Life Application Study: GOD’S ARMOR FOR US

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We are engaged in a spiritual battle — all believers find themselves subject to the devil’s attacks because they are no longer on the devil’s side. Thus, Paul tells us to use every piece of God’s armor to resist the devil’s attacks and to stand true to God in the midst of those attacks.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world against the spirutual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth bucked around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Sprit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-17

In the Christian life we battle against rulers and authorities (the powerful evil forces of fallen angels headed by the devil, who is a vicious fighter — see 1 Peter 5:8). To withstand their attacks, we must depend on God’s strength and use every piece of His armor. Paul is not only giving this counsel to the church, the body of Christ, but to all individuals within the church. The whole body needs to be armed. As you do battle against “the powers of this dark world”, fight in the strength of the church, whose power comes from the Holy Spirit.

  • The BELT OF TRUTH (vs. 14a)

Satan fights with lies, and sometimes his lies sound like truth; but only believers have God’s truth, which can defeat Satan’s lies.

  • The BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (vs.14b)

The devil often attacks our heart — the seat of our emotions, self-worth, and trust. God’s righteousness is the breastplate that protects our heart and ensures His approval. He approves of us because He loves us and sent His Son to die for us.

  • The SHOES OF THE GOSPEL (vs. 15)

Satan wants us to think that telling others the Good News (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) is a worthless and hopeless task — the size of the task is too big and the negative responses are too much to handle. But the footgear God gives us is the motivation to continue to proclaim the true peace that is available in God — news everyone needs to hear.

  • The SHIELD OF FAITH (vs. 16)

What we see are Satan’s attacks in the form of insults, setbacks, and temptations. But the shield of faith protects us from Satan’s flaming arrows. With God’s perspective, we can see beyond our circumstances and know that ultimate victory is ours.

  • The HELMET OF SALVATION (vs. 17a)

Satan wants to make us doubt God, Jesus and our salvation. The helmet protects our mind from doubting God’s saving work for us.

  • The SWORD OF THE SPIRIT (vs. 17b)

The sword is the only weapon of offense in this list of armor. There are times when we need to take the offensive against Satan. When we are tempted, we need to trust in the truth of God’s Word.

These who are not “flesh and blood” are demons over whom the devil has control. They are not mere fantasies–they are very real. We face a powerful army whose goal is to defeat Christ’s church. When we believe in Christ, these beings become our enemies, and they try every device to turn us away from Him and back to sin. Although we are assured of victory, we must engage in the struggle until Christ returns, because Satan is constantly battling against all who are on the Lord’s side. We need supernatural power to defeat Satan, and God has provided this by giving us His Holy Spirit within us and His armor surrounding us. If you feel discouraged, remember Jesus’ words to Peter: “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

::END TRANSMISSION::

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My First Calvinist Encounter

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john calvinAs I have said before, I missed out on a lot of the alternative rock back in the 1990s, not because I was unwilling to branch out from my preference for metal, but because so many of the fans and adherents to the exploding alternative scene were obnoxious douchenozzels about it. The overall sense of elitist snobbery from the fans utterly turned me off from wanting to check out the music for myself.

It’s essentially the same experience I’ve had with Calvinism, while attempting to investigate and understand this particular theological branch of Christianity, instead of an enlightening discussion on the topic, I usually walk away with the feeling that my own salvation was questioned due to my lack of understanding the particular brand of theology, while a nagging feeling that they were merely parroting memorized talking points rather than engaging questions.

But, this really isn’t a post about my thoughts on Calvinism. Let me, instead, tell you about my first actual encounter with a Calvinist. This should amuse you.

There was a time, a decade ago, when I didn’t know what a Calvinist was, let alone Calvinism. As a matter of fact, most of my theological studies stemmed from my study of the scriptures themselves. I adhered to the Apostle Paul’s sentiment in 1 Corinthians 1:12-15, as I identified myself as a Christian in and of itself. I still do, it’s just now I’ve done much investigation and studying the various branches of Christian theology since then, in an effort to understand.

Anyhoo, all this to say that my first encounter with Calvinism was when I met my now-ex fiance back in 2007.

We initially met online, by way of one of those Christian alternatives to MySpace, named Shout Life. We were both hanging out in one of the chatroom boards on the sight; she was impressed with my ability to spell correctly and actually hold a somewhat intelligent dialogue. Also, I made her laugh. We both held interesting and in-depth conversations in the chatroom over the months, which led to chatting on IM late at night.

One evening, I fixed myself a bit of dinner, took it to the computer, and began chatting on IM with her. She started things off by asking, “Do you believe in the existence of free will?”

I was not expecting that question. Nor was I expecting her response when I answered to the affirmative:

“Oh, that’s okay. We can still be friends.” Then she put in one of those smiley-face emoticons at the end, there. How whimsical.

When I pressed her to explain in a bit more detail, she merely stated that free will is an illusion, that God has preordained everything and everything is out of our control. This statement completely blew my mind; not by the profundity of it, but from the completely half-baked nature of the statement. It was then that she identified herself as a “hyper-Calvinist”. To which I responded, “Cool. What’s a Calvinist?” To which she began explaining to me…completely omitting any mention of John Calvin or his writings. Just a lot of words including that of “predestination”, “limited atonement”, and something about the ESV translation. In other words, she wasn’t very good at explaining this thing she claimed to adhere to.

Since I have the terrible gift/curse of overthinking things when it comes to wrestling with my faith, I began talking of my own ponderings on the subject of free will and the sovereignty of God, and how the two didn’t have to be mutually exclusive if we consider our own finite understanding of God…and after less than five minutes, I swear I could hear the audible *POP* of her brain ‘sploding all the way from Kansas. After that, when we were dating, the topic never came up again.

So, there we have the first, and sadly only time I’ve encountered a self-defined Calvinist in real life and in person. I’ve met several self-described Calvinists online over the years, through message boards and on social media and blogs, but never someone I could sit down with and have a civil exchange of questions and discussion, one-on-one, in a genuine effort to understand. Mostly I get pelted with a barrage of soundbites and memes from those online Calvinists who view John Calvin as having done no wrong and every word he spoke was gilded with shiny gold and delivered with a backing Wagnerian choir.

There are a few exceptions, mind you. For example, I find Dr. James White of Alpha Omega Ministries has a gift of explaining Calvinism (and teaching the Scriptures in general) to be both scholarly and edifying in a way that never sounds condescending.

So, to end all this prattling on, I would encourage you who are maybe consider yourself a Calvinist to go beyond your scope of understanding and have a discussion with someone who is a fellow brother or sister in Christ Jesus who doesn’t necessarily agree with everything about Calvinism. I understand the tendency to surround yourself with friends and associates that only believe the same thing you do about the faith, as I did the same thing once. But, trust me, as Proverbs 27:17 states about iron sharpening iron, there is so much benefit in doing so.

::END TRANSMISSION::

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Movie Review: DEADPOOL 2

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deadpool 220th Century Fox
2018
R

“You remind me of my wife.”
“I’m sorry.”
“I said you remind me…”
“No, I’m sorry that you said that while making heavy eye contact and applying lip balm.”

Whelp, I’m gonna call it. 2018 is the year for Marvel flicks. Whether the Disney movies, or the ones that are still owned by other studios, Marvel has been knocking ’em out of the park, there. Of course, one of the more highly anticipated Marvel movies this year was the sequel to 2016’s Deadpool, the surprise hit R-rated superhero movie that pretty much broke the mold when it came to the genre.

To say Deadpool 2 had a lot to live up to would be an hilarious understatement. The possibility for a sophomore slump was pretty strong. While the teaser trailers and online promos promised more of the same (and then some), and the plot utilizing not only X-Men fan-favorite Cable, but X-Force as well to up the ante, I was still a bit cautious when I finally sat myself down in my theater seat with the rest of the exalted geeks. The memory of the awesomeness of the first Deadpool movie alone was fueling my anticipation. Will Deadpool 2 be just as awesome? Or will it pratfall harder than the Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Probably not, but weirder disappointments have happened.

Suffice to say, Deadpool 2 did not disappoint. Was it as good as, or better than, the first Deadpool? We’ll get to that. But first, the Obligatory Rundown (there may be spoilers, so keep that in mind while I write from the hip, here):

We begin with Deadpool blowing himself up. We then are treated to a flashback to explain why he decided to off himself at the beginning of his own movie (hint: It involves the sudden death of a loved one that even the movie’s opening credits couldn’t believe just happened). But, since he’s Deadpool and has a crazy insane healing factor, his bits and pieces are…rescued? by Colossus, and he’s pieced back together in the X-Men Mansion. Colossus convinces Deadpool to finally join up with the X-Men, and is taken with him and Negasonic Teenage Wowthisisthelongestsuperheronameever to an incident involving a young mutant with fireball powers outside of another mutant hospital being run by a “doctor” who tortures young mutants to “cure” them. After deciding that the PG-13 route wasn’t for him, Deadpool manages to get himself and the young firestarter thrown into what is called the “icebox”, where some of the most dangerous mutants are imprisoned, their powers nullified by a special collar. This means that Deadpool’s healing factor is no longer a thing, and his cancer is coming back full force. But, due to a sudden surprise infiltration by a time-traveling super soldier named Cable, Deadpool gets his collar off and escapes, leaving the younger boy in there being hunted by Cable. Convicted to protect the boy, Deadpool forms a team of his own — X-Force — and during the transport of all the Icebox prisoners to a new location, most of the team is massacred by accident, save for the spunky young Domino, who stops Cable from killing the boy, but ends up releasing the Juggernaut in the process. The boy and Juggernaut head out to deal some pain to the guy who tortured him, which leads to Deadpool teaming up with Cable to try and talk him out of it without killing the boy. Things go boom. I’m just going to leave it there.

I’ll just come out and say it: Deadpool 2 was awesome. Though one could argue that the story beats in Deadpool 2 would be the anti-Logan from a couple of years ago, what with the protecting a child from a killer threat with some robotic implants, that still doesn’t distract from the fact that this movie maintains the quality of hilarity and action of the first one, gleefully subverting tropes, deftly dealing with the drama and seriousness with brazenly juvenile style. The movie starts off with a literal bang, and keeps that tone and pace up throughout, not so much breaking the fourth wall as demolishing it completely, with the jokes and action equally rapid-fire. The interaction between him and Cable is fantastic, and I kind of wish there was more between them. Domino was an interesting character herself; I’m not familiar with the source character, as I’m not what you would call an X-Men fan in that media. Of course, the best part of the movie is the mid-credit scene that you need to stay for. It’s the best one of all the Marvel movie mid-credit scenes going. Trust me, this will make you beyond giddy.

So, what I’m trying to say is, Deadpool 2 is awesome. I already said that once (see: Previous Paragraph), but it’s worth repeating as many times as possible. If you liked the first Deadpool, you’re gonna like Deadpool 2. That’s all. Go catch it while it’s in the theaters.

Movie Review: AVENGERS Infinity War

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avengers infinity warMarvel / Disney
2018
PG-13

“I’m gonna ask you this one time. Where is Gamora?”
“Yeah, I’ll do you one better. Who is Gamora?”
“I’ll do you one better. Why is Gamora?”

So, then. The third Avengers movie, and the first part of a two-parter that is promising to shake everything up in the cinematic Marvel Universe. Well, now. That’s a big promise, there. While I loved the first Avengers movie, the second one was kind of lackluster, and really, neither did really set my fanboy world ablaze at the time. I do admit, though, that the Marvel movies leading up to Infinity War these past couple of years have been ramping up in the quality story-wise (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarök, Black freakin’ Panther…need I go on?), so there was actual hope that Infinity War will live up to all the hype and blow me away with sheer awesomeness.

Going into this, already the scope was BIG by sheer numbers: Avengers Infinity War features almost everybody in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, save for Ant Man. I mean, they could have started off the movie by a big rendition of the song “Hey A Movie!” from The Great Muppet Caper (“Starring everybody, and meeeee!”). As a matter of fact…why wasn’t that a thing? Disney owns the Muppets, right? That could have been shoehorned in there easily. Thor and Loki could have a choreographed dance number. But, I digress. Point is, the stakes for this movie were already pretty high by the amount of crossover team-ups going on. This had the potential of falling flatter than the Justice League movie.

Fortunately, my natural tendency to expect the worst was proven wrong.

I take a break in this rambling review to state that, although it’s been a few weeks since the opening of this movie, there will be SPOILERS ahead, so be ye warned if, for some reason, you haven’t seen this yet. Though, I can’t fathom why.

Starting off almost immediately after the post-credit scene from Thor: Ragnarök, Thanos has killed almost everyone on the ship carrying all the Asgardian refugees, save for Thor, Loki, Heimdall and the Hulk. After single-handedly giving the smackdown to the Hulk and shiving Loki for the Space Stone, the Hulk is transported back to Earth by Heimdall, and Thor is tossed into space. Hulk crashes into the New York Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Strange, and — after reverting back to Bruce Banner — warns Strange about Thanos’ mad plan to eradicate half of all life in the universe, and is on his way to get the Time Stone from Strange. Recruiting Iron Man, they all put of a valiant fight against the henchmen Thanos sent, but Strange gets captured and taken into space, but not before Iron Man and a newly suited Spider-Man hitch a ride on their ship. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Witch and Vision are attacked by two more henchmen, but are saved by the arrival of Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon. Thor is rescued by the Guardians of the Galaxy, and after a hilarious interchange between Thor and Starlord, Thor goes off with Rocket and a teenage Groot to the place where his original hammer was forged to make a new weapon to fight Thanos, while Starlord, Gamora, Drax and Mantis head back to Knowhere to try and save the Reality Stone, only to find that Thanos beat them there and has it in his possession.

With us so far? Good. Proceeding…

Thanos kidnaps Gamora to get the location of the Soul Stone, then after traveling to the location, has to reluctantly kill Gamora in order to gain possession of the stone. Trust me, it’s a rather harrowing scene to get through. Iron Man, Spider-Man and Strange run into Starlord, Drax and Mantis on Thanos’ homeworld of Titan, hatching a plan to remove the gauntlet from him, as there seems to be only one outcome of several million that results in the mad Titan losing. They almost succeed, until Starlord loses his otherwise cherub-like demeanor after learning that Thanos killed Gamora. Finally gaining the Time Stone, Thanos heads back to Earth to get the Mind Stone from Vision, who is in Wakanda, where the entire Wakandian army is lead by Black Panther, along with Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, Banner in the Hulk Buster suit (because Hulk hasn’t wanted to smash after the beatdown at the beginning of the movie), and the newly hammered Thor is taking down Thanos’ horde. Everything is looking good for our heroes…until Thanos shows up. Then everyone is screwed. Seriously. It ends with the bad guy winning. Enjoy the rest of your day, folks.

Once again, Disney has proven that they are now the overlords of the movie releases now. With Marvel, just in this year alone (and it’s not even halfway through the year yet), they’ve already made all the money and broke all the records with Black Panther. Just a couple of months later, and they manage to once again blow everything out of the water with Infinity War. I’m not exaggerating. I don’t think anyone was expecting what happened in this movie. Not only did Avengers Infinity War manage to handle three major plot threads and weave them together into an epic story, it did so without sacrificing character development and story quality. What was truly amazing was that the character of Thanos — who could have easily been a paint-by-numbers Big Evil (see: Steppenwolf from The Justice League movie) — was given depth and motivation beyond “I’m just evil, it’s what I do”. There’s a scene where you start feeling some compassion for him, and kind of see things his way…although, he’s still a despot that’s committing mass genocide on an intergalactic scale, so he’s still the bad guy, make no doubt.

The writing was great, managing to keep all the different characters’ individual qualities. I like that eye for character detail they adhere to, going so far as bringing in James Gunn to write the parts for the Guardians Of The Galaxy to keep the continuity going. The result is some fantastic — and not to mention hilarious — interactions between the heroes during the conflict. Pretty much everyone gets a chance to shine, here. And by the time it gets to the end, you’re left with a feeling of being punched in the stomach by the Hulk himself.

Yeah, Avengers Infinity War is a bleak and dark entry in the series. Some say this is the Empire Strikes Back of the Avengers movies; I say that Avengers Infinity War makes Empire Strikes Back look like minor inconvenience. Walking out of the theater after the post-credit scene that sets up the next couple of Marvel movies to come, there were several children — and a few adults as well — that were crying due to the final few moments of the movie. People die. Characters you didn’t see coming, that you thought were safe from destruction. So much so, that I began wondering if Joss Wheadon didn’t have a hand in writing the final part of the script.

Enough of me going on and on with the review. If you haven’t seen Avengers Infinity War yet at this point, what are you waiting for? Go see this. Now. Stop reading this and go.

Confessions of a Depressed Christian: Alone

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aloneMy soul has seemed distraught as of late. I am reminded that I am alone in this world, without a companion.

It used to be that Sundays were my favorite days of the week. I would look forward to the fellowship, the corporate worship, having someone I can open up to and vice versa. Now, all Sunday morning worship does is remind me of how disconnected I am with my fellow humans, and all I have to look forward to is going back to the domicile I dwell in, and try to fend off the downward spiral into oblivion that comes with the aftermath of the worship experience that drains me.

I want to say how unfair it is to be alone…followed immediately by repentance for my selfishness on the matter. Jesus doesn’t owe me a companion. But, this does not assuage the loneliness I am at times overwhelmed with.

To wit: I realize that a wife or even a girlfriend won’t make this go away. My identity and rest lies in Christ Jesus and Him alone, and He is what makes me complete. Not a companion. Not a wife.

Even so, this is how I feel. Alone. In the presence of my Lord, and yet still a strong sense of isolation from everyone.

It kills me sometimes.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Dream time again…

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spoonful of chunky peanut butterI was exploring the ruins of an ancient Mayan temple with the cast members of That 70s Show, when we come across a room filled with all the separate ingredients to make an infinite amount of tacos. We begin to excavate the room of the delicious taco ingredients, when we are beset upon by the room’s guardians — the NBA All-Star Team. They engage us with a game of keep away with a tablespoon filled with chunky peanut butter. The game was getting heated up, when I had to wake up and use the facilities.

Unfortunately, I didn’t rejoin the game afterwards.

::END TRANSMISSION::

My Dark Night of the Soul: May 21, 2018

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insaneThis darkness that is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like the grime of the world is covering me. I feel like I’m trapped in a contaminated body that no amount of washing will clean.

I can still feel the fallen nature inside me. It’s an evil that wants to destroy. It nearly destroyed my loved ones, and it nearly destroyed me.

The Holy Spirit keeps this monster that is my old self at bay. But, even though it’s dying, it’s not going without a fight. Wanting to destroy me. Whispering mad ideas when I am at my lowest, urging me to kill myself, to harm my flesh, to suffocate in my despair.

I know I shall never be rid completely of this, until the day that I am resurrected with Christ and given a new body. I let the monster in myself; I shudder to think what kind of destruction I could have attained had I not submitted to the Reanimator.

Wrapped in chains, this Old Self of mine remains, with the chains only getting tighter the further I walk. His screams are maddening…

::END TRANSMISSION::

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