In a few days, Marvel’s newest and probably most anticipated movie will be released in theaters. Avengers: Endgame is the second part of the epic story which started in Avengers: Infinity Wars last year. Actually, the story started over ten years ago with the first Marvel movie, Iron Man (2008), and continued with movies introducing other heroes like Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Spiderman, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, all of whom appeared in Infinity Wars.
A lot of people were shocked and quite unhappy about the ending of Infinity Wars. Even with a huge cast of heroes fighting together, the bad guy won in the end. And he won big. After traveling from planet to planet to gather six powerful Infinity Stones, Thanos simply snapped his fingers and destroyed half of all living beings throughout the universe. They simply dissolved into dust and blew away—including more than half of the Marvel heroes trying to stop him.
After the movie came out last year, people were screaming on social media about how awful the ending was. How could the bad guy win? How could so many lives be lost? How could Marvel just write off half its heroes in a single act? Those people forgot—or didn’t know—that Infinity Wars was not the end of the story. We get to see the end this weekend when Endgame finally arrives and the remaining heroes have another chance to stop Thanos and possibly bring back the billions of people who were lost.
In life, as well, we sometimes forget that we have not yet reached the end of the story.
One of the most common reasons people give for not believing in the God of the Bible is the fact that evil seems to be winning in our world. If God is good and loving and all-powerful, why doesn’t he put an end to evil and suffering? Why did he let it start in the first place? People who struggle with these questions may conclude that there is no God, that God doesn’t care, or that God isn’t sovereign and able to do whatever he desires. They are judging God by what they see in the middle of the story instead of waiting for the end.
People who believe in the God of the Bible have also asked these questions about the presence of evil and suffering in the world. Some shift the blame from God to humanity. God created humans with free will and the ability to make meaningful choices, including the choice to reject God’s plan for our lives. The pain and suffering we see in our fallen world are a result of our free choices, not God’s.
Other Christians believe the fall of mankind was always part of God’s plan, just as conflict and opposition are an intentional part of any story. Sin changed the way God relates to mankind, but he has a plan to resolve the conflict and bring good out of the ashes of all the evil the world has known.
How can we know that God and goodness win in the end? The Bible makes that clear in prophetic statements made throughout the Old and New Testaments. Just read the last chapter of Revelation to see a preview of the end God has in store for us.
The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions about what’s to come, but it does show us a God who kept his promises without fail in the past. It shows us a God who cared enough to take on flesh, become human, and die on a cross for our sins. And it shows us an empty grave with its promise of new life for all who believe.
The end has not yet come, but the previews are pretty exciting. Don’t give up on God. Don’t let doubt, disappointment, and evil win in your life. Hang in there, and wait for the end! It will be worth it.
I enjoy reading devotionals—short writings designed to help us focus on God and his Word for a few minutes each day. Devotional writers have a special ability to see God’s handiwork in the everyday world or to hear him speaking through ordinary experiences, and they share those experiences with us. It’s as if they’re wearing special glasses that help them see what the rest of us miss. Or maybe they’re just paying attention and looking for God in ways the rest of us aren’t.
Yet, I believe this ability to see God in everyday things is not a gift given only to a few. Anyone can develop the habit of looking and listening for evidence of God throughout their day. It’s just a matter of being focused, like a person scanning a shoreline for seashells or a child on Easter morning searching their yard for painted eggs.
Meaningful surprises don’t have to come just from rainbows, sunsets, and the adorable things our children and grandchildren say. They can also be found in laundry, bad traffic, and funny conversations with our spouses. Some of my favorite “Easter Eggs” are ones I’ve found in books and movies.
“Easter Egg” even has a unique meaning when applied to movies, TV shows, video games, and comic books. It’s a feature in a game, book, or film which isn’t necessary to the story—a little something extra some of the audience will appreciate while others completely miss it. It can be an inside joke, a disguised reference to another movie or game, or a hidden message. Some examples include the yellow, blue, and red ball hidden in many Pixar films and the cameo appearances of Stan Lee in Marvel movies.
Ready Player One, a movie I mention on my Sign Up page, is full of Easter Eggs. It contains references to older films like Back To The Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, The Shining, Buckaroo Bonzai, and The Iron Giant, along with numerous video and arcade games popular before the turn of the century. The movie even references the first Easter Egg ever hidden in a video game--Adventure, released by Atari in 1980.
As Parzival states in Ready Player One: “There’s a secret in Adventure, and you don’t find it by winning. You find it by wandering around in a dark room until you get to an invisible dot…. You see, Warren Robinett was proud of Adventure. He wanted people to know who was behind it. That’s why he created the first digital Easter Egg. And to find it, you don’t even have to win. You just had to blindly play, searching around in rooms for an invisible dot. You took the dot back to the main screen and that’s when you found the first Easter Egg ever put in a video game—the creator’s name.”
The creator’s name.
The Bible tells us that we have a creator and he can be known, in part, through his creation. Evidence of his power and presence is everywhere. All we have to do is look for it. In a flower. In a song. In a story. God’s Easter Eggs are hidden everywhere.
He’s thinking of you today. Are you thinking of Him?
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
For the past few weeks, I’ve been re-watching past seasons of Marvel’s Agents of Shield on Netflix. Season 6 starts on May 10, and I want to be ready for the new story line. A sci-fi series worthy of the name Marvel, Agents of Shield is not a family-friendly show, and I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 13. But for older kids and adults, the show has done a good job of exploring issues like the definition of good and evil, the nature of humanity, and what makes each of us the kind of person we are.
In season 4, the Shield team ended up inside a computer-generated virtual reality. Most of the agents had no idea the world they were living in wasn’t real. They made decisions, formed relationships, and did their work as their real selves—with one big difference. The virtual world had been programmed to erase from the past one major regret of each of the team members. Because each had taken a different path in the past, their present in the virtual world looked very different from their present in the real world.
Phil Coulson, instead of being the Director of Shield, was a high school history teacher. Melinda May and Leopold Fitz, instead of working for Shield (the good guys), worked for Hydra (the bad guys). Grant Ward, instead of being a Hydra spy inside Shield, was a resistance fighter working against Hydra.
The show illustrates how our past choices form each of us into the person we are today. It also reminds us that, no matter how much we regret some past decisions, we can’t erase them and see what our lives would have been like if we had gone another way. There are no computer programs that can show us with any certainty what would have happened if we had made a different choice in the past. We can guess. We can agonize over it. We can try to undo what we did. But we can’t ever go back and start again.
As Aslan said to Lucy in Prince Caspian, Book 4 of The Chronicles of Narnia, “To know what would have happened, child? No. Nobody is ever told that. But anybody can find out what will happen.”
The mistakes we’ve made in past mark us enough without carrying them around with us, always wishing things had been different—wishing we had been different. The great message of the Bible is that Jesus came to wash clean our past mistakes so that our Father in Heaven doesn’t see them anymore. So why do we keep looking back at them? Why do waste our time wishing for a better past instead of working to make a better present and a brighter future? (See, Ephesians 2:1-10.)
God is not waiting for you to undo past mistakes. Jesus has already paid the price for them. What he is waiting for is to see what you will do today, as the person you are today. It’s this moment that matters, and how you decide to live it.
The past lives in you. But you don’t have to live in the past.
“If you could have one superpower, what would you pick?”
Chances are you’ve been asked that question at least once in your life. So, what would you pick? Flight. Super strength. Invisibility. Speed. They’re all good choices. In Shazaam!, the new DC Comics movie that opened this weekend, a fourteen-year-old boy is suddenly transformed into an adult superhero with several of these powers. Along with his new powers come some new dilemmas, including how to figure out which powers he has.
“Can you fly?”
“I don’t know. How do I find out?”
And so begins a series of hilarious tests where Shazaam tries to find out if he is fireproof, super-speedy, super-strong, able to leap a tall building in one bound, and able to fly. Unless he tries—really tries—to do what seems impossible, he’ll never find out if he can.
Did you know that you have been given a superpower, too? The Bible says you have. If you are a Christian, you have been given a gift by the Holy Spirit to do something in his strength that you could never do on your own.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them…. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:4, 8-10)
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8)
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides….” (1 Peter 4:10-11)
But how do you know which gift you have been given? And how do you know how to use it?
There are books on spiritual gifts and written tests and inventories to try and identify your gift or gifts. But the only way to really know if you can do something is to try. “But I’m not good at teaching,” you say, or “I’m uncomfortable with leading.” But we’re not talking about what you can do. We’re talking about what the Holy Spirit can do through you. It’s a supernatural gift. A superpower.
It won’t always be easy. The results won’t always be perfect. But if you believe the Spirit can work through you and you’re willing to try, you’ll find you can do more than you ever imagined.
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Stories are a metaphor for life. That's a deep way of saying we can learn life lessons from stories we read or watch on stage or on big or small screens. When viewed through a Christian worldview, even secular films and books can tell us something about our Christian walk. Here you will find a collection of blog posts with lessons I have learned from stories. I hope you enjoy them!