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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

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

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

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 Double-Feature!

No Rocky Horror reference intended.

Here is the audio from the past two weeks of my apologetics series at Crossroads. Last week, we discussed the Church. Is it just an antiquated religious institution, or something more?

Apologetics: the Church (.mp3 | .m4a)

This week, we talked about the clash between science and Christianity. Do you have to pick one and discard the other?

Apologetics: Science (.mp3 | .m4a)

I’ll have one more lesson in the series. Then, I’ll be preaching in the main service on the 12th. After that, I’ll get back to regular blog posts.

There will be some other changes around the site soon. Good stuff, I promise.

Below are the lessons as written.

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Today, we’ll be discussing the church. Now, I’m well aware that I hardly need to defend the church to a group that actually shows up for a 9:00 Sunday School class. What we’ll focus on this morning is arguments we can use to defend the church to two groups of people.

Now, what do we mean by church? Some of us still think of the building. More likely, we think of the Sunday morning service. I’m not really talking about either of those. What I mean, basically, is the body of believers: the Church. That may look somewhat different in different denominations, or areas of the world, or cultures. That’s fine.

First, we’ll speak to the believers who say they don’t need to be part of the church to be Christian. That’s technically true, in a sense. If you’re in solitary confinement, for example, and are prevented from meeting with other Christians. Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics: The Problem of Evil

In this morning’s Sunday School class, I tackled one of the most troublesome questions in religion and philosophy: why is there evil in the world?

To hear my answer, click the links below. To save either file for later listening, right-click the link and select Save Link As… or Save Target As….

Apologetics: The Problem of Evil (.mp3 | .m4a)

Feel free to argue with me in the comments or send me an e-mail!

Below is the lesson as written.

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Today, we’ll talk about what may be the biggest philosophical question people struggle with day-to-day: the problem of evil. Whereas some people will look into the historicity of the Bible, and some will dig into deep theological issues, everyone wrestles with this issue. Everyone has had something bad happen to them, and frankly, everyone has done something bad to someone else. We feel the impact of evil every day. It affects our lives. And it’s often one of the issues that keeps people distant from God.

We’re going to talk about the philosophy of evil this morning. But before we do, we have to recognize that this is a very emotional issue for some people. Some people have been hurt very badly – either by other people, or just by circumstances, or even their own choices – and they’re angry with God because of it. Read the rest of this entry

God’s Presence isn’t Always Comfy

I taught the Bible study at Crossroads last Wednesday.

I think Christians often think of “being in God’s presence” as comforting and peaceful by definition. It isn’t always. If we expect Him to guide us, and change us, we’ll experience Him more deeply and avoid a lot of angst.

Here’s the audio.

God’s Presence Isn’t Always Comfy (.mp3 | .m4a)

Below is the lesson as written.

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We spend a lot of time talking about the presence of God. Seeking it. We know it’s important. But what does it really mean to be in the presence of God?

What do you think?

We may think of it as a feeling of peace. An attitude of worship. Maybe being able to hear His leading or correction. All those things are good signs that you’re in His presence.

When someone is present, what does that mean? They’re right there. They’re in your immediate area. When we talk about God’s presence, we’re usually speaking in spiritual and emotional terms. There was a time in the Old Testament when they spoke of God’s presence in physical terms. Read the rest of this entry

Apologetics: Intro

I’m teaching a class on apologetics at my church. It’s Sunday morning at 9:15 am, for the next few weeks.  Here’s the first lesson!

Apologetics: Intro (.mp3 | .m4a)

I invite your comments.

Below is the lesson as written.

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The idea behind apologetics is to offer a defense of the faith. The idea is to use well-formed, well-founded arguments to demonstrate the truth of Christianity.

The idea is not simply to win arguments. It shouldn’t be our goal to use this approach to pick intellectual fights just so we can feel smart. Apologetics is not for beating down people who disagree with us. Read the rest of this entry