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Showing posts with the label #Religion

Religious. Not “spiritual.”

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Happy new year. At the beginning of the year I figure it’s not a bad idea to remind readers the point of The Christ Almighty Blog. (Or TXAB for short.) Remind myself too; I’ve seen many a blog where it began as one thing and evolved into another. God forbid, TXAB could warp into yet another blog where I’m bitterly ranting about Christian misbehavior. Plenty enough of those as it is.TXAB is about following Jesus the Nazarene and his teachings. Since he’s our God-anointed king—or Messiah or Christ—we Christ-followers get called Christians. Though every once in a while some snobbish Christian insists, “No, not Christian; I want to be called a Christ-follower,” and once again we risk turning TXAB into a rant about Christian misbehavior.To be fair, the Christ-follower has a point. Christian quite often means a Christ-fan. Someone who really likes Jesus, claims to love him (or at least love Jesus as they imagine him), yet doesn’t follow him any. Such people conform to popular Christian cult…

Goodness, and lawless Christians.

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If you know Jesus—really and truly know Jesus, not just know of him—you’re gonna want to follow him. You’re gonna want to do as he teaches, and actually try to obey his commands instead of shrugging them off with, “Well, they’re nice ideals, but they’re not gonna be practical.” You’re gonna want to be good.Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit. A rather obvious one: God is good, so shouldn’t those who have the Holy Spirit in us be likewise good? Shouldn’t he encourage us to be good, empower us to do good deeds, be gracious to us when we drop the ball and help us return to goodness? Shouldn’t he point us in the direction of sanctification, of living holy lives, unique from the rest of the world—where goodness is a huge factor in why we’re unique?Likewise if you don’t wanna be good, not only do you lack the Spirit’s fruit: You’re probably not even Christian. And yes, bluntly saying so has a tendency to really offend people: “Goodness doesn’t make you Christian! That’s legalism. How could yo…

“To follow thee more nearly.”

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Ephesians 1.15-23.Humans are creatures of extremes. It’s why American churches are likewise creatures of extremes. Either we pursue God with all our might, and strive to make sure our teachings are accurate and solid… and ready to pound into the heads of newbies, skeptics, people of other church traditions which aren’t as up-to-speed as we. Or we pursue godly behavior with all our might, strive to behave ourselves and help the needy… and feel incredibly guilty when we don‘t.I know; why can’t we get this stuff right? Why can’t we pursue accurate teaching without turning into insufferable know-it-alls? Why can’t we pursue good works without turning into legalists? Why can’t we do both bible study and charitable works—why do we have to pit these behaviors against one another? More than that, why must we insist on pretending to do one or the other, yet use compromise, loopholes, and excuses to do neither? What, are there just too many chainsaws to juggle?Well. Paul, upon hearing of the Ep…

Grow your faith!

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It’s not gonna grow when we won’t act on it.As I’ve written multiple times, authentic faith is not the magic power to believe ridiculous things. It’s “the proof of actions we’ve not seen,” He 11.1 KWL stuff we believe even though we haven’t seen it for ourselves, because we trust those who told us this stuff. Because they’re trustworthy. (And they’d better be trustworthy.)More than that: It’s when we act on this stuff. Fr’instance your friend told you a certain movie was good. You heard it wasn’t, but you have faith in your friend—specifically, his judgment about movies—so you ignore what everyone else told you, and go see the movie for yourself. And either your faith in your friend is proven, ’cause the movie was good… or it was broken, ’cause it sucked. Either way, you acted on faith.Yes, that’s faith. I know; the way people commonly define faith, it sounds more like you go to see a movie regardless of what anyone tells you, because you want so badly for it to be good, and are hopin…

Surrendering our authority to Jesus.

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When I was a kid I came across one of Bill Bright’s gospel tracts, in which he diagrammed the difference between a self-centered life and a Jesus-centered life. Looked like yea.
Or “self-directed” and “Christ-directed.” Either way. Discover GodIf our lives are self-centered, supposedly they’ll be chaos. Whereas if they’re Jesus-centered, they appear to be neat and orderly and crisis-free. With none of the challenges, persecutions, temptations, suffering, or any of the things Jesus totally warned us were part of life. Yeah, certain gospel tracts tend to promise a little too much. Bright’s was one of them.But lemme get back to my point: The idea of a Jesus-centered life, as opposed to a self-centered one. That is in fact the whole point of Christianity: Jesus is Lord. We’re meant to follow his steps in everything we do, 1Pe 2.21, 1Jn 2.6 always take him into consideration, obey his teachings, seek his will. He’s the king of God’s kingdom, and if you want in, he has to be in charge.In pra…

Repent!

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REPENTrə'pentverb. Turn away from one’s current, usually sinful, behavior.2. Feel regret or express remorse about wrongdoing or sin.Our culture has used the word repent to mean feeling bad. For centuries. For so long, you’re not gonna find the definition “turn away from one’s behavior” in most dictionaries. Even the Latin word repent is based on, re-paenitere, gets defined as “feel great penitence or sorrow.” When people repent, they feel bad for what they’ve done. Sometimes they bother to make amends, or try to. (Penitentiaries, annoyingly, have little about them anymore which involves making amends, community service, or good deeds in general.)But the Christian definition comes from the Greek words we translate as “repent,” namely metanoéo the verb, and metánoia/“repentance,” the noun. The word’s literally a compound of the words metá/“after” and noéo/“think,” but combined they mean “turn round.” In other words, don’t go that way again. Don’t do that again. Walk it back.So when …

“…But God knows my heart.”

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The way I share Jesus is pretty basic: I talk with people. They ask what I’m doing. My answer is nearly always Christianity-related… ’cause that is what I’m doing. Sometimes they have hangups about religion, in which case I change the subject. But far more often they’ll talk about it. Frequently it turns out they’re Christian.But there are Christians, and there are Christians. Some of ’em are devout. Some of ’em only think they’re Christian. Most often they’re just irreligious: They don’t pray. Don’t go to church. Never read their bibles; wouldn’t know were to begin. (Somehow they found out the bible doesn’t have to be started at the beginning—and ever since, they’ve used this as an excuse for why they never started. Sounds like the options simply stymie them. Maybe we’d better stop telling people they don’t have to start at Genesis, and tell ’em they totally do. But I digress.)One of my shortcuts for finding out how religious they are, or aren’t: I ask where they go to church. And ev…

Spiritual disciplines: Gotta develop the Christian lifestyle.

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If we’re gonna become better Christians, we have to get religious.I know; it’s really popular in Christian circles to insist, “It’s a relationship, not a religion.” We do it for the very same reasons pagans insist they’re spiritual, not religious: They don’t wanna follow anyone. They wanna do as they please, take advantage of God’s grace, and get into God’s kingdom despite being wholly unfit for it.But true Christians follow Jesus. We don’t just sit back on our salvation: We do stuff. We act saved. We stop behaving like we can’t help our sinful behavior; we know the Holy Spirit’s empowered us so we totally can. We stop acting like pagans do, as if we’re not a holy people, and behave as if we really are filled with the Holy Spirit. We stop being jerks and start producing fruit.I know; it’s way easier said than done. But acting Christian doesn’t happen overnight; doesn’t happen as if by magic. Wouldn’t that be nice.I realize certain Christians’ testimonies make it sound like that’s prec…

An irreligious religion.

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RELIGIONri'lɪ.dʒənnoun. Worship of a superhuman controlling power, usually a personal God or impersonal universe.2. Particular system of belief and worship, as demonstrated through actions and declarations.3. A supremely important pursuit or interest, followed as if worship.[Religious ri'lɪ.dʒəsadjective.]A significant part of authentic Christianity is religion: We worship God, and we do it through actions. For any belief system which doesn’t take any action, which doesn’t result in any changed lives or good deeds (or even bad deeds), isn’t real. Or, as James puts it, it’s dead. Jm 2.26But for a lot of Evangelicals in the United States, religion’s become a bad word. “Religious” has become mixed up with traditional. More specifically with the more empty, meaningless traditions which attempt to express worship through action, but don’t appear to bring us any closer to God.Fr’instance. When we were kids, and somebody taught us a rote prayer, they didn’t always explain why we pray…