve not given as much tax-deductible charity as you might’ve liked, perhaps you could donate to them . Plus someone’s offered them a matching grant: For every dollar you donate, the grant throws in another. They’d love to get their mitts on as big a pile of cash as they can. So they’re a-begging. Plus—I kid you not—they’d love to install an espresso machine in their coffee bar. It’d be so valuable! ’Cause whenever people stop by their offices, and wanna

St. Thomas, and healthy skepticism.

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Thomas wanted his doubts addressed. So Jesus addressed them. 21 December is the feast day of the apostle Thomas. His name Tomás is produced by taking the Aramaic word taóm /“twin” and adding the Greek noun-suffix -as to it. John pointed out he was also called Dídymos /“twice,” so likely he was an identical twin. There’s an old tradition he looked just like Jesus, and that’s why they called him a twin, but since Jesus was likely old enough to be his dad, I think they’d have nicknamed him “junior” instead of “twin.” No doubt Thomas had a twin brother, though we know nothing about him. What we do know is Thomas was one of the Twelve, namely the one who wouldn’t believe Jesus was alive till he saw him for himself. John 20.24-25 KWL 24 Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Twin, wasn’t with the others when Jesus came. 25 The other students told Thomas , “We saw the Master!” He told them, “Unless I see the nail-marks on his hands and put my finger on the nail-scars and put my

Rachel weeping for her children.

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Jeremiah 31.15-17. A pet peeve of mine is by Noël Regney and Shayne Baker’s historically inaccurate Christmas song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” In it, when Jesus gets born, a night wind tells a little lamb of the nativity. The lamb tells a shepherd boy, who then tells a mighty king, who then tells the people everywhere. In real life, the mighty king responded a bit more like this: Said the king to the soldiers at his gate: “Massacre the toddlers! Everyone below two years old: Massacre the toddlers! Slay all, slay all, leave my rivals dead Put your spears through this child's head Put your spears through this child's head Not at all heartwarming, but that’s Herod bar Antipater for ya. Matthew 2.16-18 KWL 16 Then Herod, seeing he was made a fool of by the Zoroastrians, was enraged. Sending agents, he destroyed all the children in Bethlehem and the whole area around it, from two years old and under, according to the time he exacted from the Zoroastrians.

Lying so we can win the debate.

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Christians lie. No we’re not supposed to. There’s a whole teaching about this. (It’s actually not the “don’t bear false witness” command, Ex 20.16 which has to do with perjury. It’s the one about how Christians need to be rid of lying, and tell the truth to one another. Ep 4.25 ) But we lie just the same. Usually to get out of trouble. Sometimes to defraud. And sometimes when we debate with non-Christians, and wanna score points, we borrow a rather common tactic we see in politics: We ignore whether our “facts” are all that factual. Oh, we wish they were factual, ’cause they really help our case. We’ll psyche ourselves into believing they’re factual. We’re willing to dismiss any evidence which says otherwise. We’re totally willing to perpetuate fraud. Yeah, it’s fraud. There’s a command against that too. Mk 10.19 But Christians dismiss this particular sin, ’cause we figure it’s so important to win these arguments, score victories for Jesus… and really stick it to thos

Two types of worship music.

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And no, I don’t mean gospel and contemporary Christian music. Yeesh. There are two types of worship songs we tend to see in churches. And yeah, some Evangelicals are gonna assume I mean traditional worship (i.e. hymns and old-timey gospel songs) and contemporary worship (i.e. spanning from the worship choruses of the 1970s, to the Christian pop songs of today). I don’t. I consider those styles of songs; the only real difference is in presentation. You could put a backbeat on a hymn and turn it into a pop song; you can put a pop song in a hymnal and sing it with that very same cadence. Type refers to the purpose and content of the song, and generally there are two of ’em. INSTRUCTIVE describes the songs written to deliberately teach an idea—to put it to music, and get it into Christians’ heads. They teach us about amazing grace, about what a friend we have in Jesus, about how great God art, and that he’s holy holy holy. They tend to have a lot of verses, various complicated

Not allowed to rot.

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Psalm 16.10. Previously I referred to King David ben Jesse as “the prophet David.” Somebody actually tried to correct me for saying so. I remind you a prophet is someone who hears God and shares what he hears: By that metric David’s obviously a prophet. Considering all the Spirit-inspired psalms he wrote, David’s got more actual prophecy in the bible than Elijah and Elisha combined. Jesus recognized David as a prophet, Lk 20.41-44 and taught his students to do likewise. Ac 2.30 This is why the apostles had no problem using David for proof texts when they taught about Jesus. One verse they particularly liked to use was David’s line, lo - tittén khacíd kha li- reót šakhát /“You don’t give [over] your beloved to see rottenness.” Or in better English, “You don’t allow your beloved to rot.” Ps 16.10 Both Simon Peter and Paul of Tarsus quoted it in Acts —Peter in chapter 2, Paul in 13. Acts 2.22-28 KWL 22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words! Jesus the Nazarene is

The heir to David’s throne.

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2 Samuel 7.1-17. In the 11th century BC the tribes of Israel grew tired of being led by head priests and judges. The previous head priest, Eli, had let his corrupt sons run amok; the current judge, Samuel, likewise had easily-bribed sons unfit to assume their father’s job. Clearly there are some serious problems with hereditary leadership, but the Hebrews stupidly didn’t recognize this (and therefore request democratically elected leaders with fixed terms—not that we elect our best people either). The descendants of Israel demanded Samuel procure them a king . Nevermind the L ORD God being their king; Is 33.22, 43.15 they wanted a human king, like all the other nations had. 1Sa 8.5 So Israel got a king. Kings suck, and Israel’s first two kings were typical rubbish. Like most politicians, Saul preferred pleasing the crowds to following God. His son Ishbaal was really just his uncle’s puppet. But the third king, the prophet David, was a standout: He was far from perfect, bu

Faking the fruit of the Spirit.

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Way easier to pretend you have it, than actually grow it. Y’might know we Christians need to be fruity : We Christians have to do good works and produce good fruit. Namely the Spirit’s fruit. You know Paul’s list in Galatians — Galatians 5.22-25 KWL 22 The Spirit’s fruit is love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faith. 23 Gentleness. Temperance. The Law isn’t against such things. 24 Those who follow Christ Jesus crucify the flesh with its pathology and desires: 25 If we live by the Spirit, we can walk by the Spirit! Problem is, there are plenty of hypocrites who don’t live by the Spirit, don’t walk by the Spirit… but want everyone to think they do. So they fake the Spirit’s fruit. There are three ways to do it; all of ’em rather easy. The most common method is to change all the definitions. The popular culture has its own definitions of all these things, so hypocrites simply borrow those definitions and claim they’ve got fruit. Love is an obvious examp

Is there a prophecy of Jesus’s hometown?

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Matthew 2.23. From the third century BC onward, Judeans began to move to the land where northern Israel’s tribes used to live before the Assyrians deported them. Namely in the galíl /“circle” of northern gentile cities—or as 1 Maccabees called it, “the Galilee of the gentiles.” 1Mc 5.15 They wanted to reclaim that land for Israel. Nazareth was one of the towns they founded. So are all the other towns whose names you don’t find in the Old Testament. Likely Joseph and Mary’s grandparents were among the first settlers of that village. It wasn’t that old a settlement. Didn’t exist in Old Testament times. Wasn’t a town any prophet could point to, and say “That’s where Messiah is gonna grow up.” Though Micah did identify Messiah’s birthplace. However, Christians are pretty sure one of the prophets did identify Jesus’s hometown, ’cause it says so in the bible! Matthew 2.22-23 KWL 22 Hearing Archelaus Herod was made Judea’s king after his father Antipater Herod, Joseph

“Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

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Hosea 11.1. When we fulfill scripture, we’re doing as it says. When Jesus says “Love one another,” Jn 13.34 and we do it, we’re fulfilling it. I know: When people usually talk about fulfillment, we assume it means someone’s doing as predicted . When Jesus fulfilled the scriptures, we assume this means the scriptures prophesied specifically about Jesus, and Jesus did as the prophesies foretold. Sometimes that’s absolutely true. But sometimes it’s really not, and this confuses Christians all the time. Confused me too, when I was a kid and first learned about taking the scriptures in context. Because I actually read the Old Testament, and read those passages in context… and wondered, “How on earth is that a prophecy about Jesus?” Well, turns out it wasn’t. The author wasn’t writing about Jesus at all. Nor was the Holy Spirit secretly dropping clues about stuff Jesus would eventually do. Yet Jesus did fulfill these scriptures. Because he did as the scriptures say. True, th

The star coming out of Jacob.

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Numbers 24.17. The Hebrews of the Exodus weren’t the only Hebrews in the middle east. There were other Hebrew nations, who probably spoke Hebrew same as the descendants of Israel whom Moses led. Namely: The ISHMAELITES , descended from Abraham’s oldest son Ishmael. The MIDIANITES , descended from Abraham’s sixth son Midian. (What, you didn’t know Abraham had more sons than just Isaac and Ishmael? Ge 25.1-2 Lots of people don’t. See what happens when you skip parts of the bible?) The MOABITES and AMMONITES , descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot. The EDOMITES , descended from Israel’s brother Esau. Plus Abraham’s son fourth son Yoqšan is the grandfather of “Ašurím and Letuším and Lehummím,” Ge 25.3 names which have a plural -im ending, which therefore means they’re not individuals but tribes. Israel’s family went to Egypt to dodge a famine, but Ishmael, Lot, Esau, Midian, and Yoqšan’s families had stayed in the area and become their own nations. Over time some of tho

You must be born again.

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What “born again” means to pagans and Christians. BORN AGAIN bɔrn ə'ɡɛn verb. Become Christian. 2. Convert to a stronger faith in, and a more personal relationship with, Christ Jesus. 3. Become a zealous [or overzealous] Christian. 4. noun: A Christian who underwent one of the above experiences. Certain Christians insist you’re not a real Christian unless you’ve been “born again.” These same Christians look at me funny whenever I talk about Christians who weren’t born again: “There’s no such thing,” they say. Actually there are: Some of us grew up Christian. From as far back as we can remember, we were raised to believe in Jesus and follow him, so we did. We went straight from childhood faith (where you trust Jesus because you’re told to) to personal faith (where you individually choose to trust Jesus) without any abrupt born-again experience at all. It was seamless… well, if there is a seam, Jesus knows where it is, but we don’t. For me there was a born-agai

The prophet like Moses.

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Deuteronomy 18.15-19. In the 15th century BC , God saved the Hebrews. Their ancestors had moved to Egypt to ride out a famine, and settled in a land called Goshen. (Which we nowadays call the Sinai Peninsula, even though Sinai’s actually on the other side of the Dead Sea, in Arabia. Ga 4.25 If the maps in your bible say otherwise, the mapmakers oughta actually read their bibles.) But some years later the Egyptians decided to press the Hebrews into slavery, and that was their situation when Moses was born… and 80 years later when the L ORD sent Moses to lead ’em out of slavery. Ten plagues later, Moses led the Hebrews across the Dead Sea into Arabia, and the L ORD drowned the Egyptian army behind them. And that is what Jews today celebrate every Passover. Moses tried to lead the Hebrews to a land the L ORD originally promised to Abraham; they called it Canaan, Israelis call it Israel, Palestinians call it Palestine, and we call it whatever the folks we side with most c

Praying the psalms.

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Psalms is one of the oldest prayer books in the world, y’know. The psalms—yep, the very same psalms we find in the book of Psalms , as well as various random psalms we find elsewhere in the bible—are sacred songs to and about God, used to worship him. A lot of ’em are addressed directly to God. As such, they’re prayers. Hence Jews, Christians, and Muslims have used ’em as rote prayers for millennia. In fact, Christians who’d ordinarily never pray a rote prayer (for fear they’re praying something God didn’t inspire) have few qualms about praying the psalms. ’Cause they are inspired by the Holy Spirit, so they’re solid. Memorizing a psalm is as good as memorizing any other passage in the bible. And useful, ’cause now you can recite that psalm to God, praise him with it, and pray it to him. Likewise, because they’re bible, they’ll help us understand God better, and show us we can pray the very same things we find in the psalms. Including all the stuff Christians balk at: “Are