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Showing posts from February, 2020

Stations of the cross: Remembering Christ’s suffering.

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In Jerusalem, Israel, Christians remember Jesus’s death by actually going down the route he traveled the day he died. It’s called the Way of Jesus, the Way of Sorrows (Latin, Via Dolorosa ), or the Way of the Cross ( Via Cručis ). When I visited Jerusalem, it’s part of the tour package: Loads of us Christians go this route every single day, observing all the places Jesus is said to have suffered. Really solemn, moving stuff. But most of us Christians don’t live in or near Jerusalem, and some of us can’t possibly go there. For this reason St. Francis of Assisi invented “the stations of the cross.” In his church building, he set up seven different dioramas. Each represented an event which happened as Jesus was led to his death. The people of his church would go to each diorama—each station— and meditate on what Jesus did for us all. Yeah, this is a Catholic thing, ’cause Francis was Roman Catholic. But it’s not exclusively Catholic: Many Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists use

Read the bible over Lent.

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So it’s Lent. And during this time, some of us Christians either do a little fasting or other forms of self-deprivation, and spend some time meditate about what Jesus suffered on our behalf; contemplate nothing, but fast anyway ’cause it’s tradition; or contemplate nothing, fast nothing, feel smug because our religious customs don’t obligate us to do a thing, and mock those who do. Hopefully you’ve chosen the first thing. And if you’re gonna meditate on something, why not read the bible? The whole bible? ’Cause you can. You can actually read it, in its entirety, within a month. So there’s certainly no reason it can’t be done with 10 extra days. You can easily take the time you’d ordinarily spend watching reality TV shows, and read the scriptures. And have time left over. Easy-peasy. Even if you don’t plan to give up anything for Lent, (’cause you’re American and self-deprivation isn’t your thing), you can still carve out a bit of time each day to read some bible, a

Ash Wednesday: Lent begins.

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Many of the Christians I grew up with consider this “a Catholic thing,” but the Easter-season Lenten fast predates Roman Catholics by centuries. In the year 325, the first council of Nicea made reference to a 40-day fast before Easter. They didn’t spell out the details of how they observed it, but the τεσσαρκοστή / tessarkostí , “fortieth” fast day before Easter, is when it starts—and that’d be Ash Wednesday. Ancient custom was to go without food till sundown for each of the fast days. (Skipping one day a week, ’cause you don’t fast on Sabbath. ) Among eastern Christians this evolved into a 40-day fast till Holy Week, which started on Clean Monday a week before. Among western Christians it’s Ash Wednesday to Easter. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the western custom of putting ashes on our heads. Sometimes they’re sprinkled on one’s head as part of a ritual, but in English-speaking countries the custom is to use ashes to draw a cross on Christians’ foreheads. A new custom

Lenten fasting. (It’s optional, you know.)

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Lent is the English term for the 40-day period before Easter in which Christians fast, abstain, and otherwise practice self-control. (Assuming we practice such things at all.) In Latin it’s called quadragesima and in Greek it’s σαρακοστή / sarakostí , short for τεσσαρκοστή / tessarkostí —both of which mean “fortieth,” ’cause 40 days. It starts Ash Wednesday, which isn’t 40 precise days before Easter; it’s 46. That’s because the six Sundays before Easter aren’t included. You don’t fast on feast days, and Sabbath is a feast day; it’s when we take a weekly break from our Lenten fasts. Many Christians don’t realize this, and wind up fasting Sundays too—since they’ve got that abstention momentum going anyway. And for eastern Christians, Lent begins the week before Ash Wednesday, on Clean Monday. Partly because they don’t skip Sundays, and fast that day too; and partly ’cause their Lenten fast consists of the 40 days before Holy Week. Then they have a whole different fast for t

Jesus cures a demonized boy.

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Mark 9.14-29, Matthew 17.14-21, Luke 9.37-42. First time I was ever taught this story, it was called “Jesus heals an epileptic.” At the time I didn’t know what epilepsy was; now I do. So I object to that description every time Christians bring it up. This isn’t epilepsy whatsoever. The boy was possessed by an evil spirit. Matthew and Luke go so far as to identify it as a demon, a “guardian spirit” ancient pagans believed in, much like Christians believe in guardian angels. If you were sick, sometimes pagan “physicians” (really witch doctors) would try to put demons in you, hoping they’d root out the illness. Instead these critters would take you over and make your life miserable. That‘s why there were way more cases of demonization in Jesus’s day than in ours: Our physicians don’t do that. (I don’t know about your favorite “spiritual healers” though.) Christians have misidentified this boy as epileptic for centuries… making life miserable for epileptics all that time, and

Shrovetide: Getting ready for Lent.

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Christmas definitely gets all the secular attention, but Easter is most definitely Christianity’s biggest holiday. ’Cause Christ is risen. Jesus is alive. His being alive, confirms everything. So we Christians put a lot into it… …and kinda go overboard. That’s what shrovetide is about. You may already know before Easter we have that fasting period which English-speakers call Lent. Well, before Lent there’s a whole other season called shrovetide , in which Christians prepare for Lent. Shrovetide starts the ninth Sunday before Easter. Since that’s 63 days before, western Christian custom rounds that up to 70 and calls it Septuagesima Sunday (from the Latin for 70, of course). The Sunday after that is 56 days before, so round it up again and it’s Sexagesima Sunday (for 60); and the Sunday after that is 48 days before, so Quinquagesima Sunday (for 50), and that’s today. Although more Christians simply call this day Shrove Sunday , the Sunday before Lent starts. And the la

TXAB’s 2020 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

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As usual for every presidential election (and for that matter, many a congressional election), we get doomsayers claiming this or that candidate is likely the Beast of Revelation 13 , or as popular Christian culture calls it, the Antichrist. Certainly they act mighty Beast-like. And I guess this is now my usual thing: I’m here to tell you there’s a way we might confirm someone’s the Beast, in case you’re seriously worried. (I’m not.) It comes from Revelation , in which John told us how to identify the Beast in case we’re wondering. Revelation 13.18 KWL Here’s some wisdom: Count the Beast’s number, those who have a brain. It’s a person’s number, and its number is 666. Only problem is, your average person doesn’t know how to count the Beast’s number, and do it through various illegitimate methods. Just the other day I saw someone assign numbers to our Latin alphabet (i.e. A is one, B is two, C is three) and try to figure out some names thataway. Nope, not how it works

Sealing the deal. Or not.

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Most of the evangelism seminars, classes, and books I’ve read, insist our every conversation with people about the gospel, has to end with a decision. They’ve heard the gospel, and either they believe it or they don’t; either they wanna follow Jesus or they don’t; so get an answer . Have ’em make a decision now . Right now! DO IT! Which is why that’s what I’ve experienced whenever I’ve been on evangelism teams: The high-pressure tactics of proselytizers. And a whole lot of cringing pagans, who don’t wanna make a decision right now. They gotta think about it! They need time to process. Really, they need time for the Holy Spirit to work on ’em—which is exactly what he’s gonna do. Heck, some of them might have already decided, “No thank you,” but of course the Spirit doesn’t like that answer, so he’s gonna get ’em to realize it was the wrong one, and convince ’em to change their minds. And that takes time . And patience. Patience which the Spirit has in abundance. Evangelist

Self-control: Get ahold of yourself!

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As I’ve said, many Christians assume the Spirit’s fruit just happens . Automatically, spontaneously, without any effort on our part. So just sit back and let the Spirit do his thing, and fruit’ll come naturally. Wrong. And lazy. One of the obvious proofs fruit doesn’t work that way, is the last thing Paul listed in Galatians 5.22-23 —the fruit of ἐγκράτεια / enkráteia , which the KJV renders “temperance,” and most other bibles “self-control.” Yeah, lazy Christians will claim it doesn’t mean that. Suddenly they bust out their knowledge of ancient Greek… although really they’re just trying to manipulate Greek-English dictionaries to the best of their ability. The word enkráteia comes from κράτος / krátos , “strength,” which the Greeks used to describe various forms of governance—and we still do; our words democracy (“people reign”) and plutocracy (“wealthy reign”) and theocracy (“God reigns”) and idiocracy (“idiots reign”) come from it. The en- prefix comes from ἐν

People who love angry prayer.

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Θυμοί / thymí , “anger,” is a work of the flesh. Ga 5.19 Period. I know: For a lot of Christians there is no such period; anger is okay in various circumstances. ’Cause the L ORD gets angry, Dt 4.21, 1Ki 11.9, 2Ch 25.15, Ps 60,1, Jr 10.10 and Jesus got angry that one time, Mk 3.5 and if God can get angry, we presume we can indulge our anger. Forgetting, of course, God is absolutely in control of his emotions. Whereas we suck at it. We get angry, then forget all about loving people, take our revenge, get our satisfaction. We get murdery. There are a lot of angry people in the world, and as a result there are a lot of angry Christians. And rather than get hold of their anger, fight it, and eliminate it by the time the sun goes down, Ep 4.26 angry Christians wanna embrace that anger, make it part of their character and lifestyle, and justify it as “righteous anger.” Even though there’s nothing at all righteous about how they wanna express their anger. They’re not seek