We’re Prone To Sin And Jesus Is Prone To Save

It might not look like it, but the most worn-out book in my personal library is the most precious thing I own.

That book is the Student’s Life Application Bible, and it’s the first thing I purchased after I became a Christian fourteen years ago around this time in August 2006. 

The ESV Study Bible has become my favourite Bible to read since then. However, last night, as I was rearranging my library, I opened my Student’s Life Application Bible for the first time in years—and what I discovered made me weep with gratitude.

Days after I became a Christian, I made notes at the back of the Bible to help me pray, and the first words said:

“Praise him, thank him for his death, and I can call him father.”

I didn’t have good theology at the time. I didn’t understand the Trinity nor the roles of each divine person of the Trinity. But I knew that although I was born without a father, Jesus Christ had died for me, and because of that, I was made born-again by God and he adopted me as his child. 

At the back of the Bible, I also wrote: “God’s command may require courage and come with opposition.”

Those words probably prepared me for some of the opposition I received. But I was nineteen and naive, I couldn’t have imagined what God had prepared for me. 

Within days after I wrote those words, I learned that my closest friends wanted nothing to do with me anymore. After I shared the gospel with them—after I told them I had become a Christian and could no longer participate in sin with them, they said to me that unless I returned to my old self, they couldn’t continue in friendship with me.

I didn’t return to my old self, so they didn’t return to me. 

Then within two years after I wrote those words, I received opposition from my family and local church when I rejected the prosperity gospel. The pastors at my local church said to many of the church members that I had left the faith when I left the church. And at the same time, my mom gave me an ultimatum: If I wanted to stay in her home, I had to stay in her church.

So since I couldn’t afford rent elsewhere, I was prepared to become homeless, until God changed my mom’s mind.

Those oppositions were within the first two years after I became a Christian and they were well before the severe opposition I’ve received for attempting to obey God’s commands concerning abortion, racism, and justice.

After I read the notes at the back of the Bible last night, I opened the Gospel of John, and with tears, I read one of the first Bible verses I highlighted when I became a Christian.

That Bible verse is: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10: 27-28)

That instantaneously became my favourite words in the Bible. And yet, it was also the most difficult words in the Bible to believe. I was an Arminian at the time—I believed I had greater control over my salvation than Jesus did. 

I knew I was too sinful to maintain my faith in Jesus Christ. I knew I would inevitably return to many of my favourite sins. And I was right. I know myself well. I’ve always known I was a deeply sinful person. I’ve known that since I was five years old.

However, although I knew Jesus, I didn’t know him well at the time. I am prone to sin, but Jesus is prone to save. 

That’s why fourteen years later, after so many oppositions, after so many sins—after all this time, I’m still hearing his voice every time I read the ESV Study Bible or the Student’s Life Application Bible.

Therefore, by the grace of God, my soul has survived adversity, just like my Bible.

The post We’re Prone To Sin And Jesus Is Prone To Save appeared first on Slow To Write.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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