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Why it’s Good

In the end, Good Friday is not about guilt and shame. It’s about hope and love.

I’ve spent far too much of my life dwelling on the fact that my imperfection caused Jesus so much suffering. Understanding the impact of our sins is crucial to understanding the magnitude of the cross, but I’ve spent too much time agonizing over my mistakes. Sin is real and its consequences are dire, but that’s not the central message of Good Friday. If it were, we wouldn’t call it “good.”

Jesus endured the suffering I earned for myself. I could feel guilty about that, but that’s not what He wants. He just wants me to be grateful and live out that gratitude.

I do an awful job of it sometimes. I’ve done, said, thought things in the past couple days that He paid for on the cross. But that’s the point of the cross: it gives us a chance to try and fail. Our debt to God is paid, so He can extend overwhelming grace to us. The cross is our second chance.

Our extra life, if you will.

That’s the message of the day. Jesus’ sufferings mean hope for us. And think about it: if His death accomplished so much, what about His resurrection?

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
-Romans 5:10

There’s hope for us. That’s why we celebrate Easter. And that’s why it’s called Good Friday.

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.

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

Fail Better

I tried recording a podcast this morning for my day job. I moved our Mac Mini to an empty office, plugged in our shiny new Blue Snowball, and fired up Garage Band. My subject matter expert did great: very articulate. Good info. It looked like we were on our way to a respectable episode one.

Here’s where we were recording. Anyone who has any experience with recording audio could tell you how it sounded when I hit play.

My first attempt at a recording setup in a spare office at my day job.

Small room. Flat walls. No good.

The echo gave the recording a little bit more of an epic fantasy feel than we intended. I’m gonna have to re-record the whole thing in a better environment. Preferably somewhere without close, flat walls.

Say it with me: FAIL.

That particular four-letter F-word has crept into my vocabulary over the last few years, thanks to the Internet. It’s the verbal equivalent of the game show buzzer. We see it stamped unceremoniously on pictures that make us feel better about themselves. Hey, it’s good for a laugh. I don’t even know how many hours I’ve spend on FAIL Blog.

My problem with calling FAIL on someone is that it has an air of finality.

Read the rest of this entry

FAIL.

Missed a post! Lapse in discipline. Devotion fail.

Stuff like this usually happens on a day off.

You’d think it would be easier to do Bible reading and journaling and such on a weekend, since there’s so much more time readily available. Ah, but that’s thinking logically.

Historically, days off have been days of extravagant laziness for me. I haven’t wanted to do anything important. I came to expect that after a while of getting away with it.

That has ceased to be practical, but my mind still goes there. I’m fighting it. If I don’t fight it, I’ll neglect basic household chores, Bible reading, and other daily necessities. It’s not pretty. Thankfully, I’m generally winning the fight.

Besides the day-off mentality, I also forget things when my routine gets thrown off. I took a vacation day yesterday so we could go see some family in Yuba City. Apparently, I’m easily distracted by cool people.

So, I forgot. Broke the writing streak. Messed up my Lenten observance.

Nothing to do but pick it right up again.

I’ll write a post tomorrow – partly because I want to catch up, partly because I have something I really wanna talk about.

FAIL isn’t the end.

One Kind of Grace

We Christians talk about God’s grace a lot. It’s central to how Christianity works. If you’ve spent any time around a church, you’ve probably heard it defined as “undeserved favor.”

This illustration might help.

You’re running a game of Dungeons & Dragons. You manage to herd your players into the villain’s castle for their first showdown. They navigate the halls, fighting back the guards and foiling a few clever traps, when they get to the hall with the encounter you have planned.

Behind the door at the end of the hall, you know, waits the villain’s personal bodyguard. The party has fought him before, but now they finally get to beat him. They’re already banged up, but that will just add to the drama. All is going according to plan.

That is, until one of the players declares that his character runs ahead of everyone and opens the door. Everyone gives him odd looks. “Dude, give us a sec to heal.” Oddly confident, he says, “No, no. I got it.”

Weird, you think, but you can work with it. The bodyguard spots him and lunges with his heavily enchanted halberd. “Okay,” the player says, “I tell him-”

“Um, you don’t really have time to say anything. He was waiting for you, holding his attack. You guys were kind of invading his master’s castle.”

“…oh.”

Wondering why that wasn’t obvious, you roll the bodyguard’s attack. 20.

You pause.

By rights, the guy should be dead. He’s already taken a bunch of damage, and a major character just delivered a critical hit. Besides, he just put himself and the rest of the party in danger with a stupid mistake, even after everyone tried to stop him. He totally deserves what he gets.

The thing is, you had plans for that character. He was crucial to an upcoming part of the story. And despite how much he annoys you and the party sometimes, you love that character. You see potential in him that no one else does, and you want to see him develop. You want to see him win.

“How many hit points do you have?” you ask him.

“Um… 12.”

You roll damage. With the critical hit, the total comes to 36.

“11 damage,’ you say.

Grace.

Take a moment and consider everything in your life that could have gone worse.