Friday, November 28, 2008

Myth Makers, Pt. 3/ST:TOS Marathon "The Enemy Within"

I've been talking about how men love myths, create myths and can become myths themselves, if they embrace the True Myth (as Tolkien called it) - the story and message of Christianity.

There is a very strong reason that men do not embrace Christ and ask God to forgive them on the basis of His sacrifice. The reason is universal, for all people and all ages. It is found when we criticize our leaders, argue amongst ourselves and our lack of compassion for those not as strong as us. You can be of any age and any background and discover it.

"We have met the enemy, and he is us," quipped Pogo, playing on the usual victory message "We have met the enemy and he is ours!" (or as we hear so often online "All your bases belong us!" ;) )

The truth and mythical allure of Jesus Christ is based on Him paying for the sins of mankind.

But if a man does not believe he has sinned - is truly in the wrong - he will not personally ask Jesus Christ to pay for his sins. In other words, if we believe collectively and individually that we are not sinful, selfish and in need of a blood sacrifice to save us from hell, the cross of Christ is "much ado about nothing" as Oswald Chambers puts it.

From My Utmost for His Highest, November 21st:



Never build your case for forgiveness on the idea that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. That contradicts the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. It makes the Cross unnecessary, and the redemption "much ado about nothing."

God forgives sin only because of the death of Christ. God could forgive people in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted as Savior because of His death. "We see Jesus . . . for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor . . ." ( Hebrews 2:9 ). The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— "It is finished!" ( John 19:30 ). That is the final word in the redemption of humankind. Anything that lessens or completely obliterates the holiness of God, through a false view of His love, contradicts the truth of God as revealed by Jesus Christ.

Never allow yourself to believe that Jesus Christ stands with us, and against God, out of pity and compassion, or that He became a curse for us out of sympathy for us.

Jesus Christ became a curse for us by divine decree. Our part in realizing the tremendous meaning of His curse is the conviction of sin. Conviction is given to us as a gift of shame and repentance; it is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the sin in people, and Calvary is the measure of His hatred.

We have this inner demon - or inner nature - that is concerned only about self. It wages war for its own pleasures and joys. It does not care for others. It doesn't listen to the pain of the world, being so self-consumed. We hear it in the whine of Cain AFTER he murders his brother Abel, upset that his "punishment is more that [he] can bear!"

You kill a good and noble man serving God with his very best and you are whining to God about having to wander? Whoa there, Cain.

Its the Christmas season and we're out buying gifts. This day is also known and feared as the most hideous day of shopping for the entire year. Retailers call it "Black Friday". The day the masses descend upon the malls to purchase all their presents, having the day off after Thanksgiving - the day we are to celebrate giving thanks to the God of the universe. I wonder how many families sacrificed their joy by shopping today? I wonder how many are still recovering from the pain of their gathering together?

How many competent, normally sane adults found out, like Kirk did, that there is an enemy within?




Yeah. We think we are "the captain", don't we? We look at ourselves in the mirror and say "I'm the CAPTAIN of my life!'

No. You are not. Or at least, only for a moment in time.

If we want to be "true" myths, like Christ, and by that I mean real and impacting lives wisely, we have to admit we are NOT the captains of our souls. That evil and sin dwell in us. And despite the message of this episode, that compassion and kindness means losing your ability to command, the message of Christ is that the "meek will inherit the Earth". Not the weak. Not the cowardly or undecisive. The meek.

Those who serve others, who accept that Jesus Christ paid for their evil and fully intends to cure them of it. Those who accept they are wrong and God is right.

The meek do not inherit THIS Earth, by the way. It is the "new heavens and earth" spoken of in the book of Revelations. Or in other words, the Captain of the Cross is going to promote us, if we admit He is Lord.

We can go around grunting and screaming and drinking, chasing our lusts, or we can admit our sin, our wickedness and ask for help.

Not all men are completely blind. Many do what they can to help many out of recognition that it is right to be good and merciful and loving. They DO listen to this compass of the heart. But only Christ can empower a man to do far above and beyond his natural human nature.

And only Christ can save a man from hell. From enemies without -and enemies within.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Myth Makers Pt. 2 (work on *your* story)

Donald Miller is my favorite "bleeding-heart liberal" Christian writer. He does a good job of poking out the eyes of self-righteousness by simply admitting his own narcissism and self-pity.

Of his desire to own things and getting his identity and happiness from materialism, he writes: "I like things with buttons."

That's it. After all his gentle language that cannot help but entrance the reader, making them drop their well-trained defenses, he comes right out and admits his childish greed; suitable words have never been more aptly spoken by any boy of eight who's waiting for Christmas only to get his loot: "I like things with buttons."

So do I, Don. So do I.

As a fundamentalist (well, sort of a neo-fundy, actually), I find myself being tempted to wage war against the evils of our culture with "tha Wurd of Gahd"! And I note that THE "Word of God" namely Jesus Christ did not do this. Ever.

I am sorry I ever thought differently. So many good and concerned Christ-followers are being told of the failures of our American culture, that they can barely see or hear ANYTHING good about it if they don't take a breath and turn off conservative Christian radio. Now before I get any crowing from the decadent, the lost and the non-Christians, I've got to tell you flatly: you guys are NUTS. You need Jesus. NOW!

But though some of the things you do are decidedly dangerous, there is much greater danger for me and my conservative Christian brothers in demonizing you. I have had to listen to Christian after Christian after Christian tell me how BAD the world is, how LOST their family is, how MEAN their boss is, how AWFUL the future will be soon, and you know what?

That ain't news. That's complaining.


I've heard so much of this "oh-NOES-da-world-doesn't-luv-Jesus", that today on Christian radio a man came on who was upset about how "Christ" was being taken out of "Christmas" and how God was being overlooked at Thanksgiving - and I just reached over and shut the radio off.

Let me tell you EXACTLY why no one cares about God.

They never believed He was being good to them. They never saw His goodness. Furthermore, they never saw Christians obeying Jesus radically out of love. And this tactic, to get people - namely Christians - all upset so they do something about it? Well, yippee. Its a common writer's tactic. Here's what you end up with - weak and pitiful Christians who cannot love their enemies. They are too afraid of them.

I am serious. I wish I were kidding, because I stand so firmly entrenched on the Religious Right side, you cannot begin to mistake me for a fan of Anne Lamott (but I am. I've read three of her books). But as a sometime pastor, I have to see, smell, feel and taste the fear and anxiety and anger of these Christians who have been hurt by evil and are stuck in the "we must fight them!!" mode.

Don't they know that Christ is going to throw the Devil and his angels - his personal messengers - into Hell? Don't they know that the end of the story has been written?

Obviously not. That's why they can't do anything FOR Jesus. They are sure He has lost - well, just LOOK at our culture! Oh my!

Here's a fact: Jesus only changes cultures from within, starting with our hearts. And that is why I CAN go into the jail and preach, and why I CAN travel overseas to proclaim the Gospel. If Jesus cannot win my heart, and give me victory over my fears, why should I bother others?

No. I'm childish enough. The cure for all this nonsense is to follow Jesus and make myths by living radically, doing what no one else "in their right mind" would do.

That's the secret ingredient. Everyone can see it MUST be Jesus at work then. Neither I nor you nor any Christian can do this without Him.

Do you know why C. S. Lewis is still read today? It wasn't because he was brilliant.

It was because he was a brilliant man who put obeying Jesus Christ over his personal life. He lived a life no other Oxford don would dare. He wrote popular apologetics. He wrote satire on demonic temptation. He took care of another man's mother and stayed a bachelor for decades. He wrote children's stories AFTER writing great criticism - mark that, he graduated to writing stories for children. What does this all have in common? He got over his personal fears and did what no one expected.

The next time you hear how bad everything is and how we are spiraling downward as a nation, take it with a grain of salt. It probably is true (decadent empires have always died internally first)- but it is also true that Christ uses individuals to change empires. The most convinced atheist, the most carnal Christian can be transformed by Christ and used of God to shake not just our present culture, but all cultures over all time.

Stop thinking so small. Stop whining, too. No one is impressed by how offended or hurt you are.

Christ has you on a grand adventure for it is written, "He who began a good work in you will complete it on the coming day of Christ Jesus!"

Stop worrying about anyone else's story. Work on your own.

For God's sake.

Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Myth Makers Pt. 1

I've been reading Alan Jacobs informative biography of C. S. Lewis entitled The Narnian: the Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis. It is neither brutally skeptical nor dully academic nor another tedious romanticizing of the man. It takes Lewis at face value, offering some pretty fair critiques of reasons and motives behind "Jack's" (as Lewis' family and friends called him) actions, and permitted me to delve a little deeper into knowing the man behind the myth.

Lewis loved faerie stories but most especially the stark heroism and pathos of the Norse mythos. "Balder the Brave is dead, is dead!" These words captured his heart - and Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, his senior by six years - was the one who called Lewis to task on this inconsistent love affair he had. He pointed out to Jack that if he encountered the story of a dying god in myth, he appreciated it - was moved by it, touched deeply by its beauty. But if he met its parallel in Christianity - specifically in Christ - he disliked it intensely, saying it was "too barbaric." He pushed Jack on this point and said, in so many words, "Don't you see Jack? Christianity is the True Myth! Myth became fact!"

It happened. "Once upon a time, in a land far, far away..."

This hit Lewis hard. It showed him his bias against the faith he was raised with. It put his hard skepticism to rout. His love of fantasy and truth in equal measure put him in an unappealing dilemma.

Lewis loved heroism, gods, myths, the heavenlies, high drama and poetry. He was enchanted by these things. If Christianity were true, then the myths had become real - at a certain place in a certain time. He was drawn in by this reasoning, simultaneously horrified and intrigued and finding no honest way out. It was G. K. Chesterton's wit that helped deliver the final blow, IMHO.

I am often blunt and foolish in so many ways, but I understand Lewis perfectly here.

The reason my blogs are about superheroes and movies and shows is that these are our modern myths - the legendary heroes you and I grow up with. Like Lewis, I found my joy in comics and fantasy and SF - and though I attended church regularly, there was no joy there.

It wasn't that I did not believe the Bible was true (one way or another) or that Jesus was the son of God, its just that there is nothing mythical about sitting on a pew listening to a pastor preach a sermon he doesn't hardly believe for twenty-five minutes.

No one worked any miracles, though they are in the Bible. No one did anything major except act nice and sympathetic.

Let me tell you, discovering that Jesus was MORE than some "Christianized" philosophy or form of religious humanitarianism, was terrible blow.

Jesus is alive - and could speak! The "myth" became fact in my very life.

The night He spoke to me [yes, literally - I heard Him] immediately squelched all arguments otherwise, but since then He has done most of His work subtly. I grow - like all saints - by obedience to His commands by listening to His Word. It doesn't matter how old you are, it matters how much you obey.

Another strange thing is happening: my life is slowly turning "mythical". I mean that. I have had more and more strange events turn serendipitously in my favor than a Die Hard movie.

Once I was not real - to myself or to others - and now Jesus is making a myth out of even me.

Something - some one - that can bear "the weight of glory" as Lewis' would put it.

May He do the same for you today, dear Narnian.

Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ready for my close-up, Mr. deMille!

Its Friday and in a little over a week we are having our 7th Annual Open House for our house ministry Open Arms Fellowship. That means I have to get busy cleaning up our downstairs and preparing things to show what we've been doing the past year.

Last week I recieved yet another letter from an inmate who confirmed that my Monday-night Bible study was used of God to bring him to Christ.

I won't quote it all, but in one place he says [paraphrase] "Justice, a year ago I would have been running a gambling ring here in jail. Now I am reading my Bible and talking to God, seeking to do His will." His incarceration became his moment of life-change.

That's cool. I understand that all too well. I recently appeared on public access TV (Voices in the Wilderness with Maria Goldstein) to give my testimony of how I met Jesus after my divorce and having $25,000 of unsecured debt. AGGGHHH! I look terrible, but I am still pretty pleased with it 'cause I was ecstatic, eager to explain what God had done for me.

Its a good thing to look back and give thanks for what God has done for you and through you to reach others.

Its been an amazing year financially as well. I have ONE debt left, and that is under $900. But greater than any of this is the Lord's constant friendship and companionship as I have been walking alone in some hard places. I've had to accept He is at work, even when - no, scratch that - especially when men reject His ways. His plans always come to pass, no matter how bad it seems at the time.

We have a hard time believing this, I think. That God is in full control, but frankly, there is no other option. He was sovereign Lord over Egypt in its time of famine and gave them wise Joseph as the ruler second only to Pharoah.

It was painful what happened to Joseph on the way to the king's court, but you know what? God was with him the entire way. Teaching him, training him, developing him.

Once you have run an public official's mansion and then an Egyptian prison, both circa 1800 B.C., you can handle just about anything.

Genesis 39:1-6
1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.

3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So he left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

After Potiphar's wife LIES and gets Joseph thrown into prison (strange - for the crime he was accused of, he should have been executed, really) we find this does NOT stop Joseph's relationship with God.

Genesis 39:20-23
20 Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.


Note: Joseph was a man of integrity. People kept trusting him. He was honest to a fault (in fact this integrity was the reason his brothers hated him and sold him into slavery), but that meant he was guileless and it ends up getting him a job as Pharoah's second-in-command. After interpreting Pharoah's dream predicting a severe famine in the land, Pharoah and his officials are so impressed, he's hired on the spot.

Genesis 41:37-44
37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, "Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?"
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."

Joseph in Charge of Egypt
41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt." 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, "Make way!" Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. 44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt."

So here's the REAL answer to our personal trials and even this economic crisis: keep your integrity and serve where you are.

You have no idea how dramatic your life will be, but I assure of this: God is completely in charge and He "will never leave you nor forsake you."

"Behold, I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future..."

Or as Yul Brynner said in Cecil B. deMille's Ten Commandments:

"So let it be written! So let it be done!"

Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quantum of Solace - Bond the Relentless

Quantum of Solace is one of the more thoughtful and action-packed Bond moives at the same time. Like The Bourne Identity series, we see not a heroic superman running around with cool gadgets and scads of beautiful women, but rather a driven man, a heartbroken man, who, with all his technology and skills and prowess, cannot recover from the biggest loss of his life - the loss of the woman he fell for: Vesper.

Bond has gone through many iterations - from a 60's misogynist to a 70's player to an 80's romantic to a 90's assassin. This latest Bond brings elements of all four together in a believable whole. What motivates Bond these days and just how dangerous is he?

He is firstly an ice-cold payback man, who has all the wit and skills to take down anyone whom he feels must go. If you are reading this BEFORE you have seen the movie, I'll give you ONE clue: never, ever have James Bond as your enemy.

There is no humor in this film except in two or three wry exchanges. It does not live in darkness though - Bond is driven by his duty - and that duty includes protecting or delivering those he trusts and loves. There is only one hint of sex in the entire film, and it is brief.

Secondly, Bond is an agent out to do his job - the fantastic gadets are nearly done away with, keeping in tune with the digital technology we do have - with a heightened factor of ultra-sleekness here and there.

The thing that is great about Craig's performance is that he is a lion prowling around in impeccable suits and steely eyes whenever he is not adding up a body count with action that would make Batman proud. His craggy face and long nose seem to be disdavantages to his attractiveness to the opposite sex until he speaks - with a hint of smile and a "just between you and me" humor that lets you know he's afraid of nothing - not even being turned down.

Confident, unrelenting and mission-minded, we like this new Bond immensely.

Now how is that like Jesus? (You knew I was going there, didn't you?)

"Confident, unrelenting and mission-minded..." I said, right? Pay attention to this verse:

Mark 10:32-34
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.

"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.

Three days later he will rise."

Jesus was a poor preacher - a nobody from Galilee - who had been doing amazing things: healings, exorcisms and feeding thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread and some small fish. But NOW he was heading to the Big City - Jerusalem! Where all the most important religious and political officials were. Where Romans stood guard in the streets and any opposition or disturbance would be dealt with ruthlessly. That is why the disciples "were astonished".

They were scared half out of their mind. But Jesus did not flinch. He knew what He had to do. He knew how it was going to happen. He cooly and calmly announced it and began trekking onward to His death.

He also knew what would happen afterwards. God the Father had told Him. He obeyed Him, "even to death, death on a cross." This obedience and bravery, this coolness under fire is why we love Jesus as a man. Never stop there - He is deity incarnate - but He was a man. He could suffer hunger, thirst, cry, sleep and bleed.

When you see - correction - if you see the latest James Bond flick - pay attention to what you love about Bond and note how many images of a cross are used in this film.

Hint: there are more than one. ;)

Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Charlie X (ST:TOS Marathon)

I apologize for skipping Friday. That morning I decided I needed some fun so I went to see Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond flick with Daniel Craig. [Yeah it was cool, though the earlier film was better plotted and had more gadgets.] So I skipped my blog for a movie. Nyahhh, nyahh, nyahhh!!

But as I finished Wednesday's post, I found pure gold in the video/DVD shelves on the second floor of the library at the College of DuPage: Star Trek, the Original Series First Season! Twenty-nine episodes of action/adventure sci-fi with heart and passion and drama, written by some very notable SF writers of the day, including Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon.

IMHO, only Farscape got anywhere close to this series in terms of pulse-pounding drama. ST:TNG had a few righteous episodes, but percentage-wise, ST:TOS beats them hands down. ST alumni David Gerrold (The Trouble with Tribbles, The Galactic Whirlpool [novel]) understood why this was so. He said ST:TOS was about people who were family. Everyone argued with everyone. No one was perfect. It was this humanity in space and amongst alien cultures that made Star Trek worth watching.

And what I have learned is that de-humanization was the most terrible event in all these ST:TOS parables. De-humanization by psionic abilities, by technology, by medical advances, by possession, etc. are all presented again and again. In searching for a way to be like God ("Where No Man Has Gone Before") to conquering the flesh ("What Are Little Girls Made Of?") to finding a twisted form of immortality ("Miri") to even renewing the mind ("Dagger of the Mind"), Star Trek shows the failure of man by his very flawed human nature to accomplish these things without terrible consequences. We simply lack the wisdom - or the heart - to use such power.

"Of all things, a 'god' must have compassion!" shouts Kirk defiantly at his old-friend-turned-deity, Gary Mitchell. [Side note: Kirk was right, and Jesus showed precisely that - Matthew 15:32 ]

But scariest of all was to watch "Charlie X." Charlie, abandoned and alone for over a decade on an ancient world is going through teen adolescence in desperate need of guidance. He wants to be liked, to be loved, to be accepted by the crew. He has little to no social wisdom. He works very hard to be accepted, presenting lavish gifts out of nowhere (perfume for heart-throb Janice Rand), and then performs the most amazing card tricks for the amusement and joy of the crew.

How can he do these miraculous things? He has power no seventeen year old should have: the power to move and transmute matter at will. This was granted by the benign Thesians to save his life when he was an orphaned child, but now Charlie uses it to make anyone who isn't 'nice' to "go away". Like out of reality. Like permanently.

The spiritual Thesians did not realize this danger. Charlie had left their world before they noticed it and so, when the Enterprise is under Charlie's dictatorial rule and everyone is utterly terrifed at this angry 'teen god' gone rampant, they re-appear, wanting to undo the damage he has done and take him back to their world, among their kind where he will no longer be a threat.

Faced with this 'non-corporeal' purgatory, Charlie begs and pleads with the crew of the Enterprise to be allowed to stay with them just before he is transported away by the Thesians. "They can't feel - not like you. They don't love! Please - ! I want to STAY...Stayy... stayyyy....." [Full episode, CBS channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmjVOUW3Szo , advance to the 48:00-49:05 mark - it'll play from there. ]

Kirk's last minute intercession for this boy is touching. The sympathy of each crew member is apparent. But the fact is, Charlie is dangerous and has to be removed. He can never unlearn his power, and the Thesians sadly admit that either Charlie - or the humans he would meet - would destroy one another. Why is this so?

Charlie has incredible power without compassion. It is not tempered by love.

This danger exists for all empowered saints: those who, like Charlie, may be granted truth or abilities that go beyond a normal man's. Such saints have power to bless and to destroy, make no mistake. From Elijah calling down fire from heaven to Samson wrecking city gates, from Moses striking a rock so water gushed forth and to Paul blinding a magician with a word, each and every empowered saint must reign in his desires and accept God's love for humanity - fighting their own self-pity and anger - or the collateral damage they can cause will take years to undo.

We get impatient. We get tired of the whining, the complaining, the lack of faith or the evil that we are facing, and we want to handle it NOW. We think 5 years or 10 years or 40 years is LONG ENOUGH - and God says "No. Be patient. I am still in control. Be calm."

At one point, Jesus even rebuked His disciples severely for wanting to call down fire from heaven. Now - please don't be such a emo-humanist to think "they shouldn't have wanted to do that!" The next time the bank screws you out of hard-earned money or you get a nasty e-mail or a car cuts in front of you, you too will have some righteous indignation at the injustice of it.

These men loved Jesus something fierce. They KNEW he was good and meek and righteous. Peter's mother-in-law was healed by Him. They were casting out demons in His name. They were aiding Him as He fed thousands and thousands of human beings. They weren't just being mean - this is a level of anger you and I would feel if our favorite leader - our favorite spiritual guide who had done great things for us - was spat upon. You'd get "all medieval on their [tail]", as Quentin Tarantino would say.

Jesus rebukes them sharply. But why doesn't He just laugh it off?

Because they can. They can call fire down from heaven. They DO have this ability.

If a child says "I gonna go shoot da pres'dent fer takin' away my daddy's job!!" and gets a toy gun, you laugh and maybe lecture him on having better manners, but you don't "rebuke him." Not if you are wise. He's just a kid. He's powerless.

But if you see a sharp-shooter cleaning a rifle and he says the exact same thing, you get busy. You call the police if you have to. This guy is dangerous.

Luke 9:51-56
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.

And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

Jesus had given these men authority and power over demons, over sickness, but it was to show the power of God's love, not His wrath.

Like Charlie, they were teens who were JUST coming to grip with their loyalties, desires, loves. They had power - how would they use it?

The power YOU have may not be supernatural. You may not even believe such things happen - though I assure you they do. But you CAN use the power you do have to destroy men's lives or save them.

In His wisdom, God removed His Spirit from mankind and took back His power and authority in our rebellion. We became victims of nature, of each other, of mortal flesh. Our technology is an attempt to conquer our weaknesses and grant us abilities we do not normally possess. It is by any sane measure, a limited success at best.

God does grant His power, authority and Spirit to a select few. Like those early disciples, I have either witnessed or aided such men in their tasks. They do amazing things. But it is in love and out of compassion.

"If I have the tongues of men and of angels, yet have not love, it profits me nothing," wrote the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13. While this passage has been used by many a romantic to make a god out of love, Paul isn't trying to do that. He is contrasting love and the right attitude AGAINST the spiritual gifts and empowerments he mentioned earlier in chapter 12. He has discovered, type A perfectionist he is, that his HEART is the big problem, not his MIND, his KNOWLEDGE, his EDUCATION, his AUTHORITY nor his DUTY as a religious leader and church planter/missionary.

If we are to be sons of God - as Jesus wants us to be - we have to accept this:

Do it in love or do not do it at all.

We are not given our wisdom, power and abilities to straighten out others or burn them to ashes. We are given those gifts to do an impossible thing, to do something Satan cannot do: LOVE.

We are to love the unlovely, the foul, the indiscreet, the brutes of this world and those who do NOT want Jesus in their "village".

Or look at it like this - Jesus is King of the universe, right? He can crash their party anytime He wants to. It would behoove us to remember that and wait upon His timing in other lives.

So what does He want?

Jesus wants intimacy with us. He doesn't need our labors, He needs our attention (cf. Matha vs. Mary in Luke 10:38-42 ). He wants to change our hearts BEFORE we get busy and frustrated and angry and bitter.

"Above all things - a 'god' should have compassion!"

Captain Kirk said it right. A god should have compassion. So should any of his sons.

We receive that by hanging around Him, listening to Him and watching Him, just like Mary did.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Criminals and Crusaders: A Classic Supers RPG (Cost: $12, Reward: Priceless)

I have started working on my own superhero role-playing game, after some 25+ years of gaming experience and thought. I have no idea how good it will be, but I have a lot of ideas and I want to give back to the gaming community something that helps nerds like me keep a Judeo-Christian worldview while they play mighty heroes with secret identities. [Note: image to right from Steve Dubya's photobucket. Funnnyyyy!]

Spiritually I have discovered more and more metaphors about Christ in comics and movies than I ever dreamed possible. "All truth is God's truth," goes the common saying, but I would have to say "God speaks His truth in countless ways."

God used comics and superheroes to speak truth to me. What resonated in modern heroic figures was found in the ancient accounts of the Bible. From secret identities to superstrong men to beautiful women who challenge Persian kings and win, I found Jesus DID love what I loved.

In fact, he loved it so much He made it real.

The title of my RPG harkens back to the time when "Crusader" meant someone who fought for the good, no matter the cost or loss personally. Yes, there were many things to be ashamed of in the Crusades, but strangely, no one remembers that they were a reaction to Muslim invasions and conquests after 300 years of aggressive expansion. Let's just table that, because I have no wish to fight the uphill battle of contradicting everything you and I have been taught in college through liberal-minded professors. Or as the merchants who had their right hands chopped off under Saddam Hussein's regime said when presented with the atrocities of Guantanamo Bay on video: "Yes- what they did was bad. But what Hussein has done was far worse."

One of the other classic ideas of superheroism I grew up with was that superheroes do not kill. They cannot become "judge, jury and executioner." They are servants and self-appointed guardians, so they must aid and abide by the laws of the land in a reasonable fashion.

Sure they probably break a lot of ordinances, but because of their style and/or secrecy, the police have no one to arrest but the criminal wanted on multiple charges hanging in front of the police station. And when their "license" to act "unofficially" seems to be angering the public, all they have to do is sit back for a while and let "Gorgolloth, the Living Dinosaur" chomp up half of the downtown district for a few hours before the Mayor gets on TV and pleads for their help.

We need superheroes (whether we admit it or not). We need them in fantasy to re-reveal truth, in mythical fiction as inspiration for younger readers, in the marketplace to brighten our lives, but most of all, we need them in real life.

We need men and women willing to sacrifice their own time and even good things of their life to rescue others from evil, from despair. In Judeo-Christian thought, this is a "gimmee." It is woven into the fabric of religious thought.

Heroes are not heroes because they belong to a certain organization or say certain things to make people feel better. That's a motivational speaker, but that ain't a hero per se.

Heroism involves loss. Big time loss. I don't know how I am going to put that into my RPG, but it has got to fit in there somewhere - perhaps in their origin primarily. From Luke Skywalker (see my post of last week) to Spider-Man, it costs you friends, family and love interests. If you try to keep these, they will get involved where they should not. They become liabilities and victims instead of assets.

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne is returning to Gotham City and is talking to Alfred about the need to become something more, something primeval, a symbol that is incorruptible. Alfred remarks that he supposes that this symbol, this dual identity will be to protect the people he loves.





Wayne (nodding): "Your thinking of Rachel."
Alfred (grinning): "Actually sir, I was thinking of myself."
Its a wry moment of self-deprecation/self-preservation by Wayne's servant, Alfred. It also explains to me why so many Christians love Jesus but do not want to bear witness of Him. They know what will happen.

They know.

So they operate in secret, serving quietly, not talking back to the world, because they know they are outnumbered 4 to 1 or more. That's O.K. Jesus understands. It takes a lot to be a bold witness for Christ AND above reproach in the world's eyes.

Superman is loved and admired and respected. Batman - well, he's a psycho.

But who could wipe out the entire U.S. Army? Who is an alien from another world? Who could conquer all the nations in the world in three days?

Yeah.

What makes the difference? Style. Generosity. Having a "public" face. Saving lives instead of preying on criminals.

Good cop/bad cop. Somehow I have to fit that into the RPG as well.

In the end, God gives us the power to change our little part of the world. The more we trust Him and obey Him, the greater our ability and authority.

From the misadventures of Samson to the jail breaks of the Apostles, we see God loves empowering heroes supernaturally. Even imperfect heroes.

Heh.

ESPECIALLY imperfect heroes!

For more on this, please read an excellent book about a modern-day superhero. I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Please read The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun with Paul Hattaway.

The heroes are still among us. There is no question about it.

The question is: which one does Jesus want you to be?

Ask Him. He'll tell you.

Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sinestro's Insight (What Lanterns Fear)

Green Lantern has had a renaissance lately, with a re-telling and re-imagining of some of the core elements of Hal Jordan's secret origin. It keeps all we have learned and pushes it forward to a more mature dimension. Writer Geoff Jones shows, like Frank Miller once did in Batman: Year One, you do NOT have to ditch all that is canon to update a hero's origin 40 years later. The rings CAN work on yellow now and break that "spectrum barrier" - if the wearer can truly overcome their fear.

Furthermore, we discover that fear is THE major boogey-man lurking in the backs of the minds of many Green Lanterns - fear of losing their power or of losing control.

Hal Jordan has been made a bit younger, but we don't mind. We get a little more Tom Cruise/Top Gun out of him. He is brash, hot-headed, gutsy but one thing he is not - fearful.

Well, not much. When Green Lantern Abin Sur's spaceship crashes on Earth, and he offers Hal his ring, we find out that he was transporting a dangerous interplanetary felon who escapes - a demon in fact. But why was Abin Sur in a spaceship when his ring could do anything? Even fly through space at trans-luminal speeds. "A ship? He didn't need that ship!" says Tomar-re, a senior Green Lantern to Hal on the homeworld of the Guardians. Well, Abin got infected with fear because he had listend to Atrocitus the demon - so he got himself a ship as a back-up plan - and that very action is what got him killed.

Hal finds this out during training - a Green Lantern cannot afford to doubt. He will lose all his power at his moment of weakness, and it will get him killed.

After he returns to Earth, he finds a new mentor - Sinestro of Thorugar. Now long-time fans KNOW Sinestro was one of those cheesy "Lost in Space" Dr. Smith kind of villains. "Sinestro?" we'd howl. "You've got to be kidding me, right?"

He is cheesy no more. He is the wise and sharp-minded critic who hones Hal Jordan's skills. He is perceptive and serious in his calling. He declares himself the greatest of the Green Lantern Corps and shows his stuff so heroically - even taking a beating from the demon but sucking it up to pound the demon right back - that you like him. You LIKE Sinestro.

NOW you have pathos. NOW you have pain when he falls into villainy. Oh - what helps grease his slide into evil? Well, some extra fear and controlling from the Guardians themselves (they have a terrritorial edict "forbidding fraternizing" that harms Hal and Sinestro's relationship just as they bond) And of course, Sinestro was told by the demon Atrocitus how his homeworld of Korugar would descend into chaos - so naturally, Sinestro will want to take control to stop this as the Guardians have taught him - ensuring he will become a tyrant and dictator and thus needing to be removed by the Guardians. Then, as you guessed, Korugar DOES descend into chaos, because fear is infectious.

The demon's indirect attack succeeds. Fear and doubt are successful weapons. The very things Green Lanterns cannot afford to have.

You know what anger is? Fear with testosterone.

Last week I blew up on an issue about some nerd rage over a false assumption that the Christian Children's Fund had rejected a donation from Gen Con, a role-players convention that has a lot of D&D stuff. Long story short: I jumped to defend CCF, assuming deep spiritual reasons, and gamers leapt up, brandishing virtual pitchforks that they were being treated badly by "fundamentalist Christians."

We should have all shut the hell up. Literally. Satan was having a field day that week as elections were going on. Fear was in the air nationwide, and tensions were high and frankly, I was dog-tired. I have a more grueling schedule than I care to admit.

Gen Con and CCF have both cleared everything up. All is well. All is well. And Rich Burlew's little commentary and lack of shame at his part in the disinformation? Well, who cares? He was stupid. I was stupid. I was really stupid for listening to his voice. To believing he knew the truth.

I have also gotten and sent back some really juicy e-mails from my man with the Masters in Evangelism and Spiritual Development on this matter. They are full of weeping and tears of repentance on both sides. (If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd love to sell you.) Spiritually, we are worlds apart. Emotionally - eh, not so much. Mentally - he is my better. But I repeat to all who can hear or read this: I have sexier legs.

And much more faith.

What brings Hal Jordan to the front under Geoff Jones writing that I like so much? What makes Sinestro such a sympathetic villain? You understand their fears, their angers. Hal has to forgive the man he believes hurt him and got his father killed before he can move on - the shocker is it is Sinestro who gives him this wisdom!

Sinestro of the stupid-geeky name gives Hal Jordan top-notch advice. He sees the problem clearly: "You need to get a hold of your anger, Jordan. That's what almost got you killed today. I don't know what or who you're so angry with, but you continue to direct it at me. You need to grow up, deal with it and get on with your life."

My Man of Masters and superior mental ability said this:

You don't have to be this alone in order to serve God. You could have friends, family, home and STILL follow Jesus. You could actually be happy doing it. You don't have to be celibate or poor, or miserable.

Now, I have TAUGHT this in the jail to new believers. I have never thought otherwise - but guess what? I have taken my life and edited it down - angry at so many pastors who treat Christ contemptuously, unwilling to be fools for His sake.

But I have edited it almost too much and have gotten hard. I have transformed my life to a level that is perceived by him and other Americans as misery. No home, no family, no friends and no money. A monkish existence.

I agree that is exactly what it appears to be - especially when I get angry - but he missed a fact he did not and could not know.

Jesus has given me more than I ever let go of for Him.

I didn't tell him I now live in home bigger than the one I grew up in. In a far more lovely city and with twice as much ministry -or three times as much.

I didn't tell him that my family is/was not happy with my choice, so distance from them is a blessing. My true family are the children of God, and we do have smiles and good communion together. (They are incredibly generous to me, far more than my birth family has ever been.)

I didn't tell him that poverty is a choice (& that is only on the surface - we were eating steak today, though yesterday we had salmon) - and being celibate means not worrying about a whole bunch of things I used to worry about. (Is she going to get pregnant? Did we ruin our relationship by getting intimate too soon?)

In fact, he'd be absolutely right - if Jesus didn't walk the Earth and make this "sacrifice" worth it. By giving me His Spirit which is NOT angry.

"As He was, so are we in this world."

"If any man wishes to be My disciple, he must first take up his cross and follow Me..."

Holiness looks painful even pitiful to the average man. They refuse to accept it. They cannot believe you are happy. Celibate? Poor? Alone?

Well, I cannot believe it at times either - but it is true. I'm usually happy like a kid is happy. But I can see why he said that. Why he thought it was true, especially when I lose my patience. Why I am not cut out for "interpersonal evangelism". I am too radical. Too weird.

I think following Jesus as a disciple is more important than having a wife. Than having a job. Than anything else. Before you jump to defend your marriage, your job, etc. let me add: when He is ALL you have, you get pretty serious about Him; there are not many distractions. Like the apostle Paul said, I have very little other concerns in this world. This is not about salvation. This is about learning what Jesus felt in this world: being intimate with Him.

But my "Sinestro" opened my eyes. You can learn things even from the carnal. You can get too serious and become hard.

I AM going to work on having more fun. I AM going to drop off my fear and seek more joy. It is the second "fruit" of the Spirit is it not?

God help the person who tries to hand me their fears again.

Or their angers.

Amen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Acroyear, Shaitan and Brotherly Love

[NOTE: This blog was re-edited on Friday at 8:25 am. I had to pull back on some comments. God is the better judge.]

I did it again. I went and bought some comics, something I haven't done since June.

And I saw that they had what I'd been covering this week, The Micronauts in the back issue bins - so I grabbed up issues 9-12 (a steal) and re-read them.

Issue 12: Prince Acroyear is in a blood-feud with his half-brother the albino Shaitan - there was hatred and violence and judgment - with Prince Acroyear sadly killing - though he wished it not - his former brother in a battle over the cliffs of Spartak.

"So - brother - you s-still know how to kill?"
"Such was not my desire, brother."

You wish it never came to this, brother killing brother.

It happens. Personally, I have fairly negative memories of my brother, eight years my senior. He was either angry at me or angry at someone else. I knew the scripture "If a man says he loves God yet hates his brother, how does the love of God dwell in him?" and felt shame and guilt. I knew I did not love my brother.

The Bible doesn't hold out a lot of hope either for sibling love: Cain kills Abel, Joseph is betrayed and sold into slavery by his bros, David is ridiculed by his, and James and John were called 'sons of thunder', probably from fighting all the time - yeeeeeeesh.

Once I knew Christ, I saw something else about that passage: it was not my physical brother John was talking about. It was my spiritual brother. Remember how Jesus even pushes his own family back when He says "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

So I thought about that. It is harder to find your spiritual brothers at times and at other times it is not. How can you tell?

"By their fruits you will know them."

"By your love one for another, all men will know you are my disciples."


I just got an email from a man who was trained at Wheaton College, with a Masters in Evangelism and Spiritual Development. He is not following Christ anymore. I guess he is a half-brother.

He corrected me however on an assumption I made this Monday: I assumed the Christian Children's Fund rejected the donation from Gen Con for spiritual principles. I know I cared nothing for Christ as I played my games, and assumed that since they were a Christian organization, their loyalty to Jesus Christ precluded any associations that might be detrimental to proclaiming His kingdom.

Nope. They just had strict policies about HOW their name was used and WHO could use it.

From the e-mail of my "half-brother", a letter from CCF on this donation that was rejected:

Dear Concerned Gamer:

Thank you for writing to Anne Goddard and sharing your concerns. Anne was traveling when she received your email. We discussed your concern and she asked that I respond on her behalf. Please know that we take your email very seriously.

There appears to be a misunderstanding which I would like to correct. When Gen Con contacted CCF about its auction, we were pleased to accept donations. However, we couldn't lend our name for publication because our policies have specific criteria for endorsements.

We were unaware that this had caused any problem or concern for Gen Con until we began receiving emails. This decision was in no way intended to be a reflection on Mr. Gygax, gaming enthusiasts or the game Dungeon and Dragons. We have the utmost respect for the gaming community and were touched by the generosity expressed through your auction. We were disappointed that we were not the recipients of the donation but we were pleased that another worthy organization benefited.

We realize this has become a topic of discussion in the gaming community and we hope you will help us by sharing this response.

The needs of children are great and we welcome your support. Should you wish to learn more we invite you to visit our website at www.christianchildrensfund.org.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to voice your concern. Your passion for gaming and your support for children are admirable.

Sincerely,
Cheri Dahl
Vice President,
CCF - International Communications and Fundraising

Now I don't like one aspect of this e-mail. CCF was supposed to be the beneficiary, and this is talking about endorsements. Gen Con staff also weighed-in recently to do some damage control:

I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight on the Gen Con Indy 2008 Charity issue, as there has been a lot of misinformation spreading like wildfire on various forums, blogs, etc.

First allow me to explain how Gen Con goes about selecting its show charity. The process is very simple. We generally choose several potential charities based on the following criteria…
  • Is local to the (Indy) area
  • Supports children
  • Preferably has a focus in math, science or gaming related activities.
Staff then votes individually on which charity we would like to support at the show; majority wins. In 2008, Gen Con decided on a different route in choosing the charity, due the death of Gary Gygax, Gen Con’s founder. It was without question that the charity for 2008 would be one of Gary’s favorite charities. In choosing the charity for 2008, Gen Con had heard through several channels, including a close friend of Gary’s family, that Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) was one of Gary’s favored charities.

Gen Con contacted CCF about our intentions and asked for a logo and some promotional materials that we could use on our website. We were informed by a person at CCF that they would not be able to provide us with these materials, apparently due to our association with D&D.
We were not comfortable with this position, considering Gary’s role as co-founder of D&D, and founder of Gen Con, and therefore we decided to pick a different charity.

We informed the Gygax family of our decision and the reason behind it, and asked if there was another charity they would like us to consider. Fisher House was suggested, as it too was a favored charity of Gary’s. Considering the outstanding services this charity provides to service members, veterans, and their families, we knew Fisher House would be a great charity for Gen Con to support. We later found out that we had been misinformed as to CCF’s position in regards to D&D and Gen Con, but by then we had already chosen Fisher House as our charity, and announcements and promotions were already made and in the works, such that it would not have been possible to change charities at that point.

To be clear, Gen Con made the decision not to donate to CCF; at no time did CCF refuse to take charity money from Gen Con. Gen Con chooses a show charity long before Gen Con Indy 2008 ever takes place. I have sent an email to The Partnership that runs www.livegameauctions.com and asked them to make sure the information being presented and discussed on their website is updated and accurate regarding this issue. I would also like to ask each of you to do your part in setting the record straight by contacting the various websites, blogs, etc. that you are active on, and where this issue is being discussed, to make sure they have their facts correct as well. The statement on Wikinews purporting to be from a Gen Con staff member is completely incorrect, as Gen Con staff has never commented on this subject …until now.

If there are any further questions or points of clarification, please feel free to contact me personally at jeannette@gencon.com.

Thank you.
Jeannette LeGault
Director of Event Programming - Gen Con LLC

Now when you read this, here's what you end up with:

1) My Wikinews quote was TRASH - it was the feelings of a gamer, but it was not from staff of Gen Con. It was mean-spirited offense publicly posted.

2) CCF thought its logos and identity were going to be used for endorsements. I guess an easy miscommunication to make, seeing how digital we are and how tight some org's hold onto their "good name", so they declined - this answers the "How in the WORLD did you think it was for endorsement and not for being a beneficiary?" question: miscommunication.

3) Both Gen Con and CCF are doing all they can to stop this "Fundys reject cash from evil D&D-ers" from spreading. Its too late for that, though. I just did a Google and the vitriol and hatred and spurning is everywhere.

Rich Burlew over at Order of the Stick seems to have been a prime progenitor of this miscommunication (he is well known by the AD&D crowd):

The charity refused due to the fact that the money was raised partly by the sales of Dungeons and Dragons materials, which as we all know, puts an irrevocable taint of evil on the filthy lucre that us demon-worshiping gamers might want to use to, say, donate to starving children. Not only is this a slap in the face to every gamer, but it is especially insulting to Mr. Gygax himself, who I understand donated to their cause many times over the years. Plus, I'm sure the children who would have gotten food or clean drinking water with that money would be sort of upset, too.
I've highlighted the misrepresentations. Obviously, Mr. Burlew is quick to blast the organization and mischaracterize these Christ-followers who feed children, all for the basis of his hobby.

That is sick.

He is even blushingly proud of his accomplishment - after more facts came out:
Anyway, this will be my last word on the issue. Despite this one-time situation, I don't think of myself as a news reporter, much less a community organizer (though I hear it's a good day to be one of those). I'm thrilled that so many members of our community felt strongly enough about the issue to write an email, whether they were fans of this site or one of the others that reported the story. It's good to know that when even just the semblance of prejudice against our mutual pastime rears its head, there are so many good people willing to defend it.
Read the highlight. Semblance? For the sake of a "semblance" he endangered and impugned the work and efforts of a life-altering organization!

He is no brother. He put his hobby - his HOBBY - over men and women who serve Christ in Third World countries.

"Blessed are you when men revile you and account your name as evil on account of Me..."

I guess CCF was blessed then.

They showed the most brotherly love -even when lied about.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

Its over.

Senator Barack Hussein Obama has been elected president of the United States.

Wait.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Micronauts, Pt. 3

The Christian Children's Fund just turned down over $17,000 from GenCon. From Wikinews:

Staff from the GenCon 2008 role-playing and board game convention reported that the Christian Children's Fund (CCF) had rejected the US$17,398.00 raised for them by a charity auction held on August 15, on learning that it had been raised partly by selling Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks and miniature figures.
Gamers are calling this an insult to role-playing games, to Christians who play them, and to the memory of Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, who died on March 4. The CCF was Gygax's favorite charity.
Since The CCF rejected not only the donation, but also being one of the top sponsors of the event, The Fisher House Foundation was picked as the recipient. The Foundation helps with providing a "home away from home" for families coping with disabled, ill or injured
United States military personnel.

A minority of Christians, notably tract author Jack T. Chick, consider D&D an instrument of demonic possession and a gateway to witchcraft.

I have rather directly defended the CCF, who has a budget of $28 million, on the gamers forum I frequent. They turned down theat money because they feared God and wanted to honor Him.

But I know something that no one else knows.

I used to play for hours and hours, and never brought Jesus to the gaming table. This was my "fantasy area" and Christ was an unwelcome intrusion.

Everyone is saying "How could they be so elitest and turn down that good money for those poor children?"

Because honoring God is more important than cash to this organization. You know, everyone thinks the world needs MORE money, then we'd solve the world's problems. (You voted for Obama, didn't you?)

No. The problems are not food, clothing or shelter. There is enough to help the entire world. What the real problem is is deep inside the human heart - a heart that is caught in a cycle of destruction that leads to GENERATIONAL poverty.

And a Christian humanitarian organization, MUST honor Her Captain first. Jesus can feed five thousand with a few small loaves and fish - IF they place their trust in Him.

In the Micronauts, all of Homeworld's hope is placed on Commander Rann as he faces off with Baron Karza in a glorious final battle. There is only one small problem:

Rann is mortal and Karza is an energy being a thousand years old.

As Force Commander - Princess Mari's brother - is Badly beaten by Karza, Rann becomes transformed into a mighty energy warrior - the Time Traveller! Because of his journeys through space and time, Rann has unwittingly given birth to several other "selves" - tens of men, all spritual beings - and they all merge back together into this one huge supernaturally powered entity who CAN face off Karza and defeat him.

Lots of Hinduism/Manichaeism is here, and as a Christ-follower, I cannot condone it for younger readers. But Rann is used very much like an angel or Christ-figure and Karza as the devil incarnate.

And that does remind me of the Final Battle and destruction of Satan - and the commitment of some to evil, even unto death. You see folks, it ain't about what we have in our hand, it is what we have in our heart, our soul, our spirit. But there will come a day when the battle will be made plain and visible for all to see.

Revelation 9:11-21
They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.

The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.

The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.

The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Now this last part always bothered me - I would read all the visions of the creatures and try to guess what they were, but I would end up saying "After all these amazing things, they WOULD NOT repent?! That is insane!"

You know why they don't repent? They do not have the ability to say they are wrong.

They do not fear God's judgment. They have emotionally joined those who care nothing for honoring the Creator.

Rann does not know the power he has to defeat Baron Karza UNTIL the time is ripe. He's been a runnin' all this time.

But he runs no more. And Karza is stunned. "By my forgotten soul - who or WHAT are YOU?!"

Christ will empower us, but we must stay true to Him. No matter how it looks. No matter what happens. No matter how "inhumane" we may appear.

We are fighting to keep our souls straight and save others. There can be no compromise simply because we are facing pride and it must die - so true life can begin.

The Gamers were so offended. It was Gary Gygax's favorite charity. That implies Gary as a churchman was Christian.

Here's the joke - if they really wanted to give the money anyway, they would have given it anonymously. They were shamed by this response.

"He who puts his trust in Him shall never be ashamed."

If they had been Believers, they would not be ashamed. If they had let go of their own identity for 24 hours, they would not be ashamed. But from the grave, Gary's legacy came back and slapped the fans in the face. The anti-Christian elements of AD&D killed the donation.

God doesn't need our money. He wants us. Fantasy and RPGs do NOT have to be exclusive - but in this case, the lines were drawn back in the 80s.

In the end, it is a battle over souls, not bodies.

Bless CCF for staying true on this principle.

And bless Christian gamers who become aware of what legacy they may leave behind.