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, 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? 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
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.