Friday, April 19, 2019

The Holy Heroes Devotional

My new book, The Holy Heroes Devotional, officially releases today on Good Friday--commemorating the day that Jesus became the world's greatest hero!

The Holy Heroes Devotional is a forty-day devotional that finds spiritual meaning in superhero movies and empowers believers to know Christ better through comic books!

You'll find devotions on some of the most iconic superheros in theaters today, like Shazam, Captain Marvel, and Aquaman. But you'll also learn lessons from lesser-known comic book characters like the guardian angel Zauriel and the glory-hound Booster Gold. Each devotion concludes with a series of questions to ponder and a prayer. You'll discover surprisingly relevant and relatable life lessons and biblical truth buried in the stories of your favorite superheroes, and you'll be encouraged to embrace Jesus as the world's greatest hero! 

Sunday, April 7, 2019


My family and I saw Shazam last night and I loved it! A brighter and more light-hearted addition to the DC cinematic universe, Shazam spotlights a troubled teenager named Billy Batson, an aloof and angry orphan who bounces around from one foster family to another until he winds up with the Vasquezes, a loving couple with several other adopted children. Although Billy struggles to fit in, his new family begins growing on him. While trying to protect one of his foster brothers, Billy leads some bullies on a chase through downtown Philadelphia. After seeking safety in a subway car, Billy is suddenly whisked away to the Rock of Eternity where he meets an ancient and powerful wizard. Seeing the boy’s potential, the Wizard selects Billy to become his champion, Shazam!  Whenever Billy utters the magic word, shazam, he instantly transforms into an adult with amazing superpowers.

The name Shazam is an acronym indicating the source of Billy’s magical powers. SHAZAM stands for the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. While this is certainly an impressive roster of powerful mythological heroes, only one of them is a real, historical figure—Solomon.

Compared to the power of Zeus and strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Solomon might not seem so impressive, but it may just be Shazam’s most valuable superpower. In an issue of Action Comics, an ancient Egyptian goddess threatens to unleash a plague of frogs on Metropolis.   When Superman is at a loss to combat this magical menace, Shazam comes to the rescue. As the heroes fly into the fray, Superman questions, “This is part of a plan?” Shazam replies, “Solomon always has a plan.” Once the two heroes encounter the Egyptian frog goddess, Heqt, rather than engage in battle, Shazam begins negotiating with her. Superman watches in awe. “Armed with the wisdom of Solomon,” Superman thinks, “a teenage boy in the body of a man defends humankind to the goddess of all frogs. I can’t think of anything more ludicrous.” But as the deliberation continues, Shazam eloquently explains humanity’s needs and weaknesses. He also listens and empathizes until Heqt feels heard and appeased. In the end, Shazam triumphs without throwing a single superpowered punch. Wisdom prevailed where physical force failed.

As Shazam demonstrates, wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge and experience to everyday life. Wisdom helps us make good decisions and life choices. Wisdom can prevent difficult situations from developing or getting worse. Wise living generally leads to greater peace, success, and joy. The Bible says, “Wisdom is more precious than rubies” (Proverbs 3:15 NLT).

King Solomon became a living legend because he recognized the value of wisdom. Soon after Solomon became king of Israel, God appeared to him and offered to grant one request: “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” (2 Chronicles 1:7 NLT). Solomon could have asked for anything—limitless wealth, unrivaled power, anything imaginable. Instead, Solomon asked for wisdom, the wisdom to lead God’s people. So, God granted his request. The Bible says, “God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt… And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.” (1 Kings 4:29-34 NLT).

You and I will never have the speed of Mercury or the stamina of Atlas, but wisdom is one superpower we can possess. In fact, the Bible encourages us to seek wisdom the same way Solomon did—by asking for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5 NIV). 

Additionally, Solomon wrote page after page of proverbs intended to impart wisdom. He wrote, “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser” (Proverbs 1:5 NLT). Through prayer and the patient study of Proverbs (along with other books of the Bible), you and I can attain the wisdom of Solomon just like Shazam, and you don’t even have to meet a mystical wizard or say a magic word!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Captain Marvel: Discovering Your Identity

Marvel Studio’s Captain Marvel tells the story of Carol Danvers, a United States Airforce pilot that gets abducted by an alien race known as the Kree. Of course, Carol doesn’t know any of this. She doesn’t even know her own name. While test-piloting an experimental plane with a newly designed lightspeed engine, Carol and he co-pilot come under attack by Kree invaders. Carol survives a violent crash-landing, but when the experimental engine explodes, Carol absorbs massive amounts of energy before falling unconscious. Realizing her potential, the Kree take Carol back to their planet, remove all memory of her life one earth, and train her as one of their own.
For six years (and the majority of the movie), Carol believes that she is a Kree warrior called Vers—the only letters on her dog-tags that remained readable after her crash. As Vers, Carol fights an intergalactic battle against the shape-shifting Skrulls that eventually leaves her stranded on a backwards planet know only as C-53. Of course, the locals call it Earth.
After teaming up with Nick Fury and reuniting with her best friend Maria, Vers begins to uncover the truth about herself. “I keep having these... memories,” Vers tells Fury, “I see flashes. I think I have a life here. But I can't tell if it's real.”
Later, Vers confronts the Skrull commander Talos, saying, “You don’t know me! I don’t even know me!” Just then, Maria speaks up, saying, “I know you. You are Carol Danvers… My best friend, who supported me as a mother and a pilot when no one else did. You were smart, and funny, and a huge pain in the @&%. And you were the most powerful person I knew, way before you could shoot fire through your fists!”
With the help of her friends, Carol Danvers finally discovers who she really is. At the movie’s outset, one her fellow Kree warriors tells Carol, “I want you to be the best version of yourself.” He gets his wish—though, perhaps, not in quite the way he imagined—as Carol becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes.
Perhaps Carol isn’t the only one wrestling with an identity crisis. Do you know who you are? Who you’re supposed to be? The Bible talks a lot about your identity—specifically, your identity in Christ. One reason we get so discouraged and frustrated in the Christian life is that we forget who we are and, like Carol, we believe lies about ourselves. But here’s what the Bible says about your identity in Christ:
  • You are God’s own special possession. (1 Peter 2:9)
  • You are chosen by the God who created the universe. (Ephesians 1:3-4)
  • You are loved beyond compare. (1 John 4:19)
  • You are worth dying for. (1 John 4:10)
  • You are forgiven. (1 John 1:9)
  • You are God’s child. (1 John 3:1)
  • You are secured for all eternity. (John 10:28-29)
  • You are set free. (Galatians 5:1)
  • You are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

Let this list sink in for just a minute. Don’t skim over it. Read over this list and take it in. This is YOU. If you’re in Christ, this is who you are. This is your permanent identity. It can never be removed, messed up, forsaken, taken away, or changed. This your identity in Christ. Through faith in Christ, like Captain Marvel, you become the best version of yourself.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nobody Stays Dead in Comics!

Nobody stays dead in comic-books. I had to remind myself of this little comic-book truism at the end of Avenger’s: Infinity War when Thanos snaps his fingers and instantly kills off half the population of the MCU including Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Spider-man, and nearly all the Guardians of the Galaxy. Since most, if not all, of these characters have pending sequels, I think it’s safe to say “nobody stays dead in comic-book movies,” either.

The death of a major title character makes for great drama and increased sales, but so rarely remains permanent that frequent resurrections have become a cliché in comic-books. For instance, Captain America #25, which depicted the death of Captain America, made real-world headlines and skyrocketed sales, but Steve Rogers returned just two years later in Captain America: Reborn. The list of comic-book characters who’ve come back from the dead include Cap’s side-kick Bucky Barnes, Batman, Robin, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, The Flash, Spider-man, Thor, and Jean Grey—just to name a few. Heck, I’ve lost count of all the times Nick Fury has died and come back to life.

The most notable comic-book resurrection, at least in my mind, was the death and return of Superman—an epic story spanning more than 36 issues. Doomsday, a brutal behemoth bent on bloodlust, pummeled the Man of Steel to death in Superman #75, one of the best-selling single issues of all time. In the aftermath, the entire world mourned Superman’s death and a panoply of heroes paid their respects. The fallen hero is buried in a tomb in Metropolis’ Centennial Park.

Then, in a story titled Life After Death, Superman’s adoptive father, Johnathan Kent suffers a massive heart attack and has a near-death experience where he encounter’s the soul of his son, Superman. In the afterlife, a hoard of demons attempts to deceive Superman and drag into the depths of hell. But with the help of his father, Superman fights back, defeating both the demons and death itself. Together the two return to life. Suddenly, Jonathan regains consciousness on the hospital operating table. His wife and the attending physicians try to calm him down, but he manages to tell Martha, “I brought him back… I brought Clark back to us, Ma.” Lois doubts Pa Kent’s story, but she checks it out anyway. When she and police Inspector Henderson go to Centennial Park to inspect Superman's tomb, they find it open and empty. “He’s gone!” Lois cries. “Not really,” Inspector Henderson replies. “I’d say from the look of things, he’s back! Superman’s back!”[1]

These comic-book tales of death and resurrection ought to resonate with Christians. While superhero resurrections occur quite frequently, real-world resurrection remain quite unheard of… with one notable exception: Jesus Christ!

After his death on the cross, Jesus’ followers buried him in a tomb in a nearby garden. The following Sunday, Jesus rose from the grave. Luke tells the story this way:

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Luke 24:1-5 NLT)

Over the next forty days, Jesus appeared to his followers many times and proved to them beyond any doubt that he was alive before finally returning to his rightful place in heaven. While Jesus probably never punched out any demons, like Superman, Jesus defeated death. Not only that, but Christ’s resurrection paved the way for our own resurrection from the dead!

The Bible says, “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died… everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life… all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NLT). For those who put their faith in Jesus and the power of his resurrection, death is not the end. The grave doesn’t have the final word. There is life after death! Jesus put it bluntly, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25 NLT). He followed up this claim with a profound question, “Do you believe this…?” How will you answer that question?

When a beloved comic-book character dies, a veteran fan can comfort new readers by reminding them, “Nobody stays dead in comic-books.” The same is true for believers. Nobody stays dead in Christ.

[1] DC Comics. Adventures of Superman (1987) #500.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The One Above All

 When his Asgardian companions, the Warriors Three, come to visit Thor on Midgard, the Mighty Avenger takes them on a tour of New York City. As the out-of-place foursome parade through the busy streets, a young boy announces excitedly, “Mama, look! It’s Thor! He claims to be a god, but Father O’toole says he isn’t!”

“Chad!” the mother chastises.

“Worry not, milady, for thy son’s words offend me not!” Thor replies. Thor kneels down, putting himself on the boys level, and asks, “Thou art called Chad?”

“Yep” The boy replies.

Smiling warmly, Thor explains, “Chad, far away from here there exists a home of gods, a realm of eternal wonder called Asgard. ‘Tis a place of great majesty and beauty whose residents strive to live just and beneficial lives. ‘Tis not, however, Heaven. Nor is it home to He whose radiance dwarfs e’en our own.” Rising to his feet once again, Thor towers over young Chad as he asks, “Does that put to rest thy questions?”

Smiling ear to ear, the boy responds, “You mean that big as you are, there’s something even bigger!?”

“Aye,” Thor answers.[1]

Some might find it surprising to hear a comicbook character, especial “the god of thunder,” speaking so humbly about the God of Heaven. Yet, Thor isn’t the only Marvel character to such allusions.

While traveling cross-country to California, Reed and Sue Richard’s train comes to sudden halt. On the tracks ahead of them stands Uatu—a member a vastly powerful, ancient race known as The Watchers. “What could have happened important enough to bring The Watcher here??” Reed urgently asks.

The Watcher replies, “My explanation shall be brief… The Silver Surfer – unmindful of the dread consequences – now runs amok amongst mankind!” When Reed offers to help, Uatu immediately teleports him to the scene.

Anxiously, Sue asks, “But what can he do against the all-powerful Silver Surfer!?”

“All powerful? There is only One who deserves that name!” Uatu reassures. “And His only weapon… is love!”[2]

Thor’s father, Odin, likewise humbly acknowledges this all-powerful God of love and radiance. When Jake Olsen—Thor’s one-time human host—dies, his spirit encounters the King of Asgard. “Are you… God?” Olsen asks.
“Nay, mortal. There is a power far greater than mine,” Odin admits, “and it is to Him I commend your spirit now!”[3]

The supreme God of the Marvel universe is called by many titles, but the one by which he is most commonly call is “The One Above All.”[4]

So, what’s the point? Although Thor, Odin, the Watcher and all these other fantastic characters are fictional, if these immortal beings of immense power can humbly acknowledge the existence of a transcendent God of infinite power and love who created their universe… couldn’t we mere mortals do the same?

When the apostle Paul visited the great Grecian city of Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. Rather than chastise the people of Athens for their idolatry, however, Paul took advantage of the opportunity to tell them about the One True God, the One above all others:

“Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about. He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need… His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.” (Acts 17:22-28 NLT)

Paul spoke of a creative, commanding, caring and compassionate God—all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving. The God of the Bible is an unrivaled, uncontested God of infinite might and power and glory and awe! In short: The One Above All. But this God not only created us, he longs for us to know him. When we humbly acknowledge his existence and seek after him, we’ll discover that the One Above All is not far from any of us.

When Paul proclaimed the reality and radiance of this ‘Unknown God,’ the people of Athens responded in one of three ways: some laughed in contempt, some wanted to hear more, and a few joined Paul and became believers. How will you respond?

[1] Marvel Comics. Thor (1998) #28.
[2] Marvel Comics. Fantastic Four (1961) #72
[3] Marvel Comics. Thor (1998) Annual 2000.
[4] Marvel Comics. Infinity War (1992) #2.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sidekicks and Superheroes!

Robin. Speedy. Kid Flash. Aqua Lad. Bucky. Jan, Jayce and their pet money, Blip. What do all these comic and cartoon characters have in common? They’re all sidekicks! For some reason sidekicks don’t get the same level of recognition and respect as other heroes.

In an episode of Young Justice, four superheroes—Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Flash—invite their sidekicks on a tour of the famed Hall of Justice as the first step in becoming full-fledged members of the Justice League. When Roy Harper, better known as Speedy, complains that their initiation seems more like a glorified back-stage pass, Green Arrow responds, “Roy, you just need to be patient.”

“What I need,” Speedy snaps back, “is respect.” Turning to his youthful colleagues, Speedy complains, “They’re treating us like kids. Worse, like sidekicks!”[1]

Despite Speedy’s strong sentiments to the contrary, being a sidekick isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, the concept is quite biblical. Jesus himself mentored not one, but twelve sidekicks! He called them disciples. These twelve sidekicks lived with Jesus for three years. They traveled with him from town to town, watched him perform breath-taking miracles and absorbed his life-changing teachings. They often performed menial tasks as part of their training, like distributing food to thousands of people when Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish… not to mention cleaning up the leftovers. But the disciples’ most important job was simply to learn from the Master—to follow in his footsteps. The more they listened to Jesus and learned from him, the more like him they became. When Jesus ascended into heaven, their training ended and these twelve sidekicks became full-fledged heroes. They continued Christ’s mission and ministry, and trained others to do the same. From one generation to the next, this process continues.

Superhero sidekicks often experience a similar cycle. Kid Flash eventually assumed the mantle of the Flash and trained his own sidekick named Impulse. Thanks to Batman’s tutelage, Dick Grayson, the original Robin, became the leader of the Teen Titans, adopted the superhero persona Nightwing, and even filled in as Batman for prolonged periods, during which time he mentored two other Robins—Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. Even Speedy eventually graduates from sidekick to superhero.

In an issue of Justice League, Green Lantern and Black Canary show up Roy Harper’s home with an invitation to join the Justice League. At first, Roy can’t believe it. “This is a joke, isn’t it?”

“It’s not a joke,” Black Canary replies. “We don’t joke about this. Now would you like to join the League?”

When Roy hesitates, Green Lantern hands him a package, saying, “Maybe this will convince you.” Inside, Roy find a red replica of Green Arrow’s costume, complete with a “R” insignia on the belt. As Roy dons his new costume, Green Lantern smiles, “Ollie will never say it, kid, but this is what he was training you for… Welcome to the League, Red Arrow!”[2]

The mentor/sidekick relationship is essential not only for superheroes, but also for Christians. If you’re relatively new to the Christian faith, seek out a spiritual mentor who can help you grow in you walk with Christ. If you’re a veteran Christian, be on the look out for new and young believers who could benefit from your wisdom and experience. In either case, our work isn’t done until our sidekicks have sidekicks of their own.

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”
(2 Timothy 2:2 NLT)

[1] Young Justice. Season 1. Episode 1: “Independence Day”
[2] DC Comics. Justice League of America (2006) #7.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Hand of God

In a riveting episode of Justice League Unlimited, a green, glowing orb containing two determined heroes tumbles through a temporal vortex of swirling chronal energy in pursuit of the time-traveling villain—Chronos. Batman questions, “Where’s he going? There’s nothing left!” Green Lantern replies, “Yes, there is. The beginning of time!” Contemplating the consequences, Batman asserts, “He can reset everything, make himself into a god.”

“Only if he gets there first,” Green Lantern affirms. Pressing forward with grim determination, Green Lantern announces, “The Green Lanterns have a legend. No one can see the beginning of time. It’s a universal law.”

“Write him a ticket,” Batman quips. As the heroes draw closer, Green Lantern uses his power ring to snare Chronos, drawing him into their glowing, green sphere and hitting the brakes. Unable to stop in time, Batman and Green Lantern witness the beginning of time. And what do they see? A colossal, cosmic hand holding the swirling fundamental quantum elements of our universe—the hand of God.[1]

This “Hand of Creation” appears again and again whenever DC Comic’s characters journey to the beginning of creation and reminds readers that there is a powerful, creative hand behind not just the DC Universe, but the universe you and I live in as well.

While actual time-travel may be relegated to science fiction and fantasy, astronomers today can literally observe the past. Because light takes time to travel from distant objects to the astronomer’s telescope, the farther away they look, the farther back in time they see. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has said, “The universe is now sufficiently ancient that astronomers can directly view and analyze 99.9972 percent of cosmic history and directly behold the cosmic creation event.”[2] What do astronomers see when they behold the beginning of the universe? Well, they don’t see the hand of God, but they do see his finger prints—evidence of God’s presence.

Remarkably, the universe itself offers tremendous insight into the Creator of the cosmos. First of all, we know that whatever caused the universe must be a transcendent Creator beyond the universe itself. Since cosmology tells us that literally all of space, matter and even time itself came into being at the Big Bang, then whatever caused the universe must be space-less, timeless, and immaterial—that is, a nonphysical entity that exists outside of time. It must also be unimaginably powerful, since it caused all matter and energy to spring into existence. So, the creation of our universe points to a space-less, timeless, immaterial entity of immense power.

Astronomers have also been stunned by the discovery of how complex and delicate a balance of initial conditions must have been present in the Big Bang itself if the universe is to permit the existence of intelligent life anywhere at all in the cosmos. This delicate balance of initial conditions has come to be known as the “fine-tuning” of the universe for life. Famed British theoretical physicist, Steven Hawking, described this observation in his book, A Brief History of Time, saying, “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”[3]

Thus, what we can observe about the creation of the universe we live in tells us that whatever caused it, is a transcendent, space-less, timeless, immaterial, unimaginably powerful, highly intelligent, personal creator who crafted the cosmos with us in mind. I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like the hand of God to me!

While you may not have the ability to travel through time or own a powerful telescope capable of seeing billions of lights years away, I challenge you to stand beneath the stars on a clear night, gaze into the heavens, and see if you don’t sense the hand of God yourself.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”
(Psalm 19:1-4 NLT)

[1] Justice League Unlimited, "The Once and Future Thing Part Two: Time, Warped"
[2] Ross, Hugh. “Beginning and End of Cosmology.” Reasons to Believe ( July 2007
[3] Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes. Bantam Books, 1988.