Saturday, December 31, 2011
Just a quick note to let you all know that I will be slightly delaying the date on which I am officially back in my office. I had posted January 4th as the date that I'll be in my office answering e-mails again, but even still here on my vacation I've realized that I'll need more time to catch up and get things in order again once I'm home. With an audio book deadline looming and the read-through party for Spirit Blade 3 coming up in a few weeks, January is going to be a VERY busy month!
So rather than heap mounds of stress on myself, I've opted to get some work done "off the radar" first and officially come back to my office on Monday, January 9th, at which time I'll start catching up on e-mails that may be awaiting a response. If you are in that category, please accept my sincere apology at the delay in getting back to you.
In addition, there will not be a podcast episode released on the weekend of January 6th, although I'm already itching to get back behind the microphone! You can plan on the next episode of the podcast coming the weekend of January 13th.
Thanks so much for your patience. Have a wonderful New Year celebration!
Monday, December 19, 2011
Well, I thought I would just work for a couple of hours today. But it's amazing how much work is required just to take some time off! Now that the last orders have been shipped and the last e-mails have gone out, I'm ready to make the last post here before I officially going "off the grid".
I'll be out of my office (and not reading e-mails) until January 4th. If you place an order for a physical product before then, it will be processed within 48 hours of January 4th. (Digital downloads will normally process immediately when you order.)
Our big in-store Christmas sale may be over, but there is still a great opportunity to save coming up in our spread-shirt store!
From Dec 27th - Jan 2nd all orders over $30 will receive free standard shipping! The coupon code is FREEDELIVERY. Minimum order of $30.00 must be placed in basket. Maximum value off of shipping is $9.50.
I don't have any control over when spread-shirt offers deals like this and I have no idea when will be the next time they offer a deal or discount. So don't miss out! Mark your calendar, since I won't be around to remind you! Go check out our spread-shirt store on December 27th through January 2nd and take advantage of free shipping!
In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful and deeply meaningful Christmas and a fun-filled New Year. I'll see you back here on January 4th!
Friday, December 16, 2011
This weekend is your LAST CHANCE to save 40% on all physical products sold in our online store! (Excluding T-shirts, but stay tuned for a special sale coming up for those!)
This massive sale ends after this Sunday, December 18th! Don't miss out! Go visit our online store right now!
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
This being the last week I'm in my office before the new year, I decided to present something a little different in place of "In Search Of Truth". This year I was asked by the pastors of my church to write a series of readings that could be integrated between songs during our Christmas Eve services. The vision was to describe God's interaction with humanity over the course of history in terms of an epic "story" that we are all called to enter into. Each section was to represent both a theme and a chronological element of the complete narration. Creation, The Fall, Redemption and Restoration.
It was a small writing project, but one I enjoyed digging into. Although there may still be minor revisions between now and Christmas, I've copied the most recent version below for you to read.
This season competes for our attention and energy from multiple directions, but sometimes it's good to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. That's what this little writing project is about. I hope you enjoy it and that it in some way expands your thoughts of who God is and what part you were meant to play in "The Story".
copyright 2011, Paeter Frandsen
There's an ancient story that began before stories were even told. It spans all ages past and reaches forward into eternity. Every day it's being written. Even now it's taking shape. Branching in complexity beyond what we can fathom, yet orchestrated skillfully to serve one, amazing purpose.
Like every other story, this one has an Author, who creates and populates his world with characters. But these characters have life and freedom. And this Author enters the story himself. In fact the story is about him. And rightly so. For there is no one more interesting, amazing, surprising, powerful, or good, than the Author himself. And being the highest, the greatest and most wonderful thing in existence, the Author writes his story so that others can see, embrace and enjoy who he is.
The story begins in the beginning. The first "beginning" there ever was. The Author made time and the universe, and the laws that govern them. He made beauty and purpose and people to possess both. He made it all for himself, but gave the people he made a part to play. A part that would completely fulfill them.
He made them to, in some way, be reflections of himself and to govern and enjoy all of the earth. He gave them each other, designing them to love and be loved. Most incredibly, he provided them with an infinite source of pleasure and fulfillment. He gave them himself. He made them for a relationship with him that would meet their every need and go beyond to give them an eternal life more amazing than they could ever imagine. It was to be a life of adventure and discovery, creativity and wonder, as each character explored and enjoyed the Author forever. A gift with value beyond measure, intended for us all.
Freedom is one of the Author's most mysterious, powerful and wonderful gifts. Without freedom, love cannot exist. And yet because of freedom, evil entered the story almost as soon as it began. The characters the Author created decided they wanted to write their own story, failing to realize that doing so would never fulfill them. So those designed to be reflections of the Author instead tried to make the Author a reflection of themselves.
From then until now we have each made the same choice. A thread of irony became woven into the plot, as the endless search for pleasure apart from the Author now brought pain and empty discontentment. Relationships made for love and enjoyment instead brought conflict and injury. Work, once meant to be invigorating and productive, was now draining and seemingly fruitless. The Author's vision of perfect unity and relationship with him was replaced by a broken, dysfunctional collection of self-centered agendas.
And though it pained the Author in ways we cannot fathom, he would not take back the freedom that made his creations so beautiful, valuable, and unique. He continued to let his characters write a portion of their own story if they desired, even if it took them away from fulfillment, away from their purpose, away from him... forever.
And so the story took a dark turn. It seemed as though the Author couldn't possibly write his way to a happy ending, and that evil would remain unleashed and unaccountable. But little did anyone know that the Author would introduce a twist to his tale. One that would change everything.
Justice is an unusual idea. It's one we like, when applied to others, but subtly avoid when applied to ourselves.
Justice is somewhat relative. Little justice is demanded upon the killing of a flower, but the cry for justice increases when an animal is abused, and cries out even louder at the murder of a child. The cry for justice always intensifies, the punishment due grows larger, as the value of those wronged increases. Imagine then the punishment due to those who have wronged a being... of limitless value.
The Author couldn't simply ignore evil and still be good himself. Justice had to be preserved. Countless beings had wronged one of infinite worth, and so owed a payment of infinite value. A payment they couldn't scrounge together no matter how hard they tried. The Author was the only object of infinite worth in existence. And from therein came the answer.
The Author entered the story as he never had before. He became like and lived among his characters, experiencing the pain and harsh realities of the story first-hand. Yet somehow he retained who he was. His perfection, his goodness, his infinite worth, were offered in exchange for the lives of his characters. He subjected himself to the full punishment his characters were due. And in that unparalleled transaction, something amazing took place. Freedom, true freedom, was made possible.
A call rang out from the Author, inviting his characters to be reunited with him. Free of the fear of punishment, free of their debt to the Author, and with the promise that one day they would even be free of the very presence of evil... forever.
This future chapter is foreshadowed in the lives of the characters who accept his invitation. The moment they do, the Author goes to work in crafting them a new story within the larger one. Re-writing their histories and outlining their futures. Changing who they are from the ground up. Character subplots that were heading toward tragedies are slowly re-written into romances. And as each smaller story is united to the larger one, the epic tale becomes beautiful beyond comprehension.
Some stories are so suspenseful and exciting that it's hard not to turn to the last page early to find out how they end. But the Author invites us every day to do just that. To look ahead and see how the Author, the hero of this story, puts an end to all evil. The evil around us and the evil within us.
There is nothing so broken that the Author can't restore it, perfectly and permanently. So a time will come when all of creation is renewed, remade, without the flaws and fractures it once had. The end of the story will be so beautiful and moving that the pain of early chapters will be seen in a new light, and the brilliance of the Author recognized.
The end of this story gives us hope for today. When our stories aren't written like we think they should be. When the stresses of work and relationships threaten to break us. When pain seems to define our lives. The Author knows and feels our suffering, because he has entered the story as well. He has come to carry us through it, to see the ending he has written. One that serves as both epilogue and prologue as he begins a new story. One far better than the first, with a happy ending... that never ends.
Monday, December 12, 2011
There are many disadvantages to what I do as the creator of Spirit Blade Productions. I have virtually no assistance in my day to day work. I ship packages and process orders, I do customer service, I have to handle all the business strategy, marketing and planning and try to fit in the creative stuff, too! It's a grueling one man operation with a very steep learning curve, for a company we still put our own money into without seeing a dime back yet toward our own living expenses.
But there are also some amazing benefits that come with the job. Foremost, is the opportunity I have almost every day to connect with, encourage and equip other people in their spiritual lives. That's why I'm in this and why neither I nor my wife ever see us getting out of the Spirit Blade "field".
But another nice benefit, which I am exercising today, is the ability to take a day off almost whenever I want. I rarely exercise this ability. I have a nagging, somewhat unhealthy, sometimes guilt-based work ethic that cracks the whip at my back every day, making it really hard to take a day off, unless my wife is too. (Although she has encouraged me before to take time off even if she's not.)
So today, although it's tough to do, I know I need it. The weekend was nuts, due to two different sets of unforeseen circumstances that doubled my "to do" list instantly. So I'm probably looking at some kind of raging "hulk-out" mid week if I don't set aside work for a day and get lost in a book, Skyrim, or something else equally removed from the real world.
So long story short? "In Search Of Truth" will be back later this week. See you then!
Friday, December 9, 2011
With "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" sucking the hours and social lives out of RPG gamers all over, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the world of Elder Scrolls from an angle that usually isn't covered. That of the religious culture.
Almost every big name RPG and fantasy novel series incorporates religion in some form. Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age had polytheistic and somewhat monotheistic settings. Even sci-fi RPGs like Mass Effect 1 and 2 and Fallout 3 have religion involved in numerous subplots, if not the main story. But the Elder Scrolls games may have one of the richest fictional theologies ever developed for a video game RPG.
MY GAME WITHIN THE GAME
A fun little exercise I like to do when I play a new RPG is try to figure out what religion I would follow if I were in this world and doing my best to seek out the truth about who is really running the universe. I play the part of a spiritual "seeker", letting every nut-job prophet, uptight priest or tranquilized shaman talk my ear off about the virtues of their faith.
This isn't something I do to be arrogant or judgmental toward the creators of the games. It's purely a fun little intellectual diversion. However, I've found that the experience of playing this little "game within the game" offers some tools useful for evaluating the truth claims of real-world belief systems. I'll leave it to you to determine where the parallels lie between Elder Scrolls and the various belief systems in our world, but I thought it would be fun to share some of the kinds of thought processes I go through as I "search for the truth" in a fantasy world.
Since each Elder Scrolls game only scratches the surface of the rich fictitious theology acting as the foundation, I found the information gathered on the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages (http://www.uesp.net/ ) to be valuable. So I'll reference them a few times and you can feel free to check them out yourself if you'd like.
As humans, we're made to worship. And by worship, I mean "assign immense personal value and priority". We all worship something. And when we find something that seems bigger and better than our current focus of worship, we shift focus to worship the bigger and better thing that has come along.
Elder Scrolls has a polytheistic setting. (Many gods instead of one.) So my first objective in a polytheistic setting is to look for the oldest, biggest, best god in existence. If I worship anything less, there will always be the potential for me to be less satisfied than I could be in the focus of worship I have chosen. "Yeah, Sheogorath, I know you're one of the gods "assigned" to this world I'm supposed to worship, and I know you're great and powerful and stuff. But the god that made YOU is all you are... and MORE! So why waste my time when I'm eventually gonna want to obsess over him instead?"
SMALL "G" GODS
Sheogorath and most other gods commonly mentioned during gameplay in "Oblivion" and "Skyrim" are among the "Daedra", the beings most commonly thought of as the gods of Elder Scrolls. But upon closer examination, these gods are really just extremely powerful, incomprehensible, yet FINITE beings. They came into existence as a result of "the interplay of Anu and Padomay". (See http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Gods ) Even more interesting, two other gods, Talos and Arkay, were once human beings (See http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Gods_N#Nine_Divines ), which means that not only are they less than infinite, they are little more than role models in the final analysis, since theoretically I can do what they did and become a god myself.
Hmm. Maybe I've set my standard too high. Why demand for myself the expectation of finding a truly infinite god to worship, who has always been around and always been a god? Because logical deduction indicates that a god like that should exist.
NEED FOR THE INFINITE
In every way detectable, the idea of decay is a physical reality in Elder Scrolls as it is in our world. Physical objects and life forms slowly break down over time. (How many tattered and rotted "ruined books" have YOU run into so far in Skyrim?) This means that in the universe of Elder Scrolls, matter is not eternal. It is constantly progressing toward decay. This also means that matter had a beginning point, just as the nature of decay points to a beginning for our universe.
Here's where deductive reasoning kicks in and tells me to expect to eventually find an infinite god in the world of Elder Scrolls. (Please bear with me, it's a bit of a mental workout. My apologies also for many of the finer details left out of the expression of this deductive progression. Just trying not to be too long-winded.)
1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause. So the Elder Scrolls universe has a cause. Now maybe the cause of the Elder Scrolls universe has a cause too, but we'll just cut out any middle steps and cut straight to looking at the very "First Cause" for the Elder Scrolls universe.
2. Since there can't be an infinite chain of successive causes(and because time began with the universe), the "First Cause" of the Elder Scrolls universe must be without beginning and uncaused.
3. Since this "first cause" (which we'll call the FC) precedes matter, it cannot be material itself. So the FC must be immaterial.
4. Since natural laws came into being with matter, the FC precedes natural law, and so is "supernatural".
5. All causes are either natural (the result of cause and effect based on natural law) or generated by free will. The FC of Elder Scrolls is "supernatural", and so must instead have a personal, decisive will, as opposed to being a vague "force" of some kind.
6. The Elder Scrolls FC must exist outside of time, since time is part of the natural universe of matter and the FC precedes matter.
7. The Elder Scrolls FC must be unchanging, since change is a limitation imposed by time, and the Elder Scrolls FC exists independent of time.
8. The Elder Scrolls FC must be infinite, since limits are measured based on natural law and potential(the potential to be more or less of something) and the Elder Scrolls FC is independent of natural law and without potential (i.e.unchanging).
MATCHING THE DESCRIPTION
So now I'm looking for a god that has no beginning, is non-finite, and is incapable of change. The gods presented so far all had either beginning points or obvious points at which they were different than what they became later(such as Talos and Arkay, who were once human). Meaning they are all finite and fall short.
From what I understand, Anu and Padomay were the gods responsible for forming the cosmos out of "Aurbis", which is the name for "the chaos, or totality, from which the cosmos was formed". ( See http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Aurbis )
So it sounds like maybe this "chaos or totality" (whatever THAT means) might be without beginning. But it still needed a cause to turn it all from whatever it was into the cosmos. So maybe Anu and Padomay are, together, my FC. The infinite beings I should be aiming my worship at.
From what I understand, "The brothers Anu and Padomay came from the Void" (http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Void). This poses a bit of a problem. "The Void" in Elder Scrolls is "the name applied to the dimensions outside of the known realms". For something to "come and go", it has to travel. If something can travel, it's not in all places at once. But something that is infinite IS in all places at once. So Anu and Padomay cannot be truly infinite if they "came" from somewhere, and must themselves have some source or cause.
This is where the revealed theology of the Elder Scrolls universe ends. There must be a personal being above and beyond Anu and Padomay, but there is no record of this being revealing itself to anyone in the Elder Scrolls universe. So it appears I'll have to join the likes of real-world ancient Athenians and construct an alter "To The Unknown God" and hope that someday he'll see fit to reveal himself or send a "Paul" my way.
Acts 17:22-31 (ESV)
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for "'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "'For we are indeed his offspring.'
Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
I'm pleased to finally announce the title of Spirit Blade Productions' next audio book! "The Golden Knight #1: The Boy Is Summoned", by Steve Clark and Justin Clark!
The synopsis is as follows:
In the beginning, the Kingdom was ruled by a wise and just King who ruled by the laws written in the ancient Book. The people were protected by the archangels and the heroic knights. All lived in peace and prospered. Those days are gone...
Flar, the evil fire lord, and his sorcerer, Murlox, have banished the King and his angels behind an energy field known as the Great Divide. The Book has been taken. The angels have fallen. The knights are gone. The people suffer. All that remains is the prophecy and a promise of hope.
Join Marsonee the archangel and Princess Rainna as they embark on a journey to bring an innocent farm boy toward his true destiny.
Given that the book is aimed at an audience of "tweens", and based on that artwork, you might think that this has "sterilized" and "safe" written all over it. But part of what drew me to the story was the inclusion of some "dark" story elements, such as an imposing villain who wears skulls on his armor, a twisted dark sorcerer, and the fact that someone even takes an arrow shot to the face! (I don't think he's gonna pull through.)
So the audio experience will be very much in keeping with what you've come to expect from Spirit Blade Productions.
The production philosophy we've agreed on is one similar to the live action "Narnia" films. Although there are certainly many elements aimed at a young audience, I'm approaching production with the same serious tone I might give to the "Pilgrim's Progress" audio drama series we're already producing.
Speaking of "series", you'll notice that this is book one of a multi-book series. At this point we've only committed to partnering for the first book in the series, but we're hopeful that the results will be successful enough to warrant audio production of the rest of the series as well!
Stay tuned! I'll have more details about my progress on the project and the release as we get closer to February!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
This month I thought I'd showcase a key type of card in the upcoming "Spirit Blade: The Adventure Card Game". The picture you see is the uncropped design for an Ability Card.
Most Seekers ("good guys") and some Enemies have abilities they can use in the game to give them an edge. Abilities are represented by Ability Cards, and can usually only be used once per Mission. (Though some can be used an unlimited number of times.) Abilities are divided into categories of Damage, Healing, Manipulation, Prophet, Enemy and Special. (Special Abilities are usually the ones that can be used without limit, such as Shifting, Resourceful, Security Systems and Counter Attack.)
Ability Cards that Seekers have access to are described on their Character Card. For example, the Sanctafi Seeker can take 9 Ability Cards into a mission with him: 3 Damage, 3 Healing and 3 Manipulation. The Prophet Seeker is the only Seeker that can take any Prophet Ability Cards into a mission.
The pictured card is a Manipulation Ability that immobilizes a human Enemy in battle. The concept is based on the way Saolos used miraclai in "Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual" to torture Merikk. Although most cards don't have quite the dark edge that this one does, as you can see, this card game will be every bit as "unsterilized" as the Spirit Blade audio dramas! And being a Seeker doesn't mean you don't still have some rough edges.
Although this card requires some knowledge of the audio dramas to fully appreciate and serves as a bit of audio drama fan service, most cards are completely approachable for those who have never heard of Spirit Blade before.
Play testing has slowed down a bit due to the Christmas season (and yeah, I'm playing Skyrim these days, too), but the hardest work is done and the game is mostly balanced. At this point I'm mainly polishing and making a few minor adjustments that I look forward to telling you about.
Stay tuned for another update in January!
Monday, December 5, 2011
By Guest Writer Nathan J. Norman
Have you ever flipped to the last page of a book, read it, then started from the beginning? Or watched the last chapter on a dvd, then watch it all the way through? That practice doesn’t appeal to me, and probably doesn’t appeal to most people. But to some it does. In fact I’ve known people who do this on a regular basis. They like to know the ending before they get invested into a story. And what about you? Would you like to know the end of your story? The wonderful thing about being a Christian is that you can know! Maybe not all the specifics, and not every minor detail . . . but if you’re a believer in Christ, we have the Word of God giving us a testimony that God wins, and we all get perfected bodies. In the end, God makes everything work out. So then, how should believers respond to God’s long-term plan?
Believers should respond to God’s long-term plan by praising God.
When you realize that God has an amazing and unfathomable future planned for Christ-followers, the natural response is to praise Him! In Habakkuk’s day, when God revealed to Him that both evil Judah and even more evil Babylon would one day be judged, Habakkuk responded in praise. Read Habakkuk 3:1-3:
3:1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. According to Shigionoth.
2 LORD, I have heard the report about You; LORD, I stand in awe of Your deeds. Revive Your work in these years; make it known in these years.
In Your wrath remember mercy!
3 God comes from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah
His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise.
Evil would not ultimately win the day. God revealed to Habakkuk that He Himself would come and bring justice to humanity once again. Let’s look at what Habakkuk saw, and why he decided to praise God. Read Habakkuk 3:4-13:
4 His brilliance is like light; rays are flashing from His hand.
This is where His power is hidden.
5 Plague goes before Him, and pestilence follows in His steps.
6 He stands and shakes the earth; He looks and startles the nations.
The age-old mountains break apart; the ancient hills sink down.
His pathways are ancient.
7 I see the tents of Cushan in distress; the tent curtains of the land of Midian tremble.
8 Are You angry at the rivers, LORD? Is Your wrath against the rivers?
Or is Your rage against the sea when You ride on Your horses, Your victorious chariot?
9 You took the sheath from Your bow;
the arrows are ready to be used with an oath. Selah
You split the earth with rivers.
10 The mountains see You and shudder; a downpour of water sweeps by.
The deep roars with its voice and lifts its waves high.
11 Sun and moon stand still in their lofty residence,
at the flash of Your flying arrows, at the brightness of Your shining spear.
12 You march across the earth with indignation; You trample down the nations in wrath.
13 You come out to save Your people, to save Your anointed.
You crush the leader of the house of the wicked and strip him from foot to neck. Selah
This is both terrifying and awesome. Who could ever stand up to this God? No evil or injustice stands a chance!!!! So in Habakkuk’s day, even though there was still evil all around him, He still praised God, because he knew what the end of the story was.
What does this praise look like?
It’s like when Hollywood turns a beloved story into a movie. The sixth Harry Potter movie (the half-blood prince) was terrible. The Super Mario Brothers movie was atrocious. So because of all these stinkers, when Hollywood takes a beloved story and actually gets it right . . . we praise them! When I saw the first Lord of the Rings, I was so scared they’d mess it up, but once seeing it I said things like “Peter Jackson’s awesome!” In the same way, when you know what God’s ultimate plan is, you can praise Him!
Or think about it like this . . . what’s the average weekly allowance these days? Let’s say it’s $20 a week. So let’s say ever since a young person was growing up, her parents would give her $20 a week, but as the parent handed it to her, they took $5 back. This goes on for years! Is the kid frustrated? You betcha! Finally after a long time this girl confronts her parent and says, “Why do you keep taking $5 from my allowance? And the parent reveals the plan to her and says when she turns 16, they will take the money she gave, add to it and buy her a brand new car! That’s an awesome plan! How does she respond? With ELATION!
In the same way, when you know what God’s plan for your life is, you praise Him because you know that even the terrible times you may be having right now, are nothing compared to the awesomeness awaiting you.
But you might say “God has never appeared to me, and given me a vision of my future!” No He hasn’t. He’s given you the complete story, though . . . and you can read about it whenever you want . . . and I think it’s better.
Having the Word of God available to you anytime versus having a vision is the difference between meeting a boy or a girl and them telling you that they love you, then moving away to a place where they can’t communicate with you ever again, and never meeting a person face to face, but being able to talk on the phone, facebook and text whenever you want . . . and realizing that one day you will be united. You just need to have the discipline to pick up the phone and call . . . or in this case, open your Bible and read about it!
Believers should respond to God’s long-term plan by praising God. And when you hear about God’s long-term plan, you don’t merely praise Him, but you do something else. You see…
Believers should also respond to God’s long-term plan by surrendering to Him. When you realize how huge God’s plans are and how powerful He is, you cannot help but give over to Him your whole self.
As Habakkuk continues to describe what he has seen, he ultimately realizes that He has to give himself completely over to God. Read Habakkuk 3:14-19:
14 You pierce his head with his own spears;
his warriors storm out to scatter us, gloating as if ready to secretly devour the weak.
15 You tread the sea with Your horses, stirring up the great waters.
16 I heard, and I trembled within; my lips quivered at the sound.
Rottenness entered my bones; I trembled where I stood.
Now I must quietly wait for the day of distress to come against the people invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will triumph in Yahweh; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
19 Yahweh my Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
Habakkuk knows that life will be difficult for him in the days to come, but he decides to trust God, and give Himself over to His plan . . . where-ever that might lead him.
This surrender takes a few forms. It’s like in the cancelled comic book Alius Rex. (Spoiler Alert) A mysterious new country is invading kingdom after kingdom. This one king, though, refuses to surrender and gathers his knights together. As he reaches the place of battle this huge alien ship comes over the hill and destroys his forces. He is so overwhelmed by the power of the enemy that he surrenders right there, knowing that if he resisted, it would lead to his own destruction. So he has to give in to the aliens, knowing that they can now do whatever they want.
It’s the same with us . . . only our God is benevolent and loves us, and when we see His absolute power and surrender to Him . . . it’s for our own good. Not harm.
Or think about it like this: When animals get scared, they will actually fight you when you’re trying to help them! A cat will claw you if you help it get down from the tree. A dog will bite a firefighter trying to pull it out of a flooded river. They do this because they do not understand the “big plan” and are trusting in their own power to deliver them! Flies (not technically animals) will drive you crazy if you try to help them. They fly into a window, over and over, so you open the window. Then they avoid the window. You shoo them to the window . . . because it’s the only way they can survive, but they don’t trust you so they back away. These creatures could only be saved if they could somehow think, “This being is smarter than me, and good, so I’m just going to let it do whatever it wants because I know that it has my best interest in mind.”
We need to do the same as we interact with God. We need to give ourselves over to Him . . . even when things are rough . . . trusting that He has a plan and purpose we cannot comprehend.
Some of you are feeling, “I’m afraid of what will happen !” You don’t want to live life according to God’s standards because you’re afraid that you might lose your friends, your reputation, and that life will only get harder. And if that’s you, and you don’t surrender your life to God, you will go through this life forever as the fly, bouncing off the window, trying to be free and never finding it. Unable to figure out life or your purpose in life because you don’t have the ability to do so apart from God.
You must trust Him! Believers should respond to God’s long-term plan by surrendering to Him.
So there you have it. You’ve flipped to the last page. You’ve watched the end of the movie first. You know how the story ends before it happens: God wins and His followers get eternal life in glorified, perfected bodies. So, believers should respond to God’s long-term plan by praising God and surrendering to Him. If you don’t do this, you will go through life bouncing off the windows and trying to find your direction . . . and will find nothing. But if you give yourself wholly over to God . . . then you can have peace even in the worst circumstances. Ultimate Surrender. Ultimate Peace.
Next- Paeter returns to "In Search Of Truth" with an invitation to "Enter The Story".
Friday, December 2, 2011
Yesterday I finished recording the audio book that I'm working on, which will be released in February. Although my preferred medium is still audio drama, there are some nice benefits to working on an audio book instead. And they're all related to speed.
Since I'm the only performer I can record at a moments notice as I have opportunity. There is also no time spent directing anyone else. I know what I want something to sound like and can do multiple takes quickly in a row until I hit the delivery I want. And although in some cases it can take me some time to "find" a character's voice, mentally directing myself moves the evolution of my performance forward much faster than verbally directing another actor. Unlike "directing myself", directing another actor involves choosing my words as carefully as possible, for the sake of clear communication and sensitivity to the actor's feelings.
Finally, although I create "enhanced audio books" that include some sound effects and a musical score (the free Spirit Blade Audio Book being an example), the sound cues needed are far less per minute than those required for my audio dramas. So the mixing process has a much faster progression compared to audio drama.
All of this increased speed amounts to two significant benefits. As a creator, I get to have that rewarding sense of satisfaction upon completion of a project much sooner. And as a small business owner, I get to present a new, income earning product for sale much faster as well.
My first and greatest love will probably always be audio drama. But doing audio books, the way I like to do them, can be pretty cool too!
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more info about the upcoming audio book release!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
It's that time of year again! Which means it's time again for me to make my electronic-industrial rendition of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" available for free download until the end of December!
You can find it listed under "New Features" on our Media Page, or download it here!
If you're a podcaster, please feel free to play it on your show with a credit to "spiritblade.net"!
I hope you enjoy listening and that your Christmas season gets off to a great start!
Monday, November 28, 2011
Guest Writer, Nathan J. Norman
You don’t have to look far to see instances where the evil people triumph, do you? Just turn on the news. Bank robbers are never caught. Politicians get away with things that you and I would go to prison for. Murders go unsolved every year. In your own life you know of gossips who ruin reputations and never pay for it, men who abuse women physically and psychologically and get away with it, and we could go on. The old adage “crime doesn’t pay” seems like a joke sometimes, because we look around right now, and it seems like it does. So then, How should believers respond to the victories of the wicked?
Believers should trust that God will bring about His plan. As we look at all the injustices we see, instead of becoming frustrated, we need to have faith that God is already working.
Habakkuk had this same problem in his day. God had already revealed that he was going to use wicked Babylon to judge the less wicked kingdom of Judah. And here’s how Habakkuk responds. Read Habakkuk 1:12-13, 2:1:
12 Are You not from eternity, Yahweh my God?
My Holy One, You will not die.
LORD, You appointed them
to execute judgment; my Rock, You destined them to punish us.
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil,
and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
So why do You tolerate those who are treacherous?
Why are You silent while one who is wicked
swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?
2:1 I will stand at my guard post
and station myself on the lookout tower.
I will watch to see what He will say to me
and what I should reply about my complaint.
Things don’t seem to be getting better, only worse. Evil is getting everything!
That’s probably how it seems like today sometimes . . . whether it’s your school, your politics, or your country or your own home.
Let’s see how God responds. Read Habakkuk 2:4, 12-13:
4 Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity.
But the righteous one will live by his faith.
12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with injustice!
13 Is it not from the LORD of Hosts that the peoples labor
only to fuel the fire and countries exhaust themselves for nothing?
God is going to also judge Babylon! In the meantime, he said that His righteous ones will have lives characterized by trust, or faith.
Do you think this is hard to do? Absolutely! We want to do something, but often find ourselves powerless. So then, we get angry at God, disappointed in life, and very, very cynical.
So what’s this like, trusting that God has a plan in progress in the middle of evil?
It’s like when my cat Duncan was a little kitten. He was sick when we adopted him. So we have him on this cherry flavored medicine that we have to give him twice a day. Do you think he liked it? No! And if you could ask him, he would say that what we’re doing is evil. But, even though, there’s no immediate effect, in the long run he’s getting better!
Even in the middle of all the evils of our world, we need to trust that God is actively working, and has a plan.
Now, imagine that you come home one day, and catch a sibling with a brand-new never been opened 1 terabyte iPod! (I don’t even know if they have those yet.) So you ask him/her “where’d that come from?” And he totally lies to you and says that he’s holding it for a frien.d
So you tell a parent, and your parent just acts like they don’t care! But they should care, your sibling is a liar and a thief! So what do you do, drop it and let your parents handle it, take matters into your own hands, or let it fester? Well, as it turns out, your parents were putting together a surprise party. It’s huge, awesome and almost perfect. Now was it wrong that your sibling lied – yes. But in the end, your parents used everything to work together for good! In the same way, you can go through life, angry at God for allowing injustice, or you can trust that He has an amazing plan that’s already going on!
You might be asking yourself, “Why doesn’t God act now?”
You might be tempted to think that he doesn’t do anything, like an idol. Let’s see how Habakkuk interacts with this. Read Habakkuk 2:18-20:
18 What use is a carved idol after its craftsman carves it?
It is only a cast image, a teacher of lies.
For the one who crafts its shape trusts in it and makes idols that cannot speak.
19 Woe to him who says to wood: Wake up! or to mute stone: Come alive! Can it teach? Look! It may be plated with gold and silver, yet there is no breath in it at all.
20 But the LORD is in His holy temple; let everyone on earth be silent in His presence.
Well, God is waiting so that as many people can come to salvation in Jesus as possible. But He is also super-patient, and will wait to bring judgment until a person or group reaches a sort of “complete evil” level. And you know what? God’s plan is a mystery right now, so we won’t always know this side of eternity.
Believers should respond to the victories of the wicked by trusting that God will bring about His plan. Sure it’s hard to do. We either want to fix the situation, or we want it to go away. But think about it like this . . . on this side of eternity, how can you please God? You can do good works, but that’s more about loving others. Can you hug God? Can you go to the movies with God? Fortunately God tells us right here in Habakkuk, “The righteous will live by faith.” You want to please God, trust Him! You pray, “God, I don’t know why my parents are arguing, I don’t understand why you’re letting horrible things happen, I don’t understand why my spouse or significant other is treating me like this but I trust you . . . I trust you have a plan in all of this!”
Wait for it . . . wait for it. God’s plan is coming!
Thursday, November 24, 2011
All of our crazy 40% discounts are active RIGHT NOW in our online store through December 18th!
But remember, our BIGGEST savings opportunity is on Black Friday, November 25th only! Get the Spirit Blade: Special Edition CD set for an insane 60% OFF, and tax and shipping are still FREE! Just $5.19 to put it in your hands or those of a potential fan you'd like to introduce to the world of Spirit Blade! Don't miss out!
Visit our online store right now!
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Typically when we thank God for things, the list is fairly predictable. Family, friends, health, that kind of thing. We thank him for forgiveness, the eternal future he's given those who trust in him, and for the ability and opportunities to serve him now. These are all great things to thank him for. In fact, they are probably the greatest things to thank him for.
But after this little "prayer time", we can quickly get out of that mode and go back to our day to day lives and the things we enjoy (especially us geeks) that we assume God really wasn't involved in. After all, did God program the code or do play-testing for Mass Effect 2 or Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? Nope. Did he write "The Way Of Shadows" or "Wizard's First Rule"? I'm pretty sure Brent Weeks and Terry Goodkind were responsible for those. Did God film Iron Man or Super 8? No.
But God is the Creator of creativity itself! He's the Author of authors! My dad once said to me, "Y'know really, we aren't very creative. Every idea we come up with is something that's been seen or done before." And he was right. The things we call "new" or "creative" are just re-arrangements and mash-ups of concepts we've been exposed to before. On the other hand, God created the entire universe out of nothing. Now THAT is some "outside the box" creativity!
Although I'm still very likely to compartmentalize my "thankfulness", I try to bring God into the creative things I enjoy. Although plenty of games and movies have elements that do not honor God, they have a vast number of elements that do. I try to remember that I enjoy exploring Skyrim because God designed me to enjoy exploring and discovering. He also gifted the visual artists of the game with the ability to take some of the best of what God created in nature and exaggerate those qualities in a fantasy landscape. God gave us a longing for strength, security, victory, and purpose, all of which he will give those who place their trust in him. And he has enabled creative people to give a foretaste of those things in the fiction and entertainment they create, whetting our appetites for what God will one day give us for real and in full.
EVERYTHING good we enjoy in life, originates as a gift from God, who designed us to enjoy whatever it is we're enjoying! We may twist and misuse what he's given us, but pleasure of any kind, in and of itself, is a gift of God.
We rightfully thank God for family, friends, health, nature, forgiveness, and eternity. But as we come down from those lofty "sunday thoughts", we can also thank him for the little pleasures in life (that we sometimes make too big a deal of) that also ultimately come from him and foreshadow a future beyond imagining.
James 1:17(ESV)- Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Monday, November 21, 2011
This month's new special feature is part 1 of a behind the scenes look at the first read-through for "Pilgrim's Progress"! This marks the first time any VIDEO of our script reading sessions has been available, and also includes the reading of almost an entire scene that was deleted from the final cut!
You can watch the embedded video below or go check it out along with all of our other videos on our Youtube channel!
You can watch the embedded video below or go check it out along with all of our other videos on our Youtube channel!
Friday, November 18, 2011
I'm excited to officially announce that I'm currently producing a new audio book that will be released in February of 2012!
This is new territory for me in that it will be the first professional project I produce that I did not write! But the author approached me having already published the book and seen relative preliminary success with it in the e-book world, and once I read it I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in. After working out the business side of things, we both signed on the dotted line and we're now off to the races!
It's a fantasy story aimed at young adult readers, but with cool action and dark sorcery for those of us with a taste for the unsterilized. If you're familiar with the "Tales Of The Kingdom" books by David and Karen Mains (a favorite of mine from my pre-teen years!) I think you'll find this story to be in the same category in some respects.
I'll have more details, such as title and author, as we get closer, but wanted to let you guys know about the exciting news!
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Get ready for some BIG opportunities to save in the Spirit Blade Productions Online Store!
From Friday, November 25th through Sunday December 18th, all physical product will be 40% off, and tax and shipping are still FREE!!
This Christmas is a great time to introduce new listeners to the world of Spirit Blade! Get the CD sets for either Spirit Blade: Special Edition or Spirit Blade: Dark Ritual (regularly $12.99) for just $7.79 each!
Or shop for that special "completist" by getting the Spirit Blade: Special Edition Collector's Set (regularly $23.99) for just $14.39!
You can also grab either of our Archive Discs (regularly $4.99) for just $2.99! Great as stocking stuffers!
PLUS, on Black Friday only (November 25th), you can get the CD set of Spirit Blade: Special Edition for a whopping 60% off! Just $5.19!!
So make your list, mark your calendar, and tell those who might be shopping for you! This is NOT an opportunity to miss!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Oblivion was my first experience with a 1st-person RPG, my strong preference then being 3rd person, and it took me two attempts before I could adjust. But once I did I discovered a gaming experience nearly without equal. For months I've waited in eager anticipation for the next game in the Elder Scrolls series, and Skyrim does everything but disappoint.
My first five impressions of any game's first five hours have almost always been an accurate summary of my thoughts on the game even after I finally play through the whole thing. So here are my first five impressions of the first five hours of "Skyrim". (Well, actually I've played twelve hours so far.)
1. The visual design has gotten a very nice upgrade. I was very impressed with the look of "Oblivion", but the new spell animations and gritty textures of "Skyrim" take the experience even further. (And people don't look weird anymore!) There is something strangely "Fallout 3" about the look of things that I can't quite identify, but that's no insult! The game looks fantastic! Though I'll echo what a reviewer at Gamespot said by observing that the world of Skyrim is best experienced by looking at the big picture rather than the details, where the graphics betray plenty of blocky pixels up close. Still, character animations have been improved and other visual upgrades have been made across the board that add wonderful life to the game.
2. They've put more effort into the auditory design as well! The score is still epic and sweeping, while having some great masculine tribal men's chorus added to great effect. The biggest improvement is the increase in the number and quality of voice actors used. My biggest gripe with Oblivion is that the game was fully voiced... by only about five actors, who made little or no effort to change their performance for different characters. (I played much of Oblivion with the voices turned off.) The character animations in conversations haven't been improved to "Dragon Age" quality, but the expanded voice cast adds some welcome life to character interaction.
3. The interface has been streamlined, in many ways cloning elements from Fallout 3. You are ultimately given less information about your character, which in some ways is fine, since I never understood every detail of my Oblivion character anyway. But some info seems missing. I didn't know I had a disease until I noticed everyone telling me I look sick. (Your character records only indicate how many diseases you've caught, not how many you currently have.) But in almost every other way the simplification in menus is appreciated. The controls also respond wonderfully and never get in the way. As an added bonus, 3rd person mode is actually an enjoyable alternative playing mode! (It was lousy in Oblivion.) I still use mainly 1st person, as the game is primarily intended to be played that way, but now and then it's helpful, or just a nice change of pace, to switch to 3rd for a bit.
4. "Immersive" is a word that keeps coming to mind. Even more so than Oblivion, Skyrim is an open, living world, with people and creatures in the wild living their own lives. I even passed a giant who had no interest in attacking me, and a dragon circled over head for three minutes while I was wandering in the forest. Scared the crap out of me but he finally moved on. It might seem counter-intuitive in design, but I actually love that this game isn't always "about me"! And again there is a ton to do. You can mix potions like before, as well as work in the smithy, smelter, tanner, workbench and grindstone to make your own weapons from scratch or improve existing weapons! And there are more quests than I can possibly keep up with!
5. This game is addictive! Finishing many quests introduces new ones and the sights and sounds of this world just beg to be explored from top to bottom. My hand-eye coordination is lame, so I'm playing on easy, and I'm in the sweet spot of my difficulty curve. Combat is challenging, and yet I feel like somebody that no one should mess with. Dungeons are now also marked "cleared" on your world map once you've actually explored them (instead of just "discovering them"), making it easy to check dungeons off the completist's exploration list, and tempting to tackle "just one more". And the story is engaging and feels "alive" rather than scripted.
In simple terms, this games just "works" on every level. Although there are small details I could nitpick, the sum of this game's parts is probably the best RPG video game experience I've ever had.
In terms of Relevance, the world of Elder Scrolls has the most developed religious mythology I've ever encountered in a video game, and the various gods and their followers factor into a number of quest-lines. The game doesn't play in a way that forces the player to think much about the ideas presented, but if you feel like digging there is a world of ideas worth contemplating that have great relevance to a real world search for truth.
Rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol
(For the next three weeks I've invited Pastor, geek and friend Nathan J. Norman to lead us on our "search for truth". He'll be taking us through an interesting look at the book of Habakkuk. Enjoy! -Paeter Frandsen)
Nathan J. Norman, Guest Writer
“The Self Destruct Code”
If you’re anything like me you probably have a variety of social circles you interact with. I’ve got people I interact with in college, church, ministry, family, in my job and even in my comic book store. Some of you also have sports, hobbies and a variety of other places that you socialize. But I’m sure you’ve often looked around and have seen some very upsetting things.
You know of people getting drunk, doing drug, and having sex outside of marriage . . . and they’re having fun doing all those things. And you wait a little while, assuming that consequences will come upon them immediately, and it never happens. They just seem to be having a really good time all-around! And if you step back and watch the news, it’s the same thing. Our culture embraces wickedness and nothing seems to be stopping it. So it begs the question: How should believers deal with a wicked culture?
Believers should deal with a wicked culture by faithfully waiting for the Lord to bring judgment via its own wickedness. When an entire culture, or a part of a culture turns completely wicked you and I are not strong enough to change it, it has to be the Lord that puts an end to it. In Judah, Habakkuk had the same problem. Read Habakkuk 1:1-4:
The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw.
2 How long, LORD, must I call for help
and You do not listen, or cry out to You about violence
and You do not save?
3 Why do You force me to look at injustice? Why do You tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me.
Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates.
4 This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges.
For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted.
Habakkuk felt like God wasn’t doing anything! He looked around and he saw injustice, he saw violence, and he saw that the good people were being oppressed, and the wicked were prospering! All this happened after the evil king Manasseh, but before the good king Josiah’s reforms had started.
And things haven’t changed much in today’s culture, have they? I’m not talking about a few people doing some bad things, I’m talking about an entire culture just glorying in its own wickedness. Abortion has claimed the unborn lives of over 40 million persons! Our society has taken God’s beautiful gift of sex and exchanged it for a corrupted imitation. We are so materialistic, that we care more about a pair of jeans than starving orphans.
So, God responded to Habakkuk and told him what He was doing. Read Habakkuk 1:5-11.
5 Look at the nations and observe-- be utterly astounded!
For something is taking place in your days
that you will not believe when you hear about it.
6 Look! I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter, impetuous nation that marches across the earth's open spaces to seize territories not its own.
7 They are fierce and terrifying; their views of justice and sovereignty stem from themselves.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards and more fierce than wolves of the night. Their horsemen charge ahead; their horsemen come from distant lands. They fly like an eagle, swooping to devour.
9 All of them come to do violence; their faces are set in determination. They gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings, and rulers are a joke to them. They laugh at every fortress and build siege ramps to capture it.
11 Then they sweep by like the wind and pass through. They are guilty; their strength is their god.
Before Habakkuk had even complained, God was already working on a plan to punish the wickedness of Judah. He would raise up the Chaldeans . . . that is the Babylonians, a group more wicked than Judah, and He would use them to come and eventually punish the wickedness of Judah. It’s kinda scary stuff when you look around at your culture today isn’t it?
So what does this look like: waiting patiently on the Lord to bring Judgment?
It’s like a kid buying pot. Now, I’m just talking about a regular, run of the mill kid looking to get high off the stuff. Is it wrong? Sure (it’s illegal, alters your will-power and self-control). But let me ask you this, Is this kid as wicked as the person he’s buying it from? Certainly not, the drug dealer is giving a large number of people drugs! And is the street drug dealer as bad as his boss, and his boss’s supplier, and so on and so forth. Probably not. The higher up the level you go, the more wicked a person probably is in this scenario. Before you go too high, you’ll actually find someone who’s murdered before! And that brings us back to the kid buying pot. He’s not selling drugs to kids. He’s not bribing people, or beating them up, or committing murder. But he has willingly brought himself into contact with people who do. And thus, when judgment comes it will come from those more wicked than himself.
In the same way, when a culture is wicked, it’s wickedness attracts the wickedness of other cultures upon itself and brings about its own judgment. We as believers, then need to be patient, wait on the Lord and stay out of the way.
But this is probably too passive of a view for you, let me give you another example. Let’s say you live in Florida with all your family and friends, and a hurricane is coming. You know that you have to evacuate, so you help your friends and family members the best you can, to pack up and head out. But some of your friends won’t go. So you help board up their house. Still some other friends refuse to board up their houses. Even worse, some of your friends won’t even go into their houses, and they walk around, refusing that a hurricane is coming.
In the same way, as Christians, we can try and share Christ with those around us. We can try and be a good influence. But at the end of the day, you can’t change the culture any more than you can stop a hurricane.
A couple I know lives in the part of the country known as tornado alley. During a really bad storm, they were told to take shelter. So the wife took her son to the neighbor’s basement. The husband wouldn’t go though. A tree came right through the window where he was sitting.
Fortunately he wasn’t hurt, and in the same way sometimes the wicked are hurt, sometimes not . . . sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t . . . but you can bet your house that the husband in the story changed his ways and now takes shelter when he’s supposed to.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably have two huge objections. You might be thinking, “Are you saying to do nothing in the face of a wicked culture?” No! Absolutely not. We are called to live faithfully in good and wicked cultures. Live faithfully to God where you are, in the place God has called you to.
Right now, if you’re in high school or college . . . live faithfully there. If you have a job in an office . . . live faithfully to God there. If you demonstrate you can do that, he might one day move you to another place, where he will also call you to live faithfully. Most people can’t even get their own lives under control, let-alone the rest of the world’s problems. God will give you whatever amount of influence you demonstrate you can faithfully handle.
But you might also be thinking, “Wait! Why is God, who is infinitely good, using the wicked Babylonians, or wicked groups to judge a culture?” And to answer that question, you’ll have to tune in next week . . . because that is the prophet Habakkuk’s follow-up question as well. Of course you could always skip ahead and read the rest of Habakkuk on your own.
I know that many of you watch tv, or walk around your schools or offices and see so much that is wrong. And you wonder, why doesn’t God do anything about this? But do you really think that God doesn’t notice what you notice? Of course he does . . . and if we can learn anything from Habakkuk, we know that God was working on this problem long before you even noticed it.
Believers should deal with a wicked culture by faithfully waiting for the Lord to bring judgment via its own wickedness. Of course you want to see immediate actions, but praise God that He doesn’t. If He did, we’d all be dead and done for! So let me leave you with this image and this thought. Live faithfully, because sin carries with it, its own self-destruct code.
On the starship Enterprise, a self destruct code can be entered by a senior office, and the ship will blow up. But is it the code itself that causes the destruction? No. That code travels down to the engine room, releases the anti-matter into the matter chamber and explodes the warp-core, which damages the ship, that in turn sets off a chain reaction that ultimately results in the ship being destroyed. In the same way, your sin puts you into contact with destructive forces that will rip your life apart and hurt you. Live faithfully to God, and don’t enter the self-destruct code.
Nathan J. Norman is the Senior Pastor at a church in Michigan and the author of The Silver Dance and Untold: Alliances, based on his fantasy novel, Untold.
Friday, November 11, 2011
An evil King leads an army across the land on a quest to retrieve an ancient weapon and awaken an evil power that will destroy the world. It falls to a man named Theseus, battle trained by Zeus himself, to lead the forces of good and fight for humanity's survival.
"The producers of '300'" were heavily marketed as being behind this flick, and between that, the cool slow-mo action trailers and the plot description, you're probably thinking this movie sounds like the stuff the best brutal, fantasy action flicks are made of, right? Unfortunately, this one was mostly knock-off style with little depth or substance.
Director Tarsem Singh is best known for his trippy visual style, as showcased in movies like "The Cell". And he brings those sensibilities to "Immortals" as well, though I'm not sure they're always the best fit.
There is a lot of green screen going on here, but it didn't bother me too much. I even got used to every shot obviously looking like it was created on a sound stage somewhere. (All the big "epic" shots of armies and such were CGI filler.) So I didn't suffer from much visual claustrophobia.
But the costumes and sets jumped back and forth between fantastic and cheap.
The gods are played by what look like hairless male models wearing just a hint of lipstick, dressed up in golden plastic clothes and armor that look ornate and mythological. But the end result looks less powerful and majestic and more like a strange fantasy-themed perfume commercial, only without the wind-blown bedsheets in the background. One set in particular looked like little more than white cardboard walls, spotlessly untouched by human hands.
The bronze breastplates worn by many look fine, until late in the movie when Theseus takes his off and it bends and wobbles like plastic in the process.
Speaking of artificial, these were some of the most two-dimensional characters I've seen on screen in awhile. There were plenty of theoretical reasons for me to care about them. We saw loved ones getting killed, fathers having to punish their sons and love bubbling to the surface amidst terrible circumstances. But none of the characters were invested in enough for me to care.
Killing someone's mother won't feel very jarring to movie watchers if we don't see before hand the relationships she had with her children. The pain of a father having to punish his son won't come across unless we see first how much he loves his son. And why should we believe that a complete stranger could infuse soldiers with sudden courage who had never met him before and had no reason to believe he could lead them in battle? The script tried to take advantage of numerous emotional beats that it just plain hadn't earned in advance. I couldn't have cared any less how this movie ended.
What it did have going for it, in addition to some striking visual designs, were some cool, brutal, slow motion action sequences. Despite being ripped straight from 300 and some of your favorite video games, they were still fun to watch and make me wish I could have stopped the movie a few times to go back and watch them again. Very cool looking stuff.
Given the polytheistic setting and the theme of belief vs. unbelief present in the movie, there are several jumping off points for worthwhile discussion after seeing this movie. In fact, one of the exercises that kept me interested in the experience of watching came from making quick comparisons between the gods of this flick and the God of the Bible.
The gods may or may not choose to "have faith in" humanity. God doesn't "have faith" in anything or anyone, because faith only exists in someone who does not have complete, objective knowledge of all things.
The gods, even in their "divine forms", can be injured or even killed. God is completely unchanging and unchangeable.
In one scene near the end, Zeus even looks up into the light above him before making a major decision. A gesture that implies he is looking for guidance or some kind of reaction from a power above him. God has no beginning, nor is he the effect of some cause before him. There is no source or standard of power, knowledge or goodness greater than him and therefore no reason for him to ever seek council or approval.
It was an interesting little mental activity, but one resulting from a lack of interest in the movie, not a desire to talk about the themes it developed or thoughts it provoked. The movie was neither thematically interesting or thought-provoking. Only those bent toward "getting philosophical" are likely to have any meaningful discussion as a result of seeing this flick.
Fans of brutal fantasy will likely want to check this one out, and I wouldn't advise them not to. But I'd wait and rent this one. It wasn't worth the five bucks I paid.
Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality.
To listen to this review, visit spiritblade.net/podcast
Here's another first look at a card from "Spirit Blade: The Adventure Card Game", coming to your game shelf in 2012!
Before getting into the game info, a brief word specifically to fans of the Spirit Blade audio dramas:
One of the risks of developing a card game based on the Spirit Blade audio drama trilogy is imprinting a specific visual interpretation of the world onto minds of fans who may have, to this point, imagined the world very differently. I'd hate to think that I'm taking anything away from a listener's experience.
So before I get into the details about the "Shifter" card I'm showing in this post, let me at least say to fans of the Spirit Blade Trilogy that the visual look and feel of the Spirit Blade world as presented in "Spirit Blade: The Adventure Card Game" is just one of many valid interpretations of the source material. In fact, even I don't have a perfectly fixed idea in my mind of what this world or its characters look like. So feel free to keep a firm grip on whatever cool images you've created in your mind for the world and characters of Spirit Blade.
I've also purposefully kept specific characters from the story separate from their corresponding Seeker character cards in the game. For example, the "Shifter" pictured on this card is not necessarily my idea of what either Vincent Craft or Merikk Scythe look like. And the "Tech" character card (which I'll possibly showcase in the future) pictures a female character, instead of a male character (such as Raan Galvaanik).
With those issues out of the way, let's get an overview of what's on this card, shall we?
First off, this is called a "character card", and specifically one for a Seeker. (Seekers are the good guys.)
The picture obviously represents the character, with an open portal in the background referring to one of his chief abilities.
"Shifter" is the type of Seeker represented here. (Like a "character class" for you RPG fans.)
Standing out prominently in the bottom right of the character card are the character's primary statistics, or "primary stats". Each stat is a point value for a different stat.
AP stands for "Attack Points". When attacking, each Seeker rolls dice equal to their AP. A character's total AP is increased by whatever weapon they are using and most characters have zero AP before any weapons are factored in.
DP stands for "Defense Points", and determines how many dice you roll when defending against an attack.
HP stands for "Hit Points". When a character takes damage, they gain "hit counters" equal to the damage they have taken. When a character has a number of hit counters equal to their HP, they are defeated.
SP stands for "Spirit Points", and represents the strength of a character's convictions (whether that be toward good or evil ends). SP plays a role most often when determining the effectiveness of some abilities, or a character's chances of withstanding abilities used against them.
"Advantages" are special traits that the Seeker can make use of on Missions, to either help themselves or other Seekers with them.
"Limitations" are traits that hinder a character, such as a limitation on what kind of weapons and armor they may use.
"Starts With" indicates the weapon the character starts with. In this case, the Shifter starts with the "Seeker's Blade", a weapon that adds 2 to his AP.
Whew! That's a lot of info and I've just barely scratched the surface! Stay tuned for more!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Hey Folks. I was really hoping to post some more info about the card game today along with a new card image, but something nasty decided to come and live in my stomach for a little while and I just don't have it in me to post about what I wanted to. Hopefully Friday!
Monday, November 7, 2011
Friday is the big day. If you're an RPG video game fan, then by now you've seen the trailers and game play footage. You're probably even watering at the mouth as much as I am, while also making a point to not schedule social activities for at least the next 2-3 weeks.
I've been between games again for a little while now, play testing my card game and playing "filler video games" for the last couple of months. But as the anticipation builds I find that the filler games just aren't scratching that nerdy itch like they used to. And more and more I'm itching for the kinda stuff that only Skyrim is likely to provide anytime soon.
The last time I was this excited about a game was for the release of "Dragon Age 2". Of course, Bethesda won't disappoint me like Bioware did, will they? Please?
(Sigh) Let's face it. The more we nerds let things like this build in our minds, the more likely they are to disappoint. There's an elusive standard of bliss that we keep thinking that next game or movie will match, but it never really does, or at least not for long.
I think it's a reminder that we weren't built for temporary fulfillment. The intention all along has been for us to be completely fulfilled and for that experience to last forever. We were engineered to anticipate and think in terms of "forever".
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)
So while the nerd in me is still aching for Bethesda's next (hopefully) triumph to be released on Friday, I'm also aiming to remember that there's an experience waiting for me that a million of the best game designers working for billions of years couldn't achieve. And it won't get boring or stale with time. It will only get better and better... and last forever.
Once again Paul returns to one of the main reasons for writing this letter, and urges the believers in Rome to avoid divisions with each other and those who cause them. In Christian community there is plenty of room for diverse cultures, perspectives and discussions that compare differing views. But none of these things should cause any kind of division in our relationships with each other or our combined efforts to serve God. (v.17)
People who cause divisions really have their own agenda as the top priority of their heart. They are often good at appearing to side with everyone, telling people what they want to hear, but the results of their interactions with others is division, controversy and being side-tracked from what God wants us to really be about. (v.18)
The Roman Christians were known far and wide for their obedience to God, but Paul also wanted them to carefully avoid gaining experience with evil and instead pursue first-hand experiential knowledge of doing good. (v.19)
Paul points out that Satan will soon be defeated by God, and prays that God's special favor will be with the Roman Christians. The end of this difficult journey is coming! We can persevere knowing that Jesus is with us and will give us what we need to live for him and fulfill the purpose we were made for. (v.20)
After finishing his own greetings to various people in Rome, Paul then extends greetings on behalf of the supportive network of believers with him. Timothy is the same man that Paul mentors in the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy. Jason may have been the same Jason who housed believers at great risk to himself in Acts 17. We have much less information on Lucius and Sosipater. (v.21)
Tertius may have been a scribe lent to Paul by his hosts, but was likely a believer either way, since scribes rarely became personally involved by including their name or greeting in the letters they dictated. (v.22)
Gaius was likely a wealthy man who readily put his resources to God's use, as he is described as giving hospitality to the "whole church" in Corinth, where Paul was writing from. Erastus and Quartus were likely wealthy officials as well, and serve as examples to those of us today who can put our money to work in service to believers (in this case, believers like Paul who teach other believers) and to God. (v.23-24)
Many letters of this time period end with simple well-wishes, but Paul anticipates that his letter will be read in worship services and gatherings of believers and so includes a benediction at the end.
When trying to absorb the meaning of Paul's benedictions, it's sometimes helpful to read the beginning, then skip to the end, followed by the middle.
Paul is praying that glory be attributed to God. "Glory" is like another way of saying "a revelation of true nature". If someone "gets the glory", they get the credit, the attention, the admiration for who they are. (Unless of course they are "stealing" glory that isn't really theirs.) So Paul's prayer is that God be recognized for the incomparable being that he is, and that people would see who he is because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done and is doing (the meaning of "through" Jesus Christ).
Paul's words "in the middle" of this benediction serve as examples and reminders of why God is worth all the "glory" we can give him.
God is able to "establish" (make stable or strengthen) us through the teaching of the gospel that Paul provides and through having an understanding of, and trust in, who Christ is.
Although for hundreds of years the identity of the Messiah was a mystery, it has been revealed that Jesus is the promised Messiah through prophetic writings orchestrated by God. (Paul is likely referring primarily to Old Testament prophecy.)
The divine intent of this truth being revealed is that all nations will believe in and truly obey God, rather than trusting in and obeying our own ideas and priorities.
God doesn't want everyone to obey him out of some insecure need for attention. He is the "only wise" God. He consistently knows what is best for everyone and is the ultimate source of truth regarding what will truly fulfill our needs and desires forever. (v.25-27) Giving him glory, worship and obedience ultimately leads to the greatest fulfillment!
Coffee House Question- What have you found encouraging or revealing about our look through the book of Romans?
Next- What Habakkuk can tell us about "The Self Destruct Code"!
Friday, November 4, 2011
Just a quick reminder that the live chat is tomorrow at 6pm-7pm MST! We're hangin' out and talking about whatever you guys want to!
Just go to spiritblade.net/forums for the chat, sign in and join the chat box at the bottom of the main page. I hope to see you there!
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As Paul continues his list of greetings, we're again going to avoid the temptation to "tune out" as we reach this section and instead see what we can learn about these believers that Paul knew, and in what ways they might serve as an example to us as we aim to develop community and friendship with other Christians.
There is some speculation about some of the people Paul identifies here. A handful of the names listed in this section, such as Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys and Apelles(v.8-10), were common slave names in Rome. Aristobulus(v.10) may have been the grandson of Herod the great. But as I look at this passage I'm especially drawn to what it directly reveals about the character of those Paul greets, or the nature of his relationship with them.
Three people, Ampliatus, Stachys, and Persis (v.8,9,12) are referred to as "beloved", the Greek word meaning "esteemed, dear, favorite". The root word is Agapao, a word for love that contrasts with Phileo, a Greek word for love based in common interests, which most of our friendships are based on.
There is nothing wrong with Phileo. But that's the kind of love that comes easy, resulting from a fulfillment of our own preferences. Friendships based on a common love of sci-flicks, video games or board games are an example of Phileo, although these relationships can also have Agapao in them if we choose to cultivate it.
Agapao is a love that is based on the will, not the emotions, seeking out and choosing to bring about what is best for the one you "love". In some way, Paul and/or the community had developed that kind of relationship in a special way with three people in the church in Rome. And its the kind of relationship we should aim to see more of in our friendships with others.
Apelles is said to be "approved in Christ". The Greek word here, Dokimos, means "to recognize, to be proved, to be tried as metals by fire and thus be purified". This may mean that Apelles experienced trial of some kind that revealed his character in a way that honored God. The ones "approving" in this instance would likely be the church community in particular, rather than God, as Paul uses this word elsewhere to refer to approval before other people. (Romans 14:18, 2 Corinthians 10:18, 13:7)
It's unclear why Paul singled out Rufus as a "chosen" person (v.13), given that all believers are "chosen by God". But Rufus was a common slave name. It may have been that Paul was reminding him of his TRUE status in the economy of the universe. Likewise, many of us are not happy with where our lives are at, or with how we are viewed or treated by others. So it's important for believers to also remember the amazing gift we've been given as those whom God has invited into his family and promised an eternal future more incredible than anything we can imagine.
"Mother" in verse 13 was a term indicating either endearment toward Rufus' mother or acknowledging her special treatment of Paul. In our church relationships we often limit ourselves to friendships with those in the same stage of life that we are in. Some church programming almost forces people to "clot" in groups based on age demographics. But the church is meant to be a family-like atmosphere where age is no boundary to friendship. There is much the younger can learn from the older and blessings the older can gain from the younger.
The "holy kiss" references in verse 16 is still practiced in a few churches today, although like a few other passages in Paul's writings, this is mostly understood to be a cultural practice that expresses Paul's command to be affectionate toward each other, rather than a command to specifically express affection through kissing each other. After a few centuries, the church at large began to limit this custom to "same sex" kisses because of recurring abuses. (Yikes!) No doubt even same sex kisses may run into recurring abuse if practiced broadly in churches today. But the principle of Paul's instruction still stands. The church community should be a place where we are warm, welcoming and genuinely happy to see each other.
Next- Wrapping Up Romans
Coffee House Question- What relationship have you developed with somone in a Christian Church community that you are grateful for?