Posts

There’s not just one list of the Spirit’s fruit!

Image
When we Christians wanna list the Spirit’s fruit, most of the time we go off the Paul’s list in Galatians.Galatians 5.22-24 KWL22 The Spirit’s fruit is: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness.Goodness. Faith. 23 Gentleness. Self-governance.The Law isn’t contrary to any such thing.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus, crucify our flesh with its impulses and desires.We might go with alternate translations of some of these words, like longsuffering and temperance and faithfulness (which is a really inaccurate interpretation of πίστις/pístis, “faith”). But generally yeah, that’s the proof text we memorize, wear T-shirts of, tattoo on our wrists… and don’t follow ’cause we think fruit grows spontaneously.But I gotta keep reminding people it’s not a comprehensive list. The Spirit produces more fruit in us than that. And elsewhere in the bible, you’re gonna find other lists of his fruit.Colossians 3.12-15 KWL12 So like God’s chosen and beloved children, put on:Compassionate mercy. Kindness. Hum…

How often ought we pray?

Image
Ask any Christian, and we’ll likely admit we don’t pray as often as we ought.Well, nuns, monks, and the people who staff prayer rooms, might be exceptions. Yet even some of them will admit they oughta pray more. Why is this? Well, some of it is because it’s true: We could pray more than we do.For a lot of folks, other than saying grace, they don’t pray daily. Or they pray maybe two or three minutes a day… then beat themselves up for not praying 10 minutes a day. Or 30. Or an hour. Or even longer.Okay. For a moment, let’s stop doing that and seriously think: How long does God reasonably expect us to talk with him?Why should every Christian prayer become as long as the longest phone conversations you could possibly have with your friends? (And considering how much of these conversations consist of really dumb, frivolous, irrelevant stuff, should our prayers ever become that dumb?)Much of the reason a lot of Christians have this idea of prayer as a marathon race, comes from this simple l…

Bad theology: When it’s not based on revelation.

Image
The starting point of theology is revelation, the stuff God reveals to us.Problem is, not everybody agrees. They think the starting point is us: We have questions about God, the universe, whether we can have a relationship with God (or at least get stuff out of him), death and the afterlife, good and evil and karma, and salvation. And people figure theology is when we seek answers to these questions, and get wise-sounding answers from the smartest gurus. Or even become a guru ourselves, ’cause guruing doesn’t look all that hard.Yep, even Christians do it. Years ago, at another church, my pastors began to invite a lot of clever guest speakers to come preach to us. These guys would regularly tell us what they think they’ve figured out about God. Some ideas were based on actual personal experiences with God—which I’m not knocking, but I wanna remind you our God-experiences need to be confirmedlong before we start developing ’em into theology. These guys were not so scrupulous. They felt …

Candlemas: Remembering when Jesus got presented in temple.

Image
In Leviticus the LORD told Moses the following.Leviticus 12.1-8 KWL1 The LORD told Moses, 2“When you speak to Israel’s children, say,This is about a woman who conceives and bears a male.She’s ritually unclean seven days, just like she’s unclean during the days of her period.3On the eighth day, circumcise the flesh of the baby’s foreskin.4Have the mother sit 33 days, for purification from blood.She mustn’t touch anything holy, can’t come to sanctuary, till her purification days are full.5If she bears a female, she’s unclean two weeks, like her period;have her sit 66 days, for purification from blood.6When the mother’s purification days are full, for a son or daughter,she must bring a lamb, born that year, for a burnt offering,and a pigeon chick, or dove, for a sin offering.Bring them to the meeting tent’s door, to the priest.7The priest offers it to the LORD’s face, to cover the mother.She’s now ritually clean from her bloodflow.This law is for any woman who begets male or female.8If t…

Proselytism: Don’t force Jesus upon people!

Image
PROSELYTIZE'prɑs(.ə).lət.aɪzverb. (Try to) convert someone from one belief to another.[Proselyte 'prɑs.ə.laɪtnoun, proselytism 'prɑs(.ə).lət.ɪz.əmnoun.]From time to time, when we Christians share the good news of Christ Jesus with other people, we get accused of “proselytizing.”It’s one of those words which, to quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess BrideGiphyProperly, to proselytize means as we see in the definition above: You’re trying to convert someone. And you’ve not made it an option: They must become Christian. They will become Christian. You’re gonna try every tactic you can to make it so. You’ll promise outrageous things, you’ll fudge a few details, you’ll threaten ’em with hell. Whatever it takes.Forced conversions, hard sales pitches, and death threats (and hell threats) are all definitely forms of proselytism. Is that really what we’re doing?Well… sometimes it is. And it should never be. God’s kingdom runs on grace, and if our presentation of the gospel ever tu…

Fruit doesn’t grow spontaneously.

Image
Fruit of the Spirit is the product of cultivation. If we actively follow the Holy Spirit, if we seek his direction and adopt his attitudes, in short order we’re gonna share his attitudes.And if we passively just figure, “I’m Christian, so I’m going to heaven, so I’m good,” we’re not cultivating a thing. We’re not producing fruit. We’re the same selfish people we’ve always been. Maybe with a few Christianese labels slapped onto our bad behavior in order to justify it to ourselves, but ’tain’t fooling God any.Sadly that’s the default in Christianity. Lot of fruitless Christians out there. We figure since we don’t earn our salvation, we don’t need to work for anything. We can just sit on our widening western rear ends, do no heavy lifting whatsoever, and God will do all the work.Instead of resisting temptation and obeying God’s commands, we do cheap grace.Instead of demonstrating we’re Christians by our love, Jn 13.35 we demonstrate it by rattling off our statements of faith.Instead of p…

“Fasting” from one thing at a time.

Image
When it comes to fasting, many Christians wanna know what’s the very least we can fast for it to “count.”Two thoughts.First of all I gotta make sure they’re not fasting for the wrong reasons. We’re not obligated to fast: God never commanded it, and we’re not disobeying him when we skip a fast, break a fast, “cheat” on a fast, or diet instead of fasting. True, our churches might want us to fast, and legalistic churches will even require it. But unless you swore to God you’d fast along with ’em, you’re not sinning if you don’t fast. (And of course lying about it, or pretending you’re fasting when you’re not, is always wrong.)Likewise I don’t want people to think we fast so we can earn karmic points with God. Again, he never obligates us to fast. It’s a practice we do. It helps us focus on him in prayer, and helps us develop self-control. (And even if God did order us to fast, he doesn’t “owe us” when we obey; that’s our duty. Lk 17.10 What, did you not receive enough trophies for partic…

Karma: How we imagine the universe seeks justice.

Image
Matthew 5.38-42, Luke 6.29-31.KARMA'kɑr.mənoun. The sum of one’s deeds in this life (and previous lives), used to decide one’s fate in future lives or the afterlife.2. The sum of one’s deeds in this life, used to decide one’s fate in this life.3. One’s destiny or fate, seen as the result of one’s deeds.[Karmic 'kɑr.mɪkadjective.]Karma is a Hindi word, from the Sanskrit karman, “fate.” Because Hindus and other eastern religions believe in reincarnation, karma has to do with why you’re born into your particular family, class, comfort level, or caste: You deserved it. Not from anything you did in this life; it’s the actions of your previous life, and when you got reborn, the universe assigned you to the place you deserved. If you were good in your previous life, now you’ve been rewarded with a blessed life; if your life sucks, it’s your own fault for being bad in your past lives. Be good now, and maybe next time you’ll be born into a better caste. ’Cause evil means the universe w…

Revelation: The starting point of theology.

Image
REVELATIONrɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃənnoun. A previously unknown fact (about God), often surprising or dramatic.2. (God’s) act of making the unknown known.3. [capitalized] the last book of the New Testament; Christ Jesus’s apocalypses of the future, given to John of Patmos.[Reveal rə'vilverb, revelator 'rɛ.vəl.eɪt.ərnoun, revelatory 'rə.vɛl.ə.tɔ.riadjective, revelational rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃ(ə)n.(ə)ladjective.]When I first taught theology, I found whenever I talk about revelation, Christians nearly always assume I’m talking about the book. (And half the time they think it’s Revelations, with an -s. And half that time, when they write it out, they put an apostrophe on the -s for no reason. Don’t get me started about the overuse of apostrophes.)Revelation, no -s, is anything God reveals to us humans. That’s all it is. If God tells you to put a sweater on ’cause it’s gonna be chilly outside, that’s revelation. God revealed it to you. Simple, right?And of course we humans overcomplicate the i…