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.

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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Leaving for China 2016

Greetings Warriors and Scholars,

Tomorrow..."I'm leaving on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again." Ok, so many I do know when I'll be back again. I am going to China to teach an English camp. It will be a week long camp in the heart of the country and I am excited to hang out with some old friends and make some new friends.

I and one other gentleman will join up with a team from Macau and go to the Hubei province to hold the camp. I am taking some games for the camp such as Rory's Story Cubes, Suchi Go, and a few others.

We would appreciate your prayers. Originally we were supposed to have a 4 person team but 2 people had to pull out last minute. I expect to be doing a lot of scrambling between rooms for this camp but we shall see what the plan is from the Macau team.

Please keep Ian and I in your prayers for the next 2 weeks. Tomorrow we have a long flight from Chicago to Hong Kong and then we shall spend a day or two in Macau and then leave with the team from there for our camp.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Joy and Mourning with Pokemon

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Well, this has been a crazy few weeks. As I am typing this the world is cringing at the pain of a bad attack in Nice, France which has left dozens dead and dozens injured. We have just dealt with shootings at cops and unnecessary shootings by cops around the USA. We have had an attack in Baghdad so bad it was the worse attack there in years (250 people died in it).

In the middle of all of this we find a new mobile game called "Pokemon Go." I am sure you already know the premise of the game. People are getting off their sofas, going outside, talking to people. It is helping people who have struggled with depression. This game is helping us heal with a breath of fresh air. It is reminding us that we have more to experience out in the world than just shootings and attacks.

We are being given a time to celebrate with a new game that is encouraging exercise and nerdy tendencies but we are also dealing with a lot of pain. Romans 12:15 tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." We have an opportunity to live that out this week.

Pokemon Go is a breath of fresh air, but Jesus is the ultimate physician. He does want us to experience fun moments. [Side note, does it bother anyone else that most movies about Jesus life do not show him laughing or joking with people?] Jesus also took time to heal people form blindness, deafness, and many other maladies.

Jeremiah stated that if we seek God with all our heart we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13). While you are out seeking Pokemon by walking for miles on end, do not forget that God wants to walk with you. A huge part of seeking God "with all your heart" is learning His heart for those who are in distress and his heart for joy. I encourage you to keep Nice, Baghdad, Dallas, and others in your prayers as you enjoy your games.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Apocalypse: Becoming Your Own Idol

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Wednesday I had the pleasure of finally seeing X-Men:Apocalypse for the first time at a local cheapo theater (although the snacks were still quite expensive so I went without that). I greatly enjoyed the film and there is so much that can be unpacked and chewed on in this film. It is hard to know where to begin. I think we shall begin with the concern with false gods.

Apocalypse is quite an interesting character in this film He has quite a pastoral heart, even if his intentions are evil. He is empowering mutants and quite honestly he seems to have a strength for discipleship. He sees all our machines of modern life and begins noticing the systems of government. We see him calling against false gods at one point but here is the problem: he made himself a false god. He became an idol himself. He fully claims godhood and wants all control over our planet. Actually, he even makes a comment that he wants to make Cairo the "center of the universe."

Unfortunately, mutants are not the only ones with such egos. We humans, in real life, tend to have a lot of that ourselves. Look at the pharisees. They had many rules against idols and about daily life. They took the idea of law, something God created to help us know our need for him and to navigate the confusion of right and wrong, and made it a road to the idol of their own egos. Jesus called them "white washed tombs" inferring that they clean what can be seen but just that and would rather be prideful than fully surrendered followers of God. We have a lot of people who do that here.

We have a lot of idols in our modern lives. Comfort, money, sex. Some people even expect their meaning to come from family rather than from God. This keeps them from serving at church sometimes or it becomes a trap for other members of their family who simply can't live up to the expectations to fill a void in the heart.

How do we keep from being our own idol?
"How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word." Psalm 119:9
We keep our way pure by comparing our thoughts with scripture. Is this action in alignment with scripture? Is this rule found in the Word of God?

Only God Himself should be "the center of the universe".  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My first JAFAX Experience

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

I hope you had as good a weekend as I did. This weekend I brought the Nerd Chapel Sunday Morning Service to JAFAX, an anime convention in Grand Rapids, MI. Let me tell you about my weekend.

Friday started interestingly before I even got to the con. While eating a donut at Rosa Parks Circle, I met a guy named Justin who is a former Army Ranger. We discussed faith, God's big plan, etc. It was a great conversation and he seemed to leave more encouraged than when he had come over. I then went on and sat by the resting place of former president of the USA Gerald R Ford for a minute to pay my respects. After that I found a series of plaques discussing Native American tribes in the region to read. Then, before the con, I read some chapters out of "Holy Heroes:The Gospel According to DC and Marvel" by Scott Bayles.

So, on to the con. This was a "reboot" for JAFAX. They had formerly been a college con with no charge for attendance. Now they are no longer at a college and for the first time had to have registration and charge for badges. The wait on Friday was a very long one. I spent more than 2 hours in line and some said they were in line for 4 hours. I think they may have had issues with wifi that contributed to this and as a gesture of apology they allowed those who only got Friday badges to come back on Saturday for a free badge and do the exploring they missed the day before.

Anime and Japanese art are the main focuses of JAFAX. There were a couple of booths selling kimonos and booths selling anime videos, various cosplay items, art, etc. The panels were plentiful and they had 2 viewing rooms for anime shows. I attended one panel on making a hero and another with voice actors reading scripts from movies and such with differing voices. There was also a tiny table-top gaming room. On Saturday I cosplayed as Martian Manhunter and was not the only DC cosplayer. I also saw some Marvel cosplayers and 1 Star Trek cosplayer as well as some Star Wars in the mix. See pictures below.

Over the weekend I had some very friendly conversations. People seemed quite open to the idea of a "nerd friendly church service" at a con. We had 7 people plus myself attend and although some came late, I was just glad to have them come at all. The message was based on the concept that all humans are "Ronins" (masterless warriors) in some way but that God still wants to adopt us. We looked at how this all began with Adam and used David as an example of an adopted Ronin.

I think this was a successful weekend. Next year the registration bugs should be worked out and I expect a good experience then as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

JAFAX and GrandCon 2016

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Nerd Chapel is currently scheduled for 2 conventions this summer and early fall.

June 26 we will be bringing our Sunday Service to JAFAX in Grand Rapids, MI. This is an anime convention that used to be run as a free event at Grand Valley State University and was run by a student organization. This year is their first year launching out into the real world and we'll be in downtown at the Devos Place. We will be in Panel Room 1 at 10am.

September 18 Nerd Chapel returns to GrandCon! We will not have a booth this year but we will be holding services at 9am that Sunday in the seminar room. I'll be hosting several games that weekend including Pandemic, Commissioned and Monsterpocalypse.

I'll let you know if more opportunities come our way but for now these are the two big ones for the foreseeable future. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Searching When Others Won't

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

"The Truth is Out There" This phrase flashed across TVs for almost a decade. Fox Mulder and Dana Skully were the focus of a show we all know as "The X-Files". This show is an odd mix of serious episodes set in a world with a hidden conspiracy and strange episodes that were just odd and strange.

I am currently watching this on Netflix and right now I'm in the season when Fox and Mulder have been kicked out of the X-Files office and kept on menial, boring assignments. They are checking up on fertilizer orders and doing mundane background checks on people. Yet, Fox has not given up on his dreams (or nightmares depending on how you view them). He is searching for proof of aliens, of spiritual anomalies, of anything abnormal...just not with the full support of his superiors.

Another character who acts like this is "The Question." Unfortunately, I have yet to get a hold of any of his comics (which are of the DC universe). I have seen him in "Justice League Unlimited" This is a great cartoon in which I thoroughly enjoyed his interactions and watching him hunt down any clues he could get in his hands. He was the crackpot of the Justice League. Very few people liked him, but his skills got him in, even with the acknowledgment of Batman.

We have a job of hunting truth as well. Proverbs 25:2 tells us:
 "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings."
There is a lot out there we do not yet know about. God wants us to investigate. Unfortunately, the Christian church isn't doing a lot of this. Sure, we pray and seek God (as we rightly should!). But do we honestly believe that He has way more out there for us? I feel like MUFON and sasquatch investigators have more excitement for the unknown than we do...which is sad since we know a God who is literally INFINITE!

I would also add that we should not be scared of things such as aliens or bigfoot. Do we really think our God would just stop creating with us? Sure, that was a big event and we do seem to hold some sort of special place in the world/universe, but most composers and painters didn't stop after their greatest work. If anything the keep on creating. For all we know, He might create a different species every day somewhere on this planet or our in the stars. He never said anything in the Bible about stopping His creative work.

Recently, I have seen two articles about Michio Kaku stating that he believes an intelligent force had a hand in creation. He has all but said he believes in God, although I think his view of God is rather impersonal. After looking at all he is finding in physics, he feels there is to much order in the world to believe it is fully random. This is an amazing thing for a man from the world of science to say. It is also a bit risky when you have so many atheists in that world clamoring to make claims that there is no evidence of God.

Romans 1 talks about God placing hints about Himself in nature. Are you looking for them? Are you asking Him for them? The amazing thing is with all that God created, He also came to meet us in the form of Christ. He came to introduce Himself to us and is still doing so but we just walk on looking at other things. Don't be like that.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Jekyll and Regina Fail

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Quick announcement, Nerd Chapel is pleased to announce that we will be doing a Sunday Morning Service at JAFAX in Grand Rapids, MI June 26. If you are at the con, come join us! We'll be in Panel room 1 at 10am.
Regina had had it. She was sick of her dark side. Sick of her past as the Evil Queen. Yes, I am referring to Once Upon a Time. Disney has a penchant for showing us moments when people realize they need to change. Normally these are heroes like the Beast or Aladdin. But now the Evil Queen is joining that crowd on OUaT.

WARNING: Spoilers for the recent season finale of Once upon a Time.

A number of our heroes found themselves in a new land in the recent season finale. A land for people wandering out of other lands. I was liking it as it had a steampunk feel but yet there seems to be a lot of stories to work from in this place. In another part of the finale they had found a bunch more books just like the book that started it all, except that these books all had different stories. I want to see more of this land! I think this is what Neverland should have been in this show.

Our friends found themselves taken by someone in an insane asylum. A servant on the premises wanted to help them but the warden wanted to keep them locked up. Although he did find a use for them so he let them escape. Here is the thing....the warden and the servant were the same man. Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hide. Perhaps they come from the land of science we saw briefly a few seasons ago? Well, the good Doctor had finally found a serum that would allow him to fully separate from his darkness and not go through transformations any more. But this meant both of them would be walking around...looking each other in the face, and challenging each other.

After they fully escaped and were back in our land, Regina was just sick of her sin and darkness. Doctor Jekyll had some of his serum left. So she took it. Facing her old self literally face to face, she reached in and pulled out the heart of her evil self and destroyed it. In a way this fits with Jesus teaching. In Luke 9:23 he tells us we must take up our crosses, die to ourselves, and follow Him. Did you notice a difference though? Jekyll's way involves either a: allowing the sin to run free or b: killing someone with your bare hands. And here is the thing, b doesn't work. The Evil Queen seemed to die at that point, but she did not.

What we are called to do is to die to our own sin, but to allow God to work in us for our own change and growth.

""I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." Galatians 2:20
"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:1-2

If you saw the  Finale, you know that now they have Mr. Hide and his friends in Storybrooke and the Evil Queen lose out in the rest of the world. Fortunately, God has other ways for us to each deal with our dark side.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Flash, Revelation and Tragedy

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

Did you see this weeks episode of The Flash?! This was a treasure trove of what the Geekpreacher would call Geek Theology.

Our good friend Barry Allen finds himself inside the Speed Force itself. But that isn't all. Someone wants to talk with him. It first takes the appearance of Joe West, but Barry knows it isn't Joe. "We were there in the beginning when the first particles came out in the Big Bang and we'll be the end." Barry realizes this is the Speed Force itself talking to him. Barry pleads for the Force to send him back to help his city, but is denied. He is instructed to go catch some black figure so he starts running.

In this episode the Speed Force acts very much like God: It takes human form just as Jesus took human form. It talks about being around in the beginning and in the end which is similar to God's promise of being the "Alpha and Omega". Similar to the account in Genesis 1 and connective with the concept of the Trinity, the Speed Force refers to itself in plural saying "we..." regularly. Finally. its reason for taking human form is communication. It wants to discuss things with Barry and even help him grow as a person. Jesus had two reasons for human form: redemption through the cross and communication through teaching and healing.

Through the episode the Speed Force takes several human forms: Iris, Barry's dad, even Barry's Mom. As it turns out, this was all to help Barry deal with his Mom's death. You see, he was so focused on finding the real killer (which he succeeded in doing) and in protecting his city and so many other things. Somehow he managed to be motivated by the death of his Mom but not fully grieve for her loss. This is what the Speed Force wanted to help him with. Do you have any issues from the past you have not dealt with? A few years ago I had to do deal with something. It had been 9 years since an incident that happened, which was shortly after my Grandma passed away. When I told a friend of mine about it she turned around and walked away from me. Somehow I did not deal with the pain of that action/moment for 9 years. But, when I did deal with it, God was there with me. As I prayed over it and cried, God released the pain and brought me to a place where I was more free and I think more mature as well.

The Speed Force, while in the form of his Mom, shared something: in this life you will always have tragedy. It wanted to make sure Barry was ready mentally and emotionally to deal with tragedies throughout the experience of life and of being a hero. This is another great connection. Jesus warned us that there would be persecution and difficulty as a Christian. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us:
 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Tragedy is part of life, yet Jesus is prepared to walk with us through it. There is a story in which someone comes to Jesus asking to be His follower and Jesus responds: I have no den. I have no place to lay my head. Simply put, following Jesus does not mean you will have zero pain. In fact, sometimes just because of life and sometimes because of your choice to follow Jesus, you will have difficulty. But Jesus is here with us to walk with us through this all.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Your Anger...

Greetings Warriors and Scholars,

How goes the waiting for Captain America:Civil War? I am quite excited for this film, although I am also excited for a next weeks Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well (because of some blue characters making an appearance).

Last night's episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. was all about Hive and the brainwashed Inhuman group he is building. Also, it was about trying to find a way to rescue Daisy. They found that the parasite creates an addiction for being in its presence on a bio-chemical level. When Fitz came into contact with Daisy, it was not a reunion he could enjoy. She used her quake power to hold him against a wall, choking him. All the time she was saying she didn't want to hurt him.

I'm sure you have never done this. I mean, why would you? Why would any of us? But we do act like this. We cover our angry actions and our sin with our so called good intentions. Just today I feel like I could have handled some things differently as I was subbing at a high school. It happens to all of us.

Monday a class I was subbing in watched part of a documentary on stress. They had watched half of it earlier and we were just finishing it.In the study of stress one man has been using Baboons. One of the groups he watched went through a big change years ago. Baboons tend to be very angry and nasty creatures. The males that lead the pack tend to be violently aggressive toward other males and females. In this group, a bunch of the aggressive males found a dump of bad meat, tainted with Tuberculosis. It killed them all, leaving the group with gentle males. As time progressed and other males came to join the group, they would try to stay aggressive and mean. But within six months they learned that this group doesn't act that way. You change or you leave. The guy doing the study made this interesting evaluation: if baboons can change a whole culture like that, we have no excuse as humans.

Scripture warns us about our behavior in so many ways. One proverb takes a lesson from ants. James uses many natural observations as analogies. A different proverb warns us about sinning in our anger. James warns us about how our words can be dangerous weapons. Think about how all this can get bad as you are watching Civil War. I have a feeling "it is all connected" as Marvel keeps saying.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Experience at Midwest Media Expo.

Greetings Scholars and Warriors!

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the Midwest Media Expo in Dearborn, MI. This was held a hotel that was recently renamed the Royal Edward Village. This put us close to a mall, which was nice as it meant restaurants were easily available, although I had a rather frustrated stomach so it wasn't much of a food weekend for me.


Overall, it was a good con. They had both a table top gaming room and a video game room and the gaming kept going pretty well. The video game room had a mix of arcade set ups (mostly dance and music related) and consoles which mostly had Smash Brothers playing. I did not see any shooters at all. The table-top room had 3 different groups providing opportunities, including the games library that is found at both Gen Con and Grand Con. There was a secondary table top area upstairs with a couple of miniature game demos and some RPGs.

Yes, that dinosaur is a cosplay, not a prop. He had fun with this.

Cosplay was a significant part of this con. It was fairly varied and a lot of fun. Lots of Rey and Kylo Ren. It even went outside where I found a Jurassic Park jeep driving around with a dinosaur in it.

There was a dealers hall in an L shape so I didn't get a good pic of it, but I did get one of half the dealer hall. The artist alley was in another room and fairly nice. Both had a lot of anime related items but there was also some leather work and comics related items. The on thing missing was prose books. They also had a "main events" room, a room with some community groups like other cons and cosplay groups, and 8 panel rooms.

Nerd Chapel was there in an official capacity. We held a Sunday morning service with 5 people in attendance. I shared a message about coming to Christ from a place of penitence and experiencing the "Word of God made flesh" in this. Indiana Jones was part of this message. Our request for a booth had been turned down but I think it was still a successful weekend.

I got to spend some time talking and praying with Jon from Portal Games. He is a fellow Christian who loves games and is on the worship team at his church. Right now they are kickstarting "Zephyr: Winds of Change". Go check it out!   

Games I played: Sheriff of Nottingham, Fortune and Glory, Dominion and Commissioned. I did not cosplay this con.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

More than a Blog

Greetings Warriors and Scholars

Well, Nerd Chapel is continuing our event line up. Next weekend (15-17) I'll be at Midwest Media Expo (M2X). It looks like Nerd Chapel won't be able to have a booth there but I'm still hoping to get an acceptance letter about that. We will be holding a worship service there Sunday morning in panel room 7 at 9:30. The message is looking at the real life versions of the challenges faced by Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade. In Sept. we will be doing a service at Grand Con at 9:00 in the seminar room. It is listed under the "other" category of events. Tonight is our monthly game night at All Shores Wesleyan Church and we also have a game night set for May and June on the 2nd Saturday of each month.

Last Saturday we held our "Gaming for China" event that helped raise money for my trip to China this summer. we had around 13 of us in attendance. A guy named Cory won the grand prize of the 10th Ann. Edition of Ticket to Ride. The prize was donated to us by Out of the Box Games and Puzzles. I've been to all 3 of their locations and met them at GrandCon. They are a great company that is Christian owned and it is always a pleasure to hang out with them.

For those who are not familiar with Nerd Chapel events, here is what we do:

For our monthly game nights I'm trying to keep them fairly diverse. Tonight I'm making a point of not bringing games we played at the March event. I am also bringing a mix of light games and heavy games. We have a prayer time at 6:00 and gaming at 6:30. I always bring some snacks and we tend to just hang out and be a fairly easy-going group.

The worship services at cons always include a few songs with some being traditional and some not so traditional. I am not a musician and I hope a volunteer who is MI based can join in and help with that. I normally do the message myself and have an analogy from somewhere in nerdom to help us look at scripture and Jesus. We often have communion using portable cups that come with both a wafer and grape juice.

I also recommend looking for the Christian Gamers Guild when you go to a con. They do services at many cons including Gen Con, Origins and some others. I think the Geekpreacher normally does a prayer time or service of some sort at Garycon each year. Fans for Christ does a service at Dragon Con and I know that last year Geeky Guys for God did one at SDCC. If you just want some good ideas for doing a regular game night for a church you can get some great ideas from Innroads Ministries or you can also ask me for further thoughts.

Please check out the Nerd Chapel FB page and search for us on You Tube.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Superheroes and Morality

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!

A few days ago I read a Polygon article about why superheroes don't kill their enemies. This was well written and I think the author, Susana Polo, did a good job expressing her concern about the articulation writers use in saying why superheroes don't kill. You can read it here. Her main point was that superheroes, on some level, believe the system can still work. That the justice system can still solve crimes and protect the innocent.

I would say it goes far deeper than that, though. God has given us many pictures of Himself throughout creation and even life itself. Marriage is meant to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His Church. Nature shows us different aspects of who God is. Romans 1 speaks of God's wrath and His speaking of truth to humanity.

"...since what may be known, about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:19-20

We all know that it is not our job to decide who lives and who dies. God placed this moral code in us. Unfortunately we also have a different moral code working in us. This is called sin and it is a code of selfishness that pushes all limits when we allow it to do so. Sin says "do what you want, consequences are irrelevant." Or, it says "you know what you are doing so why bother with listening to that other message?" This is why we have so many villains in life. Why some think it is ok to treat others with disrespect. To control everything. As you read further in Romans you will find Paul discussing the war of these two differing motivations.

I say that we don't allow killing because we know that God has a better punishment for them. Even if we claim not to believe in God, we know that He will hold each person responsible for their actions, including our own. Why doesn't Daredevil kill? Because he knows he's accountable to God for his actions. Daredevil is a catholic. He has gone to confession. Heck, the first person in the MCU to really know what Matt was doing at night was his priest.

Agents of SHIELD got into a similar argument last night. Daisy and Mac were discussing how to find out where the watchdogs were and she suggested "shaking someone down". Now, this is a strategy that Batman and Daredevil have used. Beating info out of someone who knows something. It works. We, as humans, will crack under those kinds of pressure. But Mac said something about it. "This is not about them, it is about us. We are supposed to be different." This is where things sometimes break down with superheroes. They take certain liberties the authorities can not take and it is not always a good thing. This is why The Flash sometimes gets on edge with The Green Arrow in the Arrowverse. The Flash does not accept fear tactics as legitimate or trustworthy. Instead, he goes to science for his info and he inspires people to get info from them.

The possibility of being able to win without changing gets argued often. When Elektra and Matt have this discussion about killing, he says this: "It's not hard. It's impossible. But it's a choice. I make it every day, sometimes every second. And you can to." When we are not capable of dealing with something without sin, we turn to Christ. He strengthens us and motivates us for righteousness. 

Do we as humans believe in a justice system? Yes, but not because of a societal system. We believe in a justice system because God has endowed it with rights. God has given us a deep seeded notion of justice but it isn't just about the system. It is about who we are both within and without that system. Not killing is a choice. Rather than an inaction it is an action of recognition; that God will decide the fate of this person, not you.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holy Week or Nerd Week?

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

This is quite a week, isn't it? There is a lot going on in both the faith community and the nerd community. A busy, crazy week for sure.

I have just finished the second season of Daredevil on Netflix. I have something in mind I'm saving for later inspired by this, but my first impressions are pretty positive. I think they furthered the MCU along pretty well. I am excited for "Dawn of Justice" to come out this week. Can you believe they are putting that out on Easter weekend? That is wild. I also have multiple things going on Saturday. Nerd Chapel is going to be at the Grand Rapids Toys and Collectibles Expo and then I'm going to a game day at a friends house.

It could be really easy for all of us to get off track this week. I think I already have been in some ways. I probably will go to the movies this weekend, if I can figure out the time and find someone else to go with me. Yet I do feel like it is easy for me to focus so much on all our enjoyable media that I lose sight, even if temporarily, on what this week really is about. Let me remind us.

Jesus didn't just come to teach. He didn't just come to heal. He came to bring a whole new reality to the universe. He came to die and be a sacrifice that would change everything. All those times we get excited because heroes are changing things in our stories? That is just fiction. This is real. This is what changed the world and is continuing to change it.

Admittedly, I don't have any personal traditions for this week. I have collective traditions such as helping with tech on Easter morning at my church. I often will read parts of the Holy Week story through the week or just sit down alone at some point in the week to read it straight through. Sometimes traditions help honor what we need to remember and sometimes we get caught up in doing traditions just so they are done. It is different for each person and I don't know what works best for you. Although I will say this: do not miss Easter morning. If you can, attend a Good Friday service as well.

This week, as we remember the sacrifice and victory of Christ, let that be forefront in our minds. Even while we watch Batman and Superman fight on screen and while we get excited for the Flash to come meet Supergirl next week or watch Daredevil. Keep Christ in mind. Remember He has set quite an example for the heroes in your mind. He has won not by beating up others, but by healing and taking the big blow himself.

The King is Risen. He is risen indeed.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lion and the Lamb

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Found on the Sentinels Wiki.

I hope your March is coming in more like a lion than a lamb for you, unless you are like me and enjoy thunderstorms. A few weeks ago I got to play as "The Naturalist" in Sentinels of the Multiverse. If you haven't played it, Sentinels is a card game that is cooperative. You all play as heroes fighting a villain in a chosen environment. It is a great game. The Naturalist could have been inspired by any of several DC comics characters (Beast Boy seems to me to be the most likely, but you also have Vixen and Animal Man). He morphs into different animals to use their abilities and he has 3 specific animals for you to choose from (Crocodile, Rhinoceros, and Gazelle). Our villain literally kept putting me in a cage again and again...but finally my guy broke out of it as a crocodile and finished him off. Don't worry, my comrades did a lot to bring him down and help me out.

This last Sunday at church we sang "Lion and the Lamb". It was rather fortunate timing since we were about to coming into the month that is said to come in like a lion or a lamb, but it made me think about some things.

These two ideas are rather polarized from each other. A lamb is very calm and gentle; but sheep are also easy to control. You send a dog out and they'll have them all corralled for you. Lions are wild. They are called the king of the jungle because they don't listen to anyone (remind you of owning a cat?). They control their territory and man has no influence on their decisions (although they do tend to stay away from cities, I think). Send a dog our to tame a lion and you won't get your dog back. You have an animal who is all power and an animal who is all about gentleness.

Beastboy is known to change into many animals. I don't think I've heard of him changing into a lamb before. Even the Naturalist from Sentinels of the Multiverse doesn't use lambs, and this is a guy who turns into gazelles (albeit for their speed). But scripture uses this as a significant symbol. In fact, lambs were very important for the sacrificial system in Jewish Temple life. In John 1:29, John the Baptist called Jesus the "Lamb of God" one time when he saw him approaching. Side note, I can't imagine growing up knowing your slightly younger cousin was the savior of the world. That must have been crazy! Revelation 5 refers to Jesus as both a lion and a lamb. John is weeping and an angel says "stop weeping, the Lion of Judah will do it." When John looks, he sees a 'lamb that was slain" standing in the spot of the Lion.

Jesus is powerful. The gospels record dozens of miracles of power that he performed including raising the dead and healing people of many ailments. Yet, when Jesus was arrested, he did nothing. He didn't call down angels to defend him. He actually stopped Peter from physically defending him and then healed one of the men sent to arrest him. With all the power of the Lion, Jesus didn't use the Lion card. He chose the Lamb card for that moment. He chose to accept the cross, a very painful form of death, knowing it would be torturous.

He did this for you and me and even that neighbor you don't like who is really annoying. Jesus accepted a painful death, one of the most painful in history, because he cares about us all. He chose to be the sin offering for us, just like the lambs were in the temple. He did this so you can draw close to God and experience Him in your life. Does a ticket to Heaven come with it? Sure, but not in the sense of just sitting all comfy on a cloud. Read Hebrews 9:11-15 and/or Romans 3:21-26. Freedom from sin and new life of righteousness in God are the goals.

Jesus didn't break out of his cage. He chose to stay so His death would pave way for us to live in righteousness. I think that beats Animal Man and Beast Boy and The Naturalist any day of the week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Jesus' Apprentices

Greetings Warriors and Scholars!'s_Apprentice?
Sunday night I watched The Disneyland 60th Anniversary tribute. As I processed how they were celebrating the lifework of a man of amazing imagination, I started to think about something. It happened during a performance they showed of the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing a piece of Fantasia. The piece was "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". We all remember this one, right? Mickey Mouse is cleaning for a sorcerer and he decides to use a little magic, bringing a mop to life and having it do the work for him. He gets swept up in the craziness of what seems to be dream and in the end finds his mentor back with a nasty look on his face.

How easy is it to feel like God is that way? We think he just wants us to do chores for him with a seat watching Him work. Now, admittedly, watching God work is amazing. And even being asked to do a chore for the King of Kings should come as an honor to us. But what if God has more in mind than that?
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15
Jesus doesn't just see you as a droid to fix things around the house. He wants us to be His friends. Notice how much He has shared with us? "for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."  Everything. Not some stuff. Not a few things. Everything.

Jesus taught us a lot. Just read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7 or his many parables found throughout Luke. But Jesus taught us more than that. He was speaking with men who had lived with him for years. These men had watched him heal people of blindness, feed thousands, and even meet serious needs when he was tired and ready to rest.

Jesus doesn't look down at us in anger as if we are messing with powers we know nothing about. This is amazing considering how undeserving we often are of Him. He sees us with all the potential we have for good. He doesn't miss out on our weaknesses. No mentor ever does. But He sees the full picture of what you can be and what you are now.

Today, I ask you to do a simple thing: ask Jesus to show you the potential He sees in you. This might include good things you can accomplish or current sin you can overcome. Don't expect His vision of who you can be to be an easy one. Do know He has so much more for you than the Sorcerer had planned for Mickey Mouse.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Holy Heroes Review

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

I have just had the privilege of reading an excerpt from "Holy Heroes: The Gospel According to DC & Marvel" by Scott Bayles. I first heard about it a couple months ago when Scott shared info about it in the FB group for "Costumers for Christ", an organization he leads that uses cosplay to share the Gospel at conventions. I had not even known he was working on a book like this. Here is a discription of the book:

Author, pastor, and founder of the cosplay ministry Costumers for Christ, Scott Bayles is passionate about teaching spiritual life lessons based on the stories of comic book heroes. Likening the legends of superheroes to modern-day parables, Bayles connects the timeless truths of God’s Word with the stories of Batman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, the X-Men, and others. So, if you’re a fan of DC and Marvel and a follower of Jesus—or if you’d like to know more about one or the other—then this book is for you! Ultimately, you’ll discover Jesus is the greatest superhero of all! Great for older teens, young adults—and beyond! Key features: Builds a bridge from the fictional world of superheroes to the one true superhero—Jesus Christ. Chapters feature easy-to-follow headings that make excellent sermon outlines for pastors. Includes discussion questions for small groups and features cosplay photos to introduce each character.

This portion was only a little more than 2 pages long, but it was very enjoyable. His enthusiasm for super heroes and cosplay is very evident. In this portion he shared his memory of seeing the first "Iron Man" movie in theater with his wife and 2 year old son. He shared his personal story about building an Iron Man armor and then brings us to look at the Armor of God.

Now, this portion only gave me a small view of how he weaves his faith in with these stories, but it did show me the most important part: Scott is fully nerd and fully Christian. This isn't some guy trying to be famous with a "niche ministry" gone big, but a nerd who simply wants to share Jesus with people via his hobbies. I am not sure if this will have huge theological lessons, but it will be great reminders of what God is doing through Jesus and what He has for you.

If you are a Christian nerd, like me, this book will be a great tool. A way to enjoy fandom and take some steps with Jesus in your own life. I have already pre-ordered my copy, which comes out in May. I ordered mines straight from the publisher, but later learned that you can pre-order it here for a fair price.