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Free time, with nothing to do and nowhere to be....a rarity for many of us!!

            Free time, with nothing to do and nowhere to be.  Running two ministries and volunteering at two churches doesn’t allow me much of this these days.  However, a few weeks ago, I had such a day.  I couldn’t be home because I was waiting to pick my sister up from a woman’s conference, but other than that, the possibilities were wide open for me. 


            So what did I do?  I did what I love to do when I have free, alone time…I visited my list of Guy Stores.


            Guy Stores?  You know, the stores guys don’t get to visit when they shop with women, stores like Best Buy, Radio Shack, Dick’s sporting goods, etc.  I love to just meander through such stores and see all the guy toys they have, knowing my budget only permits looking, not buying.  But it is so fun to look!


            On this particular day, I went into a video game store.  I had no intentions of buying, just looking and passing time.  Unknown to me, it was the day the Playstation 4 debuted, and the story was very busy.  As I looked around, I saw a sign promoting an in-store contest. 


            Now, I am HUGE contest guy, I have to enter every contest I see!  So I took my card and had it scanned, expecting to get a 10% off coupon that I would never use.  Instead, I was stunned when they said, “Congratulations, you won a brand new Playstation 3 and choice of 2 games!”


            I was stunned.  I guess they were doing the giveaway to move old systems to make way for the new ones, but hey, for someone who never owned a gaming console in his life, the old system was just fine with me.


            As I placed this unexpected surprise in my trunk, I couldn’t help think “Why in the world would God allow me to win this prize?”   I doubted I would ever find time to use it.


            Over the past few weeks, I did find time to use it though.  You see, I got sick and had to slow down. For a self-described workaholic, slowing down is torture.  To help pass the time, I tinkered with the Playstation 3.  Since then, it has taught me some lessons that I want to pass on to you.  Honestly, each lesson is universal to all men, but none of the lessons has to do with each other.  Still, I know God will use one of these lessons to help each reader.


1.  Mentorship is more than just men’s groups.


            One lesson I learned is that relationships, not events, promote mentorship and discipleship.  I have a younger friend who I have been mentoring over the past year.  We were making progress, but relationally it wasn’t completely comfortable.  However, this guy is a BIG Gamer.  When he found out I won a PS3, he started playing games with me.  The relationship became less religious and more personal.  It was a big breakthrough that I never expected.  I also noticed he was being used to mentor an even younger guy who was also a big gamer.  They had this in common and as they played, conversations took place that produced discipleship and Christian growth.


            This experience helped me to see that, while studying together and going to men’s group together is good and important, true progress in discipleship comes through a relationship where religion is part of a friendship, not a friendship being part of a religion.   We need to find a way to connect with the younger guys to build a relationship so that mentorship comes out of it.  I did it with a PS3, what will God use in your life to connect with a younger guy?


2.  The strongest convictions should always win.


            As I played games with other believers, one thing I noticed was the differences in conviction among the players.  Some were very strict in what they played, avoiding anything above G rating.  Others believed some types of games were ok, while other games had content that was not good for believers.  Even others felt it was all okay to play, after all it was just a game, it wasn’t real. 


            As I heard the different point of views, I was happy to see that the more liberal gamers didn’t criticize the more conservative ones and try and bully them into playing what they liked to play.  Instead, they played what the “weaker gamer’s” conscience could accept.   This made me think of Paul’s words to the Romans in Romans 14 when he discusses the weak and strong Christians


                13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.


            I am convinced that we have this passage wrong in our modern interpretation.  We use this verse to say that people with strong convictions and beliefs don’t have the right to make people with weaker conscious’s feel guilty for doing what they do.  We can’t hold each other to a higher level; we must come down to the more liberal approach. 


             I don’t think that was what Paul was saying.  I believe Paul was saying that if someone feels something is wrong to do or wrong to watch, etc, that a genuine believer will sacrifice their right to do it for the sake of the one whose conscience it hurts.  In the end, the stronger conscience should set the tone, the more liberal believer needs to sacrifice for the more conservative.


3.  Four eyes are better than two.


            One thing I noticed is that when I use the Playstation 3, I can see what other friends are playing, and they in turn can see what I am playing.   The friends list shows it.  As a result, accountability happens.  I can hold  friends accountable if I see them playing something they have no business playing, and I have other eyes besides my own on me to make sure I don’t fall into any traps from the enemy.


            Accountability is one of the greatest gifts God gives His men, yet it is the one gift that men reject more than any other.  They don’t want others monitoring them.  They fear others knowing what they are doing or where they are going.  So they refuse to open themselves up to accountability.  This is such a big mistake! 


            Peer pressure is a powerful weapon we have at our disposal to defeat our spiritual enemies and temptations.  Just the knowledge of knowing you could get caught and destroy your reputation is powerful motivation to walk the straight and narrow.  I am a huge believer in accountability, and my PS3 reinforced this belief. 


4.  It is not only okay to take time each day to rest, it is necessary.


            Okay, all you fellow workaholics, take your fingers out of your ears and stop humming profusely to drown me out!  I get it!  We don’t like to stop and smell the roses.  We have people to see and things to do.  I am right there with you. 


            However, I have come to see that we need to take some time every day to just do nothing.  Sometimes I use this time to watch tv, read a book, or play Madden 25.  But I have come to realize that I have to do it.  It is my job to take care of the temple God has given to me, and when I run my body into the ground, I am not doing this.  There is nothing wrong with turning off the PC, putting on sweats and just chilling for awhile.  I don’t feel guilty anymore if I only put in a 9 hour workday.  There is more to life than work, and if we aren’t careful, life will pass us by as we chase after success.  So I encourage you learn to relax and don’t feel guilty about it.


5.  All Things In Moderation, Except God.


            Moderation used to be my Achilles heel.  When I was younger, I was an all or nothing kinda guy.  If I was into something, I was REALLY into it.  If I had a PS3 when I was younger, I would have been the type of person who would play it for hours on end.  Now, I play for a little bit, then turn it off and move on.   All things in moderation, especially play. 


            Over the years I have learned an important lesson.  The only thing in life that doesn’t get Moderation applied to it is your walk with God.  When it comes to fun, play, work, or anything else, moderation is necessary.  But when it comes to walking with God and developing a relationship with Him, we throw out moderation and go overboard.  We give it all we have and we allow it to consume us.  That is the only way to live life.


            These are just some of the lessons I learned from the unexpected blessing of the PS3.  They are lessons all men can take and apply to their lives and situations.  I hope these lessons help you as much as they did me.

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