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“Be careful, little eyes…”

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Nobody’s temptation-proof. But not everyone’s tempted by the same stuff. Some years ago when I finally got round to reading the unabridged edition of The Stand (which, I remind you, is my favorite End Times novel, and not just ’cause it’s way better written than those stupid, stupid Left Behind novels), I casually mentioned to a fellow Christian (let’s call her Asha) I was doing so.Wrong Christian to mention such things to. Asha was horrified. I think she was afraid I’d lose my salvation over it. You think I’m being facetious, but some Christians actually do believe there are such things as mortal, unpardonable sins. To Asha, Stephen King novels are apparently one of ’em.Y’see, King is known as a horror writer. So he’ll write about evil spirits, vampires, werewolves, devilish magic creatures, and so forth. He’ll also write about non-supernatural things, like sex and violence. He’ll use the F-word, and take the Lord’s name in vain. Pagan stuff like that.Therefore Asha insisted I was a …

Treasures in heaven.

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Matthew 6.19-21, Luke 12.33-34.In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, after he finished objecting to hypocrisy in giving to charity, in types of prayer, and in public fasting, he moved on to talk about wealth and money.You’ll notice the three verses in Matthew I’m gonna point to today, don’t by themselves nail down precisely how we’re to stash our treasures in heaven. That, we actually have to pull from the parallel teaching in Luke: Give to charity. And if you know your Old Testament, you might remember this proverb:Proverbs 19.17 KWLPut the LORD in your debt: Be gracious to the poor.He compensates you and gives peace to you.Jesus’s first-century audience would’ve known that one… and Jesus’s 21st-century audience had better learn that one.Matthew 6.19-21 KWL19“Don’t hoard wealth for yourselves on earth, where moths and corrosion ruin it,where thieves dig for it and steal it.20Hoard wealth for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor corrosion ruins,where thieves don’t dig for it nor ste…

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

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

Resisting God’s grace. (Don’t!)

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It’s sad. But it’s possible, and it happens.God dispenses his amazing grace to everybody, as Jesus pointed out in his Sermon on the Mount:Matthew 5.43-48 KWL43“You heard this said: ‘You’ll love your neighbor.’ Lv 19.18 And you’ll hate your enemy.44And I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.45Thus you can become your heavenly Father’s children,since he raises his sun over evil and good, and rains on moral and immoral.46When you love those who love you, why should you be rewarded?Don’t taxmen also do so themselves?47When you greet only your family, what did you do that was so great?Don’t the foreigners also do so themselves?48Therefore you will be egalitarian,like your heavenly Father is egalitarian.”Our Father doesn’t skimp on the grace. He provides it, in unlimited amounts, to everybody. To those who love him, and those who don’t—which is why Jesus instructs us to be like our Father, and love those who hate us. To those he considers family, and those he doesn’t co…

The prayer journal: Keeping track of prayer requests.

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It’s good to have a written record of God’s answers to prayer. PRAYER JOURNAL /'pr(eɪ.)ər 'dʒər.nəl/ n. Daily (or regular) record of transactions with God.[Prayer journaling /'dʒər.nəl.ɪŋ/ vt.]A prayer journal is a sort of diary, but rather than listing everything you did during the day (and all your innermost secret feelings about them), your prayer journal is about what you prayed—for yourself, and for others.I realize not everyone keeps a diary. It’s for the same reason not every Christian keeps a prayer journal. We don’t think our lives are interesting enough to record, or can’t remember to keep it up to date… or fear what’ll happen when the wrong person reads those innermost secret feelings. Well, a prayer journal isn’t necessarily about personal secrets. (Unless you requested things from God which you’d really rather other people not know: “God, please cure my butt pimples” and the like.) It’s how to keep track of what you’ve prayed—and how and when God answered thes…

Jesus’s first command: Love God.

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The most important of the commands to follow.When Moshe ben Maimon of Spain (1135–1204, also called Maimonides by westerners, Rambam by Jews) wrote the Sefer Hamitzvot/“Book of Good Deeds,” he sorted God’s commands into a list of 613. His first command was the first of the Ten Commandments, which in Jewish reckoning is this verse:Exodus 20.2 = Deuteronomy 5.6 KWL“I’m your god, the LORD,who took you out of Egypt’s land, out of the slaves’ house.”Makes sense, right? It’s the first one the LORD declared aloud from Sinai.But when Jesus was asked the most important of God’s commands, he listed two. Respectively, they’re Moshe ben Maimon’s fourth and 13th commands.Mark 12.28-31 KWL28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion.Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees, he asked him,“Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer:“First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One.30You will love your Lord God with all your mind, life, int…

The love we oughta see in supernatural gifts.

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We do untold damage when love’s not part of this ministry.1 Corinthians 13.4-8When Christians write the about the bit from 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love, we almost universally take it out of context. Myself included. ’Tain’t necessarily a bad thing: We quote it when we’re defining love. What love is, as opposed to what it’s not—as opposed to what popular culture, and sometimes even Christian culture, claims it is. The apostles defined it properly, so we’re adjusting our concept of agápi/“charity” accordingly.But in context, the apostles defined it because they were correcting the Corinthians’ misperceptions about the supernatural. If you’re gonna strive for greater gifts, the only valid way to pursue them and do them is in love. If you’re not doing ’em in love, you’re doing ’em wrong.And if you’re not entirely certain what the apostles meant by this “love” concept, permit ’em to straighten you out a bit.1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t…

Saying grace.

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You know: Praying for your food. The most common type of prayer—the one we see most often, and probably the type taken the least seriously—is the prayer before meals. We call it “grace.” Not to be confused with God’s generous, forgiving attitude.Why don’t people take it seriously? Because it’s dead religion. Christians might pray it as a living act of religion, one of the acts we do to further our relationship with God. But Christians and pagans alike say grace before meals as the dead kind of religion: We do it ’cause it’s just what people do in our culture. It’s custom. It’s tradition. It’s habit. But it doesn’t mean anything.Nope, not said out of gratitude. Nor love. Nor devotion. Nor even as a reminder of these things. We say grace because if we didn’t say grace, Grandma would slap the food out of our hands and say, “You didn’t say grace!” We say grace because Dad would take his seat at the table, fold his hands like you do for prayer, and give us kids dirty looks until we stopped…

Things I want when I’m in a coma.

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Just in case there’s any question… and in case anyone remembers I blogged on it.The subject came up recently. It's kind of a morbid subject, but honestly, you never know when you might wind up in a coma. I’m not expecting to go into one anytime soon; no, I’m not suffering from anything. But I know people who went from hale and hearty (or appearing so) to dead in very short periods of time. If I ever go into one, I should make my wishes nice and obvious. So I’m sticking ’em on TXAB. Somewhere, in the back of someone’s mind, they’ll remember I listed ’em here.Here ya go. If I’m ever in a coma, this is what I want.Keep me plugged in. Keep the feeding tubes going. Keep the oxygen flowing. I wanna live, dangit.If I ever change my mind on that, I’ll stop trying so hard to live, and just die. So if I’m alive, assume I wanna be alive. Keep me alive. Don’t disconnect the food and air; that’s a nasty way to go.I’ll make an exception if I’m brain dead. Then, obviously, I’m dead. Keeping my b…

Perfect love—without conditions.

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Matthew 5.43-48, Luke 6.27-36.Sometimes I joke the two commands Jesus said were most important Mk 12.29-31 —love God Dt 6.5 and love your neighbor Lv 19.18 —are respectively the easiest and hardest commands. Really easy to love God. But the neighbors are such a pain.Some respond with a laugh. Others disagree: They struggle to love God, but people are relatively easy for them. ’Cause people are visible and God is not.And, they figure, the neighbors are easy to love. Of course by “neighbor” they mean “people who are friendly,” kinda like in Jesus’s story of the kind Samaritan. Lk 10.29-37Kind people are easy to love. Unkind people not so much. And yeah, it’s not hard to love people who are always nice to you, but I find when you really know and spend time with people, they’re not always gonna be nice. Gotta give ’em credit for trying, but everybody slips up. I sure do. That’s why we Christians gotta be gracious.Since God obligated the Hebrews to love their neighbors, a lot of ’em actual…

The supernatural without the Spirit’s fruit.

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Yeah, contrary to popular belief, bad Christians can work actual miracles.1 Corinthians 13.1-3If phony supernaturalism irritates you, you’re hardly alone. It annoys me too. Just because I believe in the supernatural, a lot of folks expect I’ll believe any stupid thing. Those who don’t believe in the supernatural at all, presume I believe in every single one of the outrageous behaviors we find in the loonier fringes of Pentecostalism. Those who do believe in the supernatural expect me to accept their appalling behavior as legitimate—and are very annoyed when I won’t.But I can’t. Jesus warned us there’d be frauds out there. He told us to keep our eyes open, look out for them, and judge whether they’re legit or not. And some of these self-described apostles, prophets, healers, and ministers are simply frauds. People always try to make counterfeits of something valuable. It’s our duty as Christians to test these would-be miracle workers, see whether there’s anything to them—and call them …