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.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Alma Con Report

Greetings Scholars and Warriors.

This weekend Nathan Marchand and I had the pleasure of attending Alma Con. This is an anime/gaming con held at Alma College in mid-Michigan.

Friday went fairly well. We had a group of guys come over who are Christ-followers who were very excited to find us. They bought a couple books but said they'd be unable to attend the service on Sunday. We also had an interesting discussion with a panelist who is a Buddhist (although he follows a rare off-shoot with it's own interesting story). He was quite pleasant to talk with and we had hoped he'd be able to stop by our table again but that did not happen.

The next day was the long day at the table. Over the day we had a few people stop by and find out what we're about with many people just moving along. One of those people was a guy who follows "the church of satan". This gentleman does not believe satan exists (which is normal in this particular organization). He was surprisingly supportive of what we do.

What I found most interesting on Saturday was getting a feel for the experience of a con on a college campus. As I walked around for different things you could feel the confusion on some of the student's who are not part of the culture. "Here come the nerds" I heard on girl say before we passed each other going opposite directions. I don't know if she realizes we have owned up to the word yet. One blessing of the situation was a kindness by some students. There were a couple times when students came over and offered to use their meal plans to get food for us. This really helped us, both because it meant free food and also because it meant we could get food without leaving the table.

Saturday night we attended Macsith (more on that later) and checked out a "cosplay ball". The play was amazing, the dance was not that exciting for us. They did use a lot of Anime music and even played "The Time Warp" but it wasn't the scene I was hoping for.

Sunday was a slow day for Alma Con, but not without a plethora of events. The con does offer a lot of events which is great for attendees. Unfortunately, our chapel service was a service of 2. No one came out for it besides Nathan and I, although a few times kids popped their heads in and left when they saw us there. We sang a couple songs and took communion and I shared my message with him. I felt nothing would be accomplished if we just left.

Nathan left after the service. I had a few more people stop by, including one girl who came at the end of the vending hours. She has had a rough time in life so along with sharing about our fandom choices, we also shared a moment of prayer. I think this was probably one of the more personally motivating moments for me because this is one of the aspects of ministry that Christ calls us to.

Overall this was a good weekend. I do recommend this con for anime fans in the MI area.

Here are a few organizations I connected with this weekend that I recommend checking out for yourselves:

Ohio Kimono: this was one of our neighbors in the vendor hall. She recognized me from Gen Con rather quickly and we enjoyed having discussion with her all weekend long. Visit her site here for authentic Japanese kimonos.

MIGeekScene: This is a blogger who goes to a lot of cons in Michigan. He was very cool and his site is great for learning what is going on in the state of MI in terms of nerd/geek culture. Check it out here.

Edge of Orion: Saturday night this Chicago based theater company performed Macsith. An adaptation of Macbeth that places it in the Star Wars universe while keeping the traditional language and story. Another amazing facet of this organization is a program that provides theater opportunities for kids with disabilities. Visit the website!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"The Husbands of River Song" (a guest post by Joe Vanderstelt)

SPOILERS! (seriously I'm just saying that because it's Doctor Who) 

First a little history, River Song is a thief with patience or an archaeologist. Her and The Doctor both travel through time and space mostly in different directions. They are married but that's complicated because they don't follow the same path through time. You might need a flowchart.
The episode revolves around River Song not recognizing the The Doctor. You see River rightly believes that The Doctor can only have 12 regenerations, but "a thing" happened and he has regenerated past 12. She is unaware of the 13th (current) Doctor, she is looking for one the past 12. Even though she gives him the nickname "The Damsil", she is looking for help from him and cannot find it. She cannot see what is literally right in front of her, right next to her in her time of need, but I'll get to that. 

First let's talk about two men. Two walking down a road when another man joined them, the two men also didn't recognize who he was. At one point River was to wrapped up with what she was doing, including getting drinks to failed to see the obvious. We give her a little break, The Doctor does keep changing appearances, and the man who joined the two men we are told also changed appearances. So I think we need to give them a little break.
The two men were followers of Jesus, on their way to Emmaus, shortly after Jesus was crucified. It was Jesus that joined and for whatever reason they were "kept from recognizing him." River was kept from recognizing The Doctor because she believed The Doctor could only regenerate 12 times. Maybe, like River, they were to caught up in them selves or limited by their own understanding. 
Jesus was a popular name back then, just as “Doctor” can refer to many professions. I wonder during the conversation were the two men on the road like “wow Jesus, you really get it” to the man that joined them.

After displaying some knowledge of the inner workings of TARDIS (The Doctor's ship) River says “you are good” and The Doctor responding with “yes for a Doctor.” I can just see Jesus saying “Yes I do understand what you are telling about Jesus”. On and on the conversations go till, like The Doctor, they get to a point where he says something like "Seriously?" with a look of utter amazement that they are getting seeing who is with them. 

The Doctor, while river doesn't recognize him, goes though some interesting stages. First we see his response to her being married to someone else, Hydroflax. It's not exactly as simple as that, you might need a bigger flow chart. Then the interesting parts come. River is not just talking about, she is going to murder Hydroflax for a jewel he has in his head and is asking The Doctor for help. Seeing River in a way he might not approve of The Doctor ask "Is this what your like when I'm not...?" and them they are discovered. River reveals she is doing it because Hydroflax is evil and she will do anything to stop him. How would God see if God were with us right now? Would he see you or me as the murderous selfish type or the type that would do anything to stop evil?
After some Dr Who type fun we find The Doctor and River laying in the snow being threatened by Hydroflax's live head in a gym bag. Yes it sounds ridiculous, it is. That's why we find The Doctor and River laughing. I would like to think that if Jesus was with us he would spend time like this, laughing at the silly things and enjoying the relationships. "I can't approve of any of this, but I haven't laughed in a really long time" – The Doctor  

I'm going skip past the parallels of River telling The Doctor, not knowing it is him, that she is going to steal the TARDIS and The Doctor saying "He'll know" and God knowing everything. 

What would it be like having an honest conversation with God not knowing it has him? When the The Doctor sees River reading from the diary he gave her, notices she is sad, and asks about it. She responds with "the man who gave this to me is the type of man who would know exactly how long of a diary you would need." Seeing the sadness The Doctor responds with "He sounds awful". Then River proceeds to tell the The Doctor, the man she loves, that he is nobody special. Have you ever had those thoughts creep into your mind or said them? That Jesus/God is no one special? How would it feel if someone you loved said that about you? 

In crescendo of the episode we find River and The Doctor in some danger from some followers of Hydroflax. The Doctor so far has done everything he can to help, save, and protect River and she has still does not see that it is him. The followers are going to use River as bait for The Doctor, claiming "Your the woman he loves". The Doctor is actually standing right next to her at this point in time. Rivers responds truthfully "the doctor does not and has never loved me." "You are the woman who loves the doctor" someone claims. Did you catch that? the change in direction. "Yes I am, I've never denied it." You ever feel like River that your love is one directional? Or that God doesn't care?

"When you love the Doctor, it's like loving the stars themselves. You don't expect a sunset to admire you back. And if I happen to find myself in danger, let me tell you, the Doctor is not stupid enough, or sentimental enough, and he is certainly not in love enough to find himself standing in it with me!" - River 

Then sometimes all it takes is a few words. 
"Hello, sweetie." - The Doctor 

A lot of people talk about footprints in the sand. That's not what this is, and doesn't seem to be how God operates most of the time. It's not God carrying us through troubled times, it's God in the person next to us helping us. Standing there beside us in our times of need, when we do things he can't approve of. God's always with us how have you been "kept from recognizing him."?
Written by Joe Vanderstelt, a gamer, capable tech geek, and Whovian who is following Jesus.