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July 3, 2017, 9:26 AM

Video Games have taught me a thing or two


Full disclosure: I like and play video games. There is an Xbox One in my living room that plays a prominent role in my leisure time. Understandably that turns some people off to whatever I have to write next, but I hope you'll stick with me for just a few more moments. The games I like to play are slower paced, open world, action based games. The two particular series I like have me taking the role of the hero who must stop the bad guy(s) from taking over the city/world. Good times indeed. 

So what have I learned that would apply any spiritual thought worthy of a blog? Easy... I get lost sometimes. Inside the games I like, with an open world, there is a LOT of ground to explore... and very, very often when exploring I find myself turned around and missing an objective, etc... Here's where it connects: I know I'm in the wrong place when the music is soft, there is no one trying to beat me up, and the game is peaceful. Yep, this is not where I'm supposed to be. 

I know I'm on the right track when the game's intensity picks up, the music starts playing an ominous tune, and enemies pop up. I am no longer able to happily explore and toot around... I have to fulfill my objective and win the day. 

So where are you at? Are you in the place in which there is no challenge, the music keeps you soothed and at peace, and no one seems to be pushing against you? If so, you very well may be in the wrong place. Yes, I understand that isnt always true in real life, but lets stick to the premise of video game logic. Games will keep you focused and push you forward by challenging and opposing your progress. Simply put, if there are no challenges, you need to turn around. 

Our faith journey is very, very similar. If we are not being challenged, then we have either hid our belief system and morals so well that no one knows they exist, or we're in the wrong place. There are rare occasions in which we are really challenged in our corporate church settings on Sunday morning. In fact, it may be the safest place we can be to express our faith. That doesnt mean we're in the wrong place, but it certainly means we've got to take the momentary peace we find here and turn right around to the bigger challenges outside our walls. Jesus never told us we'd be comfortable following him... he told us there would be persecution, challenges, and the discomfort of denying ourselves and carrying a cross. 

Take a lesson from video games... if you're not being challenged, you're not on the right path. Be the hero this kingdom needs and find peace in a world of chaos and disorder. 

Matt 5: 11 - 16  11“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.12Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. 
     13“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.14“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.15No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.16In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly kFather.




June 26, 2017, 9:10 AM

What have I Become?


Remember that part in the monster movie where the main bad guy has a moment of clarity and asks himself: "What have I become?"  Now this isn't in EVERY monster movie, but there are times when we get to see some transparency from our fictional bad guys. Most often though, this moment happens when the antagonist in the film was once a GOOD GUY!  <insert dramatic music here> I'm thinking along the lines of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... 

The moment I just imagined is fictional indeed, with very little bearing on real life. Or is it? <insert dramatic music here> 
Asking ourselves what we've become, or are becoming is a good place to start each day. If we've allowed ourselves to turn away from our Christ-like transformations, we all need a moment of clarity and reassessment. 

No we're not becoming the bad guys... but we do risk letting ourselves slip away from being those that do good in this world. Being Christ-like takes our full attention and effort. 

We spent time with our topic of Joy yesterday (06/25/17), and practically speaking: are we bringing Joy to this world? Or are we a part of the regularly scheduled barrage of bad news this world already has enough of? Does our presence lighten a room, or ramp up the tension? Can we be trusted to see the best in a situation, or add to the worry and woe? If we answer no to any of these, we need to ask: What have I become? <insert dramatic music here>

2 Peter 1: 3 - 7  By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

 




June 19, 2017, 8:58 AM

The Best and Worst of a Rock Concert


This past week I spent some time traveling to see my favorite band perform live. I stood in the sun for hours (we had General Admission tickets) in order to get the best spot possible for seeing them up close. There were some great moments before the music started while visiting with fellow concert-goers and bonding with the security guard stationed right in front of me on the other side of the railing (seriously, we bro-hugged after the show was over). The downside of the experience was literally standing/waiting for 9 hours for the concert to officially begin. Mind you, there were about 1000 other people doing the same thing, with some camping out at the venue for well over 16 hour to get in. 

Feet were tired. Neck and shoulders were sunburnt. But when the music started, that all went away in the bliss of my favorite songs being performed just for me, live in person. So lets talk about the content and theme of the show a bit. Revolution and discontent were the normatives and messages being sent. While we live in a great country, its not quite there yet to be completely satisfied. Therefore: anthems screaming for change, songs railing for better opportunity, and speeches about injustice. All done with magnificent volume, dizzying visuals, and amazing music. 

While the band was on, and while I was surrounded by 50,000 other people I agreed wholeheartedly with what they were saying.  We were charged up and ready to stand strong. I wanted to join in the campaign.........  and then the music stopped and the show ended. Instead of 50,000 people rallying for social justice, we were 50,000 people just wanting to go home and rest (and make it out of the worst parking lot on the planet alive). 

This past week we talked about Love in our service. And I think we were all on the same page that Love needs to be prioritized and modeled by Christ-followers everywhere we go. 

But what happens when the music fades and we're no longer surrounded by a crowd? When we are the only ones who will "know" whether we've obeyed those important commandments in Matthew 22 of Loving God and Loving People.  What happens when we aren't swept in a tidal wave of goodness and service? 

It's what happens in the valleys that will define us (not the mountaintops). Let Love define your lowest moments, and everything else will fall into place. 

Luke 15: 20 - 24 20“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.21His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

22“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.23And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,24for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

 




June 5, 2017, 8:48 AM

Money, Money, Money


Where does the love of money come from? The same place prejudice comes from... It. Is. Taught. 

There is a scene in the first Toy Story movie that cements this idea (and yes, I know it's a movie... but stick with me). The opening scene is built by the imagination of a child, Andy, and the scenario he creates with his toys. "One Eyed Bart" (Mr. Potato Head) has a convoluted plan to rob the bank, and is ultimately exposed by Sheriff Woody. There's a line in there though that speaks to a lesson we've all taught our children. One Eyed Bart gets into the bank (a cardboard box and a piggy bank), sees the coins inside and yells jubilantly: "Money, Money, Money!!"

Even the imagination of children speaks to the love of money. To be clear, money is not the root of all evil. The Bible never says that. The Bible says: "The love of money is the root of all evil" -- 1 Timothy 6:10

We have to choose which master we will serve (Matthew 6:24). More importantly, we need to choose which master we will teach others to serve. Which master makes your decisions? Jesus teaches about money often, and his message is not to ignore money or choose abject poverty... his message is to let money be money here on earth but serve God first, seek His Kingdom first.  We should give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God's. 

What part of us belongs to God? All of us.

Mark 12: 13 - 17 13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14“Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn't we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin,c and I’ll tell you.”16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
   “Caesar’s,” they replied.
17“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.




May 22, 2017, 9:05 AM

A run on one particular Spiritual Gift


Comfort. Awe Yes! I like THAT spiritual gift.

Routines. Schedules. Familiarity. Same seat. Known songs. And no one asking us to work/give/teach/lead/serve/or move outside of where we're comfortable.

That's MY spiritual gift, and it is well used. The Western Church caters to this spiritual gift. (Catch the irony here: I'm a part of the system, therefore preachers are a big part of the problem... I'm talking to myself mostly here). There are opportunities to be involved with missions without lifting more than a pen. We have orderly rows of pews and chairs so everyone has a decent sight-line and can hear best. Parking is simplified, refreshments are readily available, and doors are wide open.  All the service opportunities and committees you might want are scheduled at convenient times. The entire system is set up to make being involved as comfortable as possible.

And I LOVE it. 

However, the heart of the Gospel and the Kingdom of God established by Christ and the Apostles is everything BUT comfortable. There is opposition (violent at times); There is heartache; Splinters abound when you carry your own Cross; and lets not even get into what the Church looked like the first time those historically firm cultural barriers were ripped down between Jew and Gentile. That is the kingdom we're called to work in. Those that were comfortable with religiosity were called OUT by Christ, ripped to shreds publicly. 

Every word Jesus spoke attacks our comfort zones. Every stretch and reach of the new Church attacked comfort zones. We cannot settle in and expect to serve in that Kingdom. The only kingdom in which comfort is a gift is the one we create around ourselves. 

Matthew 8:18 - 22 18When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” 21Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” 22But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”


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