The Ever Decreasing Circle: PUBG, Fortnite and Pressing Forward (1 Kings 19)

So it seems this is officially a thing… the battle royale concept that has spawned two incredibly successful titles and will likely influence or birth several more if the video game industry lives up to the parity it is so well-known for.  I will give credit where credit is due.  Both Battlegrounds and Fortnite are well made titles with an easy drop-in concept to attract new players and a long learning curve to keep veterans busy for hours, days, and perhaps years.  This is gaming’s version of the “Hunger Games”… drop a bunch of people into a giant warzone with nothing but the clothes on their back and fill said warzone with weapons and armor.  Matches vary from a mad scramble for equipment to the never-ending struggle to find a safe spot to survive in, and only one will claim the chicken dinner that awaits you at the end.  Frantic, unpredictable, and spontaneous are the names of the game as every match plays out entirely differently each and every time.

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I will confess this is not exactly my cup of tea, and I will tell you why.  It is all because of that stupid circle.  You know… the one that is slowly decreasing the size of the battlefield to press the combatants together and keep them from simply holing up somewhere and passively waiting out the finish of a match.  If you haven’t played the game, let me enlighten you… as the game moves on the game space shrinks and you must race to stay within the ever-constricting parameters of the gaming area or you will perish outside of it.  This means you can never simply just get comfortable in a well-fortified structure and snipe your way to victory.  You can’t simply hide until it is all over.  You are constantly moving to stay within the circle and your foes are doing the same.  And as the game reaches its climax the few remaining players are pushed ever closer to each other to insure that it is impossible for the conflict to remain unresolved for long.

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If I had my way, my life would play out a lot like the most boring match of PUBG or Fortnite EVER.  I would procure only what I needed to survive, find a comfortable little place to make my own, and peacefully ride out the match in blissful happiness as the sun sets over the trees.  I will be honest and say that I don’t actively search out conflict or even most growth opportunities because of the inherent risks and dangers associated with taking such chances. It is so safe and warm inside, why risk my meager collection of things and stuff?  Unfortunately, such thoughts are the breeding grounds for complacency in both life and our walk with God, and He has a pattern of taking people out of their comfort zones through an ever decreasing circle of His own.

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Elijah was one such man who experienced this.  Now, you might say “WHOA.. hold on.  Elijah was one of the most powerful and well-regarded prophets in the entire Old Testament”.  And if you said that, I would agree with you and also ask you to please stop saying “WHOA” in all caps.  It’s kind of weird.  But even Elijah, a man mightily used by God in so many ways, hit his point where he simply wanted to get away from the battle and call it a day.  Interestingly enough, it happened right after what might be considered one of his greatest triumphs.  Elijah has just finished calling fire, yes ACTUAL fire down from heaven and then slaughtered hundreds of false prophets who were misleading the people of Israel.  It was a pretty amazing scene that culminated in a mighty victory as the people’s hearts returned to God (at least for a moment) and the drought that had plagued the land was lifted.  Elijah was riding a pretty good high and had just updated his social media accounts with pictures of the whole thing.  Good times were being had by all… and then all hell broke loose.

Jezebel, an evil queen who hated God and Elijah, immediately put out a hit out on Elijah and set a 24 hour target for his execution:

1 Kings 19:1-4 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword.  Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”  And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

I have walked this path many times, and I have a feeling you have walked a similar one.  Fresh off of a great day, maybe an incredible success at work or a major milestone at home, and then the bad news HITS.  The circle closes in on you as a bill you hadn’t planned for is due immediately.  A friend calls and you get in a huge and unexpected fight.  Maybe a family member or even you yourself are suddenly diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  From the dizzying heights of success to the pit of despair in 30 seconds.  And simply sitting where we are at is not an option… as much as we would like to simply sit here and cry we can feel it.  We can feel the circle constricting around us so we do just like Elijah did… we RUN.

Where are we going?  Nowhere in particular.  What do we plan to do when we get there?  I dunno… maybe throw a pity party and ask God to let us die?  If you have never been here, cool.  It must be nice.  But I sure have.  A LOT.  Hot on the heels of every happiness has been a lake of discomfort that immediately challenged me and kept me from simply building a white picket fence around my current sanctuary and instead compelled me to keep on moving.  And that extreme swing from ecstasy to agony is completely normal, completely human, and completely able to be overcome.

First, an important truth.  The truth is Elijah didn’t really want to die.  How do I know that?  Because if he wanted to die he would have stayed his happy butt right where he was and let Jezebel kill him.  He wanted to live… he wanted to move forward but the circle was freaking him out a bit.  And then he ran off alone, leaving his support group behind just as we many times do as well.  So often we isolate ourselves in our pain instead of allowing God’s love and warmth to be shared by a fellow disciple.  And once Elijah ran into the desert, alone and afraid, he found God and His provision waiting there for him… with a new mission meant to take him even further out of his current discomfort zone.

I love how tenderly the Lord reached out to his fearful servant.  He remembers that we are but dust, and he simply asked Elijah, “What are you doing here Elijah?”  And after Elijah gave God his “Woe is me” speech, God gave Elijah his marching orders for his next three actions and moved him back into the play area.  Jezebel never got close to harming Elijah despite her threats.  God still had plans for him, and the circle that was closing in around him was simply guiding him to his next destination and all of the things God had left for him to accomplish.

I still don’t like the circle.  It doesn’t ask you… it doesn’t prod you… it simply compels your forward progress without emotion or prejudice.  But without this constant pressure towards the end goal it would be easy to get distracted from the things that are of eternal significance.   And it may seem many times in life that a similar feeling surrounds you, never allowing you to reach a point of comfort.  But this is not some uncaring, emotionless force pushing you forward.  It is the hand of a loving God who knows where you need to be and how to get you there and planned this out before you were even born.  Those things that feel random in your life were carefully orchestrated before you even had fingers to feel them.

So I encourage you to keep moving, even when you just wish the world would stop spinning for a second so you can catch your breath.  Keep pressing forward when you can’t see the forest for the trees.  He has a glorious destiny that He built specifically for you.  Ignore the death threats,  the hate mail, and the trolls who want to distract you from your purpose.  The circle is not there to ruin your life… it is there to push you forward to the place you where your life truly begins.

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Shadow of the Colossus REDUX: Release, Remaster, or Remake? (2 Cor. 3)

Not many games get the opportunity to have a THIRD life, but of all the games that deserve this chance to breathe again Shadow of the Colossus is certainly one of the most deserving.  Beloved for its low-key telling of an incredibly personal story that involves almost zero dialogue and copious amounts of moody atmosphere, the fact that this game every existed once is a miracle in and of itself.  Originally released on the PS2, Shadow did not fit into any easily characterized “genre” specification.  It’s not really an action game per se, but one could hardly call a game with such limited exposition a story-driven title.  It is partially an adventure game, but devoid of all of the item collecting that typically populates such titles.  It is truly a swan among ducks, not quite fitting into any particular box yet resonating in such a way that it occupies a space all of its own.

shadow-of-the-colossus-listing-thumb-01-ps4-us-17oct17.png   That such a unique beast could exist was incredible, but then the powers that be granted it a resurrection of sorts on the PS3 to reach an entirely new audience in a remastered form.  Updated graphics, textures, and cleaned up animations took this title to new heights as it finally appeared to encompass the creators original vision.  But this game had one more trick up its sleeve… Sony continued to believe in this title and felt it still had not reached its full potential.  It still had an untapped audience who had not yet discovered its grandeur, but a simple re-release was not enough.  The game was REMADE from the ground up… the same concept, story and gameplay conceits but still a completely new creation by a whole new group of creators.  And now it sits on shelves at your favorite neighborhood gaming store, waiting for you to either discover it or “re-discover” it and the journey it has been waiting to take you on.

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Most Christians and non-Christians alike are familiar with the idea of being “born again”.  Jesus shared this concept and blew the minds of the religious leaders of His day with the idea that one needed to be “remade” in order to see the Kingdom of God.  At the time, it was considered enough to merely follow the rules and do your best to be pleasing to God in whatever way you could.  To be “born again”?  It sounded a little bit sci-fi… and it definitely threw organized religion out in favor of an experience that did not require a lengthy membership statement to join.

But there is a substantial difference between a “remaster” and a “remake”.  I have experienced this myself in my own life as I spent many of my first 30 years of life in a church-like life trying to be a “remastered” Christ follower.   I was still the same person by and large, just “sanitized”.  Scrubbed down, a little cleaner around the edges… but underneath I was simply a more restrained version of my original self.  I read the Bible a lot, prayed more often, and built my life around church activities.  And for a while I was not only able to convince others but also myself that I was a new creation.  On occasion the whispers of the old life would get loud enough to distract me from my desired path, but as a whole I adhered to a lifestyle that seemed to meet the criteria of being “born again”

What I missed was that I was not in need of a remaster, but a “REMAKE”.  All the original parts had to be removed and replaced with superior technology to provide the full experience that was originally in my Creator’s mind.  I am not sure if you feel the same way, but this path can be much more frustrating because my repeated failures cause me to challenge whether I am actually on the right path.  But in 2 Cor. 13 Paul enlightens us on what the life of one undergoing the “remake” looks like:

2 Cor 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

I hope you caught it here.  If not, let me point it out for you.  It does not say that we WERE transformed (past tense), but rather that we are BEING transformed (present tense).  It is not a one time act in which we become all we were ever meant to be… it is a voyage that we will under-take over the course of our entire existence on this planet.  As we look to the Lord we are constantly compelled to become ever more like Him, and by spending time in His presence through prayer, Bible reading or worship we are on a continual path of being remade into His perfect design for us.

It would be nice if this was as simple as a fresh coat of paint, but His work takes place from the inside out and will take time.  Be patient with the process and understand that as you spend time with Him and draw near you will see the progress from remaster to remake occur in your heart, and this will reveal itself in your life.  And the best part about this is that just like the Shadow of the Colossus… you are still YOU.  You are simply the best version of you… the one that He created you to be.  The one that can accomplish His purposes for your life.

Know that the work you will do for Him will take place ALONG the journey, not just at the end of it.  You will not be fully remade before He starts to use you.  In truth, it is the vulnerable and wounded version of you that may reach others along your way.  But as you are being remade others will be compelled to join this journey with you as we are all being transformed by His Spirit to be more like Him.  So don’t be disappointed if your “born again” experience didn’t quite remake you the way that you had hoped.  This is a life-long remastering project, and you are safe in the Potter’s hands.

Nintendo Labo: When the Unqualified Meets it’s Purpose (Judges 4)

Only Nintendo could do this.  After years of the underselling WiiU console, Nintendo has hit jackpot after jackpot with the worldwide hit of Pokemon Go on mobile platforms, the national Easter Egg Hunt that was the release of the NES and SNES classic,  and now the record-breaking sales of the Switch console.   Add to this incredible run the “Game of the Year” releases of both Zelda and Mario Odyssey, and it is clear that everything Nintendo has been touching has fully turned to gold.  But this new idea is not only the largest example yet of Nintendo thinking outside of the box… this is Nintendo thinking about the box ITSELF.

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Nintendo Labo is an idea that could only work in the world that Nintendo has created.  Multiple accessories made completely out of cardboard are the name of the game here, and with this upcoming product it is safe to say that gaming will truly never be the same again.  I mean seriously… all of the accessories are being made out of one of the least expensive and readily available substances on the planet, and yet I can’t imagine too many Switch owners who would not be compelled to at least give this a try.  From a mock piano to a fishing pole, the sky is the limit for these low-cost but high-concept cardboard based accessories designed to enhance the already stout capabilities of this hybrid handheld/console into yet another incredible experience that defies both imagination and the traditional confines of retail.

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Cardboard may be one of the most unlikely materials to create new video game experiences from, and I can’t imagine too many gaming companies that were having serious conversations about its potential applications with their high-tech gaming systems.  But this incredibly unqualified substance is about to have its date with destiny thanks to Nintendo’s belief in its hidden capabilities.  Many of us are often in a similar situation… at times feeling like cardboard standees on a field of battle that we frankly don’t feel like we belong in.  With all of our dreams of accomplishing great things in our lives and for the Lord it is easy to feel overwhelmed by our lack of qualifications for the path we dream of walking.

In Judges 4 we find one such “cardboard soldier”.  Presumably, this is the story of Deborah, the first and only female judge of Israel and her right hand man Barak.  At least that’s how it starts.  Deborah has been tasked by the Lord to send an army into battle against Canaanites and she recruits Barak to lead the army into battle.  But Deborah is quite clear from the word go that he will NOT be the one laying the fatal blow to the enemy.  Rather, it would be an unheralded non-combatant who would provide the deliverance for all of the people of Israel.

Fast-forward to the battle and we find the enemy general Sisera running from the field of battle to regroup.  Both sides were locked into fierce combat and Sisera’s army was being completely overrun.  In his exhaustion he stops at the tent of a family that has been an ally to his people previously.  With a little rest and an opportunity to create a new plan of attack he may be able to turn the tide of the battle, and as he approaches the tent he is greeted by the “cardboard” hero of our story.

Jael, who had no previous involvement in the war effort, who was not part of the planning meeting earlier, and was not featured in any of the promotional marketing is about to step into not only her destiny, but become the hero of the whole campaign…

Judges 4: 17-21  However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.” And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket. Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there any man here?’ you shall say, ‘No.’”Then Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

Jael was not a soldier.  She was not a judge.  She was not even allied with the Israeli army.  But she was the wild card that the Lord had chosen to deliver the killing blow to the enemy.  She was not even in pursuit of her true purpose when this story started.  The Lord brought her destiny to HER.  And when it was time, she played the part of charming hostess long enough to take down an enemy that only she was in position to defeat.  It was the very unassuming nature of her position that made her the PERFECT weapon against her foe.

I have struggled, as I am sure many of us have, with my lack of qualifications to do the work that my spirit compels me to complete.  I have often felt that I am little more than a cardboard soldier in a war meant for those who can drive tanks and fire heavy artillery.  But the Lord does not always use the qualified, the skilled, or the warriors to do His work.  As a matter of fact, more often than not He does not choose the qualified, but rather He qualifies the CHOSEN.  Jael was not most people’s first choice for delivering her people.  I will bet most of her people didn’t even know her name or who she was.  But the Lord saw her as his perfect weapon and she did the job that ONLY she could do.

I would have never picked cardboard to be the next innovation in gaming.  But yet here we are.  And whatever your past, your present, or the outlook on your future is… you are more than the sum of your parts and experiences.  They merely brought you into the position for you to defeat enemies that others can’t.  Because of your path you have been placed into the IDEAL position to deliver others from what oppresses them.  You are the “Jael” for someone in your life… so take joy in the “cardboard” that you may feel you are.  That is why your enemy underestimates you.  And THAT is why the Lord will use you to defeat him.

Finding the Monster Hunter Inside You (Judges 11)

Monster Hunter World pulls no punches in name or execution… it has monsters. Lots of them. A whole world of them, in fact. You are a monster hunter. You hunt them. I like truth in advertising… it’s refreshing in an era where we have games with bizarre titles such as Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days or Birthdays: The Beginning. I like knowing what I’m getting in a game, and Monster Hunter World does not disappoint. And like most quest games of this nature, you will embark on a never-ending quest to slay as many monsters as you can shake a pointy stick at through an extended period of grinding through lower level encounters, gaining new armor and weapons, and slowly preparing yourself for the more epic battles that will require a little help from some friends.

I quite prefer external monsters. No matter how scary or intimidating they appear to be, they are tangible, visible, and able to be targeted. It’s almost reassuring to look your enemy in the eye, no matter how over-matched you may be, because you at least have the luxury of sizing them up and determining an effective strategy to take them down. If I have learned one thing in all my years of gaming, every monster has a weak point to attack or a pattern of movement that can be learned and exploited. And with enough tenacity, even the largest colossus eventually falls.

The monsters within are the ones that keep me up at night. The ones that get into your mind and tell you what you can’t do, that pry into your soul and remind you of what you have been, and dig their claws into your heart and rip out what you have tried so hard to protect. Such monsters were the kind that surrounded Jephthah, a little known leader from Judges 11 who carried his own monsters into battle in a way I can definitely relate to.

His introduction is rough right from the start:

Judges 11:1 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot

Ouch. That intro leaves a little to be desired. I mean seriously, could you imagine entering a business meeting and this is how you are introduced? Talk about a back-handed compliment. And his story does not get much better. It was a tremendous social disgrace to be a child born out-of-wedlock in those times, much less a by-product of prostitution. Jephthah was never intended to be conceived by his father or mother… he was not only an accident, but a liability to both of them. And he paid the price for his innocent but unplanned arrival by getting kicked out of his parents home and ex-communicates by his siblings that were born of “proper” means.

But Jephthah was not going to be defined by his ignominious birth… read the other part of that verse. He was also a mighty man of valor. He was a warrior… a monster hunter of his day. And he was not going to be defined by his tragedy or his circumstances. And when the chips were down and Israel needed a conqueror, they came to the man they had discarded as unwanted and useless and begged him to do what he did best. He led them victoriously in not only that battle, but for six years he continued to be their leader until his death.

I believe we all struggle with our own private monsters, and they are far more dangerous than any external foe because they seek to discredit us from our destiny from the inside out. Within each of us lies the monster hunter that your circle of influence needs, but we also carry inside us the monsters who tell us why we can’t. For Jephthah he had to overcome a shady past and the knowledge that he was never truly wanted by his family or even his people. But he pushed beyond that pain to achieve his purpose. When the people needed help that only he could provide, his birth status no longer mattered. His previous shame lost all relevance. He was the one who could save them… it was what he had carried inside all along but they were too blind to see it.

You are someone’s monster hunter too… you have the unique gifts that someone else is going to need and have been carrying them all along. And the Lord who placed these gifts within you has also placed you on a direct path of intersection with those who need your help. Your internal monsters may tell you that you are unworthy. You are in good company. Just ask the Apostle Paul…

1 Cor 15:9-10 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.

It is part of the journey to be aware that none of us will ever be worthy of the calling placed on us.  But we cannot allow those internal monsters to distract us from taking down the eternal monsters we have been challenged with subduing.  It is actually the point of this life… God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plan to the benefit of all of us.  From Abraham to Moses to Peter and Paul, we are all on a path to save others while still needing Christ daily to save ourselves.  Engage those monsters in the field hunters… by doing so you may find that the act of releasing one person from their bondage may enable them to release you from your own.

The Candy Within: The Dark Side of Viva Pinata (Psalm 51)

I just couldn’t do it.  I knew it was the only way to move forward.  The game’s progress was contingent upon my willingness to make a sacrifice that I simply couldn’t bring myself to make.  The cost was just too great and as I looked in the eyes of little “Wormie”, despite what the game required, I chose to decline the choice presented to me and instead opted to simply stop playing.  These statements may need some context… allow me to explain.

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Viva Pinata appears to be a cheerful, family friendly gardening simulator.  “APPEARS” is the operative word in that sentence.  You start out with a small, humble plot of land to begin your garden and the first inhabitant of your little slice of heaven is a simple little worm.  It lacks color, has no home, and is pretty easy to convince to stay.  He has pretty low expectations, being a worm and all.  As you progress you can build your little worm a home so he can convince a second worm to build a life together with him in your cheerful little homestead.  You can name them, dress them with cute little scarves, and eventually the worms will do what two little worms are gonna do.  Next thing you know, you have a whole happy family of worms living together in your garden paradise.  So far so good, right?

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Unfortunately, this is not what the game considers progression.  Inside each of your little pinatas lies something very important… CANDY.  I know, that comes as a surprise.  But in order to access said candy, the pinata has to be “broken”.  And that is a more violent process than I was prepared to endure.  To get another type of pinata to come and stay in your garden, they will first need to eat a pinata that currently lives there.  For example, the bird will need to eat a worm.  And my worms had not been bred for being eaten.  They were a family with their little names and outfits and such.  But to get to the next stage of the game, I would have to accept that a moment of becoming “broken” was the price of admission.

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In Psalm 51 you can find the prayer of David after his moral failure with Bathsheba.  David is very direct with his words and paints a very visceral picture of this concept of “brokenness”.

Psalm 51: 16-17: For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.

David had to endure a season of becoming “broken” to advance to the next level with the Lord.  Now his was due to a sin he had committed, but as we will find this is not the only reason we encounter times of being broken in our walk with God.  Indeed, the act of being broken is a prerequisite to the final stages of fulfilling one’s destiny in multiple occasions.  Job exhibited exceptional brokenness as he cried out to the Lord in his suffering through his many trials.   Prophets such as Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah each faced painful broken periods in which they asked for death, release, or at least a reprieve from the journey they were on.  But the fruit would only be exposed once they had been broken on the potter’s wheel.  Now I know what you are thinking…  how about one more for the road?

Asked and answered.  The most famous and well-known case of brokenness comes to us from our Lord and Savior Himself, the man Christ Jesus.  In a verse that is typically utilized in every instance of partaking Communion, we read how His body was BROKEN for us as a means of saving us:

1 Cor: 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Brokenness is not only the path… it is the destination.  It is where Jesus fulfilled his destiny and accomplished His purpose on this earth.  And no matter how you got to where you are now, through sin or obedience, it is the path to and THROUGH the broken place that the critical parts of you that are inside are broken and spilled out in a way that brings others to the garden.  Fortunately for all of us, our Heavenly Father loves us enough to lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.  He knows not only what we can endure, but He knows our true breaking point and what reaching that point will yield.  And He gathers exactly who will need the unique “candy” that our brokenness will generate to be there at the perfect time in our lives.  So don’t hide from the stick that breaks your pinata open… endure.  It is at the apex of your shatter point that you can truly feed those around you in need.

 

Metal Gear Revisited: Right Card Key, Wrong Temperature (Jeremiah 1)

Not every game can stand the test of time.  Don’t believe me?  For every Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda that looks and feels just as solid as you remember it, there are those poor monsters that simply were not meant to enter into this millenium.  Go ahead and dig that old PS1 out and give Bubsy 3D a try.  Wait… before you start place a wastebasket next to you just in case the motion sickness hits you too quickly.  So many games transported me to another place when I first played them, yet after all these years they are almost unrecognizable.  Fortunately, the original Metal Gear Solid is everything you remember, and the characters and the unique challenges they present still feel fresh even after all of these years.  But… that keycard backtracking though….

For those who have not indulged in this particular mission, a brief synopsis.  As you are attempting to stop a nuclear warhead launch you are tasked with inputting three card keys into three separate terminals.  Sounds easy, but the problem is you only have ONE key.  How can one key operate three separate terminals that each require a unique input?  And that’s where the twist comes in… your card key was actually ALL THREE KEYS.  In order to activate the terminals the key had to change shape and the only way to do this was to bring the key to areas that would change the temperature.  The key had to be entered into one terminal at room temperature, placed into another terminal after being exposed to high heat, and inserted into the final terminal after it had been frozen in an arctic environment.

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Now, this does result in some slightly unenjoyable backtracking to a couple of the areas that present the optimal environment to create the change in the key that would allow it to serve its purpose.  But it is all part of the process that allows this one key to serve each of these unique purposes while still being the same key the entire time.  It is the abrupt and distinct changes in the temperature and the pressure of the environment that alters the key into the shape that is required for it to serve it’s purpose.

We all go through phases of life that are meant to mold and make us into the people we are meant to be.  But these phases are rarely what we would choose or imagine.  In Jeremiah 1 we find the man who would go onto become the infamous “weeping prophet” receiving his commission from the Lord in verses 4-8:

Jeremiah 1:4-10: Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”  Then said I: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”  But the Lord said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.     

Sounds pretty inspiring… who wouldn’t want to be told that they were chosen and formed from the point of conception for such an important mission?  And given the words to say for each situation fresh from the throne of God Himself?  Sounds pretty reassuring, right?  Pretty grand destiny ahead for this young man… unfortunately his path was not as smooth as this start may have seemed to imply.

Jeremiah was given the challenging role of preaching to a people who would never listen to him, as evidenced in Jeremiah 7:27  “Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.”  He had what may the most undesirable position in the entire Old Testament… a front row seat to the fall of Jerusalem.  But it would be from this pressure cooker that he would both preach and write the definitive tome on the fall as well as prophecy the eventual rise of the nation of Israel once again.

Much like the key cards in Metal Gear, it would be the rising temperature of the challenges he faced that would shape Jeremiah as he proceeded with the message he was burdened to deliver.  And this path took a heavy toll, with Jeremiah proclaiming in chapter 20:

Cursed be the day in which I was born! Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me!  Let the man be cursed Who brought news to my father, saying, “A male child has been born to you!” Making him very glad.  And let that man be like the cities Which the Lord overthrew, and did not relent; Let him hear the cry in the morning And the shouting at noon, Because he did not kill me from the womb, That my mother might have been my grave, And her womb always enlarged with me. Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, That my days should be consumed with shame?

When you are hating your own birthday party, you know you are having a rough day.  And in all seriousness, I have been there more times than I can count.  But whether it was the high heat of enduring the pain of delivering an unpopular message to a hostile audience or the ice-cold feeling of being all alone in his predicament, his key card was still exactly what it needed to be for the moment he was in.

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I don’t know which season you are enduring… the pressure and heat of the furnace or the frigid cold of loneliness and despair.  But I DO know that the word that the Lord gave you when everything was room temperature has not changed. And in order for you, the key, to be effective in each season of your life He may change the environment enough for you to be shaped into exactly what your current situation needs.  Different times and different places will require different growth and changes from you, just as Jeremiah found as his situation continually deteriorated.    He was in and out of prison, forsaken by all at various points, and his pulpits ranged from the king’s palace to the stocks in the public square.  In the end, he delivered the message he was given and fulfilled his calling regardless of his external situation fluctuated.

Jeremiah may not sound like the most reassuring story, but it is a true, real-world example of what being a follower of Christ actually looks like.  And we can find encouragement in how he endured these seasons even as his card key had to painfully adjust to an ever-changing set of external factors bent on tearing him down.  In the end, these challenges were what shaped him into exactly what the situation called for.  And it is the same way with each of us.  Don’t resist the potters touch as he shapes you into what your path calls for.  And He may reshape you several times as your journey continues based on the unique needs of your mission field.  Just hold fast to the knowledge that He chose you for this because for someone you are the ONLY key that will fit when the time is right, and it will be BECAUSE of the heat/cold you endured that you are now in the right place at the right time.

Game Of The Year? A Game For Every Season (Ecclesiastes 3)

We have finally reached the end of the year, and what a year it has been for the gaming industry.  There was truly something for everyone in 2017… do you like brand new technological advancements?  If so Microsoft dropped the most powerful console ever made with the XB1X and Nintendo revolutionized the industry with their hybrid console/handheld dubbed the “Switch”.  Maybe epic gaming is more your fancy, and this year certainly didn’t disappoint with massive franchise releases such as Legend of Zelda, Mario Odyssey, Destiny 2, and Call of Duty.  VR came to life with new releases that are finally starting to deliver on the lofty promises of this promising new tech, retro gaming is running wild… and if you like awful, horrible abominations of games there were even titles for YOU such as Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite.  Because… well, it’s just terrible.

So as we wrap up 2017 it would be kind of apropos to think about what would set one game apart from the rest and earn the honor of being named “The Game of the Year”.  All the cool blogs and websites are doing it, so why not?  Everyone loves a good, healthy internet list populated with opinions by “professional critics” on why your game is not as good as you think it is, right?  But as I pondered the idea of what would constitute the best game release of the year, a more subtle truth surfaced.  What your interpretation of the best title of the year was is really going to be determined by your personal experience… not just with that particular game, but with where you are in your particular season of life when you played it.

For example, if you have a great deal of friends to play with then perhaps a title such as Destiny 2 or Call of Duty gave you your favorite gaming moments of the year.  Maybe this year was an emotional rollercoaster for you and a connection to a moment in a title like Horizon Zero Dawn truly resonated with you.  Whatever the moment, whatever the feeling, your game of the year may be totally different from mine because you walked a different path and were in a different place mentally and emotionally when you experienced it.  And in Ecclesiastes 3 we find the wisest man of all time facing a similarly personal introspective moment in which he looks back at not just a year, but his entire life…

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

  First of all, if you aren’t humming that song right now I will confess to being mildly  disappointed.  I feel like I set that up pretty well for you there.  But secondly, within these moderately well-known verses lies the entirety of the human experience… the highs, the lows, the joy of victory, and the agony of defeat.  At this stage in King Solomon’s life he had amassed incomparable wealth, conquered or made peace with the entire known world, and was globally renowned for his wisdom and greatness.  And even with all of the advantages and unparalleled successes he experienced over the course of his life, he endured seasons that were diametrically opposed to each other.  He enjoyed times of building, but he also endured times of tearing things down.  Sometimes he danced (Just Dance 2018 anyone?), and others he mourned (pretty much anyone that has tried to play Cuphead).  His life was not one of constantly ascending perfection, but rather a running river that ebbed and flowed between the agony and the ecstasy of life in the real world, even for a mighty king.

The segment of this chapter that speaks to me the most is in verse 11, when he writes:

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.

This means that both the good and the bad, the weeping and the laughing, the winning and the losing are all beautiful in their own way because He made them that way.  Just as there is a game and an experience that can be perfect for each individual at the right time in their lives, the truth is that each moment of our life on this earth, each challenge, and each tragedy are also part of that beauty that makes up our existence on this plane.  And while I know that can sound a bit trite for those who are enduring the negative side of the equation right now, the beauty is not always revealed immediately.  It is revealed “In Its TIME”.

A seed that eventually sprouts into a tree goes through some incredibly “un-beautiful” times.  First, it is a small seed that gets buried alive.  Then it is smothered and covered with fertilizer.  When it finally emerges it will tenderly exist for multiple years in a state of weakness and vulnerability, with only a handful of leaves adorning its small weak branches swaying in the wind.  And yet one day it will be a mighty oak tree that is played in by generations of children and used as a background in wedding pictures.  It was not always pretty, but it was beautiful in its time.  Maybe right now you feel like your life is… well, a seed that is covered in “fertilizer”.  I’ll let you insert your own picture there.  Or maybe you are feeling buried alive under the pressures of this life.  Many times I feel like I am scarcely strong enough to endure the next strong breeze… but even these moments will one day be beautiful in their own time, when they are viewed through the lens of eternity.

The funny thing about the choice of “Game of the Year” is that it is not only subject to the user’s experience, but it also rarely endures the long-term test of time.  Even the greatest games are eventually confined to the dusty corners of a bookshelf, a box in the garage, or in the used game section of your local gaming store.  They live on, but it is less through their own merits as a title and more through what they inspire in the next generation of games that come after it.  This year’s Legend of Zelda owes its greatness to everything from Skyrim to Cooking Mama for crying out loud.  And the same is true for you.  2017 may have been the best year of your life so far, or it may have been your greatest challenge yet.  Odds are you had periods of each of the areas Solomon described peppered throughout your experiences.  And while some of these periods may seem confusing, painful, or downright wrong I can assure that they will eventually prove to be beautiful in their own as well.

So here we are, embarking on a new year with a new set of games on the horizon.  Last years “Game of the Year”, no matter which one you chose it to be, is simply a snapshot in time that can now only be used as a stepping stone to tomorrow’s future.  Twenty years from now it is unlikely we will be talking about any of these titles, but their influence will be seen and felt for generations to come in the games that follow.  And no matter what your trial is right now, this too shall pass.  And if your life felt a little more like “Prey” than you care to admit, don’t worry.   Your “Odyssey” has just begun.

Reaching For the Fast Travel Button? When Getting There is None of the Fun (2 Cor 11:23-27)

As our games grow larger and open-world gaming via an overworld map or at least a hub world has become the standard operating procedure for almost every major title that releases, a new experience has become just as standard… the fast travel button.  When you have areas to explore that can literally take over an hour of real world time to traverse, or in the case of select titles areas that simply do not connect to each other without the fast travel method, this has become less of a convenience and more of a necessity.  Could you imagine walking across the world of Skyrim each and every time a quest requires you to deliver medicine to someone in another zip code?  Or enduring the travel time it would take to fly from one planet to another to participate in an event in Destiny?  Suffice to say many of our favorite titles would become virtually unplayable without this built-in “cheat” that allows us to bypass the mundane requirements of physically moving from one place to another to progress.

Have you ever wondered what your character does during the fast travel time?  I know this is a fairly abstract thought, but hear me out.  While you check your phone for text messages or grab something to drink while waiting for the next screen to load, your character is doing the long, painful, virtual walk across the map that you chose to bypass.  Did they run into any friends?  Enemies?  Battle a giant crab?  Stop to smell the roses?  Accidentally walk past a sweet chest to loot that they didn’t see containing the boots you have been waiting for?  Who knows what you missed while they made like the Flash and zipped from one city to another?  What you just walked past may be more important to your story than the side-mission that had you traveling in the first place… but you didn’t catch it because of the convenience of fast travel.

Many times in life I yearn for a fast travel button.  I have a feeling I would use it way too often though.  Long line at the grocery store?  Fast travel.  Traffic snarled up on the way home?  Mash that button.  Long angry conference call from the boss?  See you on the other side of Winterfell.  I have a feeling most of us would be all too happy to have this option in real life to speed through the painful times, the boring times, or the waiting periods we all endure.  When you have a clear idea of where you want to go, and the only thing between you and the completion of your goal appears to be heartache, difficulty, or a bunch of wasted time it is easy to want to speed up the process and simply GET there.

If you open your Bible to the area that is typically in the back labeled “Maps” or something similar, you will typically find a map of Paul’s missionary journeys.  This is assuming you still use a physical Bible… for those of you who have already bypassed the need for the physical medium of books, they were something the ancient races used to record events using an archaic form of communication know as writing.  We physically held these items while perusing them, flipped through literal pages of words, and if you were lucky sometimes there were pictures.  Maybe hunt one down someday as a fun little history lesson… but I digress.  On these maps you will find the path the Apostle Paul took on his three missionary journeys:

    Having these nice, neat colorful maps with all of the accompanying arrows helps us understand the path Paul as he took the mission of taking the gospel to the entire known world quite literally.  But there is a funny thing about these maps that can be easy to forget… they weren’t in Paul’s copy of the Bible when he started out.  Would have been nice, but no such luck.  As a matter of fact, since he was responsible for physically writing much of the New Testament, his personal parchments that contained his version of the Word of God would have been limited to only the works of the Old Testament and perhaps an early version of a Gospel account.  Suffice to say, he did not possess this road map when he started each of these journeys.  To him… the fast travel option did not exist because he didn’t even know where he was going to end up much of the time.  And he certainly did not plan for how he would be received during each of these visits.

Sometimes he would set a plan to travel to a certain place but was prevented by the Spirit of God from going there (Acts 16:6-7).  Other times he would travel to a destination but was unable to start the ministry he had planned because of the hostility of the locals to the message (Acts 14:8-20).  He did not have the benefit of large, bright, flashing arrows guiding him where to go to next.  And his path was not a fun walk across the beach with footprints in the sand tenderly placed as he and His Savior enjoyed a leisurely stroll across the sands of Asia minor.  No, this is how Paul described his path:

2 Cor. 11:23-27 “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones,three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”

This was not a path of fast travel and comfortable amenities.  Paul’s walk was not clearly scripted with continental breakfast int he morning and the light left on for him at night.  It was a messy, painful, and challenging journey and at the time of the writing above he still had some of his largest challenges still remaining before him, including lengthy imprisonments, tragic betrayals, and eventually his reported death as a martyr.  And this is a man who at the end was able to say that he had run his race and finished his course.  And our path and our journey will be much the same… and bypassing it would mean that we missed out on the parts that were most important.  Paul was not on a march to his end point simply to complete his race… his race WAS his purpose. Fast travel would have saved him from the pain and challenges he described, but he also would have never planted half of the churches that he setup or reached many of the lives that he bumped into along the way.

In our real world, the road less traveled by is the long one.  The painful one.  The one that seems to be nothing more than a waste of our time and our precious energy simply to survive it.  But your path IS your missionary journey… you just can’t see it yet because it isn’t over yet.  Like Paul, you are still making your “arrows” in your journey right now.  Sometimes that arrow takes you somewhere you never planned (or wanted) to go.  There will be times the arrow doesn’t even seem to be moving.  But the process is too important to skip through, and that is why we don’t receive a fast travel option.  The Lord sent Philip on a long walk simply to reach one man traveling to Ethiopia in Acts 8.  Philip didn’t get to fast travel there… he had to WALK.  But it placed him in a position to intersect with that man at the EXACT point and time that he was ready to receive the message Philip had for him.  It may seem long and unnecessary from your perspective, but stay strong during this long, long, loooooooong walk and resist the urge to fast travel.  It is the path, not the destination, that holds the story that will be your testimony.  What’s that you say?  There’s a public event incoming on Nessus?  Hmmm… I think I will take the scenic route and just walk there this time…

 

 

Yes, But How Many Rupees Can It Hold? A Question of Capacity (2 Kings 4:1-7)

When you think of great games and your favorite parts of them, a few things come to mind.  Interesting characters with realistic dialogue, incredible graphics that transport you to another place or time, and an epic soundtrack that sweeps you up into a story that grips you from the title screen to the closing credits.  We celebrate dynamic combat systems and physics engines that duplicate reality, but for years there has been an unheralded but incredibly necessary part of our gaming experiences that makes up an important backbone of most games… the inventory system.  It’s not exciting, and in many games it may look like a poor man’s version of Oregon’s Trail, but it is necessary and when executed correctly adds depth to the strategy and decisions that ultimately determine how your experience plays out.

For years our protagonists operated without a concern for how the size or weight of the physical items they were carrying would impact them.  They could carry infinite amounts of weapons, food, keys, or other equipment without any regard to how this would burden them from running, jumping, and fighting their way through the level.  But finally game developers caught up with the limits of the bottomless duffel bag, the infinite wallet, or the absurdity of a character somehow carrying fourteen rocket launchers in their pockets.  For goodness sakes, I am pretty sure as I was wandering around in Oblivion I was carrying at least 60 different 500 page tomes while climbing mountains and swimming through rivers.  Fun certainly, but not terribly realistic.

Games finally began to launch with real inventory management systems which began creating limits to the size and weight of what a gaming character could lug around with them while traversing their planet of choice.  Players finally had to make some hard choices… should I carry more healing items or make room for some heavy weaponry?  What can I sacrifice so I can carry this necessary quest item I just found?  With limited capacity the decisions that are made to determine what is necessary versus what is superfluous are vital, and the wrong choice in a game may result in mission failure but the consequences in how we deal with our limited capacity as real-life human beings can be much farther reaching in their impact.

In 2 Kings 4 we find a widowed woman in a state of crisis.  With her husband deceased and her family severely indebted her two sons were about to be placed into slavery in order to pay off the debt that the struggling family had incurred.  The prophet Elisha asked her what her current capacity to pay off her debt was, and she was limited to only a small vessel of oil.  Elisha instructed her to get as many containers, pitchers, bowls, and whatever else she could get her hands on from friends and neighbors and specified that these must be EMPTY.  Once she had gathered them together, she was instructed to fill them with the oil that she currently possessed.  She continued pouring until she ran out of empty containers to fill, and when it was done she had enough oil to sell to pay off her debt and even live off the rest.  A remarkable miracle to be certain… but what does this mean to us?

Let me keep it real for a minute.  I tend to read my Bible on my phone because it is convenient and it is typically with me at all times.  But this can be a snare as much as a convenience, because on this very same device that houses an app that opens up a digital version of God’s Word lies all of the distractions that threaten to fill my vessel with anything other than his oil.  Emails pop-up compelling action, text messages bombard me with a variety of requests ranging from the urgent to the pointless, and sometimes, on very rare occasions this object that is still technically considered a “phone” actually completes its original purpose and rings with an incoming phone call.  Probably just someone offering yet another week-long cruise that surely has no negative repercussions as long as I act now…

I would like to say I come to the Lord with an empty vessel for Him to fill, but more often than not I am already packed full of thoughts, items, and a menagerie of tasks that prevent me from having an inventory screen that He can actually fill.  And sadly enough, I often treat my time like my loadout in a video game, meaning I simply cut items out to make space for the presence of the One that I claim is the most important of all in my life.  I drop a few meaningless items from my bag (maybe some time surfing the web or reading the back of a box of cereal) and add some time with God in its place.  And then I wonder why I carry such a heavy burden and feel so little of God’s presence, love, and joy in my day-to-day life.

When I ask the Lord for more of His presence in my life I remember that it is critical to note… the widowed woman in 2 Kings 4 was not provided more oil than what her capacity was to contain it.  When she reached the limits of her vessels, she reached the limit of the oil.  Many times I reach out to God in prayer and ask Him for guidance, wisdom, or provision, but when I don’t provide an empty vessel for Him to fill I limit His ability to answer my prayers and requests.  And the oil He plans to use is readily available to me in the form of His Word, but it only truly activates when it is poured into an empty vessel prepared to receive it.

The more space I make for Him in my daily life, the more He will be able to pour into me and pour out through me to others.  So before you ask God to be more present in your life, you must truly look deep into your inventory and ensure you have made space for Him to appear.  If you feel like you can’t hear what the Lord has to say, consider if you have too much in your way to give Him the room that He needs.  If you make room for the oil first, you will find that it absorbs into everything else that you are carrying…

AC Origins and A Leap of Faith: “Doubting Thomas” or “Hurting Thomas”? (John 20:24-29)

The leap of faith is probably present in most gamer’s lexicon due to the Assassin’s Creed series, and for good reason. Whether it is your first time or your thousandth, the leap of faith is a thing of beauty.  After a long, arduous climb to a height from which a fall would be more than fatal, your character scans the horizon and then performs an acrobatic dive into the safety of a bale of hay or something else similar in purpose.  From the challenge of the climb to the breathtaking view that typically unlocks additional areas of exploration once completed, the leap of faith is both an exciting and vital part to not only the Assassin’s Creed experience, but many other games as well.

Remember the first time you had to make that massive jump in world 8-1 of the original Super Mario Bros.?  It just kind of came out of nowhere… as you are speeding towards the castle with your eyes on your final confrontation with Bowser you suddenly saw a giant gap appear in front of you, longer than any gap you have had to face up to that point.  In uncharted territory and with trembling hands you take a running leap towards the jump without any idea what lies beyond it.  These leaps of faith are quite common in games, but they are just as prevalent out here in the real world.

It is highly likely most of us have heard the phrase “Doubting Thomas” at some point in our lives.  Regardless of a person’s belief in Christianity or the Bible, this nickname found its way into the modern vernacular with a staying power that rivals that of any current catch phrase.  Think about it… we may not remember what a “lol” is or what “doing the stanky leg” means two thousand years from now, but a full two millenia later Thomas’s nickname yet endures.  Why is that?  Was it truly doubt, or something far deeper that Thomas experienced?  Let’s find out…

The root of this story comes from John 4, when Jesus has just been unjustly tried, savagely executed, and his followers scattered for fear they will face a similar fate.  Thomas, one of the disciples of Christ, has just witnessed all of these things come to pass thanks to the cruel betrayal of one of his fellow followers, Judas,  After three years of eating, sleeping, and traveling together with Jesus, Judas, and the rest of the disciples his entire world has been turned upside down and it was impossible to know if anyone could be trusted right now.  He had given up his job, left his home, and was now potentially on the most wanted list.  Suffice to say, Thomas’s frame of mind was a bit mired in darkness at the moment.  So when the surviving ten disciples came to Thomas and told him that they have not only seen Jesus but are certain that He is alive, they are met with one of the most infamous phrases in the Bible…

John 20:25 So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Now it would be easy to immediately judge this statement and Thomas along with it and classify him as “Doubting Thomas”, but is that really true or fair?  Did any of the other disciples believe when Mary told them about her tomb experience with Jesus previously?  Not so much.  The others only believed because they had personally interacted with Jesus previously.  So the real question then becomes why wasn’t Thomas with the other disciples when they saw Jesus?  And now we get to the heart of the issue.  This was not a case of Thomas deciding he did not want to believe… Thomas was simply too hurt to launch out on another leap of faith after hitting the ground so hard the last time.

Consider this… Thomas had already performed a mighyt leap of faith.  He jumped in with both feet when Jesus called him to follow him.  He followed Jesus in John 11 when the disciples went to go see the recently deceased Lazarus, even as he stated in John 11:16 that this would likely lead to his death.  The issue was not merely doubt… it was that Thomas was not prepared to believe again because of the hurt that he was carrying from the disappointment he endured.  Judas didn’t merely betray Christ… he betrayed Thomas and each of his fellow disciples as well.  It was hard enough to know and witness that his Lord had died, but to endure this due to the betrayal of a friend was even more unbearable.

I am sure each of us can relate to this.  It is easy to make the climb and take the leap when your heart is full of hope and your spirit is buoyed with faith while triumphant music blares in the background.  It is even easier when you have loyal comrades marching with you to take the leap by your side.  But that is so rarely the way this Christian walk works.  More often it is a lot more like the path of Thomas…  your way becomes blurry because the hopes and dreams you were holding onto were murdered before your eyes and someone you trusted the most betrayed you when you least expected it.

In that situation, it is not your doubt that is blinding you, but your PAIN.  Doubt is merely the symptom… a natural response similar to when you instinctively move your hand away from a hot stove because it has burned you before.  The fear of taking that leap of faith only to fall painfully to the ground again is a powerful deterrent that paralyzes many of us and locks us into a holding pattern at the top of the pyramid.  Just like in Assassin’s Creed, we can see the places we would like to go from this vantage point and the world of opportunity that awaits us, but the pain of our previous hurt can keep us too grounded in our pain and disappointment to try again.

So maybe we can cut Thomas a little more slack.  Perhaps even remove the label and just call him “Thomas”, because if we were in his shoes it is entirely possible we would have had a very similar response.  I know I have.  The first leap of faith isn’t the hardest… it’s the second one.  It’s the one after the betrayal and the heartache.  It’s the act of choosing to reach beyond your pain and making the decision to climb back up and leap once again.  The fall was not fatal, because you are still here.  And our Lord, in His ever abundant grace did not condemn Thomas for his human frailty.  He came specifically to see Thomas and invited him to placed his hands into the Lord’s nail scarred hands.  And if you look carefully, you will see He will do the same for you.

The fact that you are still here, living and breathing, means your story is not yet over.  And while he may not show you in the way that Thomas experienced it, His nail scarred hands are still holding you, even now.  So go ahead.  If He told you to jump, then prepare to make the leap.  Everything you see from this vantage point is merely enlightening your next destination.  As Thomas was about to find out, this was nowhere near the end of his story, nor is it the end of yours.  There is still so much left to do.