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Monday, January 9, 2017

Foggy and Fakery

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

Found through google/tumbler:
On my long quest of collecting and reading old issues of Marvel Comics. I have been reading issue 2 of Daredevil Marvel Masterworks which includes Daredevil 18 and 19. Foggy Nelson trying once again to impress Karen. His idea? Pretend to be Daredevil. Ok, so it was actually the idea of the guy at the costume shop who wanted to fight and kill superheroes to prove that he was the best costume maker (call him "Gladiator"). Foggy was just gonna have the costume around for her to find. DD had been noticing what was going on, of course. He was following Foggy when it all went down and managed to fight the villain and protect Karen. Of course, then the news somehow got wind that Foggy was DD and it got a whole lot more dangerous.

We all know that lying is a sin. It is condemned in the Ten Commandments as well as in Proverbs. But this was a particular kind of lying. This was putting on a show to impress people. He was being fake. By doing this he put both himself and others in danger. For most of us our fakeness will not get us in deadly situations. We won't be hunted down by someone who thinks we are another person to try and kill us. But, it still affects our friendships. It keeps us from getting to know others and them from getting to know us. The false pretenses it leads to will ultimately damage your relationships.

Why do we ever be "fake"? Quite simply, we like the attention. A pat on the back, laughter at jokes, smiles, hugs and of course invitations to events or dates. These all come with high emotions. But do these fulfill us? In most cases these are good things. They can all be forms of encouragement but they will not be the real fulfillment of any soul. That comes from Jesus, who was not afraid to say things that others did not want to hear, who has never pretended he was someone he isn't.

You are enough yourself. The only good kind of change is one that draws you closer to Jesus and is done for character growth and obedience to His calling. You do not have to pretend to be someone you are not. Look, we all have sinned. We have all had moments where we chose something wrong whether it was some form of sexual sin or lying or hatred. Also, we have all had silly moments where we did something socially awkward. You are not alone in that.

If you want to change, make it a healthy change. You do not have to agree with sin or do make up a story for attention. Especially the attention that is not in line with what God has for you. If you don't know what God has for you, start with scripture. Ask a friend for help. Just don't put on a show to get attention for the wrong act or to try and feel better. Foggy came clean at one point and you know what? Neither Matt Murdock nor Karen were all that mad at him. They just wanted to have the real Foggy safe.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Begins

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Today I want to look at the coming year. I am excited for a few things happening. Some are ministry details and some are just fun nerdy things. We'll look at fun stuff first.

As we continue what seems to be the "Decade of the Nerd" we have so many things happening on screen this year! I am not doing a "top 3" or anything like that because there is so much happening. The last season of Grimm starts this coming Friday along with a new, darker screen adaptation of The Wizard of Oz called Emerald City. I am very interested in how NBC's Friday night lineup these next couple of months will do. That will add to the shows I already keep tabs on (no, I am not going to list all of them). We also have Iron Fist and the Defenders coming for the Netflix MCU and 3 MCU movies this year! Also, we have Skull Island, both Wonder Woman and Justice League, Star Wars Episode 8, etc.

Boardgames? Well, I am not sure what games are coming out this year beyond the 2 I have coming from kickstarters. Unreal Estate is a card game about building a fantasy style city and Zephyr:Winds of Change is a cooperative game where you have a skyship that you take on missions. Honestly, I have not caught up with 2016 yet as I still have yet to play Scythe, Terraforming Mars, or Seafall. Gaming wise I am just excited to get back to Gen Con this year. I had to miss last year so I really don't want to miss this year!

In March I will be at a Christian youth convention called "Michigan Statewide Teen Convention" in Kalamazoo, MI. This will be my first time taking Nerd Chapel and 42:Discovering Faith through Fandom to a youth convention. It came about because I have been volunteering at this convention as a lighting tech for the main sessions for a few years now and they were interested in bringing a locally based non-traditional ministry to show students that ministry doesn't always mean working at a church full time.

I will also be at the Byron Rec Center Comic Con and Muskecon. These are both 1 day shows within driving distance of where I live that I'll have tables at. I do not have complete details on what shows I'll be returning to this year for Nerd Chapel. GrandCon is always a sound bet for me for a service. I expect to go back to Jafax, Midwest Media Expo with services and Fantasticon Fort Wayne with a table as well but we shall see what transpires.

Yes, I am going to be working on a sequal to 42. We have a direction to go in but we have not started the full writing process quite yet (although that will be soon).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ponder Even While Busy

Season's Greetings and Salutations, Warriors and Scholars!
What are you pondering this Christmas season? Are you pondering about what gifts to buy for someone? How about that big play your kid is in that has rehearsals all weekend long? Are you pondering who to ask to that special dance on New Year's Eve? Maybe this is your first Holiday season with a certain someone just gone or adversely your first season experiencing Christmas with new eyes from Christ.

We have a lot going on around us and in our lives this time of year. Events, honey-do lists, kids activities, needs at church, etc, etc. Our American culture tends to be busy all of the time, but especially now in this time of year. In one of the Eureka Christmas specials ("Do You See What I See"), we find Jack and Allison and their family enjoying the last minutes of Christmas Eve and Allison is not even close to ready. She has so many things to do yet. She had grown up with very little Christmas and so now that she has kids, she tends to go way beyond the call of duty. With all the hub-bub going on, a bunch of signals get crossed and they all become animated. Literally, their senses start perceiving everything as various forms of animation throughout the episode because of another Eureka technical blunder.

Of course it all is fine in the end, but they don't really have time for individual pondering about the reason for the season. Luke records many things happening at Jesus birth. Travels to Bethlehem, angels appearing to some of the lowliest of social groups, etc. But one of the biggest lesson comes from Mary:
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19
This verse comes to us during the night itself, when the shepherds came to find Jesus and the town was bustling with travelers for the census as well as Roman soldiers. Have you ever considered the actual atmosphere? People walking past the door looking for a place to stay or where to sign up for the census. Roman soldiers harassing the citizens because they would rather be fighting "for the glory of Rome" instead of "babysitting" a bunch of Jews. Vendors selling bread, fish, papyrus and other goods. People complaining about how much in taxes they had to pay.

I think Mary had other things on her mind, though. What it would mean for God's Son to be born near the animals instead of a private room? Why would angels tell shepherds, whom people disliked, a smelly and out-cast group. Why was she chosen? How would she raise a child that was supposed to change everything? Why were angels constantly appearing to proclaim the coming of this child? Remember they had approached her, Joseph, and now the shepherds.

Here we find Jesus operating as both "Lion" with great pomp and ceremony of angels proclaiming his birth and as "Lamb" by being born not in a palace but in what would have been a barn and only those with little respect and means being told about it by these angels.

In all of the hub-bub of the aforementioned Eureka episode, there are some interesting character explorations as a robot takes time to learn from Rudolph (who is in dog form). In order to learn this, he has to sit down and allow Rudolph to ponder his existence with him. He has to stop and be still for a time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Identity and Powers

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Legends of Tomorrow progressed a new theme for this season, one of an identity crisis. Spoilers if you have not yet watched this season.

The team itself faced it as they found their leader missing when rescued from time by Oliver and Nate Heywood, a historian. Rip Hunter had scattered most of the team when the ship was damaged while stopping a nuclear incident. He then went somewhere in time and chose to keep himself hidden from them. Basically, they lost their leader. When you don't have a leader, your team suffers. Another reason the team had such an identity crisis was that individuals were facing so many questions.

Heywood wanted to be a hero in the footsteps of his grandpa and had a rough first meeting with him when they met the JSA. He then gained powers but then had to figure them out.

Ray Palmer lost his suit after a Japanese warlord took it. Without his suit he was questioning his role on the team and his use as a hero. He even went to the point of trying to become Captain Cold. That persona did not fit him at all.

We also had another run in with a young Professor Stein. After seeing his future self and realizing that time travel was real, he lost himself in his studies. To a point that it was damaging his marriage quite heavily.

In most of these cases, you have people basing their value on their equipment and skills and knowledge. They all lost sight of the real truth. These things all come out of our identity; they do not shape it. As a Christian, I find my identity in my savior. In following Jesus I am forged and granted skills and powers (a.k.a. spiritual gifts), though not the same as those you see in comic books.

From an early point the church struggled with the concept of viewing our identity in skills and knowledge. Paul often wrote against Gnosticism, which was trying to affect the church with the lie that if you have special knowledge you are more special or important. Many in the church got overly focused on having certain spiritual gifts (a.k.a. powers). We have a whole chapter dedicated to warning us about the over-emphases on speaking in tongues.

You see while spiritual gifts are great, useful and sometimes extraordinary, our view of them can be skewed by our worldly desires. What did Paul say about worldly desires and objects?
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ," Philippians 3:8, NASB
Our abilities and our desires will never fulfill us. They are part of us but they can not define us. They don't have that power. Even our roles don't really define us. Often times we define these things but scripture makes it clear: Christ is our fulfillment. Hobbies, roles, even gifts from Christ will never be able to fill the place in our lives meant for Him.

As we follow Jesus, He will fulfill us. As He fulfills us and trains us to love each other and Him, through what we often call the Fruit of the Spirit, we become better at handling all these things. Our hobbies do not necessarily get lost, but they often become part of God's mission for us. Our skills and powers are used for that mission. But overall, the one single fulfilling aspect of life is Jesus Himself.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Melody Against Chaos

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!
So, last night I excitedly turned in to watch "The Librarians" on TNT. Flynn Carson, his Guardian and his team of Librarians are at it again...and they did not disappoint. They are trying to get back to the feel of the movies which did come across a little bit in this episode and you could also see a strong taste of Doctor Who in a few scenes. Spoilers ahead my friends.

This week they went against the Egyptian deity of chaos, Apep. He was trying release "pure evil" and had this little trick. He would often get people fighting each other. A wave of blackness would spread out and everyone would turn on each other. He used this several times over the episode but it had a short range to it.

After the second time of experiencing this, Eve noticed that she was free of the screaming at others after getting a certain distance. She pulled the others out and they all realized what he was doing to them. He was creating chaos so they could not work together. They had a simple way of dealing with it: they got unified. They came out singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and when he tried his power on them again it failed. Their signing built a harmony (pun intended) that could not be undone. Then they told him who they were. In a scene which felt like the end of Matt Smith's first episode as the 11th Doctor (even with similar music) they stood and told him who they were and stood against him.

This scene reminded me of 3 of significant tools/principals of spiritual warfare.

First of all, unity is hugely important. The Bible warns us time and again to cooperate.
"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:2
 "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." Luke 9:50
But how do we build unity?  We do it by serving each other, by serving with each other, by worshiping ,etc. I have made it a point to be involved in many "multi-denominational" events and groups in my life. From a Christian club at my high school to couple of community service days to the Journey to Bethlehem (imagine a giant huge living nativity where you down a trail meeting the wise men and the shepherds, etc. Alternatively, think of it as Bible reenactors).

Second, "do the opposite". The word from Greek that we translate as "repent" was a military term. It essentially means to stop, turn 180 degrees and walk the other way. Not all temptation has a demon or a fallen angel behind it, but sometimes they like to take our natural temptations and encourage such activities. When you choose not to act in a way you are being tempted and go do something else, it sends a message to any spirits around: "I am for Jesus and nothing else owns me".

Finally, worship is important. The scripture tells us that God inhabits the praises of his people (see Psalm 22). And connected with my mentioning of unity above, we are told in Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 to "sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs". Ephesians tells us to sing them to each other. When we praise the God of creation and worship Him, it reminds us who we serve, why we serve, and where our hope can be found.

The Librarians won this battle. They stopped Apep with unity and doing the opposite of what he wanted them to do and with music. They got the key he needed to open the portal and this round is over. We should all learn from their example. Right now so many groups in our nation are being played against each other. That does not have to win. Our hope is in Christ, not any government. As we share that hope with others by action as well as words life will move on. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Should I Respond?

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

A couple weeks ago I saw a post in a board game group in FB that caught my eye. It was a general post that I think was asking for suggestions of games. There was one guy who commented on there about the Christian faith of the guy who posted. He essentially claimed that mankind doesn't need religion and basically attacked faith.

I had so many things I could say, but I said nothing. You see, Proverbs warns us about answering some people who start arguments. He was looking for an argument and showed no interest in understanding other people.

Here are a few questions to ask when seeing such comments and posts:

1. Are you calm enough for a healthy conversation or are you just responding out of anger or another negative emotion? Getting riled up and angry does not point people to Jesus. There is such a thing as righteous indignation but Jesus rarely ever used that. He tried grace mixed with truth more than that and he really loved using story telling to make points.

2. If this is a comment on a post, is the orginal poster responding? If not, then do you really need to? Sometimes it is best for the poster to respond first. Other times it might be ok for you to respond. This is one of those questions of observation. Just feel it out.

3. Does the commentator or poster seem interested in healthy conversation? Are they asking a question or using logic? Sometimes it is better to leave attacks as they are. Ignoring a bad direction can leave you open to pursue a better one.

4. If a comment, does it fit the goal of discussion set by the actual post? Is it a rabbit trail? We have all seen strange comments. You have probably also seen people lead huge argument trails in a post that have nothing to do with the post. Again, some things can be a ignored.

Many people of different paths and beliefs have often gotten flame wars going because they would not ask questions such as these. There are reasons we should "think before we leap".  Remember, you do not have the time or the necessity to respond to everything you see on the internet. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My first Fantasticon

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

This last weekend I had the privilege of a table at Fantasticon Fort Wayne. This convention is a travelling convention that goes to markets with little to no con experience available. I was selling 42:Discovering Faith Through Fandom and just being a friendly face for the Kingdom. This convention did not feel comfortable with a chapel service but I did get to do some networking as other Christians who were vending different items came to talk with me. Nathan Marchand, my co-author for 42, had the table next to me with author Nick Hayden. Nathan's brother also joined us with a table to sell his artwork.

Since I arrived way early during setup on Friday, I went around and managed to help a few other vendors in with setup. Then Nathan and I went to a Halloween dance party at the Fort Wayne Ballroom Company. He went as Spock and I was Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Over the weekend, I got to talk to many people. Some were just appreciative to find Christians who embrace nerd culture gracefully. Some were Christians who were excited that someone had written a devotional for their sphere of influence. A couple of guys who were there as part of Huntington Universities Digitial Arts program thought the book would be a good resource for a ministry major who runs their D&D group and were hoping they could use the entries to start off their game nights.

One girl I talked with was so glad to see a Christian embracing nerd culture. She doesn't go to church any more, partly because a youth pastor had told her she was a "blasphemer" for reading science fiction. My head immediately dropped in frustration toward those in the church who make extra rules because they don't understand another person's hobbies. Didn't Jesus Himself have a few words about extra rules?

Did I have an amazing conversation that led someone to Jesus? Well, not in the sense of a huge prayer and drastic life change. I did start to build some bridges, though. I think I also helped chip away at walls that have been built against faith simply by being friendly.