Comfort Zone Breached!

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This past Sunday, I stepped out of my comfort zone and headed to the local homeless shelter with a group of guys from my church. As part of an effort to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission, we are starting a Bible study at the shelter.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, – Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about going. With encouragement from my wife though, I got in the car and drove down the street to the shelter (which is about 5 minutes from my house). Now, the rest of the guys had decided to meet at church (about 20 minutes away), so I had decided to meet them at the shelter. Longest 10 minutes I have waited in quite awhile. Sitting in the shelter parking lot, I looked in my rear-view mirror to see rough looking guys sitting out back smoking. I felt so out of place. Soon though, the guys from church arrived, we prayed, and went into the shelter to get settled. Now I have to say that I truly wasn’t comfortable until we had all sat down and started the study. From the moment we opened with prayer, I was reminded that God is the great equalizer. No matter what stage of life we are in, economic circumstances, etc. we are equal in the eyes of God. I was so humbled by this thought. To think that God doesn’t care about how much money we have or how we are dressed…but looks at the heart.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b (NIV)

So picture a large room, 30 guys from the shelter in attendance with 8 guys from my church there to minister. It was wild! We quickly got into Matthew 1. For those that have never read Matthew 1, the chapter starts out with genealogy of Christ.

1 This is the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah[b] the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
6 and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah[c] and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
Abihud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Elihud,
15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. – Matthew 1:1-17 (NIV)

As one who studied history in college, I know that there is significance in tracing Christ’s roots back to Abraham. I will also admit though that I usually skip the genealogy due to how boring it is to read through a list of names. One of the guys in our group, Clint, pointed out some of the different names in the list. He noted that Christ’s genealogy was not perfect, in fact, it was filled with people who had messed up in life. What was cool though, what Clint pointed out, was that God was able to use these individuals despite their flaws. In the setting of the shelter, I was struck by the fact that God uses people like the guys we were there to minister to. The people that society doesn’t care about. God is able to restore and use a man who is down on his luck.

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. – Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

We continued our discussion with talking about the shock that Joseph must have been in. Can you imagine being in his place? To have a fiance that claims she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit? Notice though that Joseph was faithful to God and did as he was commanded. Even if it might not have made much sense to him…

Overall, stepping out of my comfort zone wasn’t a very big deal. I found the guys at the shelter to be super smart (some talking about things that would be on a graduate level in seminary) and very nice.

Earlier, as I was driving to the shelter, I prayed that God would use me, that He would fill me up and help me to minister to the guys at the shelter. What is funny, is that the guys at the shelter ministered to me! I praise God for being the One who overcomes social boundaries. May His will be done.

*Awhile back I wrote a tad more on this, you can find it here.

World of Warcraft Isn’t Cheers Anymore

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A few weeks ago, I decided to stir the gaming pot and ask some of my close friends a simple question:

What would it take to get you back to playing World of Warcraft?

The following are their responses, starting with my own:

For me, right now, the only thing that could get me back into that game would be friends playing it again. That and knowing that I’d be able to play with them regardless of the time difference. Will admit though that playing this game again would feel like taking two steps back for some reason.

A friend from college replied:

I honestly don’t think I could go back. I’ve peg holed it with such negative feelings that I would first need a reason to make it beneficial to my real life. Right now, I just don’t see how it could be. I know my schedule now. I’ll never have hours per week to sit down and play it and so even with friends on there it would have to be something we do once a month maybe, and I can’t even really see pulling that off. Combine that with the monthly fee and there’s no way I’m paying 100 bucks over the next three months to hang out with some friends for 3 or 4 hours.

My friend Lord Andrew said:

For me to play WoW again?  It would take the promise that my group of friends would all commit to playing it together again.  That’s where the enjoyment is, playing with friends.

Combat Chuck replied:

I agree with Lord Andrew, plus I at this point I’d need to add time and money to the equation 🙂 but more than that, video game interest has waned for me and I don’t have a big pull or drive toward many games other than a couple on my phone 🙂

Finally, my friend Scotto finished with some great thoughts:

There might come a day when one of you guys will announce you are playing WoW again…and I will feel that familiar pull to play…but I think something else will finally come along that will be much better. Diablo 3 perhaps?

I’m always up for some Left 4 Dead 2 🙂  Nothing like immediate zombie-killing gratification with friends.

World of Warcraft burnout seems to run deep amongst my friend pool. Quite simply, all of our lives have changed since the game launched back in 2004. Many of us are now married, have moved onto other games, and have been overwhelmed with life responsibilities. As good of a time I had in Azeroth, I just don’t see myself going back. Why visit a place where your friends no longer reside? Why return to a world where everyone doesn’t know your name?

Afternoon Puzzle of Biblical Proportions

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My friend Jon sent this clever puzzle to me today (not sure of its origins). So far, I’ve managed to find 13 out of the possible 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you do better?

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There are 30 books of the Bible in this paragraph. Can you find them? This is a most remarkable puzzle. It was found by a gentleman in an airplane seat pocket, on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, keeping him occupied for hours. He enjoyed it so much, he passed it on to some friends. One friend from Illinois worked on this while fishing from his john boat. Another friend studied it while playing his banjo. Elaine Taylor, a columnist friend, was so intrigued by it she mentioned it in her weekly newspaper column. Another friend judges the job of solving this puzzle so involving, she brews a cup of tea to help her nerves. There will be some names that are really easy to spot. That’s a fact. Some people, however, will soon find themselves in a jam, especially since the book names are not necessarily capitalized. Truthfully, from answers we get, we are forced to admit it usually takes a minister or a scholar to see some of them at the worst. Research has shown that something in our genes is responsible for the difficulty we have in seeing the books in this paragraph. During a recent fund raising event, which featured this puzzle, the Alpha Delta Phi lemonade booth set a new record. The local paper, The Chronicle, surveyed over 200 patrons who reported that this puzzle was one of the most difficult they had ever seen. As Daniel Humana humbly puts it, “The books are all right here in plain view hidden from sight.” Those able to find all of them will hear great lamentations from those who have to be shown. One revelation that may help is that books like Timothy and Samuel may occur without their numbers. Also, keep in mind, that punctuation and spaces in the middle are normal. A chipper attitude will help you compete really well against those who claim to know the answers. Remember, there is no need for a mad exodus; there really are 30 books of the Bible lurking somewhere in this paragraph waiting to be found. God Bless.

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  1. John
  2. Judges
  3. Job
  4. Chronicles
  5. Daniel
  6. Lamentations
  7. Revelation
  8. Timothy
  9. Samuel
  10. Exodus
  11. Mark
  12. Numbers
  13. Genesis

Pokemon Whale

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Monday night (6/20), I took my son to McDonald’s for dinner. My wife was out for a girl’s night and so it was up to us boys to fend for ourselves. So, I naturally chose the most healthy place to eat in East Texas. 🙂

Standing in line to order, some random little kid and his tie-wearing dad walk up behind us. Immediately the boy jumps ahead of us in line. His Dad quietly barked for the 3rd or 4th grader to come back and stand next to him. As the ever amazing McDonald’s staff continued to ignore us, I overheard the kid trumpet in an annoying voice, “THEY HAVE POKEMON TOYS!” He continued to screech and jump up and down over this AMAZING discovery for at least a few minutes. As I cringed inwardly, all I could think about was how I used to look and sound just like this big child. I instantly felt bad for any time I embarrassed my Dad with shrieks of high-pitched nerdy exclamation; each shriek contributing to his now gray hair. At least I was into G.I. Joe…which is better than Pokemon, right?

Given Over

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Read an interesting article this morning in the New York Times. The article, which talks about a prominent gay writer turning away from homosexuality, can be found here. The article reminded me of two things:

1. Romans 1:18-32 (NIV) –

 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.20 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.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (bolded emphasis added)

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

2. The article reminded me of the moment in my life where I decided to take God’s path and not my own. Let me explain:

Sin = Death

Though there have been many instances in my life where I have felt God talking to me (never audibly), the night I decided to turn away from my sin is one of the greatest. There I was, alone in the car, wrapped in guilt over the sin I was slowly sinking in. I knew that I had been doing was wrong. Over the course of the years I had dealt with this sin, I always remember Him telling me, “you don’t have to do this.” That night, God showed me two paths:

  • The first path was a continuation of me living out the sin I was in. Ultimately ending in my destruction and death.
  • The second path was what God had in store for my life. It was my now-wife and our life together pursuing God. “This is what I have for you…”

I knew that I was at a junction point, I needed to make a decision. I could continue down the path I was on, indulging my flesh, and end up dead; or I could choose God’s path and accept the good things He had planned for my life. Why would someone choose death over life? Seemed like a no-brainer to me. So I aligned myself with God once more and walked away from the sin I was in.

Walking away from sin is never an easy task. Memories still exist… I have learned to call upon Christ in times of weakness, to walk Him through the memories and ask Him to be Lord over them. Alone I cannot overcome…but with Him anything is possible.

To the gentleman in the article that has walked away from his sin of homosexuality, I wish him the best. I hope and pray that God will use him to speak both love and truth to those that have been blinded and lied to. Just because culture says that something is “normal” doesn’t mean it is. Trying to make the issue of gender identity into something equal to the Civil Rights movement doesn’t disguise sin either.

Random

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Working the front office of an architectural firm, I don’t often get the opportunity to talk to many people. The fact is, besides the phone, not too many people walk in the front door. Coming from a customer service background, this minimal contact with the public has been a shock to the system.

Today I had one of the contractor’s assistants come by, a female, to pick up some drawings. In the course of conversation, she started telling me about how her and her husband play Call of Duty Black Ops. This made me smile. As a gamer since the early NES days, I am not the best player at shooters on a modern console. Shooters are complicated controller messes that require far too much finger agility. I’m just not game. She went on to tell me that sometimes she schools him with a higher kill ratio. Made me laugh.

Gamer’s are everywhere in today’s world. Never know if you’re talking to one.

Little Big Lunch

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Over lunch I had a chance to sit down and play some Little Big Planet. Ended up getting stuck on a level where I was flying with a jetpack and having to transport dynamite. Let’s just say that I didn’t pass the level and my wife and I were left laughing over the explosive results. Notice that the word “results” is plural. 🙂

Below is some music from the game to enjoy.

Titan

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There is a place that I have always wanted to visit just south of Tucson, Arizona, the Titan Missile Museum.

As a student of history, especially The Cold War, I can think of nothing better than being able to visit one of America’s destructive atomic silos. Just imagine what would have happened had the United States had to actually fire against a Soviet target:

  • World War III
  • The End
  • Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD)
Kind of puts life in perspective, to think that everything we know could ended at the push of a button. Thankfully, we had leaders with cool heads that prevented us from going to the brink.
Anyone out there visited the museum. Is it worth the trip for a history buff?

A Night with inFAMOUS

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Last night, my wife told me to sit down and play some video games. So I listened. Without losing time, I quickly launched inFAMOUS on my PS3. In the hour and a half that I played I:

  • Liberated hostages/ parts of the city
  • Fought massive onslaughts of Reapers
  • And restarted power stations below Neon City
All of the above contributing to the awesome feeling of being a super hero. Towards the end of my play time, I ended up fighting the games first boss, Sasha. She came across as a bad ex-girlfriend… Below is a video of the encounter uploaded by someone on youtube. Please note that I am not playing through the game as evil, as the person in the video is. Instead, I am the people’s champion, a good guy.

Sasha put up a pretty mean fight!

Note: One thing that bugged me about this encounter was the amount of language coming from both Sasha and main character Cole. The cuss words seemed out of place.

After the fight, I decided to call it a night. My left hand was slowly starting to go numb and my index finger (used to hold down the targeting button) wasn’t working like it should. Funny, I haven’t played a game that has caused both of my hands to hurt like that in quite sometime. Minus the occasional language, inFAMOUS is proving to be a fun game that really makes you feel like a superhero.

Preoccupation

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During my morning devotional I read this:

 1 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.

3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. – Esther 3: 1-6 (NIV)

Notice how distracted Haman is with Mordecai. Instead of focusing on what he had been given, Haman became preoccupied with a single man. This preoccupation with Mordecai and the annihilation of the Jews would eventually lead to Haman’s downfall.

In the age of social media and instant/constant communication, I find it easy to get preoccupied with other peoples lives. I end up wondering why I can’t:

  • Buy a new house, car, toy, etc.
  • Travel with all expenses paid by parents or relatives
  • Eat out five times a week (not that I’d want to)
In looking at everyone else, I fail to realize that God created something special in me. I am not like everyone else nor meant to be.
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Interesting thought: The word preoccupation has the word “occupation” in it. Now, we all work different occupations, there is certainly that definition of the word. But the use of occupation related to Haman’s preoccupation makes me think of this dictionary definition:
possession, settlement, or use of land or property.

When we become preoccupied with something not of God (like lust or greed), we are giving up pieces of our very hearts and souls to things that shouldn’t be entrenched in our lives. We end up becoming occupied territory; slaves to our conquerors.

Affirmative Action

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Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including “race, color, religion, gender , or national origin”[1] into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination. The focus of such policies ranges from employment and education to public contracting and health programs. – Wikipedia

Pulling out of my driveway this morning, I turned on the radio for some company. I’m not sure what station I was listening to but the topic of affirmative action was being discussed. Living in the South, I frequently see newspaper articles that talk about wanting to up the “insert race here” quotient in the local police or fire departments. Incentive programs are often offered to entice those of the desired race.

As I was passing by the park, down the street from my house, the two DJ’s on the program began talking about a recent poll they conducted. Seems they had sent someone to interview local college students on their thoughts on affirmative action in regards to sports. The students where asked:

“Do you believe that players should be recruited based on talent or race?”

Almost all of the students replied, “talent”. They were then asked:

“Why then is there a double standard in the business world where business owners have to hire based upon race and not those who are the most talented?”

Why indeed huh. Freedom and equality for all, even the stupid. Reminds me of this quote from the movie The Incredibles (swap the word “powers” for “talented”):

Helen: Dash… this is the third time this year you’ve been sent to the office. We need to find a better outlet. A more… constructive outlet.
Dash: Maybe I could, if you’d let me go out for sports.
Helen: Honey, you know why we can’t do that.
Dash: But I promise I’ll slow up. I’ll only be the best by a tiny bit.
Helen: Dashiell Robert Parr, you are an incredibly competitive boy, and a bit of a show-off. The last thing you need is temptation.
Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Wii U: The Next Step?

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There is nothing more epic than music from the Zelda series being playing by a live orchestra.

Video games and me have a relationship that is much like the ebb and flow of the tides. There are times where I am gung-ho and play video games every evening; other times where my interest wanes and I will occasionally pick up a game. No matter what season I am in with my hobby, I do find one constant, I continue to read video game news.

Yesterday, Nintendo took the stage at E3 and announced:

  • Multiple Zelda titles across all Nintendo platforms
  • A 25th Anniversary Zelda Concert Series (TBA)
  • Assured continued support for the 3DS
  • and…the Wii U?
On the surface, the Wii U controller looks like a mash-up of a Classic Controller and an iPad. I love how clean and futuristic the white casing looks! After watching the Nintendo Press Conference, due to the limited information presented, I found myself swimming in a pool of questions:
  • How many Wii U controllers can be used at the same time?
  • Will the controller be sold separately?
  • Can I take the controller and use it on the go (since the system was not designed to be portable)?
  • What does the physical media look like?
  • Will my Virtual Console purchases transfer over to the Wii U system?
  • Can the Wii U play Gamecube games like the Wii?

Living in the innovative shadow of the Wii, the Wii U certainly looks like the next evolutionary step forward for Nintendo. I look forward to hearing more about the system and finding out if I need to sell one kidney or two to obtain one. My interest is certainly piqued for the moment, the tide is rising.

Welcome Home

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Flying around thunderheads over Texas.

Wow, the past few days have been crazy! Took a quick trip out to California for my sister’s wedding. Had a good time hanging out with family and witnessing firsthand the behind the scenes drama a wedding provides. Good times! 🙂

Spent today resting up. Happened to watch the Microsoft E3 press conference…which was lame. The Kinect, while cool in some respects, regurgitates many of the things the Wii has been doing well for years now. Apparently no one at Microsoft HQ has been playing the system formally known as the Revolution. I suggest they pick one up pronto!

Downloaded my Welcome Home games from Sony this afternoon. Ended up grabbing InFamous and Little Big Planet. InFamous, so far, has been pretty sweet!

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

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4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

God’s truth doesn’t change. Even when that truth is found in a hymn written in 1757.