Posts

Jesus explains Elijah’s second coming.

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Mark 9.9-13, Matthew 17.9-13, Luke 9.36. In the previous passage, Jesus took his students up a hill, where they saw him transform into a glowing being, and Moses and Elijah appeared to have a chat with him. Various Christians love to interpret this as Jesus showing off his divinity; I prefer the alternative idea that this is a ὅραμα / órama , “vision,” Mt 17.9 of the glory of God’s kingdom, as indicated by Jesus in the verse right before the transfiguration story. Probably because this vision is so open to utter misinterpretation, Jesus decided to have his kids keep it to themselves for a while, just till the context of his own resurrection helped make it make sense. Mark 9.9-10 KWL 9 As they were going down the hill, Jesus commanded the students so no one who saw these visions would describe them till the Son of Man might rise from the dead. 10 The students kept this word to themselves— though arguing, “What’s ‘to rise from the dead’ mean ?”   Matthew 17

Who decides what’s orthodox and what’s not?

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I’m involved in a few different discussion groups. In one, the subject of Darbyism came up: One of the members is a Darbyist and wanted a shout-out from all his fellow Darbyists in the group. Turns out most of us aren’t Darbyist at all; in fact a number of us consider Darbyism to be unbiblical and faithless. I’m pretty sure he was surprised, if not horrified, at the non-support. Of course, among all the expressions of non-support, one newbie went even further and declared Darybism is heresy. There he went too far, and got a little backlash himself—some of it from the same folks who take issue with Darbyism. ’Cause Darbyism is wrong —often profoundly so—but not heresy . We mustn’t throw around the H-word so casually. But of course many don’t know the difference between wrong and heresy , and sometimes think there is no difference: Heresy is whenever we get something wrong, and everything wrong is heresy. Getting the trinity wrong is heresy… and so is mispronouncing “Habakku

Valentine’s Day acrostics.

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Probably the first time I saw one of those John 3.16 Valentine acrostics was back in 2012. It’s where somebody took all the letters in “Valentine,” found ’em within an English translation of the verse, and arranged it so we can “see” John 3.16 is God’s valentine to the world. Like so. The gospel according to graphic designers. Pinterest Aww. Now I don’t need syrup for my waffles. I see internet posters like this all the time. I even make some of ’em. Some of these things are inspiring or clever or well-designed. I also appreciate it when Christians quote the bible properly. But some designers aren’t so conscientious, and some Christians are mighty gullible. They don’t read their bibles, y’see. They’re not gonna read their bibles, either; they’re never gonna fact-check an internet poster, find out the scripture’s been misquoted, or that the sentiment or inspirational saying actually isn’t biblical. They leave that to killjoys like me. I don’t have an issue with laying

Tracts: How to share Jesus with handouts.

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TRACT trækt noun . Short written work in pamphlet form, typically on a religious subject. By “tract” I mean any booklet, broadside, brochure, card, handout, invitation, flyer, pamphlet, or poster, which introduces the gospel to people. And there’s nothing wrong with using ’em to share Jesus. Certain Christians object to tracts. Commonly because of the contents of the tracts themselves. I’ve seen plenty which are ridiculous, inaccurate, or even offensive. I certainly don’t wanna hand out those types of tracts; I don’t wanna be associated with foolishness, error, and slander, or make people think Christ Jesus has anything to do with such things. Plenty enough of that in Christendom as it is. One argument I’ve heard against tracts, is they’re impersonal. These folks claim the way to share Jesus is to make personal connections with fellow human beings, then introduce them to the person of Jesus. But a tract does no such thing. It kinda reduces a living relationship with our a

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