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Showing posts with the label #Context

“Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”

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Of course we have some iffy ideas about what “waiting on the Lord” entails.Isaiah 40.31Whenever I visit fellow Christians at their homes, a large number of ’em have a painting or sculpture of an eagle somewhere. Often it’s an American bald eagle, meant to express their patriotism. Others were purchased at the local Family Christian Stores before it went bankrupt and shut down. Patriotic or not, if it was produced by Christians, it’s gonna be captioned with the following Isaiah verse:Isaiah 40.31 KJVBut they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.The sentiment which really appeals to Christians, whether it’s blended with patriotism or not, is the idea the LORD, our creator, has inexhaustible strength, Is 40.28 and empowers the weak. Is 40.29 Even though the strongest of us may fail, Is 40.30 God can indefinitely renew our strength. Is 40.31Well, if we trust in the…

“Be still and know that I am God.”

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It’s not about being quiet. Psalm 46.10Most people shorten this verse to simply, “Be still and know that I am God.” But sometimes they actually do know the entire verse:Psalm 46.10 KJVBe still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.When people do remember the rest of this verse, they tend to recall (and prefer) a translation without that bothersome word “heathen” in it. The word goyím properly means “foreigners,” which we also translate “foreigners” or “nations”—the Amplified Bible, ESV, NASB, and NIV went with “I will be exalted among the nations,” which works better for them. Be still, know God is God, and if everybody can just chill out and meditate for a bit, God can be exalted by all the nations, round the world.Yeah, this tends to be considered a meditation verse. I’ve been in prayer groups where Christians have talked about meditation, and they misquote Psalm 46.10 all the time. “Remember, we’re just trying to be still and k…

“Train up a child…”

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It’s not about evangelism. It’s about taking Jesus for granted.Proverbs 22.6This particular proverb, best known in the King James version—Proverbs 22.6 KJVTrain up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.—has brought a lot of comfort to a lot of Christians whose kids don’t appear to be going anywhere close to the way they should go.After high school, a lot of the kids from my church youth group didn’t stay in church. Some of us did, and some of us went away to school… and the rest decided since they were adults now, they could choose to go to church or not. So they chose not. To the great consternation of their parents, who thought they raised their kids better than that. They really didn’t.In despair, the parents turned to this proverb. The way they chose to interpret it: Yeah, the kids had quit Jesus, but the parents had trained ’em up in the way they should go. They’d raised ’em Christian. Took ’em to church. Made ’em pray before meals. Sent …

“I stand at the door and knock.”

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It’s not about evangelism. It’s about taking Jesus for granted.Revelation 3.20Revelation 3.20 KJVBehold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.This’d be Jesus speaking.When I was a little kid, I was told Jesus lives in my heart.I didn’t then understand the difference between one’s physical heart, the blood-pumping muscle/organ in one’s chest; and the spiritual heart, the center of one’s soul. That “Jesus lives in my heart” means Jesus takes priority over all. Arguably the spiritual heart is a metaphor, and Jesus living in it is definitely a metaphor. You wanna talk persons of the trinity who live in you, look to the Holy Spirit.But you know how literal-minded a kid can be. Tell ’em “Jesus lives in your heart,” and they’ll wonder whether there’s a little tiny Jesus, physically inside their chests. And of course that’s not what they meant. Or at least I surely hope that’s not what they me…

These godless kids these days.

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Little bit of griping about the younger generation… and now it’s in the bible.Psalm 14Amárnavál belibó/“The fool said at heart” (Latin Dixit insipiens) is by David, and we number it at 14.Commentators figure it’s a lament: David, or Wisdom (i.e. the Holy Spirit) mourns the fact kids these days don’t follow God anymore. Not like “our righteous group,” Ps 14.5 the dor/“age group” (KJV “generation”) David’s in, which he deems more devout than the younger set. Back in his day people followed God, took his side, knew where their help came from, and expected God to rescue ’em yet again. In comparison, this generation is hopeless, nihilistic, cynical, faithless, and godless.Basically, the same lament every generation has about the next one. Well, with one exception: The people from this generation, who gang up with the previous generation about their peers and successors. That’s a phenomena I’ve seen quite often lately. My parents are “baby boomers,” I’m in what marketers call “generation X,…

Submission. It’s not domination.

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It has two definitions, and evil people are promoting the wrong one.Submit /səb'mɪt/ v. Yield to or accept a superior force, authority, or will. Consent to their conditions.2. Present one’s will to another for their consideration or judgment.[Submission /səb'mɪs.ʃən/ n.]Notice there are two popular definitions of submit in use. The more popular of the two has to do with acceptance, obedience, and blind capitulation. To turn off our brains, do as we’re told. And most sermons instruct Christians to do precisely that. Submit to one another, as Paul ordered.Ephesians 5.21 NIVSubmit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’Cause we kinda have to. If we can’t submit to God—if we insist on our own way, our own standards, our own values, our own lifestyles—it’s a pretty good bet we’re outside his kingdom.Romans 8.5-8 KWL5 Carnal people think carnal things. Spirit-led people, Spirit-led things.6 A flesh-led mind produces death. A Spirit-led mind, life and peace.7 For a flesh-led min…

Touch not the Lord’s anointed.

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When leaders try to evade accountability by the very verse which makes ’em accountable.1 Chronicles 16.22, Psalm 105.15Today’s out-of-context scripture is found in two places in the bible, ’cause either Chronicles is quoting Psalms or vice-versa. (Hard to tell, since they were written round the same time.) To get the full effect, you gotta quote it in the King James Version.1 Chronicles 16.22, Psalm 105.15 KJVTouch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.The way it’s typically quoted is in the third-person form of “Touch not the LORD’s anointed!” But it doesn’t take that form in the bible.I’ve seldom heard preachers quote it. More often I’ve heard it from people in church leadership, or people who are defending church leadership. Usually it’s to discourage us from questioning, critiquing, condemning, or otherwise interfering with those leaders. ’Cause they were anointed by the LORD—and look, it says right there in the bible you’re not to touch the LORD’s anointed.It was written …

The bible’s genres.

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It’s not all written in just one style of literature.Genre /'ʒɑ(n).rə/ n. Type or category of literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, and subject matter.Our word genre originates from the Old French word gendre/“gender.” ’Cause while men and women are both human, we’ve still got some important, distinctive differences. (Not as many as our culture dictates, but still.)There are many types of literature. Stop by the local public library, and you’ll notice how the books tend to be lumped into categories so we can find them easier. Whether your library uses the Dewey system or the Library of Congress system, you’ll notice the gardening books are on one shelf, the photography books on another, the legal books on another, the biographies on another.Now when the average person picks up a bible, they assume they’re picking up one category of literature: Non-fiction religious instruction. After all, that’s where we’ll find bibles in the library.Thing is, the bible’s an an…

“The gates of hell”: Just how won’t they prevail?

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Lots of weird pop culture interpretations of this one. Typically they’re wrong.Matthew 16.18Jesus once asked his students who they thought he was. Simon Peter, his best student, correctly identified Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. Mt 16.16(Since we Christians recognize Jesus is the Father’s only-begotten son, Jn 1.18 we tend to read that into it, rather than recognize “Son of God” as one of Messiah’s titles. In historical context it’s not what Peter meant. But I digress.)In response Jesus pointed out how awesome this was (KJV “blessed”) because Peter hadn't just deduced it; this was a case of supernatural discernment, or special revelation. The Father had personally revealed this to Peter. Mt 16.17 Which is kinda awesome.Then Jesus said this:Matthew 16.18 KJVAnd I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.The words Jesus used were pýlaiádu/“hades’s gates.” Latin turned this into portae in…

The poor you will always have with you. So screw ’em.

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The materialist’s favorite verse for justifying their lack of generosity.Matthew 26.11.It’s kinda obvious when people quote the following verse out of context: They always drop the second part of the sentence. ’Cause the context is found in that part.Matthew 26.11 KJVFor ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.Although I have often heard plenty of Christianists quote this verse in its entirety, just to make it look like they’re quoting it in context… then quickly say, “And the part I wanna focus on are those words ‘Ye have the poor always with you,’ and never mention the other clause again. It’ll only get in their way.The point they wanna make with it? They wanna justify doing nothing for the poor.Because there are poor people in the world. Somebody wants to help them. Give to them. Create jobs for them. Create charities to help them. Create social programs to take care of them. Enlist their aid, whether through private donations or tax dollars… and they don’t wann…

God’s grace is sufficient: What we mean, what Paul meant.

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We use “sufficient” to mean God’s salvation or provision. Paul meant neither of those things.2 Corinthians 12.9One really good example of an out-of-context bible phrase is the idea God’s grace is sufficient. Sometimes phrased, “Your grace is enough for me,” or “His grace is sufficient” or if you wanna put the words in God’s mouth, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” People don’t even quote the entire verse; just the “grace is sufficient” bit.And when we quote it, we mean one of two things.Most of the time it’s used to state God’s grace is sufficient for salvation. It’s a reminder we humans can’t save ourselves from sin and death, no matter how many good deeds we do; and that’s fine ’cause God does all the saving. He applies Jesus’s atonement to our sins, takes care of it, forgives us utterly; all we need is God’s grace. It’s sufficient. It does the job.Great is your faithfulness oh GodYou wrestle with the sinner’s heartYou lead us by still waters into mercyAnd nothing can keep us apart…

Prophetic interpretation: “God told me it means this!”

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Sometimes the Spirit explains his scriptures. Other times prophets just don’t wanna do their homework.I’m writing this article under the Prophecy category, but I should warn you: It’s not just prophets, wannabe prophets, and fake prophets who try to pull this stunt. Y’know where I first encountered it? Among cessationists, of all people.Yep. All of ’em figure they have the very same Holy Spirit as the authors of scripture. Which they should, if they’re Christians. Since the Spirit inspired the scriptures, the Spirit should also be able to clue us in on what the scriptures mean.Cessationists claim God doesn’t prophetically talk to people anymore. So what’s the point of ’em having the Holy Spirit? Well, they think he’s here for only two reasons:Confirm we’re going to heaven. Ep 1.13-14Illuminate the scriptures.Illuminate means “light up,” and depending on how much the cessationist will permit the Holy Spirit to do, they figure either he lights them up so they can understand the scriptur…

When two or three gather in Jesus’s name.

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Christians assume all sorts of magic happens when we group up. Nope. Matthew 18.20Matthew 18.20 KJVFor where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.We Christians quote that 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 …

“If my people pray, I’ll heal their land.”

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2 Chronicles 7.14.Today’s out-of-context verse is really popular with civic idolaters, those folks who assume when Jesus returns, he won’t overthrow the United States: It’s the one exception to the kingdoms of this world which must become part of Christ’s one-world government. To them, it already is his kingdom, and Americans already are God’s chosen people. It’s just we’re heavily mismanaging things. But once we call upon God… well, lemme quote their beloved bible verse.2 Chronicles 7.14 KJV…if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.Right. If our Christian nation returns to God, and returns to proper Christian values (as defined by popular Christian culture), and makes big shows of repentance like public prayer and voting for the prolife political party (and never mind what the party’s candidates think about the need…

Needing not that any man teach you.

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The verse the go-it-alone Christian uses to evade accountability. 1 John 2.27Ever heard of a “life verse”? It’s a Christianese saying. Means a bible verse which isn’t just a Christian’s favorite verse; it’s one they kinda consider their own personal mission statement. It’s one they base their life, or lifestyle, upon. Heck, there are a few of these “life verses” found in the very same chapter of 1 Thessalonians.People who are big on joy: “Always rejoice.” 1Th 5.16People who are big on prayer: “Pray without slacking.” 1Th 5.17Big on prophecy: “Don’t dismiss prophecy.” 1Th 5.20Big skeptics: “Put everything to the test.” 1Th 5.21Anyway, I once worked with this woman… and Random Name Generator is gonna call her Svanhildr. Okay, why not. (Doesn’t that mean “swineherd”? Probably not.) Anyway, Svanhildr’s “life verse” was obviously “I need not that any man teach me.” Not just because she quoted it all the time: Nobody could teach her anything. Nobody was allowed to. She wouldn’t let ’em.The …

Lukewarm Christians.

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It’s not about being emotionally be excited. That’d be a way easier problem to solve, right? Revelation 3.15-16.I give youth pastors a bad rap sometimes. Okay, often. Because I believe a lot of them fundamentally misunderstand their job. As did most of the youth pastors I’ve had to deal with, both decades ago as a teenager, and in the years since as I’ve worked with kids and young adults. Their job is to minister to the young people of the church, and share Jesus with the young people of their communities. You know, like any other pastor. Only with youth.Problem is, many of the YPs I’ve run into, don’t think that way at all. Sometimes because their churches don’t think that way. My church, growing up, thought of the YPs as our babysitters. They were to make sure the church’s members’ kids behaved ourselves, and stayed Christian—at least till college. Once we graduated high school, we weren’t the YP’s responsibility anymore. My YPs made this fact quite clear to me when, shortly after m…

“God makes all things work together for our good.”

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Wouldn’t that be awesome. Too bad God never promised any such thing. Romans 8.28“You make all things work together for my good,” goes the bridge of the 2008 Jesus Culture song “Your Love Never Fails.” (Or are you more familiar with the 2013 Newsboys version? No? Doesn’t matter.) It’s a common variation of a popular idea, borrowed from Paul in Romans, which goes like so:Romans 8.28 KJVAnd we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.Frequently people drop a “the” in quoting it, and end it, “to them who are the called according to his purpose.” More like the ESV has it. But however we remember it, the problem is why we remember it; and this being a “Context” article you can bet it’s about wrongly remembering it.Together with “Everything happens for a reason!” this is a myth we Christians use to comfort ourselves, and one another. When we’re going through a rough time, we like to imagine God’s permitting or allo…

The proof text.

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If we’re gonna refer to the bible, let’s be sure we’re doing it right.Proof text /'pruf tɛkst/ n. A scriptural verse or passage, used (or misused) as evidence to support the idea one wishes to teach.2.v. Using (or misusing) the scriptures as a reference.Y’know how sometimes I’ll mention a biblical idea, like God saving us by his grace, Ep 2.8 and do exactly what I just did there: Tack on a link to a bible verse which proves my point. It’s called proof-texting. If you weren’t sure whether that idea was backed by the bible, I pointed you to the bit of bible which confirms it.I know; the word texting can confuse people. Especially if you’ve always thought of texting as sending a Short Message Service file from your phones. (Didn’t know that’s what SMS meant, didja?) I made the mistake of not clarifying that when I was instructing kids in how to proof-text properly. Some poor lad thought every time he referred to the scriptures, he had to send a text message—and wasn’t sure where to s…

“Woman, be silent!”

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One of the verses sexists misquote so they can keep women down. 1 Timothy 2.12Years ago I taught the bible classes at a Christian junior high. It was overseen by an Assemblies of God church, and if you know the denomination, you’ll know we have women pastors. Haven’t always, but have way longer than most denominations.I should also mention the school accepted students, and hired teachers, from just about any denomination. Frequently half my students were Catholic, which used to weird out the Protestant parents whenever I taught on purgatory.Anyway, one morning one of my kids informed me, “Mrs. Gopinatha” (name randomly picked; actual name withheld to protect the guilty) “says women can’t be pastors.”This came as no surprise to me. Mrs. Gopinatha was a member of one of those independent Baptist churches. You know the sort. Most of the reason they’re independent is ’cause they figure everybody else is wrong.“Oh does she,” I said.“Because she says the bible says women can’t be pastors.”W…

The first time Jesus cured anyone.

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Somebody figured if he can turn water to wine, he can cure sick boys.John 4.43-54Jesus spent two days with the Samaritans of Sykhár, proclaiming God’s kingdom. Now he needed a break, so he went back to his homeland, the western side of the Roman province of the Galilee. More precisely Cana (today’s Kfar Kanna), 4 kilometers north of Nazareth, where he’d done the water-to-wine thingy.Or I could just quote the gospel…John 4.43-46 KWL43 After the two days, Jesus left Samaria for the Galilee,44 for Jesus himself testified that in their own homeland, prophets have no value.45 So when Jesus came to the Galilee, the Galileans received him.They’d seen all he did in Jerusalem at the festival, for they also went to the festival.46A He went to Cana, Galilee, where he made the water wine, again.Now the part which tends to throw Christians is Jesus’s comment “that in their own homeland, prophets have no value.” Because in the other gospels, Jesus says it like it’s a bad thing:Mark 6.4 KWLJesus tol…