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Showing posts from March, 2020

What passes for love among Christians.

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In C.S. Lewis’s 1960 book The Four Loves, he wrote about four ancient Greek words which English-speakers consistently translate “love.” They aren’t the only four. I found a fifth when I was poking through my bible software’s Greek dictionary. I’ve found others since. But here’s that fifth love:ΞΕΝΊΑ (xenía) zɛ'ni.ɑnoun, fem. Welcoming attitude towards a guest; receptiveness, hospitality, love for strangers.2. A guestroom. Ac 28.23, Pm 1.22Ever heard the myth of Philemon and Bauçis? They were a old married couple, and one day two strangers visited their farm. They showed their guests such hospitality—such love—the strangers later rewarded them for it by rescuing them from a flood. Turned out the strangers were the gods Zeus and Hermes. The Greeks loved to tell this story as an example of how we need to be hospitable to everyone—for you might be entertaining gods unawares. Or as the author of Hebrews reworded it, angels. He 13.2 KJV In any event, this story is exactly why the people…

Did this coronavirus originate with God?

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As I write this in March 2020, the world is going through a pandemic of coronavirus, specifically COVID-19. We don’t have a vaccine yet—and plenty of fools will refuse it anyway once it’s developed and available—so meanwhile we’re largely under quarantine. I live in California, and people here are expected to stay home. It’s not illegal to leave home, and hopefully never comes to that… so long that people wisely stick to our leaders’ wishes instead of being defiantly libertarian. The thinking is if we all stay apart, the virus won’t spread, and we can spare some of the people who might be hit hardest by it. So for the most part we can only interact via internet, and can go out only for supplies—or if we have essential jobs. (I do, and have been working a lot of overtime.)And yeah, since I’m posting this on the internet, you knew this already. I’m explaining ’cause people may read this article years from now, and know nothing about it, or have forgotten most of it.Naturally people wann…

When two or three gather in Jesus’s name.

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Matthew 18.20.Matthew 18.20 KJVFor where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.We Christians quote this 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 helped your fellow Christian.16When they don’t hear you: Take one or…

The Judean senate.

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The Judean senate. Something Americans need to be reminded of, from time to time: Ancient Israel was never a democracy.Originally it was a patriarchy, run by the male heads of the Hebrew families: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and their descendants. That is, till the Egyptians took over and enslaved ’em.Then the LORD rescued Israel’s descendants from Egypt. So Israel became a theocracy, where God and his commands ruled Israel… with Moses and the judges serving as the LORD’s deputies.Of course, since the judges weren’t proper kings, Israelis fell back on patriarchy, ruled as they pleased, didn’t obey God, and triggered the cycle time and again. Read Judges. It’s a mess.Then monarchy, the rule of kings. The people wanted the stability of human kings (such as it is), so the LORD gave ’em kings. In theory these kings were to function the same as judges, with the LORDreally in charge. In practice they ruled as they pleased, same as the patriarchs.Then foreign kings: The Babylonian empero…

Sundays in Lent.

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If you’re observing Lent, and fasting in some form during that time, you get Sundays off. We don’t fast on feast days, and Sabbath (which for most Christians is Sunday) is always a feast day. So you get little holidays from your Lenten fast. Gave up coffee? Have a coffee. Try not to overcompensate though.Since all these Sundays are little breaks from fasting, they feel a little extra special during Lent, and over the centuries Christians have treated ’em as extra-special days. Even given them special names. And when I, or other Christians, refer to these names, sometimes curious Christians wanna know what that’s all about. Is there anything important we’re meant to do or remember about these Sundays?Nah, not really.The names come from the first words of the prayer book or missal, used in liturgical churches as part of their services. They’re the first word of the first prayer in the order of service. The traditional names of the Sundays in Lent come from the first words of the German …

Why does bad stuff happen in a good God’s universe?

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THEODICYθi'ɑd.ə.sinoun. Explanation or argument for how God can be good, despite the existence or activity of evil.[Theodicean θi'ɑd.ə.si.ənadjective.]Disaster strikes our world on a daily basis.Might be a huge natural disaster, like an earthquake, hurricane, tsunami, or plague. Might be a “man-made” disaster, like a war, famine, mass shooting, or some terrorist activity. Might be a small disaster: One person unexpectedly dies. Or it’s a wholly expected death; a long illness, and we knew that person wasn’t gonna recover, despite doctors and treatments and prayers.Every time these disasters strike, people wanna know why God didn’t prevent it.’Cause that’s his job, they insist. He’s almighty, right? He could totally stop it. But he didn’t. Why the [angry expletive] not? What’s his problem? Doesn’t he care? Does he want evil to happen? Maybe he’s not really almighty. Maybe he’s not really there.These questions and accusations come out of suffering and loss and rage. They’re total…

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Pádraig of Ireland, whom we know as St. Patrick or St. Paddy, is celebrated on the date of his death in 17 March 493.In the United States, Irish Americans (and pretty much everyone else, ’cause the more the merrier) tend to treat the day as a celebration of Irish culture. Thing is, Americans know little to nothing about actual Irish culture. We barely know the difference between an Irish accent, a Scots accent, and a Yorkshire accent. What we do know is Guinness, though we’ll settle for anything alcoholic, including beer filled with green food coloring. Me, I used to love McDonald’s “shamrock shakes,” though I had one more recently and found it way too sweet for my liking. It’s because they take an already-sugary vanilla shake, then add sugary green mint stuff to it. I much prefer adding vanilla and mint to a Starbucks Frappuccino.Most American customs consist of drinking, eating stereotypical Irish food like corned beef and potatoes, parades in which the religious participants expres…