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Your God-experiences have to jibe with the scriptures.

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In the year 610, Muhammad ibn Abdullah al Mecca began having visions of an angel he identified as Jibril, who’d be גַּבְרִיאֵל / Gavryél , “Gabriel.” Because Muhammad was at the time illiterate, Jibril had him memorize certain recitations, and these were later collected into the Quran, Islam’s scriptures. Problem is, Muhammad never double-checked ’em against the Christian scriptures. Even though his revelations told him to . Quran, 10 (“Jonah”) :94 So if you’re in doubt about what We revealed to you, then ask those who’ve previously read the bible. Truth has truly already come to you from your Lord. So don’t be among the doubters. Despite this instruction, he didn’t. He presumed Jibril would never steer him wrong; why would a holy angel do any such thing? Hence the Quran has a lot of things in it which contradict the Christian scriptures. The way Muslims reconcile the differences is to claim Jews and Christians must’ve twisted or distorted the bible. (Usually they figure

Jesus warns against blaspheming the Spirit.

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Mark 3.28-30, Matthew 12.31-32, Luke 12.10. Fairly soon after we become Christians, we hear a rumor there’s such a thing as “the unpardonable sin.” Or multiple unpardonable sins. Certain things we can do which push God’s grace to the limit, ’cause apparently it has a limit, and these sins cross it. Do ’em and you’re going to hell. Game over, man, game over. Problem is, the rumor doesn’t always tell us what the unpardonable sin is . When I was a kid I thought it was saying, “ F--- God,” and Dad had committed it a bunch of times, so he was surely going to hell. I’ve had newbies ask me whether it was murder. Or Catholics tell me it was one of the seven deadly sins, ’cause what made ’em deadly was they’d send you to hell. There are in fact multiple unpardonable sins, and today I’m get to what Jesus teaches about one of them, namely blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Turns up in the gospels, right after Jesus had to correct the Pharisee scribes for accusing him of using Satan

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

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Our English word blasphemy comes from the Greek βλασφημία / vlasfimía —which largely means the same thing. It’s irreverence towards, and slander against, people and things we oughta reverence. We Christians tend to only use it to describe irreverence towards God (and bibliolaters to describe irreverence towards the bible), but the ancients applied it to all sorts of things. Like irreverence towards the temple, Moses, the prophets, and the scriptures. Even kings and emperors; yes you could blaspheme a king. Especially when they claimed godhood, as some of ’em did. Some blasphemy is totally unintentional, like when we claim stuff about God that’s not so. When we claim, “God will send you to hell for that,” and no he won’t. When we claim God’s secret will is for evil to happen, and no it’s not. Other times it’s totally intentional, ’cause we’re pissed at God over something he did or didn’t do, so we yell at him a bit, or otherwise throw a tantrum and say some evil things. God

Cessationists: Those who imagine miracles stopped.

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CESSATIONIST sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.ist noun . One who believes divine miracles and prophecy ceased in the past. (And may happen again in future, but currently don’t.) 2. One who believes miracles and prophecy never happened; that all biblical descriptions of them are fantasies, exaggerations, misreports, or lies. 3. Having to do with a cessationist’s beliefs. [Cessationism sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.iz.əm noun .] When you read the bible, y’might notice there are a ton of miracles in it. Jesus performed many. So’d the prophets of the Old Testament. Since Jesus empowers his followers with the Holy Spirit Ac 2.38-39 —same as himself Ac 10.38 and the Old Testament prophets Zc 7.12 —he told his students they’d perform miracles just like his, if not greater. Jn 14.12 Arguably his followers did exactly that, as retold in Acts . And if his followers kept that up, certainly the world should be filled with miracles—just on the basis of pure numbers, ’cause a third of the planet identifies a

The excuse of the false experience.

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One of the various blogs I read is by a cessationist, who insists God turned off his miracles after the bible was fully written. Y’know how sometimes names are changed to protect the innocent? I’ll change his to protect the foolish, and call him Wanjala. Wanjala claims to love the scriptures. No doubt he’s sure he does! But he simply refuses to believe ’em when they state the Holy Spirit’s supernatural gifts are meant to be the normal, everyday practice of present-day Christians. Wanjala doesn’t believe he’s ever had a God-experience, and exactly like those people who can’t bring themselves to believe I met God, he trusts his personal experiences more than he does bible. As a theological conservative he would never, ever admit to doing any such thing. But it’s precisely what he’s doing. He’s the baseline. Not the scriptures. So according to his firm belief, God Almighty is exactly like those mute idols the gentiles used to worship; 1Co 12.2 he’s not a speaking God. If we

Don’t exaggerate your testimony. Ever.

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It should go without saying that Christians shouldn’t lie. But we do, for various reasons, all bad. So stop. Wean yourself off exaggerating in order to make yourself look good. Wean yourself off dissembling to get yourself out of difficulty. Quit lying. Jesus is truth; Jn 14.6 stick to the truth. There y’go; your mini-sermon for the day. It should also go without saying we shouldn’t lie when we share our testimonies, and talk about our encounters with God, what he’s told us, and how devoutly we follow him. But once again, we do. Way too many of us do. It’s out of pure selfishness. We wish we had a really good God-encounter. We wish we witnessed something truly spectacular. And no I don’t mean “spectacular” as in neat; I mean in its original sense as a serious spectacle , something visible which really gets people’s attention. Like when Simon Peter raised Dorcas from the dead Ac 9.36-42 or something. We want these types of stories, because we wanna sound like we have more

“Don’t seek God-experiences!”

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When people wanna know whether God is real, I tell ’em to seek God-experiences. Watch him interact with people in our world, or hear him interact with you personally, and you’ll know for certain he’s real. Especially after you’ve had a whole bunch of these experiences. New Christians tend to take this advice. Longtime Christians, not so much. Because when someone’s been Christian for a mighty long time, yet have no God-experiences at all , it actually means they’ve been going out of their way to avoid any such experiences. They’ve been intentionally, deliberately staying away from any Christians who dabble in miracles and the supernatural—whom they call continuationist, ’cause we claim miracles have continued from bible times to today, unlike those who say miracles ceased, i.e. cessationists. Why do they stay away? ’Cause we freak ’em out a little. Sometimes for totally understandable reasons. I gotta admit, some of us continuationists are straight-up freaks. They bug me

Your testimony.

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TESTIMONY 'tɛst.ə.moʊ.ni noun . Formal evidence or proof of the existence or appearance of something. (Particularly a statement provided in court.) 2. A public statement, or retelling, of a religious conversion or experience. [Testify 'tɛs.tə.faɪ verb , witness 'wɪt.nəs noun, verb .] In the scriptures a testimony or witness refers to, duh, something you personally saw. Something you could make a formal statement about before a judge. Something that was a big, big deal if you presented a false testimony; one of the 10 commandments forbids it. For the ancient Christians, when they talked about one’s testimony, they meant what we personally saw of Jesus. 1 John 1.1-4 NIV 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, w

“How do you know there’s a God?”

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Every so often I’m asked, “How do you know there’s a God?” No, they’re not asking, “How can we, as humanity, verify the existence of God?” They don’t wanna go over Christian apologists’ various proofs for God’s existence. Sometimes they’ve already heard a few; sometimes they even found them reasonable. But they also found them unconvicting . They couldn’t make the leap from, “I think there’s a God out there” to “So now I’m gonna become Christian.” In fact if I started listing the proofs of God’s existence, it’d be the fastest way to annoy them. “Well y’see, I know there’s a God because the universe works on cause and effect. So if we trace all the causes back to a first cause…” Yeah, yeah, they didn’t ask for a philosophy lesson. Most folks have heard the “unmoved mover” idea before, and nontheists are pretty sure that unmoved mover is the Horrendous Space Kablooie. They don’t care about that. What they wanna know is how I , me, K.W. Leslie, the guy who talks about God

Born sinners?

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So I discussed original sin —the human self-preservation instinct, distorted into an innate self-centeredness which means we’re inevitably gonna sin. It’s just how we’re wired. Unlike Jesus, who has a built-in divine nature which way predates him becoming human, which makes his first instinct to never sin… our first instincts work the other way. Thing is, many other Christians don’t describe original sin this way. At all. Most Christians are of course Pelagian, and think there is no such thing as human depravity and original sin. They figure humans are born blank slates, and could choose to be good as well as evil. God created us good, Ge 1.31 so they figure our natural tendency is towards good… and society messes us up, so blame it . And then there are dark Christians who go to another extreme: They think original sin means we’re born evil . Born sinners . They don’t figure we’re merely born with selfish and sinful tendencies ; we’re born with all the sins of Adam

Original sin: We were born this way.

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ORIGINAL SIN ə'rɪd.ʒən.əl 'sɪn noun. Innate tendency of humans to sin, inherited from the first humans as a result of their first sin. Initially God made the universe, including humans, and declared it very good. Ge 1.31 That goodness was undone by sin : Our first ancestors, our representatives in paradise, Adam and Eve, were ordered to not eat from this one particular tree… and did anyway. Humanity got banished from paradise, and now suffers from toil, painful childbirth, and death. So instead of being born “very good,” like God originally made humanity, every human is now born with a significant birth defect: We’re not innately good. We’re innately selfish. We come out of our mothers’ wombs screaming for what we want: Milk, a clean diaper, to be held, or we’re otherwise uncomfortable and can’t express ourselves any other way. As soon as we gain the ability to say “No!” and slap other people, and lie and steal to get what we want, we do that too. Our worlds revo

Sin.

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SIN sɪn noun. Immoral behavior—as defined by religious morality. 2. Violation of God’s law or known will. 3. A reprehensible action, or serious shortcoming. 4. A state of human nature in which one is alienated from God. 5. verb. To commit a sin, offense, or fault. [Sinful 'sɪn.fəl adjective. ] I used to think it was a copout when Christians claimed they weren’t entirely sure what “sin” meant, or is. Sometimes yeah, they’re trying to weasel out of something: They’re sinning their brains in, and don’t care to define their behavior as sin, so they’re hoping to either plead ignorance, or get us to admit there’s some kind of gray area, and grant them some leeway. But too often, I’ve found nobody ever spelled it out for them when they were new Christians. Nobody ever sat the newbies down and told ’em, “Here’s what sin is.” I grew up Christian, and they absolutely told us kids what sin is—and to not do it!—but churches tend to forget adults didn’t always have that up

Quenching the Spirit.

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1 Thessalonians 5.19-21. More farewell stuff from the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians ; general advice which can apply to Christians of any and every church. Each of these one-verse or one-line instructions have turned into entire sermons, lessons, and even doctrines. And in fact today I’m only gonna deal with three short verses, mainly because of what’s been taught about them… and of course what’s been mistaught. 1 Thessalonians 5.19-21 KWL 19 Don’t extinguish the Spirit: 20 Don’t void prophecies. 21 Examine everything: Hold onto what’s good. In the King James Version this becomes “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” That’s the version I memorized as a child. Back in the 11th century, Margaret Atheling of Wessex (later, St. Margaret) was an English princess who grew up in exile in Hungary. She went to Scotland to marry King Malcolm Canmore, third of his name. The story has it she nearly drowned while cro

Pentecost.

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I’m a Pentecostal… and weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never notice when Pentecost comes round. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little. Anyway, Pentecost is the last day of Eastertime, the day we Christians remember the start of the Christian church—the day the Holy Spirit gave power to Jesus’s followers. Like so. Acts 2.1-4 KWL 1 When the 50th day after Passover drew near, all were together in one place. 2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them, and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in other tongues, in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability. 4 The Jews who inhabited Jerusalem at the time were devout men from every nation under heaven. 5 When this sound came forth , the masses gathered, and were confused: Each one of them was hearing their own dialect sp

Sleep-deprived Sunday morning services.

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When I was a kid, I liked church. My friends were there, the pastor was a decent preacher, and the Sunday school classes were interesting. (The music wasn’t so great; as an adult I went to churches with way better music.) But even so, some Sunday mornings I really didn’t care to go. ’Cause sleep. I wanted to sleep. I stayed up way too late the night before. Usually because I watched Saturday Night Live , or Doctor Who reruns on public television, or some other late-night movie or show. I’d be up till 1 a.m.; usually 2. Yeah, television is a lousy excuse for being exhausted the next morning. But in college, I hung out with friends till very late Saturday night—and that’s no better of an excuse. So come Sunday morning, when Mom trying to get us out the door so we could be at church by 9, church was the very last thing I wanted to do that morning. I wanted sleep. Needed sleep. What good was church gonna do me if I dozed off during the sermon? You know, like my other friend

Messianic prophecies.

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Messianic prophecies are the scriptures in the Old Testament which are about messiah. And by messiah (Hebrew מָשׁיִחַ / mešíyakh , “anointed [one]”) the scriptures mean somebody who’s put in a high authoritative position. Like head priests Ex 40.15 or the king. 1Sa 9.16 But over time messiah simply came to mean king —the guy the L ORD chose to lead Israel, or at least Jerusalem and Judea. And when he became king, there’d be a ritual ceremony where someone dumped a hornful of oil (maybe about a liter) all over the new king, representing the L ORD pouring out his Spirit upon the king… assuming the king bothered to listen to the L ORD any. Most didn’t. So since messiah means king , every king of ancient Samaria and Jerusalem—yes, even the rotten ones like Ahab ben Omri, Jeroboam ben Nabat, and Saul ben Kish—was a messiah. Seriously. In fact every time David ben Jesse was given the chance to kill Saul, or have him killed, he’d refuse—because Saul was messiah. 1 Samuel

Building up our fellow Christians.

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1 Thessalonians 5.12-18. This is the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians , and we’re getting to the part where the apostles wrapped up the letter: They moved away from the specific concerns of this particular church, and gave the same general advice they’d give any Christians of any church. So of course these things apply to us as well. 1 Thessalonians 5.12-18 KWL 12 Fellow Christians , we ask you to get to know those who labor hardest among you, who stand up for you in the Master, and correct you. 13 We ask you to be led by them, more in love than anything, because of the work they do. Keep the peace with one another. 14 Fellow Christians , we urge you to correct the irreligious. Share your story with those who keep messing up. Help the weak. Be patient with all. 15 Watch out lest anyone might pay back evil for evil; instead always pursue good for one another, and everyone. 16 Always rejoice. 17 Pray without slacking. 18 Give thanks for everything, for this

Don’t be surprised if they hate you. They hated Jesus too.

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Matthew 10.24-25, Luke 6.40, John 13.16, 15.18-25. Today’s passages get frequently taken out of context by Christian jerks. So let’s deal with them up front. Jerks either deliberately try to offend, or don’t care that they do offend. And there are a lot of Christians, religious or not, who behave this way. They want people to be outraged. They want division and strife. They don’t care that these are works of the flesh; they’re not that fruitful anyway, and are way more interested in doctrinal purity than goodness and kindness and grace. So when people get angry, they perversely assume they’re doing something right. After all, didn’t Jesus say we’re blessed when people condemn and rage against us like the ancients did the prophets? Lk 6.22-23 Everybody hates you! Rejoice! Of course they’re going about it the wrong way. If we have God’s mysteries and share them, yet we don’t do so in love (and no, tough love doesn’t count), we’re an annoying noise; we’re nothing, and ga

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 antichrists, 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 it’s false knowledge. 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 i

False knowledge, and how it’s confused with faith.

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There are plenty of people who “just know” things. And man alive, are they frustrating. Y’see, they can’t tell you why they know what they do. They don’t know where they got their knowledge, nor what it’s based on. Not that it matters where they got it: They believe it. You can’t tell them any different. But they’re wrong. It’s false knowledge. I’ll tell people something they’ve not heard before, and they’ll respond—whether in Sunday school, my classrooms, or the workplace— THEY. “Why, what you’re saying can’t be true, for I know different.” ME. [ patiently ] “Well your knowledge is wrong. Relax; we’re all wrong sometimes.” THEY. “Nope; can’t be. I know this.” ME. “Okay, maybe I’m wrong. So prove your case. Show me why you’re right.” THEY. “Don’t need to. I know I’m right.” Every once in a while they’ll really try to prove their case. Turns out there’s a thousand holes in their reasoning. Easy to see, easy to chip away at. But they can’t see the holes. An