Leviticus – Defining the Relationship

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I am in my 8th week of reading through the Bible in a year. Right now, I’m somewhere in the jungles of Leviticus. Hacking my way through the sacrificial system (lots of blood and heavenly BBQ). Contemplating how my relationship with my pastor might change if I had to go to him for bumps and rashes (see Chapter 13). Okay, I’m not thinking too much on my pastor being bi-vocational dermatologist.

Photo by Alexandra K on Unsplash

In the thick of all the details regarding discharges, the Day of Atonement, and forbidden sexual practices, one can see that God is a God of detail. Conditioning and preparing His people to be set apart for Him, different than the people who were then occupying the Promised Land. These rules and boundaries were not only there to set His people apart but to also protect their very beings.

  • Drinking blood? Don’t do that.
  • Sacrifice your kids to an idol? Don’t do that.
  • Sleep with your mom or sisters? Just don’t.

Even more, God was teaching His people how to interact with Him. Christian vernacular would call this a DTR (define the relationship) moment. God was calling His people to participate in a relationship with Him. A relationship that would require:

  • Dedication – To following His rules/law.
  • Honor – Honoring God with the first fruits of their crops, animals, essentially their labor.
  • Sacrifice – Both literal animal sacrifices and the daily sacrifice of living set apart/holy.

God wanted His people to be dedicated solely to Him. Not looking at the surrounding culture, how they worshiped their gods, but looking to Him alone.

Reading through Leviticus, I’m reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross. How his death made a way for us to be with God forever. I am thankful that I do not have to visit my pastor to have a skin rash examined; I am thankful for not having to worry about how my food is cooked—rare steak can be amazing!—. I praise God for being a God of detail. Revealing Himself to the Israelites… revealing a glimpse of Himself to us.

East Texas Yamboree – 2019

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While driving to the East Texas Yamboree, in Gilmer, Texas, I saw a deer off to the side of the road. The doe seemed to contemplate running across the highway. I could see her muscles tense as she started to run in what would have been a direct line for our car. She tensed up, ran, and then seemed to think that running into a car wasn’t the best of ideas for an overcast Saturday. Just one of those surreal moments where I could see things playing out in slow motion and couldn’t do anything about it. Thankful she decided to veer off.

The East Texas Yamboree was fun. We met up with some friends and watched the parade. We saw:

  • Harry Potter (JK Rowling)
  • Mary Poppins
  • Julia Child
  • Beverly Clearly
  • Mary Kay Ash
  • Joanna Gaines

One of the local cowboy churches even had a float with Moses and Jesus on it. Harry Potter and Jesus in the same parade. Only in Gilmer, Texas can you celebrate yams and Jesus. And tons of American manufactured cars. Parade might as well have been sponsored by Ford.

How has your weekend been? Drop me a comment below.

A Letter To My Church Family

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Dear Church Family,

Back in February, during the Life Action Conference, God spoke to Tabitha and I. He told us that it was time to move on from the grieving process of not being able to have more children. After 9 years of trying to conceive, we felt Him calling us to adoption. So we stepped out of the boat, out of our comfort zone, just like Peter in Matthew 14.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

In obedience to God’s call, we have completed:

  • 40 hours of state-mandated PRIDE Training (for foster and adoption families)
  • Numerous forms and have submitted an ant mound of paperwork
  • A home study interview that delved into our backgrounds, relationships, and family structure

Through all of the above, we have continued forward, waiting for the day that we will bring a child into our home. But like Peter, we do have days where we question; days where we freak out a little.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

I was telling Dr. Kelley (our pastor), who recently resigned, that even on our worst days, I still have God-given peace. A deep knowledge that God is in control, no matter how unknown (timing, age of child, etc.) the adoption process is moving forward.

I want to take a moment to encourage my church family. We are voting on an interim pastor this upcoming Sunday. I want to encourage you to:

  • Think about where we are as a church. We are not the same church that we were seven years ago when Dr. Kelley was hired.
  • Think about where we are going as a church. What does it mean to live out the Gospel in Longview, Texas.

I want to encourage you, church family, not to retreat to what is comfortable. Please do not grasp at what has worked before because someone is available OR because popular people say we should vote a certain way.

If God has been teaching Tabitha and I anything, He has been teaching us to let go of the boat and grab onto Him. I pray that our church would be able to do that, even if that means taking a deep breath, a moment, and searching for a different interim pastor.

Change is hard… but He is good.

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

From Across the Net – “Putting the “Service” Back in Worship Service”

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We want to be served… but Jesus calls us to more. I liked this piece from Chad Ashby, of 9Marks, titled “Putting the “Service” Back in Worship Service“.

How many of your Sundays look like this?

You show up, and parking lot attendants greet you. Faithful teachers instruct you. Ushers find a seat for you. A well-practiced worship band leads singing for you. Your pastor preaches a faithful, God-glorifying sermon to you. Childcare workers care for your children. And after all that, you pick up your kids and simply return home.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “This Is America”

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“But, but, Jesus wants me to live my best life now.” I joke, but deep down I wonder if I sometimes believe it. Great piece from Things We Didn’t Know – about life & missions entitled “This Is America“.

If sermons in your church sound more like self-help, living your best life (“for Jesus” of course), or simply marital and family advice, then you need to be asking yourself some serious questions about what you are being taught.  Jesus warns in Mark that many will come to deceive in the name of religion.  They will say all the “right” things, dress in all the “right” ways, know the popular prayers and sayings and topics of the times, and they will be leading you astray from the path to Jesus.  Guys, Jesus never promised a “better life” here on earth.  Following Him is costly, dangerous, painful, lonely, unpopular, counter-cultural.  And did I mention that it’s also worth it?  *don’t quit yet, I promise I will get there.

You can read more here

 

 

Notes from Sunday School – Follow Me

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Follow Me

Intro: More than 24 times in the Gospels, Jesus invited people to follow him. Who did Jesus invite?

  • The wealthy and powerful.
  • The casual observer.
  • The spiritual seekers.
  • The religiously devoted.

Read Matthew 4:18-20

18 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 20 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Note: Peter and Andrew knew Jesus. He had talked with them previously (John 1:35-42) and had been preaching in the area. They knew what kind of man he was.

Read Matthew 4:21-22

21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

Note: Verse 22 says that they immediately followed him, no excuse.

Q: What excuses do we give God daily?

Side Note: When Jesus asks us to serve him, we must be like the disciples and do it at once.

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

Read Mark 1:16-20

16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon[a] and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

Note: The disciples were not men of great faith when they met Jesus.

Read Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,[a]great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon,[b] its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

“Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.

Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Q: What is Peter’s reaction to the fish?

  1. Realizes what Jesus has done.
  2. Realizes his own insignificance/sin.

Q: What did following Jesus equal?

  1. Leaving old life.
  2. Being trained by Jesus.
  3. Learning to obey Jesus (coming under his authority and leadership).
  4. Having a life that looked like his (character, priorities, and practices).

Closing Questions

Who are you living for today?

What does it mean to follow Jesus today?

How can you refocus your relationship/walk with Christ in 2019?

Memorize

John 3:17 – “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (NLT)

These are my notes from teaching this morning. I thought sharing them might be helpful.

Jesus is our peace

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Just a few days into December and work is exploding. The environment is tense as a major project must go out soon after the beginning of the year. In other words, a typical stressful December here in my office. Knowing that things will get harder before they relax, I find my anxiety kicking in, causing my chest to tighten up. Feels like an elephant has taken up permanent residence on top of my heart. In the midst of fight or flight, God has reminded me of a snippet from Micah I read yesterday.

Micah 5:5A

I want His peace. Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Revenge of The Christmas Monster

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Taught my first Advent lesson for Sunday School yesterday. We talked about how Jesus is our hope, light, and peace. I shared how this holiday season can be one of darkness for myself. How Advent helps me focus on the light of the season, Jesus. Got me thinking about the things we bring into the holidays. I was telling Tab that we battled The Christmas Monster, even as a married couple, for a long, long, time. We’ve worked hard though to create our own traditions (which I love) and refocus what Christmas is all about for our family. Below is a post I wrote about the Christmas monster in 2015. Enjoy!

The holidays are a battle. A war filled with presents.

The Christmas list is a list that must be structured to maximize gifts received. I’m not sure what year I learned how much family members spent on me for Christmas, but I did. Strategic planning ensued. I would organize my list so that the most expensive items were at the top of the page. As one would read down the list, the items became cheaper. I would even take this a step further by listing the items retail price. I was a monster, used to three family Christmas events. One with my dad’s parents, one with my mom’s parents, and one with my immediate family.

Sometimes monsters look cute. I mean, handsome.

My Aunt Jody has no children. She loves giving; she loves Christmas time. On the other side of the Christmas campfire, my mom felt the need to compete with my aunt and grandparents. Growing up, she co-owned a craft business with a friend. My mom would spend hours out in the garage, cutting out craft pieces with her scroll saw. She would then paint these items, piece them together, and then go to a weekend craft show to sell. Generating money for Christmas that we did not have. I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Ayers coming out to help her paint and get items ready to sell. The holidays were stressful for my mom. I’m sure she wouldn’t tell you that. I’m sure as a kid I couldn’t have told you that my mom was stressed over having to compete. But she was.

The gift overload distorted my view of Christmas. The season became all about what I could get. I didn’t see the stress it was causing those around me.

My mom has since learned to let go and not compete. But I’m still learning, shaping, what Christmas looks like for my family. I don’t want Wyatt growing up thinking that Christmas is about maximizing what he can get. Sure, maybe kids do that to a point. But I do not want to raise a Christmas monster.

What does Christmas look like for you and your family? How do you go beyond presents?

Revisited – Christ, the Coliseum, and Violence

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This is one of the first pieces I ever wrote for another site (back in 2013). Still love this scenario. The Assassin’s Creed series is often the Adventures in Odyssey equivalent of the Imagination Station

I left Christ in the Roman Coliseum; I left him to die.

Carefully scaling the Coliseum walls, I slowly made my way towards my first targets: three would-be snipers. Quietly, in succession, I stealthily stabbed each in the back. Not one of the snipers knew of my existence. I am the wind, the shadows, the reaper of death. I am justice incarnate.

My second target: saving the actor playing Jesus Christ in a play. The irony of a Passion Play in the Roman Coliseum does not escape me. Who knows how many Christians fought for their very lives within these walls? Some believers even torn to shreds by lions for the amusement of Nero and the people. I shudder in disgust and then slip on the disguise of a Roman soldier. Christ awaits my saving grace.

Events quickly unfold in a way I could not foretell. The actor playing Christ has been drugged! I effortlessly scoop him up as Borgia men flood in from all sides of the Coliseum. My mission: get Christ to a doctor. Holding him, I can clearly see his crown of thorns and the fake blood smeared on him. I know his only hope is a cure beyond the battle ensuing around me. Suddenly, the world grinds to a stop.

– Reality Confronted –

If you haven’t guessed, my PS3 locked up as I was escorting the drugged actor to a doctor. I was frustrated. A day has since gone by and I have yet to try again. My wife reminds me that it took Christ three days to resurrect, so why not give the game a rest? My conscience is restless. Nine hours of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood has left me with questions. I find myself questioning the digital bodies I have left de-rezzed; I find myself questioning what I am learning about life, beyond the fact that assassinations from the air look awesome. Perspective is everything.

I know that at the end of the day I will return and continue my “historical” Roman adventure. But I want to keep in mind that violence is reality based. Violence is also something that is worshiped within American cinema and culture. I believe that the reason on-screen violence resonates with people so much is due to the fact that it is usually carried out in the pursuit of justice. The Bible says this though:

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. – Romans 12:19 (NIV)

and this:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! – Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)

I realize that Ezio’s actions in Brotherhood are simply a part of a fantasy world. I also realize that God is an avenger and a dealer of justice. Though I know that the worlds of fantasy and reality can sometimes blend, I want to be mindful of who and what I am allowing to shape my soul. So God help me.

Kickstarting ReElise

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Justin Fox is a longtime friend I met through Theology Gaming University (TGU). He just launched a Kickstarter for his game, ReElise, a Hip-Hop RPG. Justin hopes to not only fund his dream but start a movement.

How did your values influence your game, ReElise?

The game started out about race. Mostly a coming of age story. Just exploring culture and how people deal with them. When I got saved (gave my life to Christ) the story completely changed. It became a story about how God can make dry bones live again. However the theme of race still plays a role in that it serves no real role in the story. The main character is a black female…. that is all. Sometimes, it’s just not important in contrast to the big plot, and it shouldn’t always be a plot to insert a person’s views on an almost ageless problem so they can be the guy who “figured out how we can get along”. It’s a problem of classifying people as ” those people ” and that’s not going away. Ever.

ReElise

What exactly is a Hip-Hop RPG?

There’s a lot more to the culture of Hip-Hop than violence, money and abuse of women. There’s dancing, style, language, AMAZING art, and some would even say theology that’s not focused on quite as much. It was supposed to be fun in the early days. I like fun things. A Hip-Hop RPG is a game that  leans into the dopeness that is Hip-Hop. I love it. I wanted it in there. I’m indie… so I do what I want I’m grown and sexy.

How long have you been working on the game and what have you learned?

Steadily for 4 years. I’ve been tinkering with it for roughly 7, but those were entirely different builds.

For me, it’s been the power of belief. Believing that something good can come out of an idea that’s not really been done before, and seeing how the power of that belief carried me through for 4 years. It’s a crazy thing. Not to mention how drastically my belief in Jesus changed the core of the game. Belief is really something else.

ReElise-Hip-Hop-Battles

Engage in epic rap battles.

What would you like to say to anybody thinking about backing ReElise on Kickstarter?

This is more of a movement than it is about just one game. Traditional gameplay but with very non-traditional stories as well as concepts (I mean this is a 2D, hand-animated, Hip-Hop, turned-based, Mature Christian RPG… with sprinkles… definitely unconventional). I’d like to subtly offer deeper things to my audience. I’m giving my audience the chance to simply play a great game, and offer them a deeper story that I truly hope will be beneficial to their lives if they care to look. We’ve just gotta get the colorists, programmers, editors, travel expenses, and advertisements out of the way for this project first. That way we can make this first project everything it needs to be!  There’ll be much much more to come with the support of backers.

Thanks, Justin, for giving us a slice of ReElise pie. We can’t wait to get a taste of your Hip-Hop RPG goodness.

If you’d like to back Justin’s work, check out his Kickstarter page.

That Dragon, Cancer – Official Release Trailer My Friend Josh Made

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My friend M. Joshua Cauller makes video game trailers. Today, his trailer for That Dragon, Cancer was released. I’m very proud of Josh. Trailer made me cry.

My favorite scene was the telling of the story of Jesus and his disciples on the boat. A storm rises up, everything thinks they are going to die. Where do you think Jesus is? Asleep. The waiting room imagery, of being overwhelmed, contrasted with this story is remarkable. Our stresses, our worries, Christ in control the whole time. Love it.

Surf Report

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Surf ReportWelcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report. A quick summary of my weekend.

.: God:

Why is Good Friday called Good Friday? What is good about betrayal, torture, and death? I understand Jesus’ death on the cross being a good thing but do not understand the goodness of Friday. Unless the word good, used in a more antiquated sense, meaning ‘holy’ is the sought after definition. Holy Friday, Sacred Friday, even Passion Friday convey more depth and meaning.

I learned something this weekend. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1a when he says, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” David goes on in verses 16-18:

Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

What David describes in Psalm 22 is prophecy fulfilled under Christ. Interesting to note that crucifixion did not yet exist in David’s time and yet he writes about it.

.: Life:

Spent some time outside this weekend. Trimmed bushes and filled up the trashcan.

Went to the Caldwell Zoo. Which is a most excellent menagerie. Ever had a white tiger roar at you? I hadn’t either until Saturday. Scary.

Celebrated Easter with my in-laws on Sunday. My brother-in-law cooked up some steaks, which were perfect! Had a good time hanging out with them and playing Ticket to Ride. Even though I lost.

.: Gaming:

My wife and I played Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris for the first time this weekend. Mechanically, the controls feel tighter than Tomb Raider and the Guardian of Light. The gameplay is fun, varied, and adventurous. However, by the end of our first level we were both feeling eye strain. Not sure if it was due to how far the camera is pulled back or TV video settings, but our eyes hurt. Going to have to look into this.

Wave SplinterThat’s it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

Jesus at the table

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My wife and I started reading Paul E. Miller’s A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World tonight. I wanted to share a quote from the book:

When Jesus describes the intimacy he wants with us, he talks about joining us for dinner. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20).

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect with God.

I don’t think that I ever noticed the part of the verse that talks about Jesus eating with us. How cool! If you were to have dinner with him, what would you talk about? Your struggles, hopes, dreams? Miller says that prayer is supposed to be this way. Can’t wait to read more of the book. I’ll make sure to share as we progress.

Behind the Scenes

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“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43: 18-19 (NIV)

Came across the above verse this morning that I wanted to share. I love how God is telling Israel not to dwell upon what has already happened. Verse 19 begins with the gentle reminder that God is always working, even when we can’t see Him, God is going before us. Reminds me of Jesus’s words in John 14:3 –

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

There is comfort in knowing that God is constantly at work and going before us–reminds me even further of Haggai–. Whether you are dealing with an unstable job situation–like me–or just life in general, take comfort in knowing that God goes before us just like He did for Israel and Joshua when they set forth into the Promised Land.

I know that it is really easy to read what I have written and just dismiss it. But this is truth. Throughout the Bible, God constantly reminds us that He is there, working. Do you believe that? Better yet, are you listening/watching for His response?

What is God teaching you? 

Book Review: The Jesus Bible, NIV

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The Jesus Bible, NIV is a children’s Bible that focuses on how Jesus is interwoven throughout scripture. Helpful features include:

  • A timeline of Jesus’ life
  • A simplified Family Tree of Jesus
  • Devotions for every day of the year
  • Biblical book introductions that answer the question of, “Where is Jesus in this book?”

The Good:
The Jesus Bible, NIV is presented in an easy to use format. As my son grows older, I can see myself working through this Bible with him. Parents should keep in mind that The Jesus Bible, NIV is geared towards kids ages 9-12.

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I also like how the daily devotionals are short and simple to read. They include an opening theme verse, thought for the day, and a closing prayer. The devotionals serve as a great introductory tool to get children into a daily habit of reading scripture.

The Bad:
I have two complaints against The Jesus Bible, NIV: 1) The hardbound version that I was given to review is heavy. I realize that this does increase the life span of the Bible due to durability. But yet I wonder if a child would indeed carry a Bible that is so heavy. 2) I dislike the pink font that is used throughout the Bible. I think a more gender neutral color could have been chosen.

In Closing:
If you are looking for a children’s Bible that points towards Christ, look no further than The Jesus Bible, NIV.

I was given a copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

Surf Report – 1/8/2014

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Surf Report

Welcome to the Wednesday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God:

“We plunged into John 8 and looked at how Jesus coined the phrase, “He who has no sin casts the first stone” and then as the only sinless person is like, “I don’t condemn you.””
via Love Subverts

.: Life:

Sandwiched between two links this week is my life.

In review, December was a pretty awesome month. The Hall family watched God provide financially for both Christmas and current/future student loans. A random envelope here and there were proof that He is working behind the scenes…even when it doesn’t feel like it. Funny how God’s character doesn’t change despite our situations. He is not a mere god of the moment but the God that created the heavens and the earth. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for my family and I in 2014.

.: Gaming:

“In other, more succinct words: the game came first, rather than the pride of the singular director.”
via Theology Gaming

Invite Christ Into Your Hobby

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This morning, as I was reading through Bill Farrel’s The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, I came across a passage that talked about inviting Christ into your hobbies. The beginning of Chapter 8 asked a question:

“What do you like to do to relax or have fun?”

The book followed up by asking you to:

“Brainstorm ways to invite Jesus to be part of this activity in your life.”

Bill gave a few personal examples of him inviting Christ into his hobbies: 1)as he is out in the garage tinkering around on his car, he prays and just generally communicates with God just as he would a friend; 2)as he is out exercising, Bill listens to worship music and sermons. Both examples show how easy it is to invite Christ into our down time activities.

Now my own personal ways of winding down do not include physical exercise nor picking up the odd tool and “tinkering”. I know that I need to be more active but I prefer reading a good book or enjoying a video game. I honestly cannot remember a time where I have ever invited God to take up the second controller (figuratively). I don’t think I have ever asked God for the amazing dexterity to accomplish a specific Mario jump either. No, I just mindlessly play and let the digital world envelope me as I would a movie. What does this mean?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

As a Christian, everything I do is to be done to the glory of God. I need to be keeping God at the forefront of my mind. Even as I play a video game, I need to not be mindlessly consuming but actively engaging the media. This means filtering the game through what I know is truth in scripture; this also means asking God for the endurance to take on that last boss fight. Video games can easily be all about the glory of the player, I want that glory to instead be directed at my Creator.

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.

The Wrath of Christians

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The machine guns blazed with a deafening sound, as a small band of Christians advanced upon Ignition Entertainment. Chanting the video game directors name, Sawaki Takeyasu, the blood thirsty band leveled all who stood in their way.

Weeks earlier, upon hearing about the game El Shaddai’s development and eventual release, this small band of Christians had threatened the games director with death. For you see, to even utter one of the names of God is punishable by death….err wait. Wouldn’t this be shocking if it were true? Imagine Christians militantly defending the name of God.

The announcement of El Shaddai got me thinking about how the Muslim community would react if the game was titled The Prophet Muhammad. Below is a case study from a recent headline.

Case Study:

Back in the beginning of April, the TV show South Park aired its 200th episode (recap here). The episode, which was all about not angering Muslims by physically depicting the Prophet Muhammad, stirred up anger within the Muslim community. One Muslim group even threatened “violent retribution” against the creators of the show. Meanwhile other religious figures which include Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna were depicted with little outcry from their followers. Comedy Central, fearing a backlash from the Muslim community, ended up heavily editing the episode.

Commit a series of terrorist acts and suddenly entire nations cower before you in fear.

As per my opening to this article, I am not insinuating that Christians should become militaristic and take up arms against those that offend us. That goes against the very person of who Jesus Christ was/ is. What I am trying to say is two things:

  1. Our modern media needs to treat all religious groups equally and with respect. Christ should be treated just as respectfully as Muhammad if not more so — hey, I’m biased!–. To cater/cower to only one religious group shows favoritism. Not only favoritism…but fear.
  2. Video game developers need to be respectful when telling stories/ making statements religious in nature. Take for instance the game Assassin’s Creed. SPOILER ALERT!!! The end of the game reveals that the object you’ve hunted for the entire game is what caused people to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea; that Jesus did miracles. I find such thought to be totally offensive. Furthermore, this makes me think that the developers of Assassin’s Creed believe that Christianity is a sham. Whatever happened to tolerance?

Tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.

In closing, the video game El Shaddai will not incite acts of violence on an epic scale. No death threats will be reported due to its development/ launch.  The wrath of the Christians will not be experienced. Consider that cancelled if not non-existent.

Things to think about:

  • Why are Christians openly mocked in media and Muslims feared?
  • What are the developers trying to tell us in their use of names like Enoch and a story about Satan and his fallen angels?
  • What is their worldview?