All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, is upon us this week. In light of that, I have a question for you:

What’s your favorite scary movie?

It doesn’t have to be horror. It could be a thriller, action/adventure, whatever. It just has to be something that gets your blood pumping, your adrenaline flowing.

I’ll go first:

In recent cinematic history, I’d have to say it’s The Conjuring for me. It delivers the mood, the thrills, the chills, and a faith-affirming message, too.

What’s yours?

Share in the comments below.
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Grace is a subject inexhaustible. A well whose depths we could never hope to fully plumb, a tower so high we could never hope to scale its heights. Perhaps then it’s easier to begin a post on grace by stating what it isn’t:

Grace isn’t mercy.

Mercy, for the purposes of discussion here, is simply the withholding of something deserved. For instance, let’s say you’ve been pulled over by one of our boys in blue for speeding. Both you, and he, know you deserve that ticket. You were speeding. Instead, the officer lets you off with a warning. You’ve just received mercy. A deserved consequence has been withheld.

How would grace play play out in a similar situation (for the sake of argument, please bear with me here)? You were speeding in your battered, beaten old Chevy. You stop. The officer approaches your car. You figure you’re going to get a ticket for sure. You’re not getting out of this one. When the cop asks you to exit your vehicle, you know you’re toast.

And then…

Not only does he give you a warning, he also hands you to the keys to his supercharged Dodge Charger. He says it’s yours, and to go on your way. You deserved a ticket, and instead got a new car!

That’s grace, my friends. Erstwhile theologians the Newsboys put it this way:

“When we don’t get what we deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Mercy).

“When get what we don’t deserve it’s a real good thing.” (Grace).

Put another way, and let’s say you’re a parent, the difference between mercy and grace is the difference between merely withholding a deserved consequence from your child (mercy), and instead bearing that consequence yourself–and then taking your kid out for ice cream! While the two go hand-in-hand, there’s nevertheless a vast divide betwixt them. As defined by the theologians, grace is “the unmerited, unearned favor of God.” We did nothing to earn it, nothing to deserve it, and yet He pours it out upon us.

Why?

Because Jesus.

Not only did He take our deserved punishment on the cross, He now pours out unearned, unmerited blessings upon us. Like the example above, we deserved a ticket, and instead got the new car.

All we have to do is believe.

The late science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein coined the phrase “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL). Respectfully, Mr. Heinlein I disagree. There is, and it’s called Christianity. Specifically, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says, “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” All who call upon His name shall be saved.

Have you called upon His Name today? Have you experienced His grace?

You can–if you will but believe.

Thanks for reading!

This topic, in your mind gentle reader, may seem far afield of the faith once delivered to the saints. But I assure you it’s not.

How not?

Both horror (films, books, etc.), and Christianity force us to take unflinching looks within ourselves at the skull beneath the skin. We are made to confront our fears, lay them bare. This is often an uncomfortable process, and many there are who just won’t go there. Just as Jesus vicariously suffered and died for us, so, too, allows us to vicariously confront our fears (in a safe environment). It is in the words of director Scott Derrickson, “the genre of non-denial.” And rather than adding to the real horrors of the world, the genre gives us way to deal with, process, and understand the horrors of this world.

Additionally, I find that the genre is not so much about making us afraid (although it does do that), but rather about catharsis–about releasing the tension which it builds within us. We return to the real world better able to cope with difficulties we’re facing in our lives.

Nota bene: as with a balanced diet, horror media should not be all we consume. Because balance is the key to life, like vitamins, we should take it in controlled doses. Now this may not be a prescription for everyone, but I will say that I find far too many Christians who don’t like to be made to feel uncomfortable. Who don’t like to confront their fears. Yes, I know the Scriptures say that “perfect love casts out fear.” Who amongst us, however, has been perfected? If we say we don’t have any fears, we’re lying.

The great C.S. Lewis (he being dead yet speaketh), once said that “we ought to come to God with what is in us. Not with what we think should be in us.” The point being that God already knows all of our fears, failures, flaws anyway.

So we may as well be honest.

And in my view, the horror genre helps us do just that: be honest. Be taking that unflinching look, by confronting us with what’s already inside.

That, my friends, is my $.02. You may have come up with a different equation, or come to a different conclusion. If so, please sound off in the comments below.

Thanks as always for reading!

There are numerous misconceptions in the wide world about Christianity, about Christians, about faith. We’re all bigots, hypocrites, weak-minded, deniers of science. We’ve taken the primrose path of easy-believism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A life of faith is anything but easy. Some have the mistaken notion that faith in Christ takes all of one’s problems away. That’s, as Paul would say, “dung.” If anything, faith multiples one’s problems, because:

Having experienced the love of God, we are forced to reconcile that love with an unloving world.

With hostility.

With health problems (in ourselves, or those we love).

With financial worries.

With children who seem hell bent on piddling away their lives.

We who know God know that He can step in, render aid; instead, He often chooses to walk, and weep, with us through the hard times. Where we desire the miraculous, He offers succor instead.

Faith, Christian faith, requires much more of us than we are willing to give; namely, dying daily to our expectations about just who, and what, God is. C.S. Lewis once said that “faith holding onto to those things our reason once accepted, in spite of our changing feelings.”

In spite of a world which, where it doesn’t actively oppose a life of faith, is casually indifferent to it (and that indifference is infectious in that it tempts us to forgetfulness of God). It’s all pretty relative, and tolerated, unless one stubbornly clings to the cross of Christ. That life, as the Bible says, is offensive. Because it’s rooted in the Gospel it gives off a certain savor; to the saved, it is the aroma of life. To the unsaved, it’s the sickly sweet stench of moldering death.

No one wants to be reminded that not only are they going to die, but that they are in fact dead already.

This, amongst many other reasons, is why it’s harder to believe than not to.

What are some ways you’ve found it’s harder to believe than not to?

There are companies out there that care about their customers. That value the goodwill of their customers. Who understand that choosing them over their competition is more than a business transaction.

It’s a relationship.

DirecTV is not one of those companies. How do I know? Let me count show the ways.

My wife and I are DirecTV customers. Have been for over a year-and-a-half. We have paid them a godly sum in that time to enjoy their programming. Last Monday evening, we noticed some playback errors during one of our favorite shows, Castle. At the time, we didn’t think much of it, writing it off as a broadcast glitch. Between then, and Sunday evening (the fifth of October), we didn’t notice any other errors. But that night when I settled in to watch the season finale of The Strain, the Genie Minis were indicating that a “server could not be found.” Strange, I thought.  
Going downstairs to check on it, I turned the T.V., and was greeted with:

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(Disclosure: I took this picture the following morning; on Sunday night, there were 16 errors).

Being in the tech industry, I knew that the errors referred to were disk errors. Which meant that the drive in the DVR was on its way out. I let DirecTV know. They’re sending replacement.  Well and good.

What’s not so good is that it’s 2014, and they’re not doing a thing to help me save the existing recorded content. Despite the fact that there are indeed ways to do it.

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This is stuff that I’ve paid for the privilege of watching. And now, according to DirecTV, I won’t be able to.

What’s particularly galling to me is that we have a brief window of opportunity to move content off of their failing equipment (it’s leased), and they won’t even send me a Genie Go to at least preserve that stuff for a month:

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Way to stand behind your equipment, DirecTV! Kudos for your customer service. I can see that you value having My family and I as customers…

Not so much.

This is where things stand now. It’s what, in an earlier day, would have been termed a “Mexican standoff.” I won’t budge, they won’t budge. I guess they don’t know (or appreciate) the power of social media. Remember Comcast,  folks? And that support call from the nether regions?

Let’s make this go viral, too.

Here’s a hashtag: #DIrecTVdotherightthing

Can you help men out? Share this post on:

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Let’s let DirecTV that shoddy customer service is unacceptable in 2014.

Thanks!