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Building up our fellow Christians.

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1 Thessalonians 5.12-18. This is the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians , and we’re getting to the part where the apostles wrapped up the letter: They moved away from the specific concerns of this particular church, and gave the same general advice they’d give any Christians of any church. So of course these things apply to us as well. 1 Thessalonians 5.12-18 KWL 12 Fellow Christians , we ask you to get to know those who labor hardest among you, who stand up for you in the Master, and correct you. 13 We ask you to be led by them, more in love than anything, because of the work they do. Keep the peace with one another. 14 Fellow Christians , we urge you to correct the irreligious. Share your story with those who keep messing up. Help the weak. Be patient with all. 15 Watch out lest anyone might pay back evil for evil; instead always pursue good for one another, and everyone. 16 Always rejoice. 17 Pray without slacking. 18 Give thanks for everything, for this

Don’t be surprised if they hate you. They hated Jesus too.

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Matthew 10.24-25, Luke 6.40, John 13.16, 15.18-25. Today’s passages get frequently taken out of context by Christian jerks. So let’s deal with them up front. Jerks either deliberately try to offend, or don’t care that they do offend. And there are a lot of Christians, religious or not, who behave this way. They want people to be outraged. They want division and strife. They don’t care that these are works of the flesh; they’re not that fruitful anyway, and are way more interested in doctrinal purity than goodness and kindness and grace. So when people get angry, they perversely assume they’re doing something right. After all, didn’t Jesus say we’re blessed when people condemn and rage against us like the ancients did the prophets? Lk 6.22-23 Everybody hates you! Rejoice! Of course they’re going about it the wrong way. If we have God’s mysteries and share them, yet we don’t do so in love (and no, tough love doesn’t count), we’re an annoying noise; we’re nothing, and ga

Lying so we can win the debate.

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Christians lie. No we’re not supposed to. There’s a whole teaching about this. It’s actually not the “don’t bear false witness ” command, Ex 20.16 which has to do with perjury. It’s the one about how Christians need to be rid of lying, and tell the truth to one another. Ep 4.25 But we lie just the same. Usually to get out of trouble. Sometimes to defraud. And sometimes when we debate with antichrists, and wanna score points, we borrow a rather common tactic we see in politics: We ignore whether our “facts” are all that factual. Oh, we wish they were factual, ’cause they really help our case. We’ll psyche ourselves into believing they’re factual. We’re willing to dismiss any evidence which says it’s false knowledge. We’re totally willing to perpetuate fraud. Yeah, it’s fraud. There’s a command against that too. Mk 10.19 But Christians dismiss this particular sin, ’cause we figure it’s so important to win these arguments, score victories for Jesus… and really stick i

False knowledge, and how it’s confused with faith.

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There are plenty of people who “just know” things. And man alive, are they frustrating. Y’see, they can’t tell you why they know what they do. They don’t know where they got their knowledge, nor what it’s based on. Not that it matters where they got it: They believe it. You can’t tell them any different. But they’re wrong. It’s false knowledge. I’ll tell people something they’ve not heard before, and they’ll respond—whether in Sunday school, my classrooms, or the workplace— THEY. “Why, what you’re saying can’t be true, for I know different.” ME. [ patiently ] “Well your knowledge is wrong. Relax; we’re all wrong sometimes.” THEY. “Nope; can’t be. I know this.” ME. “Okay, maybe I’m wrong. So prove your case. Show me why you’re right.” THEY. “Don’t need to. I know I’m right.” Every once in a while they’ll really try to prove their case. Turns out there’s a thousand holes in their reasoning. Easy to see, easy to chip away at. But they can’t see the holes. An

Postmodernism: Don’t take “truths” for granted.

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POSTMODERN poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn adjective. Coming later than modern. 2. A 20th century concept and style in arts and criticism, representing a departure from modernism, typified by a general distrust of grand theories and ideologies. 3. Anti-modern. [Pomo 'poʊ.moʊ abbreviation , postmodernism poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.iz.əm noun , postmodernist poʊs(t)'mɑd.ərn.ist adjective , postmodernity poʊs(t).moʊd'ər.nə.di noun. ] I grew up postmodern. I just didn’t know it had a name. I also didn’t realize, at the time, how badly it scared the heebie-jeebies out of Christian apologists. The label’s not new. It first cropped up in the 1950s. Artists and architects started using it to describe the hip, exciting things they were doing. The current scene was “modern,” so they claimed they were beyond modern, post modern; whatever modern was, they weren’t. Pomo is a common abbreviation, although some pomos really hate it. I don’t, and use it. Gradually people began to clai

Stay on the lookout for the second coming.

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1 Thessalonians 5.6-11. In the original text of 1 Thessalonians it was all one continuous stream. No punctuation, no sentences, no paragraphs. We had to figure these things out by their context. The sentences are easy enough to figure out, but naturally Christians are gonna disagree on the rest. Hence different Greek New Testaments disagree on where the paragraph breaks should go… and since I’ve been writing about this book a paragraph at a time, y’might notice I’m not precisely following any one GNT. Textus Receptus and United Bible Societies’ edition: One big paragraph from 1-11. Nestle-Aland: One big paragraph, but they capitalize the first word in the sentences which they think might be the start of a new subject, and therefore are debatably new paragraphs. Tyndale House: Four paragraphs. 1-3, 4-5, 6-10, and 11 by itself. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Emphatic Diaglott has 1-4, and 5 all the way to the end of the chapter. But I don’t think its focus was on proper paragr

Completing the cities of Israel before the second coming.

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Matthew 10.23. In the middle of Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, there’s this verse, only found in Matthew , which goes like yea. Matthew 10.23 KWL “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another! Amen amen! I promise you, you might not finish the cities of Israel before whenever the Son of Man might come.” Because translators tend to automatically convert any sentence with οὐ μὴ / u mi , “never,” into absolute statements (like Luke Skywalker’s “I’ll never join you; you killed my father!”) they dismiss all the subjunctive verbs Jesus uses in such statements. He said might never , but they translate it as if he said never . Because people find comfort in absolutes. Especially when the absolutes promise ’em something they want. We want Jesus to return! (Well, most of us.) So here, Jesus promises, with “amen amen,” that his students might not have to be chased through every city in Israel before he returns for them. And Christians nowadays, who want Jesus to return

Does God listen to pagans when they pray?

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I’ll answer the question in the title right away: Yes. God listens to pagans when they pray. And, well, duh . Of course he listens to them! He listens to everyone. He knows what everyone’s saying, what everyone’s thinking, and whether what we’re saying and what we’re thinking line up. (And when they aren’t, he knows we’re being hypocrites. ) He knows what our needs are; he hears us express ’em to him; he knows whether we’re sincere. True of everybody. Not just Christians. Why’s this even a question? Because of course there are Christians who claim he doesn’t. Only we get access to the Almighty; only true believers. (And maybe Jews… depending on whether they like Jews. If they like Jews, they always manage to find an exception to the “no pagans” rule; they’re God’s chosen people so he has to listen to them, doesn’t he? And if they’re antisemites, either Jews are simply another type of pagan he dismisses; or God’s rejected the Jews ’cause of the sins antisemites claim are

Do we really get whatever we ask in Jesus’s name?

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While the idea of “God’ll give us whatever we ask in Jesus’s name” has been largely misunderstood, misinterpreted, and abused, by Christians who wanna depict God as if he’s a magic genie who grants way more than three wishes—or like Santa Claus, who will only give you presents if you’re good, so be good for goodness’ sake—the reality is Jesus does hear prayer requests. And isn’t just willing, but eager , to answer the good requests. John 16.23-24 KJV 23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Here’s the context of this scripture; it’s important, y’know. At the time Jesus was speaking with his students about leaving them; about returning to his Father. Once he’d done so, they’d be miserable. But once he comes back in victory, having conquered sin and death, they’ll be ov

“In Jesus name”—and why it doesn’t always work.

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Jesus told us, more than once, we can use his name whenever we ask the Father for things. John 14.12-15 KJV 12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.   John 15.16 KJV Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.   John 16.23-24 KJV 23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. Usually Christians are fully aware o

When Jesus catches us by surprise.

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1 Thessalonians 5.1-5. Since Paul, Silas, and Timothy just finished writing about the rapture at Jesus’s second coming in the previous paragraph, Christians read today’s paragraph (or paragraphs; the Tyndale House Greek New Testament is pretty sure this is two) as if they’re still talking about it. And they kinda are. Because the apostles didn’t know when Jesus is returning—none of us do!—and for all they knew, the next big disaster might end with the second coming. Which might still be true. You don’t know. Neither do I. All we know is Jesus can return at any time. Which the Thessalonians shoulda learned fairly quickly after they first followed Jesus. The apostles even write they’ve known it perfectly well. 1Th 5.2 When he returns, it won’t be predictable—no matter how often “prophecy scholars” try to predict it. It won’t be at a time we expect—no matter how often “prophecy scholars” say we should definitely expect it. It comes like a thief at night, and as Jesus said,