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Showing posts from September, 2021

Forbidding tongues.

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Certain Christians are terrified of tongues. Afraid of other people speaking tongues, afraid of themselves speaking tongues, afraid of the very idea. For all sorts of reasons, but most of of the time it’s one of these four: They think it’s devilish, and are afraid of evil spirits. They think it’s madness, and are afraid of crazy people. They think tongues-speakers are out of control, and don’t wanna surrender or lose control of themselves… nor of course be around out-of-control people. They realize it’s empowered by the Holy Spirit … and of all people, they’re afraid of him . All of them are wrong ideas and false views, and people need to be taught otherwise. But whenever someone starts speaking in tongues around them, their fight-or-flight instinct gets triggered, and at that point there’s no teaching them anything . They’re having a panic attack, or they’re getting out of the building as fast as they can, or they’re furious that someone’s put them in that unc

Praying too loud—in tongues.

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Likely you know what Jesus taught about showing off when we pray. If you need a reminder, here ya go. Matthew 6.5-6 KJV 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are : for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Betcha you’ve never heard this teaching applied to speaking in tongues. Because when you’re in one of those churches which don’t stifle tongues, you’re gonna notice whenever there’s a prayer group, those who pray in tongues tend to do so at a very audible level. Sometimes at the volume of an ordinary speaking voice. Often even louder. If they were praying in English, would this be appropriate behavior? Only if they were leading the group,

Speaking in tongues.

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1 Corinthians 14.39 KJV Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. The technical term for tongues-speaking is glossolalia . (Greek γλωσσολαλία ɡloʊ.soʊ.la'li.a , which Americans re-pronounce ɡlɑ.sə'leɪ.li.ə and just means “tongues-speaking.”) Theologians, psychologists, historians, and anthropologists call it this. ’Cause Christians aren’t the only ones who do it. Lots of people do. Including—and this fact tends to startle certain Pentecostals—lots of other religions. Yep. Christians tend to assume only we do tongues. But plenty of pagans do. Actual tongues, not just muttering in foreign languages, like when you’re watching a bad horror movie and magicians suddenly start incanting in Latin. (’Cause somehow Latin has become the devil’s favorite language; Satan’s existed for millions of years, yet none of the other human languages did it for him until Etruscan evolved into Latin, and then it said, “Oh wait guys, we gotta learn thi

The Two Sons Story.

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Matthew 18.28-32. In the context of this story, Jesus was teaching in temple, and some of the head priests and elders—in other words, people who sat on the Judean senate —came to challenge him. Matthew 18.23 KJV 23 B …and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? “These things” being when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey like a Messiah, the miracles and healings and exorcisms he performed, and of course his teachings—like he was doing right then. Jesus countered them by asking where they thought John the baptist’s authority came from—and since they didn’t care to answer that one, Jesus saw no point in giving them a straight answer. Mt 18.24-27 Instead he resorted to parables. As I’ve said many times before, parables are about God’s kingdom. That includes the parables Jesus had for the senators. When Jesus returns to inaugurate his kingdom, every other government is getting overthrown. Every other government. He’s not gon

When supernatural gifts will no longer be needed.

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1 Corinthians 13.7-13. I grew up among Christians who loved to use this passage of 1 Corinthians to make the claim God turned off the miracles. He never did, but a number of Christians claim he did, because they’re entirely sure they never saw a miracle, and consider their experiences the norm. Plus they subscribe to certain End Times theories which kinda require the miracles to be deactivated till the tribulation hits. So when Paul and Sosthenes wrote the following, they put a cessationist spin on it. Here, I’ll quote it in their favorite translation (and, often, mine) the King James Version. 1 Corinthians 13.8-10 KJV 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. The passage is about love (Greek ἀγάπ

The love we oughta see in supernatural gifts.

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1 Corinthians 13.4-8. When Christians write the about the bit from 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love, we almost universally take it out of context. Myself included. ’Tain’t necessarily a bad thing: We quote it when we’re defining love. It states what love is, as opposed to what popular culture, and sometimes even popular Christian culture, claims it is. The apostles defined it properly, and we need to adjust our concept of ἀγάπη / agápi ( KJV “charity”) accordingly. But in context, the apostles defined it because they were correcting the Corinthians’ misperceptions about the supernatural. If you’re gonna strive for greater gifts, the only valid way to pursue them and do them is in love. If you’re not doing ’em in love, you’re doing ’em wrong. And if you’re not entirely certain what the apostles meant by this “love” concept, permit ’em to straighten you out a bit. 1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL 4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t act with uncontr

Fleshly supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 13.1-3. When Paul and Sosthenes wrote 1 Corinthians , specifically the parts about the supernatural, y’might notice they didn’t write about fake supernatural. They didn’t write about frauds, like people who pretend to be faith healers but actually do nothing, or “miracle workers” who are only doing impressive stage magic tricks, or “prophets” who are really practicing mentalism. Certainly they could’ve written about such people, because there have always been such people. Just about every religion in the Roman Empire had one—because their worshipers expected the supernatural, so the priests had to show ’em something. There are two particularly famous stories of frauds in the apocrypha’s extra chapters of Daniel , and you can read it here. But the apostles didn’t write about the fake stuff. They only wrote about the real stuff. Their main concern was the Corinthians were doing ’em wrong. Because that’s what we Christians do: The real stuff, wrong. And the ma

The Unforgiving Debtor Story.

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Matthew 18.23-35. Mammonists are fond of saying Jesus teaches about money more often than a surprising number of subjects. More often than heaven and hell combined! And that part’s true, ’cause Jesus teaches very little about heaven and hell. (Unless you think “the kingdom of heaven” actually means heaven. You’d be wrong.) His lessons are primarily about following God now , not the afterlife, nor after the world ends. Jesus teaches most subjects more than heaven and hell combined. Though Jesus brings up money a lot, not all his lessons are actually about money. Money’s in them. Much like wheat and vineyards are in a number of his parables: They’re not about wheat and winegrapes, but about his kingdom. He uses them to make a point. They’re MacGuffins—a movie term for the valuable object which motivates the characters and drives the story. What the MacGuffin is, doesn’t matter; you can often swap it out for something else. In fact Jesus does just that when he speaks of

Strive for greater supernatural gifts!

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1 Corinthians 12.28-31. Part of the reason Paul and Sosthenes raised the subject of supernatural gifts was so we Christians wouldn’t be ignorant of ’em. 1Co 12.1 Too many are—both those who recognize God still empowers them, and those who insist he doesn’t. I, like the apostles, am only addressing that first group. That second group can just ignore me, same as they do the apostles. There are all sorts of gifts, empowered by one and the same Holy Spirit, 1Co 12.4 distributed among Christians so they can contribute to Christianity’s unity. But do we see all Christians using these gifts to energize their various ministries? Do we see all Christians seeking and practicing these supernatural gifts? Miracles breaking out everywhere, mighty acts of power convincing the world God is really among us, the weak and sick flocking to churches because they know God has the cure, the lost and confused seeking out Christians because they know God has answers? I wish . And I’m pretty

One Spirit for the one body of Christ.

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1 Corinthians 12.4-27. The way first-century pagans understood the supernatural, there were many supernatural abilities… but each of ’em was produced by a different spirit. If you wanted healing power, you prayed to Apollo. For wisdom, Athena. For speaking in tongues, Dionysius. For mighty acts of power, Zeus. The Greek pantheon included a lot of gods, so if Apollo got ’em nowhere, they could also pray to Asklipiós, Panákia, and Ygihía. And frequently Greeks didn’t limit themselves to only Greek gods: If they got word the Egyptian or Persian or Arabian or Norse gods actually got stuff done, they’d try ’em out. Or if they figured the big gods were too busy, they’d try out lesser gods, personal gods, helper gods, known as δαιμόνια / demónia , from which we get our word demon . But nope, they’re not capital-G gods. Just unclean spirits. Today’s pagans still think this way. If sick, they might try western medicine: They’ll grab some painkillers at the pharmacy, and

Some of the Spirit’s supernatural gifts.

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1 Corinthians 12.4-11. When the apostles Paul and Sosthenes corrected the church of Corinth regarding the supernatural —in particular about the gifts the Holy Spirit distributes to his church—the apostles listed a few of these gifts. Didn’t define ’em; just listed ’em. Nothing wrong with that. But the problem is cessationists , those Christians who believe God turned off the miracles once the New Testament was complete. So what do they do with Paul and Sosthenes’s list of supernatural gifts? They redefined every last one of them: They’re no longer supernatural, but natural. They’re the same sort of gifts any “gifted person,” any talented individual, any genius, might happen to have. Like perfect pitch, or instant recall, or the ability to do rapid math in your head, or amazing physical coordination. Hey, it’s not like the Creator doesn’t grant natural gifts! So in a cessationist’s mind, the 1 Corinthians passages aren’t at all about supernatural gifts empowered by the Holy

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 12.1-7. SUPERNATURAL su.pər'nætʃ(.ə).rəl noun. Event caused by (or credited to) some force beyond scientific understanding, beyond natural laws. If you wanna get technical, whenever anyone interferes with the natural course of events, it’s more-than-natural. It’s supernatural . Fr’instance if I install plastic pink flamingos in my front yard. Clearly they aren’t the product of Mommy plastic flamingo and Daddy plastic flamingo loving one another very much, and giving one another a special kind of “hug.” Nor did they sprout up from the ground like mutant orchids. Somebody —really a whole bunch of somebodies—drilled for petroleum, extracted the plastic, colored it pink, molded it into a flamingo shape, and painted it to resemble a living flamingo. Somebody else—i.e. me—lost all sense of what’s appropriate for lawn ornaments, bought them, put ’em in the lawn, and got all the neighbors to seriously consider banding together in a homeowner’s association just

The Dinner Party Story.

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Luke 14.15-24. Jesus has two very similar parables in the gospels: The Wedding Party Story in Matthew , and the Dinner Party Story in Luke . Christians tend to lump ’em together, iron out the differences, and claim they’re about precisely the same thing. They’re actually not. The differences are big enough to where we gotta look at the variant parables individually, not together. In the Wedding Party Story, Jesus compares his kingdom to a king holding a wedding for his son. That’s not a mere social function; it’s political. People’s response to that wedding was a political statement; it wasn’t merely some friends revealing how they’re not really friends. Whereas what we see in the Dinner Party Story is an act of hospitality, generosity, and love on the homeowner’s part… and the invitees blow him off because they’d rather do anything than spend time with him. The rebellion and sedition we detect in the Wedding Party Story isn’t in this story. These are just people being dick

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

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Years ago my mom was taking a college course in bible, and one of her texts was The Expositor’s Bible Commentary . Full 13-volume set; they didn’t want people getting the two-volume abridged edition. I don’t remember how much it was at the time, but it was way more than she was willing to spend. So she figured, “Well my son’s a big bible nerd,” and asked me, “Wanna go halves on a commentary set?” It was easy to talk her into the Accordance version, which was a lot cheaper, a lot easier to search… and I could stash it on a laptop instead of having it hog a whole shelf. I’ve known pastors who had the whole 13-volume set in their offices. I don’t know how regularly they flipped through it for their sermon prep. From the many out-of-context scriptures they used, sounds like they really didn’t. But displaying full commentary sets in your office, preferably without a thick layer of dust on top, certainly makes you look like you study the bible in depth. The EBC began as The E

Timekeeping in ancient Israel.

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The calendar most of the planet uses, called either the western calendar or the Gregorian calendar, originated in 1582 when Pope Gregory 13 introduced it as an update of the Roman calendar adopted by Julius Caesar in 45 BC . Since Gregory introduced it right after the Protestant split, it took a while before all Protestant countries adopted it. Various Orthodox churches still haven’t adopted it, preferring to stick with Caesar’s calendar, ’cause it’s not Catholic. Meanwhile nations which aren’t even predominantly Christian—’cause of western influences or trade— do use it. As well as their own local calendars. Japan, fr’instance. Israel likewise uses the western calendar. And its local calendar, the one which predates the western calendar by centuries: The Hebrew calendar. That’s the calendar we find in the bible. It’s what we call a lunisolar calendar : It’s lunar, in that months start on the new moon. But it’s adjusted to sync up with solar years, so that the year always

Keep (most of) your prayers private.

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Matthew 6.5-6. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, Matthew 6.5-6 KJV 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are : for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. Which is why we don’t see the streets of our nation lined with Christians, their arms raised and heads to the sky, praying as loud as possible so as to let everyone know we’re devout, and that we’re praying for our land. Well… we don’t usually see this. Although I remember this one trip I made to Washington D.C. where we saw it all the time . I was chaperoning some kids on a civics tour, where we went to the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian,

Hatred’s a work of the flesh.

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Galatians 5.19-21 KJV 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these ; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Hatred gets listed in verse 20 as one of the works of the flesh. The original-language word is ἔχθραι / ékhthre , “hostility” or “opposition” or “enmity”: Someone who’s decided in advance they’re not gonna be friendly. In fact, they’re looking for enemies. In his first letter, John pointed out how those who hate their sisters or brothers are murderers . In their hearts, such people are dead to them. And those who “murder” in this way have nothing to do with eternal life. 1Jn 3.15 They won’t inherit God’s kingdom —same as those who exhibit the fle

The Equal-Pay Vineyard Story.

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Matthew 20.1-16. Jesus tells more than one parable about vineyards, and sometimes Christians mix ’em up. Whenever I refer to “the parable of the vineyard,” people sometimes assume I mean the two sons sent to work in the vineyard, or the tenant farmers who murder the vineyard owner’s son. I’ve tried to call this the Generous Employer Story, but if you don’t put “vineyard” in the title people don’t know what you mean—“Wait, is this a new parable?” No it’s not. So I call it the Equal-Pay Vineyard Story. Because everybody gets paid a denarius at the end of the story, even though some of ’em didn’t work all that hard. The punchline is about how the landowner does this because he’s generous, so maybe it oughta be called the Generous Equal-Pay Vineyard Story. But instead of making the title longer and longer, till it winds up telling the story for us, Jesus may as well tell the story, right? Matthew 20.1-16 KWL 1 “For heaven’s kingdom is like a person, a landowner, who come