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Read the bible in a month. Yes, seriously. A month.

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January’s coming; you’re making resolutions, and one of ’em is to read the bible. As you should! It’s gonna make you more familiar with God. Some people unrealistically expect a new, profound God-experience every day as the Holy Spirit shows ’em stuff, but hopefully you’re more realistic about it. Hopefully you’re realistic about all your resolutions. Not everyone is. So you need to read through through the entire bible, Genesis to maps. (That’s an old Evangelical joke. ’Cause a lot of study bibles include maps in the back. Okay, it’s less amusing once I explain it.) Every year Christians get on some kind of bible-reading plan to make sure they methodically go through every book, chapter, and verse. ’Cause when we don’t, we wind up only reading the familiar bits, over and over and over again—and miss a lot of the parts we should read. The reason so many Christians misinterpret the New Testament is because they know so very little of its Old Testament context. Every time

Resolutions: Our little stabs at self-control.

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Speaking for myself, I’m not into new year’s resolutions. Because I make resolutions the year round. Whenever I recognize changes I need to make in my life, I get to work on ’em right away. I don’t procrastinate till 1 January. (Though I admit I may procrastinate just the same. But not ’cause I’m saving up these changes for the new year.) Here’s the problem with stockpiling all our lifestyle changes till the new year: Come 1 January, we wind up with a vast pile of changes to make. It’s hard enough to make one change; now you have five. Or 50, depending on how great of a trainwreck you are. Multiplying your resolutions, multiplies your difficulty level. But hey, it’s an American custom. So at the year’s end a lot of folks, Christians included, begin to think about what we’d like to change about our lives. Not that we want to change. Some of us don’t! But it’s New Year’s resolution time, and everyone’s asking what our resolutions are, and some of us might grudgingly try to

St. John’s Day.

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The third day of Christmas, 27 December, is the feast day of the apostle John. Yokhanan bar Zavdi (English, “John, son of Zebedee”) was a first cousin of Christ Jesus; their moms were sisters, and I suspect Jesus stayed with John’s family while he headquartered himself in Capharnaum. Jesus chose him and his elder brother James to be part of his Twelve, Mk 3.17 the apostles he sent to evangelize Israel, who were later expected to run his church. Paul of Tarsus considered him a pillar of this church. Ga 2.9 He’s widely considered the student whom Jesus loved, Jn 21.20 and therefore the author of the gospel we call John , plus three letters and Revelation . There are various scholars who aren’t so sure John wrote those scriptures, ’cause John didn’t put his name on anything but Revelation (and they speculate the John of Revelation was a whole different guy named John). And maybe that’s so. But there’s no reason the author wasn’t this John. Tradition has it John later took

The 12 days of Christmas.

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Tomorrow’s the first day of Christmas. Happy Christmas! After which there are 11 more days of it. 26 December—which is also Boxing Day and St. Stephen’s Day —tends to get called “the day after Christmas,” but it’s not. It’s the second day of Christmas. The Sunday after Christmas (and in many years, including 2021, two Sundays after Christmas) is still Christmas. So I go to church and wish people a happy Christmas. And they look at me funny, till I remind them, “Christmas is 12 days, y’know. Like the song.” Ah, the song. They sing it, but it never clicks what they’re singing about. On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me A partridge in a pear tree. On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree. On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me Three french hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree. On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Four calling birds, three fre

Santa Claus and misplaced, misunderstood faith.

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Years ago round Christmastime, one of my 9-year-old students asked me, “Mr. Leslie, is Santa real?” Oh good Lord, I thought, haven’t her parents had the Santa talk with her? I punted. “Ask your mom.” This girl’s mom was one of those people with an all too common misconception: The way you keep your kids innocent is by keeping them ignorant. And of course this doesn’t work. As you might know from when you were a kid: When you had serious questions, you sought answers. If your parents didn’t have ’em, or wouldn’t give ’em, you’d go elsewhere . And these days, older kids won’t even go to their parents for answers: They’ll do as their parents do, and grab their phone first. Wanna find out about anything? Grab your phone and ask Siri or Google. Heck, some of you might be reading TXAB right now because you went to the internet instead of texting your pastor. I’m old: When I was a kid only academics and soldiers had internet. But when my parents weren’t forthcoming, I knew ho

Word!

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John 1.1-5. Many Christians are fascinated by the word “word.” Mostly ’cause of the following passage. It tends to get translated into past-tense verbs, but the aorist verb tense has no time; it’s neither past, present, nor future, but just is. So without other past-tense verbs to set that context for it, I just go with present tense. John 1.1-5 KWL 1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God. 2 He’s in the beginning with God. 3 Everything came to be through the word . Nothing that exists came to be without him. 4 What came to be through him, is life. Life’s the light of humanity. 5 Light shines in darkness, and darkness can’t get hold of it. “The word” John speaks of, existed in the very beginning, is with God, and is God. And around 7 BC became the man we know as Christ Jesus of Nazareth. Why’d the author of John (whom, for tradition’s sake, let’s call St. John) use “word” to describe the pre-incarnate Jesus? For centuries,

Arianism: One God—and Jesus isn’t quite him.

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ARIAN 'ɛr.i.ən adjective. Believes God is one being, one person, not three; and that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are created beings and lesser gods. [Arianism 'ɛr.i.ən.ɪz.əm noun. ] I’ve written on unitarian beliefs —namely how there’s one God, but contrary to how he’s been revealed in the New Testament, certain folks insist God’s not a trinity. Now, pagans and other monotheists don’t bother with the New Testament, so of course they don’t believe in trinity. But Christians do have the NT and claim to abide by it… and yet some of us still don’t believe in trinity. We call these folks heretics. (And of course they’d call us heretics, and round and round we go.) One of the first major anti-trinitarian heresies Christians bumped into, is Arianism —a word pronounced the same, but is not the same, as the white-supremacist view Aryanism . It’s named for Áreios of Alexandria (c. 250-336), a Christian elder—or in Roman Catholic thinking, a priest. In Latin he’

Heretics won’t believe the incarnation.

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1 John 4.1-6. From time to time Christians ask me how I know whether someone’s an on-the-level Christian, or whether they’re a phony, a heretic, a hypocrite, or just generally on the wrong track. For two reasons, usually: They honestly don’t know. And these guys make them nervous… and somehow I don’t, which is odd, but whatever. They’ve decided they can trust me enough to pick my brain. They not-so-honestly do know, or think they know. So this is a test to see whether I believe as they do, and whether I can be trusted. Let’s set the dishonest folks aside. The reason Christians get so nervous about heretics and wayward Christians is because most of ’em think if they follow the wrong guy, their salvation is in jeopardy. And they’re not wrong. They should be following Jesus! Frequently I point ’em to 1 John . It’s a letter full of good commonsense advice about living in a fallen world, including a world full of Christians gone corrupt, ’cause that’s exactly what John had

Why do pagans celebrate a Christian holiday?

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Every year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, my city has a Christmas festival. (Well, not in 2020 nor 2021, ’cause pandemic. ) The local newspaper started it and sponsors it. I like to joke the festival begins with the pagan stuff. Once the sun is mostly down (and this time of year, this latitude, it sets around 4:45 PM ) about 2,000 people gather round the 60-foot tree. The local Air Force band plays a few songs, the mayor says a few things, the people are led in a few secular carols about silver jingle bells, snowmen (even though we’re well below the snowline), reindeer (even though we’re on the wrong continent), and Santa Claus. Who makes an appearance, and the tree gets lit. That done, the city’s Christians take over. Downtown fills with tent-canopied booths, nearly all of ’em set up by local churches. We give out cookies, cocoa, cider, and other treats. Our choirs sing. Open-air Christmas pageants are performed. One megachurch in particular handles crowd control and c

Modalism: The illusion of three persons in one God.

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MODALIST 'mod.əl.ɪst adjective. Believes God has multiple personas, approaches, functions, or aspects of his nature—which other Christians confuse with trinity. [Modalism 'mod.əl.ɪz.əm noun. ] Some Christians don’t believe God’s a trinity. For a variety of reasons, but mostly because they can’t fathom the idea (and to be fair, it’s a difficult one), or they’ve been raised in an anti-trinitarian religion or church. Fr’instance if you were raised Muslim and later become Christian… well now you have to follow Jesus in a whole new way than you’re used to, plus there’s the fact he’s God. It’s a hurdle. Not an impossible one, but it’s not all that easy for some. Because it’s not easy, these folks can sometimes slide into one of the usual Christological heresies which make him something other than God… or human. I keep bumping into modalism because I’m Pentecostal, and certain Pentecostal churches have full-on embraced modalism. They teach it instead of trinity. They

When the fullness of time came, God sent his Son.

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Galatians 4.1-5. There’s a verse in the bible about how “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” Ga 4.5 KJV Christians like to quote it ’cause it references the birth of Christ Jesus, the first coming of Jesus. It’s an advent scripture. In context there’s a lot more to unpack, so I’ll unpack it. First the passage: Galatians 4.1-5 KWL 1 I say for as long as heirs are children, all of them are nothing more than a master’s slaves. 2 Instead they’re placed under nannies and butlers until the father’s appointed time. 3 Likewise us. When we’re children, learning the basics of the universe, we’re like slaves. 4 When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, birthed by a woman, birthed under the Law, 5 so he might redeem the Law, so we might receive God’s adoption. It’s used as a proof text for the incarnation, but it’s not actually about incarnation. It’s part of Paul’s explanation about