Halo… Yep, Just Halo 1

Posted: 8th August 2012 by alanmuehlenweg in Uncategorized

My family all went in, and for my 22 birthday, I received the magical goodness that is XBox.  It was so awesome and it came with one game- Halo.  If you’ve read any of my posts, you know of my disdain for first-person shooters.  I’m just not any good at ‘em.  It all started with GoldenEye, but that’s another story…

Anyways, I tried my hand at Halo for a few weeks (till I saved up enough for SW- Knights of the Old Republic).  My FPS skills had not improved since the GoldenEye days.  And I think I’ve played a total of 10 hours of Halo games in the 10 years since then…  Until this week.   I’ve logged more hours this week than I have in the previous 10 years combined.  Why?  Because of my son.  He had seen me play Mass Effect 3 the other day and he wanted to blow things up.  Well, I can’t let him touch ME3 for a number of reasons.  So I borrowed a copy of Halo from some neighbor kids (who have also been playing with us lately), and we’ve blown through almost the whole first game in coop play.

And even though my skills STILL have not improved, I’m loving every minute of it.  Not just because I’m playing it with my son (*wipes tear), but because he’s better than I am (*wipes more tears).  There’s just something motivating about doing something you may not be good at because someone you care about is good at it.  And it’s even more motivating when that someone is your child.

I know that most of you reading this don’t have kids.  But the point is still the same- We do things we don’t want to because someone we care about wants or needs us to do those things.  Good things and bad things.  Often we give peer pressure a bad rep.  “Don’t give in to peer pressure!”  But the reality is, peer pressure is a tool, and just like any tool, it’s not good or bad by itself.  It’s what you do with it that matters.  In fact, the scripture encourages us to use peer pressure to motivate believers to do good works.

But sometimes, encouraging others to do good works means doing things we don’t want to do.  Like mowing yards.  Or cleaning up after Vacation Bible School.  Or taking your youth pastor out to lunch (any takers?).

And sometimes, just being an encouragement to someone and being in a relationship with someone requires doing things you don’t want to do.  Like watching Twilight.  Or killing that cricket that you have an irrational fear of.

Truth moment- Relationships reward people who are NOT selfish.  So quit making your relationships about YOU.  Remember- JOY = Jesus, Others, You.  In that order!

Recommended Reading: Hebrews 10:24-25

Mass Effect 3 Ruined Me

Posted: 26th July 2012 by alanmuehlenweg in Uncategorized

So, I think Mass Effect 3 has ruined me.  There are so many things I could say about the game, and I haven’t even finished it yet.  But the game is the first game since I was like 8 that made me stand up and say things like “HOLY CRAP THAT WAS AWESOME!” and I’m almost 32…  The part where I have to summon the Thresher Maw on Tuchanka or somehow recruit a platoon of Geth Primes.  These are some of the most epic gameplay experiences I’ve ever had.

But it has ruined me.  First, I’m sitting on a copy of Skyrim that I can’t even get to because I’m too wrapped up in ME3, and honestly, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be disappointed after playing the incredible awesomeness that is ME3.  Second, the immersiveness of the game in addition to its incredible cut scenes… It just makes for a cinematic experience that has made it near impossible for me to enjoy a really good movie.  I took some guys to go see The Dark Knight Rises, and I enjoyed it, but I’ve noticed that people that have historically shared similar movie tastes with me liked it WAY more than I did.  And I really do think it’s because my expectations are way higher because of Mass Effect 3.  And maybe video games in general.  I mean, come on!  I AM Batman (at least when I throw in Arkham City…).

Pretty reflective of a lot of us.  We experience something amazing, and all of sudden, everything else falls flat.  I can’t hardly eat anyone’s chicken-n-dumplings because my wife has completely spoiled me to the kind she makes.  I don’t wear a lot of other brands of shoes because Adidas has never let me down.  And nothing beats Cottonelle with Aloe.

This should also describe our relationship with God.  We should be so overwhelmed by what He has done for us (last I checked, no one has allowed their son to die in my place except Him), that it should impact what we do everyday.  I should be so overwhelmed by His love for me, that when I’m confronted with sin that looks tempting, I should just shrug my shoulders and say “Eh, I am not impressed.”

One of the best examples of someone who was overwhelmed by God’s love for him was Joseph.  Often we think of Job when we talk about patience and trials, but I think Joseph may actually have him beat out!  Here’s my “Cliff Notes” version of the story of Joseph- He was given a vision that one day, his family would be under his authority.  Well, being the second youngest of 12, that didn’t sit real well with the older 10.  So they plotted to kill him, but ended up throwing him in a pit and convincing his father that Joseph had been killed by a lion.  They sell him into slavery.  His master, impressed with his diligence and intelligence to do everything as if for God, makes him the head of the household.  Well, his master’s wife, impressed with his diligence and intelligence and his smokin’ hot bod, decides she wants to sleep with him.  What would have made for typical day time TV drama ends up being an incredible tale of how an ordinary man was determined to live in accordance with God’s commands for his life.

Joseph runs away from the temptation, ends up in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, and sits there for years.  Then Pharaoh has a dream and it is discovered that only Joseph can interpret it.  He does so and saves the day!  People come from miles around to get grain and food from Egypt, including his family.  He reunites with them and they have a sob-fest, where he tells them that what they meant for evil, God meant for good.

Joseph was ruined by God.  Nothing else was going to compare to what God had in store for him.  He had tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and nothing else was going to compete.  Kinda like my wife’s chicken-n-dumplings.

So when was the last time God ruined you?

Recommended Reading: Genesis 37-50 (yeah, it’s a lot, but it tells in detail the story I paraphrased above)

Dark Knight Rises, but Humanity Falls

Posted: 20th July 2012 by alanmuehlenweg in Uncategorized

By the time I finish writing this, more and more information regarding the shooting in Aurora, CO will be released.  I’m not going to try and keep up with everything as I try to write this.  As of right now, I know that 13 people were shot and killed by a man whom we know nothing about except that he recently dropped out of a doctorate program at the University of Colorado.  We know that he showed up to the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, dressed in what seemed to be a mock up of Bane’s attire (vest and gas mask).  We know that by 1am, all of Aurora’s police and emergency crews were in full effort to provide medical treatment and help to those in need.

As I drove to the church office today, I felt compelled to share some simple thougthts in response to this tragedy.  Some of this may seem random, but these are just some things that have helped me through difficult times.  And I know most of you will not be personally affected by this tragedy, but you have faced tragedy and know what that feels like.

1) I know God has a plan.  The #1 question of all time- Why does God allow bad things to happen?  This question is expressed a thousand different ways- If God is so loving and He cares so much, why is there hunger and pain?  Why did God let my dad die?  Why is there war?  The list goes on and on, but it comes down to this- Why does God allow bad things to happen?  There are no easy answers, and I won’t pretend to be able to address all of this topic with a paragraph, but the short answer is this: God loves the world, and in His love and sovereignty, He chose to give mankind the freedom to make choices.  And over the course of human history, we have seen the worst and best of mankind in the decisions we have made.  The tragedies we face are the results of imperfect people living in a broken world.  However, God’s sovereign plan and the ultimate redemption of the world is not left to our choices.  But we must choose whom we will serve.

2) It’s okay to not be okay.  As Christians, we sometimes like to throw out phrases like, “I’m praying for you” and “God loves you” and “It’s going to be okay” when people face tragedy.  And all those things may be true, but the Bible teaches us to “weep with those who weep.”  It doesn’t say “Try to console them with feel-good phrases that will maybe get them to stop crying.”  If the Bible encourages me to weep with others, then that must mean that it’s okay to not be okay, at least for a time. When your parents divorce or a loved one dies, someone telling you that it’s going to be okay seems shallow, empty and uncaring.  The next time one of your friends face a difficult time, instead of patting them on the shoulder and saying something like that, wrap your arms around them and say nothing.

3) As a Christ-follower, it is my responsibility to be a first-responder.  And I don’t mean an EMT or fireman or something else.  I need to be proactive with my faith and not wait for someone else to do something.  When tragedy strikes, whether close to home or not so close, I need to find a way to make a difference.  In the situation in Colorado, my physical presence is impossible.  But I can pray.  I can talk with those I know in Colorado. I can give financially to organizations in that area that do provide physical assistance.  Find a way to make a positive impact in the lives of those facing tragedy.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

Why do we fall, Master Bruce?  So we can learn to pick ourselves up again.

Take my turn… Wait, you suck at this game.

Posted: 10th February 2012 by alanmuehlenweg in Uncategorized

Travel back with me to a time when your controller only had 2 buttons, the #1 Troubleshooting tip was to blow the dust off the inside of the cartridge, and TecmoBowl was the best game ever because you could type in a code to get back to your last game.

Yep, let’s go back to 1990 or so.  Me and a friend are playing RBI Baseball.  Don Mattingly was the best hitter in the game.  The NL Allstars was the best team.  But unlike TecmoBowl, RBI Baseball did not have a save function.  You had to play all the way through and beat the 9 other teams, which was a horrible burden one Sunday morning when I was 1 win away from beating the league, but had to leave for church.  My 10 year old self suddenly had new appreciation for Abraham’s potential sacrifice…

Anyways, my friend (we’ll call him Chuck, just because I love the show and have reimagined all of my childhood video gaming days to include Zachary Levi) was not very good at RBI Baseball and went to go make popcorn.  While he was away, I had put together a nice string of victories and was about to commence game #7, and nature called.  So when Chuck returned with the popcorn, I told him to take my turn while I went to the bathroom.  I hurried as fast as I could because I knew, Chuck sucked at RBI Baseball.  The damage was minimal and I was able to save the season…  But just recently, something similar (yet horrifying) happened to me.

Come back to the present with me.  Two weeks ago, my son is playing NCAA Football 11 when I get home from work.  After a few minutes of catching up on his day, he informs me that he needs to use the bathroom.  He hands me the controller, but then takes it back with the exclamation, “Nevermind.  I’ll just pause it.  You suck at this game.”  I tried to hide my shame as my 7 year old accurately assessed the situation and made the right call.  But it still hurt.  And I now recognize my need to apologize to Chuck.  Sorry, Chuck.

Anyways, I also had a serious epiphany about life as my son stoicly took the controller out of my hand.  How many times do we give God permission to take control of our lives then come back and say, “Wait a minute, I don’t like what You’re doing here…”?

Church camps, conferences, retreats…  Men, women, and students all leave these events with commitments to “let go and let God.”  And we allow Him to control our lives for a while.  Then we start getting uncomfortable.  Maybe things aren’t going as we planned.  Maybe we don’t get the job we wanted.  Or we don’t get the boy or girl we wanted.  Or maybe… The list goes on and on of circumstances and events that incite us to say “God, You suck at this game.”

So did you kinda freak out when you read that last sentence?  “Did he just say that?”  I mean, none of us would ever actually tell God that, would we?  But we’ve done it in one form or another by not letting Him direct our paths.  By not letting Him have COMPLETE control over our lives. 

Give God the controller to your life.  Forget that life isn’t about your comfort, but His Kingdom.  Forget that life isn’t about your happiness, but His Holiness.  When we do this and give Him control, He’s able to do FAR above what we ever could have imagined. 

Recommended Reading – Proverbs 3

The Ides of March

Posted: 29th January 2012 by alanmuehlenweg in Devo Material, Random Thoughts

So my title may be a little misleading.  But oh well, Google can sort it out later.  I’m not talking about the movie or the line from Shakespeare.  Nope, I’m actually referring to the date: March 15.  As in, the day I will be purchasing Mass Effect 3.  Yes, I know the game comes out March 12.  I’m just waiting till pay day to go buy the sucker! 

If you’ve followed this blog or read anything else from me, you know that I’m a HUGE Bioware fan and I fell in love with the Mass Effect titles in 2011.  So I’m really pumped to play ME3.  I’ve played through ME2 a few times now, just so I can finish it exactly the way I want going into the next game!  Yes, it matters!

When my Game Informer magazine hit my mailbox (yes, I prefer paper over digital…), I was extremely excited to read the review of the first 6 hour walkthrough of the game.  All seems well with the upcoming release, but one thing caught my attention.  The reviewer mentioned that there would be 3 possible “versions” of the game.  A traditional part RPG/ part FPS version, a more focused RPG (and much less FPS) version, and a more focused FPS (and much less RPG) version to meet the interests of the various gamers who have now invested at least 60 hours in the ME universe.

My first thought was, “Really?  Why branch out like that?  If they played through the first two games “as is,” why make it tailored like that?”  But Bioware peeps aren’t dumb; somewhere, someone said something to the effect, “Hey Bioware!  I would like this game a lot more if I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with my ammo the whole game!”  And so Bioware makes the game “tailorable” to suit the tastes of its audience.  They listened.

And ultimately, I’ve learned that if nothing else, people want to feel like they’ve been heard.  That someone is listening.  As a student pastor, probably one of the most difficult things for me to face is a parent who is upset with me over some aspect of our ministry.  But what I’ve learned, through hours of gripe sessions and a few handwritten notes of concern, is that mostly, they just want to be heard.  They want to know that I’ve listened to them and that I care about how they feel.  And that little Johnny won’t wake up with a hand-drawn Fu-Manchu mustache next year at camp.

Maybe that’s why James encourages us to be quick to listen.  The “being heard” part, not the Fu-Manchu part.  Not sure there’s any scripture references to Fu-Manchu mustaches.  James 1:19- “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

I’m not sure if a scientific reasoning exists for this, but I’ve noticed a correlation between my quickness to speak and my quickness to get angry.  Maybe it’s because when I am quick to speak, I’m actually not listening to what the other person is saying.  Maybe I’m already making my reply in my head for when they are done talking.  And maybe they’re doing the same thing.  And we enter this vicious cycle of not listening to each other but being quick to speak, which then leads to anger.  Kinda like Buddy with the turn-style doors in the movie Elf.  We just keep going in circles without getting anywhere.

So the next time someone wants to have a discussion with you, give them your ear.  Figuratively, that is.  Besides, why else would God give you 2 ears and only 1 mouth if you weren’t intended to listen twice as much as you speak?

Recommended Reading: James 1

Law of Conservation of Mass… Effect

Posted: 27th August 2011 by alanmuehlenweg in Uncategorized

Mass Effect.  I’ve owned the game for nearly 2 years.  It sat on my book case next to all the other games I’m not currently playing.  The only difference is that it was still wrapped in the annoying plastic that grants video gamers +2 frustration…

I bought Mass Effect with great anticipation.  It was a Bioware game (which is my favorite game maker of all time) and it’s an RPG game AND it’s sci-fi based.  How could it go wrong?  But before I even opened it, I got online to just “peruse” reviews and I found out that it was ALSO a first-person shooter!  WHAT?!? 

My mind could not comprehend how I was going to be able to enjoy the thematic issues of this new space RPG when I would be freaking out over my lack of hand/eye coordination that makes me SUCK at FPS games…  Ask any teenager who has played me in Halo, MW, or any other shooter.  I’m horrible.

So it sat on my shelf.  Until about a month ago when I read a teaser preview for Mass Effect 3.  “Man, that game looks awesome.  And so does Mass Effect 2.  And I’ve heard the story is really solid…” I thought to myself.  So I was going to conquer my fear of FPS and pop in Mass Effect.

30 hours and 28 minutes later (not at one time, mind you!), I am HOOKED.  Mass Effect was just plain fun.  Bioware didn’t let down on the story; the RPG elements were solid and very similar Knights of the Old Republic (with improvements, which I didn’t think was possible!); and best of all, I’ve become quite good at shooters now.  Not that I’m entering any tournaments, but I feel accomplished.  And I went and got Mass Effect 2.

It’s amazing what happens when we overcome our apprehensions to do something that has all the elements of something we know we would like to do.  Or need to do.

Every year, our students go on mission trips, help with Vacation Bible School, volunteer at Special Olympics, and help raise money to buy school supplies for needy families.  And every year, I’ll have a handful of students who go through a process very similar to my approach to Mass Effect.

They know that God desires for them to engage in the upcoming event or activity.  They know that it will help them grow in their relationship with Him.  They know that, most likely, they are going to have a great time doing it.  But nevertheless, there is some aspect of it that makes them uncomfortable or apprehensive about it. 

“I’m not sure that I can handle being around such severely handicapped kids and keep it together.”

“I’m not that good with a hammer; I would just get in the way.”

“I don’t like teaching and I can’t lead worship, so what good would I be at VBS?”

And the reality is, I’ve said some of those things myself (especially the part about hammers and leading worship).  But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable; He calls us to follow.  And from personal experience, I have NEVER regretted following.  Even through difficulties, hardships, and “uncomfortableness.” 

Doing what God calls us to is the ONLY way to experience a fulfilled, complete life. 

So what are the “Mass Effect” things that God is calling you to do?  Let go of your apprehensions and just do it!

Recommended Reading – Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1 & 2

Real Life, part 2

Posted: 16th May 2011 by alanmuehlenweg in Devo Material

Right around Christmas time, I came down with Walking Pneumonia, which isn’t as horrible as it sounds, but it definitely is not fun.  For five weeks straight, in spite of several rounds of medicines, steroid shots, and breathing treatments, I just couldn’t kick it.  And it wasn’t that I felt horrible; I probably operated at about 70% during that time.  Which is just enough to feel like you need to go in to work but not good enough to be as productive as you should be.

I spent a lot of that time whining about not feeling well.  I think my wife was ready to shoot me and put me out of my misery…  Cause when I whine, I whine like a champion.

It’s funny how we take for granted a lot of things until they’ve been taken away from us.  But last week, several students in my youth group, some adults from our church, and I volunteered at the Oklahoma State Special Olympics Summer Games (www.sook.org).

Special Olympics has always been an important part of my life.  My sister has Downs Syndrome, and I’ve attended regularly since I was 10 years old.  There is something magical about thousands of people descending on Oklahoma State University’s campus to celebrate, cheer, and encourage athletes with special needs.

It also reminds me that I really have no excuse for not following Christ to the best of my ability.  Last summer, my group volunteered in the Aquatics area.  When we got there, I watched an athlete with little floaties on his hips swimming laps to warm up.  I didn’t really think much of it since most kids his age used floaties; I just thought maybe they were different from the ones I was use to seeing on the arms!  Then the boy finished his laps and his coach lifted him out of the water and into a wheelchair.

The floaties weren’t there to help him learn to swim; but rather because he couldn’t move his legs!  But I never heard him complain or gripe or offer excuses that he couldn’t swim because he couldn’t use his legs.  Someone created these floaties just for people like him.  Using these floaties he dragged his body through the water using nothing but his arms!  No excuses!

Coming back from Special Olympics, I feel a little ashamed at the excuses I’ve offered to God as why I don’t always do what He desires.  I’m too young (or now maybe I’m too old!).  I don’t always say the right thing.  I’m worried about what my friends, family, or coworkers might think of me.  What if I make a mistake?  What if people reject what I have to share with them?

What about you?  What excuses do you give for not serving God and others the way He desires?  Because the reality is, most of our excuses are usually based in some truth.  I don’t always say the right thing or have the right answers.  And I often do make mistakes.  And people do reject what I have to share.

But thinking back to my little Special Olympic swimmer: His reality could have easily been his excuse.  “I can’t move my legs!” is really hard to argue with when encouraging someone to take up swimming.  But just like the floaties made it possible for that boy to swim, God provides us the tools, the skills, the gifts, and anything else we might need to do what He has asked.

Never once in all of Scripture or history has God asked someone to do something and then said, “Okay, have fun with that.  I’m going on vacation!”  No, He promised to ALWAYS be with us, even unto the end of the world!

So: What excuse are you going to give up in order that God might use you to do something special?

Recommended Reading: Mattew 28:18-20; Philippians 1

Dragon Age 2

Posted: 10th May 2011 by alanmuehlenweg in Uncategorized

Review-wise, Dragon Age 2 gets a B.  The game is set towards the end and a decade after the events of Dragon Age Origins, with a few references to those events, and if you played DAO, then your save data can be used to set up DA2, which is pretty cool.  Bioware made some significant improvements over DAO, most notably the combat system.  Instead of “giving commands” and then watching them play out, control was given over to the player to handle battle sequences (you actually had to MOVE your character into range!!).  Some of the other changes included giving Hawke, the main character, a voice, and an improved dialogue set up.

Then, of course, there was the significant change that was NOT an improvement.  The Storyline.

Let me say that I’m a HUGE Bioware fan.  Every RPG I play always gets compared to Knights of the Old Republic, a Bioware-made Star Wars game set 3,000 years before the movies.  The gameplay was adequate, but it was the story that made everything so perfect.  KotOR (as it is affectionately called) had the greatest twist of any video game ever.

So maybe my expectations were a little high.  But DAO had a great story (if not actually original per se), but the characters were engaging, the quests were challenging, and the world was worth saving.  And I think that’s where DA2 ultimately left off…  I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along the way, Bioware forgot to make the quests of DA2 feel like you were actually accomplishing something worthwhile.  It felt like my character did nothing of significance except save the city (which, when compared to DAO’s saving the WORLD, feels kinda minuscule).

Ultimately, every game struggles with this: Creating something worth doing.  Regardless of the genre of game, every game has at its core the need to give gamers something worth accomplishing. 

Life is the same way.  When we wake up in the morning, no one crawls out of bed and says, “I really hope that I do NOTHING of significance today.”  When we go to bed, no one hi-fives their spouse or parent with the exclamation, “YES! I didn’t do crap today! ” 

Now, don’t get me wrong- we all need days like that every once in awhile.  But humankind desires for their lives to have counted for something; that the world is a better place because of their existence.  That there is a purpose for their being.  It’s the age-old question: Why am I here?

The Bible addresses this question several times.  And sometimes we look at the Scriptures and draw these big picture/broad brushstroke synopsis:

“You were created to worship God.” 

“Jesus Christ gave us 5 purposes to life in the Great Commandment and Great Commission.”

“To know Him and make Him known.”

And all of these are very true and important for us to remember.  But beyond that, God has a specific plan for each person.  And that plan is a life of significance beyond anything the world has to offer.  A plan that offers a fulfilling satisfaction that doesn’t come from anywhere else.

If you’ve ever asked yourself that question “Why am I here?” know that the answer is not as mysterious as some make it seem.  God has designed you and gifted you and given you abilities to fulfill His plan in your life.  But it starts with a growing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Then look at the way God has made you.  What are your gifts and abilities?  What are your talents and passions?  What would make you get out of bed, singing “Rise and Shine, and give God the glory, glory!”?  (Please someone tell me that their mom woke them up with this song too!)

There’s a story of a 12 year old boy who was challenged with the same questions years ago.  He thought to himself, “Well, I really like baseball and baseball cards.  Could God use those to use me?”  So he went to his youth pastor.  They gathered all the local baseball card vendors and anyone that had a big enough to collection and set up a trading expo in the church’s gym.  They invited a local MLB pitcher who was an outspoken Christian to come and be their keynote speaker. 

On the day of the event, hundreds of local baseball card fans came to the gym and walked around trading cards, and later that afternoon, the pitcher presented the Gospel.  And God used a 12 year old’s baseball card passion to start a Baseball Card Ministry.

So… How about you?  What were you created to do?

Recommended Reading: 1 Corinthians 12

Live Long and Prosper

Posted: 8th April 2011 by alanmuehlenweg in Devo Material, Game Review

So my son and I are officially 5 hours into Lego Star Wars 3.  From a “review” perspective, this game is graphically far and away the best looking Lego game to date.  I absolutely love the game play changes they made, especially the 2 person dynamic split screen.  But it’s also significantly harder than any other Lego game to date. 

The puzzles are trickier, the combat is more intense, and the environments are less “readable” in the sense you can’t just look at it and figure out exactly what to do without looking at EVERYTHING in the area.  My son actually needs help on some of it, which validates my existence as his gaming father.

If I’m honest, I was a little frustrated at first playing it.  Don’t get me wrong- if I wasn’t trying to play this with a 6 year old, it would be a heck of a lot easier!  But letting my son stumble through areas and try to figure out what to do next is SO time consuming and patience-testing.  But I want him to figure it out on his own.  And if he gets really stuck, I help him out.  While he’s trying to solve the puzzles and move stuff using the Force, I’m taking care of the battle droids who would otherwise keep shooting him. 

It takes every bit of resistance I have to NOT jump in and solve every problem, every time.  And if you have ever parented, mentored, coached, or taught, you know EXACTLY how this feels.  And I’m sure my son wonders why Dad isn’t just taking care of the problem…

And it hit me that I do the same thing in my relationship with God.  I wonder why He doesn’t just jump in and save me from every problem, situation, issue, or consequence I face.  I mean, if God really loves me, doesn’t He want me to be happy?

And therein lies the problem…  God DOES desire for me to be happy, but more than that, He desires for my character to become more like Christ’s.  Which means that happiness is secondary to holiness.  I think we get confused when we think about God wanting us to be happy.  His plan is eternal, not temporary; and many of the things we think we “need” to be happy are temporary and not eternal.

It amazes me when I hear people talk about how God wants to make someone wealthy.  “Man, you just got to claim that promise that God wants to prosper you and make you wealthy.”  Yet the Man that Christianity is patterned after never owned His own home.  “If you have faith, God will take care of everything for you.  Just say it!”  Yet the Apostle Paul, who wrote nearly 2/3 of the New Testament prayed 3 times for a thorn to be removed from his flesh and it wasn’t.  He was also shipwrecked, beaten, stoned, imprisoned…  Did he lack faith?  I really don’t think so…

See, God does want to prosper you.  But the prosperity of God is NOT the prosperity of man.  God allows us to bear much fruit (leading people into a relationship with Jesus Christ) and gives us the hope and promise of Heaven (and God has NEVER broken one of His promises!).  We need to quit looking at the Bible through the lense of the world and start looking at the world through the lense of the Bible.

Recommended Reading: 2 Corinthians 11:22-33 and 12:7-10

I’ll time ya!

Posted: 28th March 2011 by alanmuehlenweg in Uncategorized

Today, whilst walking through the church office on my way to the restroom, our church secretary and another lady were chatting when the lady asked me where I was going. “To the restroom… Do I have your permission?” I jokingly asked.  She replied, “Well, I’ll time ya!”

Which just made for a moment of awkwardness…  Why would this lady want to know how long it would take me in the bathroom?  Anyways, I just replied, “Ya know, I haven’t been timed in the bathroom since first grade!  And just for reference, I’m going #1…”

I haven’t heard of any other school that did this, but when I was in first grade, if we wanted to go to the bathroom, we had to raise our hand and hold up a finger or two.  One finger meant you had to go… Yep, #1.  And two fingers meant #2.  I never “#2.”  I mean, seriously, do you want the ENTIRE class to know you gotta drop some kids off at the pool???  I didn’t…

I know it’s a stretch, but it kinda reminds me of Achievements on XBL.  I can go to my friends’ profiles and see a list of their achievements in every game they’ve played!  And some of those achievements are for acts we’ll call “less than upstanding.”  For instance, in the Fable 2 and 3 installments, there’s an achievement for bedding down with both genders.  I passed on that one… 

There’s just something about others knowing what we’re doing that makes us nervous.  And with good reason (yeah, 1984 anyone?).  But on the other hand, this is exactly the kind of relationship most of us are missing in our lives.  The honest, transparent, real-life relationship that has open windows and open doors.   We usually call this kind of relationship an “accountability partner” in Christian circles.

If I’m not careful, it would be real easy for me to slip in my relationship with Christ.  “I’ll just skip my devotional time for today… I’m in a huge hurry!” and before I know it, it’s been a week, a month, or a year since I’ve had serious devotional time.  I can’t tell you the number of people who have quit going to church that start out with “Man, I was just really tired last Sunday…” 

Well, I walked back into the office after using the restroom, and the lady said, “You still have 10 seconds.”  I didn’t realize I had a timeline!  I’m kinda curious what would have happened if I had gone over my limit!  Would she have sent a search party?  But it does pose an interesting question:

Who’s timing you in your relationship with Christ?  And if you go over the limit, what are they gonna do about it?

Recommended Reading: Ecclesiastes 4:8-12