Movies

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

I taught a lesson at church about why movies can be an effective tool to share the gospel.

My Favorites

There are dozens of movies that I’ve watched over and over. I have several friends that could have a long coversation with, using noting but movie quotes.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite films, in no particular order…

Sci-Fi & Action

The Matrix (reality is not actually real), The Fifth Element (an action movie that becomes a comedy), Serenity (a misfit space crew saves the galaxy from itself), Buckaroo Banzai (genius rock-star/surgeon/adventures fight interdimensional aliens), 12 Monkeys (the past isn’t what it used to be), Hackers (cheesy, but many of the personalities are relatable), The Hunt for Red October (an invisible submarine is defeated through song), The Lord of the Rings (friendship is stronger than evil), Army of Darkness (a smartass with a chainsaw hand kills zombies), The Princess Bride (death cannot defeat love), V for Vendetta (the only real prison is the one we believe), Fight Club (we can be our own worst enemy), A Knight’s Tale (a man can change his stars), Big Trouble in Little China (the hero doesn’t realize he’s actually just the sidekick)

Comedy & Inspiration

The Court Jester (we can be who we want to be), Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (look at life with a sense of wonder), The Gods Must be Crazy (we must walk a mile in our neighbor’s shoes, or bare feet as appropriate), UHF (sometimes you have to grab life by the lips and yank as hard as you can), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (shh! it’s only a model), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (the best place is here and the best time is now), Clue (), The Frisco Kid (I am God’s child even in the mud or on my butt), The Wizard of Speed and Time (nothing can stop the creative spirit), The Truman Show (every life is amazing if we’d only look), Apollo 13 (failure is not an option), Raising Arizona (we all can have a second chance), The Hudsucker Proxy (career matters, but love matters more), O Brother Where Art Thou (family is worth sacrificing for)

…and many more.

Movie Popularity

According to the latest statistics, people go out to the movies a lot. Here’s a breakdown of how many movies people see in theaters each year, by age group.

2-11: 3.4, 12-17: 6.5, 18-24: 6.7, 25-39: 4.4, 40-49: 3.6, 50-59: 3.0, 60+: 2.4 (Source: MPAA)

So the average 50-year old has seen around 225 movies over those years.

Netflix streaming service has grown incredible since it started in 2012, reaching just over 250 million households worldwide, as of early 2018 (which is also roughly the number of households in America). (Source: Bloomberg)

We, as a people, see so many movies. This gives us a lot of common reference points.

Movie Sermons

So far, I have preached full sermons about three specific movies.

They Live (1988, directed by John Carpenter, Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster)

A wanderer finds sunglasses that reveal the world the way it truly is. Subliminal messages keep the population subdued. Our leaders are secretly aliens bent on world domination.

They Live was the first movie sermon I preached. I was at a horror movie convention, and John Carpenter was one of the guests. Since They Live is my favorite of his films (not necessarily the best, I’ll be the first to admit, but still my favorite), I chose that as my sermon topic. A man learns of the beings that are secretly controlling us through subliminal messages, thanks to some lenses that he found at a church. He uses this knowledge to recruit others, and to directly confront evil. This is not a family film, by any stretch, but it has a solid message.

Ghostbusters (1984, directed by Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and Sigourney Weaver)

A team of scientists lose their cushy jobs at a university in New York City, and become “ghostbusters” to wage a high-tech battle with the supernatural for fun and profit.

I preached about Ghostbusters at Wizard World Comic Con, not because it’s my favorite movie, but because of a friend. Ryan E Kemp founded the Western Kentucky Ghostbusters. He loved the optimism and enterprise that the movie’s heroes showed, and wanted to bring that excitement and positivity to those around him. He died three years ago, when he was driving to a children’s hospital to dress as a Ghostbuster and cheer up the sick kids. At first, I was stunned, and wondered what are the odds of dying while doing something like that. But then I realized that the odds weer actually pretty high, in his case. He did that a lot. It got me wondering about how often I spend time doing something that I’d like to be remembered for, if I were to die that instant. Frankly, they weren’t as high as I’d have liked. Kemp’s wonderful example helped me (and just about everyone he ever met) to be a better person.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, starring Robert Downey Jr, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chris Pratt)

The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and other Marvel superheroes unite to battle their most powerful enemy yet. Thanos plans to collect six Infinity Stones, so he can kill half the entire universe with a snap of his fingers.

When I preached about Infinity War at the Lexington Comic Con, the movie hadn’t come to theaters yet, but was just a month away. Congoers eagerly anticipated the movie, so the timing was opportune. The local FOX News station even filmed my sermon for the Spirit of the Bluegrass segment.

 

Touchstones

Besides movies, there are may other common experiences that we can use to reach our neighbor.

Games

I’ve preached about Settlers of Catan (at a board game convention), Pokemon Go (at a game convention), Football (on Superbowl Sunday), and Dungeons & Dragons (at a science fiction/gaming convention).

Sci-Fi & Action

I’ve preached about pirates (at an author convention), monsters and aliens (at a science fiction convention), zombies (at a horror convention), blood and gore (at a horror convention), and superheroes (at a comic convention).

Comedy & Inspiration

I’ve preached about costumes (at a costume convention), outer space (at a science convention), tattoos (at a tattoo convention), and creativity (at a creative writing convention), humor (okay, that was at a science fiction convention, but it was April Fools Day), and music (okay, that wasn’t at a music event, but it was still cool).

Common Ground

I like to focus on the things that I have in common with my audience. To that end, I often pick a sermon topic that’s directly related to the interest at hand. Instead of trying to get people to disengage from what interests them so they can engage with the Word, my usual approach is to find the ways that what they’re currently engaged is already part of God’s story and purpose for our lives.

My Story

Apart from movies, games, and other potentially common points of interest, there’s another story that I always have up my sleeve. That’s my story. People can argue with me about religion, history, philosophy, politics, science, and just about anything else, but the one thing that no one can refute is my story. I know my life, because I was there.

I’ve done a lot of things and been a part of a lot of things in my life.

Arts

I sported an orange mohawk when I was a part of the punk and new wave scene. I hosted a weekly radio show for years about punk rock and comedy. (What, do punk and comedy seem like different things to you?) I founded the Men Without Hats fan club, over 30 years ago. I help organize a music industry event each year. I’ve been on TV and film. I’ve designed for a living. I write for Nerd Louisville. I make my own costumes. I’ve written for newspapers and magazines. I’ve created crosswords professionally. I ran a publishing company which published hundreds of books for dozens of authors. And much more.

Science

I wrote space shuttle software for NASA when I was just a teenager. I worked in bioterrorism for Homeland Security. (I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve worked for other intelligence agencies that I can’t tell you about, or I’d have to kill you.) I’ve programmed video games. I’ve spoken at dozens of database conferences. I volunteer at global hackathons, and even host some. I’ve founded a technology conference. I ply cybersecurity, and speak at those events. I’m the calendar coordinator at my city’s largest online technology collective. I’ve taught Alexa new skills. And much more.

Education/Community

I’ve taught at college. I’ve founded startups and mentor in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. I’ve won two DTMs (Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest award from Toastmasters International). I dabble in improv comedy, and frequently bring those principles to other areas of my life. And much more.

Ministry

I bring God with me wherever I go. This includes my favorite oddball ministries, which reach out to the freaks, geeks, and weirdos. My people. I co-teach a class at the largest church in Kentucky. I preach on behalf of the Christian Gamers Guild, and have served as its VP for many years. I served a Sector Commander at Fans For Christ until the organization disbanded. I game with Jesus at Game Church. I punk out with the goths at the Grave Robbers ministry. And much more.

My story

I… I… I… I.

That’s a lot of I stuff. And that’s only a selection of some of the larger areas of my life. If I have nothing else in my metaphorical toolbox to help me build a bridge to someone, I’ve always got my story with me. The Bible tells us to always be  ready to give a reason for the hope that we have.

Reaching Others

Jesus GauntletChrist’s last words before he ascended to heaven, often called the Great Commission, were:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. (Matt 28:19)

Those words were not just meant for the people standing around him at the time; they also apply to us. We are told to bring the good news of Christ’s sacrifice to everyone. But it’s not only a matter of telling — it’s also teaching.

Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah. “Do you understand what you are reading?” he asked. “How can I,” he asked, “unless someone explains it to me?”
So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30)

Those who encounter the gospel won’t make heads nor tails of it without a guide. We are also told to help the people to obey.

How can they call on the One if they do not believe? How can they believe if they have not heard? How can they hear without someone to preach? How can they preach unless they are sent? (Rom 10:14)

The first step is always to take a step. Any step. We won’t accomplish much in life just sitting on the couch. By spending time with people, and building the relationships which are begin based in common cultural reference points like movies and games, we can teach them the Truth.

I have become all things to all men so that by any means some may be saved. (1 Cor 9:22)

The Apostle Paul traveled to many cities to start churches. The first people he’d talk to are those who were already churchgoers, but then he’d go to the cultural centers. He talked to the Greek philosophers in the manner they were most accustomed to, standing in the public forum to explain his ideas. He talked with workers while he himself plied his own trade as a tent-maker (a tentist? did he go to tental school?). He even preached to prison guards while he was shackled to them. To paraphrase the Watchmen movie/comic out of context, “I’m not chained here to you. You’re chained here to me!” Way to make lemonade, Paul.

Stories

Our God is a God that tells stories. Around one third of Jesus’ recorded words are parables (he told 46 of them). A list of facts and figures can easily be forgotten. A list of do’s and don’t’s can easily be disregarded. But a story can last for centuries. We share a culture of movies, television, songs, artwork, and games. We can use those stories as the foundation for sharing the true story of God’s love and our redemption through His Son’s sacrifice.

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

 

RIP Steve Ditko

On 6/29/18, Steve Ditko passed away at age 90.

Steve Ditko

Spidey 38-39

Peter Parker from Ditko (left) and after Ditko (right)

Ditko was a legendary comic book artist, helped define the genre. Along with Stan Lee, he created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, J. Jonah Jameson, MJ Watson, and many other early Marvel characters. He drew his characters… oddly. Spider-Man and Strange were awkward and gangling, not buff and heroic like most other superhero artists were drawing their characters at the time.

Ditko created other memorable characters, including some of these favorites of mine:

The Creeper

What if a superhero was crazy? Or at least acted crazy? And maybe also really was?

Creeper OriginThe Creeper’s complicated history began when he was introduced in April 1968, but here’s my quick take. Controversial reporter Jack Ryder dressed up in a costume from scraps to infiltrate a mob masquerade party. He was killed there, then “healed” by Dr. Yatz. The process made him strong and fast, and gave him the first regenerative healing factor in comics. But it also bonded the costume to his skin when he was in Creeper mode, making him actually yellow-skinned green-haired weirdo with a red boa/fur/cape and green speedos. He’s kind of the Joker as a bouncy superhero.

He’s been a superhero (even a Justice League member), a supervillain, and everywhere in between. He super-healed before Wolverine; he sassed and annoyed crime before Deadpool; he bounced around before the Beast; he wore a fur boa before Hulk Hogan.

Of course, being weird is his true superpower, according to most who know him.

He’s been rebooted as a woman, a demon, a cyborg, a robot, and amalgamated into Nightcreeper.

There was a wonderful episode of The New Batman Adventures dedicated to the Creeper.

Creeper Cartoon

My Creeper Gallery

I like the Creeper so much that I play him in a Champions RPG campaign set in Gotham.

Each time we play, I’ve been putting the Creeper into famous works of art. It’s fun!

       

Other Characters

 

The Question

Squirrel Girl

Speedball

Speedball: Nerdy teenager Robbie Baldwin (and his cat) is bombarded with strange science rays and turns into Speedball: the Masked Marvel. He bounces, and has a field of colorful kinetic dots and a hairdo that defies gravity and taste.

I knew of Speedball, and glanced through an issue or two of his solo material, but it was in the New Warriors series that he really came to life for me, acting as comedy sidekick and nigh-indestructible distraction. Over the intervening years, he unwittingly helps launch Marvel’s first Civil War, and embeds himself in an iron maiden as punishment.

Squirrel Girl: I didn’t get that much into Squirrel Girl until the recent Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic runs. Ditko gave her the powers of a squirrel, but the newer runs have amped up her compassion, empathy, and creativity. Building relationships becomes her real superpower.

The Question: My favorite rendition of the Question is the way Jeffrey Combs portrayed him on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon. He’s a conspiracy theorist with a mask that makes his face disappear. Famously, he was the basis for the Watchmen’s Rorschach.

More: Ditko also created Hawk & Dove, Mr. A, Odd Man, the Mocker, and dozens of others, enumerated on this wiki page.

 

So Long, and Thanks for Alley Fish

My favorite local theater is closing down after 25 years of entertainment.

The Alley Theater

The Alley Theater has performed some amazingly fun shows over the years.

Evil Dead: The MusicalEvil Dead: The MusicalEvil Dead The Musical

Any play about singing and dancing zombies is bound to be a blast. “Evil Dead: The Musical” (at one time, the production had the website LouEvilDead.com, which was amazing) was no exception. The Alley performed this one three times. The first run was in October 2009, with the final night on Halloween (which was a Saturday that year). Most of the audience wore costumes, as you’d expect. I went more casual, wearing my “I spent Halloween 2001 with Bruce Campbell” shirt from his “If Chins Could Kill” book tour.

The play blends the three movies “Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2,” and (my favorite) the campy “Army of Darkness.” The violence is comically over the top — in fact, the first few rows of seats are the “splatter zone.” The theater provides ponchos for the brave souls who sit so close, since the fake blood sprays into the crowd during the play.

Here’s a scene from the Alley’s second production, from the theater’s official YouTube channel (which also includes this threat).

And here’s my favorite song from the play, although this link is not from the Alley. The choreography that this scene uses is similar to the way the Alley would normally do it, with Ash and Jake singing and dancing backup.

In August 2017, Bruce Campbell came to Louisville on another book tour. This was also the day of the total solar eclipse. (Coincidence? I think not!) Instead of going into the path of the totality like a lot of my space friends, I stayed in town to see Bruce. I got his autograph on a chainsaw blade (signed both as Bruce and as Ash), which I donated to the Alley.

The TickThe Tick

The Alley brought the big blue goofy comic-book/cartoon/live-action character “The Tick” to life on the stage. First in 2015, and again in 2018.

Both runs were very funny, and included references from every incarnation of the bug of justice. Sterling Pratt wrote the play(s) specifically for The Alley to perform. Scott Davis, creator of The Alley himself, played the Tick in the first run, and Connor Blankenship played him in the second run. Andrew Mertz perfectly played his sidekick/partner Arthur both times. As Keith Waits wrote, “The Tick” is really Arthur’s story.

Fan favorite characters like the Caped Chameleon, the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight, and Barry the Tick joined the fun alongside the blue and white heroes, and their friends Batmanuel and American Maid.

Other Great Shows

Shakespeare's Star Wars Inspector Hound The Bible Abridged The Trail to Oregon Hughes-ical Bat Hamlet Hitchhikers Guide Top Secret Point Break Princess Bride Matrix

“William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” was a hoot. “What light through yonder sensor breaks?” “Once more into the trench, dear friends.”

“The Real Inspector Hound” combined an interactive murder mystery (we hung out with some of the cast, in character, before the play started) with a play-within-a-play for surreal fun. During the first act, two theater critics sitting just to the side of the main stage discussed the play and their own lives as the actors performed. During the second act, one critic was killed and the other got swept into the play, with characters repeating much of the same dialogue from act one, but with very different meanings. It was amazing. Shavon McGill might still not be back from oiling his gun.

“The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)” was a three-man performance that encompassed the greatest story ever told, and then some. The theater even invited me to lead off the opening performance with a prayer, but the schedules didn’t work out so I had to miss that. Instead, they had me preach a whole sermon before the final night. I was honored, and remain humble and grateful for the opportunity.

“The Trail to Orgeon” was an improv musical based on a computer game where almost everyone dies of dysentery. We, the audience, got to name the characters, and decide who died and how. I was there for opening night, and since half the audience was improv comedians (and friends of all the performers), we gave them challenging names that were incredibly long or barely pronounceable. Because that’s the kind of friends that we are.

“Hughes-ical: The Musical” took the various John Hughes movies (Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Beuller) and gave it a boombox soundtrack.

“Bat-Hamlet” was part of the SuperHuman:A Festival of Plays (a parody of the well-known and local Humana Festival of Plays). It tells the tale of a boy avenging his murdered father. You probably know the rest.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (from which I adapted this post’s title) was a staged reading of the original radio scripts. (It was a radio play before it was a book/tv-series/movie/computer-game/etc.) The adaptation was well received.

“Top Secret” and “Point Break” brought beloved(?) 80’s movies (here and here) to the stage.

“The Princess Bride Experience” was inconceivable.

No one can be told what “The Matrix” is. You had to experience it for yourself.

The Arts Caravan

Putting on great stage shows wasn’t enough for the Alley, so they turned a bus into a mobile stage so they could take it out to schools and festivals.

Improv JamImprov Alley

 

Despite all that great stuff, the Alley production that I’ll miss the most is the weekly Improv Jam. On Saturday afternoons, we’d gather at the Alley for hours of improv workshopping. It was a wonderful way to get a foot in the improv comedy door.

I’ve made some great friends over the years of jamming with people who knew what they were doing, and with others who, like me, wanted a chance to learn and practice improv skills. Ironically, even though improv is made up on the spot, it does take time and effort to get comfortable with it and competent at it.

I’m grateful to wonderful improv teachers like Shauvon McGill, Ryan Kemp, Scott Davis, Spencer Korcz, and others for all the great jam lessons.

Alley Oop

The Alley is dead! Long live The Alley.

(If you’re reading this before July 28 2018, there’s still a chance to catch a show at the Alley before the doors close for good.)

The Alley

 

 

 

 

Bible Humor

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

I preached the Easter Sunday sermon at ConGlomeration science fiction convention. Since Easter this year also fell on April Fools Day, I preached about humor in the Bible.

Purpose

Like all things, humor has a purpose.

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. (1 Cor 1:27)
Joyful heart is good medicine, crushed spirit dries the bones. (Prov 17:22)
For the happy heart, life is a continual feast. (Prov 15:15)

Humor is often a natural expression of joy. We laugh when we’re happy, even without an obvious humorous stimulus.

The role of the court jester or “fool” was not only to entertain with dance, music, and comedy but also to give bad news to the ruler. In Shakespearean plays, the jester is often the voice of common sense and honesty, pointing out the follies of those in higher stations.

There’s a meme series about God brainstorming various creatures…

Spiders: give it 8 eyes and 8 legs, with a butt-rope

Panda: take that cow and make it a bear

Alligator: see that log? fill it with teeth

Walrus: a dog bear fish with sabretooth tiger teeth

Snakes: just a really throat, and an angry face

Octopus: 8 super-strong floppy arms with suction cups

Hippo: a sneaky fat water horse

Parrot: a tie-dye chicken that scream real words

Bats: a hairy flying potato, make it blind and screeching

Kittens: fluffy adorable like furry hugs, with razor feet

Jellyfish: how about an evil floating bag

Bees: flying furball with a butt-needle, and yummy puke

Timing

“Ask me the secret to telling a good joke.”
“What’s the secr–”
“TIMING!”

[There is] a time to weep, and a time to laugh. (Ecc 3:4)
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. (Lk 6:21)
Our mouths are filled with laughter, and our tongues filled with joy, for the Lord has done great things for us. (Ps 126:2)
The godly wife is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (Prov 31:25)
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice! (Ps 32:11)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Phil 4:4)

For a long time, Philippians 4:4 was my favorite verse (and at times it still is), since I would occasionally suffer from depression. Paul wanted us to carry God’s joy so much that he said it twice in the same verse!

Source

All things come from somewhere. Humor comes from our minds and our hearts.

Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Lk 6:45)
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. (Prov 15:13)
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. (Job 8:21)

If the joy of the Lord is in us, joy should be coming out of us.

You’re Doing It Wrong

In my teenage years, I used to swear a lot. Then I got a job on the radio. That’ll clear up your language in a hurry! Since then, I’ve never had a real cause to go back to vulgarity. There’s rarely a real reason. If I hit my thumb with a hammer, I say “Ow!” If I feel the need to add “colorful metaphors” (as Spock would say), I often tilt it toward comedy, and use Yosemite Sam’s “rassin’ frassin’.”

Let there be no filthiness, foolish talk, nor crude joking, which are out of place; but rather thanksgiving. (Eph 5:4)
Let your speech always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Col 4:6)
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and rejoicing may end in grief. (Prov 14:13)
Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” (Prov 26:18)

There’s an old saying that there’s a little truth in every joke. I know a lot of people who tell jokes that belittle a group of people. It could be based on race, gender, nationality, or any other group. I don’t generally go for the “us versus them” kind of humor, where the same bad joke could be told about anyone just by swapping out who the target group is. We can’t tell a racist, sexist, or (fill-in-the-blank)-ist joke unless those feelings are somewhere inside us.

Biblical Examples

There are example of humor throughout the Bible.

Example: Sarcasm

Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to a divine showdown. His God (Yahweh) and their god (Baal) would try to set fire to a pile of wood. Baal’s people spent hours loudly praying, dancing, cutting themselves, and otherwise trying to call on their god to burn the wood. Elijah trash talked them.

Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (1 Kings 18:27)

Maybe your god is taking a dump. Potty humor, right there.

Example: Absurdism

Look Stupid

Balaam was a pagan priest who was hired to curse God’s people. An angel (that he couldn’t see) stood in his donkey’s path. Balaam whipped his animal, trying to get it to move, then God gave the donkey the ability to speak.

The Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, to say, “What have I done to you, to make you have strike me three times?”
Balaam shouted, “You made me look like a fool!” (Num 22:28-29)

Balaam’s response wasn’t “Holy cow, a talking donkey!” or anything of that sort. He immediately fell into arguing with this talking beast, and accusing it of making him look like a fool.

Example: Slapstick

This unlikely situation could fit perfectly into a sitcom or Charlie Chaplin movie.

Peter was in prison, so the church was praying for him. An angel of the Lord appeared, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. He went to the house and Peter knocked, and Rhoda came to the door. She was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it. (Acts 12:5,7,12-14)

“Hey, open the door! Let me in!” *knock*knock*

Jokes from Jesus

Humor in the Jewish culture at the time was largely based on exaggeration.

Here are some bits that Jesus threw into his speeches:

  • a camel in the eye of a needle (Mk 10:25)
  • a plank in a person’s eye (Mt 7:3)
  • the blind leading the blind into a hole (Mt 15:14)
  • giving a son a snake instead of a fish (Lk 11:11)
  • putting pearls on pigs (Mt 7:6)
  • being born a second time (Jn 3:3)
  • forgiving seventy times seven (Mt 18:22)
  • nicknaming flaky Simon a rock (Mt 16:18)

The Last Laugh

The wicked may seem to benefit for a while, here on Earth, but their time is limited.

But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (Ps 37:13)
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Ps 2:4)

God himself laughs at the wicked, for He knows that they will pay for their sins.

Fools

Henny Youngman used to say, “I used to be an atheist, but I gave it up since they have no holidays.” As a former atheist myself, I can relate.

A friend of mine pointed out that atheists technically do have a holiday:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps 14:1)
He who trusts his own mind is foolish, but he who walks in wisdom is safe. (Prov 28:26)

Atheists are fools, so April 1 is a day that we can reserve for them.

This gives Jesus’ words in Matthew on a more serious meaning:

Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Mt 5:22)

Calling someone a fool in this context is the equivalent of telling them to go to hell.

Condemning people is not our job. That position has already been filled. There is no vacancy there.

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

 

Infinity War

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon looks at the Infinity War plotline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, through a gospel lens. I preached this at Lexington Comic & Toy Con 2018.

Infinity Stones

Infinity StonesIn Guardians of the Galaxy, Taneleer Tivan (also known as The Collector) explains what the stones are:

“Before creation itself, there were six singularities. Then the universe exploded into existence, and the remnants of these systems were forged into concentrated ingots — Infinity Stones.”

Here’s what the stones are, and where we’ve seen them in the movies:

  • Space Stone (Tesseract)Tesseract
  • exist in any location
  • move any object anywhere throughout reality
  • teleport self and others to any place imagined
  • warp or rearrange space
  • alter distance between objects
  • At full potential — omnipresence
  • Reality Stone (Aether)Aether
  • fulfill wishes, even contradicting scientific laws
  • do things that would normally be impossible
  • create any alternate reality
  • At full potential — alter reality
  • Power Stone (The Orb)
  • access and manipulate all forms of energy
  • enhance physical strength and durabilityOrb
  • boost the effects of the other Stones
  • At full potential — omnipotence
  • Mind Stone (The Vision)
  • enhance mental and psionic abilities
  • access the thoughts and dreams of other beings
  • access all minds in existence simultaneouslyVision
  • At full potential — universal subconscious
  • Time Stone (The Eye of Agamotto)
  • see into the past and the future
  • stop, slow down, speed up or reverse the flow of time
  • time travel
  • change the past and the future
  • age and de-age beingsAgamotto
  • trap people or entire universes in unending loops of time
  • At full potential — omniscience and time control
  • Soul Stone (unknown)
  • steal, control, manipulate, and alter living and dead souls
  • gateway to an idyllic pocket universe
  • At full potential — control all life

Infinity War

There’s an actual “infinity war” going on here in the real world. All eternity is at stake, for all of mankind.

Our enemy is Satan, who has already lost Heaven, and wants to drag us to the depths with him.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

God’s Infinity Stones

Jesus GauntletOkay, so God doesn’t have the fictional infinity stones, but he doesn’t need them. He already has all their powers.

  • Space No one can hide where I cannot see them. I am everywhere in heaven and on earth. (Jeremiah 23:24)
  • Reality In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
  • Power Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)
  • Time “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come.” (Revelation 1:9)
  • Mind Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. (Psalm 147:5)
  • Soul Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the parent and the soul of the child is mine: the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

But the war is already won, on our behalf!

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)

The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)

Download

You can get a copy of the PowerPoint slides here.

Video

You can see FOX Lexington’s news story and video here.

Improv Comedy

At DerbyCon this year, I spoke about improv comedy. More specifically, how it applies to “social engineering” (talking your way out of trouble, or more maliciously tricking someone into giving up information that should be kept secret).

I didn’t even notice until posting the link here, but it amuses me that the video preview shows the demo slide that I often use, with the magic rabbit and the demolition reference.

DerbyConDerbyCon

“Hackers” get a bad name in popular media, but at its core, a hacker is just someone who wants to know how something works. That could be a program, a gadget, a policy, or anything else. Sometimes that includes taking something apart or breaking it or looking for a loophole.

Several hackers founded the infosec (information security) conference known as DerbyCon in Louisville seven years ago. I’ve attended five or six (I forget), but this is the first time I’ve spoken there. The founders are all a great group of folks, and love giving back to the community and putting everyone at ease.

The conference has four main tracks — Red Team (offense), Blue Team (defense), Purple Team (bit o’ both), and 3-Way (miscellaneous topics) — plus Stable Talks (shorter sessions on a variety of topics). There are also several other areas and events, like a social engineering village, a car hacking village, a capture the flag contest, and more. It’s very popular — in fact the 2500(ish) tickets this year sold out in just 3 minutes! If I hadn’t been speaking there, I wouldn’t have been able to go.

ImprovImprov All-Star

My presentation was a Stable Talk, so I only had 25 minutes to speak. I wanted to leave time for some audience participation and exercises, so I sped through some things faster than I’d like, and there wasn’t as much detail as I’d have liked, but them’s the breaks.

Here are the salient points that I covered:

  • “Rules”
    • Accept:  Yes, and…
    • Connect:  Relate to your audience
    • Respect:  Support your partner
    • Direct:  Focus on action
    • Project:  Follow the fear
    • Expect:  Mistakes are gifts
  • Stay Creative
    • Local Improv Groups
    • 48-Hour Film Project, Startup Weekend, Hackathons
    • Games (Who Would Win, Once Upon a Time)
    • Toastmasters International, Pecha Kucha
    • Learn, Travel, Meet – Engage!
    • www.sharpen.design

Download

You can download the slides here.

in remembrance of Kemp

Love Songs

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, here is some of my favorite love songs.

Some are well known, but there are probably others you haven’t heard before.

Dave Mattingly: The Musical, Part 15Love Music

Others: Honorable mentions, or barely-about-love songs.Love Song

Go back to Part 14: Halloween Music

Winter Quest

This weekend, I went to www.Winter-Quest.com, a charity comic-con to benefit the homeless in Louisville.

Comic-Con for the Homeless?Hotel Louisville

The event was held at Wayside Christian Mission‘s Hotel Louisville.

Wayside is a homeless shelter that has been in Louisville for many years. A good friend of mine runs the “Samaritan Patrol” for them, delivering coffee, sandwiches, coats, and such to the homeless camps, bridges, train tracks, etc. every Sunday.

Hotel Louisville was once a Holiday Inn, but it ran into financial troubles right after a major remodel. So Wayside bought the hotel, where it now houses the homeless. The homeless also run the entire hotel, gaining experience at cooking, cleaning, managing, and otherwise taking care of business.

The Waycool Cafe inside the hotel is crazy cheap ($5 buffet, anyone?), and they have a very good selection, including vegan and Esselstyn diets.Ministries

Ministries

I was at the con representing some of the various outreaches that I’m a part of:

  • the Christian Gamers Guild (geared toward board gamers, card gamers, and roleplayers)
  • the Grave Robbers (geared toward punks and goths)
  • Game Church (geared toward video gamers)
  • Fans for Christ (sadly now defunct, geared toward fandom, cosplayers, anime, etc.)
  • …and others that I didn’t specifically have materials to send home with people

Guests

The range of people and groups there was impressive for such a new event.Family Tree

Fun

Leia Cupcakes

“I love these cupcakes.”
“I know.”

For a small first-year event, there was a lot going on.

 

Retro Rock

Over the years, there have been many bands who play like they don’t know the 60’s ever came to an end. This is great news.

On most stops along my magical musical tour, I’ve listed Known For for each band, to remind the reader where they might have heard of the bands before. But most of these bands are not known for anything, at least that I’m aware of. So I’ve replaced that with a Sounds Like, to give you a clue of who else they might remind you of.

These are “my” bands. The bands that helped shape who I am, roughly in order of how much they mean to me.

Dave Mattingly: The Musical, Part 15

Garage Rock

  • Mystic EyesMystic Eyes
    • Sounds Like: The Animals, Van Morrison/Them, Sweet, The Standells, MC5
    • Memories: The first song I heard from Mystic Eyes was “From Above” back in 1986. I thought that the singer, Bernie Kugel, sounded like Elmer Fudd with a cold (and I mean that in the best way possible), and loved him for it. The first line of their opening track, “she’s got a reason” sounds a bit like “she’s got a weasel”, which makes She Don’t Cry No More even more fun. In 1993 or so, I was on a business trip to Pittsburgh, and got to town a day before my conference, so I stopped by Get Hip headquarters, the label that produced their albums. It was great to meet the folks there, and pick up the band’s second album (that I didn’t even know existed).
    • Favorite Songs: From Above, Calm Me Down, I Lost My World, She Don’t Cry No More, I Believe You, I Can Only Give You Everything
    • Links: Some of their songs can be found here and here, and a great retrospective here.

Surf PopGuantanamo Baywatch

Psychedelic Rock

Girl Power Pop

Go back to Part 14: Halloween Music

 

Bible Gore

Bible GoreI’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

This sermon talks about some of the scariest and goriest scenes in the Bible, and was prepared for my church service at the 2016 Fright Night Film Festival. It had been a while since I’d preached at a horror convention, and it was great to be invited to speak at this one.

Bible Gore

Sometimes, people ask me what I think is the scariest/goriest movie, and I generally answer, “The Passion of the Christ.” The graphic violence is very disturbing, but the same could be said of many other movies. What makes this one so horrible is that (Christians believe) it’s real, and was necessary because of our own sin.

In this sermon, I didn’t cover the crucifixion, which is brutal by almost anyone’s standards. I left that one out due to its familiarity. Most churchgoers and horror fans already know it, so I focused my attention on some lesser-known bits of horror.

Your Days are Numbered

Days are NumberedKing Nebuchadnezzar subjugated the Israelites, and forced them all to worship a large statue of himself or be put to death (or life in prison). One of them was Daniel, one of God’s prophets. Daniel was in prison until the king’s son, Belshazzar, took the throne.

King Belshazzar drank from a gold goblet stolen from God’s temple in Jerusalem. Then fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the wall: mene, mene, tekel, parsin (Daniel 5:3,5,25)

A disembodied hand wrote on the king’s wall!

The king’s advisors could not interpret the writing (which was written in Aramaic), so they sent for the prisoner Daniel. Over his many years in prison, he had gained a reputation for being a godly man who could understand visions.

PeggedDaniel explained that the writing said, “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.” This was God’s warning that:

  • the king’s days are numbered (which is where we got the phrase that we still use today),
  • he had been weighed, he had been measured, and he had been found wanting (as so wonderfully quoted in A Knight’s Tale),
  • his many possessions would be split among his enemies; he would leave no legacy

Pegged

The Israelites were being attacked by the Canaanites, whose army was led by Sisera. When the Israelite army had the upper hand, the commander fled to take shelter in the tent of a Kenite ally.

Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to Sisera while he lay fast asleep. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died. (Judges 4:21)

Nailed it!

What a way to go. Very Saw or Final Destination.Big Hair

Locked Up

King David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). His son, Absalom, planned to kill his father and take the throne violently. Until the day he was outnumbered and ran away.

Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree, leaving him hanging midair. Joab plunged three javelins into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive. On top of that, ten of Joab’s men ran him through with swords. (2 Samuel 18:9,14,15)

“Dude, don’t leave me hanging!”

Absalom had long flowing studly hair that he was very proud of. But after riding so fast to get away, his hair bobbing up and down got snagged, and suspended him from the tree like a piñata. The army commander decided that he’d look better as a pincushion instead, and his men agreed.

Gut Reaction

Fat ManEvil king Eglon was soooo fat (“how fat was he?”) that when Ehud the Left-Handed stabbed him with a sword about 18 inches long (45 cm), Eglon’s fat closed up over the hilt (probably another 6 inches), and it got left there.

Ehud delivered tribute to the very fat King Eglon, and said, “I have a message from God for you.” Ehud plunged his sword into the king’s belly. Even the handle sank in, and his bowels discharged. (Judges 3:24,25)

Ehud stabbed the ████ out of Eglon.

Because of Eglon’s obesity, when his bowels emptied, his servants on the other side of the door assumed their master was relieving himself. He probably had a reputation for some real stinkers. This extra delay gave Ehud the time he needed to escape.

Inside Out

Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat (dontcha love that name?) was the king of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel, and formed an alliance with the northern kingdom by marrying Athaliah, daughter of king Ahab (no whales were harmed in the making of this story).Pig Lizard

Despite his alliance, he rebelled against God (2 Chronicles 21:10). The prophet Elijah sent him a warning letter, which Jehoram ignored. As a result, God inflicted him with a slow painful death.

God afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. After two years, it caused his bowels to come outside, and he died in agony. His people did not build a great funeral pyre to honor him like his ancestors. (2 Chronicles 21:18,19)

His insides became his outsides. His entrails became his extrails (another great quote from A Knight’s Tale).

My guess is that his intestines swelled to the point that they pressed up against his skin, and eventually pushed through. Doesn’t sound pleasant.Tremors

Baited Breath

Not all of the gory stuff happened in the Old Testament. King Agrippa got eaten while he was on stage.

Herod Agrippa sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:21-23)

Most people are eaten by worms after they die. You’re doing it wrong, Herod.

This wasn’t a Tremors-style giant worm, but bunches of tinier worms eating him form the inside.

WTF, Man?

Why is all this stuff even in the Bible? Do we really need to know all of that grossness?

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16,17)Cannot Be Unseen

So what can we learn from these stories?

  • Belshazzar: We may not always see the hand of God, but our own days are also numbered.
  • Sisera: There is nowhere to escape God’s justice, even when it takes unexpected forms.
  • Absalom: The object of his vanity became the object of his ruin.
  • Eglon: Gluttony is a tool for our enemy.
  • Jehoram: When we don’t put God first, our life turns inside out.
  • Herod: Despite what Ghostbusters advocates, when someone calls you a god, say no.

I’m sure there are other lessons. The same story can teach many lessons to many students.

But I think the bottom line is this…

Terrible Vengeance

God made the world; he made us; he will judge us.

God said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30,31)

Unless we turn to God and repent, a horrible fate awaits each of us.

Download

You can download the PowerPoint slides here.

If you’d like to further explore the intersection of the Bible and the macabre, check out the Grave Robbers Ministry.