Posts

Jesus wants us Christians to be fruity.

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Yes, I know what “fruity” tends to mean in our culture. No, I don’t care. I’m taking the word back. Fruity fruity fruity. Fruit is a metaphor we see all over the New Testament for behavior. The way Christ Jesus describes it, if you’re a good tree, you produce good fruit, and a rotten tree produces bad fruit. I’ll quote him: Luke 6.43-45 KWL 43 “For a good tree doesn’t grow rotten fruit, nor a rotten tree grow good fruit: 44 Each tree is known by its own fruit. You don’t gather figs from thistles. You don’t reap grape bunches from thornbushes. 45 The good person brings up good things from the good treasury of a good mind. The evil brings up evil things out of an evil mind . From the mind’s overflow, their mouth speaks.” His apostle Paul didn’t care to even call bad behavior “fruit,” preferring to call ’em “works of the flesh.” Ga 5.19 But the scriptures’ general idea is there’s good fruit and bad. People are fruity in one way or the other. And if we’re truly f

Why do Christians fast?

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Y’know, if fasting weren’t in the bible, we’d have invented it as yet another health fad. Like juice cleanses, or probiotic foods, or making sure everything is gluten-free. (Although it’s ridiculous to see so many product labels now say “gluten-free” on them. Dude, we already know beef jerky is gluten-free… or do we? Have you been secretly adding wheat this whole time?) Anyway you know some lifestyle guru would make a YouTube video, “The food-free diet,” and there ya go. Surprised it hasn’t happened yet. Of course it is in the bible… which puts it at risk of becoming the opposite problem, where people straight-up refuse to fast because it’s “an Old Testament thing.” Because it’s part of God’s old covenant with the Hebrews which Jesus supposedly voided. Because Jesus even appears to have dismissed fasting as irrelevant: Mark 2.19-20 KWL 19 Jesus told them, “Is the wedding party able to fast when the groom’s with them? So long that they have the groom with them, they’r

Backsliding: We all do it.

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BACKSLIDE 'bæk.slaɪd verb . Relapse into bad ways or error. [Backslider 'bæk.slaɪ.dər noun ] The idea behind backsliding is the road to sanctification isn’t level; it’s uphill. A bit of a climb, too. Paved with gravel instead of asphalt, so on the particularly steep parts, the ground’s gonna slip under your feet a little, especially if you’re standing still. It’s the natural consequence of gravity, so you can’t just stand still. You have to keep moving! So yeah, in this metaphor the gravitational pull represents our natural tendency towards self-centeredness and sin. If we drop the effort to climb towards Christ—even for a second —we’re gonna backslide. Now. If the pursuit of Christ is really like this, we Christians oughta be way more gracious and sympathetic to backsliders than we are. I used to hike several times a week, and on every hill there’s always backsliding. On wet days, even with the best shoes, you can always make a misstep and fall on your face.

The kingdom of God. Or kingdom of heaven. Same thing.

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The central belief of Christianity is God’s kingdom. I know; you thought it was Jesus, didja? Most Christians do. He’s the king of this kingdom; Christ means Messiah , which is one of the many titles of Israel’s king. But you’ll notice Jesus, when he preached the gospel, didn’t say he was the good news: The kingdom is. Mark 1.14-15 KWL 14 After John’s arrest, Jesus went into the Galilee preaching God’s gospel, 15 saying this: “The time has been fulfilled. God’s kingdom has come near. Repent! Believe in the gospel!” I know; most folks who say they proclaim “the gospel,” or claim they preach “the gospel,” don’t define the gospel that way. They claim it’s the sacrificial death of Jesus: He saved us, and that’s the gospel. It’s actually not. Don’t get me wrong. Salvation is totally important. ’Cause without it, we’d never have access to God’s kingdom, much less inherit it. But salvation’s only the introduction to the gospel. It’s the part which explains why God bo

Religious. Not “spiritual.”

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Happy new year. At the beginning of the year I figure it’s not a bad idea to remind readers the point of The Christ Almighty Blog . (Or TXAB for short.) Remind myself too; I’ve seen many a blog where it began as one thing and evolved into another. God forbid, TXAB could warp into yet another blog where I’m bitterly ranting about Christian misbehavior. Plenty enough of those as it is. TXAB is about following Jesus the Nazarene and his teachings. Since he’s our God-anointed king— or Messiah or Christ —we Christ-followers get called Christians . Though every once in a while some snobbish Christian insists, “No, not Christian; I want to be called a Christ-follower,” and once again we risk turning TXAB into a rant about Christian misbehavior. To be fair, the Christ-follower has a point. Christian quite often means a Christ- fan . Someone who really likes Jesus, claims to love him (or at least love Jesus as they imagine him ), yet doesn’t follow him any. Such people conform t

St. Stephen, and true martyrdom.

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St. Stephen’s Day falls on 26 December, the second day of Christmas. Not that we know Stephen died on this day; it’s just where western tradition happened to put it. In eastern churches it’s tomorrow, 27 December. (And if they’re still using the old Julian calendar, it’s 9 January to us.) In some countries it’s an official holiday. You may remember Στέφανος / Stéfanos “Stephen” from Acts 6-7 . Yep, he’s that St. Stephen. In the ancient Hebrew culture, tithes weren’t money, but food. Every year you took 10 percent of your firstfruits and celebrated with it; Dt 14.22-27 every third year you gave it to the needy. Dt 14.28-29 Apparently the first Christians took on the duty of distributing tithes to the needy. But they were accused of favoring Aramaic-speaking Christians over Greek-speaking ones. Ac 6.1 So the Twelve had the church elect seven Greek-speakers to take over the job. Ac 6.2-3 Stephen was first in this list, and Acts’ author Luke pointedly called him full of

Amen!

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AMEN ɑ.mɛn, eɪ.mɛn exclamation. Utterance of support or agreement. Amen probably comes from the Hebrew verb אָמַן / amán , “to support, assure, trust.” Sorta the Hebrews’ way of replying, “True.” For the most part, we Christians use amen as a way to end our prayers. Like when you say “goodbye” on a phone conversation, or “over and out” on a radio conversation. My childhood Sunday school teachers even described it as “hanging up.” Custom is, we gotta finish our prayers with amen. Or the popular incantation “ In Jesus Name amen.” Or, if you want everyone else in the room to say amen along with you: “And all God’s people said…” (or “the church said,” or “we all said”) at which everyone was conditioned to reply, “Amen.” Sometimes the three-syllable “A-a-men.” As you know, some Christian customs are more than just traditions: We gotta do them. They’re virtually commands. If you don’t end a prayer with amen, it confuses people. Wanna really throw off your prayer group? Next

One who brings justice to the gentiles.

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Isaiah 42.1-4, Matthew 12.14-20. After Jesus cured the man with the paralyzed hand, this happened. Matthew 12.14-20 KWL 14 Going out, the Pharisees took a meeting about this—so they could have Jesus destroyed. 15 Jesus, who knew this , left there, and a great crowd followed him; he had cured them all. 16 Jesus had rebuked them, lest they reveal what he might do 17 so that he might fulfill the word from the prophet Isaiah, saying, 18 “Look at my servant whom I chose, my beloved. My soul approves of him. I put my Spirit in him, and he’ll bring justice to the gentiles. 19 He won’t struggle or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. 20 He won’t split a broken reed, won’t extinguish smoking linen, till he can issue justice in victory. 21 Gentiles will put their hope in his name.” Is 42.1-4 Since Matthew quotes Isaiah and says Jesus fulfilled it, Christians presume this particular part of Isaiah is a messianic prophecy; that it’s specific

Before you go book shopping…

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This Christmas, some of you are getting gift cards or gift certificates. I regularly get Starbucks cards—which is great, ’cause that’s exactly what I want. I’ll definitely use ’em. Yes, I’m at Starbucks as I write this. Anyway, some of these gift cards will be for bookstores. Maybe Amazon, maybe not. And as Christians who wanna get religious about our relationships with Jesus, some of us are likely thinking of buying Christian books and resources, and stuff that’ll help us get better at Christianity. I know I do. And, when I was newly devout, I wasted a bunch of money on stuff that really didn’t do any of those things. Likely so will you. We all do. Our zealousness overtakes our wallets. But hold on there, little buckaroo: Don’t get all fired up to ride off an’ lasso some steer, ’cause you might just wind up with some bull. If you go to a brick ’n mortar Christian bookstore, first thing you’re gonna notice is they sell an awful lot of “Jesus junk.” And bibles; most of their

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 12.1-7. SUPERNATURAL su.pər'nætʃ(.ə).rəl noun. Event caused by (or credited to) some force beyond scientific understanding, beyond natural laws. If you wanna get technical, whenever anyone interferes with the natural course of events, it’s more-than-natural; it’s super -natural. Fr’instance if I put plastic pink flamingos in the front yard. They aren’t the product of Mommy plastic flamingo and Daddy plastic flamingo loving one another very much, and giving one another a special kind of “hug.” Nor did they sprout up from the ground like mutant orchids. Somebody —really a whole bunch of somebodies—drilled for petroleum, extracted the plastic, colored it pink, molded it into a flamingo shape, lost all sense of what’s appropriate for lawn ornaments, bought them, and placed them there. Didn’t happen naturally. But we tend to call this behavior unnatural , not supernatural. Typically we save the term “supernatural” for stuff which apparently wasn’t done by

The seven deadly sins.

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The “seven deadly sins” confuse a lot of people. Back in 2008, a rumor spread that the Vatican declared more deadly sins. It came from an interview with Gianfranco Girotti, the head bishop of the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary. (I know; this sounds like the Vatican prison. It’s actually the theologians who handle questions about sin, repentance, and forgiveness.) Anyway, in Girotti’s interview with L’Osservatore Romano on 7 March 2008, he listed certain present-day practices which he believed have a harmful global impact: Pollution, drug trafficking, embryo-destroying research, other unethical human experiments, abortion, pedophilia, and economic injustice. Somehow the press converted this into “The Vatican announced there are new sins!” And since your average reporter (lapsed Catholics included) know bupkis about the seven deadly sins, they just assumed there are now 14 deadly sins. Now littering is gonna send you to hell. Like I said, they confuse people. Most people