Posts

The street-corner show-off.

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Matthew 6.5-6.Throughout history people have prayed publicly for various reasons. Some noble, some not.And a regular problem throughout history has been the person who gets up and prays publicly, not because they legitimately wanna talk with God, or call to him for help. It’s because they wanna be seen praying. They wanna look religious. Usually so they can look more religious than they actually are. In other words hypocrisy.Nothing annoys Jesus like hypocrisy, which is why he tries to discourage his followers from doing this. Although you know some of us do this anyway.Matthew 6.5-6 KWL5“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites who enjoy standing in synagogues and major intersections,praying so they might be seen by the people. Amen! I promise you all, they got their satisfaction.6When you pray, go into your most private room with the door closed.Pray to your Father in private. Your Father, who sees what’s private, will satisfy you.”Standing was how the ancients prayed. They didn’t kn…

When the unclean spirit leaves a person…

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Matthew 12.38-45 • Luke 11.24-26.Previously I wrote about how some Sadducees and Pharisees in Dalmanuthá approached Jesus demanding a sign, and Jesus’s response was to say they’d get the Jonah sign, and nothing more.But Matthew has a second version of this story, where Pharisee scribes approached him for a sign, and Jesus likewise said they’d get no more than the Jonah sign—then tacked on an odd little story about an evil spirit leaving a person, and coming back later. Luke tacks this lesson to when people accused Jesus of throwing out evil spirits with Satan’s power, and it seems to fit rather well there. It’s a little more odd when this lesson is placed together with the people who requested a sign.People who are fascinated with evil spirits and demons—and paranoid about the possibility of being possessed by these creatures—have spent the past 20 centuries trying to glean information from this bit about how devils work.I’ve decided to include Jesus’s Matthew statement so you can see…

“What’s God’s secret, evil plan for my life?”

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In seminary I was introduced to the Calvinist idea God has two wills. Sometimes it’s called a “twofold will.” (As if that doesn’t also make him sound a little schizophrenic.)There’s the will he’s revealed to everybody in the bible. This’d be found in the Law, expounded upon in the Prophets, interpreted by Jesus’s teachings and the apostles’ instructions. It’s the stuff he expects us, his followers, to do. So get out that bible, look it up, and obey.But there’s apparently a second will: God’s plan for the whole of creation.From the time he first made the world, to the point he’s gonna restore it, to our infinite eternal future with him, God’s set a plan in place for everything. But unlike the first will—the one he revealed to everybody—God hasn’t revealed this second will. Oh, he revealed he has a plan. He just hasn’t told us any of its details. It’s none of our business. True, if he feels like it, he may sometimes choose to reveal bits and pieces of the plan to his prophets, just to l…

The storehouse of merit?

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“Treasure in heaven” does not mean your accumulated good karma.Jesus tells us to stash our wealth in heaven. Actually he said it this way:Matthew 6.19-21 KWL19“Don’t hoard wealth for yourselves on earth,where moths and corrosion ruin it, where thieves dig it up and steal it.20Hoard wealth for yourselves in heaven,where neither moth nor corrosion ruins, where thieves don’t dig, nor steal:21Where’s your wealth? Your mind will be there too.”If our wealth consists of material possessions—like homes, cars, electronics, jewelry, cash—we waste way too much time stressing about its upkeep and safety. We hoard more, “just in case.” We encourage laws and business practices which let us keep our wealth… and, all too frequently, aren’t charitable with others. The love of money becomes the underlying cause of all sorts of evil. 1Ti 6.10Thing is, people skip this whole idea of de-prioritizing material wealth, and focus on the idea of treasures in heaven. Which, because humanity believes in karma, i…

Demanding a sign from Jesus, and getting the Jonah sign.

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Mark 8.10-13 • Matthew 12.38-42, 16.1-4.I grew up among cessationists, folks who think God has multiple dispensations, and think he turned off the miracles in the dispensation we’re in. Which is a hard view to maintain, ’cause God still totally does miracles. But they try; they insist their anti-supernatural doctrines are more important than God’s revelation. They know better than he does—although they’d never ever phrase it that way.So whenever they wanted to defend their worldview, they’d pull up this passage, and spin it to mean Jesus rejected and rebuked miracles. Even though he did miracles. Even though he deliberately did miracles as signs to foster belief. Even though God did ’em all the time to foster belief. It was the entire point of the first miracles Moses ever did!Exodus 4.1-9 KWL1 In reply Moses said, “Look, the Hebrewswon’t believe me, won’t hear my voice:They’ll say, ‘The LORD didn’t appear to you.’2 The LORD told Moses, “What’s this in your hand?”Moses said, “A stick.…