Search This Blog

TXAB’s index.

01 November 2018

Small groups. Are you in one?

If you’re not truly interacting with fellow Christians, you need to be.

Jesus feels it necessary for his followers to have a support system. That’s why he invented the church. That’s why we gotta go to church. We need family: Sisters and brothers in Christ with similar experiences, who’ve been through what we’re going through, who can aid and encourage us. We’re not meant to go it alone!

But many churches are so large, it’s really easy to be alone anyway.

Sunday morning services are where we’re meant to worship God together, as a group. But they’re seldom set up to be interactive. Interaction slows things down, y’know. And when a church is full of non-social or antisocial people, they kinda like things that way: They can go to church, talk to no one, never share, never get to know one another, never give a testimony. They’ll sing with the music, listen to the preacher, take holy communion, and that’s it: They didn’t interact with one another. Just with God… assuming they aren’t just going through the motions of dead religion.

You could have a church full of shouting Christians, exclaiming “Amen!” and “Preach it!” every two minutes. Yet they still don’t interact with one another.

How’re Christians gonna be a support system to one another when we won’t interact? Well, we won’t be.

Hence small groups.

Christians call our small groups by all sorts of names: Bible studies, cell groups, core groups, home church, study groups, ministry groups, prayer circles, love feasts, supper clubs, book groups, inreach groups, family groups, life groups, whatever. Regardless of the name, what they have in common is they’re relatively, purposefully small. Small enough to be interactive.

Their stated purpose might be to learn more about bible, pray together, minister together, watch a video series, study a book, or share a hobby. Their real purpose is fellowship. They’re so Christians get to know one another. The other stuff is secondary.

31 October 2018

Blind faith: Those who say “we see,” and don’t.

When faith isn’t based on anything or anyone trustworthy.

Whenever pagans talk about faith, their usual definition of the word is “the magical ability to believe goofy nonsense.” You know, stuff people really shouldn’t believe.

In some cases stuff that’s dangerous to believe. Fr’instance antivaxxers. They believe vaccines cause autism, or contain poisonous chemicals, or believe they’re otherwise harmful. Hence they refuse to get their kids vaccinated. I’m not quite sure what it says about them, that they’d prefer to see their kids dead than autistic… but it’s nothing good. What I do know is, thanks to them, childhood diseases which should be a thing of the past, are back—and posing a grave danger not just to their children, but to other children with compromised immune systems, or for whatever reasons can’t be vaccinated. Their belief in goofy nonsense is deadly.

So yeah, if this what you think “faith” means, of course you’d think it wrong. Even evil.

But it’s not at all what Christians mean by faith. By faith we mean complete trust or confidence in something or someone. We Christians have (or are trying to have) complete trust in Jesus: We believe what he tells us about God. We’ve seen things which indicate he’s worth our trust.

Well, unless we haven’t. Then, what we have—and this is the proper term for it, even though most people think of it as a negative thing—is blind faith, the complete trust in something or someone despite an utter lack of evidence.

And everyone practices blind faith, to a degree.

Yep, even pagans. When they walk into an unfamiliar room, one they’ve never been in before, how do they know the floor’s solid? Well they don’t. They’ve assumed—and are kinda taking it for granted—that the folks who built the room didn’t make the floor out of balsa wood or cardboard. That the building inspectors actually made sure the floor is solid. That building inspectors even saw this floor. We take a lot of such things for granted every day. We kinda have to; we don’t have time to test every little thing, and we’re seen as needlessly paranoid if we do. Blind faith saves time.

Children especially. They trust their parents. Should they? Not always; I’ve seen some really awful parents. But they haven’t yet learned to confirm things, double-check things, test things, ask questions. (Some never do learn how.) They just believe what they’re told, ’cause they assume adults know what we’re talking about. Again, not always. But again, blind faith saves time.

And new Christians especially. They don’t know anything about God, and are trusting their churches to introduce them to him. Some churches do, and do a great job of it. Some churches do a sloppy, negligent job of it. Some churches are heretic, and get God horribly wrong; others are cults, and turn people into slaves instead of Christ-followers. But in the good churches, much of what they’re doing is replacing blind faith with informed faith. Like the Samaritans after they met Jesus.

John 4.42 KWL
The other Samaritans told the woman, “We no longer believe because of your say-so; we’ve heard him.
We realize this is truly the Christ, the one who saves the world.”

They first came to check out Jesus because she said, “Come see a person… it’s not Christ, is it?” Jn 4.29 Turns out it was. Once they spoke to him for themselves, they knew for sure. And that is what our churches need to do for us: Introduce us to Jesus, and let us see for ourselves. Not keep us in the dark, trusting our teachers instead of Jesus, hoping it’s true, but with nothing but blind faith.

30 October 2018

Ditching the Old Testament?

Yep, you should memorize certain verses.

NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIAN /'nu tɛs.tə.mənt 'krɪs.tʃən/ n. One who professes to live by the teachings of the New Testament [instead of the Old].
2. One who holds to the invalidity of the Old Testament, and the validity of the New.

Whenever I talk about what we Christians think, believe, and behave, I quote bible. I’m trying to show how these views are based on, or at least jibe with, the scriptures. ’Cause Evangelicals uphold the bible (or at least claim to), so they wanna know there’s a valid proof text for what I’m talking about.

And every so often, one of ’em will say, “I don’t think that’s what that verse means.” Which is fair; let’s take a closer look at it. I’ve been wrong before, so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to double-check a proof text. Really, Christians oughta do it more often, because you simply can’t trust popular Christian culture’s interpretations of the scriptures. Too much bias; not enough bible.

When the scriptures agree with me to their satisfaction, so will they. Sometimes grudgingly, but still. Frequently they’ll relapse to their old beliefs, because the Holy Spirit has to further convict them; I can’t give their consciences a squeeze like he can.

But every so often not even the bible works on ’em. Because they don’t respect the bible.

No, I’m not talking about hypocrites who pretend to respect the bible but don’t really. They’re a whole other problem. I’m talking about Christians who believe huge portions of the bible don’t apply to them. Some of ’em believe the entirety of the Old Testament no longer has any bearing on Christians. Some believe certain sections of the New Testament are only for Jews or Jewish Christians, and since they’re gentiles, these instructions don’t apply to them. Cessationists claim the teachings on miracles are no longer relevant ’cause God stopped doing miracles.

It gets scary when these folks include Jesus’s teachings among the parts of the bible they consider void. How do they claim such things? Simple: They figure since we’re saved by grace, we needn’t follow commands. Including Jesus’s. So they don’t. Which is really gonna bite ’em in the behind on Judgment Day, but try telling them that: Jesus’s Sheep and Goats story Mt 25.31-46 is one of the teachings they consider void, y’know.

It’s a little hard to consider them Christian when they can’t be bothered to follow Christ. It’s why those who nullify bible tend to be called heretics by the rest of us. Well, depending on how much we nullify bible.

29 October 2018

Jesus and Peter walk on water.

And how this got Jesus’s students to reconsider a few things.

Mark 6.46-52 • Matthew 14.23-33 • John 6.16-21

Right after Jesus had his students feed 5,000-plus listeners, he sent ’em to the far side of Lake Tiberias (i.e. “the Galilean Sea,” although it’s not quite that big. The Great Lakes are way bigger.) So while Jesus dismissed the crowds and left to pray, the students rowed their way south.

And the rowing wasn’t easy, ’cause the weather didn’t cooperate.

Mark 6.46-48 KWL
46 Saying goodbye, Jesus went off to a hill to pray.
47 Much later, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land.
48A Seeing the students tortured by the rowing, for the wind was against them…
Matthew 14.23-24 KWL
23 Saying goodbye to the crowds, Jesus went up a hill by himself to pray.
Much later he was alone there. 24 The boat was already many stadia away from land,
tortured by the waves, for the wind was against it.
John 6.16-18 KWL
16 When it became later, Jesus’s students went down to the lake,
17 got into a boat, and went to the far side of the lake, to Kfar Nahum.
It had become dark, and Jesus hadn’t yet come to them.
18 The lake’s wind increased, blowing greatly.

Now, the title of this piece tipped you off what’s about to happen next: Jesus is gonna walk to them on the surface of Lake Tiberias. You’ve heard the story before. Heck, everybody’s heard of this story; walking on water is one of the most famous stunts Jesus ever pulled.

Though I should point not everyone who’s heard of this story, knows the details of this story. Pagans regularly assume Jesus is the only person who ever walked on water. Who ever could walk on water; there’s a widespread pagan interpretation that Jesus could do it because he’s so good, God would never let him sink! It surprises them when I tell ’em Simon Peter walked on water too—and then they leap to the conclusion Peter must’ve been a really good person too. Hardly. But I’m getting too far ahead of the story.

I bring up how everyone’s heard this story, to point out how most folks don’t know this story in context. They don’t know what happened before it. They don’t realize what happened before it, should’ve had enough of an impact on the students, they’d behave far differently than they did. But like Mark points out at the end of the story, these kids were pretty dense.

So I remind you there were three experiences the students should’ve bore in mind as the events in this story were taking place:

  • They weren’t unfamiliar with Lake Tiberias’s rough weather. And they also weren’t familiar with the fact Jesus once stopped this weather.
  • Day before yesterday, the Twelve had just returned to Jesus after going round the Galilee preaching the gospel, curing the sick, and throwing out demons. They had personally done what Jesus did.
  • And yesterday, Jesus had ’em feed the 5,000.

You’d think they’d be used to the impossible by now. Apparently not.

26 October 2018

False witness and fake news.

What makes certain Christians so immune to facts?

It should go without saying that Christians shouldn’t bear false witness. It’s one of the Ten Commandments, after all: Don’t claim anything knowingly untrue about your neighbor. Don’t spread gossip, which is nearly always half-true, if not entirely untrue.

And in this present day, we have to bear in mind a lot of “news” sites are really gossip sites. Their writers didn’t bother to go to journalism school, and their publishers don’t care about journalistic standards of truthfulness and accuracy; all that crap just gets in the way of being able to publish sensational clickbait. So when they hear of something, or even just assume something’s true, they don’t bother to confirm or fact-check it. Especially when it suits their biases. Fr’instance if they don‘t like the president, they’ll publish anything which makes him look like an idiot; if they love the president, they’ll publish anything which makes him look like a saint.

So since the websites don’t practice any form of discernment, it’s kinda left up to the readers to judge whether it’s true or not. Trouble is, the readers didn’t go to journalism school either. And likewise are willing to believe anything which suits their biases.

This is why I have friends, progressives and conservatives alike, who post all sorts of stuff on social media which is objectively not true. Rumors, half-truths, gossip, lies. All of it false witness.

And they feel I’m the bad guy for saying so.

See, for some people, their worldview isn’t based on truth. It’s the other way round: The truth is based on their worldview. If a fact doesn’t suit their worldview, it can’t be a fact. If science doesn’t confirm their unsubstantiated conviction that God made the world 6,022 years ago (or even that the earth is flat!) they’re gonna refuse to believe in science. If the news reports the president did something evil, but they’re sure the president is the next best thing to the second coming, the news must be “fake news”—even when the president totally confesses to the evil he’s accused of, ’cause he doesn’t think it’s evil. Not even their favorite people can penetrate the thick wall they’ve built between their worldview and reality. Not even Jesus.

So yeah, I got no chance of getting through to them. I’ll try anyway, for a while. Some of them I gotta give up as lost causes. Pearls before swine and all that. Hopefully the Holy Spirit can crack that nut eventually.

The rest, who are receptive to correction, I gotta remind, and keep reminding: Stop bearing false witness! Check your facts.