Happy Place

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Not sure what to write about today. Not exactly in a “happy place” in my life right now. Don’t get me wrong, everything at home is okay. Work lately though has been challenging. Not challenging on a work level, mind you, but more so in having to deal with fellow office dwellers. Each day I have to prepare myself to brace for whatever insults are about to be hurtled; for whatever gripe is made that is said to remind me of being the low man on the totem pole.

“Oh, I didn’t realize that would take you so long.” – Spoken to me in front of a client. Embarrassing.

Being at the bottom, the support structure of the office, is not always easy. This is especially true when you work for a smaller firm. While company size can often dictate a wider assortment of tasks, size can also mean working in closer quarters with others. Familiarity breeds contempt, right?

During this season of my life, I think that God is trying to teach me perseverance and patience. I just have to keep in mind that this is not forever. I won’t forever have to deal with a phone-slamming boss and a co-worker that seems hell-bent on proving something.

Amplify

I went to bed last night not feeling well. My stomach was in an absolute state of ruin. I had eaten nothing that should have upset it and yet there I was, sick. I awoke this morning still not feeling well. This has only served to amplify the happy thoughts I have towards my current occupation. Sometimes though it does get old being stepped on all the time; sometimes you just want to step back.

Matthew 3 via Highway 80

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Last week, I led a Bible study, with my church, at the local rescue mission. From the week prior, we had decided on continuing on to Matthew 3. So I dove into the chapter and came up with the following from my studies.

Matthew 3

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[a]

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

First, you’ll notice that the sections are divided under two subject headings:

  1. John the Baptist Prepares the Way
  2. The Baptism of Jesus

I was immediately struck by the thought of, just who is John the Baptist? Where did he come from? What is his relation to Christ? This caused me to search out John the Baptist’s story throughout the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Which led me to come up with the following outline:

  • Luke 1:5-25 (The birth of John foretold to his father. John’s father is made mute.)
  • Luke 1:39-45 (John leaps in his mother’s womb when he is near a pregnant Mary)
  • Luke 1:57-66 (John is born and his father can speak again.)
  • Luke 3:7-18 (John preaches like Christ, which is to say counter-culturally and with authority.)
  • Luke 3:20 (John is locked up in prison.)
  • Luke 7:18-23 (Even though John baptized Christ, he doubts who Christ is, and sends his disciples to confirm it.)
  • Finally, Mark 6:17-29 (Tells the story of how John died due to the whims of a woman.)

What we learn about John the Baptist is:

  • He was not apart of the religious elite. However, his Dad did serve as a priest for a time. So perhaps John knew some of the Pharisees and Sadducees talked about in 3:7.
  • He was an outsider. Proof that God can use anyone/ usually uses those deemed socially “undesirable” to further His message.
  • He was one who laid the groundwork for Christ’s counter-cultural teachings.
  • He was one who was raised up for a season to do God’s work. Very interesting that Christ knew about John being in prison and yet he did nothing to come rescue him. Christ knew that John would die and yet did nothing. Shows that our plans are not always God’s plans.
  • He was also one who doubted who Christ was…which reminded me Christ’s disciples doubting who He was.

As I was reading through a study Bible, I came across a note that talked about John’s clothing/ eating habits (Matthew 3:4). The note said that John’s clothing/ eating habits were something that was common at the time among poor people (I always thought the guy was just strange!). Another interesting note that I read was in regards to baptism:

Did John invent baptism? (3:11)

No, but John’s baptism, however, was unique. After Judah’s exile to Babylon in 586 B.C., Jewish rabbis used baptism as a rite of cleansing. John redefined this sacred use of water as a one-time public sign of repentance.

As I read about Christ’s baptism, one word came to mind, obedience. Jesus did not have to be baptized by John but did so to “fulfill all righteousness”.

In the end, John the Baptist was a guy just like you or me. God chose to use him for His glory and lay the groundwork for His Son. You and I, as Christians, are called to continue that mission of laying the groundwork for Christ until His return. May it be soon.

L.A. Noire

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For my 30th birthday last week, I picked up L.A. Noire for the PS3. So far I am really enjoying the vibe and feel of doing detective work in the 1940’s. In fact, the other night I solved a case that involved a man trying to leave his wife and unite with his lover in Washington state. The man and a friend of his set up an elaborate plot that included: a slaughtered pig, a bloody car, and a faked death. Being the excellent gumshoe that I am, I was able to quickly link all the dots together and bust the perp. Arriving back at the station at the end of the case, the division chief congratulated my partner and I for a job well done. Well done indeed.

Echolocation – 7/15/11

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People come across JohnnyBGamer by searching for some of the strangest things. For instance, this week the top searches that have brought people to the site have been:

  • Darksiders
  • Portal
  • Band of Brothers fantasy
  • Personal Conviction Examples

Darksiders: For those of you that have read my review of the game, you’d probably find it a little surprising that I even get hits on it.

 I am unwilling to treat Hell and demons with such a non-serious attitude.

Portal: One of the most clever games I have ever played.

Band of Brothers fantasy: My wife and I have never finished this much talked about series. We personally found it a tad depressing with it’s frequent deaths and sometimes hopeless situations. Yeah, I know war is supposed to be like that but who seriously wants to live in that if they don’t have to?

As to people searching for Band of Brothers fantasy? I’m not sure I even want to touch that. Maybe this search term relates to fan-fiction?

Personal Conviction Examples: Awhile back I wrote something about getting rid of things in my life that God had convicted me over. Here is the article.

The Great Equalizer

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Something God has been showing me, through the Highway 80 ministry, is that He is the great equalizer. I know that this is something that I have shared before but I can’t stress this enough. God bridges:

  • Social
  • Economic
  • Political
  • and even non-important Theological differences

The church that I have attended ever since I moved to East Texas, over the past seven years, is going through a big change. Our pastor recently announced that he will be resigning at the end of the month. He feels that God is calling him to start a new church in Round Rock, Texas.

As God prepares him to leave, the church has begun the process to figure out how to start a pastoral search committee. Whispers of discontent and fear of the future are slowly being heard throughout the church. Power plays, strategies, and personal agendas are coming out of the darkness. In all of this, I am reminded of God’s great equalization. He lays low the egos and those that politically posture. I have nothing to fear!

I know that in the coming days that God is in control. Already I have seen Him change the Sunday School class my wife and I attend. People are rising up, members are stepping out into the community and serving, and leadership is being radically transformed. All of this just happening in the small microcosm of our Sunday School class; all things that can only be attributed to God. If the transformation that I have seen in our Sunday School class is but a glimpse into the future of our church, then truly this is an exciting place to be. I invite you to come and witness God at work. Yes, God is the great equalizer, but He is also the great unify-er. To Him be the glory!

If you live in the East Texas area and want to come visit, shoot me an email!

johnnybgamer [at] gmail [dot] com

Also, please pray for my church during this transition.

The Beach

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The weather outside is currently a 102 degrees. A tad toasty. As I bask in the greatness of East Texas weather, my Mom decided to send me this photo from her cell phone today:

Not that a photo like this makes me jealous or anything…

Shuttle Memories

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The final launch of the space shuttle Atlantis marks the end of an American era in space. I find it funny that the shuttle program turned 30 years old this year as I turn 30 next week. Perhaps I need to be decommissioned as well?

One of my favorite memories of the shuttle program involves my Grandpa, his motor home, and a trip to the Mohave Desert. I remember my Dad, my brother Mike, and I heading up to my Grandpa’s house one evening. The Space Shuttle was scheduled to land in California the next day. So we met up with my Grandpa Ayers at his home in Orange County and piled into his motor home. Cruising along the highway, I remember driving that night through Los Angeles and into the wilds of the Mohave.

The next morning, we awoke early. It was freezing! My Grandpa turned on the heater which helped quite a bit. Walking outside, we were greeted with a flat expanse of desert, Rogers Dry Lake. I will never forget what happened next, the sonic booms that announced the shuttle’s return to our atmosphere. BOOM, BOOM! With that, the shuttle flew in and landed. 4 hours worth of driving for a priceless experience. Well worth it.

My wife told me this this morning:

Mom remembers watching a launch while in labor with me and then three days later in the hospital she watched it land.
The Space Shuttle has long been a symbol of American pride and of our dominance in space. Today we leave our rightful place among the stars and give it up to the Russians and Chinese; Today is a sad day filled with great memories.

Vicious Cycle

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1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”

3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”

4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.

9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”

12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” – Nehemiah 5:1-12 (NIV)

As Nehemiah is leading the rebuilding effort of Jerusalem, he is forced to confront poverty and injustice amongst the people. The nobles and officials, fellow countrymen, were causing a vicious cycle to transpire. Their price gouging was causing their fellow Jews to sell their own family members into slavery in order to eat.

First, I cannot ever imagine being in a position where I would be forced to sell my son into slavery in order to eat. To add insult to injury, to have a fellow American force me into this would just be angering. Yet, with the way our consumerist society works, we are constantly selling each other into the slavery of debt. Now there is nothing wrong with buying goods, as long as you have the means to do it.

Second, I can’t believe that the nobles and officials just jumped in line with what Nehemiah was saying. This shows that they knew that what they were doing was wrong and that they feared God.

Injustice is committed against our fellow human beings on a daily basis. What is cool though is that God is committed to justice. He sends people like Nehemiah to speak up on oppressed behalf. If we don’t speak up when we see something unjust, who will?

Suspense

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Growing up, my Dad was a truck driver. This meant that he would be gone for days at a time, come home and sleep, and then eventually hit the road again. I remember how frustrating this was as a kid. When my Dad was gone we lived by my Mom’s rules, which tended to be more relaxed; when my Dad came home, the rules of home life shifted. With my Dad gone, the void of a father figure in my life went largely unfilled. Sure, there were friend’s dads who sometimes took up this mantle but for the most part, my Dad was nonexistent. Looking back now, I can understand that he did what he had to do to support our family. His hard work allowed my Mom to stay home with us kids. I thank him for that. In the thick of growing up though, deep down, I resented his absence.

Thankfully, God knew what I needed, and He provided that for me and my brother in the form of my Grandpa Ayers.

As I get older, nostalgia and time make my Grandpa Ayers larger than life in my mind. The man could do no wrong. During my awkward years of junior high, Grandpa Ayers would drive down from Orange County in his motor home, pick my brother and I up, and head to the local mountains. Away from my Mom we would build fires, hike (with sling shots and pellet guns of course), and enjoy Grandpa’s amazing cooking. At night my Grandpa would play chess with us, tell stories, and sometimes pull out his “thunder lamp”.

BEHOLD, THE THUNDER LAMP!

More than anyone I have ever known, my Grandpa was an expert storyteller. So much so that he began telling you a story when you least realized it. For example, he would plant some thought in your head earlier on in the day and then later that night expound/ act upon it.

I remember one time where he and my Grandma had come over to stay the night at our house. For some reason, the book I was reading was left out on the kitchen counter. That night, my Grandpa must have read parts of that book (about a family mystery in Hawaii) because he later used it in a story he told us late one night in the motor home. I can remember his tone of voice, raspy, telling us about this old man that lived out in the jungle in some lava tubes. Scared me to death!

There was another time/trip where he had shown us some rattle snake eggs he had in the freezer. He was very careful to explain that they had to stay in the freezer, cold, or else the eggs would hatch. This would be a very bad thing… Well of course later on that night or next day, he’d pull out that pouch of rattle snake eggs and scare us to death! He literally had my brother and I bawling our eyes out in fear. So funny to think about now.

Another time he elaborately built this weight system that was rigged up in a raisin box. The box was kept in a cabinet right next to his bed. Later on that night, somehow, he had run a string from the box and out of the cabinet. As we were laying there going to sleep, he started pulling on the string. We kept asking if he heard the noise. Of course, he said no. Eventually, somehow, it turned out there there were mice in the cabinets…so he said. I think this episode ended with my brother and I in tears once again.

My Grandpa Ayers was a relentless tormentor and my brother and I loved him for it. He expertly knew how to build suspense. I can only imagine how much noise fellow campers heard as my brother and I screamed with laughter.

Gettysburg Address

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Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

July 4, 2011, the United States is faced once again with events that threaten to destroy our great nation. The national debt is out of control, foreign countries own this debt, both threaten to undermine the very freedom we have fought to preserve since our inception. I am saddened that while our elected officials bicker and politic, the freedom that has been purchased with American blood is forgotten and dishonored. Only with God, “under God”, can we bring America back to what it once was. This issue is an issue of the heart, a spiritual civil war. One that can only be won through the saving and changing power of Jesus Christ.

I wish everyone a happy 4th of July! Enjoy that which has been purchased with a price.

My Adventure with Jon

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Woke up this morning and headed out to the Gregg County Airport. My destination, the LeTourneau University Hanger.

My friend Jon works for the university as a flight instructor. For the longest time, he has been asking me to go fly with him. Finally, last night, I agreed to adventure forth into the American skies. So, we decided that we were going to spend our Saturday morning flying and eating breakfast in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Airport in Shreveport

We had a very relaxing flight to Shreveport. The weather was nice, a tad hazy, but definitely cooler at higher altitudes! Jon was a professional throughout. He constantly talked through what he was doing (even though I had no clue) and was more than willing to explain anything I had questions on. I can see why he has made a great flight instructor!

The instrument panel in the Twin Star looked insane! I have no clue how Jon knew how to do anything with it (beside the hours upon hours of training he has had)! So many buttons…

The last small aircraft I flew in was back in high school. Our home schooling group had decided to check out a program called the Young Eagles. The Young Eagles were a group of private pilots who shared their planes and time in order to stir interest in youth concerning aviation. All I remember about it was thinking that I was going to die because the old man, who was flying the plane, was going to have a heart attack or something. Wish I still had the picture I took of my terrified face…

Our breakfast in Shreveport was amazing! Jon and I had decided to eat at The Cracker Barrel. I swear the french toast I ordered had been fried in butter/ powdered sugar. Sweet Southern goodness!

30 minutes over; 30 minutes back. On the way home, Jon showed me some different flight maneuvers…and we pulled a few G’s. 🙂

I don’t think I had ever realized that one of the approaches into Gregg County was over Lake Cherokee.

The air had finally warmed up by the time we had gotten back to Longview. This made our landing a tad bumpy. Nothing like Texas in the summertime!

Jon and I, two goofballs in a plane.

Lot’s of fun to have a friend who is a pilot! Had a good time hanging out with Jon, talking, and getting to see what he does everyday. If anyone out there is looking for a pilot, Jon is your man.

Discontent

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I saw this John Piper quote over at What’s Best Next and so I thought I’d share:

The Meaning of Your Discontent

Many of you should stay where you are in your present job, and simply ponder how you can fit your particular skills and relationships and resources more strategically into the global purposes of your heavenly Father.

But for others reading this book, it is going to be different. Many of you are simply not satisfied with what you are doing. As J. Campbell White said, the output of your lives is not satisfying your deepest spiritual ambitions.

We must be careful here. Every job has its discouragements and its seasons of darkness. We must not interpret such experiences automatically as a call to leave our post.

But if the discontent with your present situation is deep, recurrent, and lasting, and if that discontent grows in Bible-saturated soil, God may be calling you to a new work. If, in your discontent, you long to be holy, to walk pleasing to the Lord, and to magnify Christ with your one, brief life, then God may indeed be loosening your roots in order to transplant you to a place and a ministry where the deep spiritual ambitions of your soul can be satisfied.

It is true that God can be known and enjoyed in every legitimate vocation; but when he deploys you from one place to the next, he offers fresh and deeper drinking at the fountain of his fellowship. God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace. . . .

Big issues are in the offing. May God help you. May God free you. May God give you a fresh, Christ-exalting vision for your life — whether you go to an unreached people or stay firmly and fruitfully at your present post. May your vision get its meaning from God’s great purpose to make the nations glad in him. May the cross of Christ be your only boast, and may you say, with sweet confidence, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Don’t Waste Your Life

In December of 2006, I graduated from college with no job lined up. After months and even years of praying over what I wanted to do with my life, I hadn’t a clue. In January of 2007, I married my Texas treasure, my wife Tabitha. Still, I hadn’t found a job. 9 months went by, still no job. I hunted and hunted, even took a position of a bank teller for a few weeks before landing my current position at an architectural firm.

Nearly 4 years later (hey, I’m stable!), I find myself in a position that has no hope of moving upwards…unless I become an architect. Through it all, I have continued to pray that God would show me what I need to do to move forward; through it all, I have remained thankful that I have a job that provides me a paycheck during the recession.

Rewind a second

Sometime into my college career, I decided to swap majors from English to History-Political Science. I had thought at the time that a history degree would make a great partnership with a pastoral degree. Upon graduation, I even applied to a seminary in Dallas. I received a reply soon after that told me to work on decreasing my school debt. Seemed fair enough.

As the years progressed, I have still felt called to seminary. However, the entire time I have also continued to have this argument in my head that says you don’t have to go to seminary in order to serve God. Heck, most pastors I knew from Southern California didn’t have a formal seminary education and they were amazing speakers. Seminary equals taking out more loans and becoming a further slave to the lender. That doesn’t make sense to me. God has quite clearly shown me that I need to work to pay off my debt AND that I can serve Him in the process.

Discontent

I have often wondered if God has kept me uneasy, kept me discontent in my workplace in order so that I don’t become comfortable. What I liked about the Piper quote, was that it calls on us to focus back on Christ. As a Christian, I should be primarily focused on how I can serve God. I have learned that God does not reveal things to us in huge chunks. Instead, God seems to show me just enough to keep moving forward. He is constantly teaching me how I have been uniquely gifted me to impact His world for His purpose. Seems like a life long process. I hope and pray that I do not become angry or bitter during this time of feeling unsettled. I know that God has a purpose, and I pray that I am willing and able to be a part of that bigger purpose.