Blog Archives

Taking Correction

I got the chance to preach at Crossroads this morning! I ended up talking about how hard it is for me to take correction, even from God. Maybe you can sympathize?

The download link and notes are below. And if you like this kind of preaching, check out the Crossroads Podcast.

Taking Correction (MP3)

~

Aside from being a sci-fi nerd, something of a comic book guy, and a gamer, I’m a Bible geek. I’ve read it in four translations. I love connecting different passages and seeing what they say about God.

That’s why I’ll be starting a Sunday School series next week about the minor prophets, those little books in the middle of the Bible that only a few of us have read. I’ll be talking about Nahum and Habakkuk and Joel and all those guys. When I decided to teach on them, I realized I had to preach out of them too. There’s so much good stuff they have to teach us. God spoke through them, as I hope He will to you this morning.

One of the reasons God sent the minor prophets to Israel — and so many of them — was to correct Israel. This really hit me as I was reading through the book of Amos this last time. Israel was in a really bad spiritual situation, and God send the prophets to warn them, to set them straight.

That’s what I want to talk about today: taking correction from God. Because when God corrects us, sometimes we take it hard. Or we get stubborn and don’t want to listen. Or we get bitter because we think He’s depriving us of something we like. But God wants us to be humble as He corrects us through the Spirit and through the Word. And I wanna talk about a few reasons why we should be. Read the rest of this entry

Encumbrance

We had another great XLM Bible Study last Saturday. Here’s the audio. The background noise is the Magic players from the next table over.

God vs. Your Baggage (MP3)

Here are my notes. Hope they’re useful!

~

By baggage, I just mean the stuff that’s happened to us that we still carry with us. Maybe it was our fault, maybe it wasn’t (maybe we think it’s one way when it’s the other). Whatever happened, it weighs us down. It could just be depressing to think about. We might have developed a bad habit because of it, or one of those automatic reactions that gives us trouble sometimes. It’s something in our past that’s negatively affecting our present.

Baggage is stuff we don’t need to hold on to, but it’s tough to let go of.
Read the rest of this entry

Unintended Consequences

Sometimes, we think of sin like candy: a little bit is arguably good for you. It’s only a problem if you have too much. If you eat nothing but cheesecake all day, your pancreas will eventually give out, but a little indulgence here and there isn’t bad.

We should look at sin more like cancer. No one is okay with a tumor, no matter how small it is. When there’s cancer within you, you take drastic measures to destroy it.

That’s what I talked about last Sunday at Spring Valley Church.

Unintended Consequences (MP3)

Pastor Bill and most of the staff were away at a marriage retreat, and he invited me to guest-preach. It makes me particularly happy that he’d ask me because I took a preaching class from him a few years ago.

Spring Valley has been going through the book of Mark in their Sunday sermons. When Pastor Bill gave me a list of scriptures I could use, I knew I had to talk about the part where Herod chops off John the Baptist’s head. I had a direction in mind when I started researching the story, but God nudged me in a different direction.

In the end, my sermon was about how our view of sin affects us and those around us. I suggested three reminders for when we’re faced with temptation:

Don’t nurture death. There’s always a point behind temptation: to separate you from God, which is lethal to the soul. Think beyond what you’re being tempted with to the consequences of sin.

Don’t normalize evil. The more you’re in the midst of sin, the less it seems like sin. Like a friend of mine once said, “It’s appalling what people can get used to.” Remember that what you accept now may become your new normal.

Don’t bring trouble on those you love. There is no such thing as a private sin. Your actions affect others, whether by direct consequences or through your personal example. Think about how many of your parents’ hang-ups you inherited.

Thanks to Pastor Bill and everyone at Spring Valley for the chance to preach!

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

Christianity 101: Jesus & the Cross

Christianity 101: Jesus & the Cross (MP3)

Last week we discussed how pervasive and destructive sin really is. We talked about how, because the first people screwed up, we all suffer the consequences. But today, we’ll talk about the reason we have hope — hope for this life and the next. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the answer to the problem of sin.

Now, to understand the cross, we need to understand the Incarnation: Jesus coming to Earth as a human being.

When we discussed the Trinity, we saw that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We saw that Jesus is the Son; that is, Jesus is God. Let’s look at one passage that illustrates that.

30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

-John 10:27-33

Jesus claims to be God. Yet it is also clear that He was a human being. Read the rest of this entry

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

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

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.

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.

~

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

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.