Comics and Controversy

UnknownNo one can dispute the fact that words are powerful. Spoken words. Written words. Even words spoken by a beloved comic book character. With two little words, the comic community got itself in an uproar. Those two words: “Hail Hydra.” The words themselves have been spoken before by many, people we expected to say it, and we were ok with it. This time though, we were shocked, and then offended. The “controversy”, if you want to call it that, revolves around who said it most recently. This time it was Captain America himself who uttered this phrase, “apparently” betraying everything we thought we knew about him and siding with the enemy.

As a self-professed “comic geek”

For those who don’t know, I’ve collected comics on and off (more on than off … much to my wife’s dismay) since I was 7. Conservatively speaking, I probably currently own somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000 – 15,000 comics. Because they were the first books I was introduced to, I’m a Marvel Comics fan. I’ve read DC comics, I’ve read Image comics, but I’ve always come back to Marvel and preferred them. I have both the Avenger’s logo and the X-Men logo tattooed on my left forearm. Suffice it to say, I’m a fan (possibly a fan-boy).

So when it comes to this “apparent controversy” I have quite a bit of history and experience to look back on. Here’s my perspective:

  1. Just in the time I’ve been collecting comics I’ve seen Captain America (along with other heroes) “die” on more than one occasion.
  2. I’ve seen Captain America (along with other heroes) be “replaced” more times than I can count.
  3. I’ve seen Marvel move in directions with multiple heroes and villains as the’ve apparently switched allegiances.
  4. I’ve seen good writers and artists do things with my favorite characters that I wish they wouldn’t have done.

Here’s what I’ve learned

There are several lessons I’ve learned over the years that relate to this:

  1. Rarely is something as clear as it seems from the final panel of any given book. Yes, the writers of any good comic book wanted to create a “shock” or a “climax” at the end of each book. But we have to ask ourselves the question, “Why?” The simple business reason is they want to you to buy the next next book.
  2. Rarely does the last panel give you the full story. There is always a reason for the shock or climax. Let the story be told in its totality before jumping to any conclusions.
  3. Rarely (if ever) does a “seemingly” significant change in a character’s canon remain permanent. Steve Rogers will always be the original Captain America. Logan will always be the original Wolverine.  Peter Parker will always be the original Spider Man. By the end of the story, the old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” holds true.

How Should We Respond

Is it right for us, as the reader, to respond in outrage? Maybe. At the very least we had a emotional response. Which is what any writer really wants, to have the reader feel something.

Is it right for us to call for a boycott of a particular company? Maybe. But it seems a bit extreme (and a lot premature) when we don’t have all the information.

Is it right for us to jump on social media and threaten the life of the writer and his family over a creative decision? Absolutely not! This is  immaturity and false bravado at its worst.

At the end of the day, this is a character in a comic book. While we all have our beloved characters, this writer has a story to tell.  I’m personally interested in seeing where it goes to see how he resolves this “apparent controversy”.

Pipe Smoking on the Go

For those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably don’t know that I enjoy smoking a pipe and have for years. I’m a locker member at the local cigar shop and even have a blend of tobacco that I created for sale there. Most days I will invariably end up working at the shop for a least part of the day.

One of the things I struggled with in the past is how to smoke on the go. I’m fine at the shop with all my supplies and necessities right at hand, but on the go is tougher … or at least it was.

Up until recently, here’s how I traveled with my pipe. I bought this small, sitting pipe because of it’s size and shape. It fit easily into the bag (… and yes I see the irony of the “safety” bag). FullSizeRender

Now I have this for the “on the go” smoke. I could put a bag of tobacco (… namely my “pastor’s blend”) could fit in the pouch instead of a second pipe. On the go, I usually have a tin. I got it from Hank’s Handmade US. I saw someone else’s on Instagram and contacted him about what I was looking for. I had it like a week later.

IMG_4898If you are looking for an awesome way to travel with your pipe (or pipes) check out Hank‘s work.

The End of Discipleship

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis added)

Jesus makes it very clear what the mission of the church is; to make disciples. Discipleship is the process where we embrace the life and ethics of Jesus personally while helping others to do the same. By embracing Jesus’ life I mean having faith in his work for sinners in his life, death, and resurrection. By embracing Jesus’ ethics I mean embracing all he has commanded us to do, both explicitly and implicitly.

The church therefore is made up of disciples who are making disciples. Disciple making is not just about acquiring head knowledge or changing outward behavior, but responding to God’s work in such a way that sanctification can be seen in all those who actively participate in the process.

But, is there an end to discipleship? How do we know when we’re done? In one sense we never are. There will never come a time when we don’t need to be discipled, or when we shouldn’t be discipling someone else. In another sense we hit a milestone when the one being discipled is effectively discipling someone else.

So, in an important way the end, or goal, of discipleship is when the person being discipled starts discipling someone else. Which frees the one doing the discipling to do the same.

The goal?

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Knowing when someone you’ve discipled is ready to disciple someone else will be a topic of a future post.

Discipleship Groups (pt. 3) – What They Do

Discipleship doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it requires a few things. There needs to be an intentionality for it, a desire to fight sin by going deeper into into the Scriptures, exploring not only our identity in Christ, but how to live out that identity in practical ways (part 1 here). It also requires a  group formed  to accomplish it (part 2 here). The final question that remains to be answered is to what to do?  The answer is to go deep in the areas of sharing and studying.


I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re a guy), “I don’t like to have feelings, let alone share them!” While feelings are part of it, it’s not all of it. Sharing requires us to be both transparent and vulnerable. This can be very scary to some of us, especially those who have been hurt in the past. But it shouldn’t be. The reason this shouldn’t be scary is because of the gospel. It’s through the gospel that we find ourselves in the same place, that of sinner/saints seeking a greater sense of sanctification. That’s part of discipleship, part of what we are trying to do. By allowing others in, we see ourselves (and thereby our sin) better. Which in turn helps us to fight sin and temptation better. It does this by exposing it to the light. It’s easy to hide our sin in the dark, when no one know about it. But when we expose it the light we see Christ more. It’s the seeing of  Christ more clearly we are better equipped to fight against the sin and temptation more effectively.

The sharing I’m describing answers 3 basic questions:

  1. What is God doing?
  2. Where we are struggling how does gospel answer?
  3. How we can be praying for one another? (James 5:16)

It’s in the answers to these questions that the members of the group have to opportunity to encourage (1 Thes. 5:11) and exhort (Heb. 3:13) one another. These questions also lead naturally into accountability (the ability to check in and see progress).


Discipleship, at its core is knowing God better. The main, and dare I say only, way that happens is by studying His Word. It’s through the Word that we get a glimpse (and just a glimpse) of: “what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18b-19 ESV – emphasis added) This is a life long pursuit of going both deep into the meaning and experientially in the application of that truth.

The studying side of discipleship is best accomplished, in my opinion, through the use of “helps”. A good commentary on the book of the Bible you are studying together, a systematic theology on a particular aspect of faith the group is struggling with, a book from a trusted author on an a topic of interest to the whole group desires to grow in, can be helpful. Again the goal is deepen both knowledge and  experience.

So there it is, making disciples as disciples is accomplished through sharing and studying. It doesn’t matter if you’re the leader of the group or a participant, growth will happen. Yes, it takes hard work, both in being vulnerable and in study, but there is even greater joy and peace to be had, as well as greater fruitfulness to be gained as we draw near to God through Christ (Heb. 4:16; 7:19; 7:25; 10:1, 10:22, 11:6).

Praying for the Big & and the Small

As I was reading in the Valley of Vision this morning I came across this quote:

Help me not only to desire small things but with holy boldness to desire great things for thy people, for myself, that they and I might live to to show thy glory.

I have to admit, I don’t often pray with “holy boldness”. I don’t often pray for big things because they are too big for my mind to comprehend. I also struggle taking the small things to God because I either feel like I should be able to handle them on my own, or they are below His notice.

Lord, teach me to pray and help me in my unbelief.

(Quote taken page 267 of The Valley of Vision ©1975 by Arthur Bennett and published by The Banner of Truth Trust.)

When the Gospel Isn’t Good News

The Gospel is only good news if it brings us to God. Read the wise words of John Piper:

… salvation is not good news if it only saves from hell and not for God. Forgiveness is not good news if in only gives relief from guilt and doesn’t open the way to God. Justification is not good news if it only makes us legally acceptable to God but doesn’t bring fellowship with God. Redemption is not good news if it only liberates us from bondage and doesn’t bring us to God. Adoption is not good news if it only puts us in the Father’s family but not in his arms. (pg. 62)

(Quote taken from Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper ©2006 by Desiring God Foundation and published by Crossway)

Book Review: Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney


I received a free e-copy of this book for the purpose of review from the publisher. After reading the introduction, I also bought an actual paper copy of it for my library. Family Worship by Don Whitney is a great primer for parents, especially Dads, of the necessity of having family worship. This short book is biblical, practical, and encouraging. Whitney states right at the end of the introduction (and throughout the book) the purpose of the book, “…God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families.” (pg. 14)

Why is this book necessary?

This book is necessary because parents get easily discouraged in the practical application of family worship (probably like pastors do with at least some of their congregation). Whitney is great at reminding parents it’s never too late (or too early) to start (or re-start) family worship. I know I’ve been frustrated with my perceived lack of results due to focusing on my kid’s responses instead of being faithful and obedient to what God has called me to do; allowing God to transform their hearts.

Who needs this book?

Parents need this book, so do pastors. Parents need to be encouraged and to see the simplicity of what family worship is, without over-thinking it and thereby over-complicating it. Pastors need this book as a resource to hand to new parents (and newly engaged couples for that matter) to show how simple this can be.

Best Quotes

“The Bible clearly implies that God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families.” (pg. 27)

“We can summarize the views of our Christian heroes across the centuries with a sentence from Jonathan Edwards: ‘Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.’” (pg. 42-43)

“It’s simple: just read, pray, and sing. You can do that!” (pg. 51)

“We need to accept the fact that in this sinful world, challenges to family worship arise regularly in every home. The blessings of family worship are too dangerous for Satan to let pass unopposed. God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families. And for that reason start today.” (pg. 57)

“Let us be clear: faithful involvement in family worship is not the gospel.”

(Quotes taken from Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney ©2016 published by Crossway)


Does this book say something new and revolutionary that will totally change the way you think about family worship? No (and I’d be suspicious if it did). What is does do, is gently reminds and encourages parents of their responsibility to be the primary faith trainers in the lives of their children. And that’s what makes it such an invaluable resource.

You can get your copy of the book here or here.

Discipleship Groups (Pt. 2) – How They Form

See Part 1 here.

Discipleship groups are for those who want to go deeper into Scripture and want to deal more seriously with their sin. Once that is realized and expressed, the question becomes how do Discipleship Groups (DGs) form? The simple answer to that question is organically. Let me explain.

Through Community Groups

We encourage our people who are desirous of deeper discipleship to look first to those guys (or girls) who they are already in community with. At least for us at Redeemer, these are the people with which you are already meeting with regularly. They should, at the very least, have a basic understanding of where you are at spiritually. This leads into the next requirement of organically.

Through Relationship

Because of the Community Group connection, there is already a relationship established. Having a relationship already established means you can get right into the hard work of spiritual growth and the killing of sin. Without this, it will need to be developed because of the next requirement.

Through Trust

Relationship is required because trust is required. Trust is required because the only way growth and the killing of sin will happen is as we are open and honest with each other. Having (or establishing) both relationship and trust lead to deeper conversations about deeper things.


Having an established community, some level of community and trust makes transitioning into a discipleship relationship easier. This is a different kind of relationship that needs to be intentionally transitioned into. Without this transition, true discipleship won’t happen.

Or …

The other way DGs form is when people approach me describing their desire for discipleship. As Community Life Pastor, part of my job is to oversee DGs. While I encourage those who approach me to go seek it within their Community Group, if that doesn’t work, for whatever reason, I point them to a current group or encourage a few in that position to start a completely new group.

That’s what I mean by saying they form organically. In the final post, I’ll be discussing what happens when DG’s get together.

Book Review: The Pastor’s Book by R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher of The Pastor’s Book by R. Kent Hughes, edited by Douglas Sean O’Donnell for the purpose of review. Simply put, this book is a great reference for situations pastors often find themselves in. As I read through it, I was encouraged that I was thinking through certain things rightly and challenged to think through others more deeply. The authors pulled from their years of ministry, as well as others to put together a comprehensive, yet varied, resource that covers a variety of topics. These resources can easily be adapted to a myriad of situations, personalities, and contexts.

This book is ideal for all pastors, but especially those early in their ministries who don’t have a lot of experience. This book provides a point of reference and a framework that many young pastors can utilize.

If you are a pastor, get this book. If for no other reason than to have a reference book for those areas of ministry that you need to grow in. This book will help you think deeper about being a pastor, leading a church, and discipling God’s people.

You can get a copy here or here.