Nope, Jesus didn’t sweat blood.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 March 2023
Luke 22.39-46 KWL
39 Coming out, Jesus goes to Olivet Hill as usual.
The students also follow him.
40 Once they’re in the place, Jesus tells them,
“Pray not to enter into temptation!”
41 Jesus withdraws from them about a stone’s throw away,
and taking to his knees, he’s praying,
42 saying, “Father, if you want, take this cup away from me!
Only not my will but yours be done.”
43 [A heavenly angel appears to Jesus, strengthening him.
44 Being in agony, Jesus is praying more fervently.
His sweat becomes like drops of blood,
falling down to the ground.]
45 Rising up from the prayer, coming to the students,
Jesus finds them sleeping from the grief.
46 Jesus tells them, “Why do you sleep?
Get up and pray, so you might not enter into temptation!”

Before his arrest, Jesus went to Gethsemane and spent some time in intense prayer. ’Cause he didn’t wanna get beaten and tortured to death. Who would?

In Mark, Jesus only has three of his students come along with him to pray, and has to go back and awaken them thrice. In Luke it appears to be all of them, and he only comes back to chide them once. Yeah they’re tired; they just had a big Passover meal and a lot of wine, plus a walk uphill, plus it’s late. But Jesus warned them his time was coming, and they needed to pray—not for him, but themselves. They’d be tempted to do a lot of dumb stuff as a result. (In fact that’s exactly what we see them do. Shoulda prayed.)

Certain preachers love to quote the Luke version of the story, because they love to point out how Jesus was so incredibly stressed out by his soon-coming passion, he was sweating blood. You saw that in verse 44. Here it is again in the KJV:

Luke 22.44 KJV
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Turns out this is an actual medical condition. It’s called hematidrosis (from the Greek for “bloody sweat”) or hematohidrosis (“bloody water”). It’s rare, but possible. Blood vessels under your skin break from stress, and blood comes out your pores. It looks creepy. But not a lot of blood comes out of you this way, so it’s largely harmless. Might cause a little dehydration, so drink some Gatorade; you’ll be fine.

Preachers find this fascinating. And they love to point out how Luke, the traditional author of this gospel, was a physician! Cl 4.14 So he’d know all about such medical conditions, right? Including this one.

Though more than once, I’ve heard a preacher claim hematidrosis actually isn’t a harmless condition: They insist it’s life-threatening. That’s why Jesus needed an angel to strengthen him in verse 43: He was on the verge of bleeding out. After all the verse says great drops of blood. Jesus was already dying, and he hadn’t even been arrested yet! You don’t want him dying before the Romans killed him; for some reason that might bungle the atonement. I’m not sure how, but they’re pretty sure it woulda.

Okay. As you can tell from the title of this article, they’re wrong. Not just about how dangerous hematidrosis is or isn’t. They’re wrong about Jesus sweating blood in the first place. The verse doesn’t say that.

The Pharisees: Those in the first century who 𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘥 God.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 March 2023
PHARISEE 'fɛr.ə.si noun. Adherent of a first-century denomination of the Hebrew religion, which emphasized the widespread teaching of the Law, and evolved into today’s Judaism.
2. A hypocrite. [Thanks to Jesus’s regular condemnation of hypocrites among the Pharisees.]
[Pharisaic fɛr.ə'seɪ.ɪk adjective, Pharisaism fɛr.ə'seɪ.ɪz.əm noun.]

People nowadays don’t really know much about the Pharisees—other than they opposed Jesus an awful lot, and he called ’em hypocrites right back. Mt 23.13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29 So there’s a lot of false information floating around about ’em. Stuff like this:

  • “BUT THEY WERE HYPOCRITES.” Yeah, some definitely were. Otherwise Jesus wouldn’t’ve had to denounce their hypocrisy. But be fair: A lot of us Christians are hypocrites. A lot of us humans are hypocrites. Hypocrisy is universal. Singling out the Pharisees just means we’re gonna ignore our own tendencies towards phony behavior.
  • “THEY WERE LEGALIST.” Pharisees were all about teaching the Law, so as a result Christians assume they were all about rules. All about precisely, exactly, nitpickingly following God’s commands to every last detail. Pure legalism. And works righteousness Supposedly Pharisees believed God saved them because they perfectly followed the Law. Thing is, if that were true, John the Baptist wouldn’t have to shout at them to stop sinning, and stop taking their salvation for granted just because they were Abraham’s descendants. Mt 3.7-10 Because—same as us Christians—some were legalists… and some were libertines, who figured God forgives all, so do as you please.
  • “IT’S A POLITICAL PARTY, NOT A DENOMINATION.” Which they claim ’cause Flavius Josephus called ’em a political party—and he was Pharisee, so he oughta know. And it’s easy to see why: There was no separation of temple and state back then. When that’s the case, denominations are political parties. That’s what they turn into, ’cause they pursue power exactly the same way parties do, whether it’s Calvinists and Anabaptists in medieval Geneva, Puritans and Traditionalists in early modern England, Catholics and Protestants in northern Ireland, or Pharisees and Sadducees in ancient Israel. They were both.
  • “THEY UNIVERSALLY HATED JESUS.” They did not. We all know exceptions from the bible, like Nicodemus. We also forget: Every synagogue Jesus taught in was a Pharisee synagogue. His title rabbí, meaning “[school]master,” was a Pharisee title. His apostle Paul, who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament, continued to call himself Pharisee long after he became Christian. Ac 23.6 The Pharisees whom Jesus tangled with in the gospels certainly didn’t care for him—but we certainly can’t say all.

Okey, let’s get to facts about Pharisees.

Still not ready for solid food.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 March 2023

1 Corinthians 3.1-4.

The apostle Apollos was a first-century Egyptian Jew who was eloquent and knew the scriptures, who’d become Christian and showed up in Ephesus to proclaim Jesus in their synagogues. Since he was only familiar with John’s baptism, the apostles Priscilla and Aquila had to correct him a little. But that done, Apollos proved extremely valuable to the ancient Christians. He knew how to show the Jews from their own bible how Jesus is their Messiah. Ac 18.24-28 Paul definitely considered him a brother Christian. 1Co 16.12

Apollos comes up in Paul and Sosthenes’ first letter to the Corinthians. In that letter they bring up how the Christians of Corinth had obviously divided themselves into factions which followed one apostle or another. 1Co 1.10-13 These apostles weren’t in competition with one another, and didn’t imagine anything of the kind; yet now they had followers who did imagine themselves in competition. The Corinthians were all supposed to belong to God, not these apostles; they were all supposed to recognize Jesus as Lord, and therefore be one people. But that’s not how they behaved.

Same as Christians nowadays. We still divide ourselves into factions and fight one another. The Baptists fight the Catholics. The Arminians fight the Calvinists. The complementarians fight the egalitarians. The cessationists fight the continuationists. The Christian Right fights the Christian Right. (What, you thought I was gonna say they fight the Christian Left? Oh, they don’t even believe in the Christian Left; they think those guys aren’t Christian. They fight ’em… but far more often they fight each other. Over who’s more Right.)

All this fighting means, as the apostles make it clear in the letter, those who are fighting are not mature Christians. The Corinthians should be ready to receive deeper instructions about God’s kingdom and God’s ways. But they haven’t even traveled past the first mile marker on God’s road. They’re too busy brawling on the onramp.

1 Corinthians 3.1-4 KWL
1 Fellow Christians, I also can’t speak to you like spiritual people,
but like fleshly people, like infants in Christ.
2 I give you milk to drink, not solid food:
You weren’t yet capable.
But neither are you capable now:
3 You’re still fleshly!
For why is there overzealousness and fighting among you?—
Aren’t you fleshly, and walk like fleshly people?
4 Whenever one of you might say, “I’m of Paul,”
and another “I’m of Apollos,”
aren’t you fleshly people?

Historians figure Paul first visited Corinth in the 50s, and cowrote 1 Corinthians in the 60s. Figure a five-year separation at the least, a 15-year separation at the most. But either way, Paul expected to see growth in the Corinthians… but here they were, still acting like spiritual children. Not even children; νηπίοις/nipíhis, “infants.” Babies. Couldn’t talk, couldn’t raise their heads, couldn’t control their bowels. Paul felt he should realistically expect better of them, and they weren’t remotely mature. They were fleshly Christians.

And when you look at all the problems Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians, you’ll easily recognize we Christians in the present day suffer all the very same problems in our churches. We still have partisanship. Still have people who can’t keep it in their pants. Still have Christians who trip one another up over our “freedoms in Christ,” or demand special ranks and privileges because we’re gifted in different ways, or exercise our gifts without love, or emphasize showy gifts over those which minister to more people. Still describe the End as weird cosmic revenge fantasies rather than Jesus defeating death once and for all.

We got a lot of work to do! But it starts by following Jesus, not following our stupid manmade sects and parties. By doing as the Spirit directs, not doing as our zeal dictates. By growing good spiritual fruit, instead of imagining that bible trivia and good theology are what really turn us into mature Christians. The devil knows bible better than you do, for all the good that’s done it—but it doesn’t follow Jesus. So we gotta follow Jesus.

Those who don’t use bible as a source of revelation.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 March 2023

So I wrote about how the bible’s a source of revelation, and how it can be a useful tool as we Christians develop good theology. Problem is, not everybody who calls themselves Christian does this. Whether unintentionally or deliberately, way too many of us don’t bother with bible at all.

Whenever I bring up this fact with certain Evangelicals, thanks to certain prejudices they have, they immediately think of mainline churches. The assumption they typically have, is old-timey churches don’t bother with bible; their theology is based on feel-good junk. This assumption’s not based on anything valid, ’cause I’ve visited and studied the history of mainline churches, and know a few of their pastors. Their churches’ official doctrines are based on longtime traditions… and these traditions are regularly based on bible.

Don’t believe me? Look at their catechisms. A catechism is a list of a church’s official doctrines, frequently presented in the form of a list of frequently asked questions, ’cause it’s easier to memorize that way. They regularly encourage children and newbies to memorize ’em so they know exactly what Christianity—more accurately, their church—teaches.

  1. “What is the chief end [by which they mean purpose] of man?”
  2. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him for ever.”

Now, does that question-and-answer pair come from bible? Kinda.

1 Corinthians 10.31 KJV
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
 
Psalm 145.1-2 KJV
1 I will extol thee, my God, O king;
and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.
2 Every day will I bless thee;
and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.

That question and answer is based on bible. Most of the catechisms connect right back to bible. Or at least they claim to; every once in a while you’ll find a Q&A where you’ll balk: “Wait, is that what the bible meant?” and no, not really. Catechisms are the work of humans y’know, and humans make mistakes.

Hence every so often there’s gonna be an official teaching of that church where y’might wonder, “How’d they come up with that?”—and nope, it’s not from bible. The church’s founder, or one of its more famous preachers, or some significant author, coined it. The people of that church thought it sounded like godly wisdom—and hey, maybe it is! But maybe it’s not. And either way, since it’s not bible, it’d better be consistent with bible. At the very least it’d better not contradict it!

So that’s what you’ll find in mainline churches: People who are trying to be consistent with the scriptures. But also consistent with their traditions. Traditions are very important to them!—they help connect ’em with one another, and with the Christians of the past. Likewise they figure those traditions are ultimately, originally based on the apostles’ teachings, i.e. bible: We shouldn’t find any contradictions between them.

Yeah, those people with hangups about how biblical mainliners are, don’t really know any mainliners.

Me, I’m not necessarily even thinking of mainliners and catechisms. I’m thinking of heretics. ’Cause I know a few.

The bible as a source of revelation.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 March 2023

Many Christians firmly believe the only way God reveals himself to humanity is through the bible. Which contradicts what we find in the bible.

When I talk about our sources of revelation, the’s bible most definitely one of them. Certainly a primary source. But in the scriptures themselves, God first reveals himself to humans with a God-appearance: He hangs out with Adam and Eve. Ge 3.8 The humans ruined those original regular visitations—but no, their sin didn’t drive God away; sin doesn’t do that. God still appeared to people from time to time in the scriptures, and of course he became Jesus.

And there’s the other forms of revelation—all of which we see in Genesis. We get miracles. We get God speaking back to people in prayer. We get dreams and prophets. And while Genesis doesn’t really talk about revelation from nature (despite what young-earth creationists claim) plenty of people claim it’s a legit form of revelation, and point to it often.

The bible is the product of all these sources of revelation. People saw God, or heard him when he spoke, or saw the miracles he empowered. If they didn’t see any of that, they at least heard his prophets speak for him. They recorded these things—and that’s our scriptures. That’s bible.

The difference between bible and other forms of revelation, is the bible’s been repeatedly confirmed as reliable. In its day, and many times since. Yes, even Revelation—even though the visions talk about the very end of history, plenty of it is about its present day, and that stuff came to pass. It’s why ancient Christians kept it. I can’t help it that “prophecy scholars” make tons of wild claims that everything has yet to happen—and y’all believe them. Don’t. They know not what they do.

The fact the bible’s been confirmed is why we kept its books: Why keep supposed “revelations from God” which haven’t been proven? And since they have been, we Christians consider the scriptures faithful and reliable revelations of God. If you want to fact-check it again, go right ahead; it can stand up to scrutiny, which is why we Christians have historically trusted it. Archaeologists still keep digging up stuff which confirms it—sometimes in ways they never expected, ’cause their discoveries put a whole new spin on the scriptures.

Now, with every other source of revelation, we still have to confirm them. We gotta watch miracles to see whether they produce the sort of good fruit we should see in God’s handiwork. We gotta confirm prophecy, prayer messages, and dreams, lest people were mistaken, or were tricked, or are lying. But with bible, not so much. From the time the very first books were written, all the way to today, God’s followers have confirmed and re-confirmed and re-re-confirmed the scriptures are valid. Solid. Trustworthy. Relevant. Consistent with who God is.

Humility, and the “cage-stage” Christian.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 March 2023

The starting point of theology may be revelation, but the first principle of theology is humility: Recognizing we’re wrong about God, and Jesus is right, and following Jesus so we can know God better.

The purpose of theology isn’t to learn so much that we become God-experts, then correct everyone else around us. It’s to correct ourselves. Our beliefs. Our poor character. Our bad attitudes. Jesus may have redeemed us, and granted us access to God’s kingdom, but we still suffer from a depraved sense of selfishness, and need the Holy Spirit’s help and power to overcome that, and become like Jesus—the only human who ever did it right.

The problem? A lot of Christians have utterly skipped this first theology lesson. Or weren’t paying attention, ’cause we were too busy staring at the syllabus. Or promptly forgot all about it, ’cause all our new knowledge puffed us up. However it happened.

Hence too many of us imagine theology’s first principle is, “I was wrong. But now I’m not! Jesus fixed me.” Supposedly when he gave us new life, he also gave us a new nature. His nature. And now we have a Jesus nature, and fruit of the Spirit now grows in us spontaneously on its own, and we have the mind of Christ. 1Co 2.16 Whatever we think… it’s miraculously just as Jesus thinks. All our motives are good and pure and noble and godly. We have arrived.

And if you claim we haven’t… well, [UNNATURAL ACT] you. I have the mind of Christ, and you’re just some dirty heathen who thinks he’s Christian, but you probably voted for the other guy, didn’tcha? Who are you to claim I’m just as corrupt as before I came to Christ? You don’t know Christ. I do. [Cue Genesis’s “Jesus He Knows Me.”]

I run into Christians with this mindset all the time. They’d be the folks who email me to explain, patiently or in full fiery wrath, why I’m wrong and heretic and going to hell. Or who show up on discussion boards to loudly, angrily correct everybody who varies ever so slightly with their infallible doctrines. Back when they were pagan, they’d get this way about plenty of other subjects, like politics and Star Wars. Now they do it with doctrine. Or apologetics.

There’s a term the Calvinists use when their young, overzealous theologians get like this—when they’re a little too enthusiastic about “the doctrines of grace,” and forget to be gracious altogether. Calvinists call it “the cage stage.”

Revelation: The starting point of theology.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 March 2023
REVELATION rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃən noun. A previously unknown fact [about God], often surprising or dramatic.
2. An act [usually God’s] of making the unknown known.
3. [capitalized] Christ Jesus’s apocalypses of the future, given to John of Patmos; the last book of the New Testament.
[Reveal rə'vil verb, revelator 'rɛ.vəl.eɪt.ər noun, revelatory 'rə.vɛl.ə.tɔ.ri adjective, revelational rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃ(ə)n.(ə)l adjective.]

When I first taught theology, I found whenever I spoke about revelation, Christians nearly always assumed I’m talking about the book. And half the time they think the book’s called Revelations, with an -s. And half that time, when they write it out, they put an apostrophe on the -s, for no reason. Don’t get me started about the overuse of apostrophes.

But revelation, without an -s, refers to anything God reveals to us humans. That’s all revelation is: If God tells you something—and you didn’t already know it, or couldn’t have deduced it on your own; you needed him to reveal it to you—it’s revelation. God revealed something to you.

Yeah, you couldn’t have deduced it on your own. If the weather forecast tells you, “Bring and umbrella,” and God tells you, “No really, bring an umbrella,” that’s technically revelation, but big deal. It’s not gonna stretch and grow your faith when God repeats what your Echo Dot just said. Now if the forecast says, “Sunny and 80 degrees,” and God says, “But bring an umbrella,” and later that day you find yourself in the middle of a thunderstorm nobody predicted: Okay, now it’s more obvious you heard something from the Almighty.

That’s the thing about revelation: It’s obviously a God-thing. “Natural revelation” isn’t so obvious—because every religion tries to deduce what God is like by looking at nature, and all of them get him wrong. Read Job sometime; all Job’s friends had a lot to say about what they saw in nature, and what they concluded about God from it, and the LORD bluntly stated all of them got him wrong. Jb 44.7 Christians try to deduce God-things from nature all the time, and likewise get him wrong; I’ve heard the sermons. Our logical deductions might be pretty good, and impressive… and woefully inaccurate. Because they’re no substitute for God revealing and explaining himself to us.

That’s why good theology has to be based on revelation. We humans are just making guesses about God; some of them wild, some of them reasonable, but they’re still just guesses. Whereas Jesus knows God, ’cause he is God—so we need to follow Jesus. And the Holy Spirit knows God, ’cause he is God—so we need to listen to the Spirit. And the Spirit inspired the bible, so we oughta read the bible. And the Spirit speaks to fellow Christians, so we need to bounce the ideas we think are God-ideas off these fellow Christians, and make sure. But all of this threads back to revelation: We hear from God, and that’s the basis of our theology.

Simple, right? But of course we humans gotta overcomplicate the idea.

Too many of us assume revelation is always a big profound mind-scrambling experience. With lights, visions, seizures, euphoria, and Hollywood-style special effects. This is why people assume God’s never given ’em any revelation, or even claim he doesn’t do this sort of thing anymore: They’re still waiting for the light show. They expect to have Isaiah- or Ezekiel- or John-style visions of God’s throne room. Or see Jesus in glory like Simon Peter, James, John, Stephen, and Paul did. Or at least have some glowing angels or burning bushes or something like that.

Nah. Most of the time, revelation is so ordinary-looking, you’d never realize it’s God talking till he tells you it’s him. Kinda like what happened to the prophet Samuel. He kept pestering his guardian, the head priest Eli, like any other little kid who “just wants a drink of water,” i.e. won’t go to sleep.

1 Samuel 3.1-10 NLT
1 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.
2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the LORD called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.
6 Then the LORD called out again, “Samuel!”
Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
7 Samuel did not yet know the LORD because he had never had a message from the LORD before. 8 So the LORD called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
Then Eli realized it was the LORD who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
10 And the LORD came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Quite a few stories in the bible consist of God showing up to talk to someone, and their first reaction is, “Wait… is that… God? Holy crap, am I talking to God?” Frequently followed by sheer terror, ’cause most people assume if you encounter God, he’s too holy to abide sin, so you’re gonna die. Ge 32.30, Dt 5.24, Jg 13.22 Or you’re already dead.

But no: God wants you to know him, so he’s making contact. Don’t listen to the cessationists: He does this. A lot.

Revival!

by K.W. Leslie, 01 March 2023
REVIVAL ri'vaɪ.vəl noun. A new interest in something old. [In this case religion.]
2. An improvement in the condition or strength of something.
3. Reawakened religious excitement.
4. A worship service meant to reawaken religious excitement.
[Revivalist ri'vaɪ.vəl.ɪst noun.]

If you grew up in a churches which hold a lot of revival services, y’might not be aware revivals are actually controversial among a lot of Christians.

Usually because there are a lot of con men in the revivalist business. A lot of them. Always kinda have been. People discovered eons ago it’s a really great way to make money: Whip people into a religious lather, ask ’em for money, and they’ll give it! More people are familiar with the fictional versions of such people—like Elmer Gantry, or Jonas Nightengale in Leap of Faith. But Gantry and Nightingale were totally based on real people.

Like Marjoe Gortner, a former child evangelist turned Hollywood actor. He quit Jesus in the early 1970s, but went on a final revivalist tour and let documentarians watch him behind the scenes… and film how he really felt about what he was doing. It made for a disturbing but Oscar-winning documentary, Marjoe.

These folks—and too frequently, real evangelists—take full advantage of religious excitement. Too many people confuse spirit with emotion, and can’t tell the difference. This particularly happens in revival meetings. Yeah, we’re meant to experience the Holy Spirit, not mere religious mania. But both evangelists and con men want us to lose our heads over God. Some evangelists don’t realize there’s a difference… and frankly, some don’t even care; if it brings you to Jesus, they figure it’s all good! Others legitimately believe the excitement is the same thing. I’ve personally watched an evangelist tell a woman overcome with excitement, “That’s him! That’s the Spirit!”

That’s dopamine, you dope. Not God.

So how do we tell the difference? Duh; fruit. If the Holy Spirit is legitimately involved in any revival, we’re gonna see good fruit. We’ll see authentic behavioral changes. Better emotional self-control. Better all kinds of self-control. Better attitudes. Authentic miracles. A pursuit of truth, not clever sayings and happy thoughts which make us feel good. People following Jesus. Changed lives which stay changed.

And yeah, personal God-experiences are exciting! People changed for the better is awesome! But excitement is a byproduct of the Spirit. Don’t confuse it for the real thing.

The reason many people do, is because God is good, and dopamine most definitely feels good. And people will do crazy things to chase dopamine. Like heroin.

Problem is, dopamine happens quickly and immediately… and the good fruit of the Spirit’s activity is a long-term thing. In the short term, we’re only gonna see the preachers, crowds, emotions, and reactions. In the short term, the only way we’re gonna know God’s in any way involved with this revival is when God tells us so; when those people he’s gifted with supernatural discernment recognize this actually is a God thing.

Whereas naysayers don’t think any of ’em are a God thing. To them it’s all fakery, and all fleshly.

Giving… so it can be given you.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 February 2023

For certain Christians, whenever the topic of generosity comes up, this is the first bible quote which comes to mind. It’s part of the Sermon on the Plain; Jesus said it, so you can take it to the bank, right?

Luke 6.38 NIV
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

And that is what they’re counting on. Give, and it’ll be given you. Give, and you’ll get. And not just mere karma-style reciprocity: You’ll get more. You’ll get a lot more. You’ll get a tenfold return on your donation. A hundredfold return, if we can borrow a line from the Four Seeds Story

Mark 4.8 NIV
“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

A hundred times what you put in. Doesn’t that sound like the best reason to be generous? You only get that kind of return when you’re gambling. And this is no gamble! It’s on God. Jesus himself said there’d be some kind of hundredfold return on what gets put in.

Now yeah—Jesus only said there’d be a hundredfold return in this parable, and in it he was talking about sharing the word, namely God’s word; it produces a hundredfold return, but that’s a trait unique to God’s word. Pulling it out of context to claim it can also be applied to charity, is in no way a legitimate use of the scripture. Doesn’t matter how many preachers claim, “No it is legit; it’s a biblical principle, and combined with 20 other verses it reveals a profound cosmic secret about how the kingdom works!” It’s not, it doesn’t, and they’re using your greed to con you out of your money. Don’t fall for that.

’Cause I point out to you something which should be fairly obvious to those of us who practice basic reading comprehension: Jesus’s statement in the Sermon on the Plain does not say we’re getting back more than we put in. It says quite clearly, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” You’re getting back the same. Jesus talks about his Father’s overabundant grace a lot, but here, in this particular favorite proof text, he’s actually describing reciprocity.

So what about the whole “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” bit? That presumes that’s what we gave. We gave others a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. We were generouslike any fruit-producing Christian oughta be. We gave abundantly, so we receive abundantly.

If we didn’t give abundantly? Well, “with the measure you use, it’ll be measured to you.” You gave stingily? Expect others to reciprocate stingily. If it looks pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it’s only covering up the fact everything below the top layer has weevils in it.

Or, because not every Christian is a covetous dick, someone actually practiced generosity towards you. Which is awesome. Now pay it forward.

But if your only motivation for generosity is because you think you’ll be in God’s karmic debt, and because he’s infinitely rich he’ll overdo it when he repays you, and you are banking on him falling for your clever money-making scheme… man are you missing the point.

God’s character.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 February 2023

No doubt you’ve heard of the fruit of the Spirit. Unfortunately, for way too many Christians, they’ve only memorized Paul’s list Ga 5.22-23 and whether they actually strive to practice love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. is a whole other deal. They know these are virtues, but too many of us are kinda just expecting them to appear spontaneously, rather than really work with the Holy Spirit on our character.

Okay. What are these virtues in relation to God himself? Does he exhibit them? Is he loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, etc.? Or have we never made any such connection? Maybe doubt we even should make such a connection, ’cause we’d rather imagine God as offended at humanity’s sins, mournful over humanity’s sins, ready to smite people over their sins, absolutely fed up over people’s sins, eager to offend and outrage people back (after all, they offended him first!) and so forth? Do we figure these traits aren’t in any way practical, considering God needs to be super-duper vengeful right about now?

In other words, do we figure humanity’s sins have flipped God over 180 degrees, and made him fleshly?

I’ll leave you to ponder that idea, and whether our ideas about the wrath of God haven’t somehow turned him into Zeus. But as you hopefully know already, if you wanna know what God is like; if you wanna identify God’s attitude and character traits, the best thing to do is look at Jesus the Nazarene. Does he exhibit the Spirit’s fruit? Or when you read the gospels, do you figure Jesus likewise is triggered and enraged and ready to call down fire because he has HAD IT with these maggot-farming Judeans?

If so, I don’t know what bible you have, or what sort of demented “Christian” movie you’ve been watching. Every bible translation I know of, reveals the Spirit’s fruit describes Jesus’s character. And since Jesus is God, the Spirit’s fruit describes God’s character. Christians think and act fruitful because the Spirit within us thinks and acts like that.

So this being the case… whenever we look at the LORD’s behavior in the scriptures, what attitudes should we attribute to him? Fruitful ones? Or fruitless and fleshly ones? Which traits sound like Jesus, and are therefore God’s?

…Unless of course you don’t believe Jesus is God. Not really. Plenty of Christians flub the concept of trinity, and imagine Jesus is only a segment of God, or a mode of God, or even isn’t really God; he’s just a really important creation—he’s the Son of God!—but not God himself.

And if Jesus isn’t fully God, then it’s understandable—even okay—if Jesus and God are entirely different individuals. Not one in purpose, will, intent, attributes, and character; two distinct deities, like Zeus and Hades. Who are playing a cosmic game of “good cop bad cop” with humanity: God’s the bad cop, eager to roast us in hell, and Jesus is the good cop, trying to get us forgiven and saved—not from sin and death, but from God himself. ’Cause God’s super murdery, but Jesus is more about peace and love than Ringo Starr.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard fellow Christians express this demented idea. All sorts of Christians. Even people who went to seminary and studied way more theology than I have, and should know better! Christians who should know the apostles wholly meant it when they wrote in the scriptures how Jesus as the image of God, Cl 1.15 someone whose very nature is that of God, Pp 2.6 the only-begotten God who accurately reveals who the Father is like, Jn 1.18 and if you’ve seen him you’ve seen the Father. Jn 14.9 Who identified God himself as love, 1Jn 4.8, 16 and defined love by God’s gracious attitude towards us. 1Co 13.4-8 Yet despite knowing these scriptures, they still think God is wrath, and Jesus opposes him. God is the angry Old Testament tribal deity, and Jesus is the loving New Testament global deity… and of course they like Jesus way better.

But this twisted view of God is unbiblical and heretic. Again: Jesus is God. If you think God’s character is all bile and rage, you’re wrong. Get rid of that idea. God’s character is Jesus’s character. Jesus is all about peace and love; so is God.