Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Holy Footwear, Batman!

CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD the PDF boot pattern!

Whether it's the swashbuckling stylings of Captain America or the armored appearance of Arkham Knight's Batman, boots are an essential part of nearly every superhero's wardrobe. Unfortunately, realistic looking boots can be one of the most difficult and costly parts of creating a costume. I filmed the above video tutorial to demonstrate exactly how to make your very own custom superhero boots cheaply and easily!

Of course, as I filmed this tutorial about heroic footwear, a passage of Scripture came to mind. The Bible says, "For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared" (Ephesians 6:15 NLT). Just as any superhero must pull on and zip up his or her boots to answer the call of justice, Christians are called cloak our feet in the peace that comes from the Gospel.

The road of life can be rough and rocky. Without a decent pair of boots, we'd likely grow weary and worn out. Thankfully, Jesus offers us spiritual shoes for our journey.  The "Good News" of God's love and the hope of heaven enable us to enjoy comfort and peace along life's journey.

So while you're zipping up those cosplay boots, don't forget to also lace up your spiritual shoes and experience the peace that comes from the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Flash and Fatherhood

In case I haven’t mentioned it already, I absolutely love The Flash. I was only nine years old when the original television series aired but I made sure never to miss an episode. A remarkable and unforgettable series, The Flash left a lasting impression on my imagination. The new Flash series, currently airing on CW, had some big shoes to fill in my mind. It doesn’t disappoint.

In addition to lightning-fast, swashbuckling action, the Flash brings something to television that most TV shows lack—a positive portrayal of fatherhood. Throughout the first season, the Scarlet Speedster enjoys not just one, but two strong, supportive father-figures. Framed for murder, Barry’s biological father, Henry, spends the first season in prison. In his absence, police officer and neighbor, Joe West, adopts and raises Barry as his own son.  Despite one of them being in prison, both fathers play a powerful and important role in Barry’s life. In an episode titled Crazy for You, Barry visits his father in the prison’s infirmary. Suspecting that his son is, in fact, the Scarlet Speedster, Henry tells him, “If The Flash were my son, I'd tell him a few things. First off, I'd tell him it's a dangerous world, so be careful. Then I'd tell him he's a hero. And he's saving a lot of lives. But the most important thing for him to know, I feel, is that his father's proud of him.” As a dad myself, father-son scenes like these really speak to me.

This weekend I happened to meet John Wesley Shipp at Cape Comic-Con. Mr. Shipp not only played Barry Allen in the original series, but now plays Henry Allen in the current series. When I asked him what he enjoys most about having played the Flash and now playing the Flash’s father, he spoke of the “passing of the baton” and the many connections that he shares with Grant Gustin (the actor currently playing the Flash).

When the crowds died down, I stopped by John’s table again to tell him how much I enjoyed his role in Hell and Mr. Fudge, a faith based film about the life of Edward Fudge. In the film, John plays Edward’s father, Bennie Lee Fudge—a staunchly conservative Alabama preacher. Mr. Shipp immediately lit up when I mentioned the movie and went on to tell me how much the role reminded him of his own upbringing. John is likewise the son of a preacher. His father faithfully served as a Baptist pastor until finally retiring in 2009. We chatted briefly about Edward, his relationship with his father, and some of the similarities in his and John’s life. Before heading back to our table, I gave him a copy of the Amazing Gospel and one of our Costumers for Christ pamphlets.

A short time later, Mr. Shipp saw me passing by in the lobby, left his table, and flagged me down to show me an article from his early career as an actor on the daytime television show, Guiding Light. The article featured a photo of his mother and father and spoke of them and their faith as the real “guiding light” in Shipp’s life. John beamed with pride as he spoke of his father and seemed genuinely excited to show me the article and picture of his dad. I didn’t ask if John still practiced the faith of his parents, but his father’s faith clearly left an indelible mark on John’s life.

The Bible has much to say about fatherhood. For instance, it tells us, “Reverence for God gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security” (Proverbs 14:26 TLB). In other words, when a father relies on God for strength and security, his children will be able to do likewise. Every father leaves a legacy, an “indelible mark” on their sons and daughters. Although I frequently fall short, I strive to be a good and godly father. And I pray that my children will same day speak about me with the same pride and excitement that John Wesley Shipp spoke of his dad. The question is—what kind of legacy will you leave? How will your children remember you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Daredevil: Learning to Discern

If you’re like many comic-book fans, you likely spent the weekend holed up in front of the TV binge-watching Marvel’s newest small-screen superhero, Daredevil, on Netflix. My busy schedule and preparations for Cape Con this weekend didn’t allow me that luxury, so I’m not yet finished with the series. But, like everyone else, I’m lovin’ it so far.

Daredevil’s story is compelling. Blinded in a tragic accident as a child, Matt Murdock’s other senses compensated for his lack of sight. Having honed these senses to a superhuman level, Daredevil can taste the additives in a can of Diet Coke, track the scent of a particular perfume from two blocks away, read the newspaper by running his fingertips gently over the print, and uses echolocation to navigate the dark and often dangers streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Murdock’s weakness became his strength.

Christians can easily relate to Matt Murdock. Strength out of weakness is a recurring theme in Scripture.  Daredevil’s heightened senses also grant him an ability that all Christians should covet. By listening to a person’s heartbeat and smelling an increase in perspiration, Daredevil is a human lie-detector. He “sees” the truth buried beneath deception and dishonesty. This is the gift of discernment.

Now more than ever, Christians could benefit from Daredevil’s discernment. In the city of Corinth, a multiplicity of religions and world-views claimed to have the corner on truth much as they do today. Many of the Christians there didn’t know what to believe, so the apostle Paul wrote to them, saying, “You know that when you were still pagans you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know how to discern what is truly from God” (1 Corinthians 12:2-3 NLT). 

I think God still wants the same for us. Countless Christians today have likewise been "led astray" and "swept along" by unbiblical beliefs. Unlike Daredevil, we aren’t gifted with super-senses, but we do have the gifts of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. As Christians, our most-trusted source of spiritual truth is God’s Word. Jesus once prayed, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17 NLT). We can also receive help from God’s Spirit. Jesus assured his followers, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

By developing a deeper relationship with God’s Word and God’s Spirit, we heighten our spiritual senses and eventually we can learn to discern like Daredevil. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Christ of Two Worlds!

Tomorrow, Christians all around the world will celebrate Good Friday, commemorating Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. For decades fans, commentators, and movie reviewers have identified striking similarities between Superman and Jesus. Few stories illustrate Superman’s Christlikeness better than The Death of Superman. I write about this in the following excerpt from my soon-to-be release book, Holy Heroes: Comics, Cosplay and Christianity:

I will never forget a chilly Wednesday afternoon in November of 1992. My dad drove me to the comic book store to buy the newest issue of Superman. I never saw anything like it. The line at the comic book store stretched out the door and around the corner as customers waited for hours to get a copy of the issue that sold millions. When I finally made it to the front of the line, the store owner reached beneath the counter and handed me the coveted collector’s edition of Superman #75.

In the story that resulted in the Man of Steel’s murder, a mysterious monster imprisoned far below the surface of the Earth breaks free and wreaks havoc all over the Midwest. This hulking behemoth collapses an interstate overpass, demolishes an 18-wheeler in a head on collision with his fist, and aimlessly destroys whatever catches his eye. A bystander describes him as, “the devil incarnate ushering in the end of the world!” One of the other heroes, who try and fail to stop him, dubs the monster Doomsday.
Superman is the only hero strong enough to face the ferocious beast in a battle that stretches across six issues and several states. Full-page panels decorated each page, stressing the hugeness of the story. As their mêlée reaches Metropolis, streets are demolished, cars are hurled, and the indestructible fighters crash through buildings. Their final punches send shockwaves, shattering the glass from nearby windows. Bruised and bloody, Superman refuses to give up. Finally, he puts every ounce of strength into one last blow. Like weary boxers, the two contenders collide and then collapse onto the broken pavement.

On the last page, in an image reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Lois whispers to Superman, “You stopped him! You saved us all!” Then the leaf folds out into a three-page splash as Superman dies in Lois’ arms.

I’ll be honest with you. I cried when I read that story. Superman was my hero, yet there he lay—broken and lifeless. It shattered my eleven-year-old heart. This story and this image defined for me what it meant to be a hero.

Meanwhile, I was also reading my Bible and listening closely to the stories I would hear in Sunday School about a hero sent from above to save the world. I made a connection between the two. Superman became the bridge that Jesus walked across.

What Superman did in that comic book, Jesus did in reality. The monster may have been different, but the outcome was the same. The Bible says, “When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8 NCV).

This is why Jesus is my superhero! He wants to be your hero, too. As we observe Good Friday and remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, let me encourage you to embrace Jesus as your own heavenly hero. If you’re not sure how to do that, I’d love to help. Better yet, find a Bible-believing church to attend this Easter.