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 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.