On the Christian Faith: What is the Gospel?

Nothing matters to me more than my relationship with God through Jesus Christ, so it would be rather questionable if I didn’t write on this. The following is my attempt to describe the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gospel means “good news”. Merriam Webster online defines it as “ the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation” and also “ something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle or doctrine”.
So what is the good news? In a Word, Christ. There is no good news without Christ because he is the good news.

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)

” They said to his disciples, ‘Why is [Jesus] eating with the tax collectors and sinners?’ But when Jesus heard this, he said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick…for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9: 11-13).

“If you lend to those from whom you expect to recieve, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to recieve back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6: 34-35).

“O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that you sent me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:25-26).

The good news is that God loves us. He loves us to the point of ultimate sacrifice. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

The good news is that those who need a savior have one. Those who need help have help. Those who desire God will find God. Those who are sick in every way will find healing.

The good news is that the Almighty God humbled himself and became human for the sake of us.

The good news is that if you are asking, you will be answered.
If you are seeking, you will find.
And if you knock on the door, it will be opened.

The gospel is an open invitation to life.


As I Get Older

As I get older I’m learning some things.

Cavities are expensive.
People with young children never sleep, and especially not past 8 AM.
Exercise is rewarding both in the short term and the long term.
“True love” is a myth, but it’s not as good as the real thing.
George Lucas has lost his soul.
Constant advertisements and network news stations do much more harm than good.
God will not let me go.
I can’t save anyone.
Not all peace is good.
Not all division is bad.
Not all feelings are right.
Not all impulses are wrong.
Never take for granted the meaning of words like good, bad, right, and wrong.
In general, the closer you are to someone, the less likely you are to say “Bless you” when they sneeze.
Worrying is useless.
Less is more, more or less.

The Dark Side of Back to the Future

Let me begin with a little disclaimer. I love Back to the Future. I think it’s a great trilogy. What I’m about to say is not meant to diminish its greatness in any way. I just have some thoughts.

Marty Mcfly is pretty cool, but his parents are losers. George Mcfly is spineless and clueless.
He is at the mercy of Biff. Lorraine is an alcoholic and by all appearances a poor mother. Then Marty goes back in time, alters the past, and his parents become “better” people and Biff becomes a spineless pushover. It’s all well and good, but let’s take a closer look.

Put yourself in the shoes of George, Lorraine, or even Biff. Your life isn’t perfect, but at least you’re you. You are who you are and no one can take that. Even if they kill you, they can’t steal your identity. They can’t rob your essence. But what does Marty do? He alters the past and changes you! And you know what the worst part is? You have no idea that it happened!!! What happened to the old you?

Marty was almost erased from existence when his parents almost didn’t get together (his mom had the hots for him. Another dark element of the movie) . I suggest that his old parents, the losers, were erased from existence when Marty changed the past.

Marty Mcfly is worse than a murderer. He is worse than a sorcerer with the power to steal souls. He is a soul eraser. And no punishment could ever suffice.

(Above, Shang Tsung from Mortal Kombat steals souls)

But, maybe I’m being too harsh. Besides, he didn’t know any better. If anyone is to blame, it’s Doc Brown. He invented time travel and threatened the entire universe.

Equilibrium : Why I Love It

Chances are, unless you are one of my male friends, you have never seen or heard of the movie, Equilibrium.
It came out in 2002 and starred Christian Bale before he became a household name. The story is that mankind had nearly wiped itself out with what we can assume was WW3. Some time after, the remainder of civilization came together and decided to resolve the root of humanity’s problems, emotion. So they formulated a serum that eradicated intense feelings of any kind. They sought to create a utopia in which violence and hatred would be replaced with peace and serenity. Unfortunately, many humans remained outside of this new civilization, in the borderlands of the great city.
Here is a quote from the movie’s intro that sums up nicely:
“In the first years of the 21st century, a third World War broke out. Those of us who survived knew mankind could never survive a fourth; that our own volatile natures could simply no longer be risked. So we have created a new arm of the law: The Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man’s inhumanity to man – his ability to feel.”

The Grammaton Clerics seek out those who refuse to submit to the new order. They are highly lethal. Here is another quote to illustrate what I mean.
“Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically predictable element. The gun kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents while keeping the defender clear of the statistically traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120%. The difference of a 63% increase to lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly.”

Christian Bale is the best of the best among Clerics. He even kills his own partner after discovering that he has stopped taking his medications and chosen to feel. But this quickly causes him to question his own humanity, and starts a chain of events that threatens to take down the entire new world order.

There are many reasons why I love this movie.

The Action: Ever heard of Gun Fu? Let me explain. When you fire a gun, you’re usually aiming it carefully in front of your face. I’m sure some of my friends could elaborate on that, but that’s the basic idea. Gun Fu, as I understand it, takes a gun and turns it into an object of highly stylized violence. To put it another way, it’s martial arts with guns. Not much of the careful aiming you find in reality. Equilibrium has a number of ridiculous shootouts that pit one man against dozens. It’s completely unrealistic, but that’s not the point. It’s awesome.

The Actor: My friends and I saw this movie before Christian Bale’s star caught on fire with movies like Batman Begins and The Prestige. For that reason, it feels like he belongs to us. I suppose it’s like when you love an unpopular band. They are small enough that they could just belong to you. Then they get insanely popular, but you still hold on to the part that was yours.
Also, Bale does the “no emotion” thing very well. His breakout performance in American Psycho
proved this as well.

The Emotion: Most young men love violence. And I bet most older men do as well, even though we understand that it is mostly an evil. This movie at once satisfies that underlying desire to kill and win (a line I have stolen from Hot Shots: Part Deux) with its relentless action while simultaneously forcing us to examine its darkside. When emotion rules us it ruins us like a spark that starts a forest fire. But without feelings, namely love (this is more than a feeling but humor me for now) , we are just a ticking clock waiting to expire. Equilibrium illustrates the internal eternal struggle that rages in every man.

Man’s Best Friend: Do you love dogs? Christian Bale does.

If you’re willing to overlook the fact that he kills all of those men for the sake of a dog, you’ll really appreciate such an anti- Old Yeller moment.

This movie has a special place in my film library. It’s not the best, but it doesn’t need to be. It just kicks ass.

Why I Like the O.C.

Most people I talk to already know that I like the O.C. , but I feel compelled to explain why.

First of all, it probably isn’t what you think it is. Over the years I have heard a number of 90210 comparisons, but that’s really misleading. Sure, it deals with rich people and their problems, but there is a deeper part to the show that makes it not only watchable, but surprisingly enjoyable.

The creator, Josh Schwartz, has said that he wanted to make a show that paid homage to one of his favorite shows, Freaks and Geeks. Freaks and Geeks focused on the outcasts in a high school setting and offered both laughs and emotional depth. The O.C. offers the same thing with an element of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

This show isn’t perfect. There are moments when the drama reaches oppressive levels and it feels more like a fancy soap opera than a quirky character study with a moral. But fortunately, the positive far outweighs the negative.

What really makes this show for me is the strong moral center, embodied by Sandford “Sandy” Cohen (Peter Gallagher). His character grew up in the Bronx and left home at 17 to pursue his own destiny. This led him to Berkley where he studied to become a public defender. In the first episode he is assigned to be the lawyer of the main character, Ryan Atwood (Ben Mackenzie). Sandy takes Ryan into his home, temporarily at first, but circumstance causes him to become a member of the family. I was truly shocked at how often the writers of this show placed Sandy in difficult moral dilemmas, but even more shocked at how much integrity and wisdom the character showed. This strong moral center makes the debauchery of other characters tolerable since they are shown to be foolish and wrong in comparison. Having such a character earned my trust since I initially believed the show to be aimed at cheap, shallow entertainment. There are legitimate lessons to be learned, and though the show is no model for Christian living, it often emphasizes the value of selflessness, longsuffering, introspection, fidelity, and friendship.

I also want to point out that one of the O.C.’s strongest attributes is the good chemistry between the actors and the characters they play. Seth’s emo, geeky, and sarcastic character meshes well with the tougher, more reserved character of Ryan. Most of the show’s core relationships are believable and cause you to become emotionally attached. I’m not ashamed to say that the death of a core character moved me. And not because I especially liked that character, but because of the pain it caused the other characters. I suppose any good piece of fiction has that power.

Also, any show that has its main character respond to unspeakable tragedy by becoming a badass cage fighter with nothing to lose is pretty awesome.

I hope you will accept my liking of the O.C. And I hope you’ll give it a chance too someday.

How Am I Alive?

We’re hurtling through space on a ball of earth with a relatively thin crust floating on a massive quantity of magma. We can’t live without fresh water, but most of the planet is made up of salt water. Only a few miles of atmosphere separate us from the vacuum of space.

Our frail bodies are victims to injury, disease, and simple aging.
We always need to breathe, we always need to drink, and we always need to eat. Our hearts always have to beat.
Stare at the Sun and go blind.

I’m standing in the driveway today. Blue sky, birds, light breeze, 60 degrees, well fed, hydrated, and pain free. How am I alive? And more incredibly, how am I alive and well?

It’s insane.