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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.

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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

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: 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: 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: 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

Christianity 101: The Bible

For the next week, I’ll be posting the audio and my notes from a Sunday School series I recently taught at Crossroads. It’s a review of the basic beliefs of Christianity, but I tried to make it useful to longtime believers and noobs alike.

If you find these lessons useful, pass them on! And I’m always down to talk about this stuff in the comments or any of the social media links to the right.

Here’s the first lesson.

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Christianity 101: The Bible (MP3)

We’ll start with the Bible because we’ll be referring to in continually throughout the rest of the series.

The Bible is as good as God talking to us. It is perhaps the primary way God talks to us. It records His words to us to people in days past. It gives us example after example of how God works, and shows us who He is.

The Bible is the standard for our faith. If we’re going to teach anything in the church, it needs to be compared to what is in the Bible. If we’re not sure which way God is leading us, we compare our desires to the Bible. It’s our source for our worldview and the answers to the major questions of life: where do I come from? How do I tell right from wrong? Why am I here? And what’s going to happen to me when I die? Read the rest of this entry

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

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.

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