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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

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)

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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

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.

Christianity 101: Holiness

Christianity 101: Holiness (MP3)

Last week, we talked about God’s solution to sin: Jesus’ death and resurrection. He died as a sacrifice for us. He paid the penalty for our sins and restored our relationship with God.

Before the cross, we were enslaved to sin. We couldn’t avoid it. But because of the cross, we’re free to live lives that please God.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…

-Romans 6:6

Now, people throughout history have been tempted to say that since God forgave us, we can do whatever we want. Even the Jews were tempted by that idea: after all, they were God’s chosen people.

But remember, God is a God of holy love. He loves us and accepts us and forgives us, and He also wants us to do what’s right. That’s why He gave the Law to the Jews in the first place: to show them right and wrong, to show them how to live a life that pleases Him. 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

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

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.

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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

RCM = XLM

We repainted.

Razorclown Ministries is now officially Extra Life Ministries. Why the change?

It’s now my job at Crossroads. After talking with my boss, we’re gonna try something new: a geek ministry. This blog will be a part of that. I’m über-excited.

I didn’t want it named after me. I’m hoping to start something that grows far beyond me. Besides, I’m just the messenger. When I’m doing my job right, it’s God that does the real ministry.

I couldn’t resist a video game reference. As long as you have an extra life, you have another chance to move forward. God is all about second chances.

I can’t wait to see what God does through this ministry. We’ve got some fun stuff planned.

My fellow geeks, God loves you. And we’re out to prove it.

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