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.

Words From The Wise

“Anyone accusing another of being ‘unchristian’ for disagreement on political, philosophical, or abstract matters uses the Name of the Lord in vain. Accusations will be deleted and accusers banned without further notification.”  – John C Wright (on the sidebar for the rules of his blog).

I firmly believe and agree with this. And will be instituting this here and on social media walls immediately. Heresy will no longer be tolerated.

Man Falsely Accused And Crucified – You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next!

But you should.

2000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was executed unjustly, but he did not resist the fate. In fact, he came here to conquer death so that we all might have eternal life. After he was nailed up to the cross and tortured on the Friday before, a kind man offered his familial tomb for Jesus, an almost unheard of generosity in that culture. Jesus’s dead body was placed inside and they sealed it with a giant boulder and guards out front so that no one could steal the body.

Here’s what happened next, witnessed and spread by many people (Matthew 28: 1-10):

28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

After three days, when he had to have been fully and completely dead, he raised from the grave and appeared before hundreds of people. Pretty incredible.

Here’s why (John 3:16-18):

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

I’m always happy to talk about this incredible real news and what it means, so are many of my friends. If you’re interested and want to learn more, please feel free to message and we’ll be sure to help. This is a glorious day to remember for the ages!

The Last Crusade: A Lesson In Humility

I know this sounds very hypocritical on a personal blog that’s used entirely for the promotion of book sales, but please bear with me, friends. A friend texted this morning, someone far more spiritually wise than I, and it’s a very short, simple message worth repeating and remembering:

Remember: the wind and the waves have only obeyed one single man.

That man was Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.

It serves as a reminder that when worldly accomplishments come, you should not praise yourself. Those are gifts from God. They can be given, they can be taken away. We must remember that everything we have, everything we are, down to every breath we take is such a gift, and to cherish it as such and praise the One who gave it to us.

He provided an incredible example, as we’ll be reminded of in our celebration of Good Friday tomorrow. Even as God, He came down, spoke the truth, and for that he was beaten, spat upon, humiliated, falsely accused of crime and forced into a horrible death by crucifixion. How powerful and incredible is that? It is the ultimate act of humility, one that can never be remotely approached. All we can do is praise and thank Him.

The Trad Pub Mindset On Christianity

I don’t follow many publishers or literary agents. For the most part, I’ve avoided them as I’ve found that they’re in a lockstep mentality both in the ways that business is conducted and in their views of culture. The cultural establishment’s entire mantra these days has become “don’t rock the boat”, while at the same time expecting authors and artists to virtue signal or remain silent on social justice issues when they deem appropriate.

One agent and publisher I do follow is Steve Laube, who bravely took the reins of Marcher Lord Press from Christian Editor Jeff Gerke, a man who carved out a small section of Science Fiction and Fantasy dedicated to Christian authors. Mr. Laube rebranded it as Enclave Publishing, and launched some very cool new talent such as Nadine Brandes and S.D. Grimm, both of whom I’ve mentioned on this blog before. Yesterday, Mr. Laube retweeted an article from one of his agents, Dan Balow, who I don’t know and I hope this isn’t construed as a personal attack against him, as it’s not intended that way. By all I have seen he appears a very accomplished and competent member of the field. Mr. Balow wrote a post titled, “The Non-Partisan Author”, calling on authors to be silent in anything controversial in order to not turn off your potential audience. The premise sounds reasonable, and I’d been told that very thing for years, but in the wake of injustice against Christian and conservative authors alike, we have a greater duty to our fellow artists than to remain silent. 

Mr. Balow writes:

The question is simply this; do you want to sell books to anyone and everyone, or just to those who agree with you on everything? The number of the latter is a small fraction of the former.

It’s interesting seeing this from a Christian literary agent/author. Already, with the branding of Christian, he has turned off a large segment of the population who doesn’t want any reminder of Christ or God in their lives. That’s already a controversial stand, and unfortunately when it comes to artistry, that brand has come with a scarlet letter of “L” for lame when it comes to the entertainment market. It may not be warranted, but it is what people see from the outside, and if the concern is about turning off a large swath of the market, that would be the first step to avoid. If you’re labeled a Christian Author, and published by a Christian Publisher, you have that brand riding with you, you have that divisiveness built into your career. You’ll be expected to be in a corner with the other lame Christians, not to be out in the world or in public discourse, because you should only be talking in Church about such things. That’s what the world tells us. 

It’s also wrong. I mentioned this in my article about turning the other cheek. This mindset comes from the relentless push by secular society that good Christians should “turn the other cheek” by never speaking out. It’s what led to a complete decay morally and culturally of our society over the last few generations, as every few with any sense of artistry have been willing to stand up for Christ, produce good work, and say “hey, we’re on a wrong path.”  Part of it is because of the non-believer or Churchian induced guilt trip that we should be turning the other cheek, the other part part of it is a fear of turning off people who don’t agree as Mr. Balow mentioned. 

The fear is what forces people to stay silent. The fear of rejection, the fear of not selling, the fear of losing one’s shorts. But this fear of staying away from “controversial” stances of Christianity is a very modern and temporary problem. It can go one of two ways: 1. It can keep on this path, and then pretty soon you won’t be able to profess your faith at all or 2. we can reverse the course.

I chose the latter, and it’s changed my life. Not only has my faith grown stronger, but I’ve found a network of believers around me who are both amazing people and great artists. They are far more supportive than their secular counterparts and they’re hungry for good product and something to rally behind. I had the fear of losing professional contacts, losing friends — and that certainly happened, but what I found was that those groups weren’t supporting me anyway. My people, brothers and sisters in Christ, are quite the opposite by contrast. Taking a stand for Christ and for real American values based on His teachings has gained me a much larger audience than I ever could have expected, glory be to God for that.  Moreover I’ve gained fantastic friends.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Christianity in Science Fiction and Fantasy was the norm. It’s been written out of literary history by secularists that want to reshape the genre, and is touched on quite a bit in Jeffro Johnson’s Appendix N, which goes over the literary history of what inspired Dungeons & Dragons. The truth is, we’re not that far removed from C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, men who professed Christianity openly and weren’t afraid. 

Our beliefs necessitate that we will butt up against the worldly, and we should embrace that, not shy from it. If you take a long view, this is a necessary step for artists and authors in the future not to have to fear that even the things Mr. Balow says are matters we all can agree upon don’t become taboo for them to speak about. A very unpopular Christian concept is purity and chastity, in this culture dominated by displaying the most gratuitous sexual and violent degeneracy possible. It’s made it hard to produce any quality works as many writers have focused on the shock value, making standard problems seem trite and boring to readers. Not speaking out against that, I posit, ruins culture and literature, and it is our duty to say something about it, even if it’s hard. C.S. Lewis would agree, as he wrote in Mere Christianity:

…many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in

an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in examinations but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The

only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

Talk about a controversial statement. This can be applied to what we’re doing as writers as well. We may not get perfect marks, it may be very hard in the get go. There will be a few that shun us for our beliefs, but the truth is, the ones who will are going to do that regardless. It’s just a matter of time. Those types are seeking for a reason to say “you know what, I knew I shouldn’t support that person.” And if they’re coming from that position, they’re not actually going to buy your book in the first place, no matter how quiet or good you are in the mainstream “professional” sense.  You, as a Christian, will get overlooked 100% of the time for a non-Christian alternative in the name of social justice if you pursue that course.

Mr. Balow solidifies his point:

This is about the business of publishing, branding and selling books, not some sort of First Amendment/integrity/freedom topic in the US or a global human rights stand.

You want to sell books to as many people as possible? Be very careful if you want to express yourself politically. (Unless politics and societal issues are your brand.)

I’ll say the opposite again. If you want to cut through the noise in a field that is incredibly cluttered, you have to have something to say. You have to be authentic and connect with people. No matter what you say, it’s going to upset some people, so you may as well be true to yourself and true to your faith. Here’s an interesting example of a new YA Author who is apolitical as she can be. She’s from Vermont, and I’ve never seen her post anything about politics, but due to her location and her secular book, I’m going to presume she’s mostly leftist and probably leans toward the social justice scale. She likely would not be thrilled to be on my blog for fear of association with me. 

Her name is Laurie Ann Forest and she has a book that hasn’t even come out yet called The Black Witch. The story, from what reviewers say, tackles racism in a manner by having quite a racist main character in it. It’s somewhat allegorical about forgiveness and redemption as it takes the major event and character arc for this character to change their ways. Now this isn’t set in reality, I believe the racism involved is against elves or something like that (again, haven’t read it), but a single reviewer the social justice crowd got ahold of an advance copy and started a storm. That person went through and torched Ms. Forest personally and her work, leading to hundreds of people mindlessly posting hate reviews on Goodreads, repeating the blog about how it’s “dangerous” to no fault of Ms. Forest. It’s insane. These people are out to destroy, and there’s nothing you can do about them. Ms. Forest followed Mr. Balow’s advice, and they attacked her anyway, because she didn’t virtue signal hard enough. 

This will remain the norm, especially if you don’t speak out.

I encourage authors, especially Christian authors to build your own platform. It works. People will find and read you if you produce honest and sincere content, and most will enjoy your work. You can’t worry about what gatekeepers think. You can’t worry about what a few haters will think. They’ll make their decisions regardless of what you say, and if you’re openly a Christian, you’re on the wrong side of the fence to begin with. The social justice crowd that makes a stink hates you and everything you believe. They want to destroy you and stamp out Christianity as a cultural influence in this country. Being silent in the face of that is dangerous for you and all other authors who may follow in your footsteps. Would Jesus have shied away in the face of controversy? Read the Bible again and ask yourself that.

Star Realms: Rescue Run Nominated for Alliance Award!

Wow! Big thank you for all of the Star Realms readers who voted for the book to be nominated. This means a lot to me as a Christian and as a science fiction writer to be considered some of the top SF of the last year. I’ll also be in attendance at the Realm Makers conference this year (barring emergency) so it’s great to make a splash.

Details on the Alliance Award nominations are here.

The next round of the voting is a star system where people rate and write a brief blurb (think Amazon review) about their favorite books. Voting opens up April 13th. How the system works is you must be familiar with 2 of the books on the list to be able to vote for this. Look for reminders here and on social media.

In order to help facilitate the two book requirement, my dear friend Kia Heavey has offered up her book for FREE to any Star Realms reader who wishes to vote for the award. I, in turn am offering Star Realms to her readership. Her book Domino is a lot of fun and well worth the read, so do take us up on this. In order to get this, either leave me a comment here to state your interest and I’ll send your info to Kia (for hers, she has to gift books through Kindle) or message me on facebook at Jon Del Arroz, Twitter @jondelarroz or Gab @otomo and I’ll make sure you get what you need.

If you’re a reader of one of the other nominated works and you’re interested in Star Realms: Rescue Run, I would definitely like to extend that offer to you as well.

Finally, a shout out to S.D. Grimm, Nadine Brandes and Gillian Bronte Adams, as I am fans of all three of these authors and it’s cool to be nominated in the same category as them. Congratulations to everyone else on the list too! I look forward to checking out your work.

 

The Last Crusade: Should You “Turn The Other Cheek”?

Churchians, non-believers and atheists love to use out of context and misapplied Bible verses to tell Christians how they should Christian better. It’s a pastime for these people to get a little smug smirk and act like they understand the teachings of Jesus Christ better than you, when they don’t acknowledge him as Lord and Savior. I warn you brothers and sisters, only lies can come from these mouths. They manipulate and distort the Word of God. Over the last couple decades or so, they’ve gotten more brazen about it as there’s no social consequences for doing so, which stems from one of the big misapplied Bible verses out there.

Every time I point out injustices to Christians or our values in our society, argue for Christian activism, defend myself or others against the social justice warrior crowd that has a sole goal of removing Christian influence from society, I get told by at least one non-believer: “you know, Christ said to turn the other cheek”, as if that means he called for Christians to never speak out, never argue logic, never be confrontational with anyone.

This is a lie, and the perhaps the most dangerous lie that has permeated through our society, and led to the debasement of our culture. Any teaching of Jesus Christ will, by definition, be confrontational. It flies in the face of every other worldview. This is not what Christ meant. Let’s look at the actual passage. It comes from Mathew 5:38-40 where Jesus preached:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

The point isn’t to weaken Christians and our faith by never allowing us to speak. The point is to strengthen us, by showing that our truth is so strong that we never need to resort to violence to proclaim it. It’s a call for his followers to practice non-violence, nothing more, nothing less. There was a lot of unrest going on in ancient Israel. The Romans had come in with their pagan ways and conquered, the leadership didn’t seem to be effective and at times appeared as Roman collaborators, having to walk a fine line in order to maintain their semi-sovereignty. Different rebellion leaders popped up all the time and caused riots, looting, problems that was bringing the Roman army down on anyone who looked like they might cause problems. Jesus ran into problems stemming from this himself later, as his followers dubbing him “King of the Jews” was taken to be a political usurping.

There’s some great detail about this in a fictional narrative based on really well done historical research in the book, The Shadow of the Galilean, by Gerd Theissen. It’s one of the few books that you can read to give a clear context as to what life was like in that region which in a lot of ways had similar amounts of turmoil to today.

But never anywhere did Jesus say that Christians shouldn’t speak out, shouldn’t be active, shouldn’t defend their faith at all costs. In fact, the Bible teaches the contrary — even if the cost is our own lives. One has to stretch the “turn the other cheek” into a metaphorical meaning that isn’t there to come to that conclusion that Christians should be quiet about what they believe. In fact, if you look at the Bible’s narrative, God is ALWAYS calling on his chosen people to speak out more, call out evil, show the way the truth and the light by word and deed. The struggle is getting people to do it, not shying people away from confrontation.

This is illustrated in the book of Jonah. God calls upon him to go to Nineveh and get the people there to repent, lest they be destroyed. He runs away and hides because he doesn’t want to deal with the confrontation. It’s dangerous, it’s scary. He turned the other cheek according to the way the non-believers would misinterpret the phrase, and he was punished for it before repenting and doing God’s will. Afterward, the Lord shows that this proclaiming of God’s will is the only way to get people to change their evil ways:

Jonah 2: 10

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

The Bible goes further. If you look at Jesus, his whole point was being provocative, getting in the face of authorities like the Pharisees who had abused their power and leadership positions to misinterpret God’s law. His whole point was being in public, showing people the way. When He gave His Sermon on the Mount, He wasn’t “turning the other cheek” as the non-believers would have you do. He gave reminders of who He was on a constant basis. He later even faced Pilate and admitted He was the true King of the Jews: “it is as you say” (Luke 23:3). He didn’t engage in their worthless worldly trivialities, but He never backed down from the truth either — He proclaimed it non-violently, just as he commanded.

And when do the disciples commit the worst sins according to the Word? There’s one instance that’s burned into our memories as a terrible failure, perhaps to some extent even worse than what Judas did in his betrayal, as it showed someone so steadfast in faith cowering in fear to the masses of non-believers:

Luke 22:56-62:

56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter repented from this denial and inaction and remembered the Lord. This haunted him for the rest of his days and changed his life. If we were to listen to the non-believers, he did the right thing in this instance, not wanting to stir the pot or look bad before people who might even go so far as to put him in a dangerous situation.  This is a much more frightening instance than standing up in our culture, where the worst we have to deal with is social shame. And that’s what they’re trying to do to us when they lie to us in their mockery of Christ’s words: socially shame us. Jesus and the Bible are explicit that we should not even consider such things.

A little encouragement: the social shame is not that bad. I get it all the time from different science fiction writers and even the fake news. It’s never once hurt me, but has always made me stronger both in my influence and my faith. It will do the same for you if you let God work through you, seek His Word and speak it clearly. Never listen to the non-believers, the Churchians or the atheists who are influenced by the Prince of this World, the Father of Lies. Even if it’s unknowing on their part, they are agents of an evil with an end goal to destroy souls. We need to bring Christ back into the public discourse as much as possible if we are to change this society in the way Christ commanded. It is the only way to go out and make disciples of all nations.

Deus vult!

The Last Crusade: Christian Artists Who Don’t Suck

Whenever I talk about artist blackballing in the entertainment industry, almost invariably the first argument I come across is “well there aren’t any…” or “there are a low percentage of…” leading to believe that it’s just too hard to find good artists who aren’t insane and/or profess to be Christian. That is a lie that the mainstream big-entertainment corrupt corporate media propagates at every turn.

Of course, there aren’t any who work for those big companies that do the blackballing. Those companies may not have an outright policy against shunning Christians, but they do it, as they want to tell stories that are allegorically about how great secular society and hedonism is. I rail on Disney quite a bit for this, but the facts are the facts, and they — especially their comics division — are very much guilty of this. 

But we have an opportunity like generations in the past didn’t have. We have social media. We have the internet. We have the ability to connect and organize just as other groups have done for the past for their causes. Our cause is a righteous one, an eternal one, and if we all band together we will affect much greater change than our enemies could ever keep up with.

I’m not calling for a “boycott!” of any artist or anything like that. I know exactly how hard artists work, and, even if they’re not doing their work for a righteous cause, it’s still hard work and the goal is not to detract from their efforts. That boycott mentality is the kind of garbage that we are fighting against.

However, I am calling to take a look at Christian artists, artists who share our values. It’s important that we give a voice to those who are professing real truth and justice, and are willing to speak out on it. After all, if we don’t as artists, the culture won’t, and isn’t. At some point, even the rocks will cry out. It’d be much better if we could stave that off and start a revival in culture as those created in God’s image.

And so I present to you this list: Christian Artists Who Don’t Suck.  The title is jarring, as it’s supposed to be. A lot of Christians don’t like such crass language, but the reality is a lot of the Christian entertainment industry in recent decades was thrown into a certain segment of overt message-work that wasn’t subtle, and isn’t the highest quality. The reason most Christian work ended up there is because of the cultural blackballing and segmenting that’s done on the secular side — after all, the greatest art in the world was done in the name of Jesus Christ. Look at Michelangelo. That stands the test of time, and part of the reason is its content. In the age of the internet, we can create great content that doesn’t have to be the kind that, in the 80s-90s, gave cause for mocking, but should be celebrated as good works in God’s name. These artists have inspired me in that vein:

Authors

John C. Wright is the original purveyor of The Last Crusade blogs, of which i’ve jumped on the bandwagon. His biog is something i open up to read every morning, joined on there by his wonderful wife L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright who is a wonderful writer in her own right. John is a true grand master of science fiction, with incredible imagination and beautiful prose. My favorite is Count To A Trillion.


Brian Niemeier is an independent author of the Dragon Award Winning Soul Cycle. He blends genres with space opera and horror in that series, with a wild, fast paced ride that everyone cheers for. Brian’s a great guy, and outspoken Christian as well. He’s on the forefront of indie publishing and does a lot for the culture war. 

Nadine Brandes actually labels herself a Christian fiction author, working with Enclave Publishing, the leading publisher in Christian SF/F.  Her Out of Time series is in the very popular YA Dystopian subgenre, but actually does reference the Bible and give Christian concepts. It’s not as dark as a lot of the other work out there as a consequence, but has really cool concepts. Nadine blogs a lot about writing and faith as well, and is worth checking out.

Comic Artists

What’s interesting is I’ve struggled to find many big name comic writers who profess Christianity. There’s a couple, but I’m not entirely comfortable endorsing them. With the help of Mike Abuan, a great artist himself, I’ve found a couple of Christian comic artists to look out for.

Mike Miller has worked for Marvel and DC in the past, but it’s been a few years since he’s been on some projects. He has been pretty outspoken about his faith, and there’s speculation that’s led to him being blackballed and the typical angry nerd crowd has tried to boycott him at times. The cultural elites try to tear down anyone of of faith, especially in the comic industry, so he is someone to go out and support.

Lee Weeks has done work across the board from Marvel to DC. and beyond. You’ve seen him on Spider-Man, Daredevil, Batman, Superman, and according to his instagram, it looks like he’s got some work from DC forthcoming.

Jethro Morales is an artist who’s worked for Dynamite doing Green Hornet and Dejah Thoris of Mars. That should appeal to many of my #PulpRevolution friends themselves. He’s a wonderful person, and I’ve chatted with him over the years. He’s done a lot of independent work as well, and draws very relatable characters. Jethro is impressive in his posts praising God and professing his faith, and is someone to support.

Musicians

Crowder. – Crowder is on the cutting edge of Christian music. He’s labeled as “techno-folk” and it’s kind of an interesting way to look at it. His most recent album is phenomenal, and after seeing him and his group of musicians live, there are very few out there who can reach his professional prowess either in Christian music or in the secular realm. He makes straight forward Christian music with lyrics like you would expect, but has transcended the genre with amazing artistic ability. 

Mae – I loved this band in the mid 2000s when they hit the scene with Destination Beautiful, which contains one of my favorite songs of all time, “Skyline Drive”. They were excellent and only continued to get more artistic. Their next release, The Everglow is a concept album, all revolving around a singular story, and while the songs on that one because of the theming blend together a lot more than the first, it’s still completely solid. Then they went and decided to do a series of EPs that each had a theme. There’s a lot of experimentation in this, and not as much pop sensibility, but it shows Dave Elkins’ artistic growth al the same. After that, they ended what they were doing and I hadn’t heard from them in years — but this morning I discovered they released a new single on soundcloud. It’s got both pop and artistry involved in it, a beatles-esque build which I hope marks a big return. Keep them on your radar.

Dashboard Confessional isn’t known as a “Christian singer” but was very popular in the early 2000s, redefining the emo punk scene into something completely different, something acoustic and beautiful. His concerts had a youth group atmosphere to it, and I’d always thought that was interesting. When A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar came out, he actually toured with a giant banner behind the stage of a crusader on a horse that said “Fight The Good Fight”. I thought that was very cool, and in 2017 could you imagine someone doing that? Very brave.  His last release Alter The Ending was a few years ago now, but it’s marked with the song, “Get Me Right” which while he mostly sings about girls, this song actually has to do with one’s pride and failing in that, which the bridge has some of my favorite lyrics of all time:

Jesus I’ve fallen I don’t mind the rain

If I meet my maker, I meet my maker clean

Jesus the truth is, I’ve struggled so hard to believe

I need my maker to cure my of my doubting blood

And drain me of the sins I love

And take from me my disbelief

I know it should come easily

But it remains inside of me

It battles and devours me

It cuddles up inside of me

And whispers it convinces me I’m right.

Beautiful and powerful stuff right there. Very honest, and something we can all relate to. He’s done a country/folk project Twin Forks since then, which has some good old school honest music you can sing along to as well. He’s really developed as an artist since those early days and is someone worth listening to.

——————

I’ve given 3 examples in different fields to check out, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. I also acknowledge that I have a lot of friends who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and have wonderful art. For the sake of brevity, I posted three examples in different fields, but this is an open call to action and here’s what you can do: if you’re an artist of any sort, and you are a Christian, post in the comments below. Over time, this can become a great list and resource for people to check out Christian works.  Goes for anyone who knows of great Christian artists as well. We can make a difference in the community and culture by banding together and supporting the great artists above and in the comments. Let’s do it. Deus vult!

The Last Crusade: Public Displays of Christianity

Last week, I popped into a gas station’s mini-mart and had a short conversation with the employee there. He was a really friendly older gentleman with an accent I couldn’t place, and I didn’t ask where he hailed from. We talked family, work, life, and it came away a positive conversation despite what probably were vast differences between us.

What I thought on the way out of there was, when he asked what was up with me, why didn’t I tell him I was on my way to church?

It’s a subconscious thing, but our society via media, the government, schooling has drilled into us for now 2-3 generations that our faith is something that should not be touched in public. that it is not to be discussed in public, not to be displayed in public. We’re told we will be shunned if we do so, and as a result of that, the culture has self-fulfilled that prophecy by becoming more and more hostile to the concept of faith. I feel like I’m doing something taboo even writing about it here, but after thought and prayer, I feel compelled that it’s more necessary than ever to be discussing the good news.

And it’s so necessary because it DOES feel taboo.

It shouldn’t. Faith should be a joyous thing. It should be something that defines our lives and interactions. What if God had called upon me to speak to that gas station employee, to remind him of Christ and his glory? Even though it was a trite conversation, I may have failed more than any other moment in my life, and it still weighs heavy on me.

We have an opportunity starting in 2017 to shift the culture of the United States, to change the way that we operate as a people. It shouldn’t be easier to talk about and giggle about the utter depravity shown in an episode of Game of Thrones than it is to say “hey, I’m on my way to church.”

Pastor Bill Haslim this weekend brought up a verse in a different context in his sermon, but it applies here as well:

Deuteronomy 6: 5-7

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

The operative point to this topic is verse 7. We should be talking about God and our commandments literally all the time! This means we are called to be very public about faith, not to hide it and keep it to ourselves.

The culture has used the Bible against Christians out of context for these last couple of decades to promote a secularist, hedonistic and pagan cultural agenda. In as much as government has tried to erase the whole reason of this country existing (Christian pilgrims), the secularists cherry pick a few verses to try to tell Christians how to Christian better. We should instinctively know this is false, because any “teacher” that does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is, by definition, leading us astray. However, it is the power of simple messaging through media. If something gets repeated enough, people start to believe it.

The concept that is used a lot to silence Christians stems from Matthew 6:1 “When you do good things, don’t do them in front of other people to be seen by them.” 

It’s used to tell us that we should be quiet, that Christianity should be something kept in our homes, in our hearts, but not somewhere others can see it. Hearing that over and over does have a psychological effect on us as a Church body, and it is completely wrong.

The point of that verse is that Christians should not use their good deeds to point to other Christians and tell them how holy they are in comparison. The problem Jesus speaks of is propping oneself up and not giving full credit to God for anything good. It’s not that we shouldn’t be talking about the commandments when we are at home or on the road. We certainly should. It’s the intent and the heart that matters.

Last Wednesday, I brought up something in this context to a Christian leader who I very much respect and admire. He had just quipped about taking a selfie in a church setting. I came back very seriously with “well why don’t we selfie in church?” He brought up the very valid point that the whole concept of self is the antithesis of church. This is true if the intent were to promote self in that setting, but I think the terminology that’s been used in the vernacular for “take a photo + social media post” is getting mixed with what could be a noble intent.

Anyone who follows me on social media has seen that I’ve posted photos before and after church (and sometimes during when the band is playing and I find it inspiring and want to share that), tagging the church in the process. I’ve done this as a means to promote the church, not myself. The thought is: we see everything on social media from concerts, to bars, to pictures of food, kids at Disneyland, every life event. And though social media is very much a cesspool of intrinsic selfishness, it is at the same time another cultural element where Christians have shied away from speaking because of the concept of scorn and because of the out of context Matthew 6 shaming. It could, however, turn into a place of great praise if we post Bible verses, if we tag our church, if we tag our spiritual leaders and talk about the great works God is doing through them. Now I’m not saying get on twitter while your pastor is delivering a message or someone’s reading scripture, as we should be focused and reverent, but there are times and places (like at the beginning and end of a service, afterward or before) where we can let others know how wonderful and enriching it is to be together in the Body of Christ, as a means to further remind them and invite them to join us.

Christ ends his ministry in Matthew 28:19 with “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” If we stay completely disconnected and keep faith to ourselves in the modern social environment, if we never speak the truth, how will it get out there for people to be baptized? Society is different these days. We’re not plugged into a community and talking with our direct neighbors like we were in the past. We are plugged into a much bigger arena where it’s easy to get lost. And that’s why it is our duty as Christians to make sure it’s easy to get found again.

This plays into the end of days, a time in which we all live since the resurrection of our Lord Christ. This is a spiritual war, and the forces of this world will do everything they can to silence us, including and especially planting nerves into our subconsciousness that we shouldn’t be vocal. Remember Luke 19:40 though, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  We’re not there yet, but we often do shove our praise into just that one hour church time and ignore it in the rest of our lives. If we’re keeping quiet except for one hour a week, boy are we close to the stones having their say.

I’m calling on all Christians, my readers, my friends to spend this lent period in focus of making Public Displays of Christianity (#PDC!). It’s scary, it’s frightening, and remember not to do it with a heart that is seeking to boast or gain pride from these displays, but to do so in sincere wish to spread the Gospel. A few things that can be done, and if you want to comment with more ideas to enrich all of us, they are completely welcome:

  1. Tag your church and pastor before/after services. Make it known how excited you are for the church on social media.
  2. Pray in public. At restaurants, on breaks at work, wherever. (this is a hard one! I almost never do this myself).
  3. Talk about God and the Gospel in casual conversation, and how it’s changed your life positively. Start with Christian friends if it makes it easier. The goal is to get this to be a topic that rolls off your tongue with the ease and is a simple and natural as discussing a sports game.
  4. Read scripture every day! Even if it’s just a verse, it helps to keep God on your mind.

This is an important call. Let’s change the culture together. What else can we do?

Lent Day 1!

I did it, I’ve made it through a full 24 hours without checking my facebook feed. That’s the hardest part, right? It helped that it was a pretty busy day at work, but I don’t really find myself jonesing for that content. Most of facebook feeds now are all about negativity and fear mongering and clickbaiting, so it’s not really much of a loss. I do miss a few of my groups though, the only redeeming quality of the site at this point.

Also picked up a guitar for the first time in about a year last night. I’m going to be playing this Sunday, both services, at Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, CA. Their new minister of worship and arts, John Phillips, is a musical genius. It’s awesome to be invited to be a part of this.

Guitar is a bit hard for me these days. I quit in the first place because I’ve got this recurring tendonitis in my forearms which I can’t get rid of. Every time I hold down chords or whatnot for a few hours, my arms turn to a sore mush for a couple of days. Don’t know if there’s anything that can be done about that, but would appreciate advice. I ice, I stretch, there seems to be no way around it. Doesn’t help that I have to type a few thousand words per day on top of that. Just means my poor wrists never get a break.

But that said, practice turned out pretty well. It was so much fun and so fulfilling to make some small contribution to giving God glory. I definitely look forward to Sunday.

Obviously God has been on my mind a lot in the last couple of days, given the season and then the direction life has pulled on top of that. Another thing that caught my eye on that topic was YA dystopian authors Nadine Brandes’s blog: http://nadinebrandes.com/2017/03/01/does-anyone-read-the-bible-anymore/  where she challenged to read the whole Bible. that’s something I haven’t done in at least 15 years. I think it’s a worthy effort and thing to share around.

There’s my day one reflections. What did you do? Would love to hear from you!