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Sealed—not yet baptized—with the Holy Spirit.

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’Cause there’s a difference between the two, despite what non-charismatics claim.Ephesians 1.13-14 KWL13 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.’Member when you got saved? Maybe not; maybe it was a gradual process. Doesn’t matter. At some point in that process God decided to take up residence in your life. We call it indwelling. You got “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” as Paul put it. He’s in you. Right now. Whispering God’s will into you. Hope you’re listening.Now, non-charismatics claim when the Spirit gets into us like that, yeah it’s called indwelling, but it’s also called “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Lk 3.16, Ac 1.4-5 Those two events, they insist, are one and the same. ’Cause the Holy Spirit gets in you and on you, kinda like the water does in the baptismal when you don’t hold…

Taking God’s amazing grace for granted.

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Legalism is the opposite of grace. But we’re quick to cry legalism if it gets us out of stuff. CHEAP GRACE /tʃip greɪs/ n. Treatment of God’s forgiveness, generosity, and loving attitude, as if it’s nothing special; as if it cost him little.Whenever I bring up the subject of cheap grace, some Christian invariably objects: “Grace is not cheap.” Even if I’ve explained in advance what I mean by cheap grace; even if I’ve written an entire essay defining the idea.Every. Single. Time.’Cause some Christians don’t read. The title’s about cheap grace, so they skip to the comments and object: “Grace isn’t cheap!” They see a link to an article about cheap grace, so they respond to the link or the Tweet or the post, “Grace isn’t cheap!” While speaking, I use the words “cheap grace” in a sentence, and they wait for the first chance to interrupt: “Grace isn’t cheap!”YES. I KNOW. I’M TRYING TO MAKE THAT POINT. I WOULD IF YOU’D LISTEN. So can you please keep your knee from jerking just this once, and…

One heck of a birth announcement.

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In the other gospels John just shows up. In Luke he’s miraculous.Luke 1.5-25Most Christians vastly underestimate the importance and significance of the prophet John bar Zechariah, whom we more commonly know as St. John the baptist.Largely it’s because we see John as a minor figure, and kinda weird. He showed up, made a lot of noise, preached obedience and repentance… and once Jesus showed up, he faded away. (Or got arrested and beheaded. Same difference.) His only purpose was to point to, and baptize, Jesus, and that done, he died.Others figure John’s a much bigger deal than that. But only because they believe—incorrectly—that John was the first prophet to appear in 400 years. Supposedly after Malachi finished the Old Testament, God went dark. For four centuries he said nothing and did nothing. Then John shows up, and wham: Prophecy’s back! Revelation is back! The miracles turned back on! God is up to something.Yeah, that’s entirely wrong. ’CauseThe apocrypha, the “extra books” in non…

“If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

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Our misbegotten biblical justification to only help out the deserving needy—as we define deserving.2 Thessalonians 3.102 Thessalonians 3.10 KJVFor even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this verse quoted by people who don’t want to give to the needy.Till recently if you went to any of the grocery stores in my town, you’d find a beggar, holding a sign which generally said, “Help me,” sitting on the sidewalk at the edge of the parking lot, right where the customers drive in and out. I’m serious; any of the stores. They were everywhere. So the city council passed an ordinance moving the beggars 15 feet way. Last week I caught a cop ticketing a beggar who hadn’t been notified.I don’t know how much money they got from sitting there, but their existence really irritated people. Not because those people are outraged by the plight of the poor in this country. It’s solely because they were be…

Jesus’s two genealogies.

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Which happens to be a big fat bible discrepancy many Christians skim over. Matthew 1.1-17 • Luke 3.23-38.Most Christians are aware Jesus has two genealogies.These aren’t genealogies the way we do ’em. We do family trees: We include ancestors from all sides of the family, fathers and mothers both. Often we include aunts, uncles, and cousins; if we’re not particular about blood relations we’ll even include step-parents. Our family trees can get big and complicated. Hebrew genealogies don’t. They turn into trees downward, when they’re listing one person’s descendants, as you can see from the first chapters of 1 Chronicles. But when they’re listing ancestors, they’re straight lines: You, your father, your father’s father, that grandfather’s father, that great-grandfather’s father, and so on back.Thing is, Jesus has two of these lists. In Matthew 1, it’s a list of ancestors from Abraham to Joseph. And in Luke 4, it’s a list of male ancestors backwards, from Joseph to Adam to God. And they…

Positive. Encouraging. White. K-LOVE.

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My least favorite radio network.
’Cause without that space, they’ve simply misspelled “clove.”I stopped listening to radio in the early ’00s, ’cause I got an MP3 player. It wasn’t the iPod I wanted; I finally got one of those in ’04. It was a pocket computer, a Windows PocketPC; imagine a smartphone which wasn’t a phone, or a tablet which was more phone-sized. Among other things, it included a mobile version of Windows Media Player. I also discovered podcasts around that time, and even though I still had dial-up internet at home, I set up my good ol’ Gateway to download a bunch of shows overnight, and I started ripping every CD I owned into Media Player files. Loaded up the SD card and never looked back.(The pocket computer still works, by the way. I used it till I finally bought an Android tablet. I like to use my technology till it completely dies, or is so obsolete I can’t really use it anymore. Still got my clamshell iBook too. But I digress.)The last radio stations I regularly li…

Context? Who needs context?

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CONTEXT'kɑn.tɛkstnoun. Setting of an idea or event: The larger story they’re part of, the circumstances or history behind them, the people to whom they’re said. Without them, the idea is neither fully understood nor clear.[Contextual kən'tɛks.tʃ(əw).əladjective.]“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” It’s not from the bible, although from time to time someone will claim it totally is, and therefore it’s a divine command. It’s actually from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act 1, scene 3. Might not be bible, but Shakespeare’s no slouch either.Why do people quote it? ’Cause they literally mean it. Don’t borrow; don’t lend. If you don’t borrow money, you won’t go into debt. If you don’t lend money, you don’t have to fret when your friends never repay you. Simple, prudent advice. Words they think we oughta live by.Okay, so why’d Shakespeare write it?Well, we don’t give a rip. We know what we mean by it. Don’t borrow; don’t lend. We assume Shakespeare meant the very same thing. It’s st…

The word became human, and explains God.

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This is the reason he came to us. Not atonement; he could’ve done that invisibly. But to reveal God.John 1.14-18John 1.14-18 KWL14 The word was made flesh. He encamped with us.We got a good look at his significance—the significance of a father’s only son—filled with grace and truth.15 John testifies about him, saying as he called out, “This is the one I spoke of!‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first.”16 All of us received things out of his fullness. Grace after grace:17 The Law which Moses gave; the grace and truth which Christ Jesus became.18 Nobody’s ever seen God.The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb, he explains God.We Christians have had the darnedest time translating and explaining this passage, because while it’s in really simple Greek, it’s deep. It’s profound. It tells us the word of the LORD, the Son of the Father, God of God, God from the Father’s womb (usually translated “bosom” because human fathers don’t have wombs, and any language w…

Happy Halloween. Bought your candy yet?

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It’s Happy Halloween, not “Happy holidays.” Wait… wrong holiday.
A perfect opportunity to show Christlike generosity—and give the best candy ever. But too many of us make a serious point of being grouchy, fear-addled spoilsports. Image swiped from a mommy blog.For more than a decade I’ve ranted about the ridiculous Evangelical practice of shunning Halloween. I call it ridiculous ’cause it really is: It’s a fear-based, irrational, misinformed, slander-filled rejection of a holiday… which actually turns out to be a legitimate part of the Christian calendar.No I’m not kidding. It’s our holiday. Christians invented Halloween.No it sure doesn’t look like Christians’ original intent. That’s because we let the pagans take it over. By “pagans” I mean non-Christians—not the capital-P religious Pagans, whose nature religions date from the 1960s, but who claim they revived ancient pre-Christian religions. Pretty sure the ancient religions didn’t believe their gods were only symbolic archetypes of…

TXAB’s 2016 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

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Every presidential election year in the United States, we get doomsayers who claim this or that candidate is probably the Beast of Revelation 13, or as popular Christian culture calls it, the Antichrist. Or wannabe prophets claim one of the candidates is Jesus’s personal choice; if he held American citizenship (and I’m surprised one of the parties hasn’t voted him an honorary one by now) he’d totally pick that guy.Of course none of these folks have any insight, supernatural or not. They’re proclaiming their own personal politics. Some of ’em do it every election. In the process, any such “prophets” unwittingly expose themselves as false ones, even when their favored candidates win. Because God’s will is for Jesus to reign, not some party, nor some politician. Lucky for them, we no longer stone false prophets to death. Man would that be satisfying.I will point out it’s totally possible to determine which of these contenders might actually be the Beast. Seriously. Because at the end of …