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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.

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

The Lynch Mob on Palm Sunday

Yesterday, the church commemorated one of the oddest, most ironic moments in history.

Around 2,000 years ago, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem during one of the major Jewish festivals. He’d been teaching for three years, gathering followers and gaining momentum. Some thought He was the Messiah, the conqueror God promised them in ages past.

As He entered the city, the crowds flipped out. They grabbed palm branches and their own cloaks and threw then on the road out of respect. They chanted, “save us!” They hailed Him as their savior.

He accepted their praise, knowing they would soon turn on Him. Through tears, He said, “If only you knew what would bring you peace.”

Somewhere in the following five days, public opinion shifted. The man whom they thought would wage war against their oppressors instead challenged their views. He defied expectation by portraying Himself not as a political authority, but a spiritual one above all others. He called them out for their sins and thereby offended a lot of people.

By Friday, the crowd was chanting for His blood.

Sadly, they had it right the first time. Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah they were waiting for.  And though He would prove it, they would kill Him first.

Whenever I look at the story of Palm Sunday, I’m relieved I was born into such an enlightened time. I mean, people today aren’t fickle like that. We don’t just turn on people when they say something we don’t like. No, we weigh the evidence and make sober, reasonable decisions, untainted by emotion.

Especially on the Internet.

Yeah, I think the main difference between us and the crowd back then is that we don’t actually kill people as often.

The contrast between Palm Sunday and Good Friday reminds me to slow down and choose my words carefully. It reminds me to examine what I really believe. It reminds me to breathe deep in moments of intense emotion, before I say or do something dumb.

And it reminds me that even though people make really bad mistakes, God forgives us.

Magic: The Gathering – Old Testament

A lot of characters and ideas from the Bible would make great Magic cards. Here are a few of my thoughts from the Old Testament.

You got any?

Samuel (WW1)
Creature – Israelite Prophet Legend (2/2)
T: Target King gets +2/+2.
T: Target King gets -2/-2.

Year of Jubilee (G1)
Sorcery
Return all permanents to their owner’s control. Untap all permanents you control. You cannot tap lands for mana or play activated abilities for the rest of this turn.

Lucifer, the Adversary (BlBlBl2)
Creature – Fallen Angel Legend (6/6)
4: Target creature gains +3/+0. Destroy that creature at end of turn.
[Lucifer is printed on a white card.]

David, Chosen Shepherd (WW2)
Creature – Israelite Legend (1/1)
If David deals combat damage to a creature with power or toughness 2 or more greater than his, destroy that creature, and flip David.
/
David, King of Israel
Creature – Israelite King Legend (2/3)
If David attacks, all attacking creatures get first strike.

Wages of Sin (Bl2)
Enchantment
Cumulative Upkeep: Place a -1/-1 counter on a creature you control.
Draw two cards during your draw phase.
Your maximum hand size is 6.

Fire of Retribution (RR)
Instant
Each creature that dealt damage to you this turn takes 5 damage.

 

Covenant Promises (Bu4)
Sorcery
Rearrange the top 10 cards of your library. Reveal only the last three cards, then place all 10 cards on top of your library.

 

Bronze Snake (3)
Artifact
3, T: Remove all your poison counters.