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Showing posts with the label #Apostles

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 12.1-7.SUPERNATURALsu.pər'nætʃ(.ə).rəlnoun. 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 super-natural.Fr’instance if I put plastic pink flamingos in the front yard. 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, lost all sense of what’s appropriate for lawn ornaments, bought them, and placed them there. Didn’t happen naturally. But we tend to call this behavior unnatural, not supernatural.Typically we save the term “supernatural” for stuff which apparently wasn’t done by humans. If a flying sauce…

The Law is part of the gospel.

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Galatians 3.21-29.Legalists and libertines alike miss the point of the Law. For legalists, it’s rules we have to follow lest we compromise our salvation. For libertines, it’s rules we no longer follow because grace nullifies them—and in fact following them compromises our salvation. Follow them, don’t follow them; either way we get accused of heresy.Both groups have a bad habit of misquoting Paul, James, Hebrews, and Jesus himself to support their positions and justify their behaviors. It might help if we actually read the bible, right? So let’s.Galatians 3.21-29 KWL21 So “the Law versus God’s promises”—never say that!If the Law gave living power, righteousness might come from the Law.22 Instead the scripture locks everyone up under sin—so the promise of faith in Christ Jesus can be given to believers.23 Before faith came, we were guarded by the Law,locked up till the revelation of this faith.24 Thus the Law became our introduction to Christ, so we could be justified by this faith.25A…

Listening to our God, not our gut.

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Jude 1.19-25.Years ago, I had to deal with an unteachable co-worker. We’ll call him Ulises. Nice guy, but nobody could tell him a thing: He knew what he already knew, and figured he already knew best. This attitude eventually got him fired. Our boss discovered repeated warnings just weren’t working, and sent him home.Ulises followed his gut. Most people do. They encourage us to. We’re supposed to listen to that deep inner voice which tells us what we really oughta do. What we really want, what’s really best for us, what’s the right thing to do: The inner voice knows all. Don’t starve it.Sometimes we call it following your instincts, following your hunches, following your gut; following the core of our being which knows the difference between wise and dumb, true and false, right and wrong, good and evil. Christians imagine it was put there by God. And it’s not a new idea, believe it or don’t; it’s always been around. Every generation dusts it off and repackages it.The ancient Greeks ca…

When Christians have no respect for leadership.

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Jude 1.14-18.I previously explained when Jude referred to the mythology of his day, it doesn’t mean Jude considered these books historical or authoritative. I bring this up again ’cause Jude quoted a bit from 1 Enoch, a fictional firsthand account of heaven as shown to Noah’s great-grandfather Enoch. (Who went there y’know. Ge 5.24)Jude 1.14-15 KWL14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them,saying “Look, the Lord comes with myriads of his saints, 15 making judgment upon all,examining every life against all their irreverent work, irreverently done;concerning every harsh thing the irreverent sinners said against him.”No, 1 Enoch wasn’t actually written by Enoch. It was written in Aramaic, a language which didn’t even exist in whatever century Enoch lived in. It claims to be by him, so we call it pseudepigrapha, which means “fake writings.” But it’s fanfiction. Well-known fanfiction; Paul even took the idea of the “third heaven” from it, 2Co 12.2 ’cause that’s where paradise i…

Rebellion against God’s authorities. Not his angels.

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Jude 1.8-13.Previously I brought up the people with whom Jude disputed in his letter: The folks who were going their own way, embracing their favorite myths instead of Christianity, going astray, and leading others with them.And I suspect the reason Jude kept referring to Pharisee mythology throughout his letter, was because these ancient Christianists were likely also referring to Pharisee myths. Christians still do it too, y’know. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard non-biblical stories about Satan, used as proof how it behaves or what it’s up to. Preachers like to claim these stories give us insight into devilish behavior. More like insight into how little homework people do before they get behind the pulpit and claim to teach God’s word.In my experience, when a person’s quoting myths instead of bible, not only do they take bible out of context, but usually take the myths out of context too. So what I believe Jude did here (and yeah, I admit I’m biased in favor of thi…

Lessons from Jewish (and Christian) mythology.

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Jude 1.5-8.Jude 1.5-6 KWL5 I want to remind you—though you knew all this already:First the Lord rescued his people out of Egypt. Second, he destroyed those who didn’t trust him.6 Including the angels!—who didn’t keep their original authority, but abandoned their own dwelling.For their judgment on the Great Day: Kept in indestructible chains, in the dark.Jude isn’t the only apostle who finds it fascinating that God judges angels. (And apparently we Christians judge ’em too. 1Co 6.3) Simon Peter brought ’em up, 2Pe 2.4 and Christ Jesus himself taught the everlasting fire was constructed for them. Mt 24.41 The apostles liked to point out God doesn’t spare angels when they sin, and he’s mighty close to them… so why do we presume he’ll spare us humans when we sin? Grace is awesome, but it’s still not a free pass.Irritatingly, popular Christian theology has made the apostles’ idea meaningless. How? Because we teach angels don’t get judged the same way as humans. Different species, different…

All right, let’s plow through Jude.

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Jude 1.1-5.On my previous blog I was midway through Jude, and then I stopped doing that blog and started TXAB. So some people were wondering whether I’d ever go back to it… and others didn’t care, ’cause Jude’s an obscure little letter which makes no sense to them, and they’d rather I analyze other books. And cut out that whole debunking popular Christian myths thingy I do, and just reconfirm all the things they already believe.My mini-rant aside, yeah I dropped the ball, but here I pick it back up.Jude 1.1-2 KWL1 Judah, slave of Christ Jesus, Jacob’s brother, to those in God the Father—those whom Christ Jesus loves, those whom he watched over, those whom he called.2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you all.“Judah” would be Judah of Nazareth, brother of Ἰακώβου/Yakóvu, i.e. Jacob of Nazareth, who’s better known to us as James. (That’s what happened after medieval English-speakers mixed up the Latin names Iacobus and Iacomus.) This’d be the James who was bishop of Jerusalem,…

Jesus takes out the Law’s curse.

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Galatians 3.10-20.So the legalists among the Galatians (and legalists today) thought of the Law as how we get right with God: We obey his commands, and because we’ve racked up all that good karma, we’re righteous and God owes us heaven. Problem is, God works by grace, and if we were hoping to be justified by merit, the Law indicates we have no such merit. We’ve broken the Law repeatedly. We got nothing. We’re cursed.But we weren’t meant to be righteous by obeying the Law. Righteousness comes through faith in God. Through trusting Jesus’s self-sacrifice. Through the good news that God’s kingdom has come near.God promised Abraham he’d bless the world—both Abraham’s “seed,” his descendants; and the gentiles, all the non-Hebrews not descended from Abraham—through Abraham. Ge 12.3, 18.18, 22.18, Ga 3.8Pharisees presumed God’s 613 commandments was this blessing: If only the world would follow the Law, they could be blessed! But Paul recognized this makes no logical sense. Because Abraham wa…

Being good never justified anyone. Only faith does that.

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Galatians 3.5-12.Dispensationalism—the belief God saved people one way (or various ways) in the Old Testament, but saves us by grace in the current era—is far too common in Christendom. Pretty deeply embedded, too: Every so often I’ll talk about where we see grace in the Old Testament, and somebody will pipe up, “But grace came through Jesus Christ.” Jn 1.17 They won’t mean, as John did in that reference, that Jesus is the one who made grace possible throughout all of human history. They mean grace didn’t even begin till Jesus came around. That people in the OT never experienced grace. Obviously they missed the entire point of the Exodus.Nor have the really read Paul. He never taught dispensationalism. Doesn’t matter how many proof texts dispys use from Paul’s letters to back their ideas: They’re not using a one of them in context. Paul taught salvation always came by grace. Comes by grace today; came by grace in Old Testament times. True, how salvation works was a mystery before Jesu…

How’d you go from grace to legalism?

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Galatians 3.1-4.Because humans are selfish, we’d honestly prefer the world work to our satisfaction: We get maximum output with minimal effort, or get freebies and special favor, and who cares whether everybody else does; and if others wrong us, we take it out of ’em sevenfold. But on humanity’s better days, we’re willing to accept reciprocity and karma. In fact we look at karma as an ideal: It’s fair. It’s just. Everybody gets what they deserve. It’s considered right and moral, and it’s even upheld in many a religion. Even ours. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and all that.Ex 21.24 God forbade satisfaction and revenge, ’cause we always go way too far. But reciprocity’s acceptable.Of course I remind you God’s personal practice, his ideal for his followers, is grace. Is for us to not be fair, but generous and forgiving in other people’s favor. He’s gracious to us, so we need to be gracious to others. ’Cause if we don’t pay it forward, he’ll actually stop.Problem is, humanity uplifts karm…

By Law we’re good as dead. So live for Jesus.

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Galatians 2.14-21.To recap: Simon Peter (whom Paul calls Κηφᾶς/Kifás in this passage, ’cause that’s his Aramaic name כיפא/KifáJn 1.42), in a lapse of judgment, was segregating himself from gentiles. Paul objected ’cause Peter’s motivation wasn’t based on the gospel, but on legalism: We’re not right with God, nor saved, because we obey the Law. We’re right by trusting God, and only by trusting God.Galatians 2.14-16 KWL14 But when I saw they weren’t orthodox with the gospel’s truth, I spoke to Kifa in front of everyone:“If you Jews live gentile, not ‘Jewish,’ why do you obligate gentiles to live ‘Jewish’?15 We’re naturally Jews, not gentile sinners:16We know people aren’t right with God by working the Law. It’s through trusting Christ Jesus.We put our trust in Christ Jesus so we can be right with God through a faith in Christ.Not in working the Law: No flesh is right with God by working the Law.”Peter knew this stuff already, but that’s the thing about legalism: We’ll get so fixated on…

Paul challenges Simon Peter.

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Galatians 2.11-16.Today’s passage is, as the title says, about Paul challenging Simon Peter. Because he had to: Peter had behaved one way when he first came to visit Antioch, but as soon as the legalists showed up, Peter was behaving another way. Paul identified it as hypocrisy—hey, anybody can fall into it with the right kind of peer pressure—although maybe Peter was legitimately swayed by the legalists’ arguments. But either way Peter was profoundly wrong, and Paul had to tell him so.(And I remind you Paul frequently refers to Peter as Κηφᾶς/Kifás, a transliteration of כיפא/Kifá, Aramaic for “rock”—the original nickname Jesus gave him. Jn 1.42)Galatians 2.11-16 KWL11 When Simon Kifa came to Antioch, I personally stood against him, because he was wrong.12 For before certain people came from James, Kifa was eating with gentiles.Once they came, he withdrew and segregated himself, afraid of the circumcision party.13 The other Jews were hypocrites with Kifa; so much so, Barnabas was led …

How Paul remembered the Council of Jerusalem.

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Galatians 2.1-10.In Acts its author, Luke, provided no dates, no timeline. Exact dates weren’t relevant to historians back then, and it’s not like average people kept track. So when Paul provides something of a timeline in Galatians, it’s a little rough. All dates, other than the year the Holy Spirit started the church, are loose guesses:The Holy Spirit started the church.Stephen got killed; Paul started persecuting the church.Jesus got hold of Paul and flipped him.Paul’s trip to Jerusalem to see Simon Peter, “after three years.” Ga 1.18Barnabas gets Paul to join him in Antioch.Barnabas and Paul’s missions trip begins.Barnabas and Paul’s trip to Jerusalem for the Council, “after 14 years.” Ga 2.1Give or take the possibility Paul’s persecution began later, or lasted longer… or maybe all those events happened in the very same year, 33. Also bear in mind these might be rough estimates in Paul’s mind: Stating “14 years” isn’t a sign of accuracy and precision, but a sign Paul remembered tw…

The former persecutor turned evangelist.

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Galatians 1.11-24.So I did the bit where Paul wrote there’s no other gospel than the one he got from Jesus, and preached—and if anyone teaches otherwise, ban them from teaching, if not from our churches altogether. The Galatians were being peer-pressured, as Paul’s letter further makes clear, into the common pagan “gospel” of good karma: Be good, and in so doing earn God’s favor. Which sounds fair and commonsense, but isn’t at all how God’s kingdom works.As to how Paul got the proper gospel—i.e. God’s kingdom has come near, for Jesus’s self-sacrifice makes it available to all—most every Christian hears Paul’s story at some point. (Heck, it’s told three whole times in Acts.) Saul, a Benjamite Pp 3.5 from Tarsus, Cilicia, born a citizen of the Roman Empire, had moved to Jerusalem to study under rabbi and senator Gamaliel Ac 22.3 in a Pharisee academy. It was there he first encountered Christianity in the person of Stephen the deacon… and decided he personally needed to stamp it out. But…

The alternative gospel of good karma.

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Galatians 1.1-10.Probably the first epistle Paul of Tarsus ever wrote was Galatians, his letter to the churches of central Asia Minor (now Turkey), called “Galatia” because it was settled by Celts (whom Romans called “Gauls”). The Celts invaded Bulgaria in 279BC, moved into the Turkish highlands later that century, and took that over too. Yep, there were a whole bunch of white people living in the ancient middle east. History’s full of odd stuff like that.The New Testament epistles aren’t in order of date, but length: Paul wrote the most of them, and Romans is his longest letter; the sermon of Hebrews is the next-longest writing, James the longest after that, 1 Peter the longest (well, not all that long) after that, then 1 John, then Jude. All were written in the years 40 to 70, so the ancient Christians didn’t think their date of authorship was all that relevant. Present-day historians care way more about that sort of thing, and a number think 1 Thessalonians was written first, ’caus…

Pray for everyone—and pray for Paul.

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Ephesians 6.18-24.As I said in the piece on God’s armor, we’re wearing God’s gear to fight the devil and its temptations. And while we’re at it, we’re praying prayers and requests at every moment in the Spirit. You know, like Paul wrote in the next verse:Ephesians 6.18-20 KWL18 Through it all, as you’re praying prayers and requests at every moment in the Spirit,as you’re staying alert about it, always staying on it and making requests for all saints—19 and pray for me, so a word would be given to open my mouth,to boldly make known the mystery of the gospel.20 Because of the gospel I’m “the elder in chains,”but it’s so I can boldly speak of it, like I have to talk.’Cause in this fight, we gotta stay in contact with our commander. We gotta stay alert, ask for support, ask for aid for our fellow Christians in the battle… and ask help for Paul too, while we’re at it.Yeah, I know Paul‘s been dead for nearly 20 centuries now. But Paul wrote this letter in part so all the churches this lette…

The armor of God.

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Ephesians 6.10-17.Christians are fascinated by the armor-of-God metaphor which Paul used in Ephesians 6. Sometimes a little too fascinated.Jesus teaches us to foster and encourage peace. Mt 5.9 Of course, our sinful human nature would much rather fight, and kick ass for Jesus if we can. So the idea we get to wear armor and play soldier really fires up certain Christians, who’d love to engage in a little testosterone-fueled warfare, and find this passage an excuse to indulge their blood-soaked he-man fantasies a little. If only metaphorically.For such people, God’s armor is never for defense, Ep 6.11 only offense. Those who fancy themselves prayer warriors love to talk about how to attack with the armor. Christians even make plastic armor for children to play with—including a sword of the Spirit, Ep 6.17 which kids can use to smite one another. In so doing they learn—wrongly—the word of God is about hurting people.But just because God’s word is sharper than a sword He 4.12 doesn’t mean…

The parent, master, or boss’s obligations.

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Ephesians 6.1-9.Properly, the command ypakúete! means “super-listen”—pay very close attention. So why do so many bibles render it “obey”? Cultural bias.Parents want our kids to obey us. Isn’t that what honoring your parents Ex 20.12 means? Isn’t that therefore what Paul meant? And we assume slavedrivers also wanted their slaves to obey them too—and if they didn’t, they’d whip ’em to death. Heck, some parents beat the tar out of their kids when they won’t obey. Kids and slaves: Same boat.But remember: Paul was comparing relationships between parents and kids, and slaveholders and slaves, to that of Jesus and his kingdom, or God and his adopted children. How does God treat his children? Or slaves?—’cause you do realize we’re both.Yeah, I’ve heard various preachers claim we’re not slaves anymore; that we stopped being slaves as soon as God adopted us, or that our relationship with God changed in the New Testament era. That too is cultural bias: These preachers grew up in free countries, …

Men and women, equal in Jesus’s church.

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Ephesians 5.21-33.At this point in Ephesians Paul gets into male/female relationships, which in ancient times were unhealthy and domineering, and—no big surprise—they’re just the same way today.We got a lot of relationships which are structured as unequal partnerships, where the man’s bossing the woman around and thinks he’s entitled to because he’s the man; or where the woman’s bossing the man around and thinks she’s entitled to because she’s smarter. Or whatever excuse works for the domineering spouse: They make all the money, they do all the work, they’re tougher, they’re bolder, they’re stronger, they deserve to be the alpha. It’s entirely Darwinian, which means it’s entirely unChristian.What Paul taught instead is mutual submission: If you really do love one another, you don’t boss each other around! You take one another’s needs and wants into consideration. You help each other out. You care for one another. Like when you pamper yourself at a nice restaurant or a day spa. And not…

Awake, sleepers!

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Ephesians 5.1-20.Too many Christians have this unhealthy attitude of once we’re saved—once we’ve said the sinner’s prayer and decided we’re Christian now—there’s nothing more we need to do. The entire work of salvation was achieved by Jesus, so all we gotta do is sit back and let heaven come to us. ’Cause if we do try to act Christian… well, it’s a sign we don’t really trust that Jesus did all the work, but a sign we still think we’re saved by our own good karma. So such people won’t even bother to act Christian. Functionally they’ll have the same pagan lifestyle they always had—but the difference, they insist, is they believe in Jesus. That makes ’em Christian.Rubbish, wrote Paul. If you’re Christian, you act like your Father. If you act like pagans, you’re clearly not God’s kids, and won’t inherit his kingdom.Ephesians 5.1-5 KWL1 So, like beloved children, become mimics of God.2 Walk in love, same as Christ also loves us,and gave himself as an offering for us, a sacrifice to God wit…