Grand Con

See Nerd Chapel at Grand Con 2015! Go to http://grand-con.com/

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Where is my Lothwolf Tunnel?

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Have you been watching the new season of Star Wars Rebels? I have and it has not disappointed me at all. I enjoyed seeing some Mandalorians take back their place as fighters and specifically against the Empire. In fact, I would love to see the Mandalorians take on the First Order in the movies. I have also enjoyed the addition of the Lothwolf. Spoilers ahead.

https://nerdist.com/star-wars-rebels-princess-mononoke-loth-wolf/
Apparently, this wolf, which is a huge animal, had not been seen for 100 years, if you believe the comment by Ezra. They inhabit Lothal and are noble and fast, capable of great speed and I am sure they have great power as well. Interestingly, they have a strong connection with the Force. In the recent episode, Kindred (Season 4, Episode 7), the rebels are trying to hide and escape from an Imperial assault which includes bombing. There is no way out. They have a large maze of rocks behind them and imperials in front of them. Ezra convinces the team to follow the wolves. As they follow the wolves, which is hard, they eventually come to a cave. The wolves seem to wait for a moment and then the bombing starts. The wolves head deeper into the cave and a tunnel that is similar to a hyperspace tunnel opens up. The wolves actually take the team through this tunnel from the northern Hemisphere of the planet all the way down to the southern hemisphere. It is unsure how much time it took, but it is a massive distance.

Life is full of crazy situations where it feels like there is no way out. Maybe you hate your job. Perhaps you are sick of the way someone treats you but you are committed to making it work. Maybe you are dealing with loneliness.

In scripture we have many stories of God making amazing escape routes for people. Remember the Israelites and the Red Sea? How God opened a path for them to cross on? Think about when Peter was in jail and an angel came and escorted him past the guard. If you are wanting escape, then hold on. God does see and He does provide. I have been struggling with romantic loneliness for years and this is one place where I am still holding on and just talking to God about it.

One thing to note: not all situations we want to escape from are situations we should escape from. The Rebels did escape from the situation, but they did not leave the planet when Captain Syndulla took the recorded info on the new Tie fighters back to rebel command. They stayed because there was more to be done. Paul and Silas were in jail for their faith once and when an earthquake ripped the cell doors open, they stayed. Because of this the jailer and his family came to Christ. Nehemiah was facing a lot of threats for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but when urged to leave and hide away he stayed to complete the project. Maybe you don't like your school because of the way kids treat you or the work is hard for you. This might be a situation where you just have to hold on and wait to see what God does through the situation. He might influence others through you simply being there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Faith not Strength

Greetings Scholars and Warriors.

Last week we finally got our eagerly awaited beginning of a new season for the Arrowverse. Wednesday I did not have to work, so I pulled out my laptop and hooked it up to a TV to watch The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow and later watched the new Supergirl episode with my Mom and Arrow by myself on another day.

Spoilers my friends.



This episode of the Flash, titled "The Flash Reborn," found Barrie's friends grieving his loss and all handling it in different ways. Remember, Barry was taken into the Speed Force at the end of last season. Iris was just running forward convinced, or at least acting convinced, that he was gone and would never get back. Wally, Joe and Cisco were just trying to keep up with the meta-human issues around the city. They were catching some of them, but not at all keeping it under full control. They come across a flying Samurai with katanas that had crazy power in them. Of course, he threatened to destroy the city if Barry did not come back.

As they tried to figure out what to do we find out that Cisco, along with a few other scientists from around the Arrowverse, has been working on a way to get Barry out of the Speed Force. He just needed Caitlin Snow so, without the agreement or approval of Iris, he found her and they got to work. They did get him out, though it didn't work as they thought it would. However, Barry was not the same. He was writing with symbols on the walls and speaking gibberish about physics and saying some things seemingly from past conversations. He was not Barry.

During this time Iris sits down with her dad for a talk. She doesn't understand how he has done well. How he is so calm. He explains that he has been going back to church. She is surprised and mentions that he hasn't done that since she was a child. But he went back and one of the sermons from the priest stood out to him because it felt like it was just for him. The message was about strength and faith; the reality that strength is not good without faith.

First off, I am really excited that they showed us a story where someone was willing to give church a try...and they were impacted by it. It meant something to the character that could impact others.

Next, I am glad they recognized that strength is not enough without faith. In the New Testament we are given many traits to chase after. Traits to build into our lives for our benefit and for us to be able to bless and help other people. But strength is not one of those.

Try reading Galatians 5. In this passage Paul is sharing with us what a Godly life should look like. What we should be espousing to, as well as the traits we should not seek out. In verses 22 and 23 he gives us a list we call the fruit of the Spirit. You will not find the word "strength" on this list. Now, you could argue that self-control takes strength. You could say forbearance/patience take strength, but strength is not the focus of either of these traits.

Faith is mentioned many times. Jesus comments on "you of little faith" before calming down a storm. He also says "anything is possible for one who believes" (Mark 9:23). Paul includes faith with hope and love in 1 Corinthians 13 as the "remaining" abilities. Essentially, where law and our gifts fail, these survive.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus himself encouraged us toward meekness. Now, this is not what some people think it is. Some see it as a complete lack of strength. Meekness is more about controlling your strength and trusting God to be the victor. Meekness is about putting your faith in God when you want to fix everything yourself.

Now we get back to the show. After this conversation, after considering that faith is what will change things, Iris literally gives herself over to the Samurai. She knows that if she were kidnapped, Barry would break every wall to save her which is essentially what happened. Learning of her need for him, was enough to shock him out of his altered state and bring him back to them.

We saw strength without faith in the new episode of Supergirl, "Girl of Steel". She was trying to get rid of Kara Danvers, who has faith in those around her and in her work in media. In her grief, she thought she could work as Supergirl and muscle things to a better place instead of grieving her loss of Mon-El. This self sufficiency lifestyle was hurting those around her.

Iris and the team could not fix everything. They could not get Barry back to himself with medicine or prodding, but with faith he did come back. Often we find ourselves in situations we can not fix or should not try to fix. In these times do you try to flex your strength or do you trust in God to step in with hope and healing?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Doctor Morbius and Hidden Attitudes

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Found on IMDB.
Last week sometime I sat down to watch a classic 1950s film on TV: "Forbidden Planet". The film features Leslie Nielson as a commander of a space crew that comes to check on a colony many years after it had landed. Walter Pidgoen plays Doctor Morbius, who with his daughter Altaira (played by Anne Francis), are the last survivors of that expedition. He claims the others were killed off by some unseen monster but he is happy to stay with his daughter and a robot, named Robbie. He prefers that the crew leave but they need to contact Earth for new orders.

Spoilers ahead.

As the crew stays and tries to build a comm setup that would reach Earth, since apparently they have traveled to far for their ships equipment to do so, they come under attack. Something comes into their ship leaving damage as it came, but no one who was on duty at the time saw anything. Another time it does kill/injure some of the crew.

While going to see Morbius about this, the Commander learns that he has become somewhat of an archaeologist and is studying a race of creatures that is long gone but left a rather large facility with highly advanced technology. In one of the labs, there is a device that works with a persons mental capabilities. It can create images of what you imagine and Morbius has used it to train his mind. In fact, the reason they have the robot Robbie is because of the tech and knowledge left by this long dead civilization.

Morbius is rather arrogant. After years of this mental work, he feels he is the only person who can decide when or if any of this technology or knowledge gets out to the rest of mankind. He tried to kick the commander out off the planet right away when they first met. He is a man who wants to be left alone to study. He does not value companionship, aside from maybe his daughter, and thinks his work is more important than anything else.

I think Doctor Morbius would be a good pharisee. When Jesus was doing ministry he had a lot of arguments with them. They were arrogant and felt they did not need this man who could do miracles. They thought they should decide what people knew about God and that they held a monopoly on how to interact with Him. They had ancient knowledge and they were fine without the Son of God.

In reality, the system was never meant to work without the Son of God. All the sacrifices the priests made were temporary. It was a system that kept man in constant red tape; always having to atone for this and for that. No sacrifice could change out hearts, except one, that of Jesus.

In the end, Morbius found that his own "Id", or his own inner mind, was responsible for the monster that kept killing everyone. His own selfishness came out through the machine he had used to train his mind. It created this invisible force that would attack anyone he did not trust. Just as our own sin put Jesus on the cross.

How does your selfishness affect those around you? Do you ever try to do things alone that are meant to be done in community? Sometimes as humans we are blind to our own sin. We don't see how it affects others but just like an invisible monster, our attitude comes out.

Jesus warned us about this. "You have heart it said, "Do not murder" but that anyone who does so is subject to judgement. I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. (Matthew 5:21-22). Yet, He also took our sin upon Himself. Romans 8 tells us that in Christ we are freed from this law of sin and death and given over to the law of life.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

GrandCon 2017

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!


This last weekend at GrandCon was amazing. Lot's of people came by the Nerd Chapel table and we had the highest attended Nerd Chapel service at a con ever! I got to talk with some great vendors, run two games of Pandemic and teach a few people to play Monsterpocalypse. This year the con was held in downtown Grand Rapids at the Devos Place.


At the table I handed out a lot of stickers from GameChurch and some coloring pages from Costumers for Christ plus a few bookmarks for "God Loves the Freaks" by Stephen Weese. I also sold a few copies of 42:Discovering Faith through Fandom and met some great people. I was surprised when Albin Johnson, founder of the 501st, a cosplay group that is well known for quality Star Wars cosplays, stopped by the table and talked with me for about 10 minutes. He was very encouraging.


In the service Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower preached about the storms of life, I led communion and Jon Mietling (designer of the game, "Zephyr Winds of Change") led us in worship with his guitar. This was the first time we have had someone come bring a guitar for help with worship. About 32 people came which is double our highest attendance in the past. It was a bit hard to find the room as it was on the 3rd floor and there was no signs from the con for the seminar room (the room itself did have some permanent signs).

A lot more cosplay this year than last year.

Darrin Ball ran a lot of games including Trench, Formula D and a Dominion tournament.

Monsterpocalypse!





Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Jesus and the Happily Ever Sacrifice

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

Found on IMDB.
I watched a bit of an episode of "The Librarians" from TNT the other day. Season 2, Episode 9: "And the Happily Ever Afters." The team was under a spell in a small town on an island all experiencing their idealized dream of a life. Flynn Carsen (played by Noah Wyle) had been off finding more artifacts and came home unaffected by the spell to find them all gone and the clippings book going crazy with a situation on the island.

He found them quickly but they were all held in this. He also found a fairy (played by Hayley McLaughlin) who helped him trap them and talk to them. What they found was that they needed to choose to give up the idealized life in order to be free of the spell and claim their true life back.

Do you have your idealized life? Do you have your happily ever after? Sometimes what we think is our best life is just a ruse. It might be really good things, but it is not what God dreams for us. Jesus himself said that we need to lay down our lives to find it.
"Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:39
There are the dreams we dream for ourselves, and there is God's dreams for us. His vision for who we can be and the adventures we can experience. Sometimes he gives us something else we had not thought of and sometimes He gives a thing we give up back to us, perhaps transformed in a way we had never thought of.

In the show they had to place talismans down to symbolically give up the fake lives, but Paul tells us that presenting ourselves to God "as a living sacrifice" is our "spiritual act of worship" and is pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).

We live in a world that says we should live according to our desires. That we must be subject to our nature, but Jesus tells us to give that to Him and to control our natures. One day we will even give the crowns we have earned by serving God back to Him, as a way of recognizing that it was all about Him anyway. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

GenCon 50

Greetings Warriors and Scribes.


I just got back from the best 4 days of gaming on a significant year. GenCon 50 was amazing. As seen above, the gamers took over Colts stadium for the week. This was in addition to the entire Indiana Convention Center and rooms at adjoining hotels.  I did spend some time helping Nathan Marchand with his table but I also played games and cosplayed. I had many great experiences but here are some of the cream of the crop for you.

Sagrada:

This game is lots of fun. I played 2 rounds of it. Rolling and assigning dice to build stained glass windows with limited options that must be chosen carefully to manipulate the dice. This was a lot of fun and it is not a long game.



Warehouse 13:

This was the biggest excitement for me in terms of gaming this weekend. I loved the SYFY show and this game is a faithful exploration of the world. It has a traitor element that is engineered with a similar feel to Battlestar Galactica, which is very fitting to the show. Sitting and talking with the designers was very fun and they are definitely fans of the show. One guy playing with us has not seen the show but he loved the game. This was a major high point of the convention.

This is a semi cooperative game. Each play through is a season and each round is an episode. Through the game you will find clues to figure out what item is causing issues and work to gather the needed tech, intuition,  etc. to stop the situation. However, someone else is also seeking the items to use against your team and one member is secretly working for them. There is a cooperative version for 2 players.

Watch for this to hit Kickstarter!



Buy the Rights:

This is a fun party game where the players are all pitching the movie ideas for the money to make them. Each round a different person will be the "producer" with 20 million dollars to shell out to the other players. Winner is the person with the most money at the end. You will lay out four cards: Genre, Hero, Descriptor of the hero, and the plot. You can elaborate as much as you want to get the attention of the producer and have some fun.



Christian Gamers Guild Events:

The Christianity and Gaming Panel went well. This was a question driven panel that discussed things like planning game nights for churches, how to handle magic and other "dark" things found in gaming, etc.



The Church Service was great. Tom Vasel preached about slowing down for resting and for time with God. We had a full worship band with drums, electric and acoustic guitar and some a great list of songs. This is always a highlight of GenCon for me and this year did not disappoint.


Cosplay

I cosplayed as a Blue Lantern on Friday and Martian Manhunter for half of Saturday (before I went to a Heroscape tournament). Unfortunately the only Lantern related cosplayers I saw were on different days than when I was a blue lantern.




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Remain in the Christ, Luke

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

http://www.bikesrepublic.com/featured/hjc-star-wars-introduces-luke-sykwalker-x-wing-helmet/
Do you remember how Luke destroyed the Death Star? Think about the sequence. He was coming in for the kill, had his targeting computer set...and then he hears this: "Use the Force Luke!" It was a call from Kenobi. Do not trust instruments. He turned off the targeting computer. Everyone back at the base was like "Hey, what's going on?" They did not think he could do it without the computer, but he did. He came in, Han shot Darth Vader's fighter and it careened out of control, and Luke made the shot and got out of them as the Death Star exploded.

Psalm 1:2-3 tell us that that anyone who puts their delight "in the law of the Lord" will be victorious "like trees planted by streams of water." Jesus told us that we need to "remain" in Him.
"I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up thrown into the fire and burned." John 15:5-6
It is so easy to get off task, right?  If you feel like you rarely read the Bible or pray, even though you firmly believe in Christ, you are not alone. Unfortunately it is pretty common for us humans. But what does it really mean to "remain in Christ"?  Here are a few thoughts:

1. Take opportunities to help others. Just a few verses later Jesus says that His command is to "love each other as I have loved you." The way we treat others is highly connected with how we experience Jesus. At another point He said people would know we are His by our love for each other. It will not always be a "big" thing. Often it will be small, like holding a door for someone. Sometimes it will be big, like helping someone move or donating to a necessary cause.

2. Read your Bible. Psalm 1 does put a focus on "the law of the Lord" and the longest chapter in the Bible is about gleaning from and trusting the Bible (Psalm 119). One of the most important things I got out of any youth ministry I was ever in was this: read some piece of scripture each day. Even if it is small. It does not need to be a huge chapter every day. I have a verse hanging by my door so I can read it as I go out or come in. I try, as often as possible, to stop and read when ever someone posts scripture on Facebook.

3. Look for opportunities to pray. When I get upset about stuff I often ask God to give me the right attitude. When I hear an emergency vehicle's siren, I stop and quietly pray for the situation. Paul tells us to "pray continually". That does not mean every prayer will be big.

4. Ask Him to be with you or to give you guidance. Every December, and often before it, I am already asking God what He wants for my next year. I do believe that God has adventures for us, although they are different for everyone. Have you ever asked God what He wanted for your day? He does not always answer right away. That is okay. He has not forgotten you.

Luke was effective when he leaned into the Force and trusted it. When we lean into Jesus, He does more than we can possibly imagine.