Grand Con

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Violent Ken and Help Sought

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

Did you go out for free comic book day? I did! I went to my local shop, grabbed my 3, ran into some friends, and we went to a few hobby and gaming stores. Of my 3 comics, one of my choices was the Street Fighter Ultra issue. This story is a Ken-centric story written by Ken Sui-Chong, artwork by Hanson Steinbach, and lettering by Marshall Dillon. He has just gotten back from a battle in another realm against Lord Raptor, but is now faced with his own darkness. He often becomes Violent Ken with an insatiable appetite for maiming and killing others.

In Street fighter lore, the Satsui No Hado is essentially the Dark Side. It is the worst of the person given full energy and comes out with complete inhibition. This is discussed by my co-author, Nathan Marchand, in entry 17 of our book, 42:Discovering Faith through Fandom.

What I found interesting in this comic was Ken's interactions with 2 students at a Gouken's Dojo in Japan. Sakura and Dan both share what helped them come out if it.

For Sakura, it was friendship. Apparently that story can be found in the Super Street Fighter series. You have heard the phrase: "No man is an island," right? Exactly. We are communal creatures. Proverbs 27:17 tells us "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Do you have anyone who will speak honestly to you about your issues, be it sin or difficult life times?

Dan has another story, found in Street Fighter Unlimited. He shares that foregivenss is what changed him. When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, something we call "The Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father," there is one statement in there that He expounded on. "Forgive us, as we forgive each other." He goes on to tell us if we do not give foregiveness, God won't give it to us.

Ultimately, Jesus exemplified both of these qualities. He forgave the man who could not walk for his sin as well as the thief on the cross next to Him and Peter for betraying Him. He challenged our perceptions of how we should treat each other and protected the woman at the well from being stoned by men who had their own sin issues to deal with.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Heroes/Villains Chicago

Greetings Scholars and Warriors!

I apologize for not posting for a while. My computer frizzed out on me and I've been dealing with some personal issues.

This weekend I went to Heroes and Villains Fanfest in Chicago. I had a table there and met a lot of people. This con focuses on comic book TV adaptations and guests included stars from Arrow, Gotham, Black Lightning and more. This was also combined with Walker Stalker so you had about 10 guests from the Walking Dead as well.

I met many people, sold some books, and had a great time. Many people were surprised to find this and a few thought it was a joke. But many were excited and supportive. I think the most meaningful conversations happened in travel, though. Saturday night I was just off the train and looking for food when a guy was needing help. At first I thought he was just begging for money, but then I realized he was blind and just needed help finding his cane, which was easy for me to find for him. Sunday, on Amtrak coming home, the guy next to me noticed I was studying "Experiencing God" and asked me if I think God understands if we want to die. We discussed his situation and I tried to encourage him.

Here are some pics from the con. You can find more on the at

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Nobody to Jedi

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.


found on
Last month I and many around the world went to see Star Wars Episode 8:The Last Jedi. So much goodness in this movie! They took a look at the heroes journey from a different perspective and deconstructed it to show the dangers of seeing yourself as the hero. They showed us how Leia uses her Force powers. The take on Luke is not what we expected, but the Jedi before him did both run away when the Sith took power so that is example he had to look at.

One thing we questioned was the family and lineage of Rey.  Some wanted her to be Kylo's sister or cousin. Some wanted her to be a Kenobi. I wanted a weird mix of both. I wanted Luke to have met a girl, perhaps before meeting Mara Jade, who was from his home planet of Tatooine. I could imagine her eventually telling Luke that she didn't know her father. He had been a hermit or a "wizard" that people thought was really weird. You catch my drift? I had wanted her to be the daughter of Luke and the granddaughter of Ben Kenobi. 

Now, if Kylo Ren's story he told her checks out, she had been from a much more normal lineage. Her parents were drunkards. They sold her into slavery for booze money. Talk about rejection. This would be painful if true. For us as fans it means all our wonder about her being from a big lineage is gone.

However, there is a new, exciting thought here. If her lineage is of drunkards, then that means anyone can be an amazing, Force wielding power for good. You don't need to come from a family that has a history with the Force. You just need to be willing.

Jesus lineage was filled with both promise and obscurity. King David certainly makes for a great lineage. So do Boaz and Ruth. But what about some of the others? There is a prostitute in there. Some people we really don't know much about. We only know Mary and Joseph because they raised Jesus. Even His birth itself was in an obscure place rather than a palace.

Rejection and the Gospel are highly connected. Jesus experienced rejection from the religious leaders and on the Cross he shouted "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). But in this rejection came the opportunity of salvation and healing. Isaiah 53:5 tells us as a prophecy about Jesus that "by his wounds we are healed." 

You might have come from a family that is dysfunctional. Maybe you feel abandoned by your family because you are in the foster system or adopted. Your life still can have amazing impact on the people around you. Rey saved the rebellion when they were trapped at the end of the film. That is fictional; imagine what you can do in real life. You can donate blood, serve in the armed forces, become a nurse or doctor. You can volunteer at your church or with a food bank. Make your life matter. Don't sit at home waiting for someone else to make your life matter. 

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.
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.