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Showing posts from May, 2019

Ascension: When Jesus got raptured.

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Forty days after Easter, Jesus left. For now. On Thursday, 15 May 33 (if we take Luke’s count of 40 days Ac 1.3 literally, and not as an estimate) this happened. Acts 1.6-9 KWL 6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus : “Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?” 7 Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing. That, the Father sets by his own free will. 8 But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you. You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.” 9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured. A cloud concealed him from their eyes. Christians call this Jesus’s ascension , and celebrate it 40 days after Easter—and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday. ’Cause it’s when Jesus went up, or ascended , into heaven, to stand in service or sit in judgment, at the Father’s right. Ac 2.33, 7.55-56 Various people who don’t believe Christians are getting

Jesus repeats a miracle: Feeding 4,000.

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Mark 8.1-9 • Matthew 15.32-39. So you know the bible’s full of miracles. They’re there not just so we have feel-good Sunday school stories, nor so we can read about what God did in the past and think, “Bible times were cool; how come God doesn’t do such things anymore?” He does do such things. Still! If you’ve never seen it, it means your church has done a lousy job of putting you in the path of miracles. Or it’s full of unbelievers. Either way, not good. The miracles aren’t just there to give us happy thoughts. They show us what God has done—and therefore can still do . He hasn’t lost power; he hasn’t abandoned us like cessationists insist. He’s ready when we’re willing. And when a certain miracle happens more than once in the bible, it means God’s particularly willing to repeat that one. Because he already has repeated that one. Like when Jesus repeated feeding a huge crowd with a small amount of food. Mark 8.1-9 KWL 1 In those days, with again many people who had

Jesus makes some funny hand motions.

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Mark 7.31-37 • Matthew 15.29-31. After Jesus cured the Syrian Greek woman’s daughter, Matthew mentions he impressively cured a bunch of physical disabilities. Matthew 15.29-31 KWL 29 Leaving there, Jesus went along the Galilean lake, went up a hill, and sat there. 30 A crowd of many came to Jesus , having among them the maimed, the mute, the blind, the disabled, and many other unwell people . They deposited them at Jesus’s feet, and he treated them— 31 so the crowd was amazed to see the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the disabled walking, the blind seeing. They glorified Israel’s God. Y’see, quacks and witch doctors tend to claim their expertise is in curing people of the things we can’t visibly see. If you have an illness, any type of cancer but skin cancer, stomach upset, pain, or anything where they could claim to cure you—and nobody can actually see they cured nothing—they’d claim this was their area of expertise, treat you, and charge you. But if

When Jesus acted racist.

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Mark 7.24-30 • Matthew 15.21-28. Title get your attention? Well this story gets a lot of people’s attention—when they’re not skipping it, or trying to explain away what Jesus did, ’cause it makes ’em uncomfortable. ’Cause he absolutely acted racist. Lemme state this first, so you catch its full impact when you read the text: Dogs are pets in our culture, but not at all in Jesus’s. They were considered vermin. Scavenger animals, like raccoons, opossums, wolves, wildcats, rats. Wild, untrustworthy, sometimes dangerous. Pack animals which hassled livestock and endangered children. And would eat anything —dead things, feces, their own vomit. Pr 26.11 This activity isn’t just ritually unclean; it’s downright nasty. So Jews considered dogs untouchable. Pharisees shunned ’em like we’d shun rats and cockroaches. This is why whenever we see the words for “dog” in the bible—every single time!—they’re a synonym for the filthiest of animals. It’s why John wrote this in Revelation :

Abortion and conservative Christians.

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Abortion doesn’t come up in the bible. At all. Infanticide does. Strangling or smothering the babies after birth, Ex 1.16 or if you really wanna terrorize people, as the Egyptians did, toss ’em in the Nile. Ex 1.22 The scriptures don’t specifically condemn it as murder, but neither do they treat it as if it’s not murder. And most Americans agree… although not all humans have. In some cultures—partly justified by high infant mortality rates—infant death is kinda okay, and causing infant death is also kinda okay. It’s famously known in ancient Rome, if a patriarch didn’t want a baby, he could order it be abandoned in the woods, to die of exposure. Although a 1988 archeological discovery in Askelon, Israel, revealed a number of Romans were okay with just drowning ’em in the local bathhouse. Miscarriage also comes up in the bible. Again, it’s not condemned as murder. But it’s not like the ancients didn’t know how to trigger a miscarriage. There were certain herbal poisons yo

Forgetting the past.

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Philippians 3.13-14. Here’s a verse that’s really popular with motivational speakers: Philippians 3.13-14 NLT 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. They especially wanna zero in on the “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” bit in verse 13. Then they add, “This is precisely what we need to do: Forget the past! Don’t dwell on it. Put it behind you. Those things don’t matter anymore. Look only at the things which are right in front of you. They’re the only things which matter.” Okay. It’s true a lot of people spend way too much time living in the past. People obsess about it. Speculate about all the “what ifs” which might’ve taken place had they done things differently. Regret mistakes. Grow more and more bitter ab

Unidirectional prayer: We talk. God doesn’t. No point.

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Too many people firmly believe God doesn’t talk back when we pray. We talk to the sky, we form sentences in our head… and God doesn’t respond. At all. Not a word. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. May as well have spoken to a brick wall. Heck, a brick wall’d be more responsive, ’cause people have graffito’d on it. Now I can totally understand when pagans adopt this mindset: They don’t talk to God. Or they talk to fake gods, which of course don’t speak back, ’cause they’re imaginary. So what would they know about what prayer is and how it works? Stands to reason they’d think prayer is nothing more than putting “good energy” out into the universe, and expecting to get some of it back, ’cause karma. But a disturbing number of Christians think this way. Seriously. Often ’cause they’re cessationist and think God switched off the miracles inbetween bible times and the End Times. This’d include prayer. So they’re entirely sure he listens. But in this present era, he never, ever talks. Y

The Holy Spirit’s temple: Multiple Christians.

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From time to time Christians talk about how you, singular, individually, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. ’Cause the Spirit is sealed to every individual Christian. Ep 1.13 He lives in the heart of every single believer. And whatever God lives in is, properly, his temple. If he lives in you, it makes you his temple. If he lives in another Christian, it makes that person a temple. Dozens of Christians are dozens of temples. Billions of Christians are billions of temples. Get it? But it’s not accurate. God has one temple. As was kinda emphasized in the bible. Moses built the portable temple at Sinai, which English-speaking Christians call the tabernacle, and that was the temple for 4 centuries till Solomon ben David built a permanent one of gold-plated cedar in Jerusalem. The Babylonians burnt that down; Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel built another of stone; Herod 1 and his successors renovated it; the Romans eventually destroyed it. It was the one and only place the L ORD int

Guard your heart.

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Proverbs 4.23. Proverbs 4.23 NIV Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. As a teenager I heard many a youth pastor quote this verse. Except they’d use the 1984 edition of the NIV , which goes, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Which I like much better than the update; it’s more poetic. Although the way I initially memorized it was the KJV ’s “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it [are] the issues of life.” They quoted it ’cause they were encouraging us kids to be very, very careful about who or what we loved. ’Cause you know teenagers: Either you are one, or used to be one. And I’ll be blunt: Teens are so horny . The flood of new hormones in our systems, combined with how we’ve not yet learned to control our emotions, don’t help at all . I had all sorts of crushes on all sorts of girls and women, and stifled them as best I could. Of course, once two teenagers find they’re mutually attracted to one another, th

The fruit of faithfulness, or the fruit of faith?

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Where Paul lists the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians , a lot of bibles translate one of the words he used, πίστις / pístis , as “faithfulness.” But that’s not the usual way pístis gets translated in the bible. Typically it’s translated “faith.” And that’s what I believe Paul meant: Faith. Not faithfulness. Not that faithfulness isn’t an admirable trait; not that good fruitful Christians aren’t faithful to God—and faithful to fellow Christians, even when we mess up or sin against one another. But then again, nontheists, pagans, and people of other religions, are frequently faithful to their beliefs and principles, and notoriously stick to them even tighter than Christians will to ours. Heck, dogs are faithful. Loyalty doesn’t take the Holy Spirit. Misbegotten loyalty proves that. Whereas faith is obviously the product of the Spirit: When people don’t have the Spirit, we won’t trust the Spirit. We won’t believe the bible. We’ll invent all sorts of reasons why we needn’t believe i

Praying for shrubbery.

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In Job , right after the L ORD commended Job for being such a good and faithful servant, the devil countered with this. Job 1.9-11 KWL 9 Satan told the L ORD in reply, “Job fears God for no reason. 10 Don’t you wall around him, his house, all he has, round about? You bless his handiwork, and his possessions fill the land. 11 Now please: Stretch out your hand and touch all he has. He wo n’t publicly bless you then .” Y’know, 99 times out of 100, here in the United States, I’d say the devil hit the nail right on the head. Mess with our stuff and we’ll think God either abandoned us, or was never really here. Job was as good as the L ORD said—and really, why would the L ORD ’ve thought incorrectly about Job? ’Cause omniscience. But I digress. In the King James Version שַׂ֣כְתָּ / sakhtá is translated “made an hedge.” In 1611 this meant a wall of any sort; could be stones, could be thornbushes. In present-day English we only use “hedge” to describe shrubbery. One tha

A gospels synopsis.

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Our word “synopsis” usually means a brief summary or overview, but when we get into biblical studies a synopsis is a comparison of two different parts of the bible which overlap. Like Psalms 14 and 53. Or David and the census in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 . Or the story of Ahab and Micaiah in 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18 . Or Hezekiah and the sundial in 1 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38 . Or, naturally, to compare the gospels. Christians have been comparing ’em ever since they were first written. Sometimes to see if we can fit them all together, like Tatian of Assyria did with his Diatessaron , or A.T. Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels . Thing is, when you combine then into one narrative, you gotta remove parts of the other gospels—and change their order, their structure, and various things which their authors deliberately put in there. You also lose a bit of the three-dimensional picture of Jesus they provide. It’s why I prefer a gospel synopsis: We compare the

Churches, “the Church,” and God’s kingdom.

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Whenever people say church they either mean a building where religious activity happens, or the hierarchy which runs the religion. Which is way different than what I mean by it. Or what Jesus and the bible mean by it. When Jesus says ἐκκλησία / ekklisía he means a flock of Christians; a group, assembly, crowd, congregation, collection, bunch, congress, whatever term you wanna use for many of us. People like to take apart that Greek word, and note its word-root is καλέω / kaléo , “to call”—and then analyze the significance of Jesus calling Christians to meet together. Yeah, whatever: By the time people used the word in Jesus’s day, it just meant a gathering. And that’s still what it means. Still, even Christians tend to use it to mean a church building, or the church leadership. Which is why we tend to forget we are the church. Church isn’t a separate thing from us; it is us. It’s us collectively; it’s why I can’t say “I am the church,” because I all by myself am definitel

Discernment: Actual deductive reasoning.

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God gives us wisdom. Use it to detect when people are leading us astray. I’ve written briefly on the supernatural kind of discernment—one of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us to minister to others, But today I get to the stuff we totally realize on our own. Good old-fashioned brain-powered discernment. The ability to judge stuff. There are two kinds of discernment. There’s the supernatural stuff, one of the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us so we can minister to others, which enables us to realize stuff we’d never realize on our own. And there’s the natural stuff, the ability to figure stuff out on our own. Today I’m writing about the natural stuff. Unfortunately there are Christians who don’t realize there are two kinds. Either they think it’s all supernatural, and that every person with a knack for deductive reasoning must be some sort of prophet ( and no they’re not ); or they think none of it’s supernatural, including cases where the available evidence can’t possibly have