The Ministry Chronicle

Augmented Reality

The latest craze sweeping the nation is the smart-phone game, Pokemon Go. You have likely seen the groups of people wandering around Bridge Street and Big Spring Park, with their phones stretched out in front of them, completely oblivious to the rest of the world. Or perhaps you have heard the stories of people involved in car accidents or falling off of cliffs because they have been so encapsulated by it. If the game itself is a new concept to you, the basic premise is that it is an augmented reality game, using your phone’s GPS location to display a virtual world of little creatures, called Pokemon. The object of the game is to collect all 150 Pokemon by capturing them when they appear nearby. Some of the Pokemon are incredibly common, while others are exceedingly rare. But the point of the game is that you can’t play it just sitting at home. You have to be moving in order to find and catch new Pokemon.

You are probably wondering by now how I know so much about this game. Well, I have a confession to make. Inspired by one of our former youth group students, I have been playing the game myself. What started out as a curious fascination has now become an embarrassingly steady habit. Have a few minutes to kill? Walk over to Big Spring Park. Out to dinner with family? Pull out my phone and see what cool Pokemon may be around. In a matter of week I have gone from skeptic and scoffer to becoming one of “those people”.

One of the more fascinating things about Pokemon is that it is based in the real world, but it is obviously not a part of the physical realm, hence the term augmented reality. To the average citizen walking through the streets, everything appears as it always does. For the game player, there is suddenly a new reality that exists everywhere. The park is no longer a place to go to feed the ducks and fish, but it is a place where rare and exotic Pokemon show up.

It’s almost foolish to make the comparison, but, in this sense, Pokemon reminds me a lot of our faith. To those who are not believers, the world is just as it appears. It exists in the material realm, but nothing more. To the believer however, there is so much more going on than what we can see with our eyes. The second half of 2 Corinthians 4:12 reads, “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” What a great way to think about life and faith. The things that we can see, the material world, is nothing more than a temporary home. Earlier in the chapter Paul writes “we hold this treasure in jars of clay.” The treasure Paul was referring to was our faith in Christ, and jars of clay were the equivalent of plastic sandwich bags in the first century. They were good for little more than temporary storage. While they could keep things secured, the jars themselves were fragile and easily broken. The idea here is that our lives are those jars. We were not built to last forever in this world. For those who believe in God, this world is not our home, there is more to come. It is the things that we cannot see, the unseen things, that are eternal. We long for an eternal home and dwelling place that will make all that we have ever seen in this world pale in comparison.

To the unbeliever, a Christian is a lot like a Pokemon player. Wandering around, talking about an invisible God, a Savior who can not now be physically seen. Outsiders may struggle to understand, perhaps even mocking or scoffing for living our lives based upon the silly stories of a book of fairy tales, but for those who believe, for those who’s eyes have been opened to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no higher truth. C.S. Lewis eloquently wrote of ‘those people’ in Mere Christianity, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” Let us live our lives then not in the augmented reality of the physical world, but in the true reality of the world as it truly is: created by a loving Father, broken by sin, redeemed by the Begotten Son, and longing for the day of full restoration.

Listening for Love

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

I’m going to talk about two things today: fear and love.

I think there’s a very common fear that plagues us these days: a fear of rejection, of getting hurt. We all know firsthand the pain of a cold relative, a broken friendship, maybe a broken home. Maybe you also know of dull and weary days where one’s life inexorably slips away from other people into isolation.

Friendships, relatives, self inspection- they can all hurt us when they don’t measure up to our hopes or expectations. All of these things require a vulnerability, a risk or surrender of control. Human nature shrinks from these things.

So perhaps you’ve also tried the world’s solution of regaining control. I wouldn’t recommend it. In order to protect one’s self from getting hurt or disappointed, the trick the devil tells us is to become insulated and distanced; to put a filter between our ears and our heart.

It’s a dirty lie, half true but still half false, and if you’ve ever felt fooled by it I can tell you you’re not the first.

If you haven’t fallen into the trap of this lie I can describe what happens next: life becomes a prison sentence, invisible walls holding you back from other people. Your own lifestyle prohibits any hope, any honesty or warmth to reach you in your cell. Your day becomes a series of pantomimes; an exhausting repertoire of pretensions designed to satisfy the questions of concerned friends.

But that’s not what life is supposed to be. God did not make us to live imprisoned by our fears. God crafted our hearts to be filled with love; for him, for others, even in an odd way, for ourselves. And no matter how thick the walls of lies we’ve constructed around ourselves; let me tell you, they can come crashing down in an instant by the sound of Christ whispering: “I love you.”

So live life vulnerable. The pain is real, but that’s why God gave us hearts that feel. Live life listening for the sound of God and other people loving you; because those sounds, no matter how subtle, are out there. And when life or others or even yourself disappoint- remember that God’s love is more powerful, more alive and more real than all the fears and dysfunctions and grievances our hearts can ever pile high towards heaven.
Live life fearless, with a mind that knows you are cherished, with a heart that feels you are wanted, and most importantly, with ears that are listening for all the little sounds that mean you are loved.

-Extract from August Newsletter