Friday, July 25, 2014

Okay, first, can I just say? Sermon on the Mount. Read it. Right now. Do it. It's in the Bible. Matthew 5-7. Shows you how to live your life without being a butt. Don't kid yourself, you need that.

Alright then. So for a couple of month now my pastor has been working on sermons that go in depth and explain the meanings and applications of all that Jesus talks about when he's giving the Sermon on the Mount, and there was a couple of sections that we went over that particularly caught my eye. Open your Bibles kiddies because this week we're in Matthew 7:1-12. And for those of you without bibles at home, let me offer you this passage in the New International Version.

I. Love. These. Passages. Didn't realize how much until I listened to my pastor's interpretation of it, but it answered a prayer I didn't even know I was praying. Thing is, most people wouldn't see these two passages as being connected, but I call SHARKNADO on this one and saying that God is a GENIUS on how he put these to passages right next to each other.

*By the way, when I call SHARKNADO on something, I'm saying that that the main point flew over most people's head, like with how everyone thought that Sharknado was a crappy horror film and didn't see it as the brilliant sci-fi multiple-dimension time travel thriller that it really was. 

As a writer, I can't help but pay attention to how God set this up and what effect he was going for. (Or, at least, one of the effects.) And when I looked at that, the meaning became so much more clear to me. First, let's look at the two passages separately. In verses 1-6 we've got the "Judging Others" speech. Sparknotes version: Here Jesus is telling us to not judge others because what goes around comes around. He goes on to say that whether or not we're right in our judgement, we really don't have grounds to condemn others because, guess what, we're in the same boat. In fact, in verse 5 it's implied that the judging we do is part of what puts us there. (That's a bit more well explained in the sermons, which I'll have linked on the bottom of the post.) Verse 6 is a bit tricky because some will interpret that it means that we shouldn't give advice to those "unworthy" (pearls before swine and whatnot). But that's not what Jesus is getting at, it's not part of his MO. The way I see it, he's saying don't give advice to people who aren't asking, they'll resent you for it. Because think of it in literal terms. You bring a bunch of pearls to a zoo and start throwing them at some pigs. They're standing there like "Okay, these are shiny but what are we supposed to do, eat them or something?" But you don't speak pig so you just keep throwing the pearls at them and then they start to get annoyed like "HEY! I'M WALKING HERE!". You keep throwing them and then they crush the pearls and start charging at you like "STOP THROWING THESE FREAKING PEARLS AT ME BRO!" 
So that's verses 1-6, what about verses 7-12? Here's where it gets a tad more straight forward. In verses 7 and 8, Jesus tells you what to do and what will happen if you do it. Ask, get. Search, find. Knock, enter. The rest of the passage is for people who didn't believe him. He was all like "Oh, really? When you ask your dad for bread, did he give you a brick? Nope. Gave you some bread. Guess what, your dad is evil. (For now anyway, I'll get to the heaven bit later.) So, if your evil Daddy gave you bread, imagine what God would give you. Also, golden rule. Look it up, it's Prophets law."

So, how do these two passages connect? Well, first consider this. All over the bible you hear the same message, love don't hate, we're all in the same boat. Don't judge. But see, it tells us to do this without giving an alternative. After all, the bible also calls us to make judgements with the Holy Spirit and act accordingly. What's the difference? How do you judge without judging? Well, look at all us dummy-dum-dums because Jesus tells us exactly what to do right after he tells us not to judge. Ask. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, ask the parties involved if you can help, ask if what your doing is right and allow the possibility for an answer you may not want to hear. See, this is why I love the bible. It humbles us, and then when we're in the position to listen to the word it give it to us straight. Verses 1-6? That was the set up. Verses 7-8 was the solution. 

And guess what, this is a proven practice out there in the world of not-Christians. Look at indigogo, kickstarter, patron! All these websites with Artists asking for donations sincerely and in earnest. No judgement, no manipulation. Just a please help us make this thing. And a lot of the time they get over funded. Amanda Palmer, lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, does a great TED talk about crowd funding called The Art of Asking. Look it up sometime, it's great. (It is, how should I say, PG13, so proceed with caution.) 

And that, my friends, is how to judge without being judgemental. You don't. You ask.

Go check out my pastor's sermons on the subject, he does a lot better job explaining it then me. 
Launch the sermon player on my church's website and click on Here Comes The Judge and Can I Ask You A Question? The sermons are also available as a podcast on iTunes. Just search Windy City Community Church. 

Stats of the Week
SongYou Are More By Tenth Avenue North
Book: The Gospel Of Matthew
Word: Acumen
Quote: "Judging is not our role [because], it under values the other person and over values ourselves."
~Steve Story

Monday, July 7, 2014

I love adventure. My favorite genre is fantasy, my favorite video game is Legend of Zelda, most of what I write is about an adventure of some sort. I stake my claim in this and dare to call myself an adventurer, and I invite you to join me. I think that without adventure, life is worthless.

How can you be called an adventurer, NikMac? I hear you ask. You barely ever set foot outside of your apartment willingly. Forget that, you barely move from your couch. Seriously, when was the last time you washed your dishes? And your clothes for that matter? I worry about you...

Well, to answer your question, let me start by asking one of my own. What is an Adventurer?

1) An Adventurer is an Explorer. 
To adventure, you must explore. You must venture outside of your comfort zone to experience new and impossible things. Because of this, an adventurer is never done in the business of adventuring. There will always be that next mountain to climb, forest to wander, sinister cave to brave.

2) An Adventurer is Brave. 
This stipulation follows the first fairly well, because in order to leave your comfort zone, a certain amount of courage is a prerequisite. And by courage I mean the ability to overcome fear, not the lack of it. Those who lack fear make for poor adventurers, because to go on an adventure is to grow, and very few things stimulate growth like overcoming fear.

3) An Adventurer is Good-Willed.
To adventure is to grow, and to grow is to learn. To harbor malice or ill-intent in your heart is cancerous and produces a narrow mind, and narrow minds do not learn. On the other hand, good will towards others nurtures a spirit ready, willing, and hunger to learn anything it can. This does not necessarily make the adventurer a hero or a martyr. It simply means they are a person and not a poison.

Those are three of the main characteristics of adventurers. But how does this translate into the here and now? How can a couch potato such as yours truly be called an adventurer? And, of course, why be an adventurer to begin with?

Today the world seems so small. With TV and internet and all the great and ever-growing innovation of technology, there seem to be precious few pockets of the world left to explore. But while there is so little left of the physical plane to explore, there are infinite possibilities to explore outside of that. We as humans are made to be creatures of great ambition, and when we choose to peruse that ambition it takes us into that forest to wander, with so much to try and conquer. No matter how narrow your path seems it takes you to unexpected places with challenges to overcome and rewards to be had. If you asked me three years ago what I wanted to do for a living I would have told you writing books. If you asked me now I would tell you writing novels and comic books and for animation and video games with a little bit of producing and indie work on the side and maybe some voice acting if I ever had the chance. And even outside of my chosen passion I can tell you I've adventured. I've gone from being a textbook shut in to a more sociable introvert, I've dived deep into the word of God even in the times it's convicted me, I've gone to places where I know I'm not welcome to proclaim what I know. That is my claim to the title adventurer.

So that leads to the big questions. Why be an adventurer to begin with? And, with all I've said today, I think the better question is, why not? As I said earlier, we are creatures made for fulfilling great ambitions. And if we're not always striving to do that, then what's the point? Are we born to just stand in one place until we die, or do we move? Do we learn to crawl, walk, run, bike, drive, fly? The point of this life is to take that next step forward, the resting is saved for the next. So, not being an adventurer is to go against the nature of your soul, like not eating would go against the nature of your body. All that would be left afterwards would be to wither.

Stats of the Week:
Song: Zi-Zi's Journey by Lindsey Stirling
Book: Showdown by Ted Dekker
Word: Odyssey
Quote: "Fantasy remains a human right. We make in our own measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made; and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a maker."
~J.J.R. Tolkien

Thursday, July 3, 2014

(Psst! If you like what you see, all my comics come out a day earlier on my deviant art, along with some bonus sketches! Link here: And guess what? They come out even sooner on my facebook page. Link here: Okay, I'll let you get back to your Cheerios now. )

(P.S. Happy fourth of July sorta.)