From Across the Net – “What Hath Gondor to do with Geneva?”

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This is a good read.

There are many other truths that Tolkien’s works reflect, but I would like to mention two. First, Tolkien’s works, and The Lord of the Rings in particular remind us that even the most seemingly insignificant among us are important. It can be argued, for example, that the hero of the Lord of the Rings is a gardener, a servant of the one who is usually considered the hero of the story. The steadfast loyalty, faithfulness, and perseverance of the hobbit Samwise is absolutely crucial to the success of the mission that will save Middle-earth. In the eyes of the world, Sam and the other hobbits in the fellowship are small, both literally and figuratively. But the role they play is just as important, if not more, than the role played by the great powers and kings in the story.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Sex and the Married Missionary”

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Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

While I realize this post is geared towards couples on the mission field, I think that there are universal truths here for all Christian couples. Most of all, I appreciate the honesty.

We don’t talk about sex very much. Sure, we might joke about it (the first working title for this article was The Missionary Position), but we don’t actually talk about it very much. Truth is, most folks are scared to death to have an honest, non-joking, realistic talk about sex. Maybe with a good friend, but with their spouse? Gasp. But the truth is, it matters. It’s not the biggest deal, but it’s a real deal.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “Reducing the Stumbling Block before THE Stumbling Block”

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We all put stumbling blocks before unbelievers can get to the stumbling block of the cross. Some of these are beyond our control, but others are within our powers of adjustment. The way we appear, our communication styles, attitudes, actions, and histories affect what others “hear” long before they hear the gospel. The faster we recognize this truth, the better we can prepare for for effective proclamation.

You can read more here

Someone, Please Save Us, Us College Kids

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During my junior college years, I listened to “College Kids”, by Relient K, on repeat:

Someone, please save us, us college kids!
What my parents told me is what I did
They said, “Go to school and be a college kid.”
But, in the end, I questioned why I did

I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I knew I wanted more than the part time restaurant job I was working. Surely there was more to life than general level college courses, commuting, and serving food/busing tables. Add on top of that friends moving away for school, girls/dating, and not being sure of who I was in the church (or the church having a clue of who I was)… this was a huge transitory time for me.

(Oh no!) Not for me, not for me
Call it torture, call it university
(No!) Arts and Crafts is all I need
I’ll take calligraphy and then I’ll make a fake degree

I am thankful for those that God stirred up and called into my life during that time. He is faithful. I just didn’t always see His faithfulness as I clearly do now in retrospect. Little did I know that He was preparing me for bigger things. Bigger things like:

  • Moving away from all that I ever knew (family, friends, etc.).
  • Texas. TEXAS. The shock of Southern/Bible Belt culture.
  • My wife. I met her within a month of moving/going to school.

For those in this period of transition, the church (as a whole) does little to help with the confusion. Once students leave the comfort and safety of the youth group, they are launched into church oblivion. This oblivion is somewhere between graduating high school and marriage. The church, inadvertently, preaches that marriage is the pinnacle; once married, growing a family becomes the next prize to be won. But where does that leave those in college? Forgotten.

Eighty grand later, I found out that all that I had learned
Is that you should show up to take your finals and your mid-terms
The party scene is kind of mean; I think it’s sick and twisted
The Navy showed up at my door and claimed that I enlisted

Some churches see the need and build college, young professional, and singles ministries (all of these are totally different ministries that should not be paired together) to bridge the gap till marriage. I am thankful for churches who see this need.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

College kids want to be recognized, listened to, and accepted in the church. They do not want to be treated as second-class citizens who serve as babysitters. Nor do they want to be treated as the “forgotten”, in-between singleness and marriage. We, as the Church, have to do more. We need to change the messages we are silently/subtly preaching through our actions. We also need to point to the stable foundation that is Scripture. College students are hungry for truth (scripture), faith that has depth, and delicious food. And maybe even a chance to come over, hang out, and wash their clothes.

We can do better. I’ve learned that Satan speaks into the silent places the church doesn’t. So let us speak and do.

From Across the Net – “Jordan Peterson: High Priest for a Secular Age”

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Beyond thumbing through Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life at my brother’s house, my exposure to his work has been limited. Bruce Ashford, writing for The Gospel Coalition, wrote a piece titled “Jordan Peterson: High Priest for a Secular Age“. I found this Peterson quote to be interesting:

The Bible is, for better or worse, the foundational document of Western civilization (of Western values, Western morality, and Western conceptions of good and evil). It’s the product of processes that remain fundamentally beyond our comprehension. The Bible is a library composed of many books, each written and edited by many people. It’s a truly emergent document—a selected, sequenced, and finally coherent story written by no one and everyone over many thousands of years. The Bible has been thrown up, out of the deep, by the collective human imagination, which itself is the product of unimaginable forces operating over unfathomable spans of time. Its careful, respectful study can reveal things to us about what we believe and how we do and should act that can be discovered in almost no other matter. (104)

You can read more here

Assassins Creed III Reborn

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As a History / Political-Science major, I was excited over the launch of Assassins Creed III. I even pre-ordered the game (a rarity for me). When all was said and done though, Assassins Creed III was a disappointment. So many ideas, poorly executed, with a game engine that couldn’t do the heavy lifting those ideas required. The end result was a buggy, slow-running mess, and I quit.

The upcoming PS4 remaster of Assassins Creed III has me intrigued. I’m wondering if the game engine has been upgraded? I’d love to play through this period of history. Maybe protagonist Connor has been given some hugs/love to help with his sour disposition? Maybe not. I guess we’ll soon see.

Rejecting the Story

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We minimize and reject portions of the story God is telling through our lives. Stuffing those experiences, those moments we don’t want to talk about, away.

Wounds become scabs. Ready to be made raw at a moments notice. A simple comment made; A scene from a TV show. Pain discovered anew.

A photo by Wilson Lau. unsplash.com/photos/MvjO-aMRwkE

Walking grief is the new norm. We don’t even know that we are living in this manner, sick. Ignoring the bigger story God is weaving. Denying that pain has occurred. Until one day, someone speaks truth. Giving light to the darkest depths of anguish.

Expectations rule us. We perceive that others do not want to hear what we are going through.

“They are sick and tired of us talking about this,” we say.

A pit of lies.

And yet we live in denial of the story being written. Telling God that He is not there in that moment. While failing to realize that He has never left.

It’s jarring to read about video games one day and then infertility the next. It’s uncomfortable.

Welcome to JohnnyBGamer.

 

2015 – A Year In Review

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2015 has been a roller coaster year.

We’ve Explored

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Should Men Put Video Games Away As “Childish Things” For Their Wives / Girlfriends?

I have known countless guys who have given up their favorite hobby due to a spouse or girlfriend disapproving– I am sure that this is true for the female species as well. Once upon a time, these guys enjoyed playing video games. They used them to drop stress levels, rest, and relax. For some reason though, chemistry, the alignment of the stars, who knows, they end up coupling with someone who disapproves/looks down upon their hobby. So they have to quit, have to walk away from something they love to be in love.

Read more here

We’ve Been Real With One Another

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Longing For That Missing Person

Social media is filled with photos of babies. Beautiful children who are all snugly and cute. While I am excited for my friends and family who are pregnant, there is always this void that gnaws at my soul.

Read more here

We’ve Shared In The Joys Of Parenting

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Boys Club

Best part of our day was in the backyard. Wyatt wanted to go outside and play Transformers. So we each picked a weapon. I grabbed a foam sword, he grabbed a Nerf gun. Somehow we never got around to playing. Wyatt was too concerned with making up rules, structure, to our play. I got bored. So I grabbed his gun and took off. There were tears over my dual wielding weapons.

“You can’t have two!”

Read more here

We’ve Read Some Great Books

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Scary Close – Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy

I first discovered Donald Miller in college. I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure about my Christian faith anymore. There was a disconnect between the Christians I read about in the Bible and the Christians I met everyday. Tired of the hypocrisy, I found honesty in Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Someone was finally writing from a perspective that felt authentic. God used Miller’s words to remind me of the freedom we have in Christ; He used Donald Miller to bring me back to Him.

Read more here

We’ve Called Each Other To More

Social Media

A Call: Moving Beyond Artificial Relationships

Surface level relationships will never go beyond the surface. Diving equipment, time invested in person, allows us to get to know one another better. Being purposeful in our pursuit, this is key. We have to make time to have time to spend with others; We have to get over ourselves, move beyond technology.

An invitation to go for a walk, time set aside to enjoy nature and listen. Spending the lunch hour eating with a friend. Time invested. Physical time. We need more of this. We need to do this.

Read more here

I’m not sure of the places we’ll go in 2016. But we can explore, share, and be real together. Here is to another great year. Happy New Year!

A Muddled Exchange

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“He thinks he is a god.”

Have you ever had one of those conversations that validates everything you’ve ever thought about a situation and yet bugs you to no end? I had one of those this weekend.

While truth was spoken, biases and human perspective muddled the exchange.

If I have learned anything over the years, I have learned that:

  • A person is a person no matter how they talk, treat, or otherwise engage you. This is a hard one, but as a Christian I believe that we have all been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This requires us to treat those who treat us poorly with a measured level of respect.
  • Villainizing a person due to them holding you to a higher standard than you are used to is a coping mechanism. Do great work from the start. Don’t cut corners. Don’t try and cheat your way through a job by using slight of hand.
  • Most importantly, sympathizing with someone over a tough situation is okay. A kind word goes a long way.

Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. – Proverbs 16:24

Real Men Cry

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My son is in kindergarten. Founts of almighty wisdom are usually dropped on the playground. I can’t imagine what he is learning, but last night he gave me a glimpse into what he is processing.

After a bit of wrestling on the couch, he looked at me and said, “crying means that you are weak.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Oh, so-and-so at school says that.”

I quickly told my son that real men cry, that crying is not a weakness. Heck, I told him, even I cry.

Our conversation ended just about as quickly as it had began. I just wanted to make sure that my son knows that crying does not unmake a man.

**Just as a side note, on this blog, I am not going to refer to my son by his name. I would prefer to protect it.

Five Elements of Biblical Nutrition

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“The more you focus on truth, the clearer it becomes. The more you wrestle with how to live it out in your life, the more skilled you get at living biblically. So the five elements of your biblical nutrition are: hearing, studying, reading, memorizing, and meditating.” (p.62)

Farrel, Bill. The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2010. Print.

At Church: Fear and Anxiety

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We all know the story. God compels Moses to go before Pharaoh and ask for the release of the Israelites. Pharaoh resists. Plagues ensue. Pharaoh eventually relents and Moses leads the people out of Egypt.

Once the Israelites left, Pharaoh suddenly has a change of heart:

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. – Exodus 14:5-6 (NIV)

Notice that the Egyptians are not happy about losing their slave labor. So Pharaoh leads his army forth to recapture what he believes is rightfully his. God has other plans.

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? – Exodus 14:10-11 (NIV)

God delivers his people from the Egyptians. In the end, Pharaohs army is wiped out in the Red Sea.

Like I was going to have a post about Moses parting the Red Sea and not include Mr. Charlton Heston.

Like I was going to have a post about Moses parting the Red Sea and not include Mr. Charlton Heston.

This morning, my Sunday school class started a new series on fear and anxiety. My teacher pointed out the difference between the Israelites’ response (they thought they were going to be whole sale slaughtered) and the Egyptians’ response (they wanted their slave labor back). Fear often causes us to believe things that are simply not true.

Lately, I have been reading through Jon Acuff’s Start. In the book, Jon suggests writing down our fears when they occur/paralyze us. After writing down the fear, Acuff suggests then writing down the truth beside it. So something like:

Fear: I am going to lose my job and never find one again.

Truth: I have job security due to my position and even if that isn’t true, I will be able to find another job due to my degree and experience.

Just want to encourage you today to kick fear in the face. Start by realizing that sometimes the things that we hear whispered in our heads are lies. So write them down. Capture them. Confront them with the truth. We can do this.

Rewind Wednesday: Ask, Seek, Knock

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Note: My wife and I made a rather difficult decision last night. One of those “burn the ships” sort of decisions. I thought this post from the past was appropriate as its truth is timeless.

This morning I read in Matthew 7. Something that really stuck out to me was in verses 7-8:

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

Ask = Prayer

Seek = Actually Look/ Gather Information

Knock = Test/ Forward Motion

Counterfeited Simulation

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Christmas, 1989. 

I was 8 years old.  I remember opening a bulky rectangular package that contained something called a Game Boy. My aunts and uncles seemed more excited about it than I was. What was this grey brick-like device? What were Super Mario Land and Tetris? More importantly, why would I want to play these games on the go versus on the TV? I was a kid. I had no clue that I was holding the portable future of video games in my hands.

Today my iPod is a constant companion. When I’m not listening to music in the car, I find myself browsing the net or playing the latest iOS game on the Apple-made device.

Now, I’m a sucker for a good simulation game. I grew up with Theme Park, Sim City 2000, and Roller Coaster Tycoon. I love spending hours micro-managing and designing environments for my virtual denizens. Because of my love for this genre, I have been suckered into what can only be called mere imitations.

Simulations are not all created equal on the iOS. Some, most, are built around artificial time constraints and real life money transactions. Want to increase your build time? Buy a 1000 Tower Bucks for $5.99. These “games” are usually fun for the first few hours and then they slowly reveal their true selves. A digital gaming relationship of sorts gone down the drain. Like a spurned lover, the following is a list of such games that have suckered me  in only to drop kick me later on:

The above games–and there are many many more like them–boil down to a simple equation:

time constraints + breeding monsters/building cities/routing planes + virtual money = supporting video game heresy

Disguised as simulations, these games prey upon your time and offer what is ultimately a counterfeit experience versus something real such as Game Dev Story.

As a follower of Christ, I find myself constantly sifting, weighing, and comparing what I am being told daily versus what the Bible says. I don’t want to settle for the counterfeit and end up cheated out of my time and money. I want the truth. I want the real deal. Don’t settle. No matter how flashy the gameplay may be; no matter how deceptive the lie is that you’ll never find anyone to marry. Don’t settle. God always has a better way. There is always a better alternative than embracing and engaging the counterfeit.

Where I Have Been/ Where I Am Going

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There comes a point where words must become actions in ones life. Failure to turn those particular words into actions will lead to those very words holding you captive; Haunting your waking thoughts with regrets of “what if” and “if I had only”. Trust me, I know.

For over five years I have worked for a company that offers me zero chance of career advancement. Short of going back to school and obtaining a degree in something I have little interest in, I simply cannot go any further in my current place of employment. I am in a way stuck due to the current job market and salary. Compound that frustration with frequent poor treatment, and you often have an irritated and sometimes depressed individual. I feel like I lost myself somewhere when I was told in a mocking tone, “this is so easy a third grader could do this”. Whatever level of college graduate optimism died within me the day those words were uttered. In my mind, I had become another worthless cog in the system, one that could be replaced on a whim. Reality had drop kicked me at the door.

Sometime last year, shortly after my Grandma died, I came up with a plan to move forward. I excitedly told others about this plan and began to set it into motion. I was going to go into web/graphic design. In the midst of the frustrations of learning/ moving toward my goal (acquire skills, get hired), I abruptly quit. I learned that letting go of a new found dream is easy when you lack the will to really work towards it. In a way, I hadn’t quite hit rock bottom yet. I was still comfortable pressed up against the glass ceiling of my job. What I needed was some fresh perspective, some truth spoken into my life. Little did I know that an email, a link, and a purchase were about to radically shift my way of thinking.

One morning, I received an email from Dave Ramsey. Well not a personal email but an email from his site. A link and a click later, I found myself reading about a book entitled Quitter. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this book was about to change my perspective and my life.

Quitter, by Jon Acuff, is all about pursuing your dreams while remaining firmly planted in your day job. Your day job, no matter how terrible it may be, provides a firm financial foundation for you to move towards what you want to do with your life. Truthfully, I had never thought of my job in this way. I had always seen it as something that brought in a paycheck, that had to be endured.

Jon Acuff goes even further in talking about how your attitude in your current place of employment will carry over into your future job. In other words, practice today the attitude you want for yourself in the future. This was a revelation for me.

The Bible talks about how Christians need to be faithful in the small things:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much,and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10 (NIV)

Which got me thinking about my attitude and how I needed to be thankful for all that God has given me. This has required me to shift my perspective, which I admit is not always easy. It is easier to give into the norm and not rise above it.

In the midst of God working on my perspective, He also reminded me of my web/graphic design dream. I was finally ready for it. Almost a year after I first set out to change my career, I was finally in the right frame of mind to pursue it.

Two weeks ago, I started on the first phase of “moving forward”. I began working once more on redoing my churches web site. I have set rewards in place to help me achieve my goals. I have also limited the distractions in my life (video games) that I felt were keeping me from working hard.

My goal right now is to finish the church web site, show the church what I’ve done, and give them a list of possible hosting options for the site. Then, I’m going to find a new project and continue working/refining my web/graphic design skills.

Changing our perspective is hard. Words must become actions; actions must become a lifestyle.

  • What dreams and ideas do you have that you keep putting on the back burner for later?
  • What do you need to change so that you can move forward?

I would love to hear from you in the comment section below. Thanks!

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.

So You Want to Start a Guild?

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For whatever reason, be it a sudden abundance of time or a willingness to destroy your life, you suddenly find yourself wanting to start a guild in your favorite MMO. Common sense would dictate that this is a terrible idea. While this may be true, more social gamers cannot deny the urge to unite the denizens of a particular world under one banner.

Truth. Justice. Life Sucking Numbness.

Being one of the great enablers of the Internet, JohnnyBGamer wishes to guide those who desire the dark path to guild leadership. Please know that once one begins this path, it is very easy to throw all time invested/ players recruited away with a snap of a finger. You’ve been warned.

For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on the most popular of online games, World of Warcraft. So let us begin this march towards mayhem and total doom.

Dictionary.com defines a guild as:

an organization of persons with related interests, goals, etc., esp. one formed for mutual aid or protection.

After months and months of preparation, your moment has finally arrived. The name you have chosen to bestow upon your underlings (your guild name) has been carefully chosen. Right? If not, think about this for a moment. Your guild name must cause hearts to fear. Got a name yet? Good. Let’s continue.

In order to form a guild in World of Warcraft, one must talk with a Guild Master and purchase a guild charter (10 silver). A grand total of 9 players must sign this charter, in blood, before it can be turned into the guild master and made official. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong. Presuming one does not have 9 friends to sign the charter, other methods must be employed to obtain the signatures needed.

Bribery (one of the oldest forms of greasing the gears)

  • Offering players, who have no intention of staying in your guild, some gold for their digital signature may be worth your time. How much you might ask? Pick a number.

Power (the pathway to the soul)

  • Who wouldn’t want to have the title “Grand Taco” in your guild? Not only does this name denote power but also supreme authority. If all else fails, let the signing player give them self a title. If you don’t like it, delete them. That is why  you are the guild leader.

Secrecy (who doesn’t like a good secret?)

  • Let the signing player know of your grand schemes to destroy and rule Azeroth. It will happen one day…

If all else fails, beg. Beg as if your life depended on it. Although spamming the chat channel may prove useful if begging fails.

Once you have obtained the 9 signatures needed to proceed, return to the Guild Master. Your Warcraft dynasty has only just begun.

Join us next time as we tackle guild tabards, structure, and the need for clear expectations.