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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Death to Life

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Found at the IMDB page.
Last week Agents of SHIELD shocked the world when they killed Agent May. "What!" Yep, they killed her. Then, they brought her back. She had been affected by the ghosts who have been walking around. A piece of her brain was processing non-stop and it's failure to stop would kill her. The only thing that Simmons and Radcliffe could come up with was to kill her...and revive her again.

This idea is not entirely new. I have seen other movies and shows do something like this before. They make it very dramatic and we when the person is revived, the organism or virus or tech has simply ended or left the body.

Death and resurrection are not a new thought to Christianity either. Jesus himself was killed and resurrected. Before that he brought back Lazurus from the dead. Yet He also expects us to deal with death. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him we must take up our own crosses in the process.

Romans 6:11 tells us: "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." But read on. Verse twelve says, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires."

Agent May was under the influence of whatever this ghost touch does. She could not control it. She was deceived by it into thinking that everyone was against her. She was under it's control. That is what sin does to us. It deceives us and confuses us. 

Killing May seemed so extreme to Simmons. When asked if she was okay, she said: "Of course not!! We're about to kill May!" She could not imagine doing that to a friend. Often we feel like that. If I cut this out, will I be the same person? This is so extreme, do I really need to stop this? Can't I keep this sin for a bit? In the end, Simmons got her friend back as herself because of that crazy idea. Jesus assured us that he came that we might have life more abundantly (John 10:10). We do not have to earn our salvation from sin, but we will have to give up the sin itself in order to have life to the full. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Happiness or Fulfillment?

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Well, I have been enjoying checking out the season premieres the last couple weeks. Agents of SHIELD, The Flash, Once Upon a Time, Arrow, etc. I even checked out new shows Timeless and Designated Survivor and the reboot of Macguyver. Spoiler alert for The Flash and OUaT.

I am noticing a common thread coming out of some of these shows. The Quest for happiness. OUaT fully admits that happiness is the driving force of the characters. The villains and heroes want happy endings. They go to great lengths for this. We recently saw great lengths taken by the Flash for happiness. There was a deep episode last season dealing with how pain and difficulty are part of Barry's story. At first it seemed he understood this and had come to terms with it; but such was not the case. This weeks premiere was all about Flashpoint and it shows the consequences of seeking happiness instead of enduring life's difficulties.

The thing about happiness is that it is based on your situation. If "A" happens, then I am fine. If "B" happens I'm angry, etc. We have many warnings about this in scripture. In John 16:33 Jesus warned us about difficulty in life. "...In this life you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." We are told to expect problems. They are a normal part of life. Our response to those problems is what we are told is important. Jesus offers hope in grief and Proverbs warns us about sinning in our anger.

Barry went so far as to change time for his happy ending...all he found was that others were unhappy and he was losing his memories of his life as a hero. He had changed his environment so much by one single act, that others had deeply changed. Ramon didn't care about others. There was a new Flash who was losing a battle with The Rival, Joe hated his job and was undependable. Others were suffering. Even when it was fixed, he found out there were still consequences.

In OUaT we find the Count of Monte Cristo trying so hard for his revenge that he almost kills kind people. Regina finds out that having the Evil Queen pulled out of her did not work and she and the heroes must now face her without Regina controlling the evil inclinations.

Trying to control our environment does not work. Happiness based on that is fleeting at best and degrading either to yourself and/or others in the long run. Jesus came that our life would be abundant. Not easy or perfect, but meaningful. He invites us to join with Him for peace and hope and to find meaning by sharing that peace and hope with others. This brings fulfillment and even joy, which is an attitude of hope in all circumstances whether good or bad.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GrandCon 2016

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

This weekend was amazing. GrandCon is always a lot of fun and I think this year was stellar. I ran 9 events. 1 of which had no attendees but all the others went well. In our chapel service we had 10 of us gathered for worship. After we sang a couple songs, Darrin Ball did a great job leading us in communion and presented some great thoughts inspired by the Lord of the Rings. We then considered Jesus as the Super Lamb of God; specifically how he chose the Lamb card when others would have chosen the Lion card and how we sometimes need to lose to win.

I ran a few rounds of Commissioned, a cooperative board game where players take the roles of the apostles building up the early church. Unfortunately we kept losing. It was very well received and is worth your time. I hosted 2 games of Pandemic which always goes over well. Both times we lost. I think the most fun I had in terms of games I hosted was Monsterpocalypse. I got to teach someone who had demoed it years ago and a college buddy of mine came and was playing in another game. This is one of those games that is just plain fun. I also led a round of Mow Money. This was also a fun time.

One of my highlights was getting to play Star Wars Epic Duels with author Timothy Zahn. Most events at GrandCon are no extra charge after your badge cost but this was one of a few charity events to help raise money for Helen Devos Children's Hospital. I love this game and getting to play it with a talented author of some of the best Star Wars novels was excellent. Our group as a whole was a great group and it was an amazing time.

I did play a few games I had not played before:

Zephyr:Winds of Change: This game I had demoed at another con last year but this time I got to play a full game. Well, I did have to leave early to run a game of Commissioned, but I really enjoyed it. I actually had won a FB contest to get a copy of the game and play it with a designer of it. This is a cooperative game where each player has his own skyship and you get sent on missions. They successfully kickstarted last Spring and it is currently in the production phase. I am quite excited to get my copy when it comes.

Onitama: This is a 2 player in the vein of chess but very different. Each team has a martial arts Master and students. Your goal is to get your master in the opposing temple or to take out the opposing master. The game features move cards with each player having 2 but a fifth one is also pulled out so that when you use a move you exchange it for a different move. Very thoughtful game but also short and sweet. Normal games take 10 to 15 minutes. Great game.

Abyss: This game has you collecting color cards by spending pearls and then using the cards to get certain lords on your side. You can also collect keys, some of which come with lords, to get certain buildings. This game takes 45 minutes and the gameplay was fairly interesting but I don't know if I would buy it.

Castles of Mad King Ludwig: I need to play this game again. It was very interesting. You are building a castle and the mad King Ludwig has given specific parameters. It seemed very replayable and I think this is a winner. I think games take around an hour but I don't remember how long we played it for.

Temporum: This game was designed by the creator of Dominion. You are trying to control the timeline for your own ends and are gaining opportunities to move your crowns from one end of the time-stream to the other. Quick to learn and fun. It lasted around 40 minutes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

From Nothing to Everything

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

I feel like it has been a while since I posted. It probably has. This weekend is GrandCon! I am excited to play games, hang out, and have the chapel service there Sunday morning. I hope you can join us!
Well, today I watched an episode of Justice League Unlimited, specifically episode 2 of season 1 "The Man who Has Everything." You see, Superman gets stuck with a plant that feeds him a simulation of his hearts desire and leaves him standing there caught up in it. Batman and Wonder Woman come by for his birthday and find him in this state and have to free him from it while fighting off Mongo.

In this simulation running through his head he is fully convinced, for a time, that he is back on Krypton with a wife and son. He owns a farm and has a dog. He isn't fighting anyone and has a simple life. But it isn't real. None of it is.

Lust is similar. It offers us fake ideas of life with sex or stuff or attention from others, but it isn't real and it isn't helpful either. It takes you away from the real life and from what God has for you simply by distracting you. I have struggled with this a lot and it simply does not fulfill me or anyone.

Consider the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5-7. Jesus told us that lust is the same as committing adultery. He also said that hate is the same as killing. Basically, our attitude toward others is important even if we think it won't affect them. God wants the attention we give others to be honorable, even if it is just attention in our heads.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41
I find that prayer helps me. It takes my attention from something that is not mine to my Creator and Savior. Batman didn't save Superman with weapons. He had to call to Superman and start pulling the plant off of him in order to get him out of it. Superman had to realize how fake his situation was by himself, but Batman helped him. It was communication that brought Superman to reality and it is always communication with Christ that brings us to freedom.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Galactus and Jesus

Greetings Warriors and Scholars

Found at
Galactus. The name rings fear in trillions of minds throughout Marvel Comics. He is a planet eating giant who sends out a herald to find him planets to consume. When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first came up with him, they wanted an undefeatable villain for the Fantastic Four. At that time Stan would give Kirby a story and Kirby would draw it so Stan could then pen in the dialogue. For this character Stan had specific directions: "Make them fight God."

The Fantastic Four first meet the Silver Surfer, who was Galactus' herald at the time. Eventually, when Galactus gets to earth, they have no ability to stop him. Nothing they try works. They decide to get Silver Surfer on their side, but not even he is not capable of stopping Galactus. He has to reason with Galactus. Somehow, he does reason with him and Earth is saved, but not without a cost. The Surfer is banished to Earth, no longer a herald for the giant consumer of planets.

God really is more powerful than we can imagine. He created us. He created the universe itself and the tiniest atom in our cosmos. His words to Job:
"Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you will answer me. Where were you when I laid the Earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone--while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?"  Job 38:3-11 NIV
Many people see God with a harsh tone. As if He is waiting to punish us or is always angry with us. But this same God that spoke to Job, who loves us immensely, does not come to consume our planet for energy. He is no villain. He doesn't come to steal, but to reason with us.
"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." Isaiah 1:18 ESV
The NIV says "let us settle the matter." He does not come with fear and devouring as His goal, but with compassion and hope. When Jesus spoke, early on in His ministry, at a synagogue in Nazareth, he quoted Isaiah 61:
"The Spirit of the Lord has come on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18, 19/Isaiah 61:1,2
Jesus then said "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. (Luke 4:21)." Jesus then did just that. He healed the blind, the deaf, and the lame. He brought hope to all who would listen. He challenged the pharisees that were holding people in a rigged expectation filled with extra laws. He comes not as a conqueror but as a friend and healer.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Busy Times!

Greetings Scholars and Warriors!

This has been a crazy month! China was a great time. The ESL camp was very successful. This helps students practice their English which will help them in the future when they start looking for jobs and careers. I am working on a blog post for my church so you will get a more full report with that. Just watch the Nerd Chapel FB page for it. If you are interested in helping deal with poverty in China, go to to learn more.

Also, Sunday morning I had the pleasure of attending Evanston Avenue Baptist Church in Muskegon, MI. I was blessed with speaking to a Sunday School class about using your passions missionally and bringing Christ to the community around you.

This fall I'll be attending 3 conventions.

In September Nerd Chapel will be doing a Sunday Morning service at GrandCon on Sept. 18. GrandCon is always a great weekend full of gaming. I'll be running games as well including: Pandemic, Commissioned, Monsterpocalypse and Mow Money.

In October I'll be attending Fantasticon in Fort Wayne, IN. I went to college in Fort Wayne and I am looking forward to setting up a table for Nerd Chapel and 42:Discovering Faith Through Fandom. In fact, I'll be setting up right next to Nathan Marchand's book table. This should be a fun time and I am excited to meet some more Fort Wayne folks.

November presents yet another convention. (Cue: Batman '66 musical theme) Nerd Chapel is excited to announce that we are joining up with Costumers for Christ at Chicagoland Pop Culture Con November 26-27. I have been in online contact with them for some time. You might remember that a few months ago I did a book review for Scott Bayles book "Holy Heroes". This will be our first time working together at a convention.

Is this a busy enough schedule? I do plan on attending Grand Rapids Comic Con but I will likely be just going as myself rather than as any formal focus.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Thief Practicing the Presence of God

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Lately I have found myself watching the El Rey network. I first took this station seriously when they had a weekend long marathon of Godzilla movies. They show Asian fighting movies every Thursday which I have only sparsely partaken of. Well, Monday evening they were showing Ladyhawke and I had not watched it for a while so I turned it on.
Philippe, played by Matthew Broderick, is a thief. He is called the Mouse and narrowly escapes a jail by fitting through a drain. While running he starts bragging at an inn and gets caught by the guards who were in disguise. A man rescues him who has a hawk on his arm. Later on that night, Philippe meets a woman who has a wolf for a friend. Can you guess where this is going?

What I found interesting about this was Philippe's prayer life. Have you heard of the idea of practicing the presence of God? Practicing the presence of God is about praying regularly but it is also about perceiving His presence at all times. Philippe is a pro at this. He often prays, One time trying to make a deal with God, another admitting he has just stolen again.

In the middle of all of this, he becomes a companion for the man and the woman. We see a big change in Philippe in the movie as he goes from thief to finding friends and learning to be part of a team. At one point he complains to God that he did not see any of this coming and yet later tells the man "I talk to God all the time yet He has never mentioned you."

1 Thessalonians tells us to "pray continually" but not all of God's directions or moments for us come with a big announcement from Him. Often the important ones are the opportunities you do not see coming. This happened for two disciples with Jesus Himself. They walked with Him along a road after He had resurrected but did not realize it was Him until the very moment he left them. That is what happened for Philippe. This whole situation changes him for the better. And through all of this change he continues to pray and practice the presence of God.

Hebrews tells us that some have entertained angels but the important thing is not the angels themselves, but that these people have built hospitality into their lives. One author defined hospitality as creating a safe space for people around you. I think that is how we get to practicing the Presence of God as well. We simply build an attitude of openness for Him to be present with us regularly. This is not an easy thing to do with the distractions that often come our way; but it is not impossible.