Dreams on PS4: So Much Room for ACTIVITIES!!! (Acts 16:29-34)

There are dreams that you don’t want to wake up from, and there are dreams that you can’t WAIT until you wake up from them.  And I fully experienced BOTH of these emotions (and a few other unsavory ones) while making an honest attempt at playing “Dreams” on PS4.  Going into this I was kind of hoping for a simple, point-and-click, “Super Mario Maker” style experience that would allow me to finally make the video game of my dreams.  I have SOOOOO many amazing ideas… a wrestling game based on the Metal Gear series of characters, a true sequel to Sneak King (with a FULL LEVEL featuring a Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich), and maybe even a Superman game that isn’t an abomination.   I have incredible ideas coming out of my ears and I was eager to unleash my creations on an unsuspecting world.  So far I have made… let me count… carry the one… ummmm… so far I have made exactly NONE of them.  Because this is MUCH harder than I had anticipated.

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“Dreams” comes to us from Media Molecule, the creators of the beloved Little Big Planet series of games. And it is very much like Super Mario Maker in the sense that you can either enjoy it as a participant experiencing uploaded games and videos created by other players, or you can do all of the work yourself and see what the world thinks of your masterpiece.  My hope was to spend a little time and at least make a semi-playable level out of the robust tools provided by this incredibly deep software.  These articles are written with exceptional transparency, so I will just keep it real here… I learned very quickly that I HATE making games.  I hate it SO MUCH.  I owe so many apologies to the creators of every Bubsy game that has ever been created, the poor souls who made Two Worlds, and even the development team behind Superman 64.  Wait… no, that is still unforgivable.   But to the rest of them, I am sorry.  I just… I just didn’t KNOW.  I didn’t know how hard this is.

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The thought process behind designing a game level is one thing… making it actually FUN to traverse and explore is something else entirely.  And it is something I have unfortunately learned that I do not possess.  I quickly switched over to playing some of the creations of my fellow gamers and was STUNNED at what they had already created since this game released.  From Metal Gear remakes to a side-scrolling Goose simulator (that honks through the CONTROLLER speaker!!!) to a game about a dog that has one mission in life… to do his business and mark his territory EVERYWHERE until he gets caught by dog catchers.  I am pretty sure you can guess which one was my favorite.  This game truly provides both a place to innovate as well as a playground for someone like me who has found that PLAYING games is my passion, not creating them.

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Now that I think about it, sometimes it is much more fun to enjoy the mystery of something than it is to see how the sausage is actually made.  For example, the “Force” in Star Wars was at its best when it was a very lightly explained cosmic energy… mysterious, unpredictable, and unable to be quantified.  Then the prequel trilogy came out and we got these ridiculous “midichlorian counts” and blood tests… the whole thing became some sort of insane “Force DNA test” that completely undermined the concept.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want or need my Star Wars flavored with some absurd Maury Povich show silliness.   I can almost hear the commercial teaser,  “Will the DNA test prove that the Force is Anakin’s Father?  Stay tuned for the SHOCKING reveal!”.  The writers stuffed something ancient, powerful and mystical into a weak, flimsy box so it could be measured, dissected, and explained.  But once we could fully understand how the “Force” worked it not only weakened the overall narrative, but we lost something much more important along the way.

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In our current reality-obsessed culture there is a focus on stripping away some of the un-explainable phenomena and mysterious elements wherever we find them, even in our entertainment.  I will admit to enjoying shows like Mythbusters and seeing magic tricks exposed by masked magicians, and there is nothing wrong with the natural quest for humans to acquire knowledge and seek to understand this massive universe that we occupy.  But this has also expanded to other areas, such as our feeble attempts to explain our Creator and His plan of salvation that He delivered to us.  From understanding the unique nature of the Godhead to the mission of the Holy Spirit and how He leads and guides us, for thousands of years theologians and philosophers alike have taken turns at explaining the “mystery of Godliness” mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:16…

1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

That might not seem overly controversial, but as the Apostle Paul continues his thoughts in the next chapter we can see what humankind has been doing with the message of Christ for generations…

1 Timothy 4:1-3 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,  speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,  forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  

Let’s unpack what Paul is saying in the continuation of his thoughts from the previous verse… Paul is predicting that the simplicity of the message of Christ that he so succinctly wrapped up in six simple lines would be perverted and distilled into some kind of formula… an EARNED salvation based on following specific rules and restricting ourselves from gifts that God has provided out of His goodness.  This was a theme throughout his writing as we see in a much larger passage from Romans 3:

Romans 3:21-28 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,  even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 

It can be hard to understand, and honestly even harder to receive, but there it is.  As much as humanity through the years has attempted to create reconciliation with God through our pitiful attempts at righteousness and “holy” living, this attempt at creating our own path to Him is as pathetic and hollow as the Tower of Babel back in Genesis 11.  This was humanity’s most famous attempt at reaching God through our own means, and it resulted in the most massive division of humanity that has lasted to this day (Genesis 11:1-9).  The sad thing is we continue to replicate this division over and over again to this very day, finding reasons to divide within our own faith as we attempt to take the wonderful, incomprehensible, loving work of Christ and turn it into a formula to follow for salvation.  You want the formula?  Let’s listen to Paul as he practices what he preaches in Acts 16…

Acts 16:29-34 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.  Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

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Much like my failed experiment with trying to make a fun and functional game in “Dreams”, we can often struggle with the temptation to make a nice, neat, formulaic process out of something incredibly beautiful that is far beyond our ability to comprehend or quantify.  I know that many people possess the gift to make video games, but I am definitely not one of them.  But I DO know how to appreciate and enjoy the work of people far more skilled than I am, and I am quite content with that.  Similarly, it is far beyond my ability to comprehend why God loves us, sent His Son to die for us, and how my choice to believe in that and follow Him atones for my sins and saves my soul.  But fortunately, I don’t HAVE to understand it.  I don’t have to be able to explain it or comprehend it.  I simply need to ACCEPT it, BELIEVE in it, and allow Him to take over and do His work in my life.

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Does the act of receiving this change our lives?  Absolutely it does (see James 2 for a better explanation of that).  But those changes are in response to the work of the Spirit, not a prerequisite to receiving Him.  I don’t need to know how it all works in order to receive it… I just need to believe.  The combination of God’s grace and our faith is what SAVES us… it truly is that simple.  It is the work of the enemy, the doctrines of the devil himself referenced in 1 Timothy 4, that attempts to convince us otherwise.  Rest assured that God’s promiscuous love combined with our blind, trusting faith is not only strong enough to save us… it is the ONLY way.

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