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666, the Beast’s number.

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In Revelation John was given an apocalyptic vision of two animals. The first is a leopard with bear paws, seven heads, and 10 horns; and it fights the saints and gets the people of earth to worship it. Christian popular culture tends to call it the Beast, as the KJV translates θηρίον / thiríon ; or the Antichrist, ’cause too many of us speculate it’ll claim to be Christ. (Even though Revelation says no such thing. Go look.) The second animal has horns like a lamb, performs “miracles” in support of the first animal, and forces everyone to worship the first animal and its talking ikon. And this: Revelation 13.16-18 KWL 16 It made it so everyone—small and great, rich and poor, freemen and slaves— might give themselves a stamp on their right hand, or on their forehead. 17 Thus no one was able to buy nor sell unless they had the stamp: The first animal’s name, or the number of its name. 18 Here’s some wisdom: Those with a brain, calculate the animal’s number. It’s

The Spirit empowers us to speak.

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Mark 13.9-10, Matthew 10.17-20, Luke 21.12-15. When Jesus warned his students about the coming tribulation in his Olivet Discourse, he told ’em he (or the Holy Spirit, depending on the gospel) would have their back when it came time to testify before kings and leaders. He put it this way. Mark 13.9-11 KWL 9 “ Now look at you yourselves. They’ll turn you in to the Senate. They’ll cane you in synagogues. They’ll stand you before leaders and kings because of me, to witness to them. 10 You have to first declare the gospel to all the gentiles. 11 When they turn you in, don’t premeditate what you might say: Instead whatever’s given you at that hour, say it, for you aren’t speaking; the Holy Spirit is .”   Matthew 10.17-20 KWL 17 “Watch out for the people: They’ll turn you in to the Senate and their synagogues. They’ll flog you. 18 They’ll take you to leaders and kings because of me, to testify to them and the gentiles. 19 When they turn you in, don’t worry abo

Prophecy and preaching.

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Prophecy is when we hear God and share with others what we heard. It’s not a complicated definition. It only gets complicated when people don’t wanna define it that way. When they wanna claim prophecy is only for the very, very few (not every Christian, like Joel described Jl 2.28-29 ); that it’s a special office, and they’re one of the few officeholders, so heed them. Or when they wanna claim prophecy ended in bible times ’cause God has since turned off the miracles. Today I’m dealing with the second group, the cessationists. And if prophecy is when we share what we heard from God, but nobody hears God anymore… are there prophets anymore? Can there be prophets anymore? Some’ll say no. Which is a problematic belief. If there’s no such thing as prophets and prophecy, what’re we to do with all the verses in the scriptures where we’re encouraged to prophesy, 1Co 14.5 and discouraged from rejecting prophecy? 1Th 5.20 Do we set them aside, ’cause they no longer count in this

Love of God.

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Jesus was asked about the most important of God’s commands, and instead of picking just one (as the great Pharisee teacher Hillel did), he picked two. Mark 12.28-31 KWL 28 One of the scribes was standing there listening to the discussion. Recognizing how well Jesus answered the Sadducees , he asked him, “Which command is first of all?” 29 Jesus gave this answer: “First is, ‘Listen Israel: Our god is the Lord. The Lord is One. 30 You must love your Lord God with all your heart, life, purpose, and might.’ Dt 6.4-5 Second is, ‘Love your neighbor like yourself.’ Lv 19.18 No command is higher than these.” So let’s talk about those commands. Because the Holy Spirit empowers us with the love necessary to obey ’em. Starting with love for the L ORD God. The Spirit hasn’t granted us his fruit solely so we love other people. It’s also so we can love him . A fruity Christian loves God. Loves Jesus too, ’cause he’s God. Loves the Holy Spirit, ’cause he’s God. Fruit

And now, a word of prayer.

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WORD OF PRAYER wərd ə preɪər noun. Prayer, usually meant to invoke God before a function. 2. Small sermon, disguised as a prayer. Brace yourself. Right before we do something important—like take a meeting, drive someplace, eat lunch, get a really large tattoo on our back, or whatever—Christians frequently say, “Before we do that, let’s have a word of prayer.” By which they never mean one single word; it’s not literal. Neither is this gonna be a short prayer. “Words of prayer” tend to be mighty wordy. Why’s it called “a word of prayer” instead of simply “a prayer,” as in “Before we do that let’s pray”? My guess is it used to mean a short prayer, like saying grace before a meal, but over time it got longer and longer. Just like when your boss tells you, “Can I have a word?” and it’s never just a word. Maybe the intent was for it to be short—or to sound short, so you won’t dismiss it with, “Don’t have time; sorry.” The same is true about words of prayer: It’s supposed t

Four main End Times theories.

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At some future point, Jesus will return. Mt 24.42, Ac 1.11, 1Th 4.16-17, 2Th 2.1, Rv 22.20 Not maybe, not we really hope he might: Will. It’s in the creeds; it’s considered orthodox Christianity. Any self-described Christian who claims Jesus isn’t coming back, or who describes his return as metaphorical or “spiritual” (by which they mean imaginary) is heretic. Sorry, heretics. He’s literally returning. But even though Christians are unanimous in our belief “from [heaven] he will come to judge the living and the dead,” we’re not universal as to how it’ll happen. Jesus didn’t give us specifics. He gave us apocalypses , images which represent what God’s up to, but aren’t meant to be taken literally. (Not that some Christians don’t try.) His Olivet Discourse —the bit in the synoptic gospels where he talks about the End Times—and his revelations to John in Revelation are full of such apocalypses. Jesus told us what the End is like , but not what it is . The details are no

Pentecost.

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I’m a Pentecostal… and weirdly, a lot of us Pentecostals never notice when Pentecost comes round. I don’t get it. I blame anti-Catholicism a little. Anyway, Pentecost is the last day of Eastertime, the day we Christians remember the start of the Christian church—the day the Holy Spirit gave power to Jesus’s followers. Like so. Acts 2.1-4 KWL 1 When the 50th day after Passover drew near, all were together in one place. 2 Suddenly a roar came from heaven, like a mighty wind sounds, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Tongues, like fire, were seen distributed to them, and sat on each one of them, 4 and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in other tongues, in whatever way the Spirit gave them the ability. 4 The Jews who inhabited Jerusalem at the time were devout men from every nation under heaven. 5 When this sound came forth , the masses gathered, and were confused: Each one of them was hearing their own dialect sp

Christian perfectionism and “Be perfect.”

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Matthew 5.48. God doesn’t want us to sin. You knew that already. We’re meant to be good, to do the good works the Father spelled out for us, plus anything else which comes to mind. The scriptures constantly warn people against sin. It alienated the first humans from the L ORD , which is why he had to boot ’em from paradise lest they live forever in their sin. It obligated the L ORD to inform Moses and the Hebrews what he expected of them. It’s why the prophets warned Israel time and again: There are consequences for all this evil. It’s why Jesus died: Sinful humans killed him, and he let ’em because he knew his innocent death could plaster over humanity’s sins and restore our relationships with God. So we’re told by parents and pastors: Stop sinning! Start acting like God’s children, instead of devils who sin like they’re trying to piss him off. Be better. Be perfect , if possible—and it is possible, ’cause the Holy Spirit can make it so. In preaching against sin, C

Compassion.

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The ancients didn’t believe we feel emotions with, and in, our hearts. That’d be the medievals. The ancients believed thought, logic, and wisdom emanated from the heart. Emotion came from the intestines. Despite the medievals reassigning it to the heart, the idea still managed to trickle down to our culture: People have a “gut reaction” or “visceral reaction” to various things, which means they’re reacting without thinking. It’s pure irrational emotion. And some of ’em have learned to trust their guts, ’cause they said bye-bye to logic long ago. But enough about them. Some gut reactions are good ones. Even fruitful ones. When we truly love others —love our fellow Christians, love our neighbors, love our enemies —when we see them suffering we’re gonna feel empathy towards them. We’re gonna take pity. We're gonna have compassion. You know, like Jesus does when he sees the needy. Here’s some examples from Matthew . Matthew 9.36 KWL Seeing the crowds, Jesus felt for t