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Showing posts from January, 2022

Go to church!

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Church. tʃərtʃ noun. A Christian group which gathers for the purpose of following and worshiping God. 2. God’s kingdom: Every Christian, everywhere on earth, throughout all of history. 3. A denomination: One such distinct Christian organization, namely one with its own groups, clergy, teachings, and buildings. 4. A Christian group’s building or campus. Ἐκκλησία / ekklisía , the Greek word we translate “church,” properly means “group.” Yeah, you might’ve heard some preacher claim it means “a specially-called-out people.” It’s ’cause ekklisía ’s word-root καλέω / kaléo means “call.” So those who like to dabble in language assume “call” must be part of ekklisía ’s meaning. But words evolve, y’know. Our word congress used to mean “group” too… and nowadays it means “our do-nothing national legislature.” Ancient Greeks also used ekklisía to refer to their legislatures. But regardless of what it used to mean, hundreds of years before Jesus used it to refer to his grou

You know you can write out your prayers, right?

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Y’ever meet someone who’s articulate on the internet, but when you meet ’em in person they stumble all over their words? Very same thing happens when talking with God. It’s not because God’s intimidating; he’s actually not. It’s because verbal communication isn’t their thing! It’d be better if they had a script. For such people, rote prayers kinda appeal to them. But they’d prefer it be their words, not just those of some well-meaning God-seekng saint. And they’d like to be specific, whereas rote prayers tend to be more generic. But they struggle to get the words out. Sometimes we all have those moments. If you’re one of those people, relax. Load up your word-processing app, or grab a pen and paper, and start writing your prayers. Stop thinking of prayer as a phone conversation, and start thinking of it as texting. You can text, right? Then you can pray. Write out your end of your conversation with God. Or write a monologue: A whole prayer of your own thoughts and feeli

Ingrates.

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A number of Christians do not know how to do grace. Yeah, for the most part they’d be legalists. These’d be the folks who don’t realize we’re saved by grace, or it hasn’t sunk in enough. So they still kinda think we stay in God’s good graces by behaving ourselves. We gotta do good works. Have good karma, as non-Christians tend to put it: Don’t break God’s rules and piss him off, or he’ll smite America just like he smote ancient Egypt, ancient Israel, the Babylonian and Persian and Roman Empires, and so forth. There’s a lot of fear in their thinking. Hence very little grace. But there are non -legalists who don’t do grace either. These’d be the people who don’t realize we’re saved by grace, and think we’re instead saved by faith. And rather than define faith as trust in God, they define it as “the Christian faith,” meaning our orthodox beliefs. So they don’t police people’s works , but our beliefs . If we don’t believe all the right things, we’re going to hell. And last

The King James Version: Its history and worshipers.

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Most of the verses I’ve memorized were in the King James Version. Hey, it’s my upbringing. The hundred English translations of the bible that exist nowadays? Weren’t around back when I was a kid. (’Cause I’m old.) There were maybe a dozen in the Christian bookstores. But my church used the KJV , so that’s largely what’s in my brain. I later got a Good News Bible, then a first-edition New International Version, but when it came to memory verses my Sunday school teachers drilled us in KJV . In adulthood, for a lot of years I memorized verses in NIV . (Which they’ve updated three times since, so sometimes my memory verses won’t match the current NIV . Thanks guys.) After I learned biblical languages I translated the verses myself, and memorized ’em that way—which makes it particularly tricky to look up memory verses in my bible software. Google isn’t so picky. Still, I quote KJV a lot, which surprises a lot of people. They assume I’m more postmodern than that (whatever the

“The bible says…”

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I grew up hearing preachers, pastors, and Sunday school teachers use this phrase: “The bible says…” before directly quoting a verse, loosely quoting an idea, or claiming to refer to an extapolated “biblical principle” as found in the scriptures. It’s a common phrase among American Christians. I don’t know who coined it. I know evangelist Billy Graham used it constantly; whenever he’d visit the San Francisco Bay Area, local TV stations would broadcast his services, and his sermons would include more “The bible says” in ’em than Raisin Bran has raisins. “Your friends might tell you such-and-so, but the bible says…” and again, sometimes a direct quote, sometimes a general idea, sometimes what he considered a principle. And sometimes, sometimes , an address. “ John 3.16 says for God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son….” But it was rare. In my experience the reason preachers say “The bible says” is because they don’t know those addresses. Or maybe they do, but i

Disciples: Students of Jesus.

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The word disciple gets flung around Christianity all the time. Usually we mean by it “an acolyte of Jesus.” Someone who’s interested in him, fascinated by him, hangs around him, name-drops him. Not so much someone who actually does as he teaches; just someone in Jesus’s vicinity. A fan. Yeah, some of you are going, “Waitaminnit, “disciple” does not mean a fan. It means someone who personally follows him. A devotee. A student.” Oh I’m fully aware of how the popular dictionaries define the word. But let’s be honest: What Christians actually mean by the word, is demonstrated in how we live it out. Some of us “students” of Jesus are exactly like those kids who sit in the back of the room, sometimes asleep, perfectly happy to get D’s, and absolutely outraged when they find out they’re not just failing but getting held back. Somehow they never saw it coming. They figured attendance should count! Yes, disciple means a follower, but we’re talking literal followers: They were in

The real Esther.

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The story of Hadassah bat Abihail, or as she’s better known אֶסְתֵּר֙ / Ester ( KJV “Esther”), is told in the book Purim , written in Late Biblical Hebrew in the late 300s. When it was translated into Greek for the Septuagint, the translators rightly renamed it Esther . It’s actually a secular book: It never mentions God in the Hebrew version, although the Greek translation inserted God and a few prayers in several places, and those additions are either titled Additions to Esther and made a separate book in the apocrypha, or simply left in Esther as part of the text—like you’ll find in Roman Catholic bibles. Esther takes place in Iran, which back then was called Persia. It’s about a Persian vizier named Haman bar Hammedatha, who attempted to destroy all Persian Jews, but was unexpectedly stopped by the shah’s Jewish wife. Thus it explains how the Jews celebrate the day of Purim in memory of that event. Thing is, popular fiction of the last 30 years tries to reinterpret E

The Jesus prayer.

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In Psalm 123.3, the psalmist asked the L ORD to show grace to his people. Quote it? Why sure. Psalm 123.3 NRSVue Have mercy upon us, O L ORD , have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. The Septuagint translated it ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς , Κύριε , ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς/ eléison imás, Kýrie, eléison imás, “Mercy on us, Lord, mercy on us.” And in Jesus’s Pharisee and Taxman Story, it comes up again. Luke 18.9-14 NRSVue 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but wa

Epiphany: When Jesus was revealed to the world.

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6 January is Epiphany , the day which celebrates how Jesus was revealed to the world. True, the Christmas stories depict that taking place with angels, sheep-herders, and frequently magi; and Jesus’s dad dressed as if he’s ready to travel, for some reason. But technically he was revealed at the beginning of his ministry— at his baptism, where John the baptist identified him as God’s son. John 1.29-36 The Message 29 The very next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and yelled out, 30 “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I’ve been talking about, ‘the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.’ 31 I knew nothing about who he was—only this: that my task has been to get Israel ready to recognize him as the God-Revealer. That is why I came here baptizing with water, giving you a good bath and scrubbing sins from your life so you can get a fresh start with God.” 32 John clinched his witness with this: “I watched

Really don’t wanna go to church.

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There’s a guy whose blog I’ve been following for years. In the past three years he’s been really amping up his message to everybody to quit their churches. Stop going, he says. Just stop; stay home. You’ll be a lot happier. And I get it. There’ve been times in my life where I didn’t wanna go to church either. I didn’t try to drag people away from church along with me, like this guy; I figured if you like church, you do you, but for me, nah. For the usual excuses. I HAVE ANOTHER CHURCH. I moved about 100 miles away from home for college, and for a semester I used the excuse, “I already have a church.” I didn’t care for any of the local churches I had visited. And whenever I went home, I did go to church, with my family. But when I was at school I figured it was okay… if I missed 10 weeks of church services. CHAPEL COUNTS. Plus my school had daily chapel services. So they became my other excuse that semester. Me and a lot of other students. DON’T GOTTA GO EVERY WEEK

Do you know what Christ Jesus really teaches?

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Ask anybody what Jesus of Nazareth did for a living, and nearly all of us will say, “Oh, he was a carpenter.” More precisely Jesus was a τέκτων / tékton , a “craftsman, artisan”—someone who made stuff. Sometimes in wood… and sometimes in stone. Nowadays Israel has a lot of trees, but that’s because of a serious reforestation campaign the nation started decades ago. Thousands of years before that, the trees had been cleared to turn most of the land into farmland, so by Jesus’s day, not a lot of wood. Lots of stones though—good thing for archaeologists. So Jesus worked with wood, stone, whatever; in general he made stuff . Makes sense; he’s the Creator y’know. Jn 1.3 So he was what we’d nowadays call a contractor. Mk 6.3 Family business, apparently; he did it because his dad did it. Mt 13.55 But by the time we read his teachings in the gospels, that was Jesus’s previous job. He left that job and took up a new one: Jesus was a rabbi. A teacher. Jn 1.38 Yeah, most of you al

Religious. Not “spiritual.”

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Happy new year; or since it’s 3 January, happy 10th day of Christmas. At the beginning of each year I figure it’s a good idea to remind readers of the point of TXAB , i.e. the Christ Almighty Blog. And remind myself too: I’ve seen many a blog which began as one thing, evolved into another, and it wasn’t an improvement. God forbid TXAB warp into yet another blog where somebody’s ranting about immature Christian misbehavior. This blog is about following Jesus the Nazarene, our God-anointed king and Messiah, or Christ. The first of his followers became known as Χριστιανούς / Hristianús , “Christ-followers,” or Christians , because that’s what we’re meant to do, or how we oughta be identified: We follow Jesus. We teach what he taught, believe what he tells us, do as he says, and grow good fruit. Except some of us don’t follow Jesus… yet claim the title anyway. Because we’re fans . We really like Jesus, claim to love him (or at least love him as we’ve re-imagined him ), and i