Rejoicing In Suffering

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One thing I’ve never quite been able to wrap my head around is how the Apostles were so upbeat in the midst of jail, beatings, facing certain death, all because they wouldn’t shut up about the Good News of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

These last couple of months there’s a been a lot of trials in my own life, some you’re aware of, many you’re not as I try to keep a lot of the personal away from the internet for the safety of friends and family, but I found it difficult to maintain any sort of positive attitude through a lot of it. I watched and as many people do, got discouraged because a lot of what went on was completely overwhelming not just for me, but for others around me.

But I received a reminder this weekend, something that I’ve noted in my battles against evil within science fiction publishing and in comics, it came down to this: the Enemy knows where success and gains are being made, so he makes these attacks when we’re over the target. Realizing that made me rethink some of the events I’ve seen in the last couple months.

It’s easy to see that sort of thing in real time, when it’s a group of humans tangibly attacking. It’s easy therefore to point and laugh and say, “these people are attacking me because i’m effective and they’re scared.”

But Satan attacks the effective and is afraid of us as well.

We forget that so often. He uses disease, death, anxiety, division between brothers and sisters in order to make his attacks on us. And those strike often at the effective, because those are the tools he’s using in warfare.

But it’s because we’re making headway for Christ. We can be rest assured that when there’s suffering, it’s because we’re doing good. It seems counterintuitive, but looking at things in the spiritual lens and seeing the light there makes it much easier to laugh at the troubles, because he has no power over us.

And that’s why the Apostles could keep such joy through their far worse persecution than we have today. That’s how they could stay joyous because they already know how the end of the final battle turns out.  So does the enemy. We’ve got him scared.

As John told us in Revelation: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”

Persevere in faith and we will win. It’s guaranteed.

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Spiritual Warfare

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It’s very easy when looking at physical events to ignore the metaphysical. We have very limited capacity to detect the spiritual realm, after all, but when patterns appear it becomes evident there’s forces at work that are beyond what we can simply observe with our eyes.

These last two weeks, evil has been on the move. There’s been an overwhelming weight, especially in California, bearing down on everyone and everything. The fires spread like the pits of hell, the smoke hazes everything and makes it impossible to see clearly or even to breathe freely. it creates an environment that’s ready for strife.

And that’s where the demonic thrive. I’ve watched it escalate in people without seeing the patterns over the last week. Hate’s flared between people where there should be none, mental illness has been exacerbated like a domino effect from one person to the next. In order to accurately fight it we need to understand Satan’s goals in sending his forces here at this time:

  1. We’re already in a society where it’s pushing toward hedonism and away from a Christian life. It was done with a smile as it transitioned our nation and especially the state of California into something unrecognizable within three generations. The smiling’s done now, and the sinister acts of evil are now ready to take place as most people are complacent.
  2. Evil wishes to divide Christians and the church foremost. Because if we stand together in love and prayer, it will be driven out.
  3. Without a strong Church acting together, the demonic have free reign to enact their will–which is chaos and strife for creation.

This is where we’re at. It’s moving at a rapid pace these last few weeks and I don’t expect it to slow. Bu we have the ability to push back by recognizing it. Here’s some very quick steps we can take to change the momentum of evil:

  1. Deescalate conflicts between brothers and sisters. We’re in this together. There’s bigger forces at work than whatever our squabbles are.
  2. Pray for peace and exorcism. Demons and Satan flee when the name of Christ is invoked. He scares them, as he should. Acknowledge the spiritual elements of what’s going on, don’t ignore it. They can’t harm you because you are already marked with the blood.
  3. Follow your Christian leadership. This sounds like an obvious one and something very simple, but it’s not. Show the evil spirits that we are one by action and deed. They want to pick easy targets, because these evil spirits are cowards by nature. If you show we stand together, nothing can stop us.

I’m going to be watching out for this in the next few weeks, and if I see any updates I’ll post what I can. Keep this in mind. Share it. Let people know there’s more here than just the material going on — because part of the enemy’s game plan is to create an environment where we don’t acknowledge the spiritual and are blind to it, because it’s hard to fight what you can’t see.

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God Is Great And Always Provides

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I can’t talk the specifics of a situation because I don’t want this to turn into a “I was pious so the Lord helped me” kind of thing, as I certainly had nothing to do with events, so it’s best to keep it in vague terms.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been under tremendous pressure from a lot of sources, comprised of people and events that wanted to bring me down, tear down everything i created and cause me despair.

At times, trials can get overwhelming. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had issues where we thought we wouldn’t come out the other side, but these trials are there for a purpose. To grow us, to help us change, to groom us into instruments for God’s greater glory.

Like I said before, it looked overwhelming, but things have actually gotten better than ever before. God revealed Himself in instances where I couldn’t have even have imagined, and putting trust in Him for His plan was the right call. It’s always the right call.

I was speaking to a friend on Saturday about the situation, and she told me about her own. It was a big trial for her, something far more important than I’ve been going through. She told me she had trouble trusting God when it came to her child because in school there’s so many influences where things can go wrong and her instinct is to panic as a mother. I told her she had to. God is bigger than the school. God is bigger than the government. God is bigger than kids going astray or bullying. We literally cannot lose. His plan will always come to pass in the greater scheme.

I hope that helped her as those thoughts helped me this last week. Big things are coming, and He is due his rightful praises. It’s a week to rejoice and love. But then, even the weeks where the trials seem overwhelming are times to rejoice and love as well.

Thanks everyone for your tremendous support through thick and thin. I appreciate it. If you haven’t yet, make sure to pick up The Blood of Giants. I’m hard at work this week  prepping Flying Sparks for print, getting The Ember War ready for next week, and going over a final pass of the trilogy conclusion. Buy The Blood Of Giants here.

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Love Everybody Always

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Kanye West earlier this year really changed my life. When he came out with several tweets urging people to say I love you, to make love the new normalized instead of hate, that spoke to me. That is Christ’s message in a nutshell and that is how we’re going to make a long-term impact that goes beyond just now.

Fights online, mobbing and attacking people… what does that do? One, it just makes everyone involved angry and resentful. Two, the optics of the situation are so bad that the person you’re mobbing against usually comes out with a bigger and stronger base of support than before because normal people tuning in see the ugliness that’s going on.

I saw Bob Goff speak last night, and his message too is to love everybody always. It’s a powerful message and he’s an extremely charismatic speaker. But it means working on it in earnest. It means reaching out. It means trying to act in good faith love and caring about people.  And not just people who it’s easy to care about. It’s simple to care and love your friends. We’re called to love people who disgust us, who make us feel weird to be around. That’s the hard part.

A movement I started has really turned into an online outrage mob, one like I’ve seen several times in different arenas from politics to sci-fi. It’s really easy to get sucked into it. It’s really easy to go out there and attack and not realize you’re part of something that’s snowballing into nasty comments, death threats, etc. We don’t see it because one, usually the direct people around us aren’t engaging in it to that extreme, and we don’t see the overwhelming combined effect it has on a person. It’s hard to notice until it happens to a friend, or to you.

For a movement to thrive and move forward for what it’s intended (any movement), it’s going to have to be about more than hate. It’s going to have to drop the hate entirely. I call on my friends, fellow creators, fans, and everyone to look at things this way:

  1. Don’t go on YouTube streams and descend into smack talk about people / gossip. The streaming’s fine, but keep it topical. It’s a bad look to have hours of content saying bad things about individuals.
  2. Watch what you post. Think about the person you’re posting about. Are they in a position where they’re hurting and you’re just making it worse?
  3. Look at your actions. Are they out of love? Can you truly say that? If it’s not, it needs to be reevaluated.

Think about it. Think about people you’re outraged at or hate. Say “I love ______” aloud. It’s weird, isn’t it? But it needs to be done. This is the only real way to affect change for the positive.

And if you see something, speak out. Say “we shouldn’t be doing this guys.” When one person does it against a mob, it’s hard. If a lot of people do, the mob is no longer a mob. It goes away.

I’m definitely guilty of not loving everybody always, but I’m doing my best to try to make a difference. We’re never going to be perfect as humans, but the least we can do is try.

Zaira and her crew try very hard to love her people, and even her enemies as she seeks a cure for the giant’s blood serum withdrawals in The Blood Of Giants. Check it out here.

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Speculative Faith Article: Let’s Talk About Sex

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Speculative Faith, a Christian magazine dedicated to SF/F writing for Christian authors had me write an article. As sex is such a crucial plot component to The Stars Entwined, I decided to write about what I’ve seen in the Christian genres, and gave my thoughts on the place of sex in fiction.

Sex is a difficult topic in the Christian book community. A lot of readers demand pure, PG or even G rated content, and understandably so. But does sex have no place in Christian-authored work?

Often, Christian readers come out with pitchforks when the topic of sex is remotely broached in fiction.

Read more here.

If you’re intrigued, do check out The Stars Entwined. You’ll be… satisfied.

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Christian-Themed Short Fiction From Superversive Press For Easter!

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My publisher, Superversive Press, has a couple of Christian-themed books out for Easter. These are top notch writers who I wholly endorse, written by very good men. If you want to read some quality fiction and keep your focus on Christ this weekend, here’s your spot. This is what’s out:

Lou Antonelli is a fellow Dragon Award nominee last year, and also contributed a story to my Mars anthology. He is one of my favorite short fiction writers out there in the field today, and his collection, In The Shadow Of The Cross, released this week:

Over a 15 year career devoted primarily to short science fiction, Lou Antonelli was unusual in that he accurately depicted the role of religion in people’s lives. In a nation and era when religion in general – and Christianity in particular – is being oppressed by the opinion leaders of America, Antonelli – who is a life-long journalist – depicted religion as it should be if political correctness in the science fiction field didn’t suppress it.

This collection gathers up stories Antonelli wrote over the years where Christianity plays a role. They range from down home and next door to far flung and in outer space. They remind us that despite the best efforts of a Godless material world, Christianity is a sturdy creed that remains a vital part of many people’s lives. 

Next up is a debut author Frank B. Luke. I had the privilege of receiving an advance copy of Lou’s Bar And Grill: Seven Deadly Tales, and he tells some thrilling tales. These are focused around the 7 deadly sins, so it’s a little darker, but Frank keeps good Christian morality throughout.

This bar has no regulars. But it’s not a regular bar.

Customers drift into Lou’s Bar & Grill with the usual broken hearts and unfulfilled dreams, but Lou knows what they want and how to serve it up for them…for a price. There’s beer on tap for the average customer, but Lou recognizes the special customers, the ones who need just a little bit more.

Sheila sidles up to the table and asks what they want. A burger? Sure. But maybe Brad also craves that hot woman who’s always turned him down. Maybe Laney’s still humiliated by her cheating ex, and she’d gladly rip out his heart.

Moe can grill up that burger, and Lou’s got beer on tap, but once they sign their names at the bottom of the order pad, they might just get the house special. It’s a bargain–a Faustian bargain–and seven customers are about to get everything their hearts desire.

Lou’s Bar & Grill isn’t for the faint of heart. Everything they want is within their grasp, but always remember that when the Devil writes the contract, he’s also in all the details.

 

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He Is Risen

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For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

This is of first importance, and don’t forget it. Jesus fulfilled prophecies, he came here for us, and he resurrected. He defeated death and evil once and for all. We have nothing to fear any longer. Go forth and spread the good news. Happy Easter!

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The Last Crusade: On Compassion and Life

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I read an article over at The Federalist today by writer Mary Vought. She brought a very personal argument on letting children have the right to live, as the New Yorker brought forth an article  by  a woman who wished she aborted her child.

Additionally, as a pro-life Christian, you can imagine the frustration I felt when reading a mother lamenting the missed opportunity to abort her sick child. As one would imagine, I had an overwhelming desire to write a response that would refute every single one of her points, making a fool of her arguments and calling into question her credibility as mother and provider for her son.

But, as I read her story a second and a third time, I began to relate to her on the one item we could probably agree on—the fact that having a child with a severe illness is scary. For her, this fear seems to have manifested into anger. She writes about mothers (like me) who choose to give birth to a CF child, “The women who willingly made choices that were never presented to me and chose a child’s suffering: Sometimes I hate them. I also hate the women who were supposed to care for me. I hate the faceless people at the lab.”

The way our culture has been set up, we worship death. Our materialism has gone so far that there are women out there who would rather kill their children than love and support them through good times or bad. This needs to change, and it starts with Christians speaking out on life. God is life as surely as any of His other qualities. Being made in His image, even corrupted by this world is something we should treasure.

As a Christian, my faith teaches me instead that every disabled child bears the same marks of his or her Creator in whose image they are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” meaning with an intent and the Creator’s seal of satisfaction. And every disability has a purpose.

In the Bible, Jesus’ disciples ask him who bears the responsibility for the blindness of a man they pass by. Jesus responds, “It is was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” That man’s blindness had a purpose, and it was to reveal the glory of God.

My daughter’s CF has a purpose—that the works of a sovereign God may be displayed someway and somehow. Time will tell. I suspect that conviction will prompt the same emotions in Gann that her conviction did in me. But is there a higher view of disability? Perhaps amidst all the pain and the sorrow, never to be minimized, that comes with enduring a disability, there can also be the hope and comfort that when the God of the universe created my daughter he pronounced his handiwork good and purposeful.

Mary says it better than I do. Difficult situations and conditions have an additional purpose — it gives us reminders to engage in prayer. Prayer is the most powerful tool in our lives and especially in our death-worshipping society, we need more of it. Paul told us to pray without ceasing, to live our entire lives as a prayer to the Lord God, and the best thing we can do for our children, even through their infirmities, do the same. God loves the sick and the weak, the way Jesus lived his live shows that. Let us do the same.

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The Last Crusade: Superseding Nationalism

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This  morning I read a lecture from a Catholic-American artist, speaking of art and culture in the context of the overall health of mankind. Naturally, he finds the current neo-Babelism of the globalists to be something troubling, but what’s interesting is he takes a step back in the conflict between nationalism and globalism and finds something more important, and something eternal:

“As much as I lament that these knots and spirals would not be found in a church nowadays except as an expression of Irishness, I lament more that a church nowadays is likely to contain no artwork at all. We are living in a time comparable to the iconoclastic crises; contempt for tradition and sacred art is encountered at all levels of the Church.

Moreover, contemporary secular society is decidedly antitraditional. Those who mass-produce and peddle its culture profit by arousing the desire for novelty; things that are made to endure or to live with can only be sold once. Its music and art exist primarily as electronic simulacra. These can be sent across the world within seconds; bound to no particular place, they go to every nation and move them toward sameness. I do not know if such things can properly be called culture; I do not know if they can even properly be called things. A similar movement toward a postnational world is made in political and economic matters. The rules of national sovereignty are reduced to legal fictions, just as the marks of cultural identity are overwritten or erased.

Unsurprisingly, this provokes a reaction. All over the world, people are concerned to protect their self-determination and cultural identity from foreign influences, from invasive ways that are not theirs. That is to say, that are not theirs as Frenchmen or Englishmen or Germans or Americans. In such a time, when nationalism provides the motive to preserve tradition, and postnationalism the motive to destroy it, it seems that anyone who is a traditionalist in matters of religion or culture or art should and must be a nationalist as well.

The curious thing, however, is that in the history of Christianity, nationalism is not an especially traditional idea. A distinction between nations certainly is as ancient as the Tower of Babel, where the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all countries. But the idea that nationhood be the foremost way for a man to understand his identity, his place in history and in the world, began in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The choice presented between nationalism and postnationalism is a false dilemma; there is older way, and that is what is actually expressed in works of art such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and Chartres Cathedral. It is the idea of Christendom: that a man should understand his place in history and in the world not foremost as a member of a particular nation, but rather as a member of the universal Church. This is the way that once was maintained by the Church, and that naturally would be yet, were it not for the failure of its institutional authorities to stand fast, and hold to the traditions they have learned. Perhaps artists can take up the task, if churchmen will not, of reviving this magnanimous idea.

This idea of Christendom does not destroy the particular genii of nations, but neither does it provoke them to battle against each other. It rather establishes principles by which they may together praise the same God. Moreover, it establishes principles by which the Christian tradition may withstand foreign influences; not by barring them entry, but by converting them to its same sacred end, by staking upon whatever is true or good or beautiful in them a legitimate claim. “

He is right that our identities must first and foremost be our eternal citizenship, that of  the Kingdom of Heaven, and also that we should remember the context of our lives and purpose in these end times. What’s great about our heavenly citizenships, is that we may carry dual citizenships with our Earthly nations. Christ in his time on this Earth gave his ministry to one people, the people of Israel, though his focus was on the eternal birth of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Likewise he urged his followers not to be at odds with Rome, within the bounds Paul created most of his ministry.

I don’t think this is implying nationalism is wrong by any means, and I think it’s important tool to fight the neo-Babelists, but we do have to remember our priorities lay beyond it.

 

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