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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

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

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

Jesus explains Elijah’s second coming.

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Mark 9.9-13, Matthew 17.9-13, Luke 9.36. In the previous passage, Jesus took his students up a hill, where they saw him transform into a glowing being, and Moses and Elijah appeared to have a chat with him. Various Christians love to interpret this as Jesus showing off his divinity; I prefer the alternative idea that this is a ὅραμα / órama , “vision,” Mt 17.9 of the glory of God’s kingdom, as indicated by Jesus in the verse right before the transfiguration story. Probably because this vision is so open to utter misinterpretation, Jesus decided to have his kids keep it to themselves for a while, just till the context of his own resurrection helped make it make sense. Mark 9.9-10 KWL 9 As they were going down the hill, Jesus commanded the students so no one who saw these visions would describe them till the Son of Man might rise from the dead. 10 The students kept this word to themselves— though arguing, “What’s ‘to rise from the dead’ mean ?”   Matthew 17

Who decides what’s orthodox and what’s not?

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I’m involved in a few different discussion groups. In one, the subject of Darbyism came up: One of the members is a Darbyist and wanted a shout-out from all his fellow Darbyists in the group. Turns out most of us aren’t Darbyist at all; in fact a number of us consider Darbyism to be unbiblical and faithless. I’m pretty sure he was surprised, if not horrified, at the non-support. Of course, among all the expressions of non-support, one newbie went even further and declared Darybism is heresy. There he went too far, and got a little backlash himself—some of it from the same folks who take issue with Darbyism. ’Cause Darbyism is wrong —often profoundly so—but not heresy . We mustn’t throw around the H-word so casually. But of course many don’t know the difference between wrong and heresy , and sometimes think there is no difference: Heresy is whenever we get something wrong, and everything wrong is heresy. Getting the trinity wrong is heresy… and so is mispronouncing “Habakku