20 April 2015

“I’ve never heard of that.”

At a bible study I used to attend, I’d sometimes point out what other Christians believed about the topics which came up. For several reasons, but the main one is I regularly interact with Christians from all sorts of churches, and I know where a lot of the hot-button issues are. Don’t know all of them; I keep stumbling into them. Still, I want to forewarn the people of my church: Some of the things we teach are foreign to other Christians. Especially when those folks are from churches which not only teach differently, but teach every other viewpoint is wrong, even heresy.

Most of the folks listened. But there was one person who’d scoff: “I don’t know where you meet these people. I don’t know any Christians who think that way.”

That’s not a new experience. I have someone I regularly chat with online, and she doesn’t know where I meet such people. ’Cause she doesn’t know any Christians who think that way.

Now, why would they tell me this?

19 April 2015

Filling in theology’s blanks.

There are a lot of things we Christians—heck, we humans—don’t know about God. The bible doesn’t comprehensively tell us everything, y’know. Infinite God. Wouldn’t be room. Jn 21.25

So though we try to base our beliefs about God from the scriptures as much as we can, fact of the matter is we base quite a lot of beliefs on three other things: Tradition, common sense, and personal experience.

Every Christian does it. No exceptions.

Yeah, you might’ve met one of those Christians—you might be one yourself—who swears up, down, and sideways they only base their beliefs on bible. Sola scriptura, that’s them: The scriptures alone, absolutely nothing else, determines their theology. And they honestly believe this is true.

And it’s not. See, Christianity is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but he chooses to pass it down through our fellow Christians. Our parents, our mentors, our pastors, all of ’em have helped us learn the basics of belief. And these folks claimed everything they taught was entirely bible-based. Often ’cause they earnestly believe it is. But some was, and some wasn’t.

17 April 2015

John 7.25-31:
So you think you know Jesus?

So some of the Jerusalemites were saying,

Are they trying to kill this man?—look, he’s speaking publicly, and they say nothing to him.”
“Maybe the leaders know he’s really Messiah.”
“But this man—we know where he’s from, and when Messiah comes, nobody will know where he’s from.”

So while he was teaching in temple, Jesus cried out, saying,

“You know me, and you know where I come from.
And I’ve not come by myself!
But my Sender, whom you don’t know, is true.
I know him, because I’m from him, and he sent me.”

So they were trying to arrest him—and nobody laid a hand on him, for his hour hadn’t yet come. Many of the crowd believed in him, and were saying, “When Messiah comes, won’t he perform more miraculous signs than this man did?”

John 7.25-31 KWL

As you can tell from their comments, the people of Jerusalem weren’t entirely convinced Jesus was Messiah. In part ’cause of what they thought about Messiah. “When Messiah comes,” they said, “nobody will know where he’s from.” And even the people who believed Jesus wondered whether Messiah would be as miraculous as Jesus—a comparison between Jesus and Messiah that you’d only make if you didn’t think Jesus is Messiah. (Certain translations like the NLT, which would prefer to think Jesus’s believers did think him Messiah, try to muffle that distinction—“Would you expect the Messiah to do more…?”)

You might not be familiar with the idea of “Nobody will know where [Messiah] is from.” This is the only time we see it in the New Testament. It wasn’t held by all Pharisees—as proven elsewhere in the NT, including this very chapter. In John 7.41-42 people stated they know Messiah comes from Bethlehem, not the Galilee. And of course in Matthew, when Herod wanted to know where Messiah came from, the head priests and scribes pointed him to Bethlehem. Mt 2.4-5, Mc 5.2

16 April 2015

When is Jesus returning?

Jesus is returning. But when? That’s the question every Christian asks—whether it’s in the front or the back of their minds. What’d Jesus have to say about it? Well, this. You’re not gonna like it.

“Nobody’s known about that day or the hour.
Neither the heavenly angels, nor the Son. Just the Father.
Look. Stay awake. You don’t know when it’s time.
Like a person abroad, who left his home,
who empowered his employees to do their jobs,
who ordered the doorman so he’d stay awake.
So stay awake! You don’t know when the master of the house returns.
Evening? Midnight? Sunrise? Morning?
When he suddenly arrives, don’t let him find you asleep.
What I tell you, I tell everyone: Stay awake.”

—Jesus, Mark 13.32-37 KWL

In short: “I don’t know. And even if I knew, I’m not telling you. ’Cause I want you to be continually ready for it—on your toes, never slacking, alert. Stay awake.”

15 April 2015

James 2.1-9:
Stop favoring the wealthy.

Never make favorites, my fellow Christians,
in the faith of our master, the glorious Christ Jesus.
When a man enters your congregation dressed in gold jewelry and fine clothes,
and a poor man enters in shabby clothes—
when you eye the fine-clothes-wearer and say, “Sit here comfortably,”
and tell the poor man, “Stand over there, or sit by my footstool”—
aren’t you yourselves prejudiced,
judges who’ve become evil in thinking?
Listen, my beloved fellow Christians: Didn’t God select the poor in the world
to become rich in faith, shareholders of the Kingdom who proclaim they love him?
And you dishonored the poor.
Don’t the wealthy exploit you, and drag you into court?
Don’t they slander the good name which you have been called?
But if you fulfill the Kingdom’s Law—according to scripture, “You’ll love your neighbor as yourself” Lv 19.18 —you do right;
if you show favoritism, your disgraceful, backslider-like behavior produces sin, according to the Law.

James 2.1-9 KWL

It is human nature to want to suck up to the successful. Irritating, but true. Everybody loves a winner, and whenever somebody does well in an area we admire, we flock to ’em like flies to manure. Those who love money flock to the wealthy; those who pursue fame gather round celebrities; those who aspire to be smart kowtow to the intellectuals; those who covet power follow the powerful. And this is true even in church.

Thing is, not everyone who’s achieved success has done so in a righteous way. A lot of people have become wealthy by exploiting others. Not just taking advantage of a good deal; taking advantage of someone who can’t escape their circumstances. This was true in the Roman Empire, and is true today.