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!