Posts

Angry prayers.

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IMPRECATE 'ɪm.prə.keɪt verb. Call down evil upon. [Imprecation ɪm.prə'keɪ.ʃən noun , imprecatory ɪm'prək.ə.tɔ.ri adjective ] Yep, there’s a whole category of prayer which is all about people letting loose their rage as they pray. Not because they’re angry with God—although sometimes they might be! But commonly they’re furious at other people, at human behavior, or at Satan itself. So they call down God’s wrath, or put curses on people and things, or otherwise condemn ’em. I started with a definition of the old-timey word Christians use to describe such things: Imprecatory prayer . (Not everyone knows how to pronounce it properly.) It’s a nicer way of saying “angry prayer.” And lest you think God doesn’t allow, or listen to, angry prayer: Nope, he permits it. Angry prayers are in the bible. There’s a bunch of ’em in Psalms . ’Cause sometimes King David’s enemies would piss him off, so he’d declare God was gonna do all sorts of savage things to ’em. God didn’

The transfiguration of Jesus.

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Mark 9.2-8, Matthew 17.1-8, Luke 9.28-36. Jesus’s transfiguration refers to the day he took three of his students up a hill for prayer, and started glowing like a space alien, two Old Testament prophets showed up to chat with him, and the Father Almighty ordered the kids to listen to him—freaking them out, as it would pretty much anyone who saw such a thing. It’s a story which confuses a lot of Christians. We teach Jesus is totally God, yet at the same time totally human. Problem is, Christians read this story and ditch all the ideas about him being totally human. I’ve even heard one pastor call this story “When Jesus took off his human suit”—as if his humanity is just a costume Jesus could unzip and climb out of, like aliens in certain Doctor Who episodes, or the devil in this one extremely stupid End Times movie. Theologians call it “God incognito.” It’s not just a Latin word; we have incognito in English too. When you’re incognito , you’re going by a secret identity,

Orthodoxy: Getting our theological ducks in a row.

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ORTHODOX 'ɔr.θə.dɑks adjective. Correct; conforms to what’s commonly or traditionally believed true; generally accepted as right. 2. Usual, conventional, normal, customary. 3. [ capitalized ] Of the ancient churches originating in the eastern Roman Empire, which formally split from the Roman Catholics in 1054. [Orthodoxy 'ɔr.θə.dɑks.i noun. ] Christianity is primarily about trusting and following Christ Jesus. We read what he taught, agree with him, and do as he said; we join his kingdom, with him as our king. An important secondary thing (and you just know people miss the point and turn it into the primary thing) is what we believe about Jesus. How we understand him, and who we understand him to be, are mighty important things. ’Cause when we misunderstand who Jesus is, we follow him wrong. Aren’t even following him at all, in many cases: We’re following an imaginary Jesus who looks a lot more like us, and our biases and prejudices… or who looks more lik

Evangelism… in a “Christian nation.”

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There’s a myth going round the United States that we Christians are a tiny, oppressed minority, shrinking all the time thanks to the insidious forces of paganism and nontheism in our secular culture. It’s rubbish. And I know; Christians don’t wanna believe it’s rubbish. A lot of us are deeply invested in the idea the world’s only getting worse… and they believe Jesus will intervene once it’s the worst it can be. (Whereas I don’t believe he’s forced to wait for us to get depraved enough; he’ll return whenever he wants. ) But statistics don’t confirm their deeply-held beliefs. True, the percentage of Americans who identify as Christian is going down. The Pew Research Center pegged it at 65 percent in 2019. But that’s just pagans who believed themselves Christian, recognizing they’re really not. They’re coming out of the closet. As for me, I share Jesus with people, like every Christian should. Most often by chatting with strangers in coffeehouses, but sometimes I’ve gone doo

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

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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 KWL 22 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 KWL 12 So like God’s chosen and beloved childr

How often ought we pray?

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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, c

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

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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 confirmed long before we start developing ’em into theology. These guys were not so sc

Candlemas: Remembering when Jesus got presented in temple.

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In Leviticus the L ORD told Moses the following. Leviticus 12.1-8 KWL 1 The L ORD 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. 3 On the eighth day, circumcise the flesh of the baby’s foreskin. 4 Have the mother sit 33 days, for purification from blood. She must n’t touch anything holy, can’t come to sanctuary, till her purification days are full. 5 If she bears a female, she’s unclean two weeks, like her period; have her sit 66 days, for purification from blood. 6 When 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. 7 The priest offers it to the L ORD ’s face, to cover the mother . She’s now ritually clean from

Proselytism: Don’t force Jesus upon people!

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PROSELYTIZE 'prɑs(.ə).lət.aɪz verb. (Try to) convert someone from one belief to another. [Proselyte 'prɑs.ə.laɪt noun , proselytism 'prɑs(.ə).lət.ɪz.əm noun .] 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 Bride … Giphy Properly, 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