Monday, January 19, 2015

Some Apocalypse Weirdness

A weird thing happened on the way to the apocalypse. I got invited to tag along!

You ready for some kickin'-it news? Apocalypse Weird is coming and it's going to be a heck of a ride through the collapse of civilization as we know it. (grin) I'll do my best to explain a bit, but maybe some images and a video and some websites will fill in the gaps. (Be sure to visit the links below.)

But here's the lowdown.

AW is a multi-writer, multi-book, multi-year interconnected story arc of biblical proportions that begins with The Red King (free on Amazon) by Nick Cole. (Fun Fact: The novel has some great Easter Eggs and links to more of the story! So start there.)

Then, on February 23, five more books hit the virtual stands featuring more compelling post-apocalyptic weirdness...meaning stories of survival, heroism, destruction, and despair featuring almost every end-of-the-world scenario known to humankind, including zombies, sorcery, ancient conspiracies, secret societies, virulent viruses, pandemics, earthquakes, mass blindness, monster typhoons... The list could go on...and it does!

The first wave of novels includes Nick Cole and Michael Bunker's Texocalypse Now, Chris Pourteau's Serenity Strain, Nick Cole's The Dark Knight, David Parish-Whittaker's The White Queen, and Jennifer Ellis's Reversal. The second wave arrives in March, then more in April, then May, then June... You get the idea!

Now for the really exciting news! Okay, I'm sorta kidding, but it is super cool that my AW novel, The Walking Death, is scheduled for an August 4th release! It's a fly-over state disaster story that touches the heart while wreaking havoc in the heartland. (How's that for a description!)

I'll be inviting a select few to beta-read a pre-release copy of my novel by the summer. So watch here for details. Better yet, if you're not on my monthly mailing list, why not? You'll be the first to know about upcoming releases and access a free story from me every month.

Anyway, just wanted to let you in on the news before the coming apocalypse. Join the fun and weirdness. If you have questions, please comment below. I'd love to hear from you!

Here are some important links for more information:
+ The Official Apocalypse Weird Page
+ Apocalypse Weird Facebook Fan Page
+ Doctor Midnite Conspiracy Page
+ The Apocalypse Weird Teaser Trailer
+ The Red King, the first book in the Apocalypse Weird universe. Get it, it's free!
+ An interview with Nick Cole, the man behind the vision of Apocalypse Weird.
+ The artwork of M. S. Corley who is doing the cover design for AW books.
+ The artwork of Ben Adams who is doing the illustrations for AW books.

More info and interviews...
+ Stefan Bolz lists AW projects, a "MARVEL" Universe for the Digital Age.
+ Daniel Arthur Smith talks about his project, The Blue Prince.
+ Jennifer Ellis talks about AW and her project, Reversal.

Stay tuned for more links...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Christian Views of Hell - Part 2

Another Look Away Sunday Post
(If this topic is of no interest, feel free to look away.
Polite and gracious discussion always welcome.)

Here’s the outline of the sermon I’m preaching today. Well, not so much a sermon as a bible study from the pulpit. Of course, the scriptures listed aren’t exhaustive, and there’s obviously more to say. But this might be a helpful start to some discussion. Last week’s outline is here. Next week, we’ll go into more depth as to the various views

Sermon Series: Christian Views of Hell
Part 2 – Understanding Heaven

Today’s Premise: A biblical understanding of hell rests upon a biblical understanding of the nature of God, God’s ultimate plan, and the reality of ‘heaven’ (or more properly, a restored creation).

Quick Review, Part A: God’s nature is Spirit, Light, Love. (See John 4.24; 1 John 1.5; 1 John 4.8) That is, God is eternal (not physical or subject to decay), holy and righteous (pure/without ‘darkness’), and the very definition of self-giving love.

Quick Review, Part B: God’s plan and desire is to reconcile all creation to himself. God doesn’t want anyone to perish. (See Col 1.19-20; 2 Cor 5.18-19; 2 Peter 3.9; 1 Timothy 2.1-4; John 3.16) Point: If the salvation of the lost is at the center of God’s heart, it should be in our heart as well.

Big Ideas to Consider
1. The bible affirms the reality of both heaven and hell. (Note: These terms are shorthand for weighty matters and are not very helpful as shorthand descriptors, imo.)
2. It’s the nature of these realities that prompts discussion and disagreement; and should point us back to the scripture utilizing legitimate exegetical and hermeneutical principles.
3. The nature of the human spirit (or soul) is also something to consider.

Understanding Heaven – “Eternity together with God”
a) Eternal Life – which is both now (John 3.36; 17.3) and future (Matthew 25.46)
b) God’s Reign – that is, the Kingdom of God (Mark, Luke) or Heaven (Matthew)
c) New Heavens and New Earth – Isaiah 65.17; 2 Peter 3.13; Revelation 21.1
d) With the Lord – Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 5:8
e) Great Banquet, Paradise, New Jerusalem, Marriage Supper of the Lamb, etc.

Understanding Hell – “Eternity separated from God”
a) OT: Sheol = place of the dead or departed spirits; the grave
b) NT-1: Hades = place of the dead, underworld (Greek translation of Sheol, used 10x)
c) NT-2: Tartarus = place of punishment for rebellious angels (used once in 2 Peter 2.4)
d) NT-3: Gehenna = Greek for ge Hinnom, the ravine of Hinnom, valley near Jerusalem. Used 12x: Matt.5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mk 9:43,45,47; Lk 12:5; James 3:6. (The real issue here is what Jesus means when he refers to Gehenna. Next week.)
e) Also: Outer darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30)
f) Also: Day of the Lord, destruction, wrath (1 Thessalonians 5.1-11)
g) Also: Lake of fire, which is the second death (Revelation 20:10-14)

Sermonette from Luke 16.19-31: The Parable of the Rich Man, Lazarus, and Abraham’s Bosom
What seems pretty clear: The bible offers us heaven and warns against hell. The stakes are high.

Note Romans 6.23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The question, then, is what is the nature of hell; or better, the nature of death?

Five Basic Views on Hell
1. Literal View – eternal, conscious punishment in literal flames of fire
2. Metaphorical View – eternal, conscious punishment symbolized by flames of fire
3. Purgatorial View – that the fires of hell are both punitive and remedial/cleansing
4. Universal Redemption View – that the fires of hell are symbolic of a refining fire
5. Conditional Immortality View – that the soul is conditionally immortal and thus dependent upon God for eternal life, otherwise humans die and cease to exist.

Questions to consider: Are the biblical descriptions of hell literal, metaphorical, or cautionary? What does the bible mean by eternal? Is the human soul or spirit automatically immortal or only conditionally immortal? And, related to this, is the human experience of suffering in hell temporary or eternal? That is, could ‘death’ in Romans 6.23 be literal?

Two Cautions
1. On the one hand: Beware of the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” mentality. That is, just because we were taught something growing up, doesn’t make it biblical. Could it be that we were taught incorrectly? When questioning our beliefs, we should examine the scriptures for answers. (Acts 17.11)
2. On the other: Beware of the “A loving God would never…” mentality. Assuming the bible is wrong on a topic just because we deem it unpalatable says more about us than God. Could it be that God knows more than us? Think about the arrogance of this “If I were God” position. It means that we, as limited, contingent beings are viewing the universe from an omniscient perspective. This is just not possible.

The Good News: What Awaits Us in the Heavenly Realms – Ephesians 1.3-10
Consider these current and future blessings that the Apostle Paul can’t help singing about!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment — to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Four Views of Hell - Part 1

Another Look Away Sunday Post
(If this topic is of no interest, feel free to look away. 
Polite and gracious discussion always welcome.)

Here's the outline of the sermon I'm preaching today. More of a review and modified bible study, rather than a sermon, but you get the idea. I wanted to lay the foundation for a series of talks on four or five different views of hell. As you can see below, I didn't even get to what those views are this week! So if this is of interest, tune in next Sunday as I try to dive into this topic with a bit more depth.

First, Four Assumptions Most Christians Have About the Bible

Truthful – We believe the bible speaks truthfully and authoritatively.
Relevant – We believe the bible speaks to modern questions and concerns.
Applicable – We believe the bible’s message can be applied and followed.
Clear – We believe the bible’s message is essentially plain and straightforward.

Second, Some Key Biblical Assumptions About God

1. The concepts of love and justice are not incompatible.
a) God is love – loving, kind, merciful, gracious, etc.
b) God is righteous – holy, just, pure; loves justice, is jealous for holiness, etc. - These are some of God’s attributes, divine qualities.
Both of these truths are held together in the bible.

2. There are 3 attributes that speak to God’s nature, 3 “God is” statements in the bible.
a) God is spirit (John 4:24) – not just: “God is a spiritual being.”
(This quality speaks to God’s eternal, infinite, unchanging nature.)
b) God is light (1 John 1.5) – not: “God is the light within us.”
(This speaks to God’s holiness and opposition to sin and darkness.)
c) God is love (1 John 4.8) – not just: “God is a loving God.”
(That is, love is more than an attribute, love is God’s essence, God’s nature.)

3. A word about God’s wrath, human emotion, and God’s ultimate plan.
a) While the bible is clear that God is love, it never states that God is wrath. Though the bible speaks of God pouring out his wrath against sin (e.g., Rev. 16.1), God himself is not wrathful. God is not ‘angry’ the way we use the word anger.
b) Wrath (and God’s anger) is not an emotion, it is a judgment against evil. God doesn’t get mad! God’s anger is directed toward sin and death. Neither is God’s wrath eternal. When sin and death are destroyed, God’s wrath is ‘satisfied.’ This is in fact what propitiation/atonement means. (See 1 John 4.8-10.)
c) God’s ultimate plan is to reconcile all creation to himself. God is a God of creation, not destruction. (Scriptures to consider: See Colossians 1.19,20 and 2 Corinthians 5.18,19 and 2 Peter 3.9 and 1 Timothy 2.1-4.)

Intermission: A Sermonette from the Book of Jonah. (Note: I may post this later this week. But the long and the short of it is that Jonah didn't want to preach against Nineveh because he knew that if they repented, God would show mercy and 'relent' from pouring out his wrath against the city.)

Conclusion: God is pouring out love. Our response determines what ‘pours down’ on us.

Next Week: Summarizing Four Views of Hell and Some Cautions On Our Part

(Hint as to what not to expect: A rendering of Dante's Inferno a la Botticelli's The Abyss of Hell.)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My End of Year Book Report

Long before Goodreads, I was tracking the number of books I’d read. Almost 20 years now, in fact. I write down the title, the author, maybe the genre, date read, and a short impression (bad, so-so, good, or great). Past few years I’ve adopted the ubiquitous star system and also note if the book is physical or electronic, novel length or novella.

I have a notebook full of literary memories.

A few years ago I transferred that list to Goodreads and added as many books as I could remember having read since childhood. I’m closing in on 1,000. Probably read north of that since that number only averages out to only about 25 books a year since age 10. Past few years I’ve been averaging 50. This past year I read 75 (even though GR says 102...I'm not counting short stories, etc.).

For those who are interested in this sort of thing, here’s the breakdown.

33 physical books – 10 of which were hardbacks (3 from the library, 6 were bought used, 1 bought new). (Out of the 23 paperbacks I read, I only purchased maybe 8, and only 2 of those purchases were new.)

42 electronic books, 24 of which were novel length and 18 novella size (mostly free downloads from giveaways or friends, quite a few were borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, but a few were purchased, maybe a half dozen?).

As for genre breakdown, I hate trying to classify. So in round numbers (they won’t add up to 75, I’m sure) I read about 5 nonfiction, 7 middle grade, 7 fantasy, 2 satire, 5 sci-fi/space opera, 10 horror/suspense, 15 thriller/adventure, couple of mysteries, westerns, and literary books, and 10 to 15 SF and post-apocalyptic books.

I’ve also made some new discoveries - some great new series and new to me writers. Here are a few you might want to check out.

Last year was Hugh Howey's Wool, Shift, and Dust trilogy. This year it's Michael Bunker's Pennsylvania omnibus...and some great fan fiction that's sprung up along with it, including Chris Pourteau's alt-future military sf series written in Bunker's Amish SF universe, Gettysburg, Susquehanna, and Columbia (forthcoming).

A sf/horror series that I stumbled upon is Mia Zabrisky's Shudderville series. Crazy time travel, alternative timelines, fantasy elements, all mix together in this paranormal thriller that covers 18 episodes. It's like a cross between Twilight Zone, Fringe, and American Horror Story. Good stuff.

Another sf/thriller I'd recommend is Blake Crouch's Wayward Pines trilogy (coming to Fox television this summer). A straight up thriller writer that's new to me is Mark Dawson, whose protagonist John Milton is a pretty intense assassin. Milton appears in two free prequel stories, 1000 Yards and Tarantula, which are pretty good. As a result, I'll probably read a Milton novel this year.

If you're into crime noir but want something different, you should try Milo James Fowler's series featuring the snarky private investigator, Charlie Madison. Madison lives and solves crimes in an alt-future, cyber-noir, paranormal big city. The three stories are Girl of Great Price, Immaterial Evidence, and Yakuza Territory. Great reading.

I could go on and on, but let me simply mention a few more of my favorites. If you're looking for some good reading in 2015, you might want to track down T. M. Hunter's Triple Shots (space opera novellas); Joe Konrath's Jack Daniels mystery/thriller collaborations with the likes of Joshua Simcox, Ken Lindsey, Jude Hardin, Tracy Sharp, Iain Rob Wright, Bernard Schaffer, and, er, me writing as Garth Perry; Simon Kewin's cyber thrillers; Jeff Chapman's gothic and fae tales; Timothy Ward's Scavenger (Sand fan fiction); Ty Johnston's high fantasy; Rachel Starr Thomson's Oneness Cycle; Nick Cole's Apocalypse Weird; and Mike Duran's The Ghost Box.

Wow, I guess I did go on and on. So enough from me. What new writers or series did you discover in 2014? Feel free to comment below. Thanks and happy reading in the new year!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Event

Christmas is a big event, the biggest holiday of the year. I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s even bigger than the Super Bowl. ;) At least we don’t prepare for the Big Game by playing holiday music two months in advance!

And even though the essential meaning of Christmas is consistently misunderstood or downplayed by some (or even many), it’s still an all-encompassing, world-wide occasion that touches millions – billions! – of lives in a positive way.

Despite the consumerism and so-called culture wars. Despite the alternatives that have popped up over the years like Kwanzaa or Festivus. Despite even the sadness that sometimes accompanies the holiday or even the bitter memories from a broken celebration during childhood.

Despite all those potential drawbacks, Christmas remains a superlative event, one consisting of many smaller events that speak to the joy and excitement of the season. Special happenings like work and office parties, church services and advent candles, family trips and meals together, cutting a tree and decorating the house, last minute shopping and gift exchanges, as well as driving around and enjoying your neighbor’s Christmas lights. All small events that add up to the big event we simply call Christmas. Hold on to that word ‘event’ as we look at John 1.1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended it.

Before creation, before time itself began, the Word existed with God and was God. As Christians, we know this Word as Jesus Christ (made clear in John 1.14). But the word “word” in Greek in interesting. It’s logos. Has an intellectual component. Could be translated reason or rationality. We know this word by its cognates ending in -ology, like biology, theology, and punology. Okay, maybe not that last one.

Anyway, whenever I think of logos I think of an eternal mind. But the Hebrew word for “word” has a bit more texture. It connotes wisdom, not just reason. And wisdom is always knowledge in action, it’s not reason for its own sake. In fact, the Hebrew word for “word” that stands behind logos is dabar, which has more of an action orientation to it. It means occurrence, thing…event, even.

We can see God’s dabar in action throughout scripture. During the six days of creation, for example, God speaks and things pop into existence. (“Let there be light,” and there was light.) Psalm 33.6 states clearly, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made.” God speaks and creation occurs.

Some will remember the brokerage ad: When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen. Well, when the God of Creation speaks, something big happens! An event occurs. An intention finds fulfillment.

The “word” in Greek is a rational thing, something to be grasped.

The “word” in Hebrew is a supernatural event, something to be experienced.

John 1.1 – In the beginning (clearly harkening to Genesis 1) was the Event, the full expression of God. And now verse 14 – And that word, that event became flesh and dwelt among us.

Think about that. The Eternal Event became the Christmas Event a mere 2,000 years ago. In Christmas (and all the attendant holiday happenings) we have a small picture of eternity. A light shining in the darkness. Even though the darkness, according to John 1.5, cannot comprehend it. Or overcome it.

Now hold on to that thought for a moment as I introduce one more aspect to this story, this reflection on Christmas.

It’s in John 1.15 and concerns the person of John the Baptizer. John doesn’t show up in the traditional Christmas story. He wasn’t there at the birth. Rather, John is a herald, a voice in the wilderness announcing the adult Word Made Flesh, announcing the event of Christ’s ministry. Like all the prophets, John is pointing to the Messiah, the fulfillment of the promises of God.

John is actually the last of the Old Testament prophets, though he comes 400 years after Malachi, considered by the Jews of John’s day to be the last prophet of old.

In Christian art and iconography, John is almost always pictured as the last of the prophets, the one closest to the Christ, the one pointing to the Messiah. (See the image to the right, for instance, depicting German Renaissance painter, Matthias Grünewald's Crucifixion of Christ.)

But not just the last prophet; he’s the greatest one as well.

Jesus himself acknowledges John’s greatness. In Matthew 11.10, Jesus quotes Malachi who refers to John as the Messiah’s herald: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” Jesus then says of John, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.”

Quite the commendation. The Greatest. And we’re not talking about Mohammed Ali. John the Baptizer’s proximity (physically and chronologically) to Jesus makes him the greatest prophet of all. He not only pointed to the Messiah, but was given the opportunity to baptize him, inaugurating the ministry of the Kingdom of God!

Pretty amazing. But look at the rest of the verse, Matthew 11.10: “...yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Wow! We believers, who are 2000 years this side of the Christ’s baptism, are greater than John! That’s almost unbelievable. But it’s true. Because of one difference. John pointed to the Event. We are participants in the Event. We not only experience the Christmas event, but we also know the Easter event, and the Pentecost event. We are living in the fullness of the Christ event even now.

John was a pointer, we are participants. John 1.4 – “In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of humankind.” John saw the light. We have the light of Christ within us.

One more thought. Back to that mention of darkness. Jesus is the light within each believer. This is good news. John 1.5 – “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The King James version states that the darkness comprehended it not. Either interpretation works.

And both are quite applicable to the Christmas event we just celebrated.

As I mentioned at the start of this sermonette, there are some (many?) who just don’t “get” Christmas. They don’t know the real reason for the season. Or, if they do, they fight against it. They ignore it, downplay it, propose alternatives to it. Not every unbeliever, of course.

But the Word? The Eternal Event that became the Christmas Event? He continues to shine. He continues to overcome. Darkness may not understand it, but neither can darkness defeat it. For Jesus is the Word and the Word is from the beginning. The Word is with God and is God.

And the Word will continue to speak his way into our hearts and minds. It’s his nature to do so. For Jesus is truly the Word – the Logos, the Dabar. John pointed to this great event, we have the opportunity to participate in it. This choice, the gift of participating in this wonderful Holy-day Event, is what is offered to the world each holiday season...and always.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Launching a #TomSwifty Meme

I grew up on Tom Swift. The Jr. Adventures. Great stuff.

And I've enjoyed word play from an early age. Puns, one-liners, riddles.

Then when my older brother pointed out a few Tom Swifties when I was a kid, it was pure fun!

So I'd like to reunite my two great passions and launch a #TomSwifty meme - if one can actually launch such a thing! But instead of rehashing all those corny old jokes (he quipped!) this meme has a bit of a twist.

These Tom Swifties are intended to provide a bit of humor for the literary crowd, sort of like a series of tips in disguise for readers and writers. May not work. Probably won't. Will likely fall flat.

But at least I'll have some fun putting together a few jokes for my friends.

Plus I get to revisit my Tom Swift collection as I look for cool illustrations. I have #1-29, so I'm only missing the last four books. Hmm, will have to complete the series some time!

At any rate, hope you enjoy these first efforts. Feel free to share. In fact, I wish you would. ;)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another Children's Book

Couple of weeks ago I mentioned a children's book by missionary friends of ours in Uganda. Check it out, proceeds from sales help support the school in Africa the Kreutters work with.  

This week I want to share another find. My friend Scott Beard - local musician, fellow teacher - has written three amusing tales featuring "The Adventures of Rufus the Wal-Pup."

As a fellow self-published writer, Scott's main purpose in this is to have some fun. But you know, sometimes these things just take off! If you have young kids, why not check out the adventures of Rufus!