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

Shekhinah: Everybody’s favorite non-biblical Hebrew word.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 October
Shekhinah sɛ.xi'nɑ American ʃɛ'kaɪ.nə noun. The glory of God’s presence.
2. God’s presence.
3. God’s dwelling place.
[Shekhinic ʃɛ'kaɪ.nɪk adjective.]

The Hebrew word שכינה/šekhiná, which English-speakers tend to spell “shekhinah” or “shekinah,” isn’t found in the bible.

No, really. It comes from the Mishna. Sanhedrin 6.5, Avot 3.2, 6 It refers to God’s presence. More specifically the weight of God’s presence; not in a literal sense, but more like its importance, substantiveness, reality, the fact the Almighty showed up is a really big deal. The King James Version tends to call it his glory.

God’s everywhere, and ordinarily not visible. But sometimes he makes his presence more visible than usual. Like when he allowed Moses to see his glory Ex 33.18 —from the back, anyway; from the front might crush Moses. Or when the Hebrews saw God’s glory in his temple, 2Ch 7.3 or when Stephen had a vision of it. Ac 7.55

None of these folks were talking about seeing God himself. The apostle John is entirely sure they didn’t see God himself. Jn 1.18 But they saw something, and what they saw was what God שָׁכַן/šakhán, “dwells in.” That’s a verb we do find in the bible, as well as its noun-forms שֶׁכֶן/šekhén, “dwelling place,” and שָׁכֵן/šakhén, “dweller.”

So where’d šekhiná come from? Well, Pharisee rabbis wanted a unique word which refers to God’s particular glorious habitation, so they coined one. Hebrew words have masculine and feminine genders, like Spanish and French, so the rabbis took the masculine word šekhén and turned it into the feminine word šekhiná. Still means “dwelling,” but now it specifically means God’s dwelling.

Thing is, because šekhiná is a feminine noun, a lot of rabbis also use it as a jump-off point so they can talk about God’s feminine aspects and qualities. Because even though God goes with the pronouns “he” and “his,” he doesn’t actually have a gender. (Spirits don’t!) And God does have a motherly side.

So when you talk about God’s šekhiná with Jews, don’t be surprised when they start talking about “the female divine presence.” And every once in a while… they get weird. And no, I’m not saying this ’cause of any chauvinist hangups. Some really do get super weird.

Of course that’s not at all what we Christians mean by shekhinah. We mean revelation. The brightest light. Clouds of glory. Overwhelming God-experiences. The tremendous power of the Almighty. We mean experiences so mighty, we lose control of our bodily functions and now we gotta steam-clean the church building. We mean seeing God.

Well again, not really seeing God, ’cause “nobody’s ever seen God,” Jn 1.18 and “no one can see me and live.” Ex 33.20 We probably won’t survive the full God encounter while we’re alive, or before we’re resurrected. But meh; close enough.

Continuationism. Because the miracles never stopped.

by K.W. Leslie, 18 June
CONTINUATIONIST kən.tɪn.jʊ'eɪ.ʃən.ɪst adjective. Believes the Holy Spirit’s gifts (particularly tongues and prophecy) continued from bible times to the present day.

Honestly I’m not a fan of the term continuationist, because the default setting for Christianity is—and should be!—the Holy Spirit is living, active, and still doing as he did among the ancient Christians.

As prophesied by the prophet Joel in the fifth century BC, and fulfilled 24 May 33 on the first Christian Pentecost:

Joel 2.28-29 NKJV
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Before the church age, the Spirit’s power was only poured out like this to prophets. But now every Christian has the Spirit within us, and therefore he can empower Jesus’s church with supernatural gifts as necessary—miracles, signs, healing, exorcisms, and speaking in tongues. These gifts are often necessary in this hurting world, which needs to learn God is here, loves us, and wants to save us.

But not every Christian believes this. Cessationists insist God turned off the miracles less than a century after he pouring out his Spirit upon his church. Gone within two generations. Not because of a massive doubt problem among his followers (although certain cessationists believe this too), but because they figure miracles are no longer needed now that we have a bible. And back this faithless idea with various out-of-context scriptures.

To their minds, cessationists feel they’re right to believe God has depowered and abandoned his people, He 13.5 with nothing to keep us going but our beliefs and our bibles. That those of us who insist miracles continued—whom they granted the label “continuationist”—are delusional, deceived by devils which trick us with mighty acts of power. ’Cause somehow their supernatural abilities never got turned off, yet ours has.

Does this make any sense to you? ’Cause it does to cessationists. To their minds, they’re the norm, and continuationists are weirdos. Even though we continuationists outnumber ’em by more than four to one. Seriously.

And even though cessationist churches are full of people who don’t actually believe in cessationism. Because they’ve seen stuff. Miraculous stuff. Stuff which makes ’em describe themselves as “soft cessationists”—they grudgingly admit God permits some miracles to take place once in a while, under certain circumstances. But not so often that they get uncomfortable—and not in continuationist churches, ’cause they’re pretty sure we continuationists are too wayward for God to legitimately work among us.

Basically there’s a lot of pride and denial going on among cessationists. But enough about them; their unbelief will just frustrate you. Let’s stick to normal Christians, who know God interacts with his kids on a regular basis. ’Cause we’ve seen him do it.

Your God-experiences have to jibe with the scriptures.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 June

In the year 610, Muhammad ibn Abdullah al Mecca began having visions of an angel he identified as Jibril, who’d be גַּבְרִיאֵל/Gavryél, “Gabriel.” Because Muhammad was at the time illiterate, Jibril had him memorize certain recitations, and these were later collected into the Quran, Islam’s scriptures.

Problem is, Muhammad never double-checked ’em against the Christian scriptures. Even though his revelations told him to.

Quran, 10 (“Jonah”) :94
So if you’re in doubt about what We revealed to you, then ask those who’ve previously read the bible. Truth has truly already come to you from your Lord. So don’t be among the doubters.

Despite this instruction, he didn’t. He presumed Jibril would never steer him wrong; why would a holy angel do any such thing?

Hence the Quran has a lot of things in it which contradict the Christian scriptures. The way Muslims reconcile the differences is to claim Jews and Christians must’ve twisted or distorted the bible. (Usually they figure we let errors slip in, but the more paranoid sort assume Jews and Christians deliberately altered our scriptures, just to mess with them.) Whereas Christians figure whoever Jibril is, it’s not the angel Gabriel from Daniel and Luke: Either it’s an invention of Muhammad’s imagination, an outright fabrication, or an evil spirit messing with the poor guy.

I bring up Muhammad because he’s a good example of someone who sought a God-experience, and, well, got something. Got several. Every chapter of the Quran comes from a different revelation, so he had at least that many experiences. But were they God-experiences? Muhammad surely thought so, as has every Muslim since.

But like the Quran itself teaches, we’re meant to silence our doubts by comparing it against the scriptures. Our God-experiences shouldn’t depict a different God than we find in the bible. Nor should it deviate from orthodox Christianity, from what our fellow Christians have taught from the beginning—because plenty of heretics claim their deviant teachings are totally based on bible, but they’re based on out-of-context readings, and obvious violations of the clear intent of the scriptures.

The bible is a product of legitimate God-experiences. If we had a legitimate God-experience, it should be wholly consistent with the scriptures. If it’s not, we got a serious problem. It’s either a psychotic delusion, a serious self-delusion, an elaborate hoax by a rather evil prankster, or an evil spirit trying to lead us astray.

Those who regularly blaspheme the Holy Spirit, who claim all present-day miracles and prophecies and God-experiences are caused by evil spirits, don’t bother to compare these experiences with bible either. Oh, they claim to. Usually they quote the passage about how these activities will ultimately cease—

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.

—and the reason these revelations will cease is because Jesus is returning and we won’t need supernatural revelation when we can simply FaceTime Jesus on our mobile phones and ask him personally. (Well, he’ll be busy ruling the world, so it won’t be that simple. But you get the idea.) But if you’re cessationist, you’ve been taught to misuse this verse to claim these activities already ceased. Ceased a long time ago. So “according to bible” God doesn’t do that stuff anymore, and therefore every present-day supernatural activity must automatically be Satan… and if any one of them is the Holy Spirit, guess who they just blasphemed. Yep.

Christians should know better than to embrace any doctrine which claims Satan can do more than the Almighty. But neither should we blanketly accept every supposed God-experience as legit. We gotta test stuff. At the very least, it’s gotta be consistent with the scriptures. If it’s not even that, don’t accept it! Don’t believe it.

Galatians 1.8 KJV
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Jesus warns against blaspheming the Spirit.

by K.W. Leslie, 16 June

Mark 3.28-30, Matthew 12.31-32, Luke 12.10.

Fairly soon after we become Christians, we hear a rumor there’s such a thing as “the unpardonable sin.” Or multiple unpardonable sins. Certain things we can do which push God’s grace to the limit, ’cause apparently it has a limit, and these sins cross it. Do ’em and you’re going to hell. Game over, man, game over.

Problem is, the rumor doesn’t always tell us what the unpardonable sin is. When I was a kid I thought it was saying, “F--- God,” and Dad had committed it a bunch of times, so he was surely going to hell. I’ve had newbies ask me whether it was murder. Or Catholics tell me it was one of the seven deadly sins, ’cause what made ’em deadly was they’d send you to hell.

There are in fact multiple unpardonable sins, and today I’m get to what Jesus teaches about one of them, namely blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Turns up in the gospels, right after Jesus had to correct the Pharisee scribes for accusing him of using Satan to perform exorcisms.

Mark 3.28-30 KWL
28 “Amen! I promise you every sin will be forgiven humanity’s children,
and every blasphemy, however often people blaspheme.
29 But when anyone blasphemes the Holy Spirit they aren’t forgiven in the age to come:
In that age, they’ll be liable for a crime.”
30 For the scribes were saying, “Jesus has an unclean spirit.”
 
Matthew 12.31-32 KWL
31 “This is why I tell you every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people.
But blaspheming the Spirit won’t be forgiven.
32 Whenever one says a word against the Son of Man, it’ll be forgiven them.
But whenever it’s said against the Holy Spirit, it won’t be forgiven them.
Neither in this age, nor in the next.”
 
Lk 12.10 KWL
“And anyone who’ll say a word about the Son of Man will be forgiven.
But speaking in blasphemy about the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven.”

So there y’go: Everyone can be forgiven anything and everything. But one massive exception is when people blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Do that, and you’re sitting out the age to come. No New Jerusalem for you. Just weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Scary, right? Hence people wanna make sure they never, ever commit this crime. Problem is, instead of actually avoiding it, many foolish Christians have chosen to redefine and re-explain blaspheming the Spirit till it no longer means what, at face value, Jesus is talking about. Largely because they and their favorite preachers are blaspheming the Spirit. Regularly. I’m not kidding.

So… does that mean they’re going to hell? Not necessarily. But I’ll get to that.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 June

Our English word blasphemy comes from the Greek βλασφημία/vlasfimía—which largely means the same thing. It’s irreverence towards, and slander against, people and things we oughta reverence. We Christians tend to only use it to describe irreverence towards God (and bibliolaters to describe irreverence towards the bible), but the ancients applied it to all sorts of things. Like irreverence towards the temple, Moses, the prophets, and the scriptures. Even kings and emperors; yes you could blaspheme a king. Especially when they claimed godhood, as some of ’em did.

Some blasphemy is totally unintentional, like when we claim stuff about God that’s not so. When we claim, “God will send you to hell for that,” and no he won’t. When we claim God’s secret will is for evil to happen, and no it’s not. Other times it’s totally intentional, ’cause we’re pissed at God over something he did or didn’t do, so we yell at him a bit, or otherwise throw a tantrum and say some evil things. God is fully aware we’re just acting up, and forgives us once we snap out of it.

But then Jesus said this:

Mark 3.28-30 KJV
28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, [Jesus] hath an unclean spirit.

Said the same thing in two other gospels. In context, it’s part of the story where Jerusalem scribes visiting the Galilee gave their expert opinion, and declared Jesus did his exorcisms by the power of Beelzebub (in Aramaic Baal Zevúl, a local pagan god; their euphemism for Satan) instead of the Holy Spirit. Jesus pointed out this reasoning was stupid: Satan’s not gonna fight itself, and if it is, it’s falling apart. And then he said blaspheming τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον/to Pnéfma to Ágion, the Holy Spirit, means you don’t get forgiven. Mt 12.31-32, Lk 12.10 The crime follows you to Kingdom Come—and it looks like it keeps you out of it.

Yikes.

Hence some Christians are terrified of committing it. Afraid they might accidentally, unintentionally commit it. So afraid, they’re afraid of critiquing any miracle or prophet—even though we’re supposed to double-check these things, and make sure they’re really God. But they refuse to, lest they say “It’s devilish” when it’s really the Spirit, and stumble into blaspheming the Spirit. And that’s why so many Christians let so many phonies get away with so much evil.

On the other extreme, some Christians claim blasphemy of the Spirit never, ever happens. Not anymore. ’Cause cessationism! As soon as “that which is perfect has come,” 1Co 13.10 which cessationists insist refers to the bible, God switched off the miracles: He doesn’t need ’em to confirm his message anymore, ’cause now the bible does that. The conditions under which blasphemy of the Spirit could happen, no longer does. So whenever you see a “miracle,” or hear a “prophecy,” feel free to call it the work of Satan.

And on another axis you have those Christians who are quick to point to other scriptures which state God forgives every sin. 1Jn 1.7, 9 Every single possible potential sin; no exceptions. If you’re worried about the scriptures’ warnings against such things… don’t! God forgives all.

Lastly we have the Christians who try their darnedest to redefine blaspheming the Spirit so it’s not what Jesus warned the scribes against doing. It’s some other thing. It’s apostasy. Or it’s numbing your conscience so much, you can’t tell the difference between good and evil anymore; confounding the Spirit with Satan is just a symptom of the real problem.

I think instead of convenient little answers which make us calm down and stop worrying about committing this sin, we oughta figure out for real what it is, whether we do it, and whether we can still get into God’s kingdom even if we did it.

Cessationists: Those who imagine miracles stopped.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 June
CESSATIONIST sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.ist noun. One who believes divine miracles and prophecy ceased in the past. (And may happen again in future, but currently don’t.)
2. One who believes miracles and prophecy never happened; that all biblical descriptions of them are fantasies, exaggerations, misreports, or lies.
3. Having to do with a cessationist’s beliefs.
[Cessationism sɛ'seɪ.ʃən.iz.əm noun.]

When you read the bible, y’might notice there are a ton of miracles in it.

Jesus performed many. So’d the prophets of the Old Testament. Since Jesus empowers his followers with the Holy Spirit Ac 2.38-39 —same as himself Ac 10.38 and the Old Testament prophets Zc 7.12 —he told his students they’d perform miracles just like his, if not greater. Jn 14.12 Arguably his followers did exactly that, as retold in Acts.

And if his followers kept that up, certainly the world should be filled with miracles—just on the basis of pure numbers, ’cause a third of the planet identifies as Christian. Instead of one supernaturally-empowered Jesus the Nazarene, who was limited to the Galilee or Jerusalem or wherever else he traveled, what we should see is every Christian everywhere with the Spirit-empowered ability to prophesy, cure the sick, and perform Jesus-level wonders.

I could spend this article ranting why this isn’t so. (I’d mostly blame a lack of faith.) But not today; today I’m gonna discuss the Christians who believe it shouldn’t be so.

Y’see, they insist miracles ceased. God stopped doing them. He no longer empowers them. They don’t happen anymore. It’s why we call such people cessationist: They happened once, but not now.

We find them all over Christendom. I grew up in churches full of cessationists. I’ve since visited churches where the leaders, and the people actively involved in the church, for certain aren’t cessationist… but the rank-and-file attendees largely are. They have their doubts about whether God does such things anymore, and sometimes these doubts metastasize into full-on miracle-denying Spirit-blaspheming cessationism.

Yes, Spirit-blaspheming. Because whenever you tell a cessationist about a present-day miracle, most of the time their knee-jerk response is, “God doesn’t do that sort of thing anymore, so I don’t know what you saw, but it wasn’t God. Somebody tricked you. Maybe the devil.” And when certain Pharisees claimed the very same thing about Jesus’s miracles, he warned ’em against blaspheming the Spirit Lk 12.10 because it’s precisely what they were doing. It’s precisely what most cessationists do.

So yeah, it’s a problem. Not for God, ’cause the Holy Spirit is hardly hindered by these people. Not for continuationists (well, most of the time) ’cause again, the Spirit will do his thing in spite of them. It’s for newbies and pagans who don’t know what to think… and for all these Spirit-denying Christians who clearly don’t know the Spirit, who likely aren’t following him, and who might have no real relationship with Jesus at all. Which is gonna suck at the End.

So let’s look at ’em in a little more depth.

“Don’t seek God-experiences!”

by K.W. Leslie, 09 June

When people wanna know whether God is real, I tell ’em to seek God-experiences. Watch him interact with people in our world, or hear him interact with you personally, and you’ll know for certain he’s real. Especially after you’ve had a whole bunch of these experiences.

New Christians tend to take this advice. Longtime Christians, not so much. Because when someone’s been Christian for a mighty long time, yet have no God-experiences at all, it actually means they’ve been going out of their way to avoid any such experiences. They’ve been intentionally, deliberately staying away from any Christians who dabble in miracles and the supernatural—whom they call continuationist, ’cause we claim miracles have continued from bible times to today, unlike those who say miracles ceased, i.e. cessationists.

Why do they stay away? ’Cause we freak ’em out a little.

Sometimes for totally understandable reasons. I gotta admit, some of us continuationists are straight-up freaks. They bug me too. I’d like to think I’m a pretty tolerant guy (’cause I’m trying to cultivate Jesus’s patience), but some of these freaks are using the Holy Spirit as an excuse for letting their freak flags fly, as if it’s his fault they behave this way. Instead of claiming, “The devil made me do it” (an excuse which works on no one, and shouldn’t), they insist, “The Spirit made me do it”—and no he didn’t. It’s not his fruit!

But more often it’s because the very idea of a present, immanent God, who isn’t way out there in outer space but right here right now, seriously creeps them out. They way prefer the idea of a distant God, who doesn’t intervene, doesn’t correct, and leaves them be. They don’t wanna personally interact with God till they die, and he lets ’em into paradise. Or till the second coming, which they figure isn’t gonna happen for another seven years at least.

And lest they stumble into any continuationist ideas and behavior, their cessationist churches demand they stay away from us. Don’t seek out miracles! Don’t seek out prophecy! Don’t seek out revelation! Don’t. Jesus said not to.

Wait, Jesus said not to? The Jesus? Jesus the Nazarene? Yep. Here’s their proof text.

Mark 8.11-13 KJV
11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with [Jesus], seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. 13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

Luke presents Jesus’s public response with a little more detail.

Luke 11.29-32 KJV
29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Therefore, cessationists conclude, don’t seek signs from heaven. Don’t seek miracles. If you do, you’re a wicked, evil, condemned generation. Those Christians who seek miracles, and claim to perform them: They’re wicked, evil, and condemned. And all their so-called “miracles” are performed by Beelzebub anyway.

Yep, that’s how cessationists keep Christians away from God-experiences: Call ’em devilish. Blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Claim we’re wrong, not they; that God doesn’t want to interact with his people, and speak to us, cure our diseases, and draw us close; he wants to remain distant. Probably ’cause he can’t abide sin or something.

It’s a profoundly f---ed up view of God, and it’s no wonder more and more people are abandoning those churches for continuationist ones. Rightly so.

“How do you know there’s a God?”

by K.W. Leslie, 07 June

Every so often I’m asked, “How do you know there’s a God?”

No, they’re not asking, “How can we, as humanity, verify the existence of God?” They don’t wanna go over Christian apologists’ various proofs for God’s existence. Sometimes they’ve already heard a few; sometimes they even found them reasonable. But they also found them unconvicting. They couldn’t make the leap from, “I think there’s a God out there” to “So now I’m gonna become Christian.”

In fact if I started listing the proofs of God’s existence, it’d be the fastest way to annoy them. “Well y’see, I know there’s a God because the universe works on cause and effect. So if we trace all the causes back to a first cause…” Yeah, yeah, they didn’t ask for a philosophy lesson. Most folks have heard the “unmoved mover” idea before, and nontheists are pretty sure that unmoved mover is the Horrendous Space Kablooie. They don’t care about that.

What they wanna know is how I, me, K.W. Leslie, the guy who talks about God as if he’s a real guy, the guy who talks about God as if I’ve met him personally, know God exists.

Well that’s easy. I’ve met him personally.

No, really.

Pentecost.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 May

I’m a Pentecostal… and weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never notice when Pentecost comes round. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little.

Anyway, Pentecost is the last day of Eastertime, the day we Christians remember the start of the Christian church—the day the Holy Spirit gave power to Jesus’s followers. Like so.

Acts 2.1-4 KWL
1 When the 50th day after Passover drew near, all were together in one place.
2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds,
and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them,
and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit.
They began to speak in other tongues,
in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability.
4 The Jews who inhabited Jerusalem at the time
were devout men from every nation under heaven.
5 When this sound came forth, the masses gathered, and were confused:
Each one of them was hearing their own dialect spoken to them.
6 They were astounded, and wondered aloud, “Look, aren’t all these speakers Galileans?
8 How is each of us hearing our own native dialect?
9 People from Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Israel, eastern Turkey,
10 western Turkey, Egypt, the Cyrenian part of Libya, visitors from Rome,
11 Jews and Jewish converts, Cretans and Arabs
—we hear them speaking of God’s might in our own languages!”
12 All were astounded and stunned. Some asked one another, “What caused this?”
13 Others said, joking, “They’ve been drinking port.”

Lots of Christians call this story the “first Pentecost.” It wasn’t. Pentecost comes from the Greek τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς/tin iméran tis pentikostís, “the 50th day” Ac 2.1 —the Greek term for the Hebrew festival of שָׁבֻעֹת֙/Šavuót, “Weeks,” the first crop of the wheat harvest. Ex 34.22 From the first day the Hebrews began to harvest wheat, the LORD ordered Moses to have ’em count off seven weeks, or 49 days. Dt 16.9-12 On the last day they were to sacrifice some of the grain to God, and take a day off in celebration. Nu 28.26 Somehow, the first day of the wheat harvest became formally shifted to the first day after Passover, making Weeks the 50th day after Passover—6 Sivan in the Hebrew calendar.

All male Jews were instructed to go to temple for Weeks. Dt 16.16 Meaning Jerusalem, on 25 May 33, was full of devout Jews bringing the LORD their grain offerings. Suddenly a house full of Galileans broke out in every language they knew, spoken as if to them personally. That got everyone’s attention.

Peter’s sermon.

Simon Peter followed up with an explanation: The Holy Spirit’s outpouring was a prophetic last-days event which God had always intended.

Acts 2.14-24 KWL
14 Simon Peter, standing with the Eleven, raised his voice and shouted to them,
“Jewish men! Residents of Jerusalem! You have to know this! Listen to my words!
15 These people aren’t drunk. You assume so, for it’s the third hour of the day,
16 but this is what the prophet Joel had said:
17 ‘God said this’ll happen in the last days: “I’ll pour out my Spirit on all flesh.
Your sons and daughters will give prophecies.
Your young ones will see visions. Your old ones will will dream dreams.
18 In those days I’ll pour out my Spirit even on my slaves,
men and women alike, and they’ll give prophecies!
19 I’ll show wonderful things in the skies above,
and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and smoke in the air.
20 The sun’ll be turned to darkness,
the moon to blood before the great Lord’s Day comes,
21 and everybody who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved.”Jl 2.28-32
22 Men of Israel, listen to these teachings about Jesus the Nazarene!
A man who’d been endorsed to you by God with power,
wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst—as you know personally.
23 By the Judean senate’s plan, as foreknown by God, you killed Jesus:
Handed over, crucified by the hands of lawless Romans.
24 God raised Jesus, released him from the pains of death:
It’s impossible for Jesus to be held by death.
25 For King David said about him,
‘I always see the Lord before me:
He’s at my right, so I wouldn’t be shaken.
26 For this reason, my heart cheers and my tongue rejoices.
My flesh will still pitch its tent in hope:
27 You won’t leave my life behind in the afterlife,
nor give up your holy one to see decay.
28 You taught me the road of life.
You will fill me with joy with your face.’ Ps 16.8-11
29 Men, brothers, I must tell you about the patriarch David:
Bluntly, he’s gone. Buried. His tomb’s with us to this day.
30 So he was being a prophet—he knew God swore an oath to him:
From the fruit of his loins, a descendant was to sit on his throne.
31 Foreseeing it, David spoke of Messiah’s resurrection:
He won’t leave Messiah behind in the afterlife; his flesh didn’t decay.
32 God raised up this Jesus. All us Eleven are witnesses of it.
33 So, lifted up to God’s right, receiving the promised Holy Spirit from the Father,
Jesus poured him out. This is what you saw and heard.
34 It wasn’t David who went up to heaven. He said, ‘The Lord told my Lord,
“Sit at my right 35 till I can put your enemies under your feet.”Ps 110.1
36 So the whole house of Israel has to infallibly know:
God made his Lord and Messiah this Jesus—whom you crucified.”

“Stabbed in the heart” (κατενύγησαν τὴν καρδίαν/katenýghisan tin kardían—and no, not literally), Peter’s audience wanted to know what to do next, Ac 2.38 and Peter had ’em turn to Jesus. That day, Jesus’s new church grew from about 120 people Ac 1.15 to 3,000. Ac 2.41 And over the past 20 centuries, we’ve grown to roughly 2 billion. About a third of the planet. With plenty of room for more.

How the Jews have done Weeks.

After the Romans destroyed the temple in the year 70, there was nowhere for the Jews to gather every year for Weeks; no place to offer their grain. Hence the rabbis invented alternate customs for the day.

Over the centuries, Weeks has gone from a harvest festival to honoring the day God gave the Law to the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai. ’Cause the Hebrews arrived at Sinai on the first day of Sivan Ex 19.1 and a few days later, God handed down the Ten Commandments. So the dates coincide. The idea was developed in the Sefer ha-Khinúkh, “Book of Education,” a 13th-century Spanish commentary on the 613 commands of the Law. As a result, certain devout Jews observe Weeks by going through the commands on an overnight binge. Some clever folks try to tie harvest and Law together, by pointing out the bible is our daily bread.

Various Christians assume medieval Judaism and Pharisaism are the same thing. Nope; one descended from the other. But these folks claim the Jews of Jesus’s day also celebrated the Law during Weeks. And maybe a few did… but there’s no real evidence of it. Yeah, there’s what medieval rabbis wrote, but because they had the annoying habit of rewriting history to match their beliefs, it makes their histories really unreliable.

Regardless, the primary purpose of Weeks was honoring God for the harvest. And check out the fun parallel: Jesus was “planted,” so to speak (and pardon the crudity), for Passover… and look at the harvest of 3,000 people whom the Holy Spirit produced for Pentecost.

The reason the Spirit empowers us is because the fields are ripe for harvest. Jn 4.35 More than just pray for workers to harvest it, Lk 10.2 we need to be the answers to those prayers. That’s why he empowers us after all. To prophecy, to produce signs and wonders, and to harvest.

How the Christians do Pentecost.

Christians began to put a different spin on Pentecost, as is implied by Paul’s special observance of it. Ac 20.16, 1Co 16.8 Some Christians observe it as the beginning of the church. Others look on it as the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the church. Either way, it’s a relevant day.

Churches celebrate Pentecost in all sorts of ways. Lots of us do prayer vigils, to remember how the apostles prayed for the Holy Spirit to come. Lots of symbols are used to represent the Spirit: Birds, red to represent his fire, flags or trumpets to represent his rushing wind. Sometimes the scriptures are read in multiple languages, reminding us of the many languages the Spirit enabled the apostles to speak. Pentecost is also a great day for baptisms.

And, like I griped at the beginning of this piece, some churches give it a miss altogether. Too traditional, too liturgical, too old-school for their taste. In the United States, since it often falls near other holidays (like Mother’s Day or Memorial Day) the other holiday tends to take precedence.

Some churches make Pentecost Monday into a holiday. But beyond that, Eastertime is over, and we go back to “ordinary time”—the days between Easter and Christmas, when there are no big Christian holidays. But we should still strive to make these days more than ordinary—by making good use of the Spirit’s empowerment at Pentecost.

You’ll be persecuted. Get ready to not defend yourself.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 April

Mark 13.9-11, Matthew 10.17-20, Luke 12.11-12, John 14.26.

After Jesus said the temple’d come down, his students wanted to know what that looked like, so Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse. How the Romans would destroy the temple in the great tribulation. And while he was at it, how Christians would be persecuted too—advice we’ve used throughout the Christian era, because we’ve been persecuted since the beginning. In many parts of the world, still are.

As a result a number of Christians are steeling ourselves for it. “When they come for me, here’s what I’m gonna do.” And many Americans are planning to do some pretty violent things. Simon Peter with a machete type things. They got their gun stockpiles. They got their armor-piercing bullets and 50mm rounds. Peter only cut off an ear; they’re planning to mow down as many cops and soldiers as they can. Even though many of ’em claim they “love” our police, “love” our troops. Sure, when politically convenient. But those sentiments will turn on a dime.

As for those Christians who don’t have a murdery side, a number of us are already planning our ἀπολογία/apología, our defense. It’s the root-word of apologetics, the study and practice of “defending the faith,” by which they really mean arguing with antichrists. I spent a lot of time studying Christian apologetics because I likewise wanted to verbally spar with people who reject Jesus; I ignored Jesus’s instructions to shake the dust off my feet over them, Mt 10.14 because being argumentative is way more fun. And fleshly, but let’s just pretend it’s not; that it’s spiritual warfare instead.

What did Jesus actually teach about defending ourselves? When, after religious hypocrites take over our states and get ’em to turn against compassionate followers of Jesus, they haul us before the person or people in charge, to condemn us for promoting Jesus’s kingdom instead of their “Christian nation”now what do we do?

Well, some of us have speeches prepared. Something like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” although not as eloquent. Some kind of personal testimony, or defense of our rights, or defense of Christianity. Something where we stand up for Jesus on just such an occasion. Not quite the same as when we share Jesus with strangers, because this is a hostile audience, so we’re prepared to be just a little hostile right back. Although depending on the Christian, we’re either trying really hard not to… or we’ve ditched the passive aggression and we’re gonna be full-on aggressive.

But if we’re legitimately trying to follow Jesus instead of venting our own spleen, perhaps we oughta read what Jesus teaches his students to do.

The Holy Spirit reminds us what Jesus taught… assuming we know what Jesus taught.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 September

John 14.25-26.

Most Christians figure Jesus’s students followed him three years. It might actually have been longer than that.

The idea of three years comes from the fact three Passovers get mentioned in John, Jn 2.13, 6.4, 11.55 the last one being the Passover for which he died. But just because John mentioned three particular Passovers doesn’t mean these were the only Passovers which took place during Jesus’s teaching time. Coulda been nine for all we know.

No I’m not kidding:

7 BC: Jesus was born.
24 CE: Jesus’s 30th birthday. Luke states he was ὡσεὶ/oseí, “like,” 30 when he started teaching. Lk 3.23 Didn’t say exactly 30, but let’s start from there.
33 CE: Jesus died. And woulda been about 39.

Time for some basic arithmetic. If Jesus started teaching in the year 24, and “like” just means he was a few months shy of 30, by the year 33 he’d’ve been teaching nine years. If “like” instead means he was already in his thirties; say 33… he’d’ve been teaching six years. (Still more than three.) And if “like” means he was coming up on 30, that he was actually younger than 30, like 27… he’d’ve been teaching twelve years.

Yeah. You thought Jesus was just giving these kids a two-year course in church planting. Nope. Pharisee rabbis provided young men a full secondary education. And as the best teacher ever, you know Jesus taught ’em so well they astounded the Senate, who assumed because they hadn’t been to their academies they were ἀγράμματοί/aghrámmatí, “unschooled” and ἰδιῶται/idióte, “idiots.” Ac 4.13

But one significant boost to their education—and really to every Christian’s education—is the Holy Spirit.

Yeah, Jesus’s students had listened to him speak in synagogue every Friday night. Yeah, they listened to him speak to crowds every other day of the week. Yeah, they sat in on his lessons as the people at dinner parties and every other social function decided to ask Jesus a question or two. And of course there were all those teaching moments as they hung out with him.

But how much of that stuff are you naturally gonna remember? Like really remember? Remember in detail? Remember in useful detail, like when you actually need it in real life? Well, a good teacher will help you memorize stuff by reinforcing it time and again. But for Christians we get another boost because the Holy Spirit remembers absolutely everything. And if we listen to him, as we should, he’ll remind us of everything Jesus taught us. Jesus said so.

John 14.25-26 KWL
25 While staying with you, I spoke these things to you.
26 The Assistant, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name:
This person will teach you everything, and remind you of everything I told you.”

There’s a catch though: What has Jesus told you?

The Holy Spirit of truth… and dense Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 16 September

John 14.15-17.

Christians take for granted that we receive the Holy Spirit by virtue of being Christian: When we say the sinner’s prayer and claim Jesus as our individual savior, we individually, automatically get the Holy Spirit to indwell us and guarantee us an eternal place in God’s kingdom. Right?

Right. But the assumption Jesus makes when he says as much to his students in John, is his students don’t just passively believe in him. Don’t just passively believe all the correct things about him, and have the proper “faith”, and that’s what saves us. And once we die after a lifetime of taking God’s grace for granted, we get to use the Holy Spirit as our entry fee to heaven.

The Holy Spirit’s been granted to us to help us continue to follow Jesus.

John 14.15-17 KWL
15 “When you love me you’ll keep my commands,
16 and I’ll make a request of the Father, and he’ll give you another Assistant,
because he’ll be with you in this age: 17 The truthful Holy Spirit.
The world can’t comprehend him, because it neither sees nor knows him.
You know him, because he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

The Spirit has an active purpose in our lives. Not just a passive one.

He lives within your heart.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 September
INDWELL ɪn'dwɛl verb. Be permanently present in someone [namely their soul or mind]. Possess spiritually.
[Indweller ɪn'dwɛl'ər noun.]

There’s a hymn we sang in my church growing up; “He Lives” by Alfred Henry Ackley. Chorus goes like yea:

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart
You ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart

’Cause that’s the common Evangelical belief about where Jesus currently is: He’s in our hearts.

As a boy I was taught Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts, asking to come in. (Much later, I read that particular bit of Revelation and found out it doesn’t mean that. But anyway.) Once we permit Jesus entry, he takes up residence in our hearts. As kids a lot of us took this literally: We imagined a tiny Jesus taking over one of the chambers of our cardiac muscles, and even moving a bed and furniture into it. Bit cramped. One kid even told me the reason we bow our heads to pray is so Jesus can hear us better.

Where’d this live-in-our-hearts idea come from? One part bible, 99 parts popular Christian culture. And the bible part is dependent on the King James Version. Here it is:

Ephesians 3.14-19 KJV
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” in verse 17 is the only passage in the bible which refers to Christ Jesus living in anyone’s heart. It’s not that good a translation of the original, κατοικῆσαι τὸν χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν/katikíse ton Hristón diá tis písteos en taís kardíes ymón, “Christ dwelling [among you] through the faith in your hearts.” Paul wasn’t telling the Ephesians Jesus lived in their hearts, but that the deep trust they had in Jesus—the trust in their hearts, not the Christ in their hearts—was why Jesus was with them.

But you know how we humans are: We take the germ of an idea and go nuts with it.

Hence the idea of Jesus in our hearts is really popular. You’ll find it all over English-speaking Christendom—and thanks to English-speaking missionaries, everywhere else. You’ll find it in Christian testimonies: “I know he’s real because he lives in my heart.” Sometimes they mean this metaphorically: Jesus occupies my thoughts, has my loyalty, I’m devoted to him, I love him. And okay, it’s fine to describe “Jesus in my heart” thataway. But does Christ Jesus, in whole or in part, materially or spiritually, dwell in me?

Nope. Wrong person of the trinity. That’d be the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1.13-14 KWL
13 In Christ you heard the truthful word—the good news of your salvation!
In Christ you believed; you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit!
14 He’s the down payment of our inheritance—
releasing our trust fund—praising God’s glory.

Spirituality. Which leads to religion.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 September
SPIRITUALITY spɪ.rɪ.tʃu'æl.ə.di noun. Being concerned with the human spirit, as opposed to material things or the material world.
2. [Christianity] Following the Holy Spirit.
[Spiritual 'spɪ.rɪ.tʃ(.u)əl adjective]

I regularly meet pagans who consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” I sometimes like to poke back at ’em by describing myself as religious, not spiritual.

Of course pagans and Christians have very different definitions for these words. By spiritual they mean they’re trying to be mindful of their spirit. And they have some idea what a spirit is. They know it’s the immaterial part of themselves. Frequently they mix it up with the soul, and use those words interchangeably—and to be fair, so do many Christians who likewise don’t know the difference. If they believe in afterlife, they figure their spirit lives on when they die. Otherwise… they kinda associate everything in their heads, which they think is immaterial, with their spirits. Namely their thoughts. Particularly any thoughts which really make ’em feel good. The more emotional it makes ’em, the more “spiritual” they find it. Weddings, tear-jerking movies, a nice sunset, a happy occasion, an inspirational book: For your average pagan, spiritual is just a way to make their happy thoughts sound more metaphysical.

Likewise religion to pagans means “organized religion,” i.e. church, where supposedly a preacher is gonna order you what to think, and they prefer to think for themselves. Of course if they’ve ever visited a non-cultic church, they’d know preachers aren’t supposed to tell us what to think; only the Holy Spirit gets to do that. And it’s not like the people of the church obey the preacher anyway!

These pagan definitions have wormed their way into Christendom. So much so we now have Christians claiming they’re “spiritual, not religious.”

But y’might notice the way Christians practice our “spirituality”… is mighty religious. We pray. We read bible. We go to church. We tithe. We read Christian books, tune in to Christian radio, listen to Christian podcasts. We do good deeds. We share the gospel with others. We just won’t stop posting out-of-context bible quotes on Instagram. We might try to claim to our pagan friends we’re just as “spiritual, not religious” as they, but to pagans we’re totally religious.

Which stands to reason: When we read our bibles and we come across the words “spiritual” or “spiritually” (Greek πνευματικός/nefmatikós) it refers to following the Holy Spirit. Not our spirits. Not human spirits. Definitely not being led by our emotions, which can be influenced by all sorts of outside factors, including devilish ones.

And if we’re truly following the Holy Spirit—who of course is gonna encourage and empower us to follow Jesus—we’re easily gonna slide into a disciplined, structured life of doing what it takes to grow our relationship with God. Like prayer, bible, church, worship, service, goodness. Our spirituality becomes religion.

Yeah, even if you really don’t like to use the R-word.

Christians who don’t know the Holy Spirit.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 September

A few years ago I was checking out a local Baptist church’s faith statement on their website. These faith statements come in handy when you wanna know what an individual church emphasizes. Not all Baptists are alike, y’know. Pretty much the only thing they have in common is they’re Protestant, and they insist you gotta believe in Jesus before you’re baptized; they won’t baptize babies. Beyond that, they could be liturgical or loose, be run by elders or by popular vote, be Calvinist or Pelagian; be egalitarian or sexist or racist—any stripe of Christian you can imagine.

In this specific Baptist church, turns out they don’t know the Holy Spirit.

I know; you’re thinking, “What Christian doesn’t know who the Holy Spirit is?” Well, heretic Christians. Thing is, you’re gonna find this particular heresy is startlingly common. Too many Christians don’t understand who the Spirit is and what he does in their lives—that he’s probably the only person of God’s trinity they’ve ever interacted with!—because their churches simply don’t know anything about him, and therefore don’t teach on him.

In my experience, these Christians have swapped Holy Bible for Holy Spirit, and make a big to-do about following that instead of following him. Often it descends into full-on bible worship. They don’t know to follow the Spirit’s guidance, but they do know how to obey biblical commands… or, instead of actual biblical commands, “biblical principles” which the leadership might make ’em obey instead.

But of course they’re not gonna follow the bible correctly—because they’re not listening to the Spirit!

So, how’d I tell from their faith statement they don’t know the Spirit? First, the one and only time he gets a mention on the entire website, is in this line about Jesus:

He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

That comes straight from the Apostles Creed. But name-dropping the Spirit doesn’t automatically mean they know him. If you know him, you know what he does—and a few paragraphs down it demonstrates they totally don’t. ’Cause they say this about Jesus:

He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

And in fact he doesn’t. That’s the Holy Spirit dwelling in all believers. Ep 1.13-16 Whereas Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand, ruling over all, Ep 1.20-23 and speaking to the Father on our behalf. 1Jn 2.2 (Their faith statement actually declared as much in their previous paragraph!)

So what does this church think the Holy Spirit does? Apparently nothing. They may believe God’s a trinity—their faith statement doesn’t explicitly say so, but they use trinitarian language. But functionally they treat God as a duonity: There’s Father and Son. And both of ’em wield “the holy spirit,” not capitalized, not even really a person, as kinda a force to make stuff happen. He’s not someone you have a relationship with; he’s the power ring which turns us Christians into Green Lanterns.

Now. I remind you the faith statement is what the leadership of a church believes, and what the leaders strive to teach in their sermons, messages, and classes. But properly a church is people. Not the leaders who write the faith statements. The people might have entirely different ideas. I’ve been to many! The leaders want to reach the world with the gospel, but the people wanna sit in comfortable chairs, listen to enjoyable music, listen to an invigorating message, have the kids not complain about how boring the children’s service is, and be out of there by 11:30 so they can make it to the restaurants before the after-church crowds hit. Conversely, as I’ve seen in other churches, the people are totally orthodox but the new pastor has been reading the latest Rob Bell or Greg Boyd or Bart Ehrman book, and has some radical new heterodoxies (or outright heresies) he wants to try out on ’em.

So at this particular Baptist church, the people might totally know who the Spirit is and follow him… but they don’t lead! The leaders do. And when brand-new Christians attend that church and wanna learn about God, they’re usually gonna listen to the leaders, not the people… and when the leaders don’t know the Holy Spirit, the newbies aren’t gonna learn about God. Not accurately.

Which you know is gonna create all sorts of problems. Problems in the way we relate to God, in the expectations we have for him, in the way we worship him together, in the fruit we produce, in the things we teach. That’s what heresy does: Poisons everything. It doesn’t mean we’re not saved, or not really Christian… unless it blocks our relationship with Jesus entirely, like Islam can.

You can be saved despite not knowing the Holy Spirit Ac 19.1-2 —even though he’s the very One who applies God’s salvation to your life. But man alive is your Christianity gonna be defective.

Do you know the Holy Spirit?

by K.W. Leslie, 08 September

Years ago a pagan relative of mine asked me, “You keep saying ‘Holy Spirit’ this, ‘Holy Spirit’ that. What do you mean by that? What’s the Holy Spirit?”

“Oh,” I said—half surprised, half not-all-that-surprised, she didn’t know. And since she’s pagan, the simplest answer was best: “Holy Spirit is another name for God.”

“Oh,” she said. And our conversation moved on.

Yeah, I could’ve given her the full-on theological explanation of what spirit is, how Jesus revealed him, who he is in the trinity, what he does, how he lives in Christians, and how he’s a he instead of an it. But that’s the introduction we really oughta save for new Christians. Mostly because they’ll want to know all this stuff. Pagans don’t always care.

But basically the Holy Spirit (KJV “Holy Ghost”) is God. “Holy Spirit is another name for God” is a quick-’n-dirty explanation which points people in the right direction.

As opposed to the wrong direction, which is all too common: Too many people think the Holy Spirit is a force, a power: God’s might, by which he gets stuff done. When God creates stuff, he does it using his spirit. When God heals people, he uses his spirit on ’em. When God saves people from sin and death, he dumps some of his spirit into them. When God drives out evil spirits, he knocks ’em back by throwing some of his spirit at them.

People call him “the spirit of God,” and think of that “of” as a possessive: A thing God has. Not someone whom God is. After all, the Spirit does so many things for God, and for us, it’s easy to get the idea he’s nothing but an instrument or tool. Kinda like the way certain bosses treat their assistants and employees, or children treat their mom: Like they’re servants or machines, not people. Same way with certain Christians and the Holy Spirit: We ungrateful humans treat him like a refrigerator full of treats, instead of the one who spiritually feeds and nourishes us.

The Holy Spirit is a person. He has a mind of his own, Ac 13.2, 16.6 even though he, same as Jesus, agrees with and does as the Father wants. Jn 16.13 He’s not the Father, because he comes from the Father. He’s not Jesus either, because Jesus sent him to us. Jn 15.26 He’s his own person. And he’s God, Ac 5.3-4 same as the Father is God.

In fact, he’s the God we interact with on a far more regular basis than we do the Father. Because he’s the God who lives within us, who actually saves us.

What’s the difference between a seer and a prophet?

by K.W. Leslie, 26 June

In case you’re the sort of person who skips titles (a phenomenon I’ve seen a bunch of times, and still don’t get), I remind you this article is called “What’s the difference between a seer and a prophet?”

Short answer: No difference. Same thing.

1 Samuel 9.9 KWL
In the past, in Israel, a man said this when he went to seek God: “Walk, walk to the seer.”
For “the prophet” today was “the seer” in the past.

The Hebrew רֹאֶה/rohéh, “seer,” is the noun-form of the verb רָאָה/raháh, “to see.” It means what we mean by “seer”: A person who can see. A person whose eyeballs work, so they can point ’em at stuff and identify what they’re looking at. It’s not a complicated word. When I see rainbows, I’m a seer of rainbows. Duh. But when they used this word in the bible they obviously had an attached idea that a seer saw something more than others could. ’Cause like all legitimate prophets, seers had the Holy Spirit, who’d show ’em stuff.

It’s a term which didn’t entirely die out “in the past,” because we find it in the late-biblical-Hebrew book Chronicles. “Khanani the seer” was sent to correct King Asa ben Abijah—who jailed him for it. 2Ch 16.7-10

So since there are prophets today, there are seers today. Every prophet is a seer.

But.

Nowadays, there are Christians who like to differentiate between kinds of prophets. Are there different kinds of prophets? Sure:

  • Mature prophets, who know how to listen to God, confirm his messages with others, submit to scrutiny, and share these messages in love.
  • Immature prophets, who do hear the Spirit, but their “ministry” is far more about self-promotion than sharing his word. So they exercise no patience, and little love: They hastily extrapolate the Spirit’s smallest words into something he doesn’t mean, more based on their wishes, attitudes, and biases.
  • Fake prophets, who come up with their “prophecies” on their own. Sometimes intentionally and fraudulently. Sometimes not, ’cause they’ve been tricked too.

But some prophecy teachers (not to be confused with “prophecy scholars”) claim there are different kinds of prophets, and there is so a difference between a prophet and a seer. Y’see, a seer is still a prophet. But whereas an ordinary prophet does such-and-so, a seer does this-’n-that. A regular prophet gets revelation thisaway, and a seer gets revelation thataway.

Yeah, I didn’t tell you just how they’re different. That’s because the definitions vary. One prophecy teacher claims one thing, and another prophecy teacher another. Because none of ’em are getting their definitions from bible. They’re making ’em up. These are the clever-sounding things they “discovered” about the different ways God messages his people.

The most common redefinition, which sorta makes sense, is that seers see: God gives them visions. Whereas other prophets just hear stuff or know stuff. Depending on your prophecy teacher, a seer has full-on wide-awake apocalyptic visions, or regularly has prophetic dreams, or tends to see certain things in the real world which others can’t—sorta like the augmented reality of a video game, like Pokémon Go, where you can see pokémon through your phone but others, who don‘t have the app, can’t. Apparently seers can see all the heavenly pokémon.

Other redefinitions are based on what these seers see. And since the scriptures make no distinction between one seer and another (same as there’s no distinction between one prophet and another—well, other than mature, immature, and fake) I ignore them. The bible defines what a seer is, not some prophecy teacher who’s trying to sell books and seminars. And the bible says seers are prophets. C’est tout.

The Holy Spirit’s temple: Multiple Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 May

From time to time Christians talk about how you, singular, individually, are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

’Cause the Spirit is sealed to every individual Christian. Ep 1.13 He lives in the heart of every single believer. And whatever God lives in is, properly, his temple. If he lives in you, it makes you his temple. If he lives in another Christian, it makes that person a temple. Dozens of Christians are dozens of temples. Billions of Christians are billions of temples. Get it?

But it’s not accurate. God has one temple.

As was kinda emphasized in the bible. Moses built the portable temple at Sinai, which English-speaking Christians call the tabernacle, and that was the temple for 4 centuries till Solomon ben David built a permanent one of gold-plated cedar in Jerusalem. The Babylonians burnt that down; Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel built another of stone; Herod 1 and his successors renovated it; the Romans eventually destroyed it. It was the one and only place the LORD intended to meet people for worship and sacrifice; it was the one and only place they kept his ark, representing his relationship with Israel. It was the one and only his name dwelt Dt 12.11 —which was the LORD’s way of putting it, ’cause obviously the Almighty can’t be contained by a mere building.

But the Jerusalem temple wasn’t the only temple of the LORD on earth. Jeroboam ben Nabat, king of Samaria, feared losing subjects to the king of Jerusalem, so he built two more temples. They didn’t have arks, but Jeroboam put gold calf idols in them, figuring that’d do; and since there’s a whole command against idolatry in the Ten Commandments, God and his prophets condemned Jeroboam’s temples ever after. After the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, Egyptian Jews in exile constructed a temple to the LORD in Alexandria, and Samaritans constructed a temple to the LORD at Mt. Gerazim. But neither of these temples were commanded nor authorized by God. He had his own plans. Always had.

And once his temple’s veil ripped open, Mt 27.51 it signifies God wasn’t interested in being worshiped from Herod’s stone building any longer. He was gonna build a temple from entirely different stones: Living people. Christians. Every Christian.

I’m not the Spirit’s temple; I’m one of the stones of its temple.

As are you. As is every Christian. We’re parts of his temple. Because the temple us us—collectively. The Spirit doesn’t have billions of temples; he only has the one. Same as always.

God our Mother.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 February

Our hangups about gender get in the way of understanding the Almighty.

Years ago I observed a rather heated discussion between two people about which pronoun to use for the Holy Spirit.

See, when people don’t know the Holy Spirit, they tend to refer to him as “it”—they think he’s a force, or God’s power, or otherwise don‘t realize he’s a person. The Greek word for spirit, πνεῦμα/néfma, isn’t much help in making this determination: In English nearly all our nouns are neuter, but in nearly every other language they’re not; they’re either masculine or feminine. Well, Greek has masculine, feminine, and neuter… and néfma is neuter. The writers of the New Testament didn’t try to masculinize it either, and turn it into πνεῦμος/néfmos or give it masculine noun-markers like πνεῦμα/o néfma, “the [he]-Spirit.” Nope, they went with the usual πνεῦμα ἅγιον/Néfma Ághion, “Holy Spirit”; τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ, “God’s Spirit”—both neuter. Every reference to the Spirit in the NT is neuter.

But in the Old Testament, the Hebrew for spirit, רוּחַ/ruákh, is feminine.

I once heard a pastor claim the Old Testament noun might be feminine, and the New Testament noun might be neuter, but the writers of the NT treated néfma, whenever it meant the Holy Spirit, as if it’s a masculine noun. I thought that was interesting. Repeated the statement myself a few times. Then I took Greek in college and discovered it’s not so. (Would’ve been nice too: There are certain bits of Paul’s letters where it’s hard to tell whether he means our spirit or the Spirit, and if he always used masculine markers for the Holy Spirit, it’d make interpretation so much easier. But he didn’t.) Don’t know where this pastor got his idea, but it’s utterly bogus.

Because néfma is neuter, I gradually got in the habit of using neuter pronouns when I refer to spirits. After all, spirits are immaterial and have no gender: They’ve no chromosomes, no “plumbing,” so to speak; they’re not meant to breed nor marry. They’re neuter. So when an angel appears in the bible, I tend to call it “it.” That includes Satan. In fact an exorcist I met pointed out evil spirits certainly tend to act like unthinking animals rather than rational beings. So he naturally grew to refer to evil spirits as “it.” Sounds about right to me.

But because the Spirit’s name in Hebrew, רוּחַ־קֹ֖דֶשׁ/Ruákh-Qodéš (or as Christians who don’t know Hebrew tend to call him, רוּחַ הַקֹּ֜דֶשׁ/Ruákh haQodéš) is feminine, there are a growing number of Christians who refer to the Spirit as “she.”

Bear in mind it’s only by custom we refer to the Spirit as “he.” God is spirit, Jn 4.24 and before he became human, he had no DNA, no plumbing, which defined his gender. The LORD is “he” only because his self-chosen name, אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה/Ehyéh Ašer Ehyéh (KJV “I AM THAT I AMEx 3.14), means he defines himself—and went with the pronouns “he” and “him” and “his,” or their equivalents in the bible’s languages. He describes himself, and Jesus describes him, as Father. Stands to reason “he” would be the pronoun for every person in the trinity, right?

But customs aren’t bible, and the Spirit of God is “she” throughout the Old Testament. So these Christians feel entirely justified in calling the Spirit “she.”

And this practice totally freaks out certain other Christians. Sexists in particular.

The Twelve and the miracles.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 May

The hangups Christians have about how the apostles could somehow do miracles before Pentecost.

Mark 6.12-13 • Luke 9.6.

Of Jesus’s students, he assigned 12 of them to be apostles, “one who’s been sent out,” and eventually he did send ’em out to preach the gospel, cure the sick, and exorcise unclean spirits.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Mark 6.12-13 KWL
12 Going out, the apostles preached that people should repent.
13 The apostles were throwing out many demons, anointing many sick people with olive oil—and they were curing them.
Luke 9.6 KWL
6 Coming out, the apostles passed through the villages,
evangelizing and curing the sick everywhere.

Yep, all of them. Even Judas Iscariot.

And here’s where we slam into a wall with a lot of Christians. Because they cannot fathom how these apostles went out and cured the sick and exorcised evil spirits.

They’ll grudgingly acknowledge that the apostles did it. The gospels totally say so, and who are they to doubt the gospels? But y’see, their hangups come from the fact they have a lot of theological baggage about how miracles work, how the Holy Spirit empowers people, when the Holy Spirit historically empowered people, and the fact miracles seem to have nothing to do with the apostles’ maturity level: Once they were done doing these mighty acts, they came back to follow Jesus, and seemed to be the same foolish kids they always were.

Oh, and we can’t leave out Judas Iscariot. Christians really don’t like the idea Judas was curing the sick and casting out devils. Since he was one of the Twelve, and since these verses imply he did as the others of the Twelve did, it means Judas did miracles. And this, many Christians cannot abide. I remember one movie in particular where Judas specifically did no miracles; he lacked faith, so Simon the Canaanite, whom Judas was paired up with, Mt 10.4 did ’em all. ’Cause later Judas turned traitor and appears to have gone apostate—so Christians don’t want him having power, and balk at the idea the Holy Spirit really entrusted him with any such thing. It violates their sense of karma.

First thing we gotta do is put down the baggage and accept the scriptures: Jesus sent out his apostles, young as they were, green as they were, to go do supernatural acts of power. Which they did. We can debate the how and the why, but none of this hashing out should violate the fact they did the stuff. If it does, we’re doing theology backwards, and wrong.