Monthly Archives: March 2012

Christianity 101: Sin

Christianity 101: Sin (MP3)

Today, we’re talking about sin and its impact. It will be a little bleak, but don’t worry: things will brighten considerably next week when we talk about the cross. This week, we’ll talk about the problem; next week, we’ll talk about the solution.

Now, we use the word “sin” to refer to a few different ideas. The word “sin” can refer to an act, or the consequences of an act. “A sin” is something you do: “sin,” in theological terms, can refer to the repercussion we face because of it. Perhaps the most helpful description is this: when we describe something as “sinful,” it means it’s contrary to God’s nature.

As we talked about last week, God is a God of holy love. He’s both merciful and just. He’s a moral being; His character is what defines good, and therefore evil. He is our standard.

We can find an illustration of sin and its effects very early in the Bible, unfortunately. Let’s turn to Genesis 2, and the story of Adam and Eve. Read the rest of this entry

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Christianity 101: God

Christianity 101: God

Last week, we talked about how the Bible is the standard for our worldview. We might have a lot of different ideas about God, but if we really want to understand Him, we should look to the Bible. In fact, we can learn a lot about God from the first words of the Bible. Turn with me to Genesis 1.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

-Genesis 1:1

We’ve read one verse of the Bible, and we can already answer some of the most important questions about God. For example, where did God come from? This verse tells us: God was already there.

God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. He didn’t come from anywhere: He always was, and is now, and will be forever. Before there was anything else, there was God. Read the rest of this entry

Christianity 101: The Bible

For the next week, I’ll be posting the audio and my notes from a Sunday School series I recently taught at Crossroads. It’s a review of the basic beliefs of Christianity, but I tried to make it useful to longtime believers and noobs alike.

If you find these lessons useful, pass them on! And I’m always down to talk about this stuff in the comments or any of the social media links to the right.

Here’s the first lesson.

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Christianity 101: The Bible (MP3)

We’ll start with the Bible because we’ll be referring to in continually throughout the rest of the series.

The Bible is as good as God talking to us. It is perhaps the primary way God talks to us. It records His words to us to people in days past. It gives us example after example of how God works, and shows us who He is.

The Bible is the standard for our faith. If we’re going to teach anything in the church, it needs to be compared to what is in the Bible. If we’re not sure which way God is leading us, we compare our desires to the Bible. It’s our source for our worldview and the answers to the major questions of life: where do I come from? How do I tell right from wrong? Why am I here? And what’s going to happen to me when I die? Read the rest of this entry

The Voices in Your Head

Some people say they hear messages from God. I am one of those people.

One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that God has direct relationships with His followers. He enters into two-way communication with us: we pray to Him, and He leads us. But how do we tell which feelings and inclinations are from God, and which aren’t?

This morning in the XLM Bible Study, we talked about some practical ways to tell when it’s God talking to you. My notes are below.

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Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
-Isaiah 30:20-21

One of the things we talk about a lot at Crossroads is listening for God’s leading. We don’t often talk about how to practically do that. I want to talk about that today.

Here’s what we’ll go over:

  • Implement what He’s already said
  • Find quiet
  • “Test the spirits”

Read the rest of this entry

The Best Gear

One of the best parts of roleplaying is when your characters get new gear. After slogging through a baddie-infested dungeon or weathering a big boss fight, you get the payoff: loot. And every so often, your character gets that one weapon they’ve been waiting for, that one magic item they’ve needed — the thing that’s gonna get the job done.

If you’re a rogue, you get the keen-edged, enchanted dagger that makes you stealthier. If you’re the Jedi, you get the modified lightsaber that fits your fighting style. If you’re the mage, you get the scroll containing the spell you’ve been trying to find.

You know that thing that fits just perfect? That thing that solves the problem you didn’t know you had? That’s what Christians are supposed to be for the people around us.

Above: Sharp, double-edged sword

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

-Romans 6:13

The best gear is the kind that fits your character concept. Instruments of righteousness fit the concept God built into us.

Our redemption is not a technicality. We are not delivered into neutrality, nor impotent frustration. We are brought into life and power. We’re not dead weight for God to carry; we’re instruments of righteousness. We live to propagate life.

Our words are to cut through untruth like scalpels. Our wills are to break through temptation like sledgehammers. Our prayers are to wither the ranks of demons like machine guns.

If you want that kind of faith but don’t have it, pray for it. Seek it out. God will honor your efforts and change you from within. He’ll empower you to serve the purpose you’re meant for.

Because our lives are meant to spread life. That’s what it means to be an instrument of righteousness.

It Takes Imagination

Lego figures stand in for roleplaying characters; tangerines stand in for clouds of bats.

Sure, you may see some Lego guys standing next to some Lego bats sitting on top of two mandarin oranges.

But I see the heroes of Sovereign’s Folly facing down two giant swarms of screeching bats as they explore an ancient tomb.

Side note: Turns out Cuties take up four squares — just perfect for representing a large-sized creature in Pathfinder.

Ancient Rules Lawyers

You know, they had real life rules lawyers in the first century.

There were these guys in ancient Israel that knew the Law of Moses inside and out. They knew all the errata, too. Scholars and clerics had added interpretations and clarifications of the rules over hundreds of years, and these experts in the law would debate them constantly.

They also made it a habit of enforcing every rule they knew. It got pretty burdensome for the average Jew, even those who earnestly wanted to follow God.

But that was the problem: the rules lawyers made it harder to follow God. Just like rules lawyers in RPGs make it harder to just enjoy the game. They both focus on the nitty-gritty details so much that they lose the heart of the matter. The RPG rules lawyers suck the fun out of a game; the ancient Jewish rules lawyers stole the focus of following God away from love.

As the church got started, Paul had to make this point in a big way:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

-1 Corinthians 13:1-3

This is one of the main reasons Jesus came to earth.

He had already made the universe in a big game of Dawn of Worlds with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He had already picked the Israelites to be His example for the world of how to follow Him. He had already given them the Law. Then, as He knew would happen, He watched them turn the Law into a burden it was never meant to be. He watched them add more and more commands until the weight of it was unbearable.

Then, He came to Earth to show us what following God really looks like.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

-Matthew 22:34-40

God commands us to do — and not do — a lot of things. We can easily get hung up on the particulars. But never forget: at the root of it all is love.

One way God expresses His love is grace. We don’t have to follow His rules perfectly in order to have a relationship with Him. He loves and welcomes us as we are, then helps us to devote ourselves to Him and work toward perfection.

Don’t wait to come to God because you’re not perfect. And don’t let your imperfection steal the joy of your faith as you strive forward. God knows you’re not perfect yet. And He’s okay with it.