Blog Archives

Christianity 101: The Church

Here’s the last lesson in the series. Hope it’s been useful!

Christianity 101: The Church (MP3)

Last week, we talked about personal disciplines, actions we can take to grow in holiness. We know that it’s the Holy Spirit that changes us from the inside out, and disciplines simply help us cooperate with what He’s doing.

Now, holiness isn’t just an individual matter. God is a God of holy love, and He wants us the world to become holy again. And He wants us to help Him accomplish that. That’s why He created the church.

To be clear, the word “church” can mean a lot of things. It can mean the building we’re in, or the property we’re on. It can mean the people we’re surrounded with. It can mean the collection of churches that we’re a part of. It can even mean the collection of all the churches of all time.

Today, we’ll be talking about the church largely on the local level. We’re talking about the group of believers you spend your time with. it’s not really about the building: it’s about the body of Christ. Why do we call the church the body of Christ? Read the rest of this entry

The Real Story

Maybe it happened in a comic book. Maybe a TV series. Maybe even within a movie. You find a character you like, someone you identify with. You get to know how they work. Then, suddenly, they say a particular line or make a particular choice, and it just feels wrong. They would never do that, you think. You can tell the writer forced the moment in for convenience, or because they were pressured into it. It just doesn’t work.

I think God has similar moments with us.

You may not believe this, but God has a story in mind for each of us. We’re all hand-crafted, made for a specific purpose. And God cares very much about us fulfilling that purpose.

When we depart from that purpose, it can cause a lot of angst. It can feel like that out-of-character moment in fiction — except we’re living it out.

Sometimes we get there by defying God. We know what we need to do, but we’re too scared or too comfortable to do it. Or we may get there because we don’t think there’s any purpose to our lives. Maybe we never did; maybe we did once, then lost hope.

Whatever the case, believe this: You are not an accident. You are not a mistake.

God didn’t mess up when He made you. He had something good in mind. And He wants each of us to find what that good thing is. He wants us to live out our purpose.

Talk to Him about it. Take a moment in a quiet place. Ask Him what He meant your life to be about, then listen. If He doesn’t show you something right away, keep it in the back of your mind. He’ll find ways to get through to you.

Don’t force a story into your life that’s not your own.

Jesus’ Character Sheet

I love my RPGs, my video games, my novels, my movies. I love a good adventure. And apparently, so does God.

Jesus was born into a poor family, in an unstable country with a burdensome, restrictive religion. He lived a life that made Him a household name 2,000 years later. That’s incredible. But the most incredible part is that Jesus was born at all.

God allowed Himself to be born as a child. Fully God, fully human. A level 0 character. That is absolutely insane. The burdensome religion He was born into was a caricature of what He had handed down from Heaven. The broken world He was born into was a fractured version of what He had created.

There is no indication in the Bible that Jesus was some sort of superbaby. There is no mention of Him feeding or changing Himself, or speaking early, or even being particularly quiet, as in “Away in a Manger.” It says He was a baby. And it says that as He grew up, “He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was on Him.” (Luke 2:40)

Jesus rolled a starting character and leveled up like anyone else. He played through the whole adventure.

He robbed us of the illusion that God is far off, and doesn’t understand what life on Earth is really like. Know what’s extra crazy? He knew before coming to Earth. But by coming in person, He made sure we knew.

It’s really important to recognize that Jesus was fully God and fully human. There are so many implications that I could hardly list them here if I tried. But here’s one of the most important:

Temptation of Christ by Ari Scheffer

Do I even have to roll a Sense Motive?

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

-Hebrews 2:17-18

He lived a life like any of ours, with an important exception: He never sinned. He was tempted, just like we are, but He never gave in. Never failed a Will save.

Turns out that makes quite a difference, especially as we approach Easter. As the passage above says, Jesus lived a perfect life in order to cover over our brokenness.

At Christmas, we celebrated that God came to Earth for us. On Easter, we’ll celebrate what He did for us.

Holiness is a Superpower

The second XLM Bible Study was a lot of fun. Thank you so much to Avrom at Adventures in Comics and Games for welcoming us!

Our next event will be in early December. Details soon. For now, here are my notes from the lesson.

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Last time, we talked about the power of the cross. Some people stop there when they talk about Christianity. Thing is, that’s just the beginning. Jesus was clear about that.

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
-John 14:15-17

Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, and not just that we could pray to Him or know about Him, but that He would live in each of us. Now, make no mistake: the Holy Spirit is God, just as Jesus and the Father are. So what we’re saying is, God Himself lives in us as Christians.

That’s what we’re talking about today. Christianity doesn’t end at the cross. The Holy Spirit lives in us and helps us accomplish what we could never do otherwise. Read the rest of this entry

XLM Bible Study!

You’re invited to the inaugural Extra Life Ministries Bible Study! We’ll discuss a Biblical topic for about 45 minutes, then have lunch and hang out. Questions are very welcome.

This week: Why the Cross is the Most Epic Event in All History.

There’s a reason Christians make such a big deal about the cross. It’s the central event of our religion. Without it, nothing else we preach about really matters. But even beyond that? It’s pure genius.

Come join us!

Blasting Bad Guys

I’m just now playing through Fallout 3, and I’m enjoying it a lot. I love post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s also been a while since I played through an RPG, so it’s a nice change of pace from my usual shooters.

When I play video games, I get pretty immersed; that’s doubly true with roleplaying games. I try to keep a healthy distance from my characters, but I find myself getting into them all the same. Most often, I play characters somewhat similarly to the way I think I would act in their situation.

For example, when I found myself in the first subway area in Fallout, I was reluctant to open fire on the first raider I saw. I had put a lot of points into the Speech skill so I could talk my way out of problems, and I hoped I could do so with the leather-clad gentlemen with the handgun. Yeah. Not so much.

In RPGs like this one, you gotta have stuff to kill for experience. Enemies. And you can often tell they’re enemies because they’re marked as such: in Fallout 3, their names appear in red. It makes things simple. If someone has an actual name and it appears in green, chat ’em up. If they have a generic title that appears in red? Apply shotgun. Reload. Repeat until dead.

Neatly-labeled enemies are great for video games.

If we treat real people like that, we have a problem. Read the rest of this entry

Accountability: Rough, but Necessary

I hate being wrong. Even so, I know I sometimes need people to call me out when I am.

On Wednesday of last week, I taught the Bible study. We talked about one of the hardest but most necessary means of spiritual growth: accountability.

Do you have someone that will tell you when you’re messing up? Someone you’ll actually listen to?

Accountability (.mp3)

I had a feeling that the conversation would cover a range of toics, so I tried organizing my notes a little differently than I usually do. They are below.

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//recap

So, we’re gonna continue through this period of Israel’s history when the kingdom is split in two. We have the Kingdom of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. You heard about Elijah a couple weeks ago. Elijah was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom Israel and had some trouble with King Ahab and his wife, who are doing a very poor job of following God and leading the nation.  In fact, in this period of Israel’s history there were lots of ups and downs as far as following God, from King to king, or even for individual Kings.

//preview

During this period, God sent prophets to the kings of Israel and Judah to try to keep them and the people on track. Or, at the very least, accountable for the bad choices they were making.

Have you ever had a friend call you out on something you were doing wrong?

Did it ever save you a lot of trouble? Still, was it hard? Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics Bonus Level!

I’ve gone back and updated all the posts on my apologetics series with my notes. You can now read the lessons as they were written.

And as an extra bonus, here are the notes from the lesson that didn’t get recorded.

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“Because the Bible says so” isn’t going to cut it with many of the people we talk to. Here are a few reasons why.

We claim not only that our God is the only god, but that the Bible is the Word of God. These are outlandish claims in a relativistic culture. People may be tempted to dismiss them outright – how could they possibly be true in a world with so many religions and holy books? Read the rest of this entry

Authenticity with God

When we pray, I think we sometimes try to think of the most holy thing to say. For some of us, there are certain subjects that just don’t come up when we talk to God.

If we want to have a deep relationship with God, we need to be totally honest with him.

That was the subject of my sermon this morning at Crossroads.

Listen to “Psalm 109: Authenticity” on the Crossroads Podcast.

Below is the sermon as I wrote it out. There are only a few additional comments in the audio. Also, the recording started a little late, so my intro is cut off from the audio.

Enjoy!

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Good morning, everyone. And good day to everyone listening on the podcast, whenever you’re getting it. I am Pastor Brian, and those of you who don’t know me very well may be wondering, “why is that guy the head of geek ministries?” Those of you who know me a little better are not surprised at all.

Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics Finale: Jesus

In the final lesson of the apologetics series, we touch on perhaps the most important question of all: how can Jesus be the only way to God? What about all the other religions of the world? And aren’t all religions basically the same anyway?

Apologetics: Jesus (.m4a | .mp3)

And thus ends my Sunday School series. I hope it’s been useful and enlightening to you.

After this week, I’ll be getting back to regular blog posts. I say after this week because I’m preaching this Sunday! I’ll be working on my sermon, which you’ll be able to hear on the Crossroads podcast.

In the meantime, check out the Extra Life Ministries Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. There’s already been a lot of cool news in gaming and technology this week, with more to come.

Also, my friends are trying to rope me into playing Warhammer 40k. And I’m tempted. Pray for me.

Below is the lesson as written.

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This morning, we’ll talk about our most central apologetic task: defending Jesus Himself. Without Jesus, there’s no point in discussing the rest.

Jesus says this in John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The term “lifted up,” according to my footnotes, also means “exalted.” Our job is to, in a manner of speaking, make Jesus look good. The best way to do that is to tell the truth about Him.

That means we’ll need to have answers ready for views that oppose Christianity. We need something to say when people ask, “how can Jesus be the only way to God?”

It may be good to start by asking for clarification. If someone asks that question, you still may not know their specific objection. Read the rest of this entry