Music Blog: Brand New – Jesus Christ

One song has really stuck with me as one of the most profound lyrical songs of the last couple decades, and that’s the one referenced at the top of the blog.

 

Really the song is one of the few songs that deals with Christianity and Jesus Christ from a perspective that’s different than you hear in most praise songs.

Jesus Christ, that’s a pretty face
The kind you’d find on someone that could save
If they don’t put me away
It’ll be a miracle

Do you believe you’re missing out?
That everything good is happening somewhere else
With nobody in your bed
The night is hard to get through

And I will die all alone
And when I arrive I won’t know anyone

The first verse deals with an immediate human unworthiness of Christ’s grace. He uses the term Jesus Christ almost like a double entendre, in the sorta swearing way that it’s used quite regularly these days, but also very nakedly like he’s talking to Jesus personally. There’s a loneliness in that, as through our sin we’re separated from God and need companionship more than anything else. But note that in his reverie, he understand that he’s overwhelmed by sin, in this case lust, and can’t get away from it no matter how he tries. Such an honest admission is so rare, even in poets and artists. Because of that, he feels ostracized in both who he is and his faith. I know I’ve felt this way, and recognized my failings. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to vocalize them in something public like this, however. It’s extremely bold for him to have done so.

Jesus Christ, I’m alone again
So what did you do those three days you were dead?
Because this problem is gonna last
More than the weekend

Jesus Christ I’m not scared to die
But I’m a little bit scared of what comes after
Do I get the gold chariot
Or do I float through the ceiling

Or do I divide and pull apart
Cause my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark
This ship went down in sight of land
And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands?

This second verse really goes deeper into that human failure and loneliness. But then he reflects: how lonely must it have been for God to be in the grave, without any solace, truly alone and facing pain. It had to be worse than anything we ever could experience, as at least when we die — we can be with God. Jesus did that for us. He suffered some of the worst pains imaginable so we wouldn’t be alone. And yet at the same time — we have doubts about the end of our own lives. Despite all of the reassurances, we’re often uncertain. The second stanza is something again many of us reflect upon.

That lack of certainty leads to doubt, and he plays this up to say that his doubts are even worse than the Apostle Thomas was when he came face to face with Christ and didn’t believe he’d risen from the grave. The message is clear: we are so unworthy of God’s sacrifice that it’s ridiculous. The darkness within us is so terrible, he finds it hard to believe that Christ would even want him around, that his works are not good enough to sustain eternal life. I think we all can feel that way sometimes, but we shouldn’t let it bring us down. That is the amazingness of God’s love in a nutshell though — that despite our faults, He will never betray us, never leave us. God’s love for us is infinite. And while Jesse may have felt alone while writing this, he doesn’t have to be, for it is written: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” – Jeremiah 31:3

I know you’re coming in the night like a thief
But I’ve had some time, O Lord, to hone my lying technique
I know you think that I’m someone you can trust
But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up

The end build here is some of the most beautiful work ever recorded. It still gives me shivers and can bring tears to the eye to this day. This end is about how we constantly betray Christ over and over again in our daily lives. We give into sin, we all do, we can’t help it. And it’s a shame. This is why we have to repent over and over because we keep failing at the very simple commandments Christ gave to us to love one another and love the Lord God. And more than that –we’ve all honed our lying techniques where we become so good at lying to ourselves that what we’re doing really “isn’t that bad”. It’s a big trap where we compartmentalize our sins in our lives, and justify them to ourselves, when we really need to get back to living as Christ taught us. It’s something to be keenly aware of in order to help us avoid the cycle of sin.

So do you think that we could work out a sign
So I’ll know it’s you and that it’s over so I won’t even try
I know you’re coming for the people like me
But we all got wood and nails
And we turn out hate in factories
We all got wood and nails 
And we turn out hate in factories
We all got wood and nails
And we sleep inside of this machine

And just like the pharisees, Jesse is aware that he — and all of us — keep asking God for signs to prove who he is, as if He owes us, even though we have failed His commandments. It’s sickening to think about how we do that after he came here, was tortured and brutally murdered by our ancestors, and still managed to forgive us of our sins that we demand from God. Even though we know he’s coming for us. We know it in  every core of our being. So why do we keep making these demands? Why do we keep failing him? It’s like he says — we all good wood and nails. If we were in that position, we might be shouting jeers at Christ ourselves and betraying him. There’s no way we are more enlightened or better people who were witnessing Christ firsthand. If He came today, we might very well be part of that same crowd killing our Lord God over again.

It’s a painful, depressing and an uncomfortable song, I know, but what it does is serve as a big reminder to us: we live in sin. We must do all we can to live as Christ told us, and that involves actively thinking about His will at every moment of every day, not just going to church on Sunday, not just during times we’ve set, but in all things we do. It’s so hard, it may even be impossible, but if we keep asking God for help in this, He’ll deliver as always. That’s the only way we can get outside of this machine we’re sleeping in.

Despite the rather tragic song There is so much good news though. The fact that Christ loves us so much that he did sacrifice himself is inspiring. Though we have our failures and that is a depressing thing — it doesn’t matter, and we can take solace in that. It’s hard in these modern times to imagine the kind of unconditional love Christ brings to us, as everything is so conditional in our lives to the point where it feels like nothing lasts, but it is there. He came for us, he sacrificed, and he rose again. It’s already over, and we don’t even have to try. God will give us his grace if we simply ask for it. It’s such a beautiful thing. As Paul said:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10

What a beautiful thing. It’s cause for rejoicing. And while I think it’s fine to feel the empathy of this song that we should feel because of how much Christ suffered for us and because of our inherent unworthiness, we should do our best to focus on the joy God has given us as well. It still remains a beautiful song, and one that stirs deep reflection in me. I hope it does in you as well!

If you ever want to talk about Christ, learn more about Him, I am not sure I’m the best teacher, I have failings just like anyone else — but I’ll do my best and I’m happy to talk to you whenever. There’s nothing more important for you or for me, so I’ll make the time. Don’t be afraid to contact me!

The Last Crusade: Who Is Your Father?

There’s so much to share about the weekend at the Realm Makers writer’s conference, but the most important, brothers and sisters, may be a moment of clarity and revelation that was given early on in the conference to me, and one that the Lord compels me to pass along to you this morning.

A lot of what I’ve discovered this last year or so that pushed me along in my journey of seeking Christ, whether I wanted to or not, was tied into a sermon I listened to. Two things have gone on the last hundred years or so in the church that hasn’t happened before in history: 1. The church went out into the world and 2. The world came into the church.

The first started, as most things do, with good intentions. The church didn’t just keep to its elements along Mediterranean Europe, which most of Christendom has taken place through its history. With the expansion into the Americas, and then to Africa and Asia, the church pushed an outward focus. Which is a good thing, as the message has always been to go out and make disciples of all nations. The struggles came when there was a church established in nearly every nation on Earth, that we were spread to the corners of the globe. What happened was we wanted to reach outward still, and so we reached for the world in a different way – in that we changed ourselves to be like them, in order to fit in with the world.  We lost our confidence because we were so used to growth, that the only way to maintain that growth seemed to be to “update” Christianity, to make it palatable, so that we wouldn’t be criticized by academics or entertainers as being too strange.

This resulted in part two. The world flooded into the church. What we saw as a result is more and more of a talk about the church – less and less of a talk about Christ. We became hyper focused on “how do we look cool to bring more in”, which is not biblical in the least. Christ said it in John 15: 18 – “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” I warn Christians all the time that if the world applauds what you’re doing, be very careful and reflect on that, what you’re doing is probably is wrong.

But why did we lose this confidence? What changed in our hearts that made us want to conform rather than want to be a separate beacon of light that shines as brightly as possible? That beacon that brought civilization to this Earth like had never been seen before, that made kings bow before the Lord?

We’ve been duped in a way, in our conforming to the world, that we’re not supposed to seek or see the supernatural influences of our world. We’ve been taught by the secular institutions that science, what we can observe and catalog, is the only truth. That there’s nothing else out there. So while we held onto the most basic messages of “love your neighbor as yourself” nodding to each other saying “that sounds sensible, no one can disagree with that,” we turned our backs on the Spirit.

There was a parable taught to me and others on Thursday, one which I’ll do my best to relay to you now. There’s no reason to lose that confidence. We shouldn’t fear. There is no fear in love, there is no fear in the Word. There is no fear in God. We can be bold, we can proclaim the Spirit, and God will do the rest.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to attribute it, so I won’t, and this isn’t verbatim, but my four-day-later-recollection, so I’ve had to make my own changes to the story, but the message rings true:

The story goes about a boy in the jungle who’s following one of his village leaders.  They go out into the jungle and come across a hyena, and the boy panics. The older, wiser man stills him, and they walk along carefully until they pass the beast.  

The boy asks, “were you not afraid?”

The man said, “no, I know who my Father is.”

The boy, confused, asks again, “but what if the hyena hurts you?’

The man stops, reflects on the situation, and turns the the boy. “Suppose there’s a lion sleeping in the forest, do you think the hyena can prey upon such a great beast and hurt it?”

The boy says “yes, the hyena has a ferocious bite.”

The man frowns. He didn’t get the message across, but his Father is the Father of creation. He could do anything, and he needed a way to bring that point to the boy.  “Think of this, what if the Lion were grown to be twice as large?”

The boy shrugged. “It can still hurt the lion. If it came upon it when it wasn’t paying attention, it can still rip into its hide and bring it down.”

The man motioned to the forest. “What if the Lion grew to be as big as this tree, as this forest?” 

The boy thought about it a moment. “The Hyena can still nip at its Achilles heel and if it struck the right place, it could bring the lion down.”

Undeterred, the man made a great sweeping motion to the sky. “So what if the Lion grew so large as to be the size of this world? The size of the galaxy and the stars above, and the hyena was but a speck so small that the Lion couldn’t even see it. Would the hyena be able to bother it then?”

The boy looked up to the cosmos, seeing the blue sky beyond. “No, I suppose not.”

“Then why would I be afraid? My Father is infinite. He is bigger than this world, bigger than the galaxy, he stretches to eternity, and he will protect me.”

It’s such a simple message. God is Infinite. God is so much bigger than anything else, beyond space and time, beyond anything we can possibly imagine. The world, evil, are such small specks to him that they can never bother Him, they can never influence Him, they can never chip away at Him. He is so vast and so great that we have nothing to worry about.

It means we can live bold as Christians. It means that we can proclaim Christ as loudly as we can, and we should. We don’t need to conform to the world in order to get fake butts in seats for pews. We have a higher purpose, and are worshipping a glory that goes so much more beyond the here and now, that it’s awe-inspiring just to think about.

When I heard this message, I felt the Spirit move. The Spirit is everywhere, of course, but in moments when we draw His attention, I’ve noticed in my life that there’s a change in the room. It’s almost like an air pressure change, but something vast, not-physical. A heavy burst, full of light and joy rushes over the room like a tidal wave. It’s hard to put into words, but I know when I feel it. I know when we’re in His presence and His focus is on us.

We need more of those moments. We need to make our entire lives their moments to be able to proclaim His kingdom. And that means we cannot live in fear of the hyena, or what someone thinks, or the insults that will get flung at us. It’s all something to laugh off, because our Father is infinite.

I hope that brings inspiration to your day like it has to mine. It is written much more succinctly:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

The Last Crusade: Letting God Work Through You

I have a confession to make, readers. A year ago at this time and before that, I was not walking the faith in the way I should. Sure, I believed that Jesus Christ rose from the dead to forgive our sins, but I compartmentalized my faith into a “something we do on Sunday” and did not consider God every day. I didn’t pray every day. I didn’t read scripture every day. I was like the person who is trying to lose weight but eats junk food every meal but one protein shake and won’t do anything else. But Christ said “You must serve the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matt 22:37). He didn’t say to make it a once a week thing.

It sounds pretty daunting to do. But it’s actually very easy. The Bible has a running motif: “Do not be afraid.” It’s said over and over in awesome, divine instances, but it’s also commanded to the church in our day to day lives not to be anxious or afraid. And often times, we do let the fear that society will reject us dictate our walk with the Lord. It results in casting our faith in the shadow of our lives rather than making it something central and bright.

The way to change that is a very simple thing indeed: 1. Listen. 2. Let Him work.

As much as that is something so small, we all, myself included, think of ways to evade both of these things. “But I’m so busy today…” is an easy one. “But what will people think of me…” is another. I struggled with the latter, a compulsion to have everyone like me that pushed me into shyness about what proclaiming what is right. Most knew that I called myself a Christian, but most also couldn’t see me doing anything different than they were doing. It was very easy to fall into that lull, and it still is. It, like almost everything else we’re supposed to do, requires vigilance and daily work/prayer.

The incredible part, is that God plants the seeds and is here to help us grow. Once you see the beautiful interconnectedness of God’s plan, the way that this universe fits together like a puzzle, the vast intricacies of everything he designed, it’s impossible to stop. And that simple observing is enough to change you and me.

I reflected on the last year in my life, and I saw a big change. One that God put in the works for a long, long time, but I failed to see.

God has long called me to witness to the entertainment community, especially in the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields. This industry is full of pure worldly vapidity, and full of not only a disinterest in the divine, but a flat-out disdain for God and Jesus Christ that is painful to see. It’s a very scary place, and the prospect of being shunned/rejected is very real. If you just scroll back through some of my comments, you’ll see that there’s plenty of folk who want to make sure that rejection stings as much as possible. It’s pretty awful and painful at times to get that treatment, especially from people who I revered and respected as heroes. I won’t sugarcoat it and say that’s not there.

So naturally the first thing I did was ignore it. God was in the back of my head for years telling me to do something. I wasn’t sure what it was. I thought perhaps I was supposed to write an allegorical Christian fiction, or something more straightforward… and even that I put off. For years I said next to nothing, letting myself be a quiet Christian who fits in with the world.

And what happened? The world rejected me anyway. I wasn’t making much headway. Even though I had a book contract and was working with some big-name industry insiders on a pretty well-known property, people didn’t come to read. God did not bless that course of action in the least, because it was a worldly goal with a worldly end. I was ignoring my calling through all of that. Because I was afraid. Because I wanted acceptance.

Around that time (last summer), God was planting seeds within me and I didn’t even know it. I’m not sure what caused me to start reading Vox Day or reach out to him, but as I look back, I see that God moved in that. I wrote Vox a message, concerned about something that was going on in the church, as I observed that the messaging, the work being done, was moving toward a focus on pleasing the world and being accepted here, rather than following Christ no matter what it took. It’s ironic that I saw this in the church and not in myself, but it’s just another way that God connects stories and builds his vision. Vox wrote back with sound advice, blogged about the church and being vigilant in faith, and though I filed that away to some extent, it did one important thing: got me thinking about God’s will more often.

It spiraled from there, and it wasn’t any of my doing. When times got tough within the worldly side of science fiction, Vox was there again, and gave me a voice, a very loud one through his blog which I’m thankful for to this day. Having that voice, taking the steps to not be afraid paved the way for me to be able to speak about God and Christ in an open manner. To shout His praises from the rooftops and have no fear.  The connection is a small one, a kernel of concern about the church, leading me to a person (if you look at the Bible, almost every story is God leading those who follow him to people, and connecting his people and the Body of Christ so we can do great things together), that on the surface didn’t seem like anything other than an industry contact. It was a whole lot more.

Because of that, I met up with Superversive Press. Again, little things, but this group is one that talks about Christ regularly, listens and prays for each other, it’s an edifying group online that cares and will hold each other accountable when we’re stumbling. It’s about the biggest blessing ever. Through them, I met my friend L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright, who probably will be embarrassed to hear this, but she, along with some of the blogs by her husband, has been the primary driving factor in encouraging me in my faith and speaking out about it.

Now the cool little way God worked again? Jagi helped me edit my piece for Vox when I originally spoke out. In fact, that’s how I met her. She was compelled to do the little help with this, even not knowing me, probably without even knowing why or what it would lead to. He connected us all in very small ways, and that led me to finding and reading The Last Crusade blogs, which led me to a renewed spiritual enthusiasm.

All of this stuff was not my doing! It was other people working in the faith who just sprinkled their impact on me. If you ask both Jagi and Vox, they’ll tell you that it wasn’t much of their time or thoughts for this matter, but they were happy to lift a brother up. God compels them to work in the way they work as well. All caused at the onset by God telling me to be concerned about the church, which led Him to showing me that concern needed to start inside me to make a change.

Little things. All connected. It just takes opening our eyes to see it. And we won’t even see it at all unless we 1. Listen. 2. Let Him work. Pray. That little inkling telling you to walk the path is God letting you know what’s right for His plan. Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone. He’s always with you.

And that’s the good news, brothers and sisters. When you do reach out and find out what God wants you to do, and start doing it, He WILL bless you in ways that you couldn’t have imagined. The moment I started down this path, the moment I started putting Him first above all else, my career in this field changed. Sure, I had the shunning and I get the name calling by some, but that doesn’t matter in the least. God’s blessed me with tremendous support from far more of His people who care, who want to see me grow in the faith, who want to grow in the faith themselves. We build each other up and it only compounds from there. Look at what He did with just 12 followers, after all. He’s instilled far more than 12 into my life since this time.

I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t have any regrets in dedicating more of my time, more of my energy, more of my prayers and more of my life to Him. It fills me with great joy every day and keeps me going when times are tough. It’s amazing grace, for real.

He’ll do the same for you. All of your troubles, all of your pain, lift it up to Him. God wants to help you. There’s nothing more that I’d love than to share this journey with you.

If you’re reading this for the first time and haven’t encountered Christ. It’s amazing what he did, far more so than my little story of receiving his blessings. God came down to earth, lived the only perfect life in existence, and sacrificed himself at our hands, using his own blood and pain to wash away all of our sins and evils. The amazing part of it all is that he rose from the dead three days later, and came back to proclaim the good news to all of us. Here’s here for us, and He’s listening.

If you want to know more, if you want prayer, if you want friendship, I’m not just here to blog. I want to help you like the others helped me. You can leave a comment, I can get your email off of that. Or find me on social media and I’m happy to talk more about this. We can change the world together and it starts with a prayer.

The Last Crusade: Judging Evil and Wickedness

I’ve talked about common phrases that non-Christians like to take out of the Bible and smugly use to criticize Christians into silence. The topic at the time “turn the other cheek”, attempting to dupe Christians, but there’s another that does pretty much the same thing, which has been used to con a couple of modern generations of American Christians into not speaking out about morality in general: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

They quote the King James every time because that’s what’s in pop culture for this phrase, and it’s a big sign that it’s something everyone heard as a kid, and no one actually drilled into and practices what was actually taught by Jesus. As usual, you can’t pull 6 words from scripture without context.

The Bible actually gives us a path to judgment, specifically with how we should judge evil:

Proverbs 97:10: “Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”

Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

 Hebrews 1:9 (speaking of Christ Jesus, of who we are supposed to emulate): “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

It’s all over. Dozens of references to hating evil and wickedness. But if we aren’t supposed to judge, how are we to know what is evil or wicked, let alone how we’re supposed to react?

It’s because the verse is, like most scripture, taken out of context.  Here’s the full passage Of Mathew 7: 1-6 for analysis:

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Quite a lot of judgment there, as a matter of fact. In this, we are judging some as “dogs and pigs” which in terms of ancient Jewish society, are about the most unclean things someone can use as a metaphor. The specifics are what matters.

What Christ teaches, and actually how most Paul’s letters teach us to behave, is in regards to our Christian brothers and sisters. The speck of sawdust in your BROTHER’s eye is what’s key to his passage. The Church and Christ are very much concerned about how we act toward each other, almost beyond anything else. It means we shouldn’t take disagreements between each other and try to destroy our fellow Christian with them. That gossip shouldn’t be something among Christian brothers and sisters. If one of us is struggling with sin, it’s because we are fallible and working toward perfection – we shouldn’t look down upon others in that journey, because we are all on that same journey.

Those who hate Christ are not on that journey, and are professing wickedness, especially in deceiving Christians to be quiet about morality. We must speak out about sin and must define sin in order to show light to the world. Otherwise there is no difference between us and the pigs and dogs. But it’s also not our job to overly explain ourselves to those who are trying to be mockers of Christ in this, that’s what verse 6 is about. We do what we do because it’s God’s commandment. We have to speak out, we have to give Him praise. We’ll get mocked for it every time, There are actual souls at stake who we can work on, who are actually interested in learning about Christ. That’s where we need to dedicate our efforts. In any argument now I ask “are you earnestly interested in learning about Christ?” if they cannot answer yes, I don’t spend the time.

The Bible is very clear on behavior that we should judge as evil and wicked as well

Galatians 5: 19-21 is a simple guide: “Now the works of the flesh are plainly seen, and they are sexual immorality, uncleanness, brazen conduct, idolatry, spiritism, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, dissensions, divisions, sects, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and things like these. I am forewarning you about these things, the same way I already warned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

Obviously I’m not posting this to say I am any better than you, brothers and sisters. I fall short fairly regularly, embarrassingly so. But these are things to judge, and especially to speak out about their evils, even though it is unpopular in society to do so.

As with most of Christianity, intent is everything. If you do what you do in seeking Christ, you will not do wrong, because He is with you. If you’re here to help a brother when they are stumbling, that is quite different than judging a brother.  But none of this applies to the wicked world. Out there, there are lost sheep, but there are also goats and wolves among them. Be wary, stay vigilant, and never be conned into silence.

Psalm 40

Many of you probably don’t know it, but it’s been a rather hard week for me. I don’t say much about things like that, because I am a firm believer that mindset, energy, pushing toward goals are the way to overcome things. There’s also trusting in God.

Instead of reading the news every morning, I’ve been reading a Psalm of David, the first great King of Isreal way back in the day. He collected and wrote several praises and songs meant to inspire us, and see us through tough times. God is always there, and will help us in our time of need. That is exciting in and of itself!

I’m low on time today, so here’s David’s words from Psalm 40 which I read this morning:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened[c]
    burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.[e]
I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay.

The Last Crusade: Your Work Matters

A friend sent me a link to a NY Times article this morning about Christianity reshaping the middle east. They actually made a positive article about the work Christians are doing over in Syria and other parts of the world that are ridden with terrorism, and how those efforts are shaking the enemies of God and the West, as they see the difference between the Christian way of life and theirs. It’s about the most inspiring thing I’ve seen in awhile.

There’s missionaries, your brothers and sisters, who pick up everything, go overseas and spread the word of Jesus Christ. These people are FAR braver than someone like me, and they deserve tremendous respect and moreover, the support of those of us back home. Their showing Christ and charity to radical Islamic fighters and those oppressed by them in the region helps make people realize that their way is not the right way, and that there is a better way — THE way, the truth and the life.  It’s invaluable.

What’s great is their stories are inspiring, and they can give us some practical advice for living at home according to Him. It takes time and hard work, but it’s impossible not to see the fruits of Christ’s message if you get into it:

Exactly why he sought solace in Christianity, rather than a more mainstream version of Islam, no one can quite explain. Reading the Bible, Mr. Mohammad claimed, made him calmer than reading the Quran. The churches he attended, Mr. Mohammad said, made him feel more welcome than the neighborhood mosques. In his personal view, Christian prayers were more generous than Muslim ones. But these are subjective claims, and many would reject the characterization of Islam as a less benign religion, much as they would reject Nusra’s extremist interpretation of it.

This is exactly why the Word is so important. It changes you. It’s important to read and steady yourself with God’s message every day. Even those who used to fight and slaughter Christians see it, and they can’t help be moved by it. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit.

Ms. Rashid said she dreamed of a biblical figure who used heavenly powers to divide the waters of the sea, which Mr. Mohammad interpreted as a sign of encouragement from Jesus. Then, Mr. Mohammad himself dreamed Jesus had given him some chickpeas. The pair felt loved. 

God is real, and He manifests himself everywhere, but you have to be looking for Him. He is the supernatural, beyond and running through the natural. We forget this a lot in our American ways of life where all we see is the material every day in our busy lives. That’s why studying the Word is so crucial again. There is far more to existence than what our eyes see.

This all made me think of something else I saw this morning, about how another friend made a post about how he’s kept quiet about a number of things in his life, and how now he’s made the choice to speak up, to not straddle the fences where it’s comfortable, where he hopes that no one will make him a target, but he’s going to go out and live his life and profess what he believes.

Every time someone does this, it changes the world. It’s brave to do that where you may get shunned by some friends here, and that shouldn’t be minimized, even though we would be wise to remember that people like Mr. Mohammed face far worse for his bravery. Let his story inspire you to bravery. Every time you put yourself out there for Christ, even if it only changes one person in your life, that will change another person, and another. Look at the results in Syria of all places above. This man has achieved eternal salvation because of a couple of people.

Vox Day posted something incredibly inspiring yesterday on this very topic: Only two numbers matter, 2 and 12. Because one plus one is three and all we need are twelve to change the world.

That’s all it takes. You are making a difference in living by Christ even if it doesn’t feel like it. Keep hope and live strong, for it is commanded:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Your work matters. Mr. Mohammed’s new found calling matters. Your boldness will be rewarded by the fact that others will come to see Christ and His glory. We’ll all rejoice for their coming together with the Lord in his Kingdom. Pray for our bold warriors out there bringing the love of Christ to these souls. Pray for peace.

The Last Crusade: Go Forth And Trust In God

One of the hardest things to do is trust in God. There’s always a doubt about what you’re going to do, but that doubt is seeded, and it’s something intentional to keep you from enacting God’s will. A lot of the time you’ll have this nagging sense in the back of your head: I need to do something. If that something is uncomfortable for you, something that scares you, and something that you can’t see how it would benefit you—odds are that small voice in the back of your mind is God.

This past week in church I was particularly inspired because we have a pastor who has been called to go found and create a new church. He’s packing up his life, leaving, with nowhere to live, nowhere to work, just going based on what he heard from God. I can’t see myself ever doing that. With a family, this sort of call is extremely difficult, but it’s also something that we’ve seen throughout the Bible. This is exactly how God calls us. From Moses, who stuttered and couldn’t speak being called to be a leader. To Jonah, who was told to go to the Ninevites. To the disciples who were fishermen and tax collectors, normal people who had no business being leaders. This is how God calls.

I had a nice theological discussion with someone on Gab last evening, where the person echoed this sentiment with: “screw up for God.” Though it’s a bit crass of a way of putting it, the sentiment is actually correct. God calls us to action. If we’re afraid of doing it wrong, or getting bogged down in the details of “can I do this the way he wants” we’re never going to accomplish anything. And so it’s better to put ourselves out there when we hear his voice.

I had this nagging voice for years in an uncomfortable situation – to witness to the Science Fiction readership community. It’s extremely uncomfortable because this crowd is hostile in the extreme toward the message of Christ. Many spit at Christianity, deeply engrained in their worldly religion of scientism that rejects any of the supernatural or any faith.

But that’s also where God’s needed the most. We need to create strongholds within the Enemy’s domain. In the places that seem like they’re solid rocks and too hard to penetrate. We need to be the voice inside the echo chamber. It’s really hard, it’s not fun at all. It’s cost me a lot of friends, and my name is mocked and spit upon regularly as a consequence.

But that’s not meant to deter you. A great friend approached me a few weeks ago when I was really taking some heat, and in the middle of my failing and responding negatively to it, he reminded me of the words from 1 Peter:

“Finally, all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for this is you were called that you may obtain a blessing.”

It’s counterintuitive, and I fail in this often, but we are called upon to receive reviling. When we get this, we have to keep in mind that it’s a good thing. We are being blessed and we should bless those similarly. It’s really hard to do, and it takes constant reminding and remembering. Part of writing this is to help remind myself to do this. Peter later mentions the reason why and a call to action:

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’s sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect; having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”  

We have to suffer for doing what is good. He reiterates that it’s a blessing. We have to also be out there, speaking loudly the good news of Jesus Christ, even if it appears not welcome in the world. And it will appear unwelcome. It’s uncomfortable, and that’s where it comes back to trusting God.

I strive to be more like this pastor who is willing to give up his life and walk for Jesus. Just like the apostles did. Though it’s more comfortable just to be quiet and let the world go as it would – even though at a time like this with a book release, it’d be easier to stay on the fiction topic, just talk about happy entertainment and not post a message like this, even though I risk turning off new readers. God has called me. I have to speak. I have a lot of work to do in myself based on the passages above. But I’ll try to rejoice in the future and maintain blessings on those who hate me.

I’ll leave you with these questions to reflect on: what’s God calling on you to do? How can you bring about a greater glory for his kingdom? Are you blessing those who revile you and showing the world what is right?

The Last Crusade: Arming Future Teachers For Battle

From Pastor and brilliant theologian Rob Dalrymple. If any of you feel compelled to assist, contact me, or him if you know him or comment. I can’t think of any more important a mission than ensuring future gifted and brilliant minds are educated and armed to go out there into the world and preach the gospel. This is how you directly save souls, and is something we all should be doing everything we can to support:

Many of you know that I have been privileged to travel and teach around the world including two trips to India. Over years I have been blessed to keep in contact with many of those students; including Karunakar, Prathap, and others. I have also received numerous invitations to return to India and teach.

I was finally able to return last March (2016) at the invitation of Karunakar. I arrived at 3:00am on a Tuesday. Over the 3 days (Tues, Wed, and Thurs) we conducted a pastor’s conference with over 400 pastors; each afternoon we taped TV shows for his TV program; and each Each evening we conducted in an outdoor crusade that Karunakar oversaw. The first night we had 200+; the second night 300+; and the final night 800+.

It was very evident to me that Karunakar was a gifted leader. The 400 pastors in the region clearly looked to him as their leader. Karunakar also pastors three churches. His ministry is vibrant and growing.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, I have approached Karunakar about receiving a graduate education. His Bible college degree from the school in Delhi is adequate. But, the simple fact is that someone with his gifts, calling, and leadership abilities needs a better education. It is my conviction that training leaders like Karunakar will impact the kingdom 1,000-fold or more. He is in his late 20’s: Lord willing he has many more years of ministry.

We have spent many months considering educational opportunities for him. And it appears that the Pacific Islands Bible College in Guam is the best option. He will get a good education at a good price.

Karunakar is willing to make the commitment to study and learn. He has made arrangements for his ministry needs to be covered in his absence. Now, we need to secure the financial commitment. The total cost for the program is around $20,000 USD. I asked Karunakar to do all he can to come up with as much of the funding on his own. He has been able to raise $4,500 USD (which I think is terrific considering his circumstances. I have been to his home and met his family and I know he is living on a very low income). I have secured $2,500 already.

My request: perhaps you could take the next few weeks to pray and discern whether you can help; and, if so, how much you are willing to pledge. I am not asking for any money at this time: only pledges. Part of his acceptance into the school will be dependent on his obtaining a US visa—and the US government wants him to show that he has the funds before they grant it.

If you are able to, please send me a private note and let me know if you can help!

Our church has set up a fund for him, so the monies can be donated to NPC and are tax-deductible

In Christ

Rob Dalrymple

The Last Crusade: There Is No Compromise

God’s Word is clear: you are either giving yourself over to Him, or you’re giving yourself over to evil. There’s no in between. You can’t half-commit to Christ. By consequence you can’t “think he’s a great teacher with some good wisdom” and yet ignore his message. Either his words were true, or they were not when he said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” – John 14:6-7

You’ll note that after that, the disciples were confused. They didn’t know what he was saying, didn’t understand. They didn’t take him literally, told Christ basically “okay cool, well show us the way to the father, we’re good!” — watering down what he said in their lack of understanding. This wasn’t intentional, but the disciples were hoping for a great teacher to bring about change in some worldly way they thought might be good. They weren’t prepared for what happened next. And that’s the whole point of the gospel: to prepare God’s people for what happens next.

We can’t do this is we water down the Word. We can’t do this if we downplay the supernatural aspects of Christ, who he is, and who the enemy is. It’s not about some modern-culture making sure everything is hip and cool and with it to feel good. God programmed us with chemicals in our systems that it does feel great to worship him, don’t get me wrong, and we should certainly give him our praise — but there is more to the Gospel than that. We are at war with the forces of evil and eternal souls are at stake. That’s not going to feel good all of the time.

I warn you, brothers and sisters, do not give into the temptation to allow half, out of context messages from your lips. Do not be afraid to clarify when you see that the world misinterprets (oft intentionally) the word of Christ to fit their worldly purpose. When the apostles came back with words that showed they did not understand the words above, Christ elaborated and made it very clear. He’s not just some “good teacher who advocates peace and love” he wasn’t just some hippie walking around in sandals taking abuse. He is the supernatural, the true essence of power, God the Father himself: How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

When people hear or see someone say things like “Whether you believe that Jonah actually was swallowed or this was just a metaphor”, which I heard someone state in a church, it sends a clear message: “I know this sounds weird and you don’t have to really believe it.” That is preaching to the world. You don’t gain anything from that, they don’t gain anything from that. They will abandon the lessons if they receive meaningless words like these. Nowhere in the Word does it say that these lessons are meant to be taken as mythological metaphor. Non-believers have tried to convince us that for hundreds of years, in an effort to bring down the church. I never want to hear words like that uttered again from believers, as the end result of that line of thinking is: if God is incapable of that, then was Jesus just a metaphor as well? We need to rebuke this reasoning. It is heresy.

An organization downplaying that message, the supernatural aspects of existence, or any of the difficult moral positions that Christ ordered us to follow is not teaching the Gospel, but a mutated form of it. They are not focused on Christ, but focused on the world. Churches have been doing this regularly in recent years, and it’s because it’s the easy path, one that they believe will generate increased attendance numbers, and increased revenue. Every time, they find that’s fleeting, as they’re not focused on their core mission, and therefore they have nothing to offer anyone that the world doesn’t already offer better. When an organization abandons its purpose, it has no purpose, and that comes across.

Vox Day mentioned this in conjunction with NASCAR and its troubles with its core mission this morning on his blog: “whether it is a sport or a church, the desire for growth combined with a disdain for traditional supporters always results in the same consequence, a rapid and unexpected decline.” That is indeed the consequence every time. It applies here.

I was very happy to hear my pastor state “I will never water down the gospel.” He was firm and clear, and God’s presence was revealed through those words. You could see it in the congregation when it happened, and it was powerful. He cited what Paul told the Church in Rome at the time, when the Apostle was dealing with his own groups that were downplaying or twisting the Word in this eternal struggle. I’ll leave you with that scripture, as it cannot be said better. Learn it, live it:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” – Romans 1:16

The Last Crusade: On Loyalty

You’ll find quite often with the worldly that there’s a distinct lack of loyalty. As soon as you start letting it be known you’re a Christian, speaking out on Christianity, spending time and energy with your Christian brothers and sisters – you’ll notice that your former friends will begin to ostracize you. They’ll find a reason to call you names, say you’ve changed, that you’re hateful or whatnot now (ironic, as the only true love comes from God, but remember that evil presents itself as a wolf in sheep’s clothing). They will be there not to be your friend any longer, but to try to gaslight you into believing that you’re doing something wrong and evil by walking in the path God has set for you.

In the public sphere, whenever a champion of traditional values shows up in art, news, culture of any kind,the media presents how the person has had a failing, is bad, has done something unforgivable, and therefore you MUST disavow them. You must be disloyal in order to prove to the world that you’re a decent human being. They present this under the guise of caring about morality, while espousing the direct opposite. It’s under the guise of compassion for the little people, when in fact they want to hold people down under their power. And we as Christians often bite at this very quickly, and very easily. We’re quick to disavow our brothers and sisters. Why? Because we like to prove that we’re more moral, that we don’t approve of such things. That’s the direct opposite of what Christ taught us.

It happens every time. Disloyalty is actually the cause of most problems in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The whole theme of the Bible is how man is disloyal to God in exchange for quick material comforts. From Adam and Eve’s betrayal in the garden, to Jonah’s refusal to go where God desired, to the fact that Israel brutally murdered many of their prophets and finally Jesus Christ, we are warned at every step that disloyalty is of this world.

From the Gospels, look at the actions of the Apostles. Their biggest failures are when the Apostles saw the going getting tough, and opted to be disloyal to Christ rather than stand with him. Judas is the easiest example of this, as when political stirrings and the world started to turn on Christ, he freaked out when he was asked if he was a follower. And then, for cheap material comforts, he delivered the ultimate act of disloyalty. Peter, when Christ was executed, did the same thing when confronted in public about his association with Christ. You can imagine him as a modern person: “I’m not associated! I disavow!”

This is the prince of this world’s act to divide us and destroy us. It is spiritual warfare at its deepest level. The whole purpose of each and every one of these acts of disloyalty is to make sure we do not stand together as the Body of Christ. You’ll see that the secularists are quite the opposite. If there’s a problem on their front, they’re quick to cover it up, minimize it, rally around their cause to drown out any noise and ensure that the collective whole is stronger. For some odd reason, we don’t do this as Christians, and it weakens us.

Here’s the hard truth: we all have evil within us. We all have done something worthy of being disavowed forever. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And not by our own selves or anything we can do to make up for it, Christ has redeemed us. He was loyal to us even when we have not been loyal to him.

Loyalty is in fact a Godly virtue. Be loyal first and foremost to God. Be loyal second to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be loyal third to country. Stand by your brothers and sisters in hard times. Don’t let them get destroyed, or have their lives ruined when the times get tough. That’s when they need your support. That’s the whole point of the Church and fellowship. Only through our compassion in those difficult times, and sticking by each other will we be able to keep faith firm. The result will be a stronger Church, a stronger community, and stronger voices and advocates for Christ. This is desperately what the world needs in these trying times.