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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.

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.