Pokémon and what it says about our search for Jesus

pokemon

My five-year-old daughter caught her first Pokémon the other night.

Proud daddy moment or bad parenting moment?

Holding my phone, she led us around the neighborhood in our search for the hiding creatures. Every time the phone vibrated she would scream with excitement. It is always exciting when you find what you are looking for.

My two-year-old couldn’t figure out why my phone saw the Eevee right in front of us, but she couldn’t seem to see it in real life. I told her my phone was special.

Pokémon Go is more than just a game, it’s a cultural phenomenon. The need to catch Pokémon has brought together unlikely people. On our walk through the neighborhood we were given directions by a teenage boy, a retired couple on their own walk and a shirtless, overweight man sitting on his front porch as to where to find Pokémon.

Did you read the story about the guys who fell off a cliff in search of Pokemon?

What about the couple who jumped a fence at the Toledo zoo tiger exhibit in search of Pokemon? She later said, “It wasn’t the most responsible thing to do, but hey, gotta catch ’em all,”

I guess when you want something bad enough you will go to extraordinary lengths to find it. But with Pokemon Go, once you catch a Pokemon its not over. There is still another to find.

It is an endless cycle

Search – Find – Excitement – Need to search again – Find – Excitement – Need to search again…

This is probably why I saw 30 people running across a field on campus the other day. But when they find whatever they are looking for they will take off running for something else.

Search, find, excitement, repeat. Never enough.

Ironically, this a game that takes place in an alternate reality, but the game just emphasizes what is already happening in reality. I see it happen all the time.

You can pick the category of your life. Relationships, education, career, athletics, or even addictions.

We work hard to accomplish a goal, win a game, or overcome an addiction which is followed by a certain level of excitement. Just like catching an Eevee, we quickly need to move onto something better.

It is exhausting and ultimately unfulfilling to live life this way.

I search, I find, I’m excited but it’s never enough to really satisfy. It is fun for the moment, that’s probably why the game is so addicting. But it doesn’t actually get us what we want.

There is a guy I read about who quit his job to go chase after Pokémon fulltime. We will sacrifice a lot in search of a little more.

We will sacrifice family to get the promotion, morality to find love, or integrity for a grade. But it never actually pays off in the end because there is always another Pokémon to search for and find.

In the book of Jeremiah God says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

There is actually only one thing we can find in life that doesn’t demand we keep searching for more. His name is Jesus.

All the things we search for are answered in Jesus – significance, love, value, peace, hope… you can keep the list going.

So, catch all the Pokémon you want.

Search, find, be excited and repeat as often as you want. But don’t do it in real life.

Search for Jesus, find him, and be excited – there is no need for more.

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Three Ways Not to Cure Loneliness

lonely

My facebook status can be liked by my grandma, an old high school friend, and the missionary I worked with once overseas all in the same minute. We are more connected today than we ever have been before but seem lonelier. Even though we are connected on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat we still feel a deep longing for more meaningful relationships.

Did you know it is possible to be in a room full of people, even people you call friends, but still feel alone? There are few things worse in life than that feeling.

Loneliness is the painful awareness of isolation, emptiness and an intense longing for deeper relationships. Loneliness brings with it feelings of rejection, being left out, unwanted and misunderstood.

How do we cure loneliness?

A Japanese company invented the “hugging chair”. For $419 you do not ever have to feel alone again!

The chair is about as helpful as these three things you might have tried.

Get Busier

I’m sitting in my room alone right now, if only I was busier I would not feel so alone.

Swamp yourself with school work, keep long office hours or fill your schedule with things to do – and you will still feel lonely. Busyness does not lead to deep relationships. Maybe this is why in America we work insanely long work hours and psychologists tell us we are lonelier than ever before.

Busyness is a distraction that numbs the pain of isolation but never fixes the problem.

Sometimes business is equated with significance. Significance can be a pretty strong anesthetic. But it is only as good as those pain meds you get after your wisdom teeth get pulled, eventually they wear off and you are left with nothing but an empty hole and a nagging pain.

Get a Significant Other

Look at that couple, they seem so happy – If only I had someone to be happy with I would not feel so alone.

Our desire for intimacy drives us into what ends up being hurtful, destructive relationships.

Truth: Lonely single people just become lonely people in a relationship. Then you just break up because someone else might be able to cure your loneliness.

Even worse – bypass the “significant” part and just go for a quick hook up. Friends with benefits may seem to be better than no friends at all.

In the end, asking someone else to solve a problem they cannot solve, never works out. Also, just because someone is keeping the pillow next to you warm does not make you feel any less lonely.

Get Wasted

Forgetting is not fixing but at least I forgot for a while.

There are numerous reasons for the party culture on college campuses. I have heard one reason over and over again: For a night, escape from our pain is possible.

But it is just a night.

Like all problems in life, when we try to solve it in the wrong way, it usually results in a whole new set of issues. Distractions are not a cure – just a short fix. What if you could have a fix that lasts a lifetime?

Redefining the Loneliness

Popular thought is that loneliness is a social problem.

We say, “if only I was more outgoing…” or “If only I had one close friend…”

But what if loneliness is a spiritual problem. What if we came to God with our loneliness and let him redefine it.

He might say, “You are lonely, and that is an issue that cannot be solved by a close friend, a group, or a social experience – you need me!”

I love the story of a girl named Hagar (I know, crazy name). Her story is told in the book of Genesis.

Hagar was an Egyptian woman, meaning she was likely enslaved as a result of a lost battle. Abraham’s people said, “You become our servants and we won’t kill you.” She has made a deal, “I give you my life so you don’t kill me.”

Hagar ends up pregnant with Abraham’s son. She had done so with the full consent of his wife too!

Hagar thinks, “This is my chance. I’m going to give birth to Abraham’s heir. I have finally arrived. Life is going to get better.”

Hagar finds out though, that Abraham’s wife, Sara, is planning on just taking the Baby after birth and raising it as her own. Hagar begins to despise Sarah, she actually hates her.

Sarah comes to Abraham and complains about Hagar. Abraham says, “Do with her as you please.”

Sarah beats Hagar.

You can almost see Hagar huddled in a corner, all alone, afraid of losing her baby. She wonders why no one is coming to help her.

Eventually, she runs and hides, and seeks escape from her circumstances. She runs away, she comes to a well where she sits down. Maybe she can spend the rest of her life here.

She is all alone.

Then behind her the Angel of the Lord leans down and asks her, “Hagar, where have you come from, where are you going?”

God came near. What Hagar needed was not another friend. Hagar did not need to be busier, find a husband or drink the night away. She needed God.

Our loneliness is not a social problem it is a spiritual problem. We need God.

What would happen in your life if you pursued more of him? I wonder what would happen to our loneliness.

Graduating is not the Goal

jesus, graduation, mission

Jesus never asked you to graduate college.

Jesus did command you to make disciples.

The two are too easily confused. I know because most people will graduate without ever making a disciple.

A college degree is a worthy endeavor, in fact, I have two of them. I cannot tell you what God has planned for you educationally, but I know God’s will is that you share the Gospel with people.

Do you believe that the greatest reason you are in college is because God called you there to be a missionary? If this is true, then there are some things to remember as school starts this year:

1. Your friend’s eternal destiny is more important than your temporary destiny

Preparing yourself for the next chapter of life is important but not nearly as important as Jesus is to your lab partner. Set good priorities this year and remind yourself daily of what is really important.

2. Manage your time.

Your parents have paid a lot of money for a degree (or you are paying for it). In 2014 it will cost on average $30,094 to attend a private university. If you throw in food and a place to sleep, it gets even higher. If you are paying that much money, you should graduate. Manage your time in such a way that you can study and live life on mission. Maybe this means less time in front of a computer screen and more time on your knees. 

3. Love without limits.

Open your apartment to new friends, cook a meal for freshmen, leave the comfort zone of your friends to reach others, or offer to give rides in your car every time it is possible. We will go to great lengths to sacrifice for a test (you’ll pull a couple all-nighters this year). Why can’t we go to extraordinary lengths to love others?

4. Commit to growth.

Find a community of believers who want to live out the mission of the church. Join a small group, be at church, and disciple someone. If the greatest thing you will do in college is make disciples, then surround yourself with people who are doing that. Also, commit to training yourself to be a disciple.

Thankfully, it is possible to graduate and make disciples at the same time. Go make disciples and while you are at it, maybe you will graduate college.

What good is graduating if your roommate never heard of Jesus?

 

Experience vs. Process

experience vs process

A big event means a great experience. I bet you can remember a “life-changing” experience in your life. Maybe you can think of two or three. These are the crucial moments in our lives that change our trajectory. It might be a retreat, a mission trip, a worship night, or a conference.

These are necessary.

In your desire for the experience, you are likely to forget about the need for the process.

The purpose of the experience is to strengthen the process.

Tim Elmore said, “If all we do is offer big events, we may inspire students, but we’ll never get beyond the excitement and emotion of the event.”

The process is essential because that is where real growth happens.

Here are five differences between an experience and the processes. We need both, but we often neglect the process.

1.  An experience inspires a group, the process transforms a group.

This is why you should be in a small group or discipleship relationship. Growth takes more than one night or weekend. The experience is like a catalyst to the process. Too many people are motivated to transform but are not willing to go through the process.

2.  An experience is attractive, the process is necessary.

It is more fun to show up to an event that involves free food, loud music, lots of people and a heart-grabbing message than have it be your week to bring the donuts to Bible Study. The processes is necessary because it is over time that our hearts are broken and restored. It is in the processes that we struggle with what it means to be a disciple.

3.  An experience usually needs money, a process always needs time.

Big events are expensive for someone, probably not you, but someone paid for the space, entertainment, food and free stuff. The best thing about the process is that it requires little money, but it always requires a lot of time. Do not grow impatient of the process.

4.  An experience requires a small commitment, a process requires perseverance.

This is why more people will be in church on a Sunday than small groups during the week. We like our Christianity without genuine commitment. But growth requires perseverance.

5. An experience allows us to stay hidden, a process requires that we be real.

It is easy to hide in the back at a large event. Events often do not require that we talk, share or interact with people on a deep level. The process takes away the ability to hide. That is probably why some of you are scared of joining a small group.

If all this true, why are we so afraid of the process?