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Showing posts with label #Evangelism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Evangelism. Show all posts

03 June 2016

Jesus harvests the Samaritans.

See what can come out of a brief, but powerful, conversation with a stranger?

John 4.25-42

After meeting Jesus and realizing he’s a prophet, this Samaritan woman he met at Jacob’s Well tried to get him to settle a theological dispute—namely which temple was the correct one, the one at Shechem or the one at Jerusalem. Jn 4.20 Jesus pointed out it’s neither Jn 4.21 —God wants worshipers “in spirit and truth,” Jn 4.22-23 who can worship him anywhere. In temple, out of temple; in church, out of church.

But since Jesus appeared to side with the Judeans, Jn 4.22 the Samaritan did the intellectual equivalent of shrugging her shoulders:

John 4.25 KWL
The woman told Jesus, “I know Messiah comes, who’s called Christ.
Whenever he comes, he’ll explain everything to us.”

As I’ve said previously, Samaritans didn’t believe in a Judean-style Messiah. Their bible only went up to Deuteronomy, so no Messianic prophecies. They believed in the Tahéb/“coming one,” a prophet-like-Moses Dt 18.15 who’d come at the End Times and sort everything out. And since the Taheb was sorta anointed by God, the word “anointed”—mešíkha in Aramaic, hristós in Greek—would be a valid synonym for Tahéb. Maybe she said Mešíkha, which is why John rendered it Messías. Maybe she said Tahéb, and John translated it. Not sure; doesn’t really matter. After all, Jesus is the Tahéb. Ac 3.22-26 So we’re fine either way.

Her response was a bit apathetic. “Till Messiah/Taheb comes to explain God to us, meh: Who’s to say who’s right?”

Hence Jesus’s response.

John 4.26 KWL
Jesus told her, “I am the one speaking to you.”

Mic drop.

Yeah, various skeptics insist Jesus never called himself Messiah. That it was an idea added to Christianity decades later by overzealous Christians. Probably Paul; they like to blame Paul for all the parts of Christianity they don’t like. Ignoring the fact Paul’s letters were written first—if Paul hadn’t spread Christianity in the first place, they’d have nothing to nitpick, redefine, and reshape to suit themselves. Can’t have Christ without his Christians.

True, Jesus doesn’t flat-out say, “I’m Messiah.” You say that in that day and age, you get killed for treason. Instead Jesus makes it as clear as he can while having plausible deniability (not that he ever denied it Mk 14.61-62): “I am the one speaking to you.” It’s as close to a “I’m Messiah” as we can get from him, and the Samaritan clearly understood his meaning—and ran with it.


John 4.27-30 KWL
27 At this point, Jesus’s students came back.
They were wondering why he was speaking with a woman.
Yet nobody said, “What’re you asking?” or “Why are you speaking with her?”
28 So the Samaritan left her jar and went back into the town.
She told the people, “Come see a person who told me everything I’ve done!
It’s not Christ, is it?”
30 They came out of the town, and were coming to him.

Like I said, saying “Messiah” might get you killed for treason. So maybe the Samaritan used that word (which John translated “Christ”), and maybe she said Tahéb (which John likewise translated “Christ.”) Can’t say for certain. Again, doesn’t matter. It got the Samaritans’ attention, and they came to check him out for themselves.

01 June 2016

Sharing Jesus… with liars.

’Cause not every irreligious Christian wants to admit that’s what they are.

Yeah, I admit “Sharing Jesus… with liars” is a harsh-sounding title. But it’s accurate. Sometimes when we share Jesus with people, they lie about how Christian they are.

Four out of five Americans consider themselves Christian. That’s not anecdotal; that’s based on surveys. The Pew Forum currently has us at 70.6 percent of Americans. Gallup has us at 75.2 percent. ABC and Beliefnet have us at 83 percent. And the Barna Group has us at 78 percent. Now anecdotally, it’s been my experience that two out of three people tell me they’re already Christian. But I live in California, not the Bible Belt. Stats vary by state.

Of these self-described Christians, there are obviously a number of ’em who aren’t Christian. Do a little prying, and you’ll discover they’re pagans who think they’re Christian. They’re not what I mean by liars. They’re not lying. They honestly do think they’re Christian. It’s just they’re not; they like Jesus, but don‘t believe he’s any more special than any other religious leader, and figure they’re going to heaven because they’re good. And can’t understand their beliefs make us look at ’em so strangely: Doesn’t every Christian talk to their angels?

Nah; by “liar” I mean people who deliberately aren’t telling the truth about their Christian life. They are Christians: They know who God is, what Christ did, how God saved ’em, and all the usual orthodox Christian beliefs. They’re not ignorant about the basics. They totally know what God expects of them. They also know what Christian society expects from them. It’s just they’re not living like that, and they know it. They feel bad about it. Or they don’t; but they don’t wanna get into that with you today. So they conceal. Distort. Misrepresent. Exaggerate. Lie.

They want us to shut up and go away, so they tell us whatever they think we wanna hear. You know, like a lot of us do with telemarketers: “Actually, I’m quite happy with my current cable provider.” Oh, you know that’s a lie. Nobody likes their cable provider.

They don’t pray. Don’t go to church. Don’t read bible. Don’t do good works; they just don’t harm anybody, and figure passive non-interference counts as a good work. Don’t figure they sin as much, swear as much, doubt as much, dabble in superstition as much, as their pagan friends. Figure the amount of religion they can be bothered to engage in, makes ’em WAY more religious than their pagan friends—maybe too religious. (Whereas we religious Christians: We’re beyond the pale. Go to church more than once a week? Yikes.)

But they like to imagine they’re good enough Christians. Good enough for saving. And hey, we’re not saved by being good anyway. We’re saved by grace. They’re not the best Christians, but even the worst Christians are getting into heaven; they’ll just be the least in the kingdom. Mt 6.19 They’re in; that’s all that matters, and it’s none of our business how good they are.

11 May 2016

Sharing. Not proselytizing.

We’re to share Jesus. But some Christians go much farther. Too far.

Proselytize /'prɑs(.ə).lət.aɪz/ v. (Try to) convert someone from one belief to another.
[Proselyte /'prɑs.ə.laɪt/ n., proselytism /'prɑs(.ə).lət.ɪz.əm/ n.]

From time to time, when we Christians share the good news of Jesus with other people—you know, evangelism—we instead get accused of “proselytizing.”

To be fair, it’s often true. Some of us aren’t sharing the good news: We’re trying to ram Christianity down other people’s throats. We want ’em to come to Jesus so bad, we’re not willing to wait till they choose him on their own. We’ll make that choice for them, thank you very much. And if they don’t like it, tough. It’s for their own good, and they’ll thank us when Jesus lets ’em into his kingdom.

Parents push Christianity on their unwilling kids. Kids push Christianity on their unwilling parents. We push our Christianity on our unwilling neighbors. In the United States, we made “One nation under God” our official national motto, even though pagans aren’t always so sure about God, and whether we are under him. We put that motto on our money, in our pledge of allegiance, and if people balk at it, we don’t just accuse ’em of being godless, but unpatriotic. We also insist they let us put up Ten Commandment monuments, or crosses, or other religious iconography, in public parks, public schools, or public buildings. In Texas, we even changed the science textbooks so they state God created the universe about 6,000 years ago, and who cares if actual science suggests otherwise.

And when we share Jesus, we don’t ask people whether they’d like to hear about him. Don’t have time for that. We just corner ’em so they can’t go anywhere, and tell ’em—whether they have the time, the curiosity, the interest, the receptivity. Because they need to hear it: They’re going to hell otherwise. Now is their hour of salvation. Now is not the time for kindness, patience, self-control, or grace. Fruit of the Spirit? Only gets in our way.

If you’re familiar with this behavior, you’ve likely been hanging around dark Christians, the folks who don’t do fruit, and tend to spread Christianism instead of Christ. They’re the ones who leave tracts instead of tips for their waiters. They’re the ones who won’t leave your front porch when you insist, “No thank you.” They’re the reason people believe evangelism and proselytism are the same thing.

28 April 2016

“Spiritual… but not religious.”

Meaning they don’t really wanna go to your church, thank you very much.

SPIRITUAL /'spɪr.ɪtʃ(.əw).əl/ adj. Dealing with immaterial things in the human spirit or soul.
2. Dealing with religion.
[Spirituality /'spɪr.ɪtʃ.əw.æl.ə.di/ n.]

Many pagans like to describe themselves as spiritual. ’Cause they are. They believe in immaterial things, like the soul. Might even believe in other spirits; or God, whom they correctly recognize is a spirit; Jn 4.24 or a spiritual afterlife. Or not: They only believe in spiritual forces, like good vibes or positivity, bad vibes or negativity, which can affect not just ourselves, but everyone around us.

Christians will call ourselves spiritual too, ’cause we are. We have the Holy Spirit, who’s hopefully working on us, if we let him. We’re taught to pursue spirit, not flesh. Ro 8.5-6 We believe in God and angels and unclean spirits (like the devil) and that we’re part spirit. For the most part, we believe in the supernatural too.

Now, you can tell a pagan all this: “You’re spiritual? So’m I.” But they’ll insist there’s still a dividing line which they don’t care to cross: They’re spiritual, but not religious. We, on the other hand, are religious… and they don’t wanna go there.

Evangelicals get confused by this. “Religious? I’m not religious. Christians don’t do religion. We do relationship.” It’s because Evangelicals have their own definition of religion. And this out-of-the-mainstream definition means they don’t understand what pagans mean… and pagans don’t understand Evangelicals either.

Okay: To a pagan, if you go to church—as we should—that’s an organized religion. It means you don’t define what it is you believe. Your church does. Your bishop and pastors and elders do. They tell you what to think and believe and do. Loads of rules, and no grace. And if you don’t do as they say, they keep you in line by threatening you with hell. Whenever you claim, “Oh, but I’m not religious”—either you’re lying, and trying to trick people into joining your religion; or you’ve been brainwashed, and don’t realize just how far your religious leaders have their tentacles in you.

Yeah, you might insist, “That’s nothing like how my church works.” I know; it’s nothing like my church either. But pagans won’t believe this. Some of them grew up in church… and unfortunately, this was their church experience. (I’d call those churches cults, but pagans just assume all churches work like that.) Other pagans have never been to church, or have only visited for holidays, weddings, funerals, and christenings; but they heard the horror stories, or watched ’em in movies, and they “know better.”

The religion they prefer is one which permits them perfect freedom. Nobody tells them what to think, how to do things, how to be, where to go. Maybe God gets to; maybe their angels. Maybe they listen to their favorite gurus with fervent devotion, and do everything they’re told, same as any cult member. But to their minds, they can walk away whenever they like; they’re in control. They’re not sure they can maintain this level of control if they set foot in your church building. So no thank you. Organized religion isn’t for them.

24 February 2016

When pagans believe they’re Christian.

’Cause they like Jesus. So doesn’t that make ’em Christian?

In the United States, roughly seven out of 10 people believe they’re Christian. I live in California, where it’s six out of 10. (I’m not just pulling these numbers out of my bum; the national stats and state stats from a 2014 Pew Forum study.)

Which matches my experience. When I share Jesus with strangers, about two out of three tell me they’re Christian already. They don’t necessarily go to church; that’s another issue. But they do figure they’re Christian. For all sorts of reasons:

  • Actual individual experience with Jesus.
  • Said the sinner’s prayer once.
  • They’re a regular at their church. (How regular varies. Twice a year, they figure, counts.)
  • Got baptized.
  • Raised Christian, or their family’s Christian.
  • They consider themselves spiritual. And when they contemplate spiritual matters, Jesus is in the mix somewhere.

Now, let’s explode that last definition: They’re “spiritual,” by which they nearly always mean they believe in the supernatural, and have happy thoughts about it. And Jesus is included in their spirituality.

But once we analyze their spiritual beliefs, we’ll find what they really believe looks more like this:

  • There’s a God. Jesus is his son (but not God though, nor God’s only son) and the holy spirit (note the lowercase) is God’s power (but not God though).
  • God loves everybody and wants us to be nice to one another.
  • Death means we go to heaven, and probably watch over the living somehow.
  • Organized religion is unnecessary, and just confuses things.

Basically it’s what pagans believe. It’s popular culture. Not Christianity. These folks aren’t Christians; they’re Christianists. They’re a subcategory I call incognito pagans: They honestly think they’re Christian, because they take their cues from how popular culture defines Christianity. But they have no Holy Spirit within them, so they produce none of his fruit. And as far as their knowledge about Christ is concerned, they couldn’t tell a Jesus quote from a Benjamin Franklin proverb. They’re saved, so why bother to learn about the Savior? That’s for the clergy to worry about. Theologians. Academics and experts. They have other concerns.

Well, speaking as one of these experts, they’re not Christian. And that’s the one area they won’t concede to experts. If a pastor, professor, bishop, or pope told them they’re not Christian, they’d come back with “Who are you to tell me I’m no Christian?” Y’see, they get to define what “Christian” means. Not fruit, not orthodoxy, nor even Christ Jesus and the scriptures. They. Nobody can tell them different.

21 February 2016

Kicking ass for Jesus. (Don’t.)

The use and misuse of Christian apologetics.

APOLOGY /e'pa.le.dzi/ n. A logical argument used to justify a behavior, theory, or religious belief.
[Apologetic /'dzet.ik/ adj., apologist /e'pa.le.dzist/ n.]
APOLOGETICS /'dzet.iks/ n. The study and use of logical arguments to defend [usually religious] beliefs.

“This is Leslie,” he said, introducing me to a new Christian he’d just met. “Leslie knows a lot about apologetics.”

“Well, theology,” I corrected him. (Among a certain Christian crowd, confusing theology for apologetics is a common mistake.)

I actually do know a bunch about Christian apologetics. Learned the field in high school; practiced it for years. I learned all the standard Christian arguments for the faith. And over time I got to know all the anti-Christian arguments, as presented me by real live intellectual anti-Christians. Arguments woefully left out of a lot of apologetics books and classes, which means they wind up blindsiding your average young overzealous apologist. Which, in the long run, is probably best. Overconfident Christians need to learn, sometimes the hard way, we don’t know it all. Jesus does, but we’re not him.

But apologetics is an area really rife with abuse. For every Christian who uses apologetic arguments to encourage fellow Christians about the solidity of our faith, there are about 50 who use them to get into verbal fights with skeptics and pagans.

Let me emphasize that word again: Fights. If you’re a brawler, if you love to argue, apologetics gives you a brilliant excuse to indulge. It’s why the practice is so common—and popular. Apologists claim it’s a form of spiritual warfare: They’re contending for the kingdom!

True, they are contending. With other people. Yet Paul explicitly said our fight isn’t with flesh and blood. Ep 6.12 We’re fighting spiritual forces and devilish ideas. I know, apologetics is supposedly all about how one idea—one rational argument—is more solid than another. It might start that way. But too often deteriorates into one person fighting another. Call it collateral damage or not; there’s still damage.

Argumentativeness, making enemies, anger, quarrels, and factions are all works of the flesh. Ep 5.20 And defending Jesus is no excuse for behaving in such ways. We don’t get a free pass just because we’re “fighting for Jesus.” In fact, engaging in such behavior alienates the people we’re fighting with, makes them more bitter and resentful, makes enemies of them, and drives them even further away from Jesus, repentance, and the kingdom. We’re unwittingly doing the work of the wrong side.

So when my discussions begin to fall apart into a debate, I shut ’em down. I don’t take issue with people who have honest questions, or think they found holes in my reasoning. But when they’re no longer trying to listen to and understand me, but defeat me: “You already have your mind made up,” I’ll point out. “So there’s no point. I’m done.”

Often they wanna argue further, and find it extremely frustrating when I quit. They try to goad me into continuing. They try insults, or claim the only reason I’m retreating is ’cause they’re winning. I try not to take the bait. I’m not gonna encourage their fruitless behavior.

So this is the sort of stuff I had no intention of teaching the newbie. Instead I stick to theology: I explain what the scriptures have to say about God, how our God-experiences and the scriptures confirm one another, the importance of the Spirit’s fruit, and I take questions. I don’t wanna create yet another Christian know-it-all who’s eager to go thump some naysayers.

26 January 2016

Dark Christianity.

When people who are supposed to love, instead choose to fear.

God is light. For this reason Christians ought not walk in the dark. 1Jn 1.5-10 People don’t bother to read this passage in context, and assume “light” and “dark” has to do with truth versus lies, or revelation versus mysteries. Nope; it has to do with obedience versus sin. Christians shouldn’t sin, and when we live in light, we oughta stay out of sin.

But more than that. We shouldn’t fixate on sin either. We shouldn’t obsess about what sinners are up to. We shouldn’t analyze the devil’s works in order to understand it better, Rv 2.24 on the pretense that knowledge is power. Our strength isn’t mean to come through our studies of devilish strategies: We’re to be strong through God’s power. Ep 6.10 Resist temptation. Lead others to the light.

However, there are loads of Christians who firmly believe a significant part of our duties—if not our only duty—is to study sin, fight it, and condemn it.

In preparation these folks spend an awful lot of time on the dark side of Christianity. They wanna instruct the church in Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, and be ever vigilant to battle He Who Shall Not Be Named. (Forgive all the Harry Potter references, but there are an awful lot of parallels. It’s like J.K. Rowling grew up Christian or something.) Namely these areas:

  • The fall of the angels, the fall of humanity, original sin, total depravity.
  • Sin, mortal sin, unforgiveable sin, spiritual death, spiritual suicide, apostasy, heresy, works of the flesh, temptation.
  • Satan and its fellow tempters: Unclean spirits, devils, demons, idols, antichrists.
  • Spiritual warfare, exorcisms, intercessory prayer, hedges, umbrellas of protection.
  • The End Times: Signs of the times, fulfillment of end-times prophecy, rapture readiness, tribulation, the Beast.
  • Theodicy, judgments, punishments, double predestination, hades, purgatory, hell, second death.

True, all Christian theologians deal with this stuff, ’cause it’s part of Christianity. It’s the stuff Jesus defeated and frees us from, so we now can have an abundant life in God’s kingdom.

But to certain dark Christians we’re not free of these things. Not at all. ’Cause there’s still evil in the world, isn’t there? We still have the gates of hell to knock down. Jesus’s mission may have been to destroy the devil’s works, 1Jn 3.8 but they don’t believe he’s yet accomplished it. They believe it’s now our mission. They don’t consider the fact our own depravity might get in the way of accurately identifying evil, or corrupt us into using devilish methods to fight it—that Jesus really does want us to have nothing to do with evil.

Because dark Christians figure our primary duty isn’t to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom, but fight sin, people don’t see them as bringers of light, peace, hope, love, and good news. Just darkness. They make pagans flinch and fellow Christians facepalm. Our job of proclaiming good news becomes significantly harder, because now we gotta make up for the fruitless actions of these nimrods: Pagans think we’re all like that, or suspect any loving actions on our part have, at the back of them, hatred, fear, horror, and judgment.

12 January 2016

Can God’s word “return void”?

Depends. Are we really talking God’s word, or our excuse to preach at hardened people?

Isaiah 55.11

So one night I and my friend Jason (not his real name, and you’ll see why) were walking from the car to the coffeehouse. Enroute some vagrant asked us for spare change. Jason got it into his head this was a “divine opportunity”: It’s time to proclaim the gospel to this person! It’s time to get him saved.

That’s how we wasted the next 15 minutes. Yes, wasted. Because the vagrant was: Either he was drunk, or had some condition which made him incoherent. Jason’d ask him questions to determine whether he understood the gospel, and the guy would start rambling about how he believed men and women should be together. In which context I don’t know. (Hey, this article is about context; I had to bring it up at some point.)

Jason kinda had the poor guy cornered in a doorway, pressuring him for some sorta confession of faith, and after he extracted something he considered satisfactory, we went and got that coffee. And debated whether that interaction did the poor vagrant any good.

“He’s not gonna remember any of that in the morning,” I commented.

“He will so!” Jason insisted. “That’s the word of God in him now. It won’t return void.”

If you’re not familiar with Christianese you may not understand the “return void“ bit. I once had a pastor try to explain it this way: “It’s like you send someone a check, but they don’t cash it and send it back to you with ‘void’ written on the front of it.” Why anyone would do that to a check they sent back, I don’t know. But no, that’s not what it means.

The saying comes from this verse:

Isaiah 55.11 KJV
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Here’s what Jason, and plenty of Christians like him, believes: Say we’re sharing Jesus with someone, and the someone won’t believe what we tell them, no matter what. Well, take comfort in the fact God’s word—which is what we shared with them, ’cause it’s either based on bible, or contains a whole lot of bible quotes—doesn’t return void. It works on them. Even when it doesn’t appear to, for years, it does. It just does.

Why’s this? ’Cause it’s been infused with supernatural divine power.

04 January 2016

When the sinner’s prayer doesn’t work.

Wait, it doesn’t work? Well, sometimes we do it wrong.

Imagine you shared Jesus with someone. (Hope you are sharing Jesus with people. But anyway.)

Imagine they responded well: They expressed an interest in this Jesus whom you speak of. They believed you when you told ’em Jesus could save them. They wanted to become a Christian right there and then. So you said the sinner’s prayer with them. They recited all the words right after you. They felt happy about it. You felt happy about it. And there was much rejoicing. Yea!

Now imagine it’s a year later and you meet up with that person again. And you find their life hasn’t changed. At all.

They aren’t going to church; they don’t see the point. They aren’t reading the bible; they don’t see the point. They don’t pray; no more than usual, which is the occasional “God, get me out of this and I promise I’ll [offering they never intend to follow through on],” and nothing more. Not even religious feelings, which I admit are usually self-manufactured, but they don’t even have that.

No fruit of the Spirit. They’re not any happier, any more joyful. They’re as impatient as ever, as unkind as ever, and don’t know the difference between love and romance or passion or covetousness. Nothing.

Sinner’s prayer didn’t take.

When Christians haven’t had this experience before, it horrifies them. This person said the sinner’s prayer! It was supposed to work! They called upon Jesus to become their Lord, and take control of their lives! Why didn’t he? I mean, if I were the Holy Spirit, I’d have stepped right in there and unilaterally changed a whole lot of stuff about ’em. Reprogrammed their brain so they’d be happier and more obedient, knocked all the temptations out of their paths, shouted at ’em nice and loud whenever they were about to sin, “DONT.” Wouldn’t that be loving of me?

Well, mighty Calvinist of you. But not all that loving. Love is patient; 1Co 13.4 love doesn’t seek its own way; 1Co 13.5 and God is love. 1Jn 4.16 God might transform a person who has no interest in transformation, but usually he doesn’t care to. He prefers to reward those who earnestly seek him, He 11.6 not those who only turned to Jesus to escape hell, but have no interest in becoming any different than before.

On such people, the sinner’s prayer doesn’t work. It’s a prayer of surrender, and they didn’t surrender.

25 December 2015

Twelve days of Christmas.

How we do Christmas… and how we oughta do Christmas.

Today’s the first day of Christmas. Happy Christmas!

And there are 11 more days of it. Tomorrow, which is also Boxing Day and St. Stephen’s Day, tends to get called “the day after Christmas,” but it’s not. It’s the second day of Christmas.

The Sunday after Christmas (and in many years, two Sundays after Christmas) is still Christmas. So I go to church and wish people a happy Christmas. And they look at me funny, till I remind them, “Christmas is 12 days, y’know. Like the song.”

Ah, the song.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Two turtledoves
And a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Three french hens
Two turtledoves
And a partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds
Three french hens
Two turtledoves
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Thus far into the song, that’s 20 birds. There will be plenty more, what with the swans a-swimming and geese a-laying. Dude was weird for birds. But I digress.

There are 12 days of Christmas, but our culture focuses on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and we’re done. Two days of Christmas. And some of us cannot abide any more than that. When I remind people there are 12 days of Christmas, their look is not that of surprise, recognition, or pleasure. It’s tightly controlled rage. Who the [expletive noun] added 11 more days to this [expletive adjective] holiday? They want it done already.

I understand that. Whenever the focus gets off Christ, and gets onto all the traditions we’re obligated or forced to practice this time of year, Christmas sucks. You know the routine: Irritating customs, fake sentimentality, forced interaction with awful people, reciprocal gift-giving, bad music, bad pageantry, tasteless ornaments, and of course the new political custom of being a dick to people who only wish us “Happy Holidays” instead of the mandatory “Merry Christmas.” I don’t blame people for hating that stuff. Really, Christians should hate it. It’s works of the flesh, y’know.

Christmas, the feast of Christ Jesus’s nativity (from whence we get foreign names for Christmas like Navidad and Noël and Natale) begins 25 December and ends 5 January. What are we to do those other 11 days? Same as we were supposed to do Christmas Day: Remember Jesus. Meditate on his first coming; look forward to his second coming. And rejoice; these are feast days, so the idea is to actually enjoy yourself, and have a good time with loved ones. Eat good food. Hang out. Relax. Or, if you actually like to shop, go right ahead; but if you don’t, by all means don’t.

It’s a holiday. Take a holiday.

18 November 2015

Leading people in the sinner’s prayer.

When people come to Jesus, they gotta pray something. This is it.

Among the very first Christians, when people wanted to become Christian, they got baptized. Right away. Soonest they could find water, in they went. Splash, and you’re Christian.

By the end of the first century, Christians insisted new believers oughta fast a day or two before baptism. By the third century, there was a whole catechism thing: You had to learn everything Christianity teaches, and then if you still wanted in, you’d get baptized, and you were in. Lotta churches still work that way. But this process could take weeks, even months—and when we compare the whole catechism/baptism process to what we read in Acts, it’s like, “If people wanna follow Jesus, why are we making ’em wait so long and jump through so many hoops? The apostles didn’t.”

Weirdly, instead of dropping all the fasting and catechism and preparation, and just baptizing newbies straight away, a lot of churches kept all that and just added the sinner’s prayer—the first prayer we pray to Jesus, asking him to become our Lord, promising to follow him. And then, we figure, we’re in. We’ll do that catechism/baptism stuff later. But we start with the sinner’s prayer. ’Cause “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Ro 10.9 NLT So there ya go. Easy-peasy-follow-Jeezy.

Well, it’s a little tricky. Y’see, those very same churches who push the sinner’s prayer idea, also like to push the extemporaneous prayer idea. They believe rote prayers are sorta dead religion—you don’t pray them because you honestly mean them, but because they’re what’s expected of Christians, and it’s more important to pray from your heart than recite somebody else’s prayer. So even though it’d be extremely useful for there to be a standard sinner’s prayer, there’s not. If you wanna lead people to Jesus, and you want them to pray the sinner’s prayer, you’re gonna have to come up with one. On your own.

…Nah, you don’t really. I’m not gonna leave you hanging. I’ll teach you one.

08 September 2015

So… do you know Jesus?

If you haven’t heard the gospel, let me fill you in.

I know better than to assume everyone who browses TXAB is Christian.

I learned better on other blogs I’ve done. ’Cause some non-Christians piped up. There’s a certain personality type—the class clown, the noisy guy in the theater, the guy in the nightclub who wears way too much musk, the Facebook friend who over-comments on everything (which, I gotta admit, is sometimes me) —who can’t go anywhere without making their presence known. If you prefer to go unnoticed, these are the people you never wanna befriend; they’ll always embarrass you. And on blogs, they’re the sort who wanna make sure the blogger (i.e. me) knew they visited. Sometimes with a polite note, and sometimes by flinging poo like a chimpanzee.

On blogs, sometimes they’re the troll who comments, in case any Christians are reading, “You suckers do realize all this religious stuff is [synonym for poo-poo]: Jesus is dead, the bible is science fiction, and churches are scams to separate the feeble-minded from their money.” Or the guy who emails me 10 pages of out-of-context or non-sequitur “corrections” to the article I posted. Or the pagan who instant-messages me that she’s struggling to reconcile my statements with the superficial Buddhism which she’s convinced she can practice alongside Christianity. I get all sorts.

If they’re truly interested in Jesus, I’m not gonna drive ’em away. On the contrary: I’m always gonna try to drive ’em towards. Namely towards Jesus.

Years ago I participated in a multifaith synchroblog. (A synchroblog is where a bunch of bloggers write on the same topic. Then most of us read each other’s pieces to see their take on the topic. Or not; some of us only want more people to read our blogs, and are using it to get clicks.) In my piece I stated upfront I was trying to introduce my pagan visitors to Jesus. I didn’t want any of ’em thinking I had a hidden, ulterior motive; there are enough Christian phonies out there already. My motives were gonna be nice and obvious.

Still are. If you don’t know Jesus, let me introduce you.