The journey of a nerd who loves the Lord

Salutations!

warnThe other night, I read a critique of a ministry from the point of view of a Calvinist.   He did not approve of this ministry, as the teacher held quite a different standpoint on many theological items from most mainstream Christian denominations.  At one point, the author asked whether we could even consider this man a brother, because, after all, if his theology separated from orthodox views so significantly, then he may only worship Jesus in name, but not in truth.  The author then pointed to other religions that Christians often consider heretical, even though they worship ‘God’ or ‘Jesus,’ such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or the Jehovah Witnesses.  They agree that these faiths are false voices that lead sheep astray, rather than to a saving faith in Jesus Christ because their theology differs so greatly from orthodoxy, despite confession of Jesus name in their teachings.

I have had the same argument used against me.  In speaking with a Presbyterian pastor some time ago, I mentioned that I did not attend a local church.  I gave him a surface level overview of the many, deep reasons why I struggled to do so.  From the point forward, he made a point to make it clear that he could not consider me a brother.  His reasoning went that Jesus clearly said in the Bible that Christians must attend an institutional, traditional church.  And, if a person said they followed Christ, yet did not follow this clear teaching, then they were not following the true Jesus.  They are following a Jesus of their own imagination.  Such a ‘faith’ as it were, is completely misplaced, and would not lead to salvation.

bible3I have heard these arguments used numerous times, often by Reformationists when they talk about those people who do not believe in Calvanistic doctrine.  It is also utilized by numerous pastors who want to ensure that you attend their denomination, and not others.   Finally, I have heard it said by closer brothers when I ask them this simple question.  “Can a person with faith in Jesus, yet does not believe in the idea of a Trinity, be saved?”  (Spoiler: most say “no, they worship a different Jesus.”)  I have heard this “different Jesus” argument used so many times to proclaim that people are not saved, and/or as a reason to divide us into tons of denominations.  Not surprisingly, I have a problem with this view.

I have often  shared my belief that Jesus does not give theology tests before allowing people into heaven.  The Bible makes it clear that one must only be born again, and that comes from placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Salvation is not based on good works, perfect theology, or anything in between.  The thief who died on the cross did not know the first thing about the holy trinity, Calvinistic theology, or even the Lord’s prayer in all likelihood.  Yet, Jesus accepted him because he had faith in Christ.  Paul talks about faith being the key metric in determining whether an action is even considered a sin, when he discusses how some brothers celebrate certain holy days, or claim some food as unclean.

breadAs you may guess, I refute this line of argument.  In my very humble opinion, the main challenge with some religions is not that they teach faith in a ‘different Jesus,’ but, that they teach faith in something other than Jesus despite using his name.  Many, teach faith in their organization or leader over faith in Jesus.  They may use Jesus or God’s name to draw people in.  They may even preach about Jesus or God on occasion.  However, if you study their theology closely, or attend their churches for a prolonged period, you will see a distinct focus on the leader, the organization, and/or the tradition over the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As somewhat of a test, I often ask such followers why they feel God would allow them into heaven.  Their answers often focus on their good works, or accomplishments in their church organization.  Unfortunately, the Bible clearly teaches that faith in self, one’s works, or one’s organization, does not lead to salvation.

And, ultimately, that’s what I care most about when I talk to someone about God.  Have you been born again?  Have you repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, and His finished work on the cross?  Often, denominations say that we only need to divide on the critical or core matters of theology.  Clearly, this is the heart of the Christian faith.  Outside of that, I do not know if other matters of theology really fall under that umbrella.  I hope you follow this Jesus with me!

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Are You A Good Person?

goodpeepSalutations!

Try an experiment today.  Ask a dozen people the question, “Do you think you are a good person?”  Chances are, 11 of the 12 well answer that question in the affirmative.  As Americans, we have a high view of ourselves.  When asked this question, most of us immediately compare ourselves to people in prison, murderers, thieves, or even those who have hurt us in the past.  In our mind’s eye, we compare and contrasts ourselves with them and think “I AM a good person!”  Unfortunately for us, God does not share that same perspective until we have been born again.  Romans 3.10 points out that there are none who are righteous.

And, if we allow ourselves to think through the topic for a bit, it completely makes sense.  Think about it.  If you break a law, you are guilty of a crime regardless of how much good you did before or after.  If you kill someone in cold blood, you deserve a harsh penalty no matter what.  We understand this with our human, imperfect judicial system.  Yet, somehow, we do not connect the dots when thinking of ourselves standing in front of a perfect, holy judge who know EVERYTHING we have ever thought or done!

judge

If we honestly think we are super awesome, we only need to compare ourselves next to some of God’s standards.  Take the 10 commandments, for example.  Have you ever lied?  Ever stolen?  Ever taken the Lord’s name in vain?  There are three laws right there that just about everyone has broken multiple…even countless times.  If we compare ourselves to Jesus, and some of the criteria He pointed out, we find ourselves in bigger trouble.  Jesus showed us that it was our heart, and not just our actions, which truly defined our standing in God’s eyes.

Mat 5.21 You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to the fire of hell.

When we think through this for only a moment, we quickly realize that the idea that we are ‘good’ people is nothing more than our pride and ego getting in the way of truly evaluating where we stand.  We can clearly see that we stand guilty, and ultimately, condemned.

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This appears bleak.  We all deserve judgement from God.  Thankfully, God provides the solution to this profound problem of guilt.  John 3.16 says, “For 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.”  When we repent of our sins, and put our faith in the finished work of Christ, we become born again, new creations, through Him.  God no longer sees us as guilty people, for the price of our penalty and debts were paid by the redemptive work of His Son on the Cross.  The old is washed away, and we are new creations through Him.  Amen!!

Some Updates

Salutations.

I know I have not posted in a while.  Work has kept me super busy!  However, A few updates.  First, about my no-sugar diet that I started last year.  Don’t worry, I’m still off sugar and NOT going back.  After all, why go back to a bad habit like smoking, drinking, or sugar?  It just does not make sense.  But, people do it everyday.  I call that addiction.  Anyway, since my weight was not moving any lower, and I’m still about 30 lbs overweight, I decided to look at various types of fasting after watching a video (See below).  I highly recommend y’all go check it out.  The short version is that fasting, by far, is the fastest, easiest, and even safest way to lose weight.  Nowadays, of course, if you say you are skipping meals or days of eating, people will often question you… and warn you of losing muscle mass, possibly passing out or even dying!  Why do we believe this?  Why do we think our crazy diets are better than common sense?  Because no one makes money when you stop eating…so companies work hard to make sure that it is not considered a solid option for weight loss.  Watch the video below for more information or look into the book, The Obesity Code.

As I mentioned, The last three or four months have been keeping me working non stop.  In the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, it talks about how our life is full of seasons.  Right now, I find myself in the season of working.  Six to seven day workweeks have sapped my time, making it nigh impossible for any free writing.  After such a prolonged period of work, I find myself occasionally wondering what I work for.  Sometimes, in moments of depression, I may even ask about the purpose of life.

Yet, as trying as these times test me, other face strong tests.  Nabeel Qureshi, a speaker for RZIM, recently lost a long battle with cancer.  A younger man with a wife and child, Nabeel found himself to question the purpose of life, and even his faith, in light of such dire circumstances.  It was during one of those times that he penned high thoughts about these things.  Please take a few moments to read it.  Click on the image below to see it in full resolution.

Reading it brought tears to my eyes.  And with those tears, I refocused.  Nabeel reminded me of the reason for living, and for dying.  We exist to glorify the Lord who gave His life so that we may have life eternal.  And while I work non-stop, I read this and remind myself that I work as onto the Lord.

Among other things, this reminded me the importance of finding ways to bring my thoughts back to God daily, even if I simply listen to a faith based podcast on the drive to work.  It reminded me of finding ways, no matter how busy, to love others and speak life into their day, which cost little time.  It reminded me the importance to thank God for each and every day given to me.

Do not let life, with all of its demands, force you to forget the reason for life, and the reason for the hope that we have.  It is easy to do…whether we are busy with jobs, or walking through the darkest valleys of life.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Ex-Heroes

exheroEx-Heroes
Written by Peter Clines
Narrated by Audible Stuidos

Description

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes. Vigilantes. Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilites to make Los Angeles a better place. Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country. The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others. Read the rest of this entry »

survivalSurvival Quest
Written by Vasily Mahanenko
Narrated by Jonathan Yen

Description

Barliona: a virtual world jam-packed with monsters, battles – and, predictably, players. Millions of them come to Barliona, looking forward to the things they can’t get in real life: elves and magic, dragons and princesses, and unforgettable combat. The game has become so popular that players now choose to spend months online without returning home. In Barliona, anything goes: You can assault fellow players, level up, become a mythical hero, a wizard, or a legendary thief. The only rule that attempted to regulate the game demanded that no player be allowed to feel actual pain. But there’s an exception to every rule. For a certain bunch of players, Barliona has become their personal hell. They are criminals sent to Barliona to serve their time. They aren’t in it for the dragons’ gold or the abundant loot. All they want is to survive the virtual inferno. They face the ultimate survival quest..

A few weeks ago, I found a blog about books while surfing.  One of the entries mentioned a ‘new genre’ of books called “LitRPG.”  Essentially, LitRPGs take you through the experience of a role playing game (MMORPG in this case), first hand.  While some fantasy books attempt to tell stories within the lands created by game writers, LitRPGs actually take you through the game… by putting you directly in the mind of one of the gamers.  The protagonist shares with you the rules of the game, the crunch under the hood, the monotony of grinding and the ecstasy of leveling up.

I thought, at first, that the incessant ‘system messages’ and crunch might make the book a bit too boring.  And, for some readers, it probably is.  However, for those of us who have spent dozens of hours reading boards and hint books to learn how to best level up characters in video games, we can find a lot to like here.  The main character, stuck in this virtual world, may be a bit boring and two dimensional.  However, the world around the character really stands out.  After all, with a video game as the setting, anything can and will happen.  While a typical fantasy novel is constrained by the need to have some basis in logic, natural order of things, etc., (with magic providing some exception to that), the world of Barliona is constrained only by video game/MMO logic and rules.  This allows the author a lot of freedom in exploring fantastical possibilities even while utilizing a somewhat boring main character and typical MMO quest lines.  While the first book sets the stage, the 2nd book really explores these possibilities more fantastically.

Normally, this book by itself would get a 4/5 from me.  However, three things elevate this book to the coveted 5/5 stars.  First, while I’m only about half way or so through the second book, it is clear that the author saved some of his more imaginative twists and turns for future books.  Second, this approach to fantasy story telling feels fresh.  Originality always wins brownie points from me!  Finally, my wife gives it two thumbs WAY up.  She enjoyed this book so much, she has torn through the rest of the books available in this series.  She simply cannot stop listening.  While the writing is great, the reader definitely carries his end and does a great job using voices effectively to tell the story.

I can highly recommend this book series to any of my friends who enjoy computer and console RPGs.

5/5 Stars

 

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Ready Player One
Written by Ernest Cline
Narrated by Wil Weaton

Description

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

A fellow friend of the nerd variety recommended this book… and boy, am I glad he did.  Ready Player One grabs you by the seat of your pants and does not let you go.  Imagine Willy Wonka meets The Matrix, you get Ready Player One.  Before he died, the creator of the OASIS, a virtual reality world, set up a contest.  Whoever could find his ‘easter egg’ (think hidden secret) located somewhere in the simulation, would inherit his company and vast fortune.  To solve the clues, players have to know pop culture from the 70s and 80s.  Set in a dystopian future, this adventure follows Wade Watts, as he works with his friends to win that contest, all while minions from an evil corporation attempt to do the same.

Those of us who grew up in the age of the Atari 2600, Commodore 64 and Nintendo will find much to like here.  As the main character works his way through the puzzles and contests, the pop culture references come fast and furious.  Yet, even those lacking in knowledge will find that the adventure itself has plenty of excitement and edge-of-the-seat moments.  My wife, who listened to the book with me, couldn’t wait to see what happened next.  Every chapter seemed to raise the stakes just a bit more.  At a few points, I even heard her cheering for the protaganist.

A few elements took away from our overall enjoyment, however.  Primarily, the ending felt a bit rushed.  We would have enjoyed another chapter wrapping things up a bit more, or an epilogue.  Also, some of the relationships felt a bit…cliché.  The story of one of the supporting characters made my wife and I groan.  While I will not go into details for fear of spoilers, it feels like another attempt to force a political viewpoint into a story…and one that does not feel organic.  Thankfully, the author does not spend too much time on this point.

With that being said, we still enjoyed the ride quite a bit, and can recommend it to any of our friends.  It’s a relatively short, self contained, exciting adventure for the entire family.  If you enjoy older pop/nerd culture, you will feel right at home, here.  If you opt for the audible version, rest assured that Wil Weaton does a great job bringing this story to life.  I would love to hear him again.  4/5 Stars

facesTill We Have Faces Audio Book Review
Written by C.S. Lewis Audio
Narrated by Nadia May

Description

  1. C.S. Lewis reworks the timeless myth of Cupid and Psyche into an enduring piece of contemporary fiction in this novel about the struggle between sacred and profane love. Set in the pre-Christian world of Glome on the outskirts of Greek civilization, it is a tale of two princesses: the beautiful Psyche, who is loved by the god of love himself, and Orual, Psyche’s unattractive and embittered older sister who loves Psyche with a destructive possessiveness. Her frustration and jealousy over Psyche’s fate sets Orual on the troubled path of self-discovery. Lewis’ last work of fiction, this is often considered his best by critics.

As part of my recent C.S. Lewis kick, I picked up this book, not really knowing what to expect.  I saw the note in the description mentioning that many consider this one of Lewis’ best books, and many of the user reviews agreed.

First, Lewis writes this story of self-discovery completely from the first perspective, which I have grown to enjoy the more I read.   Lewis does a great job keying into the main character, Orual, and making you feel as she feels.  Early on, Orual makes it clear she has beef with the gods, and Lewis does a great job explaining exactly why.  While some define atheists as those who do not believe in gods at all, I have seen some (in fiction) define them as those who believe that the gods are simply not worthy of faith and worship.  That’s exactly how Orual thinks, as nearly the entire book serves as her well thought out complaint against them as a whole.

Ironically, I have seen this exact same sentiment in some of my atheists friends and family.  If God does not exists, how can they be so mad at Him?  I see them shaking their fist in the air, at Him.  They argue, if He exists, He must be a cruel God because of XYZ… and therefore not worthy of worship even if they saw Him face to face.  Lewis excellently paints the argument, drawing on his own feelings and experience as an atheist for many years.  His final strokes in the tale and debate are masterfully painted.

His excellence permeates the other aspects of the story, as well.  From the supporting characters, to describing the world.  He wastes not a word.  In fact, I had to slow down my normal playing speed as He uses thick language full of color and thought.  You cannot listen to this book casually, lest you miss an important point.

Nadia May executes the narration near flawlessly, lending a different voice to each character.  I really enjoyed this entire book from beginning to end.  I highly recommend it to my friends who study theology, those looking for a good, fictional book steeped in mythology, and even my atheist friends who may find a kindred soul in the main character.   5/5 Stars.

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