Gaming Addiction: an opinion

I am about to say something that will probably drop the jaw of anyone who has ever known me. Brace yourselves.

Video games can be dangerous…

GASP!!!

I know, I know; I’ll start again once everyone has picked up their chairs off the ground they just fell over in. Get a napkin to clean up the coffee you just spit out, and I will continue. Everyone back? Okay.

Video games in general are not bad, nor were they created with any kind of ill intent (for the most part.) The people who collaborate and create these fantastic worlds are geniuses to say the least. They have created worlds that you can spend years getting lost in. (Trust me I know. Thank you Bethesda and Turn 10.)

Therein lies the exact problem though. You can get lost in them. Gamers all over the globe continue to ask for more and more immersive play environments. They beg for a game that “feels” as real as possible, and when the market asks for it the producers absolutely strive to make it happen. Even immersion aside, what starts out as a simple way to pass time – comparable to reading a book, watching television, or going to the movies – can turn into a need to achieve for so many people. You need to beat the best score. You have to complete those quests. You have to win the race. It becomes a focus, and for many of us it can begin to consume us. We tell loved ones to hush because we are trying to hear what we have to do to complete a quest. We don’t answer the phone because it will mess up our focus on the race if we pause. We can’t answer the beckon of a loved one because we need to try just one more time. It leads to isolation, loneliness, and relational problems for so many people, and they don’t even see it happening because they are so focused on their games. I know because I was absolutely one of those people.

The need to achieve greatness in a world created by a room full of geniuses leads to us creating an emptiness in the real world. As games become more and more “real” this problem will only get worse. Can you be an addicted gamer and still lead a functional life? I suppose that would depend on your definition of functional. If your definition is droning through life, still collecting a paycheck, and have a family who is okay with you not being attentive to their needs then yes. However, if you want to actually have a any level of motivation in your life to continually better yourself I would say that is impossible.

You can not learn to defeat life’s giants by fighting imaginary ones. If life’s giants are pushing you down, and you are instinctively turning to video games to escape and fulfill your natural need for achievement then you will never feel the need to face the giants keeping you down in reality. Instead you will passively let the world push you around and make a fool of you because your sense of achievement, pride, and fulfillment is being augmented in a fictional place.

“Yeah well books and movies are just as guilty, right?” No, the hands on sense of accomplishment does not relate to sitting down and escaping into someone else’s world for an hour or two. A movie or a book is a window that looks into a world. A video game is you crashing through that window and taking the lead role in someone else’s story. Passive entertainment is not the same of vicarious ownership of someone else’s fate. There is a huge difference.

Video games can definitely be a form of entertainment, so it all depends on how you use them. I am not saying they are bad for everyone, I am saying they can turn bad for anyone. If you are finding yourself losing your focus on life to a video game; it may be time to put it down and go knock out a few “achievement badges” in the real world for a while instead.

The Pit

Without warning his foot lost its way and he felt himself falling. He put his hands out, bracing for the ground, but where the ground should have been his hands passed through air and he kept falling. Darkness quickly consumed the light and as he fell he could feel sharp cuts lance his skin as he grazed the sides of the pit that he was falling into. As jarring collisions continued to beat and batter him he began to wish he would finally hit the bottom and end this torture. He hoped the bottom would end him so that he wouldn’t have to live with the pain of all of the injuries he was enduring. With a bone shattering thud he hit the bottom and consciousness was lost to him.

He awoke to what felt like knives lodged in every part of his body. He opened his eyes, but darkness was all that he could see. He tried to rub his eyes to see if he could adjust to the dark, but as he tried to pull his hands to his face sharp pains shot up his arms from every bone. His arms were shattered. He tried to move his legs and the sensation was so devastating that he couldn’t lift them even a little. Tears began to fall down his cheeks as he began to try to cry for help.

“Help. Someone. Anyone?” He tried to shout, but a whisper was all his broken ribs could push out.

There was no hope, and he knew that this was the end. He started to wonder what would happen when he died. Who was going to miss him? Did anyone even know that he was gone? He had nothing left in him so he began to pray.

“God, I know that I’ve never really taken the time to pray, so I hope I’m even doing this right,” He awkwardly began, “I don’t know if you can hear me, I know no one else can, but if you could find some way to save me from this I would really owe you one.”

He looked up and saw a speck of light no bigger than a needle from his point of view. As he focused on it he realized that that was the top of the hole. There was no getting out of this one.

“God, I could really use a miracle.”

My child, because you asked I will heal your bones, I will make you whole again, and I will be there to guide you as you climb your way out.

It sounded like a whisper. I must be going delusional, he thought to himself, but then something began to happen. The most intense pain he could imagine began to churn in his body as he felt his bones begin to form back together. He screamed out because the hurt was so strong. He paused for a moment and then smiled through the pain because his ribs had healed enough to scream again. What felt like knives before felt more like throbbing and he could move his arms and legs again. He cried out in joy! Even though he was still at the bottom of the hole he could move again. He slowly stood up and rubbed his hands up and down his arms. He could feel the bumps of scars starting to form. Stretching out his arms he slowly moved forward looking for the wall. His hands pressed against a cold surface and he began to feel for anything to hold on to, but the walls were smooth. Instantly his joy turned to anger and he pounded his fist against the wall.

“God, I don’t understand. Why would you heal me if there was no way out? Why would you torture me like this? How do I get out of here when there isn’t anything to pull myself up onto,” He shouted in frustration.

I am making a path known, you will find it. I will guide you as you climb.

As he heard God’s voice again he felt the part of the wall under his fist pull away from the smooth surface making a spot to grip. He grabbed it and felt with his feet for something to lift himself up on. As he slid his foot down the wall he felt another section of the wall create a step. He began to lift himself slowly up the side of the hole. Each time he reached a hand up another section would pull away from the wall making another spot to hold onto.

Time passed and his arms and legs began to grow tired. He didn’t feel like he had the strength to continue on and he began to be afraid that he was going to fall and all of the climbing would have been for nothing. He looked up and it felt like each step up made the hole grow a little taller. It seemed hopeless again.

“God I don’t have the strength to make it to the top. I don’t want to fall, I need strength to go on.”

Trust me, and rely on the strength I will provide you. If you do this you will make it to the top.

With each stretch of the arm he began to pray for strength to pull himself up, and every time he did he had just enough strength to continue to climb. Each time the pain from his tired muscles was great, but he had the strength to carry on. As his muscles ached he thought to himself about what he felt like laying at the bottom. This pain may be great, but it’s nothing like that was, he thought to himself. As he prayed and pulled himself up, prayed and pulled himself up, he began to become more and more encouraged as God continued to provide him the strength he needed.

Finally after what felt like and eternity of climbing he felt his hand reach the lip of the hole he had fallen into. As he pulled himself up and rolled onto the ground next to the pit he glanced over and saw how wide the mouth was. How did I not see that coming? He let out a relieved chuckle and tears of joy began to well up in his eyes. He was overwhelmed with love for God.

“God I did not deserve to be saved. I should have seen this pit coming, and I should have avoided it, but when I fell you saved me. You put my broken self back together and gave me the strength I needed to pull myself out of the hole. I know you were there the whole time making sure I didn’t fall again. God, please walk with me now, and keep me from falling into another pit. I know that if I walk with guiding me you will always keep me safe.”

We’ve all been there. Minding our own business and seemingly out of nowhere we fall. The fact of the matter is that when we mind our own business, and we don’t keep our eyes on the path that the Lord is trying to lead us down, we will always find ourselves in a hole. Some will be smaller than others. Some will be much easier to re-correct when we trip. I know there is someone who will read this who just hit the bottom of an impossible pit though, if that is you. Ask God to put you back together and help you start climbing. I know it seems impossible, but that is where God shines the brightest. God will get you out of your pit. It wont be easy. You’ll still have pain along the way, because even though God could pull you out of the pit its the climb up that lets you grow to trust God. God loves you, and he wants to get you out. You just have to ask him.

You Promise?

Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Matthew 5:37

Let me ask you something. How many promises have you broken? Even if you could describe yourself as amazing at keeping promises I would guess that you’ve at least broken one, right? I will be the first to admit I couldn’t even count the number of promises I have broken in my lifetime. None of us have the ability to see the future, so why are we so quick to promise the future? It makes us feel good right? The ability to predict the future and guarantee it is a pretty cool ability. The problem is that it isn’t our ability. When we make a promise, and it just so happens that it comes to fruition; we didn’t really do anything except weigh out a risk verse reward, and decide the reward of satisfaction is worth the risk of breaking the promise. Now sure, lets say you are standing in front of a person with 100 dollars in your pocket, and you promise them a dollar. The likelihood of being able to fulfill that “promise” is exponentially infinite. It would literally take an act of God to break that promise, but even if the likelihood of a broken promise is .000001 is it really a promise?

Why would Jesus make sure one of the things He taught while on the earth be to not make vows? Why would this be important to Him. I mean, to us these days saying, “I promise” rolls off the tongue. It is used by the honest and the liar equally and often with the same probability of it being fulfilled. Like our second grade teacher, Jesus is just being annoying with language right?

“Teacher, can I use the restroom.”

“I don’t know if you can, but you may if you need to.”

Yeah, we’ve all heard it. So why does Jesus tell us to not make vows or promises?

I think that we as Christians should take this to heart, and Paul hammers the nail on the head:

So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

Romans 14:13

I’m sure some of you are starting to get off my thought process train, but I promise I am getting to a point. See, just rolls right off the tongue (or fingers.)

There is one being in this entire universe that can make a promise, and that is God. It is no question that because our minds can only fathom reality as we know it we tend to put God in a box of our own conscious perception. That being said, when we make promises we can’t keep we are actually doing a serious injustice to other Christians by allowing them to feel like true promises can also be broken. If you’ve ever felt a promise placed on your heart by God know this. It is a promise. It is unbreakable. The omniscient God will absolutely see it through because He already knows exactly how it’s going to happen. It is so easy for us to forget that because of what we know about promises in this world. We ask ourselves, “What happens if God’s promise isn’t real?” I know I’ve asked that, and I’ve been asked that. We ask this out of a fear that God is not as all knowing as we are told He is in the Bible. We ask this because sometimes God’s promise comes far before the roller-coaster ride even hits its first cliff, and on the way down it doesn’t at all seem like there is going to be an up.

If you need more proof, just take a look at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis. Joseph was promised Egypt as a young boy, but first went through hell on Earth to get there. From favored son, to slave, and finally a prisoner. Literally, by our understanding, that’s an impossible resume to sit down with the pharaoh to trying to be his second in command, but it was God’s promise, and it came fruition. From the depths of prison Joseph became second in command of all of Egypt.

All that being said I don’t really have much in conclusion, I’m with Jesus on this one. Lets stop saying I promise, and lets just say I will. Lets let God keep his definition of a promise in tact, and maybe – even when the promise is unbelievable – we can hold a little more sure that we believe the promise will come true.

The First Steps of Faith

A friend of yours finally convinces you to go to church.

“I’ll go, but I’m not drinking the kool aid,” you joke to them.

You get there and you are a little skeptical. This isn’t the first time you’ve tried to understand this whole Jesus thing, but what’s one more time going to hurt, right?

The worship band comes out and you start to hear the words. The band is decent, you can tell that they are into it. You start seeing people around you raise their hands and close their eyes. This is weird, you think to yourself.The worship team drones on the same two lines 15 times, and you start to get a little annoyed. “Why can’t they just end the song,” is what you want to say, but you are trying to be respectful. Finally they hit the last note, completely off key, but you don’t even care. It’s over, phew. The worship leader has everyone bow their head, and they say a prayer. Respectuflly , you lower your head, but glance around your immediate right and left noticing people whisper “yes,” and “amen.”

Wow these people are really passionate.

The announcements, offering, and a soloist all happen, and then the pastor comes up. They introduce themselves, and they start to speak. You start off with your hands folded across your chest, but then they say something that catches your ear. They hit a note in your life that you didn’t want people to know about, so you start to listen. You hope that maybe this person can tell you how to solve the issue you have been too afraid to discuss. As you listen to the sermon, you start to feel something pull at you. You’re not really sure what it is, but something just feels, weird. It’s as if the pastor knew you were coming, knew your life story, and decided to write a sermon specifically for you. It sure feels that way. You feel something stirring up in you, and you suddenly feel like you cant breath without tears starting to well up in your eyes. You look around to make sure no one is looking and then quickly “scratch your nose” to wipe away the beaded tear that is rolling down your cheek.

What is happening? You think to yourself, what are these feelings I am having?

Then the pastor starts to close up their sermon, and they ask everyone to bow their heads. “If you came here today, not knowing who Jesus is, or you’ve heard about him before, but never thought much about Him. If you are feeling moved to know Him more. If you are moved to invite Him into your life, would you raise your hand?”

You don’t know what these feelings are, but something tells you to raise your hand. You have to know more about what is going on. You have to know who this Jesus guy is, that just so happened to speak about the issue in your life today, 2000 years ago.

The pastor prays, and when he says amen you say amen as well. You open your eyes. The worship team is back on stage, but suddenly the last song hits you differently than the first 3 did. You hear the words, and tears flow down your face. You are absolutely blown away by how meaningful the words are. As they repeat the final lines over and over again you find yourself repeating them; each time with more conviction and more tears.

After the service you go up to the front like you said you would with your raise hand, and an old guy starts talking to you. After some small talk about who Jesus is, he hits you with the question. “Do you want to invite Jesus into your life?”

“Yes!” You tell him.

I know there are so many out there that have been through a scenario like this. Maybe exactly or even relatively close. If that is you. It doesn’t matter if it was yesterday, 3 months ago, or 30 years ago. Something a lot of people don’t tell you is this. That’s not even the honeymoon. We think that when we give our lives to Christ that that’s it, kapow! You have Jesus in your life and you are good to go! No, my friend. That was just the first date. You are nowhere near the wedding yet. We oversimplify the idea of Jesus telling people to stop what they are doing and follow Him, but we rarely discuss how the people who followed Him had ample time to get to know him, and get to see his good works. We don’t discuss that there are people who witnessed all kinds of his miracles and glory, and then still chose to walk away. We skim over the fact that these people, in the flesh, had a relationship – that grew over time – with Jesus.

While the pastor may have asked you to give your life right then and there, Jesus is asking something completely different. Jesus is asking you to take the time to get to know Him. He’s letting you know that this isn’t going to be easy, and that a love for Him is the only way you will truly be able to follow him.

Being a Christian does not mean knowing all the right answers, it doesn’t mean you go to church on the weekends, it doesn’t mean you had that feeling once and so now you just call yourself a Christian. Being a Christian means taking the time to build a relationship with Jesus Christ so that when he asks you to move, you instinctively do. It means when life gets tough you learn to lean in on Christ, and not blame him for what is happening. It means being encouraged enough to know that His love for you is more than enough to get you through.

It’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know yet.” Take your time. Learn to pray to Him, learn to understand who He is, and who you are to Him. Read the Bible and learn about Him. Ask him to guide your feet, and then when you make the decision to truly follow the path that God has for you, you can say “Yes!” with confidence.

Unfair Pay?

So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.

– Matthew 20:16

I would highly recommend going through and reading Matthew 20:1-16 before reading this because it will make a lot more since, but for those of you pressed on time, I will give you the abridged version. This is the parable of the land owner who pays the same wage to the people who started working at five o’clock in the afternoon as the people who had been working all day since nine o’clock in the morning. I know, instantly that just doesn’t seem right, does it? Why on earth would someone who works all day get paid the exact same amount as the person who worked for a couple of hours? Samuel Gompers is rolling over in his grave just hearing this!

As always, though, Jesus is not really using the context of the parable literally. He isn’t talking about money, or labor for that matter. He is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t seeking currency (no matter what your church tells you); the currency in that kingdom is faith. So what is he really talking about here?

We, as humans, really enjoy working really hard to find the “gray area,” in the Bible. Like the rich man in Matthew 19, Jesus says, “follow the commandments,” and we ask “which ones?” Well, my guess would be all of them. That’s why they are called commandments. It wasn’t called the 10 suggestions, or the 10 good ideas. They are the 10 commands of the bare minimum of behavior that God is seeking in us. That being said, God didn’t really write them down in descending order of greatest to least, with one having a more severe punishment than the next. Breaking any of those commandments is sin, punishable by death. No gray area there, no probation period, no option for parole; just death. If you broke a commandment and did not resolve it with the proper sacrifice – before the time after Jesus’ sacrifice – you were not forgiven, and there was no jury of peers to defend you. What I am getting at is that sin is sin is sin. Stealing a pen had the same ramifications as cold blooded murder. I know, here we go again. That’s just not fair! I hear you. It is really hard for our minds to wrap around this idea. We have an entire legal system dedicated to determining what crimes are more sever than others and which punishments each of them should deserve. Further more, God handed down an entire legal system to the Hebrews on how to handle sins or crimes committed against one another. The fact of the matter is that God knows that our minds can’t really grasp this concept, and that we needed a system of punishment to suffice in this world. If the Hebrew nation had the same single punishment tactic every time someone committed a crime against another person there just wouldn’t have been a Hebrew nation for long. God handed down a “gray area” legal system to deal with crimes in this world so we didn’t just up and off one another.

Now that the context of sin being a simple check box of yes or no is covered. How does that apply to Matthew 20? Well, if we are trying to understand faith, it is best to look at the destroyer of faith as a contrast. Since all sin has the same punishment in God’s eyes, all faith – by contrast – would all have the same reward. Luke 23:42-43 is the very best example we could possibly ask for. Jesus and two criminals are hanging out enjoying getting a good tan… No the three are all hanging on the cross, lives of all three are about to come to an end, and one of the criminals turns to Jesus and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” To which Jesus replies, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus didn’t say, “Oh sure, nice cop out, sorry pal! You’re too late!” He told the man that he was coming with him. Why? Because he believed in who Jesus was. He didn’t really have time to jump off the cross and perform a few good deeds, or go get baptized. He simply believed in who Jesus was and was forgiven of everything he had done in the past without even really asking for it. It sounds poetic when Jesus says it, but how do we usually handle it in the real world?

You’ve been a Christian your whole life. You’ve done all the right things, you’ve lived a good life, and you have found your relationship with God through the “right” ways. Your faith is in tact because you have always had a commitment to doing the right thing in Gods eyes. First of all, don’t kid yourself. The first half of this writing might be something you want to pay close attention to. That being said though, for the most part you’ve been a good egg. A man walks into church one Sunday, and you see tattoos all over his arms, neck, and even a tear drop tattooed under his eye. You’ve read on Facebook what those tattoos mean, and you know that he is a bad person. He’s done bad things, and to prove it you can see the bulge of a house arrest monitor underneath his sock when he sits down. He comes to church every week for a long time after that initial appearance. You’ve see him raise his hands in the air during worship and you’ve seen him wipe tears away from his eyes when the pastor hits a touchy subject in his life.

Finally one day, the pastor’s topic is on forgiveness and grace, and you notice the guy isn’t sitting in his normal seat. The pastor invites a person up by a name you’ve never heard, and its him. He starts to share his testimony about growing up in gangs, dealing drugs, and finally going to prison for murder. He spent a long time in prison and finally with good behavior he was released and put on parole. He says he came to know Jesus in prison, and though things are rough as he tries to get himself acclimated into society, he knows that Jesus loves him, and that Jesus has washed away his sin. How do you feel about that? Are you moved to tears by his testimony? Or are you disgusted that he thinks God would forgive a murderer? I guarantee you, all of heaven rejoiced the day he believed in Christ all the same as they did when you decided you believed.

I know those are two extremes, and that almost anyone who reads this probably falls into the middle of the spectrum somewhere there, but that is exactly the point. That is the whole purpose for the parable in Matthew 20. It doesn’t matter if you’ve believed your whole life, partied through your 20’s and then settled down, found Jesus in prison, or find him on your death bed. Jesus is saying the reward for faith is the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no gray area and there is no cut off line. There is no sin too great that Jesus did not conquer the day he died on the cross. It doesn’t sound fair, because we want to feel like anyone who finds their faith after we do cant possibly be viewed the same as us. We have had faith, and we have built our relationship with Jesus far more than anyone who came after us. It’s not fair! But let me say this, Jesus hit the nail on the head when he said, “..Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?” No, because Jesus has been kind to you as well. Do not let your selfish pride take away from celebrating with all of Heaven, when a brother or a sister comes to Christ, no matter what they did before they got there.

Giving Up Your Life to Live Wholly with Christ

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you want to be my follower you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

-Matthew 16: 24-25

For any newcomer to their faith in Christ the words at the end of Matthew 16 are terrifying, and quite possibly a deal breaker. What? You want me to get crucified? God, you want me to die for you? Nah, I think I’m good. Wait! If you are reading this I want to take a moment and say this is what context is for. Now, indeed people have certainly died in the name of Christ, and this could have been a very grim foreshadowing that Jesus was giving to his soon to be apostles. But I think we need to take a step back and see what this very grim message is saying in context to the times, and in our daily application today.

I sometimes get the feeling that Jesus was not always the easiest guy to be around. Everyone is intently listening to every word he is speaking. Eyes wide with wonder and mouths slightly agape as their focus is completely on Jesus’ lesson of the day. The twelve I assume were sitting close by to him, either beside him or maybe just behind him (I’m not sure what the classroom structure looked like.) and then he drops a bomb of a parable. Heads shake in disbelief, people blink a few times and reel back a bit from what they just heard, and the disciples look at each other wide eyed as if to say, “oh boy, here we go again.” Jesus was not a fan of saying the popular thing. He was not interested in telling people how to apply what he said to their daily lives. He was telling people that their daily lives were being lived completely wrong, and they needed to change. Keep in mind these people had been living a specific way, passed down through the generations, since laws had been written, or so they thought.

The truth of it, however, is that they were living life the right way about as effectively as a game of “telephone” correctly gets a message through a room full of people. They were misguided from the top (priests and pharisees) down. That being said it was their “way of life” and he was asking them to check it at the door because he’s got a new way for them to live. It didn’t always go over very well. People don’t like others telling them they have to change, even when its the Son of God, and we can see that even today. We try to ask ourselves, “How can this be applied to my daily life.” Jesus is answering resoundingly in these verses, “It can’t,” or with a slightly more positive spin, “…by making it my daily life.” The fact of the matter – to put it bluntly – is that Jesus doesn’t really care if you want to listen to his message. He doesn’t care if you don’t really like what it says. He doesn’t care if the church numbers drop because of the words that come out of his mouth. He spoke what needed to be said. He spoke the truth, out of love, and if you aren’t interested hes not changing it to fit your needs.

Wow, that got heavy way faster than I anticipated. Anyone still with me? Cool.

Now lets try to pull this back to the verse a bit. What does Jesus mean when he says we must, “…turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” I think I already hit the first of the three commands there in the paragraph above. Stop asking how Jesus can make your life better. Stop asking God to make sure he sees your plans come true. Instead, it’s time to start asking God to make sure he sees His plans for you come true. Time and time again Jesus talks about not worrying about what is going on in your basic day to day. We are told not to worry about what we will eat, where we will sleep, what cloths we will wear. Jesus is quite literally trying to tell us that whatever our daily plan is from the moment we wake up and open the pantry we should give the day to God and let Him do His work. But go ahead and choose your breakfast food also, I don’t think Jesus cares too much if you pick cheerios or fruit loops. Though I would say he probably has an affinity to toast with grape jelly. Anyway, the point is stop worrying so much about your selfish goals and anxieties for the day ahead, and start listening for the things that God wants to accomplish in you each day. Super easy, right? No, it’s not, but like everything else we will talk about here, it’s not like Jesus hits you with 12,000 volts of the holy spirit, and you are charged and ready to go for all of eternity. We have to take one day at a time, one step at a time doing everything we can to try to grow in our relationship and understanding of God.

What about the second one though? What does it mean to take up your cross? I’ll be honest, this one is a bit harder to chew on and savor. I am sure his disciples felt the same way. The whole process of crucifixion is gruesome, but what I have learned about the process of actually taking ones own cross up was that this was the time of humiliation in the process. It was the point where you were publicly ridiculed and paraded for what you had done. That doesn’t make it any easier does it? I want to take a moment and just say that I am trying to (probably horribly) briefly explain 4 words that have had entire books written about them. That being said though this was another one of those moments, I think, where Jesus was telling his disciples, “Listen guys, you’re not going to be winning any popularity contests on this journey.” It can absolutely feel like a heavy burden to be willing to follow Jesus to the point of humiliation of others, but it is a very real thing. I will fully admit that on this I could be completely missing the mark, so if I did feel free to let me know and please do.

As far as the follow me part goes, there isn’t a very big mystery in those words. Follow Him. Really, this can stand alone, but its also what brings everything together in this verses. It’s time to give up the concern for your selfish motivations in life, and start seeking God. Pick up that cross, be willing to endure whatever humiliation may come, and just keep following Jesus.

See, its not that complicated. Piece of cake. No? You’re right, and I think that’s why Jesus wasn’t done either. He wanted to make sure he got the point across with verse 25. In case you thought that wasn’t the toughest jerky you could chew, Jesus throws some full blown leather down. Verse 25 paraphrased (in-case you don’t want to scroll back up to the quote) is “….save your life and die, give up your life and live.” That’s a real feel good, sense-able thing to say. I’m sure confidence shot through the roof with that one. This is actually one of the hardest things for us as Christians to wrap our heads around. We try desperately to say, “Well I am sure God wont mind if I keep doing this one thing. It’s always what got me through the day.” “Surely, God doesn’t mean give up my whole life, people will think I’m weird if I start acting different.” “Why would God try to take away things that make me happy?” First of all, there is really no telling what God wants to do with your life. If you are a skilled and talented computer programmer and you have a passion for it, I’m pretty sure God isn’t going to ask you to give it all up and go be a monk in a remote chapel somewhere. But what if you are an addict? If you are giving up that life to follow Christ you’re not going to be able to have a few drinks every now and then and follow Him. He is going to ask you to bury that life; die to that life, and let him give you a new life. If you’re addicted to pornography God isn’t asking you to make the switch from video back to magazines. He’s asking you to bury that life. He’s asking you to let Him make a new life all together without anything to do with your old ways. This list can get quite extensive as there are so many ways that we all choose to live in sin. Jesus is saying, “Hey, whatever your sinful life was before, its time to give it up. Lets go for a walk together, and I’ll show you the right way to live.”

Like I said before. The message that comes out of this is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t for the people who want to go to church on Sunday and live life the way they want the rest of the week. Jesus made it quite clear. God is asking for your whole life, and if you have to ask, “haven’t I given enough?” The answer is probably no. God is not seeking your favor, He isn’t seeking a happy medium between Him and you. He is seeking you, so that you will in return seek Him, and Him alone.

A Walk Through the Storm

 It is beautiful, sunny, day. The birds chirp, and the smell of fresh grass is in the air. The temperature seems to be just perfect to where you almost don’t even notice, because it neither warms nor chills your skin. All is peaceful under the blue sky, but you peer off into the distance. A single gray cloud hovers over the horizon. You think to yourself, “It doesn’t even look like its coming this way,” so you continue on putting it to the back of your mind. You breath in the air, and you notice that the next breath you draw fills your lungs with a cooler air than before. A soft wind hits your skin. Again, you think nothing of it. “It was just a breeze,” you tell yourself. However, you feel something wet hit you in the nose and you look up to realize that the rain cloud, that was previously in the distance, has quickly found its way to you. It isn’t as small as you thought it might have been.

Before you can seek shelter it is as if the sky has come crashing down around you. Rain, hail, gusts of wind, and even lightning and thunder have suddenly bombarded you. You look around and realize that there is no shelter in sight, and you realize that in mere moments you’ve gone from completely peaceful to completely helpless. To make matters worse the sky has now gone completely dark as the small cloud now takes the sky as far as you can see. You realize the sun will be setting soon, and you have no where to go. Hours go by and you’ve gone from standing, to sitting, to curling into a ball, and eventually even with the storm crashing around you; you’re mind gives in, and you succumb to sleep.

     Another cool breath, and you jolt up. There is no more rain hitting your face, no more hail pelting your body, and no more lightning to threaten you in the open field. You are in disbelief that you survived the night, and you rub your eyes to clear the haze. You realize, though, that the haze is not in your eyes, but that a dense fog has taken over the landscape. This would normally be a scary discovery, but after what had happened the night before the fog is welcoming. You find peace in the fog because it does not threaten you’re life like the storm had. As you walk you occasionally trip over a rock or stumble over a small divot in the ground, but you laugh it off. After the storm nothing seems to bother you. You feel like you have a new lease on life, because you feel like you’ve been given a second chance. The fog starts to become the norm. Days turn to weeks, and you have become one with the numbness of the fog. Always looking back, and telling yourself that after that fateful storm you are thankful for the fog because this just isn’t as bad. Sure you can’t see, sure you are completely aimless in your march, but at least you are alive. Then one night you close your eyes for a peaceful rest and fall fast asleep.

     A breath, neither warm nor cool, enters your lungs and you awake. Your eyes burn even though they are closed as you can feel the sun against the lids, begging you to open your eyes. You don’t though, you are afraid to. You know from the bottom of your heart that the second you open your eyes the fog will be gone and the path will become clear, and that terrifies you. With your eyes closed you beg for the fog to come back and shut out the sun. You don’t want to face it. You had grown comfortable with not knowing where you were going, and the thought of having to look out and having direction is simply more than your clouded mind can handle. So you keep your eyes closed. You trip, but you don’t know what you tripped on. You fall and feel the blood on your knees, but you keep your eyes closed. You just keep them closed.

    One day, however, you get tired of falling. The scars are innumerable, and you have no idea what they even look like. With frustration in your heart you squint your eyes to let the sun in, and it burns. You feel blinded, and the pain of opening your eyes brings tears to them. At that moment you realize that you have already let the sun in, and so you slowly open them more and more. What was tears of pain becomes tears of overwhelming joy as you see the path. You had strayed quite a distance, but you see it. You see the trees with their bright green leaves, and the flowers all red, and purple, and yellow. You realize that you hear the birds which you had grown to ignore in your numbness. You look to the path and are startled to see a man in the middle of the path who begins to walk towards you. At first you are hesitant, but you walk towards him.

     As you walk towards him you realize that you feel a sense of guilt. A deep painful guilt that, for a moment, makes you want to close your eyes again and run away. You chose to keep them open. The man does not appear to be mad at you, or upset by you. He just keeps smiling at you as if you had known each other a life time. You come face to face with him, and his smile grows wider as he opens his arms. You sink into his arms and he holds you tight.

“I’ve missed you,” He says.

“Who are you,” You ask Him.

With a warm smile and a soft voice He says, “You know who I am.”

He’s right. The second He says it you know exactly who He is, “Where have you been?” You ask Him.

“I was right here the whole time. You didn’t seek me, so I let you have your own way,” He says.

“But the storm, the fog. You weren’t there for me. I was on my own.” You say with a little anger.

“No,” He says compassionately, “You were not on your own. I kept the lightning from you, I kept you alive. I filled in holes that you could have fallen into in the fog. I was there, but you didn’t ask for me, so I let you be.”

Tears well in your eyes once more, “I’m sorry. I thought I could handle it, I didn’t think that I needed anyone’s help. I didn’t think anyone was around to help.”

“You are forgiven. Come, let me show you the way.”

    With those words you feel the guilt, almost instantaneously, leave your body, and you are not quite sure why, but you follow Him. As you make your way back to the path with Him you realize that the relationship you have with this man is going to be the most important one you could ever have. You still aren’t sure where exactly this path is going to take you, but you know that as long as He is your guide you have nothing to worry about ever again.

Welcome to Imperfect Faith

Who, What, and Why?

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

— Romans 2:12

First of all I would just like to say, thank you for coming to see what this is all about. I know that is such a generic formality, but in this case it is also very sincere. I am only here, giving this blogging thing a try, because enough people thought that my writing would be good enough to share with others. If you are one of those people who encouraged me or you are here because you’re giving my blogs a shot; thank you so very much in both cases. That being said if you are looking for some scholarly, sophisticated, or grammatically correct page I am simply not your guy. I started out by “shoot-from-the-hip” style writing (if that’s even a thing) where thoughts go from my brain to my fingertips, and whatever comes out, minus a few touch-ups, is what you are going to read. I have no editor and I don’t go through writing draft after draft trying to perfect it. I like it to be raw and genuine, and after so much editing it simply loses the feeling that it is from the heart. So as the heading suggests I just wanted to take a moment to explain the who, what, and why of this page.

Who?

I’m Brandon McPherson. To be perfectly honest, after that period I had to pause for a little while to think about what to say next. It is always the most awkward thing trying to define yourself in the confines of a paragraph or two. I fully intend to go through my social media account and dive a little deeper into that subject, but for now I will give the glossy, polished image of who I am. I am a janitor. No, really, that’s not a joke. I am the lead custodian for my church, and for where I am in my journey – seeking a deeper relationship with Christ – I wouldn’t change that for the world. It has been one of the most amazing things to be charged with cleaning (and attempting to maintain) the “house of God,” and getting to listen to the Bible, Christian music, or sermons all day long. It is truly a blessing because before I was a janitor I was having a major identity crisis. I wont go too much into that here, but I was on a path to destruction and God put things in motion for me to start seeking the identity He has for me instead of the identity I was fumbling around trying to create myself. Really, the who part of this writing is the reason I picked the verse that I did.

Other than that the basic stats – which you were probably looking for before that long paragraph anyways – are that I am 34 and I have 4 kids. That being said the idea of my “shoot-from-the-hip” style of writing probably makes a lot more sense. What do I do for fun? I read, write, and work out pretty excessively. I use to be an avid gamer, but it was in reality more of an addiction. So now I dabble a little bit, but I am so very focused on bettering myself by understanding my relationship with Christ that things that draw away from the reality of what I can do in the world have put gaming on a very distant back burner.

What?

You are possibly wondering why I chose the name “Imperfect Faith,” or maybe you are not, but I am going to tell you anyway. The fact of the matter is that calling it imperfect really wasn’t even necessary because there is no such thing as perfect faith. I still chose that to be the name of this page, however, because I believe that we as Christians have spent generation after generation depicting ourselves as “better than the common rabble.” We have this generic persona as being “Bible thumper’s,” “holier-than-thou-art,” or in a very real truth sometimes, hypocrites. As far as the last one is concerned if you are a Christian, and you think you have perfect faith that lets you hold your nose higher than someone else; you are. I hope that within these pages it is clear that my faith in the fact that God exists is unfailing, but sometimes my faith in myself to do good works for him, or my ability to hold true to myself that his promises are always promises is as fallible as anyone else. We may be Christians, but we are still sinners, because we are human just the same as anyone who doesn’t believe. Which leads me to the why.

Why?

I am choosing to create this page for two major reasons. I believe that people need to see that there are Christians who are willing to not look perfect on paper. We need to represent our faith and our humanity as well. We need to admit when we’ve faltered. We fail to show the grace of God when we fail to show that we ourselves are not deserving of it either. We take away from the glory of God when we try to look perfect, because God is the only perfect being in all eternity. I truly would hope that if this page starts looking too polished, or if I don’t actually explain why I am sharing something, and how I can see my own flaws in what I am writing someone will call me out. Our imperfect journey of faith towards the one and perfect God is something that needs to be celebrated in order to let other people see that we are just as undeserving of his grace as they think they are. I think if we, as Christians, can find ways to honor those who feel undeserving and even find ways to lift them up higher than us; then we can truly represent what the heart of Jesus looks like.

The second is that as I write these blogs I am doing so – to some degree – to work out my own questions about who God is and what I need to do to continue to build my relationship with Him. Often times you will see me state that what I write is as much for me as for anyone else. Truly, the reality of it is that more often than not what I am writing is personal convictions that I feel others out there may also benefit from. So if I am coming off as “harsh” don’t worry, I’m being just as critical, if not more, of myself as I am of anyone else.

All of that being said, I wanted to make one more thing clear that I am sure some of you have heard me say before. I am not perfect. I do not believe that I am better than anyone, and I believe God has saved me from myself in so many situations specifically so that I could not judge any person. In no way shape or form do I think that anything I write can not be refuted. In fact I, in full humility, would encourage open dialogue on anything that I write. I think that it is through discussion of our ideas and concepts, and where they differ from one another, that we can hone our own understanding of who God is and what it is that He is calling each of us to do. We are all in this together so feel free to send me any criticism that may lead to a healthy dialogue.

Again, thank you so much for reading this my very first post.

-Brandon