Translate

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Birthday

It's Christmas day, and the kids got up early to see what Santa brought them.  My wife and I exchanged some additional presents, and we have cinnamon rolls baking in the oven (a tradition in our house).  We're enjoying some relaxing family time, as well as the gifts we were given.  It's a pretty typical traditional Christmas.

I don't regret the secular aspects of the season, but sometimes we have to be reminded of the rest of it.  Did you know that today is a birthday?  How many of you have forgotten this?  Okay, yes, I know that Jesus was likely born in the Spring and that many "traditional" Christmas beliefs and decorations are related to pagan celebrations.  Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and that is the focus of the holiday.  People many centuries ago chose this time to recognize His birth, and we continue that tradition today.

The birth of Jesus Christ was one of the most defining moments in human history (and arguably THE most defining moment).  For Christians this is one of our most special celebrations, where we recognize the humble earthly beginnings of God's son.  And even if you're not a Christian, the coming of Jesus defined human civilization from that point forward.  A baby's birth is a joyous time...this is even more true when it is the birth of the Savior.

Part of my family's Christmas tradition is to recognize that this is a birthday.  We will read the Christmas story from the Bible, and make a birthday cake for Jesus.  It is important to us as parents to make sure that our children don't get so lost in the presents and decorations, and that they keep in mind the REAL reason for the holiday.

So happy birthday to Jesus!  He is the greatest gift we could ever receive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Keeping the "Merry" in Christmas

Merry 
adjective, mer⋅ri⋅er, mer⋅ri⋅est.
1. full of cheerfulness or gaiety; joyous in disposition or spirit: a merry little man.
2. laughingly happy; mirthful; festively joyous; hilarious: a merry time at the party.
3. Archaic. causing happiness; pleasant; delightful.


Among many people, mainly Christians, the popular phrasing this time of year is "keep the Christ in Christmas".  And while I completely agree with this idea, I think we forget about the other part of "Merry Christmas".


How many of us have been frustrated by long lines and crowds?  A few days ago my family and I drove down to the local mall to shop and see Santa (my kids are 7 and 8).  The traffic was utterly horrible and set me on edge pretty quickly.  The mall itself wasn't too bad, but we waited in the Santa line for almost an hour and only making it half-way before we got tired of it and talked our kids into leaving.  The longer the day went on the worse the moods of my wife and myself became.  And honestly, we were probably among the nicer of people out and about for the holiday.  All of us have seen people behave in a very unfriendly and even hostile way during the Christmas season.  We've also all seen reports on TV of people being trampled and fighting each other in the search for the hottest toy or gadget of the season.  We talk a lot about the "Christmas spirit" and then lament when so many people loose this spirit, as seems all too common.


This is the season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  For Christians, this should be one of the greatest times of year.  While Easter may be the culmination of Jesus's Earthly mission, Christmas is the time of His birth.  All of the songs and stories around the birth of Christ are centered around celebration.  This is a season to be happy and joyful because of what it means to us.  If we're really going to keep Christ in Christmas, then we need to not just say it, but also embrace what Christ really means.  Never forget that the birth of a baby is always a joyous and miraculous event with people crying in joy and celebrating.  Shouldn't the birth of the savior of all mankind be even more joyous?  And isn't that the real meaning behind "merry".



So as you spend time with family and finish any last-minute shopping, don't forget to be Merry.  Doing so will celebrate the season more than anything else you can do.














Monday, December 14, 2009

Swordsman

Several years ago I joined a new web site and was looking for an avatar name.  At the time I had recently gotten very heavily into the 7th Sea role-playing game; at the same time I have always thought of swashbuckling as very exciting, loving the genre in movies and literature.  So, just because it sounded cool, I took the name "Swordsman".  I became very well known on that site, and when I started getting involved in other sites I kept the name.  Now it's become a pretty well-known handle of mine online.  At the time I just thought it was a cool name.  But in the five years I have been using it, I realize that it has a completely different meaning, and one even more appropriate to me.

The Bible mentions "sword" 406 times.  This isn't really surprising, as it was the main weapon of a soldier throughout the times of the Old and New Testaments.  And usually the word is used purely as a description of weapon of war.  But God uses the word in a more figurative sense as well.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."
 Matthew 10:34


Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:17


For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 
Hebrews 4:12


In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
Revelation 1:16


Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Revelation 2:16

The context of these passages (in a way even the one in Matthew) is that God's Word is a weapon.  A sword can kill or defend.  It cuts things and divides them.  Similarly, the words and edicts of God can kill His enemies, defend His children, separate those opposed to Him, and cut out sins.  As Christians, we are specifically called on to wield this weapon.  Make no mistake, we are in a spiritual battle.  Satan and his influence is all around us.  Yes, God's armor (see the rest of Ephesians 6) can protect us, but we can't effectively take the fight back to the devil with a breastplate, leggings, and shield.  We need that sword!  By taking the Bible in our hand, and truly understanding and applying its lessons, we can stand against anything Satan can throw at us.

So calling myself "Swordsman" now has a meaning beyond what I originally intended.  It's also appropriate as a ninjate, since the one weapon that pirates and ninjas have in common is a sword.  So fellow Christian ninjates, it's time to take up your Sword, fight the devil, and defend fellow believers!  It's time for all of us to start considering outselves Swordsmen and Swordswomen!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The 20/80 Rule

It's a general rule in church (and I've heard it in other areas as well) that 20% of the people are responsible for 80% of the work and offerings.  I've seen it to be pretty much true, and this really bothers me. So forgive me if I rant a little.

Everyone has different gifts.  Not everyone can preach, sing, teach, or cook.  But some have a gift of organizing.  Some can help clean.  Some can help build for special events.  Some make great greeters or have the gift of hospitality.  Everyone is blessed with different abilities.  And a key is that EVERYONE has something they can offer. So everybody in a congregation has a way that they can join in and help out. However, you will generally see the same people always doing things, and the rest of the church sitting back and letting them.

Tithes are another issue, and really needs a whole 'nother blog.  But once again you'll see about 20% of the people truly giving and the other 80% giving less than they really can or not giving at all.

These numbers bother me, and I don't understand them.  I've never been one to simply sit and warm a pew, and though I can't do everything, I certainly try to use my gifts and do my part. To me it's simply giving back to God, using His blessings to find a way to serve other people.  When I see people not participating I wonder if they realize that they're being selfish and hoarding God's gifts to them.  I wonder if they realize that all of the events at the church and the classes don't magically happen on their own.  I wonder if they realize that they're denying themselves further blessings by not allowing God to truly work through them.

If you're one of these people, please stop and look at what God has done in your life.  If another person gives you a Christmas present, don't you want to give something back to them?  Serving in the church is a big way that you can give back to God.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Tiny Fingers Of God

The greatest miracle of this season is the birth of Jesus Christ.  We celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior, and talk about him being the Lord of lords, King of kings, Prince of peace, and so on.  Christ is majestic and holy, glorious and mighty, and we need to never forget that.  But I think that the extent of the miracle is sometimes forgotten.

Jesus was born human.  It's so hard for us to understand this because He is God incarnate, a holy being brought into a mortal form.  We honor and acknowledge His divinity, but forget His mortality.  Jesus was perfect, but He was also as human as the rest of us, with all that being human entails.

When Mary gave birth to Jesus, there were labor pains and contractions.  She had to change Jesus and clean him up after he went to the bathroom.  Jesus had to learn how to walk, as being ethically and spiritually perfect doesn't give automatic balance; this means he also would have fallen down and bruised himself.  Jesus had to learn how to talk as any child does.  He had to learn his father's tade, how to read, write, and count.  Jesus Christ had to grow, learn, and develop just like any of the rest of us. 

To me, this makes the miracle of Jesus even more special.  He truly experienced everything that we do.  He had challenges and hardships just like the rest of us.  He had siblings to deal with, adults to learn from, and pains to deal with.  Having gone through all of this makes Him even better at understanding us and being able to intercede for us before God.

Let's celebrate the miracle of the birth of Jesus as a human. And recognize that the true miracle is that Christ is just as human as He is divine.  The true miracle is not His birth, but Jesus himself!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are You Really Listening?

We're officially in the Christmas season, and that means lots of Christmas music playing.  You can hear it in the malls, on TV, and all over the radio with some stations playing nothing but seasonal music.  Just about everyone in America can sing at least a little of songs like "Joy To The World", "Silent Night", and "O Little Town of Bethlehem". These songs are ubiquitous and a part of our societal culture.  But how many people are really listening to the words?

Traditional Christmas songs are all about the birth of Jesus, how wonderful that is, and how much that has changed our world.

Round yon virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.

Joy, to the world, the Lord is come.
Let Earth receive her king.

When people sing these songs, are they really paying attention to what they are saying?  Is there meaning behind these words anymore, or do people just sing along without understanding the meaning behind the lyrics?  These songs have powerful messages of wonder and joy.  And they're all about Jesus!

So as you listen to the music this season, take time to stop and actually hear the words. Take them to heart, and make an effort to understand them.  I think you may be surprised at how it can warm you better than any heater.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Give Thanks

I like looking in the Bible and seeing how many times a word comes up.  I feel that this can indicate how important God thinks that topic is.  Today is the holiday of Thanksgiving, so I looked in the Bible (through the wonders of computer programs) and found that words containing "thanks" appear 110 times.

Sometimes when things are going really bad in our lives, we have a hard time finding anything to be thankful for.  It can be very hard to look to God and find something to thank Him for.  Yet that's probably the best thing for us to do. It's easy to be thankful in the good times.  But when times are tough, and we take the time to seek out something to be thankful for, we can focus on that bright spot.

The brightest spot of all is God Himself.  No matter what else is happening, we can thank Him for who He is.  He is gracious, loving, merciful, powerful, and focused on wanting the best for us.  So today take some time to thank God for at least one thing in your life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where Is Your Heart?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:34

This is a passage that is pretty familiar to most Christians.  And I think most people misunderstand the meaning.  Many people seem to think that it means "whatever you feel with your heart, that's where you will put your resources."  But this is not the correct interpretation.  Take a look at the words again.  The passage means "where you put your resources indicates where your heart is."

I've been a bit convicted of this recently, considering the infrequent updates of this blog.  I update my other blog multiple times per week, but this one is lucky to get updated that many times per month.  Where do I put most of my effort?  That's apparently where my heart is, and this isn't a good thing.

As a veterinarian, I see people spend more money on grooming their dogs than doing proper preventative care.  Preventing disease is much more important to the pet's health, but the people put their priority on the physical appearance of the pet.  I think most people would agree that the pet owner is putting the emphasis on the wrong thing.  This indicates that their "heart" is not on the true care of the pet.

Don't we do this with God?  How many times do we fail to pay tithe or give to our church but then go out and spend $50 on a meal?  How many times do we fail to spend five minutes per day reading the Bible, yet will spend a few hours watching TV?  And I'm as guilty of this as anyone else!  It's easy for us to put things related to God on the back burner in our lives, making other things a priority.  And I'm afraid this indicates that our heart isn't on God.

So let's pray for each other to start putting our treasures where our heart should be...on God!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Joyful?

The word "joy", or words containing it (such as "joyful"), appears in the Bible 242 times.  So it must be important, right?


For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
Deuteronomy 16:15


David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.
1 Chronicles 15:16

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.
Job 8:21


The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Psalm 19:8


But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.
Pslam 68:3

So exactly what is joy?  And how do we feel it?  Honestly, I wish that I had all of the answers.  Sure, it's easy to talk about being joyful, but it's pretty hard to actually do.  As Christians we should have "the joy of the Lord" at all times.  Right?  But then the car breaks down when our bills haven't been paid, our paycheck isn't what we thought it would be, our boss is driving us crazy, our kids are failing, and so on...  Maintaining that joy can be pretty hard at times.

Maybe it would help to see exactly what joy is.  I mean, do we really know what that word means and what it feels like?  Here's a video you may or may not have seen.



That's how God wants us to be!  No worries, no thoughts, just delight in His creation.  That baby elk is having a ton of fun.  Now, I know, that animal doesn't have bills and responsibilities.  But maybe...just maybe...we can sometimes put those things away.  When we pause and concentrate on God, we can feel that Joy. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

unChristian: Hypocritical

So now that things have calmed down a bit in my own life (just finished performing in Much Ado About Nothing with my wife), I can get back to my plan to further discuss David Kinnaman's book, unChristian.  Today I want to concentrate on one of the biggest perceptions about Christians...that we are hypocritical.

What does it mean to be hypocritical?  Basically it means to say one thing and do another.  With Christians it means talking a lot about God, Jesus, and the teachings of the Bible, but not acting on them in any significant way.  One quote from Kinnaman's book really grabbed me, and it speaks to some Christians.  A woman told of her husband abusing her, "even though he taught Bible studies about how husbands should love their wives."  A man interviewed for the study said "My former pastor used to teach baptism by immersion, then he got a better job with the Presbyterians and now he teachs baptism can be done by sprinkling.  What you believe depends on where your paycheck is coming from, I guess." 

Wow, is this how Christians are really seen?  Among young non-Christians surveyed, 85% know at least one commited Christian, yet only 15% thought that the lifestyles of those Christians were singificantly different from the norm.  When born-again believers were surveyed as to their own lifestyles, they were statistically just as likely as non-Christians to gamble, become drunk, view pornography, and other bad behaviors.  I hate to say it, but it's not rare to see Christians talking a lot about how Christ is working in their lives, but then failing to see this happening.  I've seen it in people around me, and have been guilty of it myself.

So what does all of this mean?  Well, we Christians are human, and full of sin just like anyone else.  Unfortunately, having a faith in Jesus does not keep us from making mistakes.  We're going to mess up despite our best intentions.  But hopefully we won't do it as willingly as non-Christians.

Kinnaman talks about "transparency", and I think this can be a good model.  This means that we need to be open with people about our failings, and apologize for them.  We can't have a "holier than thou" attitude and think that we're better than anyone else.  When we mess up, we need to fess up (to draw on my Southern heritage) and admit to the mistake.  We also need to have transparency about ourselves, realize our hypocracy, and work hard to fix this problem.  Knowing that we're ambassadors from Jesus to the world, and that our actions influence people's opinions about God, Jesus, and Christianity, we need to more actively study our own behaviors and see if they meet with the Bible's standards.  Holding a mirror up to ourselves is a difficult but necessary step.

If we're going to have people believe what we say about God, we need them to be able to trust us.  If they see us as hypocrites, they won't give us that trust.  We also want people to be drawn to Christianity and want to become Christians.  But to do that, we need to show them a better, non-hypocrotical person.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

unChristian

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book at Family Christian Bookstore that was 50% off...unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. I am a non-traditional Christian and came from a background where Christ wasn't the center of our family. Having come to faith in Jesus later in life, I have a different perspective than many Christians. So I am interested in how to reach people in a non-traditional way (hence the way I do ministries). So this book caught my attention.

Kinnaman works for the Barna Group, a well-known polling company who studies Christianity and religious trends in society. This book is the result of extensive study of the opinions and views of people both within and without Christianity. The data is fascinating, especially in how "outsiders" view Christians. Kinnaman focuses on six big viewpoints of these people towards Christianity, why they feel this way, and what we might be able to do to change these perceptions. I'm not going to go into too many details now, as I plan on discussing it more during this month.

Frankly, I think that this book should be required reading for anyone involved in minstry or churches. There are reasons why younger people are turning away from Christianity, and we have done it to ourselves. By appearing judgemental, hypocritical, bigoted, and other negative traits, we have pushed people away from us. Our attitudes have taken away from the true message that God has for us. Really, we have no one to blame but ourselves. This is why every Christian minister and teacher should absolutely read this book. Believe me, it will change how you view your duties, outreach, and the world around you.

But that's a good thing. We need to recapture society and be viewed differently. Only by showing people how wonderful God is and his incredible grace will people want to turn to Him. And it's really about people wanting to be involved with Jesus....we can't force them to. The message is great, but we need to improve as messengers. Since we did this to ourselves and to God's Kingdom, we can also change it back. A book like unChristian can help us by identifying our failures. It's a harsh mirror that Kinnaman holds up, but it's one we need to look in.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I will be briefly discussing some of the highlights of it in the upcoming weeks, but it won't be the same as reading the book yourself. Click on the image to go to one of the online retailers where you can buy it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Are You Approachable?

This year at Dragon*Con one of our Fans For Christ members received a compliment from someone at the fan table registration area, which was right next to our table for the weekend. She said that we were most approachable and easy to talk to Christians she had ever been around. At first I thought "Great! That's what we're trying to do! We want to show non-Christians that we're really no different than them and want them to be able to talk to us." But the more I thought about it, the more I felt it was a strong, bad, but well-deserved statement on modern Christianity.

Many people see conservative Christians as prudish, judgmental, elitist, and isolationist. As much as I hate to admit it, this does hold true in many cases. My father's next-door neighbor is a Baptist minister and wife, and they are poorly regarded by the entire neighborhood. They have created so many problems by their negative attitudes and picky behaviors towards other people. This has made my father rather cynical about Christianity. After all, this minister is acting as a representative of Christ to other people, and he's not being a good ambassador.

A friend of ours was excited about being a part of a newly created church. They are fans and geeks, go to cons, and run a comic and gaming store. They thought that their pastor was accepting of them, their hobbies, and their business, and they were looking forward to being able to invite their friends to a church that would accept these eccentricities. Then their pastor told them that they had to be careful about these things because it might reflect poorly on the church. The pastor was worried about what people would think about appearances, not as much about what was in their hearts.

Is this the image that non-Christians see? Unfortunately, yes. This is more common that I would like to admit, but I have to be truthful. And this is totally against what Jesus did! He was criticized by the religious leaders of his time because He hung around sinners, beggars, prostitutes, and others that were considered pariahs by "polite society". Did Jesus worry about that? No. He openly defied the temple leaders and others by going where people were in need. And he made himself approachable and easy to talk to. Shouldn't we be like Jesus?

We are supposed to be showing people God's love for them. We are supposed to reach out to those that nobody else wants. How can we do this if we hold ourselves off and are constantly condemning or insulting people? We can't. If we want to truly fulfill the Great Commission, we need to make ourselves real and approachable. We need to make people comfortable around us. Look at my Ninjate points 6-8 on the side bar. Become the kind of Christian that people want to be around and you'll have a much better chance of leading them into the arms of God.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Christian Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Many traditional Christians wouldn't touch a science-fiction or fantasy novel with a ten foot pole. There is something about the genres that makes some Christians worry that these are anti-Christ stories or that the subjects somehow are against God. Those same people seem to forget that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were some of the penultimate fantasy writers that people still emulate today, and both were strong Christians who included Biblical themes in their books. Many people may not realize that Lewis also wrote sci-fi. So if these authors can include Christianity in their novels, why can't modern writers?

That's why I wanted to give a little plug to a few people I know. My wife and I met Michelle Weston at Dragon*Con, and were excited to talk to her. She is a published author that wants to write more Christian-themed fantasy fiction in the vein of Lewis. She gave us one of her books, which I am very much looking forward to reading. You can find her at www.elysianchronicles.com or www.mbweston.com. She was very supportive of what we were doing through Fans For Christ at the con, and I admire her desire to do genre work.

There is a newer publisher that has decided to concentrate on Christian speculative fiction, and is growing its library of books. Marcher Lord Press is trying to show writers and fans that you can be a Christian, write Christian themes, and still have genre settings. I love what they do and think they have some great books (which I'll review at another time).

I know that I don't have a wide readership on this blog, but maybe I can influence some of you to support other Christians and check out some of these books. We can follow Christ and still read fun stories that aren't set in our modern world.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009

The last few weeks have been pretty hectic preparing for our annual Dragon*Con trip, hence the even less than regular updates. But I'm home now, and thanks to God had a great time. For a full report, you can read it on the Fans For Christ website, at this link.

One of he biggest things I learned at the con was that God is faithful and will provide. In the weeks leading up to the con my family ran into some pretty frustrating and depressing problems with cars and finances. We worried that we weren't going to be able to pay for things. Even though we knew that Satan was trying to keep us away, and this was really a spiritual battle, it was still pretty hard. It shouldn't have been. We have been in tough situations before, and God has never let us down.

We humans are pretty bad worriers. We fret and wring our hands and moan about not knowing how we'll get through. God must be sadly shaking his head at any Christians doing this. After our service on Sunday, I was talking to my wife about it and was amazed at God's grace and providence, berating myself for ever being concerned. God showed us in some incredible ways that he wanted us at the con and would take care of us. We shouldn't be surprised, as this is exactly what He promised! The same is true in the rest of our lives. It's pretty scary some times, but if we trust in and rely on God fully, he will take care of us.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blessed To Be A Blessing

The Lord and said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Genesis 12:1-3

Many of us have heard the saying "we are blessed in order to be a blessing." I have seen that recently in my life. Both of our vehicles broke down in the same week, but thankfully we have a man in our church that owns an auto repair shop. He drove with my wife's father almost an hour away to help her when the belt on the van broke. And he wanted us to bring it to his shop a few days later so he could do a more permanent fix. He also replaced the water pump on my car the week before. And in both cases he let us do this with minimal payment, knowing that we would pay him back in the upcoming months. Because of him, we now have safe, driveable vehicles when we don't have the ability to immediately pay for repairs. He truly blessed us by his actions.

Today a woman in our church came up to me and told me that she had discovered a lump on her dog's neck, but they barely have the money to keep a roof over their heads (for those who don't know or haven't read my profile, I am a veterinarian). Tearfully she asked if I could take a look at him for her. Remembering Brian's blessing to us, I realized that God was allowing me to give back, and I quickly agreed to come over to her house tomorrow to look at her dog and see if it is something that needs to be taken care of right away or if it could wait a while.

God helps us become who and what we are. He gives us desires and abilities that others may not have. I have no particularly great skill with cars, despite the fact that my father used to be a mechanic and worked for Volvo as a regional sales manager. Yet I have skill with medicine and animals. I'm definitely a capitalist and believe in free market enterprise, and don't think that these views are incompatible with Christianity. But I also think that we should be examples of God's blessings, especially to other Christians. God gives us these skills so that we can be a light in the world, and an example of what His love is like.

In your own lives you have knowledge and abilities that others don't. Look at how you can use those to further God's Kingdom, and how you might be a blessing to others. God gave this to you to use for Him and for others, not merely for yourself. And He will bless you when you are generous with His gifts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Satan Fights Back

Do you know how you can tell when you're doing God's will? When Satan starts attacking you hard.

Dragon*Con is coming up soon and our group, Fans For Christ, is participating. My family's money is in large part being saved so we can afford to do this ministry. We're also paying to have our church's web site professionally redesigned from the ground up. That's out of our pocket, not the church's. Our church is also getting ready to grand open a new and larger building, and we're very involved in that.

So what happens? A few days ago I started to notice a coolant leak in my car. It's now to the point where I can fill up the water in the morning and by the evening it's empty. And I can't find the leak. My wife's van had the air conditioning go out on it today. Any extra money for basically the rest of the year has been committed to various ministries we're involved with. We're not sorry about that in the least, but it means that we really don't have the money to get our vehicles fixed anytime soon.

We find it interesting that all of this happens right as we're getting ready to do big things for God. And that convinces us that Satan is pretty unhappy with us right now and is fighting hard to bring us down and take our money away. So that must mean that we're doing something right! If we weren't supporting Christ's works, then there would be no reason why Satan would be worried about us. And we figure he's pretty worried the way he's fighting against us.

In the end, we know that God will win. That doesn't mean that we're not a little frustrated, but we know that God is going to help us. That's the comforting thing about being a Christian. Even when we know that times are tough, we know that God's on our side and wants us to succeed.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Toe To Toe With Satan

As I've mentioned before, I'm a staff member of Fans For Christ, a web-based, non-denominational ministry to and by self-proclaimed geeks. Our biggest event each year is attending Dragon*Con, one of the largest multi-genre fandom conventions in North America. We march in the parade, have a fan table, and make our presence known. In a setting like that we are the strange ones, as most people attending events like this are unlikely to be Christians. We go there for fun (hey, we're fans also), but we also see it as serious ministry work, shining the light of Christ in a very spiritually dark place.

For the last two years we have held church services there, something rarely seen at cons. The first year we hoped for 30 people to show up, and ended up with around 60. Last year we had 100. This year it could be even greater. The problem has always been getting a space to hold the service. Dragon*Con itself can't officially endorse us or allow us space, or they would have to do that for everyone else. Fine, I can understand and accept it. But each year something happens to try and discourage us or make the service not happen. We firmly believe that this is Satan's attempts to stop us. He has great influence over people in these places, and certainly doesn't want Christians to succeed here. So we know that we're going to end up fighting against him.

He's doing it again this year. We're having more difficulties finding a place to hold the service anywhere close to the con. I've managed to find a nearby hotel that can let us have a meeting room, but it's a $350 fee for just one hour. Since I'm not wealthy and the economy is tough on us as much as it is everyone else, I can't simply fork over that kind of money. On the FFC site I've asked for donations, and will take any we can get (we have a PayPal account set up at donations@fansforchrist.org), even small ones like $5 or $10. Every little bit helps and it can add up. We also have to pay for printing handouts and brochures, as well as a few other costs.

I hate that it costs money to put on a ministry, but it's one of those parts of living in a modern world. And it's one more way for Satan to work against us.

Anyone who reads this blog, we would really appreciate your prayers as we fight back against Satan. If you can spare a little money, follow the link above. But prayers are most important, as he likely won't give in just at the financial issue. Thankfully, we know that God is more powerful than Satan. I know that God will prevail! I have faith in that, and truly believe in the power of Jesus over the devil. It's been exciting to see what He can do at a con, and I can't wait to see the way he touches people again this year!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More Than Conquerers

As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:36-39

This is a pretty well-known passage to many Christians. Our pastor even had Romans 8 as a focus of his sermon today. But do we really understand this? Have we really thought about what it means?

Dictionary.com defines "conqueror" as: a person who conquers or vanquishes; victor. Okay, that's pretty easy to understand. A conqueror is someone who defeats the bad guy, wins a contest, and generally succeeds in a struggle or battle. But we could just say "winner" for the same thing, so we need to understand what it means to conquer. Going back to Dictionary.com....
1. to acquire by force of arms; win in war: to conquer a foreign land.
2. to overcome by force; subdue: to conquer an enemy.
3. to gain, win, or obtain by effort, personal appeal, etc.: conquer the hearts of his audience.
4. to gain a victory over; surmount; master; overcome: to conquer disease and poverty; to conquer one's fear.

Really this refers to something won during a fight, battle, or other very tough circumstance. You don't conquer something that's easy. Conquering something is hard and forceful. And it also implies that you didn't just win, but you thoroughly vanquished the issue or problem to where it can't come back up again. Make sense? Everyone with me so far?

So what does Paul mean when he says that we are more than conquerors? I mean, conquering something is pretty big. How can you be even more than that? If being a conqueror places you at the top of the heap, where are you if you are more than that?

I think it goes back to the rest of the passage. We are only more than conquerors through Christ's love. We win and succeed by his love. But we are even more than that because nothing...absolutely, positively, nothing can take us away from that love! We not only have victory in Christ, but we have everything else in Him also.

Can we win because of Jesus? Yes! Can we do anything through the strength that God gives us? The Bible explicitly says so. But we are even greater than all of that, because God loves us so much that once He accepts us and once we are changed, nothing at all in this world can take that away. That's what makes this so powerful. God loves us before we are cleansed of sin by Christ's blood. And once we accept His sacrifice and let the Holy Spirit work in us, nobody and nothing can take it away. No matter what this world throws at us, we will always and forever have that love and assurance.

Pretty powerful stuff.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Christians Can Have Fun?

One of the biggest misconceptions about Christianity is that once you become a Christian, you life is filled with rules and regulations, and suddenly you can't have any more fun. That couldn't be further from the truth. Today my family went to Six Flags and had a great time. The kids are tall enough to ride most of the coasters, and it's my 6 year-old daughter that is the biggest thrill junkie of all of us. It's so wonderful to sit next to her on the Mindbender coaster, go through a complete upside down loop, and hear her cackles and screams of joy next to me. Whenever we get off a ride, the usual response is "can we do that again?"

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)

One of the main tenets of Christianity is that we no longer have to be under the Laws of the Old Testament. The rules of "you can't do xxxx" or "you have to do xxxx in a certain way" are gone. In Romans and Galatians the Bible talks about how we are not saved by the Law, but by Grace from God. Christ came in order to save us from the Law, not to put us under new and different laws. Christ came to free us from the shackles and chains of the Law. Really, Christianity is all about freedom!

Does that mean that we can do anything we enjoy? Nope. Sin is still sin. But there are a lot of things that people think is sin, but really isn't. And simply having fun isn't sinful. And when you think about it, sinful acts always contain a good chance of doing you serious harm (such as sexual immorality leading to disease and emotional hardship). God doesn't want us doing sin because of the pain it can cause us, not because He's a spoilsport.

Accepting Jesus in our hearts gives us incredible freedom that we did not have before that. And that freedom means that we can laugh, dance (yes, it's in the Bible so don't think you can't), joke around, enjoy movies (we're not supposed to conform to the world, but the Bible says that we are supposed to be a part of it), and go to amusement parks. Christianity is about joy, pure and simple. In this world it's pretty hard to grab hold of that kind of joy for long, so we need to embrace it when we can.

And if you don't think that laughter and glee are part of Christianity, then just look at my kids as they go hurtling down the drop of the Great American Scream Machine, see the happiness on their face, and tell me that God doesn't want us to feel that way.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Transformation of Transformers

As the father of two young children (8 and 6), I pay more attention to the content of movies than I did prior to kids. I also noticed more "bad" things as a Christian than I did when I was not a Christian. Or maybe I should say that now these things bother me more. It's also growing more evident how our society is changing to find sinful acts more susceptible. Forty or fifty years ago you couldn't use the word "pregnant" on TV, and couldn't show a married couple sleeping in the same bed. Nowadays you can show brief nudity on network TV and use words that many people wouldn't use in their real life. Why is this necessary?

Believe me, I'm not a prude, and can enjoy R-rated movies (and own a few). However, I can separate the good from the bad in what I watch. My kids don't have the same ability, and absorb more into their minds than we like to realize.

My son wants to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and I can't bring myself to take him to it based on what I've heard. I grew up watching the Transformers cartoons on TV and playing with the toys (Soundwave was my favorite!). They were great fun, with a solid story of good versus evil. Over the years there have been numerous animated series, all of them with pros and cons to those of us who began with "G1". My son has watched some of them on DVD, and has liked them. He also likes the current animated version (though personally I'm more old-school).

When the first Transformers movie came out a couple of years ago, we were excited to see it. It was going to be great to see these giant transforming robots "live", and my son and I had some special time together watching it (my wife and daughter aren't into it and went to see another movie). I was very surprised at a couple of the scenes, and am very glad that he didn't really seem to notice much about them. Specifically I'm talking about the brief and awkward discussion on masturbation, and Bumblebee urinating on the agent. Why were these necessary? How did these things advance the plot or explore the characters? The movie would have been just as good (and actually better) without them. I'm surprised that the studio and Hasbro would allow these events, since the movie and toys were definitely marketed towards kids as well as adults. Many of us who grew up on these characters now have kids of our own, and want to share these things across generations. But frankly these things are inappropriate for younger children.

I've heard that the new movie has Sam's mother accidentally getting high on marijuana brownies, and some of the Autobots have hip-hop stereotypes and use foul language. These are not the examples that I want my son watching, so I have to disappoint him and not allow him to watch it until I've had a chance to see it myself first (which will probably be when it comes out on DVD). Again, I have to ask why these scenes are necessary? How does this honor the decades-long legacy of the Transformers? How is this appropriate for kids who go into the toy aisles and see them half-filled with Transformers toys? Heck, even for adults this is completely unnecessary!

Despite all of this, and pretty poor reviews, the movie is making a ton of money. This pretty much assures that a third movie will be made. I'm not looking for a great plot, as I'm fine with going and watching cool CGI robots in action. I'm also not looking for a Christian-themed movie. I just hope that they get a new writer, and a new director if Michael Bay insists on treating the franchise in this way. I want to be able to share these things with my son. But I'm concerned about how this will transform the younger generation in a bad way.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Gospel According To Tolkien

It should be less than surprising to know that J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian, and that he included Christian themes in his stories (especially the Lord of the Rings series). But exactly what does he say? Is Gandalf a Christ-figure? Is Samwise's humility and perseverence mirrored in the Bible? What illustrations does the friendship between Legolas and Gimli show? Tolkien's works aren't a direct allegory as are the novels of C.S. Lewis, so it may be a bit harder to tease out the truths.

This is where Ralph Wood comes in. His book, The Gospel According To Tolkien, seeks to detail the elements of Christianity in Tolkien's works. Readers should keep in mind that this book relies on the complete written works of Tolkien and so goes far beyond the movies directed by Peter Jackson. For those of you who haven't read the books, or have limited yourselves to the ones upon which the movies are based, you might find yourself lost at some of the references.

This book is definitely written for hard-core Tolkien fans. It's also written for those wanting a very detailed exploration into the Biblical themes of the books. While I found the discussions elightening, and will make me look at the source material in a different light, I also found it a bit dry, and couldn't read much at a time. That's not a bad thing, but I would not call this a casual read.

My recommendation? If you want a detalied study and are looking for deep discussions, and you are a big Tolkien fan, then pick up this book. If you've only seen the movies or want a lighter read, you may want to pass.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do You Trust Him?

Last week at church, I closed the service with a quick poll. I asked everyone "Do you believe that God will do what He says He will do?" Everyone raised their hands. "Do you trust God?" Again, all hands raised. Then I asked "Who is willing to prove it?" Suddenly there were only a few hands raised. The topic I was talking about was a challenge we are having in the church. Give your tithe for six weeks, and if at the end of that you don't feel like God is blessing you, we will refund all of the money you gave. Pretty easy challenge, right? No long-term risk since you get your money back.

So do we really trust God? It's easy to read the Bible, see the promises, and say "yes, I trust Him." We talk a lot about how much God does for us and how He never lets us down. But when it really comes to proving it, how many of us will go out on a limb and truly put our full trust in God? When we're pushed and challenged to let it all go and turn it over to Him, many (if not most) people find this difficult.

Why? If we're not willing to "let go and let God", then it means that we actually don't trust Him. Despite all of our bluff and bluster, it's not that easy to put actions to words and truly rely on all of His promises. But why not?

So I challenge you to prove it. Read the Bible. Look at His promises. See if he has ever let you down. And then truly and honestly trust Him and do what He says.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Singing Love Songs

You've all seen the movies or plays where the man stands at the bottom of a woman's window or balcony and serenades her with a love song. Even if he is tone-deaf, the feelings behind it and the emotions he portrays make it very touching. He's not just going through the motions or just mouthing the words.

When we're in church, most of us begin the service by singing songs of praise and worship. The idea is that we are supposed to be lifting our hearts and voices to God, telling Him how wonderful He is and how much we appreciate everything He has done for us. But these songs are well know to us, and we sing some of them so many times that our minds can wander while our lips frame the words. It's so routine and so patterned that we just expect to stand and sing for the first twenty or so minutes of a service.

Is that really worship? Can your heart be in the right place if you're sipping your coffee or water in between verses? If you loose your place in the song because you weren't paying attention, are you really concentrating on God? Where is your heart and your mind focused when the words come out of your mouth? Do you even realize what it is that you're singing?

It's easy for us to take a familiar song and just go through the motions. I challenge you to do something different. Pay attention to each and every word that you sing. Really think about what it is that you're saying. And most importantly of all, imagine that you're standing below God's balcony, singing Him a love song. You'll be amazed at the difference this can make.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Our Unseen Influence

Yesterday my family and I went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival. This is an annual event for us and as you can see by my pictures we like to dress up. Anyone who knows me or reads my blogs shouldn't be too surprised by this fact. While there my wife was looking at getting a new corset, and we were talking to the guy at the shop. We mentioned that part of the reason for her corset was that we were going to do a Victorian/Steampunk Justice League for Dragon*Con, and my wife and I were doing Black Canary and Green Arrow. This piqued the man's attention, and we talked some more. When I mentioned that this was going to be with some friends of us from an internet forum, he asked which one. I said "Fans For Christ" and briefly mentioned what we were about. He looked mildly surprised and said that it was nice to see Christians who weren't against these things.

My impression is that he has encountered Christians who condemned him because he was interested in Steampunk, Ren Faires, and had earrings. And unfotunately, many mainstream Christians would indeed look down on him for this. That attitude has likely given him a negative attitude about Christianity, and may have kept him from looking much into it. I hate to say it, but I can't really blame him, as I had a similar attitude at one point before really knowing Jesus.

We as Christians have incredible influence on people around us, both for good and for bad. Whether we want to or not, we can make someone not want anything to do with Christ, or make someone want what we have. As a Christian, which will you do? Will your attitude and actions drive people away from God or draw them to Him? Will what you say and do condemn or judge people, or will it show them the all-inclusive love of Jesus? How willl your words and deeds be viewed by those who don't know Christ and may be apprehensive about religion?

Hopefully we gave him a different perspective of Christians. That's what Fans For Christ is all about. And maybe one day that seed will grow into a full-fledged Christian.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Magic In Christianity

A friend of mine on another forum posted this recently in a discussion about Christianity. I thought that she did such a great job and was excited and moved by the post, so I got her permission to re-post it here.....

I know how boring Christian writings can be. They're soaked in philosophy and thinking-thinking-thing, or they seem like they're all about bossing us around. Many of them are dusty and stagnant and over-translated. If you read about Christianity from the outside, it can be the intellectual equivalent of choking down dry toast on a sore throat. I get that.

But from the inside, it's nothing like that. I want to try to describe what it *feels* like. No judgments or insinuations that it ought to be like this for you; just my personal experience of the sensation of having faith, with some generalization of other Christians based on who I've talked to. For those of you who're uncomfortable about this sort of thing, take this as due warning.

Faith is a passion that feels a great deal like love. It can be warming like a balm to the soul, or burning, a fire that sears you and everything around you. Like love, it's separate from happiness and misery and even hate, and it can be the source of all of those. You can hate and love at the same time. You can believe and love and hate and want to move forward and run away all at the same time. It all depends on how you relate to your passion--your faith, your love--and the target of it. And how you relate to it can change depending on the day and what's happened recently.

Like love, faith can be nurturing or abusive. I've met Christians who frankly wished (at least at times) that they could shuck their faith and be rid of the burdens it motivated them to take up. In fact, I dare to say that every...I'll say serious Christian has or will at some time share that feeling. Because some days, it *sucks* to care, it *sucks* to be made fun of, to care about people and watch them hurt, to put yourself out and break your back or your heart to help people. Sometimes, in fact, you wash your hands of it for a little while because you just can't find the strength to keep going. But always, you pick yourself back up and do it again, put yourself through that again, because you know it's right and you love them and you want to and can help. Faith is also like honor that way, prodding you toward your duty, no matter how much that duty hurts. It can, quite literally, drive you to quests. As all the world knows.

And what's special about Christianity with all this is how far it asks you to go, and exactly what it wants of you. Most religions agree that there is great suffering in the world--it's fairly obvious. Some ask you to ease that suffering. But Christianity throws it baldly in your face: as a human, you have the capacity to love and to suffer. To love is to suffer, to hurt when the things you love hurt. Christianity takes it a step further: it asks you to take their pain away from them when you can, and to bear it upon yourself. God asks you to hurt, because everyone suffers, but through the divine alchemy of generosity, that suffering taken on willingly can become something better than just the ugly, dirty pain of life.

It's hard for Christians to show people that it's not just a dry faith of words. There's *magic* at the heart of Christianity. It's the most ancient, primal magic--blood sacrifice, self-sacrifice--and also it's no coincidence that the Christian tradition harbored the Western tradition of alchemy. It's transformative...and all sorts of transformation involve death in some respect--the death of the past, the loss of what was before the change. Christianity seeks to conquer the fear of change/death by ensuring that what you become will be better than what you were. Life after death is an extension of this--perhaps a metaphor for it, or maybe those small changes are metaphors for the big one.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Understanding The Potter

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

This is a pretty famous verse and concept that most Christians know, and has been included in many bible studies, hymns, and contemporary praise and worship songs. But how many of us really understand the depths of this simple verse?

Have any of you done pottery, or watched a potter at work? It's pretty serious stuff. The potter starts with a simple ball of clay, and pounds it roughly into a firm lump on the wheel. Then as the wheel spins, the potter reshapes it with his hands. Over time, the lump of clay becomes something completely different. The process itself is pretty rough on the clay and pretty messy. Bits of clay may be worn off or cut off. There is a lot of water, and the potter's hands become covered in the mud and clay. The clay is radically changed from a useless clump to a useful instrument. But once a pitcher, cup, or pot is formed, it's still not finished. If we tried to put anything in it at this time, it would fall apart. To be truly finished, the object must be fired in a kiln. It must be put through intense heat and fire before being useable.

Isn't this so much like how God works in our lives? When we come to Him we are useless and unformed. He begins to mold us, but it's not easy or pretty. It's pretty messy, and bits of us may be pulled off. Those are bits that we don't need, even if we think we do. By the time God is finished with shaping us, we probably can't be recognized as the same thing He started with. And to truly finish us, God must put us through the fire of trials. It is in the kiln of trouble and tribulation that we finally become what we should be.

When you feel the heat of the fire, feel yourself stretched beyond your shape, and feel bits of yourself coming off, just think of yourself as a lump of clay. God is molding you into something beautiful that He can use. The process might be rough, but the end result will be worth it.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
James 1:2-3

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Wars Jesus

I've been a fan of Star Wars ever since seeing it in the theater way back in 1976. I remember the lines snaking completely around the movie theater, and the excitement with which I saw it repeated times. I had the toys, books, and so many other things. For my generation, these movies were our mythology and one we have passed on to our children. These movies have remained popular for over 30 years, and continue to inspire people of all ages. So when I decided to look for a new devotional, I explored ones using the Star Wars films. There were several choices, so based on reviews on Amazon I picked Star Wars Jesus.

And I'm very glad that I did. Caleb Grimes is obviously a fan of the series and very passionate and knowledgeable about the films. Other books I have seen talk about the Christian themes found among the Jedi, so it was no surprise that Grimes uses that heavily. What surprised me was how he pulls from all six Star Wars films to show the journeys of various characters. One of the themes that particularly struck me was the lessons learned from Luke Skywalker's life. He goes from a young, brash teenager dreaming of greater things to a mature balanced man who refuses to give into the darkness within him. The story of Anakin/Darth Vader is also interesting as a study of how we can give into sin and darkness, but how we can also receive redemption.

Grimes has a very approachable writing style that presents his ideas in a clear manner that makes the points easy to understand. But even with this simple style, there is still great depth to the discussion and there are some very Biblical lessons to learn. One downside of the book is that there are 101 entries, so Grimes sacrifices depth for breadth. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as there is a lot of material to cover in the six movies. Some of these entries are longer than others, so there is detailed discussion where appropriate. Occasionally an entry really seems almost forced just for the sake of reaching the "magic" 101 mark. But the large majority of the entries are very worthwhile, and well worth the read.

This book has given me several ideas for future sermons, and I plan on re-reading it a couple of more times. If anyone comes to Dragon*Con this year, I may just be talking about ideas I found in this book. If you see a sermon there titled "Red Five, Standing By", rest assured that I took ideas from Grimes' book (and will give credit for it). Yes, all of this means that I really like the book, and highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Blessings At Cons

Once again, we have returned from a convention with a true appreciation for what God can do when we take Him out of the box we want to keep Him in.

For the last few years, we have been involved in several sci-fi, gaming, multi-genre conventions. The biggest is Dragon*Con in Atlanta, but we've also done ConNooga in Chattanooga, and now the Dicehead Siege in the same city. In each of these venues we've had the opportunity to hold worship services, and share the gospel with people. And each time we're amazed at what God can really do. Let me give you some examples.

Dragon*Con officially reports about 30,000 attendees, but many believe that it's closer to 50,000. The first year we had a service (2007) we hoped for about 30 people coming to church. The room we had arranged was packed to standing-room only with nearly 60 people. Last year we had right at around 100.

At ConNooga 2008 there were just under 1000 people, and we had 11 people come to the service. This year there was closer to 2000 and we had 35 people.

The Siege is in its first year this year, and had about 150 people attend. We had expected 5-6 people at our service and ended up with 13. One of those was a staff member at the arena, who heard our singing and came to sit down and worship with us.

Now these numbers may not be dramatic to many people, but consider the type of people who go to the cons. Most of these people are not Christians, and many have been hurt by judgemental church-goers. To have these people come to the church service, as well as the Christian fans, is a real blessing. And it amazes us (but shouldn't) that God constantly surpases our expectations, each time having the Spirit bringing more people that we could imagine.

There is a real hunger for Christ at these cons. Many people are lost and need the light of God in their lives, even if they don't realize it. And there are Christians who feel like they have to give up church in order to attend these cons. We truly believe that we are doing His will by taking the Word to these places. Nobody who hasn't been a part of it can really understand.

Our next con will be Dragon*Con in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. I hope to see you there! Be sure to stop by the Fans For Christ booth and say hi to "Swordsman" (my handle on the FFC forum).

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What I Do

Because of my involvement with Fans For Christ, I am blessed with great opportunities. One of our missions is to share the Gospel among fans at cons, and I have had the chance to do this several times. God must be working through us, as we are increasingly invited to conventions. I definitely give the credit for that to God. He has given me certain gifts, and then allowed me to be a vessel for Him. This is all about Him, and not me.

This weekend my wife and I are going to the Dicehead Siege in Chattanooga, TN. This is a gaming convention, where people can play card games, miniatures games, and role-playing games. As an avid RPGer myself, this is a cool thing to be doing it. The fact that we are getting to do it and represent Christ makes it even better.

One of the amazing things about my life is how God has used my interests and hobbies. As I have tried to be closer to Him, He has taken these pastimes and used them in very unique ways to spread Christ's love. That's really one of the great things about Him. He loves us so much that He wants us to enjoy our lives. When we follow God, it doesn't mean that we have to give up everything we love and all fun. In fact, God will find a way to use our natures and strengths to better serve Him, as long as we remain open and let Him.

This weekend I get to two of the things I love most in life...game and serve God. Pray for His will to be done and Christ to be known.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Who Needs A Superhero?

I bought this book in the bargain bin at Family Christian several years ago and it has become my favorite devotional. This book is written by a comic fan for comic fans, and if you don't know a lot about comic books you may not get as much out of it.

Brewer takes the current mythologies of comic books and uses them to illustrate Biblical principles. In some chapters it's a study of a particular hero or heroine, such as Superman or Batman. In other chapters he crosses publishers and ages to compare the various heroes and how we can get good lessons from each. For example he spends one chapter talking about the nature of God. Is He like the Punisher, wreaking vengeance on those who cross Him? Is God like Uatu, watching from a far and rarely interfering? Is He like Galactus, uber-powerful yet swayed by the interference of a super-powered mortal? Brewer concludes quite convincingly that God is actually like the Golden Age Green Arrow, but I won't spoil the lesson by explaining why he says this.

If the names of these characters mean little or nothing to you, then this probably isn't the book for you. But if you can tell me where Uatu lives and name at least three of Galactus' heralds, then you will probably love this book. If you have a casual interest in comics, you'll probably still find important lessons here. Despite extensive use of comic book characters, Brewer does an excellent job of delving into the stories in the Bible, bringing a fresh perspective to ancient ideals. So far I have based two different sermons off chapters in this book, and I have only avoided using more because I don't want to be too one-tracked.

Check it out by clicking on the cover! I highly recommend it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Put It On

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:13-18)

This is a pretty famous passage that most Christians are familiar with. I've even lead an adult Sunday School class in a study of the passage. But last week I was listening to a local Christian radio station, and something was pointed out that I had never thought of before. You see, God gives us all of these things, but it's up to us to do something with them.

God gives us the tools that we need: a belt of truth, a breastplate of righteousness, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation and a sword of the Spirit. He has provided us with everything that we need to survive in the world and to protect ourselves from Satan's influences. However, God doesn't do it for us. We have free will, and we can choose who we follow. In the end, it's up to us to actually do something about our circumstances.

Look at the passage: "put on the full armor...", "stand firm...", "take up the shield...", "take the helmet...". All of these direct us to do something with what we are given. It's kind of like if you are trying to hang a picture. Somebody gives you a hammer and nails, and you stand there looking at them. The picture isn't going to hang itself, and you have to pick up the tools you've been given and actually use them. The armor of God is there for us, but we have to put it on an use it.

So the next time you think that God isn't doing anything for you, look at what your part is. Are you standing there whining and complaining? Or are you actually using what God has given you. Instead of yelling at God, put on the armor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Animals In Heaven

Anyone who follows my other blog will know by now that I am putting one of my cats to sleep due to a serious illness. He is 16, and has been having some serious gastrointestinal issues for a few months, causing him to loose a considerable amount of weight. Treatment of some of the suspected illnesses has been unsuccessful, and the most humane thing to do at this point is not allow him to suffer any more and to euthanize him.

Our kids (who are 6 and 8) are having to face death in a way that is very memorable. I have had Perceval since before I ever met my wife, and he has always been there as long the kids have been alive. Any other deaths in our family have happened before they were born or when they were too young to remember very well. So this is kind of tough for them. My daughter cried for a full 30 minutes when my wife first told her. They know and seem to understand what is happening and why we have to do it, but it's still not easy.

One of the things that they have asked about is if we will get to be with him again in Heaven. From a theological perspective, that's hard to explain, especially to a young child. The Bible doesn't explicitly say that animals won't be in Heaven, but it's also clear that only humans have a soul and therefore only humans can obtain salvation. People are a special creation of God, and the only beings who can worship and have a close relationship with Him. If you can only get into Heaven through salvation, and only humans can be saved, then animals don't have a place in Heaven. Talking about "doggie heaven" or "kittie heaven" may sound nice, but it's not Biblical.

But somehow that doesn't seem satisfying to me and many other pet lovers. Our pets are so much a part of our lives that we can't imagine not having them back at some point. I asked this of a pastor once, and he said something that has stuck with me. God loves us very much, and wants us to be happy. Heaven will be incredible, and we will have everything we need to be eternally happy. For most of us, simply being in God's direct presence will be overwhelming and will be enough. But if having our pets will also make us happy, then God will provide that for us.

Biblical? Probably not. But it's nice to think about. And it's also nice to know that God will make us happier than we can ever imagine!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Most Important Day Ever

Today is Easter Sunday, the celebration of Jesus Christ rising from the dead. I think it can be successfully argued that today is a celebration of the most important day in the history of the world. Think that's a merely Christian viewpoint? I would take a position that it's not merely religious.

The resurrection of Christ is the linchpin of Christian theology. Yes, we celebrate His birth on Christmas, and that is a much bigger holiday in secular societies than is Easter. But as important as that date was, it is not the most important one. Yes, the fact that Jesus was born and the circumstances of his birth are crucial and we should indeed celebrate it. But if He had been born, lived, and died, that would not have influenced the world in the same way as His resurrection.

You see, Christianity doesn't rest on the birth of Jesus or even His death, as great as these events were. Jesus claimed to be God, claimed that He could forgive sins, and claimed that only through Him could people find a place in Heaven. His death and subsequent resurrection showed that He had the power of God, for only God could rise from the dead. If Jesus had stayed dead, it wouldn't have impacted His followers. In fact, after His crucifixion, the Disciples were all despondent and scattered. Only after His return from the grave were people willing to die to share Jesus' message. Only by rising from the dead did Christ prove that he actually could forgive sins and prove that everything he claimed was actually true.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:14-17)

Okay, that's fine and good for us Christians. But how is this the most important day ever? No matter what anyone may think, and for all the good and bad done in the name of God, it seems clear that Christianity has had a stronger influence on the last 2000 years of world history than any other culture or religion. Even though people like the Chinese have a longer continuous cultural identity, they haven't has as wide-reaching of an impact as have Christians of various nations. Incredible good and horrible evils have been done in the name of the Christian god. Numerous wars have been started over disputes among Christian sects and between Christians and non-Christians. Most colleges, hospitals, and charitable organizations in Western society have their start in Christianity.

None of this would have happened if Jesus had not been resurrected. If He had remained in His grave, Christianity would never have been started. And if there had been no Christianity, our world would be a much different place. But even more importantly, we would have no way into Heaven.

So I wish everyone a Happy Easter! Have fun with your eggs, candy, and gifts from the Easter Bunny. But don't forget the true importance of this day, and that it is a celebration of the triumph of life over death, eternal life over eternal damnation.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How To Rest

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Psalm 37:7

How easy is it to rest in the Lord? There are so many things taking up our time and thoughts. Earlier this week I filed my taxes. All week I had to worry about things at work. We're about to go on a family vacation with the kids next week, and have been scrambling to finalize the arrangements and get things packed. There are bills, making sure the kids do their homework, getting the yard mowed, and many other things that cause us stress and anxiety. So with all of that, how in the world do we do what the Bible says?

Honestly, I can't really tell you the answer. I struggle with this all of the time (just ask my wife). But as I get ready to a rest from work and daily worries, I started thinking about resting in God. As great as this family vacation will be, it isn't going to refresh me spiritually. True rest and true comfort come only through God. We should all do better about resting in Him.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Disney Bible

I just read an article today that the Walt Disney Corporation is going to be publishing a new translation of the Bible marketed for the modern youth of the world. The New Disney Bible Translation (NDBT) will be released later this year, with a new animated series on the Disney Channel being prepared to tie-in with the publication. According to the article, there will be some changes made to make the NDBT more appealing to a generation raised by Disney products.

For example, instead of twelve Disciples of Christ, there will be only seven, and each will be associated with one of Snow White's dwarves: Peter as Grumpy, James as Sleepy, and so on. Rather than King Saul trying to kill David multiple times, he will instead merely force him to ride "It's A Small World", which David will escape from (as he escapes from Saul in the other translations). There are others too numerous to mention, so instead I'll direct you to the article linked above.

In the animated series Mary (Jesus' mother) will be voiced by Hannah Montana's Miley Cyrus. The temple built by Soloman will be drawn to resemble Cinderella's Castle. Some of the Old Testament characters will be portrayed by classic Disney Characters. Don't believe me? Check out Donald Duck as Noah in one of the early episodes.


Honestly, I'm not sure about this. I can see how it would bring God's word to a new audience, and do it in such a way that might be more appealing to younger people. However, seeing Mickey portray the young David will be a bit strange. Still, I guess God can work in many mysterious ways, and this is probably no different.

Here's what Walt Disney himself had to say about faith.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Swashbuckling Faith

Every once in a while I'm going to talk about various devotionals and other books. However, these books will be your not-so-typical books about God, as would be appropriate for a site named "The Christian Ninjate". Let's begin!

In Swashbuckling Faith, author Tim Wesemann does something pretty amazing. He takes scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and manages to glean Biblical truths from this fun but decidedly non-Biblical movie. As someone who has seen the movie numerous times and has parts of it memorized, it's interesting to look at various scenes in new ways. For example, let's look at the scene where Jack Sparrow (..excuse me, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow...) is first introduced. He passes the dead bodies of some pirates and takes his hat off to them. Wesemann uses this scene to talk about how we should acknowledge the people who have gone before us and influenced us. Moving on from this, he talks about recognizing the Biblical elders and leaders. If you want to read this part of the book, click on the picture below, and it will take you to Amazon.com where you can take a sneak peek.

It's hard to take a movie like PotC (as we geeks will usually abbreviate it) and get Biblical lessons from it. But Wesemann does it well. And for fans of the movie or genre, it's a great way to use illustrations to understand the truths about God. Jesus spoke in parables and illustrations that people of his time would understand. Why not take one of the most popular movies in recent years, and use it to reach people's hearts towards God?

My only real gripe with the book is that it trades depth for breadth. In a little under 200 pages Wesemann has 32 chapters. That's not much detail for each chapter, and so it sometimes feels like there could be more discussed. There is no over-arching theme to the subjects, and so the chapters sometimes feel a bit disjointed. A connecting thread throughout the book would have been nice, but it's a minor complaint.

Overall, I found this book interesting, enjoyable, and worthwhile. A Christian won't find any earth-shattering truths about God, but will still find things that will make you re-think some of your attitudes towards Him.



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

St. Patrick's Breastplate

Today I was reading a devotional book, Star Wars Jesus. Yeah, a strange title, and I'll talk about the book more once I've finished it. But that's not today's point. In the book the author printed a poem/hymn entitled "St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer". Doing a little research I discovered that it likely was written in the 18th century, rather than the 5th century in which Patrick lived. But regardless of the origins, I really, really liked it. I had never heard of it before, and didn't know how many other people hadn't either. So I decided that I would share it here. Oh, and when you see "poop", it's in the context of a ship's poop deck, so keep that in mind! I hope you are as blessed by it as I was.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop.

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Blessed To Be A Blessing

Lately my wife has been worried about finances. Heck, in this day and time, who isn't? It's been a real burden to us and we've fretted more than we should. Sometimes it's hard to realize that God is actually watching over us when things get so rough.

A few days ago my wife heard about children needing sponsorship through Compassion International through a local Christian radio station. Something really drew her to that and she followed the link to look into it. As she was looking through the pictures, there was one little boy from Columbia that she thought was cute. He had been listed for six months without receiving a sponsor. What clinched it was that his birthday is on the same day as our son's. She saw that as a sign, and signed up to sponsor him for $32 per month.

Her heart told her that everything was going to be okay, despite the extra money we would be spending each month. She started realizing that perhaps we were thinking about it wrong. You see, we had been praying to have an increase in our finances so that we could give more. But God kind of looks at it a different way. We need to give more to show God that we can be generous with His money, and that we trust that He will provide for us.

So she gave. And we will give more every month. She has been feeling such a sense of peace since then. And even better, we realized that our satellite bill had actually gone down, and our cell phone bill had reduced a little from what we had been used to. All totaled about $40 per month. Not bad for us paying out an extra $32.

If you feel that you don't have enough money, try something radical. Give more. Find a church or reputable charity and give more of your money. If you trust God, you might just be surprised that not only will he cover the money, but increase it. Try it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Pen From Heaven

God works in some pretty cool ways sometimes. The Bible talks about the little ways that God talks to us, but we're always looking for the big things.

Last week I was really struggling with my life and happiness. Without going into the details right now, work and life were really getting to me. I've been trying to work through it, and do pray and seek God's guidance, but it isn't always easy. I know that He has plans for me and that He is always watching me, but it's hard to feel that sometimes.

That's why I was surprised when I was finishing up with a client and happened to look down on the ground. Against the wall in the exam room (I'm a veterinarian if you haven't read my profile) was a pen. I picked it up and noticed the crosses and "Jesus fish" on it. I asked the client if it was hers, and she said no. So I ended up keeping it. I had been wanting to have a new pen that showed my Christianity, and this one was perfect.

But what was really cool was that the pen had a clear "window" in the barrel. When you click the pen, it rotates through four different scriptures. All of them are very encouraging and uplifting, and all talk about how God is always with us. It came at just the right time, and really reminded me of God's love.

Sure, it's not your typical way for God to speak, but it is quite fitting. It's so nice to know that he really does pay attention to us!

Oh, and here are the scriptures on the pen. Remember them whenever you think that God isn't with you.

Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps 46:10)
Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Mt 28:20)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Ps 23:1)