Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Abnormally Attracted to Sin

As I sit here listening to music, debating on whether I want to play a video game or read a book, I think on a few issues with my life. I just read a few chapters of "What Jesus Demands from the World" by John Piper, a book I am reading through with a group of Christian guys whom I respect highly, and I am trying to examine my life a little. Ironically the book was not even what sparked this line of thought: it was a CD. I don't know anything about Tori Amos other than I've heard her name before, but the name of her new CD caught my attention: "Abnormally Attracted to Sin."

I am a dirty sinner. We all are (Romans 3:23) but if we have accepted the gift of salvation by God's grace through Christ Jesus we are justified through His blood (Romans 3:24 and 25). Just as the end of verse 22 says: there is no distinction. All are sinners, and all who receive salvation are justified. I still can't help but feel like the worst of the worst when it comes to sinners. My sin is persistent and terrible, something that has stuck with me since the very beginning and continues on to this day. This is something very personal for me, as any discussion of sin would be personal to the person talking. I feel vulnerable, weak, and pathetic. I am a Christian! I believe in my heart the Christ died for my sins and that I should devote my entire being to His glory and service; but I cannot bring myself to be rid of my sin. This is God's work in me: I have received victories in my walk. God has brought people into my life that sincerely care for me and wish for me to be free of my habitual, terminal sin. I have gone from every day to sometimes going a week without it. Usually I can go a day or two without doing that specific sin (I sin every day of course). There is nothing I can do; I pray God creates a desire in me to repent, and not just feel sorry for doing what I did, but truly repent, turn my back and walk away from my "pet sin."

So am I the king of sinners? In my mind yes. However the reality is, "None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3: 10-12). Nobody is good, no one does good, but the good news is that Christ allows us to do good through our faith. Abnormally attracted to sin? I'm not. Tori Amos isn't. That is just a clever turn of phrase, perhaps poetic, perhaps boastful, I do not know the meaning behind the words. In my case, I feel as though I am abnormally attracted to sin, though I am not any more compelled to sin than anyone else on the planet. After all the only reason I do good in the world is through the Holy Spirit bestowed upon me by God.

As always, I'd love to hear some comments on this.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Questions and Answers

I've been in an interesting state of mind lately. Being a dedicated Christian, I've done a lot of research on why exactly I am a Christian. I am secure in my belief that the Christian mindset is the only thing that truly explains everything: creation, life, afterlife, emotions, human relationships, etc. Of course there are some things that we (I) will always wonder about. But questions that would typically crop up (why does it seem like God is so cruel in the Old Testament, and so beneficent in the New Testament?) are nothing that would radically change my outlook on life. In fact, they won't change a thing. But lately I've come into contact with atheists a lot more than usual. First I went to a debate not last Monday but the Monday before (April 20th) at Jones County Junior College (JCJC) between Christian Dinesh D'Souza and Athiest Christopher Hitchens over "God is Great/God is Not Great".

The debate was fantastic, but I get an odd feeling that technically Hitchens won the debate. He seemed a lot more calm and collected, and a lot better spoken than D'Souza. Of course I agreed with D'Souza's point, but he didn't seem to adequately address Hitchens' questions. The debate got me thinking, however. Hitchens brought up a great number of points, none of which I remember. That's not necessarily true, I don't remember most of it. I do remember D'Souza having the point that there is a difference between a monkey beating another monkey and raping and killing its mate than there is a human male beating another man and raping and killing his wife. The context was that Hitchens had mentioned humans were only a half a chromosome away from being monkies and D'Souza wondered why, if that was the case, humans and primates had different moral standards (his reasoning: God). Well during the question and answer session, some smart aleck came down the line and did not ask the question but made the astute observation that in the Old Testament if you were a Hebrew who went to a neighboring tribe, killed a man, then raped and killed his wife, you would not only be in the right, but you'd be doing "God's good work," referencing God's command to clear out the Holy Land in the first several books of the Old Testament.

D'Souza ignored that because it wasn't a question. But it got me thinking: so it's okay for a person to murder and rape if God says it is? That's a difficult question, at least to me right now. As a believer in absolute sovereignty, I'd have to say yes, but addendum that God wouldn't say that. But, as the man in the debate pointed out, he did at one point. I contend that it's a different situation. That was war, that was going into a place where the Hebrews would have certainly been killed themselves if they hadn't fought back. Also, I'm not certain God commanded rape at all, just the killing. That won't make an atheist go "Oh, well in that case," but from a faith standpoint it doesn't harm my understanding of a Just God.

Moving on, I recently began watching another blog called Fallen and Flawed that features a few articles about "10 Questions to Atheists", a series of blogs that are... 10 questions to different athiests, atheist bloggers. In the latest one with Luke Muehlhauser brought up a few more questions:

1) Is believing God exists the same as believing faeries exist?
2) Is Jesus just an "invisible friend who grants you wishes with magical powers."?
3) Why believing Jesus existed, performed miracles, died, and was resurrected, and summarily dismiss stories about people like Simon Magus, Horus, and Aeshyclus? Isn't it the same thing?
4) Why does an Almighty Creator God who created every wonderful and terrible aspect of everything rejoice in the smell of burning goat flesh?

Now it's important to note that Luke seems a bit condescending to me. If you're interested, check out his blog Common Sense Atheism, which is where I got the final question. Finally, here are a few answers I cooked up. Not the best answers in the world, but something nonetheless.

1) The existence of God and the existence of faeries are summarily different phenomenon. By that I mean faeries were once used to describe certain aspects of life that can now be explained scientifically (crazy? Well you've been touched by faeries!). God is (supposedly) the same way, being used to explain not only every unexplainable occurance on earth, but all of creation as well. So far there is no explanation of where the universe came from. Even if there was a Big Bang, that bang had to come from somewhere. Elementary argument I know, but it seems... common sense to me, if I may. I have more on this, but I think I might have gone over space already.
2) I'm not sure if condescending propaganda needs to be addressed, but this is Luke's way of showing Christians the full weight of what they believe. In secular, unfamiliar terms, this could be used to explain Jesus. But it ignored the full weight of evidence that this is not really the case, or at least Christians are not quite that dumb.
3) There is a lot of corroborating evidence about Jesus and his actions than there are of those other people. Sure, it's just heresay, but there's a lot of it and it's much more consistent than for those other people.
4) Again, this is a case of condescending to Christians, using language that does not evoke the true meaning behind certain things.

It boils down to atheists simply believe they are smarter than Christians. Luke's blog even has a post called "How to Debate William Lane Craig" who is a lot smarter than you. And you. And you. And me. It's a case of someone being unwilling to believe something that doesn't fit in with their worldview (ancient animal sacrifices? A metaphysical being that created everything? That's silly). They want evidence for something that cannot be proved or disproved. Someone can say that doesn't make sense all they want, but what doesn't make sense to one person makes perfectly good sense to another.

I hope this makes sense. It certainly helped to type it all out, write it down. Makes me think things through a bit more. Now I wouldn't mind some commentary, critiques or whatever. Keep it civil, towards me or the person (people) I'm talking about. But I wouldn't mind some thoughts, especially from other Christians regarding the questions I proposed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Continuing On

I'm still alive, believe me. I've been fairly busy, and every time I sit down for a break, the last thing on my mind is updating my blog. But that's okay. But I thought I would hop on and give an update. I'm in my final trimester of college, meaning I graduate in May. I can't tell you how excited I am about that. I've been playing a game called MadWorld on Wii, along with Persona 4 on PS2, both of which are fun. I may post reviews, but that will come later. Also, 8 months until I get married. Oh man, I wish it was sooner. But time keeps on ticking, so begins the waiting game.

Tonight at church Mr. Gary Permenter spoke about raising godly families and how kids can accept parental guidance. Gary's a great guy and I've heard him speak a lot, but tonight the Holy Spirit touched my heart, not because I'm either a parent or a youth, but because the underlying theme of his message convicted me of my own life. Gary's advice to parents lie mostly in providing a godly example and teaching that example to their children. I came to realize that even though I don't have children to watch after, I am seen by the youth at church, my co-workers, friends, and family. I often doubt, or at least I do now that I think about it, that anyone would automatically assume I'm a Christian without me saying so. Even this blog has spent more time talking about games than God, and that's a problem. When things like that get in the way of the Lord, they become idols. Idols need to be removed, or God will remove them for me, and He won't do it in a way I enjoy. My new prayer is that I can push my hobbies and interests to the back and pull God to the front of my mind and heart. That I may use those things to honor God, through sportsmanship or even appreciation of the creativity given by God to humankind. That's something that's taken for granted, and left for another time, but when you want a movie, play a video game, read a book, or whatever, first of all I pray it does not lead you away from God (do away with it) but also remember that God provides everyone with an imagination and creativity that leads to the creation of everything on earth. I know I said I wouldn't go into it, but I am rather passionate about it.

So, I pray God will forgive me of my dull light. We are to be shining lights to nonbelievers, but sometimes (like now) I feel like I'm that dull light that's just barely flickering. God will brighten me though, through whatever means necessary. I pray if you feel like I do that He will do the same for you.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Long Time No See!

Well hey there. Just though I'd let everyone know I'm not dead yet. At least I don't think I am. Either way, I just realized the last post I had on here was December 9... so here I am, back and ready for action. I had a rough last two months in terms of just how busy I was. With those 4 writing intensives along with working all the time I barely had time to do anything for myself. But I'm free now. I'll try to think of something interesting to write about next time, instead of lame-o excuses about why I haven't been keeping up with my blog. If you have any suggestions, comment and I'll put it into consideration.

Keep it real.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


So apparently using a Zune is a bad thing. Apparently President Elect Barak Obama was seen working out while listening to a Zune and not an iPod, a clear and present danger. After all, if our newest President cannot clearly see the evils and danger of a non-Apple product then well, he should be impeached before we even begin. Despite using a Mac, the use of a Zune is absolutely unforgivable.

I exaggerate of course. This kind of thing is absolutely rediculous. Really? It's that big of a deal? I guess technophiles could explain to me why this is so bad. But I can't really make myself care. The only reason I bring it up is to point out that yes, our countrymen are idiots. Most of the time.

Comment. Now. Please?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hold Onto Your Memories: Lost Odyssey Review

Some video games reach the player through action, some artistry, and some characters. There are some games that connect with the player through raw emotion. Of all the JRPGs I've played, Lost Odyssey is the only that evoked sadness and feeling for the characters, even incidental ones. Through the memories of the main character Kaim, an immortal, we as the player see the fragility and beauty of the short life humans live.

Many reviewers you'll see on various reviewing websites like to announce the death of the Japanese styled Turn Based RPG (JRPG on a general basis). However this is simply not the case. Read any forums, talk to any fans and the newest generation of JRPGs (Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, Persona 3/4, and to an extent Infinite Undiscovery and Last Remnant) and you'll almost always get a fairly positive reaction. That's because they are indeed fun. For some reason people tend to believe that Western styled real time moral choice RPGs (WRPGs) can 'fix' RPGs. Check this if you're interested in their arguments. I believe Lost Odyssey is the answer to this. Is it perfect? No. But it is one of the most meaningful gaming experiences I've had in a long time.

First off is graphics. Wow is this game pretty. Even though the game suffers from pushing the player through a usual group of settings (woods, castles, sewers... which I don't really mind, but some people do), everything is very attractive. The models themselves are really attractive, with each character having their own little details. Probably my favorite looking character is Sed. Just look him up online somewhere, the simple detail in his face is remarkable.

In terms of settings, the Lost Odyssey is very detailed. I'm a big fan of the magical 'mist' that surrounds the magic machines that pepper the world. The enemies are varied and the bosses are mostly impressive (though the final boss does fail to impress. He's barely bigger than your characters). The frame rate can be a problem, and towards the end of the game I did have quite a bit of freezing during random battles before the actual fighting began. Again, I don't mind much but this is kind of an annoyance from a technical standpoint.

I mean, you see that in the opening scene of the game. How is that not awesome?

With Nobuo Uematsu (from Final Fantasy fame) as the lead composer, why wouldn't the sound be good? I'm a huge fan of the music in this game, and it had me whistling along towards the end. Of special note is the World Map theme and the Boss Music. I think I was desensitized to the normal battle music, and the 'Arena' song was pretty cool, but since you hear the World Map and Boss themes all the time, I have to admit I have a special place in my heart for them.

Sound effects do their job. However, I was a big fan of the voice acting. Jansen, while annoying, couldn't have done better for his character. Several times there would be no subtitle, and he would put little "woah" or "Hey, look out"s here and there. It was a nice touch. Every one else was fairly serviceable, with no... painful scenes like the laughing scene in Final Fantasy X. I liked the VA in that game but... geez.

Lost Odyssey is a turn based random battle RPG. If you don't like those, you probably won't like this one. For people who like their battles deliberate and turn based, this one does the trick. Battles typically don't show up too often, giving you plenty of time to run around between them. However, the areas you run around in aren't very... open. Like old-school RPGs, you are typically railroaded through each area with only a few branching paths if you're interested in picking up items. Otherwise it's point-a to point-b through most of the game. Towards the end this changes up, giving some fairly puzzle oriented areas, including one I just didn't go through (the Temple of Enlightenment is for hardcore people only, and while I'm a dedicated gamer, I'm not THAT hardcore).

The battles are not too tough, though if you don't pay attention to the enemy type you can make it a lot harder for yourself. Here's where an interesting part of the game comes in: Ring creation. See you can equip your character with rings that give them various abilities such as fire damage, or extra damage against beasts. With the items you find in chests and off enemies you can build new and more powerful rings. Also you can change them in battle, so if you're okay with taking that extra time, you can make sure your characters are ready for any challenge. Boss battle ratchet up the difficulty significantly, with me losing against the first boss pretty handily at least twice. However if you have the right abilities and you level up right, you can plow right through your opponents no problem. The final boss was cake for me.

The aforementioned abilities are an awesome addition. You see, as your mortal characters level up, they learn new abilities like magic or physical attacks. However, your immortals (four in all) do not. Instead they learn abilities through interaction with the mortals. This translates into receiving SP from battles while 'linked' with mortal characters. Say you want Queen Ming to learn level 6 black magic? Link her with Jansen and fight a bunch. Eventually she'll learn level 6 black magic that you can equip on her at any time. The same with any of the other immortals. They also learn abilities through accessories, and by the end of the game all of my immortals had "Nullify All Elements" and "Resist Ailments" which pretty much meant the final boss was a pansy compared to me.

Side quests don't really show up until the fourth disc, and if you want each character's best weapon you need to do them. I did them because I'm OCD about not having them (except for Mack... I had to beat the Temple of Enlightenment to get his. He's useless at the end anyway...). Its up to you if you care, but its integral to getting the "Treasure Hunter" achievement, which involves getting every item in the game.

Since this is an RPG, I need to talk about the story. While the main story itself fails to be terribly interesting, there are some key points the game hits to keep it memorable for me. First is the characters.

The characters in this story are:

From left to right: Mack, Cooke, Sarah, Kaim, Seth, Sed, Jansen, Ming, Tolten, and Gongora.

Of them Sarah, Kaim, Seth, and Ming are immortals. Gongora is also an immortal, but he's the bad guy so he doesn't count. Something that matters a great deal to me in terms of characters is charm. If the story sucks (I guess it kinda does) but the characters are interesting, I'll play through it. This is the case here. Like I said, Jansen is annoying, but fun. Kaim is mostly mean but is a big softy around his grandchildren Cooke and Mack. His wife Sarah is sweet and Cooke and Mack are cute at best, annoying at worst. Ming is very noble, and works well in conjunction with Jansen, while Seth and Sed (mother and son respectively) are probably the most fun. Tolten is a good character in battle, but man is he a wuss... However, all the characters work well in respect to each other.

The second point of the story I enjoyed are Kaim, Seth, and Ming's dreams. Through the story you can unlock several dreams that are missing memories of the immortals. These stories are the most emotional, well-written pieces of literature I've ever read in a video game. Several times I got choked up, and one story about an old woman who's mind reverted to that of a child made me up and cry. I'll admit it, I cried. But... that's the cool part. However, they are all text which is something you should remember. Nobody's going to read them to you, so if you don't like reading... tough.

However, not everything is so peachy. The game fails in explaining each of their characters well. Three of the five immortals are well done. What happened to Sarah and Gongora? Sarah doesn't get a dream at all, and stands around being demurely attractive, while Gongora is the "muwahahaha!" villain. While I like Sarah a great deal, it is a great disservice to the character that she was so ignored. Also, we get a good bit of past... or at least a little past of everyone except Jansen. How old is he? Where's he from? Did he grow up in Uhra? As one of the three main-main characters, I don't know a thing about him. Unacceptable. Lastly, the nature, purpose, and world of the immortals is not sufficiently explained, if at all. It's really important towards the end, as to why they came to the world... but they never tell us. I was really disappointed.

Do you like Japanese styled RPGs? Then play Lost Odyssey. Seriously though, this game does have flaws, but the characters and dreams make up for the deficiencies of the main story and the sometimes boring and easy random battles. The rings and abilities are perfect for the collection-crazy player, and the boss battles are challenging enough for the strategic minded. However, with some lack in character development and some serious gaps in the main story, the game is held back. I'd certainly recommend this game by the sheer virtue that I completed it. That doesn't happen all that often, so take that how you will. Lost Odyssey is an emotional, personal game that deserves your time.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Bad. For Real.

Okay, once again sorry I've been taking a bit to update. I've been really busy lately with finals last week, papers due, and the new trimester starting. So now I have a bit more breathing room so I'll try to update more often. I at the moment don't have much time so I'll just put up a list of new things.

1) Barak Obama is the new president. I don't mind so much: the Bible clearly communicates that God is always in control. Not only did this not surprise God, it was His will. So those fundamentalists who are frustrated that we actually have a Democrat in office, remember this is what God wants, for better or worse. So get over it. For the record, I didn't vote for him.

2) I've almost beat Lost Odyssey. I want to write up a review, but as it's a turn-based RPG, I'd like to beat the game before giving you my final impressions. I haven't beat Mega Man 9, but because of the type of game I was able to provide you my thoughts. Lost Odyssey is a different matter.

3) Fallout 3 is awesome. My initial impressions are really good, especially since my fiance is playing it more than I am. And she's not much of a gamer or anything.

4) I think I'm taking 4, count them 4 writing intensive classes. Pray for me, for really.