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25 November 2019

Don’t be ashamed of Jesus.

Mark 8.34 – 9.1, Matthew 16.24-28, Luke 9.23-27.

Christianity embarrasses a lot of people.

Which I get. I have a coworker who’s one of those dark Christians who’s all about judging sinners, ’cause she thinks their sins are gonna trigger the End Times. She thinks she’s just keeping things real and telling the truth, but my other coworkers think she’s a loon. I think she’s a loon. I don’t wanna be associated with that.

Thankfully I know the difference between that particular brand of angry, blame-everybody-but-ourselves doctrine, and Christ Jesus and his gospel. So when people ask what I think, I can tell ’em I don’t believe as she does; I believe in grace. My Lord isn’t coming to earth to judge it—not for a mighty long time—but to save it. I proclaim good news, not bad.

Other Christians… well they don’t know there’s a difference between dark Christianity and Christ Jesus. Or they do, but don’t know how to articulate it. So they mute the fact they’re Christian, and hope they can pass by unnoticed.

And sometimes, just to make sure nobody guesses they’re Christian, they don’t act Christian. They’re as profane as any pagan, and get drunk or stoned and fornicate just as often. They don’t bother to produce fruit. And when Easter or Christmas rolls around, and they slip up and mention they’re going to church for the holidays, their friends and coworkers are startled: “Wait, are you a f--king Christian?” They had no idea, ’cause these folks are neither religious nor holy.

What’s Jesus think of these people? Well they embarrass him.

’Cause if we’re truly following him, if we want to follow him, we’re not gonna be like everyone else; we’re gonna stand out and be weird. Our lifestyle isn’t gonna be about what pleases us or gets us off; it’ll be about self-control and emotions under check and taking other people into consideration. It’s not gonna be about judging our neighbors, but loving them (and not in that angry way which dark Christians claim they’re actually doing). We’re gonna act like his followers, not pretend we don’t really know the guy.

And when he says stuff which rattles us, kinda like he did in the previous passage, we’re gonna deal with it, instead of pretending he never said any such thing. Everything he teaches, everything, is part of the package. Take it or leave it.

Mark 8.34-37 KWL
34 Summoning the crowd with his students, Jesus told them, “If anyone wants to follow me,
renounce yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.
35 For whoever would only want to save their soul, will wreck it.
Whoever would wreck their soul for my and the gospel’s sake: They’ll save it.
36 For what good is a person who wins the whole world and damages their soul?
37 For what might a person give in exchange for their soul?”
Matthew 16.24-26 KWL
24 Then Jesus told his students, “If anyone wants to come after me,
renounce yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.
25 For whoever would only want to save their soul, will wreck it.
Whoever would wreck their soul for my sake: They’ll find it.
26 For what will benefit a person when they win the whole world and destroy their soul?”
Luke 9.23-25 KWL
23 Jesus told everyone, “If anyone wants to come after me,
renounce yourself, pick up your cross each day, and follow me.
24 For whoever would only want to save their soul, will wreck it.
Whoever would wreck their soul for me: This person will save it.
25 For what good is a person who wins the whole world, and damages or ruins themselves?”

If the only thing you care about is your soul, by which I and Jesus mean your lifeforce, your public life, or your eternal life—if all you care about is how other people think of you, or the comforts of living an unchallenging daily existence—you’ve chosen a life without Jesus. You’re gonna get wrecked.

22 November 2019

How not to rebuke someone over the internet.

Questions? Comments? Email. But remember, my feedback policy means I can post it. Maybe even make fun of it.

Y’might notice on some of the older TXAB articles, the Disqus comments have closed. I put an expiration date on posting comments on the article itself. It’s just weird when someone comments on something years later. It’s weird when they do it on YouTube (and super annoying when it’s something inane, like “Hey, who else is watching this video in 2019?”); it’s weird when they do it anywhere. So I prevented it on this site.

But nothing can stop you from throwing me an email, so people will do that.

So I got feedback on my article, “The fear of phony peace.” Wasn’t positive. A lot of Christians believe the great tribulation is definitely gonna follow the rapture, and somehow my saying otherwise is doing people a disservice: Christians need to be prepared for… utterly escaping all the bad stuff?

Seems if we did need to be more prepared for anything, it’d be in case the rapture doesn’t precede tribulation, and we do have to live through 3½ to 7 years of suffering. In which case one of Jim Bakker’s buckets of End Times pizza would be looking pretty good pretty fast. But this person’s pretty sure my rejection of getting skyhooked out of suffering is “false doctrine.” I’ll let him say it.

So you’re saying that the antichrist wont make a peace treaty with Israel and break it after 3.5 years?

I had tremendous respect for your teaching until the fear article. You are the one deceived. I am gifted to discern right and wrong doctrine. And boy! You are wrong! No other way to say it.

I know you will try to persuade me further but don’t. I have done all the research and you are just wrong. Now you are accountable for spreading false doctrine. I admonish you to remove this garbage and get right with the Father once again. You can’t go doing that. You can’t.

Peace to you.

My response to him was, “Okay, you persuade me. Give me the scriptures.” But he didn’t respond. Likely he figured it’d be a frustrating waste of his time. Maybe so. When people are convinced we’re right (whether it’s him or me), someone who won’t accept this can get really aggravating. When he’s absolutely certain his reasoning is sound, yet I keep poking holes in it (as I was trained to)… well you can quickly see why ancient Athens decided to be rid of Socrates.

So this fellow rebuked me. Productively? Not unless you count this article, which I’m gonna use to show you how not to rebuke someone over the internet.

21 November 2019

Preaching the dictionary.

Nine years ago I visited a family member’s church. The pastor had just started a series about home-based small groups. His primary proof text came from Acts 2, namely the part where Luke described the brand-new Christians in Jerusalem, and how they got religious.

Acts 2.42-47 KWL
42 They were hewing close to the apostles’ teaching, to community, to breaking bread, and to prayers.
43 Reverence came to every soul, and many wonders and signs happened through the apostles.
44 Every believer looked out for one another, and put everything in common use:
45 They sold possessions and property, and divided proceeds among all,
just because some were needy.
46 Those who hewed close unanimously were in temple daily,
breaking bread at home, happily, generously, wholeheartedly sharing food,
47 praising God, showing grace to all people.
The Master added saved people to them daily.

He used the NLT, I believe. Its verse 46 goes like so:

Acts 2.46 NLT
They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity…

“They met in homes,” he pointed out. “The Greek word for ‘home’ is oikos.” (Yep, just like Dannon’s brand of Greek yogurt. See?—knowing Greek comes in handy. Although οἶκος is properly pronounced íkos.) “And according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, that means ‘a dwelling; by implication, a family.’ So what that verse really means is that they met as families.”

Um… no it doesn’t.

Íkos means house or home. It’s why the NLT rendered it as “homes.” It’s why most bibles render it that way. It’s what anybody who took Greek 101 understands it to mean; íkos is one of the first words we learn, appears in the Greek New Testament 112 times (114 in the Textus Receptus), and it’s a really easy concept. Hence bible translators aren’t being inexact when they render it “house” or “home.” They know what they’re doing. It’s why bible publishers, and bible translation committees, hire ’em.

If “They met as families” were a better translation, you’d see it translated that way in most bibles. If it was a valid alternate translation, you’d see it translated that way in at least one bible. But check out all the different English translations on Bible Gateway, and you’ll find not one translator decided, “Y’know, íkos really means ‘family,’ so let’s go with that.”

So why’d this pastor make this claim? ’Cause he wants the Christians of his church to meet together in one another’s homes, and be family together. Which is a great idea! It’s precisely what church is meant to be. It’s just he was trying to prove it by misusing a Greek dictionary, and wow his congregation by dropping on them a secret, cryptic meaning of íkos which they’d never heard before. Wow, “home” really means “family”!

And yeah, in certain contexts it can mean that. Like Joseph being of David’s house, Lk 1.27, 2.4 or when Paul told his Corinthian guard he and his “whole house” would be saved. Ac 16.31 In these instances it meant family. But all translation depends on context. If it didn’t—if every instance of íkos means family—then let’s talk about Solomon building the LORD a house, Ac 7.47 and do try to not sound ridiculous.

20 November 2019

Expository preaching… if that’s what’s even happening.

EXPOUND ɪk'spaʊnd verb. Present and explain (a theory or idea) systematically and in detail.
2. Explain the meaning of (a literary or doctrinal work).
[Exposition ɛk.spə'zɪʃ.(ə)n noun, expository ɪk'spɑ.zɪ.tɔ.ri adjective, expositor ɪk'spɑ.zə.dər noun.]

I regularly run into this situation: People like to compliment their favorite preachers by calling them “great expositors.” Apparently they’ve learned exposition is the very best way to preach, so when they like certain preachers, that’s what they call ’em.

And once again, this is one of those situations where I gotta quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride.

Giphy

’Cause I listen to these preachers for myself, and find they’re not great expositors. Or even expositors.

Oh, they can preach. They have outstanding abilities as public speakers. They know how to keep their listeners’ attention. Some of ’em have even done their homework, and teach the scriptures admirably. But expositors? Nope.

They get called “expositors” because they’ll go verse-by-verse through a bible passage. They start with verse 1, and talk about it a bit. (Or a lot.) Then verse 2. Then verse 3. And so on. They’re a series of talks, each of ’em prefaced by a verse. Because the preacher does quote every single verse in a passage, people think this is what makes a sermon expository.

Nope. What makes it expository is they expound on the verses. They have to actually analyze and explain what every verse means. Preferably in detail. And their message has to be about explaining what it means.

Whereas most of these “expository” sermons are really just preachers quoting bible, then using the bible verses to riff about the topics they wanna talk about. Whether these topics have anything to do with the verses they just quoted. Sometimes they do. Sometimes not so much.

19 November 2019

Nontheists and prayer.

Whenever you talk prayer with a nontheist or antichrist, they’re gonna scoff at you because they’re entirely sure you’re praying to no one.

You only imagine you’re praying to someone, they insist. You only think God answered your prayers, but it’s just coincidence; or you’re selectively reinterpreting “signs” from nature and claiming they’re God-things. You’re only pretending that’s God’s voice in your head talking back to you; it’s really your own. You want so bad for God to be real, for prayer to be valid, for Christianity to be true, you’ve psyched yourself into everything. But it’s pure self-delusion.

Yeah, sometimes I talk with some people, so I’ve heard their condescending explanations before. They’d probably work on me… if there was no such thing as confirmation. Test the bloody spirits! 1Jn 4.1

See, when I think God’s told me something, I don’t just run with it. I’m patient. I double-check. ’Cause we’re supposed to double-check. Not double-checking is how Christians wind up doing some dumb stuff, insisting God’s behind it, and wondering why on earth none of the things they think God told them actually come to anything. Duh; it wasn’t actually God! Remember all that stuff our hypothetical nontheists said about about prayer? Totally true in these presumptuous Christians’ cases: They psyched themselves into thinking God spoke to them, but they never confirmed it’s really him. Turns out it’s really not.

It’s why there are a lot of Christians stumbling around, claiming God told ’em this or that, and no he didn’t. It’s also why the nontheists and antichrists mock them: It totally confirms them, and their godless beliefs.

So we Christians gotta wise up. God does talk to us, and regularly answers prayer, but if you wanna know it’s truly him, you gotta prove it.

And once you can prove it, you can answer these nontheists: “I know it’s God ’cause I spoke with a fellow Christian, and God told him the very same thing he told me, and there’s no way we could coincidentally guess the same thing.” Or “I know it’s God ’cause I asked him for something ridiculously specific, and he came through; there’s no way I coincidentally got what I wished for.”

Oh, I’m not saying it’ll convince them they’re wrong. It won’t. Their minds are closed. But it’ll make ’em fumble a bit, ’cause they never ever expected you to point to objective, concrete evidence. They weren’t taught to expect such things when they learned atheist apologetics. (Yes, there’s totally such a thing as atheist apologetics. Why do you think they all use the same uninspired arguments? For the very same reason we wind up using all the same uninspired arguments.) Nontheists presume, since most Christians don’t do objective evidence, none of us do. Show ’em otherwise.