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 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)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Church At A Con?

For the last several years my wife and I have been involved with Fans For Christ, a sci-fi/fantasy/anime/comic book/goth/etc. fan group made of Christian geeks. Please go to the link to find out more about us, and then come back here. Don't worry, I'll wait....

Okay, back? Good. One of the things you may have noticed there is our "Convention Ministry" section. We go to several conventions in the southeastern US, and are trying to branch out into others. These conventions are full of fun and exciting costumes, seminars, and celebrities and are very cool to attend. We discovered Fans For Christ at one of these about four years ago, and were excited to find other Christians who "got it". You see, it's perfectly okay to be a Christian and play role-playing games, or watch Harry Potter, or dress up as a Jedi. But the born-again Christians are definitely the minority of people attending, and that can be very obvious. We are the light of Christ in a very dark place.

One of the amazing things at these cons is that we get to hold church. To many people it is the first time they have even heard of church at a con. I'm the one who gives the messages (at least so far) and I always try to give fan-friendly messages. In fact, the Christian Ninjate message and idea came from my latest sermon at ConNooga. I've also involved a lot of comic book illustrations, such as the fact that God is most like the Silver Age Green Arrow (I'll share that at some point in the future).

For the past two years we had services at Dragon*Con, and that was really cool. We had around 60 people the first year, and around 100 last year. Last year at ConNooga we had about a dozen, and this year about 35! The hunger for God's Word is most certainly at these cons. The organizers of ConNooga are also hosting a gaming con/weekend called The Siege. We weren't planning on going, but the really liked what we have done at ConNooga and invited us. So on Sunday, May 3rd, we're holding another con church service!

I feel so blessed that God gives us the opportunity to share His message in such an unusual place. But isn't that what Jesus would do? If he were walking the Earth again, where do you think he would be? Would he be touring churches, holding special services? No, I don't think so. He said that he came for the sick, not the well, and though I can't say that everyone who attends church is well, I think there is a greater need. I think that Jesus would be at places like Dragon*Con, and other conventions where His light needs to shine. So I really think that He is blessing our efforts to share the Gospel in such an unusual setting. We're ministering to people that your average church-goer would probably cross the street to avoid.

So if you're ever at one of these cons (and hopefully even more in the years to come), be sure to stop by and say hi to us!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Becoming A Ninjate

So there we are. Ten points on how we can use the characteristics of ninjas and pirates to help guide our relationship with God and Christ. Instead of having a battle of pirates versus ninjas, we should seek to become a bit of both....a NINJATE!

We need to realize that we are imperfect and broken. People should be able to look at us and hear our words, and immediately be able to tell who and what we are, even from a distance. We need to be bold in our proclamation of our faith, yet silent an dunseen when we talk about ourselves. When sharing God's word we should pay close attention to whom we are talking and fit ourselves into our audience. We need to thirst for the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, and be obsessed with burying our treasures in Heaven. We need to master the intricacies of the weapons of the Word of God, and train daily to improve our skills.

God wants this for us. He wants us to become Christian Ninjates.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Training For Battle

Ninjas are highly trained warriors.

Using the arsenal of a ninja takes years of dedication and constant practice. Just try using a throwing star and having it actually hit the target properly. Grab a set of nunchaku and try to wield them without seriously hurting yourself. Find a martial arts master and see if you can land a punch on her. If this is your first time with each of these situations, it likely won't be pretty. A ninja dedicates his or her life to learning and practicing these skills. He continually trains to hone them, and because of this dedication and hard work will become a deadly and effective master of these arts. Without such training, the weapons are just so much dead weight in her hands.

In the same way we can only be masters of the Biblical arts by constant training. We need to go to the Bible every day, pray, and listen to God. Reading the Bible, learning the Scriptures, and studying under our daimyo (Jesus) are the only ways that we can be effective spiritual warriors. If we just go through our days and don't train in the Word, it will be worse than the average person picking up the nunchaku and hitting themselves in the head or groin. We need to train our skills and spiritual reflexes to be finely honed so that we are ready whenever we have to face our Adversary. God gives us the tools for training, but we need to actually use them.

He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze
(Psalm 18:34)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Arm Yourself

Ninjas are experts in various weapons. Being highly trained fighters and assassins, ninjas become skilled in numerous types of deadly instruments. Of course you have the standard sword, but you also see them using throwing stars, fighting chains, blowguns, staves, and many others. Even without these armaments, ninjas are also skilled hand-to-hand fighters, and so are really never without a weapon. No matter when or where, they are ready to do battle.

The Bible uses many weapon analogies, such as spears, bows, and swords. The Bible itself is commonly presented as being a sword, and one that we should wield. God gives us many weapons in our fi
ght against Satan. Some are straightforward, and some are unusual. We know of the sword as a weapon, but who would have thought of making a weapon out of two sticks attached to a short chain? We call it a nunchaku. Our heavenly weapons are really the equivalent of an arsenal, varying in all kinds of sizes, shapes, and types. We shouldn't be afraid to use these weapons, and should be trained in their use. When we need to attack Satan, or even defend against him, the sword of the Word should immediately be in our hand. Have no misunderstanding...there is a war going on, both in the spiritual and physical sense. Those of us on the side of Heaven cannot ignore our adversary. And like a ninja, we need to have many armaments with which to fight. Thankfully, God provides them.

The LORD has opened his arsenal and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Sovereign, LORD Almighty has work to do in the land of the Babylonians.

(Jeremiah 50:25)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watch Out

Ninjas watch their targets closely.

In order to strike more effectively, ninjas observe their victims to learn their habits and patterns. What time does he eat breakfast or lunch? Where does he go in the evenings? What kind of protection does he have? Where does he live? And so on. The more the ninja knows about and understands his target, the better chance he has of succeeding.

When we're sharing the story of God, we also need to watch who we're talking to. Do you know a co-worker who needs to hear how much God loves them? What about a family member or a friend? Are you paying attention to those around you ? Do you know what they need and what challenges they are facing? Watch them. Find out who they are and what has happened in their lives. Then find a way to share Christ in a way that they will understand. Maybe the geek friend will understand it best if you compare Jesus to Superman. Maybe the single mom will understand best if you tell the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Know your target. First, identify them as a target, then get to understand them. Your "victim" will appreciate it with their salvation.

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stealth Pays Off

Ninjas are quiet and avoid being seen.

The worst thing a Ninja can do is to stand out. They don't want to draw too much attention to themselves. They only want to cause enough noise to get the job done, and not cause a ruckus. The goal is to draw only as much attention as the mission requires, and get close to the target without making it know that the ninja is there.

When we talk to people about God and Christ we should avoid being seen. How is that possible? Remember that the Bible is about Him, not about us. When we tell people what Jesus has done for us, we need to be careful not to get too caught in the "us" and forget about Jesus' part. We shouldn't be the center of that story, even if it's about our salvation or testimony. Share it and be proud of it, but put the emphasis on what Christ did, not what you did. Don't be loud, obnoxious, or "in your face" to someone, as this could distract from the message you are trying to share. That message is about God's love and Jesus' sacrifice, not about you. Tell what God has done for you, but put the emphasis on Him, not yourself. When talking about Jesus, be as stealthy as a ninja.

He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Ninja's Turn

Ninjas are masters of disguise.

Now we switch to the ninjas, and examine how we might be like them. One of the more reconizable (to be rather ironic) characteristics of ninjas is their ability to blend in. Not only are they quiet and stealthy (which we'll get to later), but they can fit into any situation and become who they need to be to accomplish their task. A ninja can appear as a farmer, a palace guard, or a simple merchant. They become whatever the job needs them to be, and use their skills in disguise to help them get closer to their target.

Similarly, when presenting the Gospel, we should seek to fit into our surroundings. By becoming like our audience, we can reach them in ways that standing out would never do. So maybe if we're at a con, we dress in costume and talk about comic books, pirates, and ninjas. If we're speaking to a group of medical professionals, we dress in a suit and use different language. Like Paul says, we should be all things to all people. We are commissioned by Christ to spread His word. Sometimes that means changing how we look and act, blending in like a ninja would.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Treasure Enough?

Pirates are obsessed with treasure.

Pirates lead a dangerous life, risking life and limb on the high seas, and trying to avoid being caught by the navies of the various countries upon whom they prey. Why put themselves in these situations? For treasure! The entire reason for doing what they do is to gain gold and precious belongings. They raid and pillage to get what we commonly call "booty". If there wasn't a chance of monetary gain, pirates wouldn't put themselves in so much danger.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, there is a classic and poignant exchange between Jack (, excuse me...CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow) and Will Turner as they are sneaking into the cave on Isla de Muerta to rescue Elizabeth from Barbossa.

Jack: You know, for having such a bleak outlook on pirates you're well on your way to becoming one. Sprung a man from jail, commandeered a ship of the Fleet, sailed with a buccaneer crew out of Tortuga...and you're completely obsessed with treasure.
Will: That's not true. I am not obsessed with treasure.
Jack: Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.

Jack has a great point. Treasure doesn't have to be monetary or otherwise associated with the world. As Christians, we should also seek treasure and even be obsessed with it. But not the silver-and-gold kind. Desiring that kind of treasure puts us firmly in this world and not God's, and shows our greed. Instead, we should be finding the treasures of joy, love, peace, and a relationship with Jesus. Once we find these, we should bury them in a place far away, just like any good pirate would. We should be seeking treasure in Heaven, and should go after that with all of the drive and effort of one of Blackbeard's men planning a night out in Charleston.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Are you thirsty?

Pirates are bloodthirsty.

The classic image of pirates is that they are mean, bloodthirsty, and cruel. Modern media have romanticized their image to being handsome and daring. But the classic pirate captains of yore were historically people who wouldn't think twice about killing people. Are you familiar with the phrase "keelhauling"? It's in the lingo of pirates and used in the context of a threatened punishment. This actually happened, and involved tying ropes on the victim and dragging him along the hull of the ship from bow to stern. Besides the risk of drowning, the ships usually had barnacles attached to the hull, and the keelhauling victim would have their skin shredded by being dragged along the sharp shells. Pirates can rightly be pictured as bloodthirsty.

We should be bloodthirsty as well. What, you think this isn't exactly a Christian trait? Well, you're wrong. We should thirst for the blood of Jesus. We should desire to have His blood wash over us, because this means that our sins are forgiven and we can have a place next to God in Heaven. Without that blood, we are lost and forever separated from our Creator. Only through that blood can we receive His grace and mercy. The blood shed by Jesus on the cross is the only thing that can save us from what we deserve, the only thing that will keep us from damnation. Thankfully, the gift of the blood was freely given, and all we have to do is accept it. Shouldn't we be bloodthirsty for Christ?

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:13-15)