Friday, July 5, 2019

A Tangled Web!

I took my son and daughter to see Spider-man: Far from Home yesterday, and the movie far exceeded our expectations. This angsty, action-packed sequel picks up where Avengers: Endgame left off and follows Peter Parker on a humorous and heartfelt European vacation. But it’s the villain of the story who really steals the spotlight.

Spoiler Warning

When four elemental monsters begin wreaking havoc all across Europe, a mysterious new hero emerges claiming, “I’m here to save your world.” This courageous new hero, dubbed Mysterio by Peter and his classmates, fends off the elemental monsters at great personal risk while simultaneously forming a friendship with Peter. Believing Mysterio to be much more capable and competent than himself, Peter gives Mysterio control of EDITH—a billion-dollar tactical system embedded in a pair of sunglasses that he inherited from Tony Stark. Not surprisingly, Mysterio isn’t what he seems.

To his horror, Peter discovers that Mysterio, Quentin Beck, isn’t a hero at all. Rather, Beck turns out to be a brilliant but unbalanced ex-employee of Stark Industries. Beck utilizes advanced technology to create incredible illusions. The elemental monsters are nothing more than holographic projections and special effects. Beck desperately wants the world to believe that he is an Avenger’s level hero and he’s willing to orchestrate cataclysmic disasters to accomplish his goals. With EDITH now under Beck’s control, he plans another duplicitous demonstration of daring-do that will level half of London, and it’s up to Spider-man to stop him.

Mysterio reminds me a great deal of a man we read about in the Bible named Jacob. Much like Mysterio does with Peter, Jacob once tricked his older brother, Esau, into handing over his inheritance. Later, Jacob disguised himself as Esau in order to deceive their father, Isaac, into giving him the family blessing too. Jacob eventually repented and became a godly man, but the world remains replete with people who pretend to be something they aren’t in order to deceive others.

Jesus warned his followers, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” (Matthew 7:15 NLT). The Apostle Paul also warned about false prophets, saying, “They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NLT). Satan and his servants can deceive people by appearing to be attractive, upright and virtuous. Many unsuspecting believers have followed smooth-talking, Bible-quoting leaders into destructive heresies or dangerous cults. This is why it’s important for Christians to be watchful and wary.

Peter Parker learned the hard way that appearances can be deceiving. Thankfully, Mysterio’s evil scheme failed and Spider-man won in the end. Christians can take heart that even though deceitful schemers may fool us on occasion, God will never be fooled and, like Spidey, God always wins in the end.  

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The New 42: God Terraforms All Things

I just finished reading The New 42: God Terraforms All Things, written by two of my fellow godly geeks, Eric Anderson and Nathan Marchand, and wanted to take a moment to recommend it to everyone reading this.

The New 42 is a fun-filled, faith-fueled adventure, exploring the depth and breadth of geekdom and the gospel. What impressed me most is the broad scope of fantasy and fandom contemplated throughout the book. Perusing these pages, you’ll find insights drawn from Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate SG-1, Doctor Who, both Marvel and DC Comics, Minecraft, Firefly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Heroscape, Godzilla, Disney, and a variety of anime. Similarly, The New 42 spans the full scope of Scripture. It starts “in the beginning” and weaves through the Bible before climaxing in the book of Revelation. While both authors offer valuable contributions, Nathan Marchand’s writing really sings. He has a knack for succinctly summarizing stories in such a way that make the reader feel familiar with them even if they’ve never heard of, for instance, Full Metal Alchemist or Bulletproof Monk. Ultimately, The New 42 will appeal to Christ-following nerds and geeks whatever their fandom.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Avengers: Endgame - Not Us

Guest Writer: Nathan Marchand

With Avengers: Endgame re-releasing this weekend (my birthday, no less!), a couple friends and I decided to write a trilogy of devotional blog posts centered on the characters in the film. What follows is my contribution. Be sure to check out the other two here and hereAlso, it should go without saying, but SPOILER WARNING!

On the surface, it looks like Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) is coping with Thanos’ victory in Avengers: Infinity War pretty well, though perhaps in an unexpected way. He becomes a grief counselor. During the session, one man says, “So I, uh... Went on a date the other day. First time in five years, you know? Sit there, dinner.... I didn't know what to talk about.”

“What did you talk about?” Steve asks.

“Same old crap, you know? How things have changed, job, his job.... How much we miss the Mets. Then things get quiet.... He cried as they were serving the salads.”

“How about you?”

“I cried...just before dessert. But I'm seeing him tomorrow, so....”

“That's great. You did the hardest part. You took the jump, you didn't know where you were gonna come down. And that's it. That's those little brave baby steps you gotta take. To try and become whole again. To try and find purpose. I went in the ice in forty-five right after I met the love of my life. Woke up seventy years later. You got to move on. Got to move on. The world is in our hands. It's left to us guys, and we have to do something with it. Otherwise...Thanos should have killed all of us.”
In the very next scene, though, he meets a frazzled, half-blonde Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow) in her makeshift office as she coordinates heroes across the galaxy. After some chitchat, Steve admits that he can’t take his own advice. “I keep telling everybody they should move on. Some do, but not us.”

In the five years since “the Snap,” Steve hasn’t been able to accept their failure—his failure—to stop it. He hasn’t been able to accept the fractured universe the Mad Titan left in his wake. Even Thanos’ execution by Thor couldn’t satisfy Steve’s sense of justice. That universal genocide shouldn’t have happened. The misery he encountered every day because of it shouldn’t exist. The man who never backed down from a bully, whether he met him in an alley or the battlefield, regretted there was one he couldn’t stop.

Hence why when Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) escapes the Microverse and tells him about his “twelve percent of a plan” to travel back in time to gather the Infinity Stones and use them to undo Thanos’ handiwork, Steve leaps at the chance. It’s a longshot, but it’s a shot. The colossal wrong could be made right.

Perhaps that’s why, in one of the most epic moments I’ve ever seen on film, Steve was worthy to wield Mjolnir when he faced Thanos again.

In 2 Kings 22, we meet Josiah, a boy who ascended to the throne of Judah at age eight. Unlike his evil grandfather Manasseh, “[h]e did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (v. 2). As an adult, he sent his secretary, Shaphan, to attend to business at the temple. While there, he learned the high priest, Hilkiah, had discovered the Book of the Law, which had gone missing for decades, if not longer. Shaphan returned to the king and read from the Book. Josiah’s reaction was visceral:

When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us” (2 Kings 22:11-13).

Josiah then sent Shaphan and the priests to inquire the prophetess Huldah concerning this. Thankfully, she said the Lord was pleased with Josiah’s humility, so Josiah wouldn’t see the disaster 

He would bring upon Judah.

In the following chapter, Josiah gathered his people and read from the Book of the Covenant. “The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant” (2 King 23:3). This marked the beginning of a massive reform. All the pagan objects in the temple were removed. Idols and Asherah poles were removed from sacred places and smashed. Mediums and spiritists were cast out. Verse 25 tells us, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.”

There is much evil in the world. There has been since Adam and Eve ate that forbidden fruit. In their heart of hearts, every human who has ever lived carries the echoes of Eden. They know the world is not right, even if they don’t say they do. Christians, though, are fully aware of it, and our hearts burn with a righteous indignation. It’s the fire that burns when we hear about things like sex trafficking. It compels us to act, to fight against the evil. This “holy discontent” makes us refuse to accept this as “normal,” because it was never part of God’s design, and we know this. We can’t simply “move on” with our lives as if nothing happened. Just like “the Snap” drastically altered the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the Fall of Man changed ours. Now we must take back what we lost by taking Gospel to the ends of the Earth, and through its power undo the evils of sin.

Captain America and King Josiah couldn’t stand by while evil pervaded the world, and neither can we.

It’s time we all lift Mjolnir, my friends.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Holy Heroes Devotional Promo Video!

My new book, The Holy Heroes Devotional, is now available on Amazon! 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 superheroes 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!

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.