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Jesus vs. Cthulhu

I’m sad that October is almost over. I love this time of year. Fall is here and with Halloween in a few days, we all have an excuse to indulge in some spookiness. As such, I decided to draw the themes for our first XLM weekly Bible studies from horror stories.

I love my job.

My notes are below.

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Cosmic Horror: the Universe Does Not Love You

Jesus vs. Cthulhu

Historical note: R’lyeh is not located at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee.

H.P. Lovecraft was a pioneer of what’s called weird fiction. The bad guys in his stories are often these unspeakable cosmic horrors — vastly old, utterly alien creatures that cause trouble for humanity. Among them is Cthulhu, one of the Great Old Ones. He’s gigantic and has a squid head. Very creepy.

Lovecraft worked with that theme of alienness a lot. Much of the scariness of his stories comes as his characters learn unimaginable secrets about the universe. Because of that, one of the other themes that crops up a lot is madness. In the Cthulhu Mythos, when you learn the truth, the truth will drive you insane. Cthulhu and other figures in the mythos have evil cults that worship them and do terrible things. Their presence corrupts their followers. One of the things that happens in Lovecraft stories is that, if they don’t go nuts, people slowly become monsters.

Lovecraft’s work reflects his personal beliefs about the world. His philosophy is called cosmicism, which holds that the universe is an impersonal, chaotic, mechanical place. The universe was born of chaos, and produced only more chaos.

If that were so, what would it imply?

  • Our lives are completely and totally insignificant.
  • Good and evil are meaningless.
  • Life has no purpose.
  • There is no justice.
  • We could all be wiped out at any moment.
  • Suffering is arbitrary.
  • Love is, at best, a chemical reaction.

Ever feel like that? Ever doubt that your life, your experiences have any meaning? Isn’t it horrifying to think that they might have no meaning at all? Ever get the feeling like no one cares about what you’re going through and life is nothing but chaos?

Let’s look at some contrasts between the universe of the Cthulhu Mythos and the universe that Jesus describes. Read the rest of this entry

XLM Goes Weekly!

Starting October 17 at 7 pm, Extra Life Ministries will have a weekly Bible study at Crossroads Christian Fellowship.

I’m psyched.

A group of truly awesome individuals will be breaking off with me from Crossroads’ Wednesday night Bible study to start this new geeky endeavor. We’ve got a good group, and I’m honored that they’re with me for this.

The XLM Bible Study is a place where geeks can be at home as we talk about God and how He works. Topics are spiritual; the flavor is nerdy. Our goal is always to connect geeks and gamers—inside and outside the church—more deeply to God.

And since we’re going weekly in October, why not start off with some Halloweeny action?

Our first series will be Jesus vs. the Horror! Bum-bum-buuuuuuuum! We’ll dig into the likes of The Ring and the works of H.P. Lovecraft to find truth in spooky places. First up: Jesus vs. Cthulhu.

Come join us! Tell your gamer friends! Assemble! This is gonna be fun.

Update (Oct. 4): My mistake! I counted wrong. The 10th will be our small group wrap-up at Crossroads. You’re invited to that, too! The XLM Bible Study at Crossroads will start on the 17th.

Life is Co-op

If you haven’t seen The Avengers yet, do. It’s smashing. Joss Whedon has once again done what he does best: thrown a team of weirdos with supernatural powers at a seemingly insurmountable problem so we can watch them tear it up.

Thor and Captain America

Man. That guy with the eyepatch was right about this teamwork thing.

I think stories like that — stories with a team of remarkable, unique people coming together to accomplish something incredible — appeal to us because we’re built for teamwork. God set life up to be co-op. It makes sense when you consider that God is inherently relational. He’s three people at once: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a loving, perfect, cooperative relationship in the very nature of the Creator.

I think that’s one reason we get that certain thrill from getting a good party in WoW or plowing through grunts side by side in Halo. What’s better than having a good healer watching your back in an MMORPG?

By contrast, you ever try to solo as a healer? It’s awful. You can’t get anything done. As in roleplaying games, so in life: we’re made to work together as a party.

Unfortunately, as much as we need each other, we’re still broken people. Because we’re built for co-op, we have a lot of potential to mess each other up. Two illustrations come to mind: Adam and Eve, and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
-Genesis 3:6

Adam and Eve failed each other. God told them not to eat from one particular tree. Eve tempted Adam. Adam caved to Eve. If either had done their job — resisted temptation and helped the other do the same — our world would be a different place. Their choice had dramatic consequences for all of us. Because they did what they did, we’re all broken.

Green Link blows up Blue Link.

My bad, Blue. I thought you were a moblin. *snicker*

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. It’s supposedly a co-op game. You’re supposed to team up with four of your friends to solve puzzles and defeat bad guys. However, Four Swords inevitably devolves into a game of find-a-new-way-to-troll-your-buddy. It turns out there are lots of ways: lob a bomb at him, pick him up and hurl him into the abyss, tug him along with a grappling hook, etc, etc.

The real-life version of that is less funny. People that were supposed to be looking out for us hurt us instead. We let down people that rely on us.

Whether you realize it or not, your choices affect others.

There’s another difficulty with this whole teamwork thing. It can be really hard to ask for help when you need it. It’s hard for some of us who have been burned before, or those of us that are shy or really self-reliant.

Nonetheless, we’re built to rely on one another. We’re made for teamwork. And that simple fact means that it’s okay to ask for help.

That’s a tough one for me. I like to do things myself. I’ve had to learn to accept input and correction gracefully. I’ve had to learn that I really do need help to accomplish what God has called me to do, and that that doesn’t mean I’m defective.

Being on a team means having people around you that know you and know God well — people that can encourage you and hold you accountable. Do you need a team? We’ve got some good people at Crossroads, and in Extra Life Ministries in particular. We’d be glad to party up with you.

I pray God will give you good friends to rally around you. May their gifts and yours work together to accomplish something amazing for Him. I hope you find a team.

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

Christianity 101: Personal Disciplines

[This is actually a bonus lesson! I didn’t teach this lesson at Crossroads because I was at my Grandma’s memorial. The incomparable Pastor Ashley Jennings filled in for me. These are the notes I would have taught from. Enjoy!]

Last week, we talked about holiness.God is a God of holy love, and He wants us to lead lives that please Him. That starts with our confession of Christ: accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. Then, the Holy Spirit indwells us, lives within us and changes us from inside out. He helps us to let Jesus truly be the Lord of our lives.

To be honest, it takes us the rest of our lives to work out, and we’re not even really done until we die. And as we discussed, that’s okay. God expects us to keep moving forward, though. We’re expected not to just stop growing. We should be secure in where we are with God, but not satisfied enough to just get comfortable and quit striving. Does that make sense?

To that end, God has given us tools to cultivate our own personal holiness. He wants us to engage Him, to cooperate with the changes He’s making in us. Let’s talk about some of those tools. I’ll also refer to them as disciplines. Read the rest of this entry

How to Grow

The last XLM Bible Study was great. Thanks to everyone who came out! And thanks once again to Adventures in Comics and Games for hosting us!

We’ve got more events coming up soon. We’ll post more details soon on the Facebook page, the Twitter feed, the Google+ page, and here at the blog.

Below are my notes from the Bible study.

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Last time, we talked about how God can change us into new people, how he can move us past things that we think are insurmountable. We can grow beyond what we are now.

In Extra Life Ministries, and at Crossroads in general, we talk about growth a lot. We encourage people to really engage what God wants to do in our lives. So, the question is, how do we do that? What can we do to grow spiritually?

I want to talk about three areas we can grow: knowledge, faith, and practice. And as I was thinking about those, I realized there were some parallels to the Matrix.

Think about Neo at the beginning of the Matrix, before he’s really Neo. He goes through life with these lingering questions he can’t ignore. He’s literally enslaved, but he can’t do anything about it because he doesn’t even know he’s enslaved. Something in him knows it, and knows he needs to do something about it, but he has no idea what.

When we lack knowledge, we are left without answers to the questions that bother us. Sometimes, we don’t know enough to even ask the right questions. Read the rest of this entry

New People, New Places

Below are the notes from today’s Bible study.

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Today doesn’t have to be just another yesterday. God wants to transform us into new people, and take us to new places — and He can do it.

To illustrate, I want to look at Paul today. He’s one of the prime examples of the type of transformation God can bring about in us. To recap, Paul was one of the fiercest opponents of the church when it was just starting out. Then, he had a dramatic encounter with God, and became one of the founding fathers of the church. It’s like Red Skull had a vision and suddenly joined the Avengers.

I want to look at some of the details of Paul’s transformation because as we do, it’ll give us hope for our own personal growth and change. If God can make an apostle out of Saul of Tarsus, He can make anything out of anybody. Read the rest of this entry

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

Heroism

I’m very pleased. City of Heroes is now free-to-play, and it runs on my wife’s computer. This is good news because it runs very poorly on my aging laptop. Looks like I’ll be making my way back to Paragon City and the Rogue Isles once again. Woot! I’ve updated the “Game With Me!” page with the servers I play on.

My main character is a fire blaster called Godslave. I don’t roleplay on CoH, but I do like to write backstories for my characters. Here’s his:

You can't see the Hellion tattoos when I wear the armor. One day, we hit a store in Atlas. It was five of us against one old guy. We were't worried. So we rush in, and the guy pulls a shotgun. Next thing I know, the shotgun's sliding across the floor, and he's on the floor, bleeding from the mouth. I didn't know I'd jumped the counter and kicked him until I saw the security footage later. So I'm standing over the old guy with my hand pointed at his face, and my friend Malcom's screaming at me to blast him. And I was about to do it. I was gonna kill him. But out of nowhere, this Scripture hit me. Like a voice, but... I can't even describe it. "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground." From the Book of Genesis. God talking to Cain after he'd killed Abel. It stopped me in my tracks. And it got me thinking. I've been bought at a price, twice now. Once when Jesus took my sin on His shoulders, and again on that day in Atlas. I owe God everything. It's time I acted like it.

Appropriately, the next XLM Bible Study will be entitled Holiness is a Superpower. We talked about the power of the cross this month; next month, we’ll talk about the power of the Holy Spirit to make us new. Access to divine wisdom. Superhuman endurance. Hellfire immunity.

We’ll also talk about what steals our power.  Superheroes have weaknesses, and we’re no different.

If you’re on City of Heroes, feel free to chat! And if you’d like to attend the Bible Study, keep an eye on the Facebook page. We’d be glad to have you.

Why the Cross is the Most Epic Thing Ever

This last Saturday was the first Extra Life Ministries Bible Study. We’re off to a good start.

We spent about forty minutes talking about — as you may have caught in the title — why the cross is the most epic thing ever. I’ve posted my notes below, after the link to the recording.

After the study, we shared some lunch and hung out. I can heartily recommend Safeway-brand frozen lasagna, by the way.

Plans are already underway for next month’s study. We’re gonna try to have it in a local comic book shop. The lesson, I’m thinking, is gonna be about how holiness is practically a superpower. More details to come.

Until then, thank you so much to everyone who came on Saturday, and everyone else who follows XLM as it develops into what God made it to be. Here’s our first Bible study.

Why the Cross is the Most Epic Thing Ever (.mp3)

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We say things all the time like “Jesus died for your sins.” We call Him the “lamb of God.” We sing songs like “The Wonderful Cross.” All of Christianity seems focused around this one event: the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s a big deal. And today, I want to talk about why.

Read the rest of this entry