Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Open Mic: Sex, Lies & Videotape

It's time to start answering some of these questions (you can see all of them at the comments on the original post) here online...

Will there be sex in the end times? This question is actually the punchline to a joke/story told by John Ortberg, pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (in the Bay area), who once suggested playfully to his wife (who ran the GenX-targeted service at their previous church) that there are three topics that can always keep the attention of college-age students:
  • sex
  • the end times
  • will there be sex in the end times?

Oddly enough, this punchline can be nicely broken into two questions:

  1. What will the end times be like?
  2. Regardless of when it occurs (in the midst of Armageddon or not), how should I conduct myself sexually?

Honestly, I'm not sure I have a good answer to the first question. The passages that deal with what I've been blithely referring to as "the end times" are written in apocalyptic language - meaning the authors used gobs of symbolism to communicate their message of impending judgement & redemption. Which means that it's difficult for us to piece together a detailed "battle plan" - in fact, it's rather like reading a Faulkner novel... you know the words mean something but you have a devil of time making sense out of them.

A lot of you have been exposed to the Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins... it's important to note here that their view of the end times (called "pretribulation premillenial dispensationalism" in heavy duty theological terms) is not the only way that evangelical Christians interpet those particular passages. (There's a particularly compelling book by Hank Hanegraaff called The Apocalypse Code that argues for a much different way of looking at all of this.)

With all that said, I can sum up the "feel" of the Biblical texts with the cliche, "It's gonna get worse before it gets better." This, taking a look at the world around us, should surprise no one. The other thing that comes through loud & clear is what one of my professors in seminary called "panmillenialism" - "it's all going to pan out in the end."

Then I saw a new sky (heaven) and a new earth, for the former sky and the former earth had passed away (vanished), and there no longer existed any sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, all arrayed like a bride beautified and adorned for her husband; Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4 AMP)

I've written a good bit about question #2 over the life of this blog - you can check out the following articles if you're interested:

Under what conditions can a believer not tell the truth... or if ever?

Do not tell lies about others. (Exodus 20:16 CEV)

You know, I'm not sure I can get much more clear cut than that... but in case I haven't, let's try another argument on for size:

Followers of Christ want to be like Jesus, right?!

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)

So, if they want to be like Jesus, let's look at what Jesus/God is like:

This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God - who does not lie -promised them before the world began. (Titus 1:2 NLT)

God cannot tell lies! And so his promises and vows are two things that can never be changed. We have run to God for safety. Now his promises should greatly encourage us to take hold of the hope that is right in front of us. (Hebrews 6:18 CEV)

And that takes cares of the basics.

But, you say, what about Rahab? What about the Hebrew midwives? What about people in Europe hiding Jews from the Nazis?

I stumbled upon an excellent series of blog posts from Skinniyah on his What's The Skinny? blog entitled Lying & The Bible... he does a bang-up job in part 2 of answering the questions about Rabab & the Hebrew midwives.

As for Nazis... well, let me put it this way. For most of us, the whole issue of "should I lie?" is not wrapped up in saving people's lives from a facist regime. I've come to believe that a lot of the "intellectual discussion" on this topic is pretty much a smokescreen to cover our collective butts.

Name five great flicks I might have missed in the last few years.

OK, this isn't really a question I got - I made it up so I could use the title "sex, lies & videotape." So sue me.

  • Holes (It's a Disney film about teenagers that really resonated with me... wowsa. I probably ought to read the Newberry Award-winning book it was based on.)
  • Jump Tomorrow (An indie/Sundance-y romance without a cynical bone in it's body... I defy you to not fall in love with the characters.)
  • In Good Company (Not a slapstick comedy but an exploration of it means to be a man... Dennis Quaid & Topher Grace both create characters I want to know in real life.)
  • Stranger Than Fiction (This is not really for fans of Will Ferrell, as he does very little SNL-ish kind of stuff... instead, he is the key figure in a witty & wise film about life & meaning. It's also slower than you'd originally guess, but it's worth the wait.)
  • Zathura (It looked like it was going to be a rip-off of Jumangi... and instead, it was a film with great storytelling, less running from CGI effects, and some thoughtful moments about the consequences of our actions. The success of this film makes me very happy Jon Favreau is directing the upcoming Iron Man movie.)

Hobby Games: The Best 100

Thanks to Shannon Applecline, the table of contents for the new book, Hobby Games: The Best 100, are now online - and the meme has begun!

I own this game:
  • Acquire
  • Battle Cry
  • Bohnanza
  • Carcassonne
  • Citadels
  • Cosmic Wimpout
  • Diplomacy
  • El Grande
  • Fluxx
  • Formula Dé
  • The Fury of Dracula
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Puerto Rico
  • The Settlers of Catan
  • Ticket to Ride
  • The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
  • Wiz-War

I've played this game (but don't own it):

  • Amun-Re
  • Axis & Allies
  • Blood Bowl
  • Button Men
  • Cosmic Encounter
  • Descent
  • Dynasty League Baseball
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  • A Game of Thrones
  • Gettysburg
  • A House Divided
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Ogre
  • Once Upon a Time
  • PanzerBlitz
  • Paranoia
  • Pirate's Cove
  • Plague!
  • Power Grid
  • Shadows over Camelot
  • Terrible Swift Sword
  • Thurn and Taxis
  • Tigris & Euphrates
  • Tikal
  • Vinci
I used to own this game:
  • Car Wars
  • Circus Maximus
  • Civilization
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Illuminati
  • Junta
  • Kingmaker
  • RoboRally
  • Space Hulk (probably the only one in this category I wish I still owned)
  • Squad Leader
  • Talisman
  • Traveller
I've never played this game (but I want to!):
  • Britannia (but I do have Jimbo's copy sitting in my game room)
  • The Great Khan Game
  • Tales of the Arabian Nights
  • Twilight Struggle
I've never played this game (and don't care if I ever do):
  • Amber Diceless
  • Ars Magica
  • BattleTech
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Champions
  • Dawn Patrol
  • Empires in Arms
  • Empires of the Middle Ages
  • Fire and Fury
  • Flames of War
  • Ghostbusters
  • Hammer of the Scots
  • Here I Stand
  • Johnny Reb
  • Kremlin
  • Legend of the Five Rings CCG
  • Lensman
  • London's Burning
  • Machiavelli
  • Marvel Super Heroes (Jeff Grubb version)
  • Metamorphosis Alpha
  • My Life with Master
  • Mythos
  • Napoleon's Last Battles
  • Naval War
  • Pendragon
  • Renaissance of Infantry
  • RuneQuest
  • Shadowfist
  • Shadowrun
  • Silent Death: The Next Millennium
  • Stalingrad
  • Star Fleet Battles
  • The Sword and the Flame
  • Toon
  • Unknown Armies
  • Up Front
  • Vampire: The Eternal Struggle
  • Vampire: The Masquerade
  • War and Peace
  • Warhammer 40,000
  • The Warlord
That's 17 owned, plus a very high 12 that I'd owned and got rid of, and 25 I've played... lots of these are rules for miniatures combat, role-playing rules, and wargames that were released after I got out of wargaming.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Roll Or Don't

Need a new way to waste time while you should be working? I hereby present to you Jim Cobb's most recent version of his freeware game, Roll or Don't, which is essentially Sid Sackson's Can't Stop.

Jim is a friend from Gulf Games & a very nice guy, even if he has to play board games with Stven & Ward every week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not Exactly On The Cutting Edge of Boardgaming

I finally got to play some of the "new" crop of games this last week - actually, I got to play stuff that was new to me. Here's my eeny-teeny-tiny capsule reviews of them:


Man, I wanted to like this one. I'm a sucker for Days of Wonder production (got to admit, the wooden pawns dressed up with togas & laurels are pretty darn cool) - this game is no exception. I love the look of the board, the clarity of the graphics, and the general theme of the game.

But I found myself caught on an interesting dilemna in the game: if I played "to win", I needed to concentrate & crunch the numbers & consider all the possible scenarios that my fellow players might try, while if I played to have fun, I needed to attempt to ignore this and play "by the seat of my pants." All of the game information is open, so it's possible to do all the figuring necessary - but doing so slows the game to a glacial pace.

That leaves you with a game that is unsatisfying either way - which, well, blech. I rated it a "5" on BGG, which roughly translates as "I'd play it again but I took it off my wishlist."

The actual game was enjoyable... and close. At the end, I was tied for the lead with another player only one point behind the two of us. We had the same amount of cash, so the "more stars" tiebreaker finally decided the game in his favor.

We did have one rules question: can you bid based on the potential cash of your medals or do you need to cash them in? We decided "cash them in".


Take the bland "agony" card game of Coloretto (much beloved by people other than me) and add a delightful theme, a wider range of tactical choices & nice graphics, and you have the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year in Germany) winner, Zooloretto.

This isn't a spectacular game - it didn't wow me - but it's solid as a rock & fun to play. If you're an expansion junkie, there are at least 3 expansions released online by the designer already.

I rated this one a "6" on BGG, which roughly translates as "I'm happy to play this and might pick it up if I found a good deal on it."

Before The Wind

If Helen of Troy had the face that launched a thousand ships, then this game had the unfortunate moniker that launched a thousand fart jokes - but, flatuence-inspired humor aside, it's a decent game. (And that's a lot to say, considering it was published by Phalanx, whose Hector & Achilles is still stinking up my trade pile.)

It's yet another "shipping goods" game - but with really nice art & some interesting game mechanics. You have to acquire goods, then take yet another action to place them in your warehouse, and finally take a final action to move them onto the ships.

I'm not sure I'd enjoy this game with 4 players, but it worked just fine with 3 players. This is not a game to play with serious card counters, as they'd wipe the floor with you.

I gave this one a "6", which roughly translates as "I'd play it again, but only with people who play quickly."

Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge

I'm realizing that I still have some wargamer tendencies... and the A&A battle games (D-Day, Bulge) along with Memoir '44 & Battlelore do a terrific job of scratching that itch.

Bulge is long (3.5 hours) in comparison to D-Day (2 hours) but it has a similar feel. Now, I'm not saying they're the same game - far from that! What I love about this series of games is that they "feel" historical... you may or may not make the same decisions as in the actual battle, but it becomes pretty clear why the commanders did what they did 60+ years ago.

Bulge features a new combat system using strips to dole out damage - don't ask me to explain. It'll take too long. Just trust me that it's a good thing - it encourages combined arms attacks & defense, which makes good sense.

There's also a supply system that's vital to recreating the problems that the Germans faced in making their offensive work. This was the one place in the rules where I desperately needed the FAQ - I could not figure out how trucks worked from the rules as printed.

Even with losing my first game (the Germans reached 24 points on the final turn - sigh), I rate this game a "7" on BGG, which roughly translates to "I enjoy this game, I'm glad I own it, and will gladly play when I can carve out 4 hours."


With terrain pieces that look like refugees from Java, I was worried that it was going to make my brain hurt as badly as Java. (I shudder even thinking about that... game. Brrrr.) But Taluva is actually a Carcassonne-ish placement game... or maybe it's more like Fjords. I dunno.

Either way, it plays quickly & cleanly with nice wooden bits & the aforementioned chunky terrain tiles.

I rated this one a "6" on BGG, which roughly translated means "I'd play it again but I don't need to own it."

On The Underground

I really like connection games... and On The Underground is a doozy of a connection game. We played with 3 players, which means that each player is managing three colors of subway lines in London.

I fell way behind early, but caught up a good bit near the end as the passenger ran to the western area of the board (which I controlled).

A couple of questions to make sure if we played correctly:

  1. When the passenger moves, he moves to ONE express station and then to ONE normal station, right?! If he doesn't have an express station, he just moves to a normal station?
  2. We were all out of track with about 2/5ths of the deck still to go... we just kept running the passenger until the deck ran out - is this correct?

Assuming we got the rules close to right, I'm going to give this one a "7" on BGG, which roughly translates into "a sweet little connection game that works differently than any of the other connection games I own."

Disney Magic Kingdom Game

Anyone who reads the blog knows I'm a bit nutso for the Disney parks, so I've been looking at this kids game for a long time. With our trip to see the Mouse looming in less than four months, I finally broke down & bought it (thanks to a coupon for 20% off).

It's a pretty standard roll-n-move, but with some nice twists. Each players has 5 attractions they have to visit, one in each section of the park. (It's Transamerica for the 6-year-old set!) Planning your route is key, as is wise use of the autographs (which allow you to cancel an event card.) It's not going to set the gaming world on fire, but the decorative board pieces are very cool & the gameplay quick & enjoyable. (Braeden made us play 4 times the first day I got it.)

I'm going to rate this one a "6" on BGG, which roughly translates into "an enjoyable roll-n-move that I'm glad I own, esp. for my boys."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Me, Too...

If you've been reading stuff on church growth & health in the last few years, you've run into a guy named Ed Stetzer... well, Ed's just started blogging recently and his post about his surprises after 30 years of following Jesus feels like I could have written it. He manages to reference Sweet Comfort Band, church camp, his astonishment at being in ministry (me, too!) and our need for community... and this gem:
4. I thought it would be easier to be a Christian. Honestly, that is what they told me—if I gave my life to Christ it would be happier and more fulfilled. Well, I am not sure it always has been. At times, I believe it would have been easier to not be a Christian. I can’t say I have been happier as a follower of Christ, though I can say I have often felt that “peace that passes all understanding” (Phi. 4:7).
Read the whole thing at Ed's blog.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pseudo Gulf Games

Fresno, CA, isn't near any gulf that I know of - heck, the largest body of water near our home is an irrigation canal - but that didn't stop the Jackson family from enjoying a wonderful weekend visit from the Vander Ark clan. They were roughly 1 week into their month-long "family adventure" when they arrived on Saturday evening (and if you'd like to check out more details, along with some great pictures, you can take a gander at their Road Trip 2007 blog.)

David (and his family) & I first met at Gulf Games Nashville in the summer of 2001. We've kept in touch since then, and they have become not only gaming buddies but good friends. I can't express enough how much his support over the last 9 months has meant to me.

So, when I get to hang out with Dave, Theresa (his wife), and the kids, I'm one happy camper. As were my boys - Braeden skipped a birthday party with a friend to play with Sam & Bryce, and Collin was loving on all of them before they left like he was losing a family member.

They got to experience a "full" Sunday at NewLife Community Church as well - complete with Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, and Cool Summer Nights.

Lots of game playing went on as well - this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows our families. Here's the highlights:

  • That's Life! - we played with the Verflixxt nochmal expansion, which I think is a lot of fun. I'm not sure the extra player pieces are necessary, but Flixxy & the worms are both nice additions.
  • Das Faultier - the first of two games of this sloth anti-racing game this weekend, great fun was had by all (and I won!)
  • Halli Galli - Allison begged to play this... this is the one time we let her.
  • Twitch - I taught Allison & the boys this oddball speed game from WOTC... and Sam edged me out at the end for the win. Well done!
  • Giro Galoppo - This is one of the hidden gems of gaming... it LOOKS like a kids game (and works just fine that way) but can be played with lots of doublethink & meanness by older kids & adults.
  • Das Faultier - a 2nd game to teach Dave the joys of sloth-sleep!
  • Emerald - Braeden managed to pull out a win against Dave & I... sigh.
  • Gulo Gulo - Allison & I went head to head (I lost) in this dexterity game
  • Wallamoppi - OTOH, I beat Allison at this other dexterity game.
  • Ticket to Ride: USA - my first chance to play with 1910 cards (we played the Mega version) and I loved it... even if Dave beat us
  • Die Siedler von Catan: Das Würfelspiel - a simple dice game that I really like for 2-3 players... I still want to try the "advanced" scoring system that Teuber posted on his website. (Yes, the word "Catan" is there because it's based in the Settlers world.) I beat Dave by building three cities.
  • Coolympics - weird dexterity game that Frank Branham recommended to me... too tough for kids (and most adults)!
  • Magical Maze - now called Goblin's Gold, this is a maze game with a hidden maze that you navigate via a magnetic figure... pretty nifty
  • Niagara - we played with both Diamond Joe & the Spirits expansion... Braeden won this game as well against Allison, Dave & myself
  • Mamma Mia! - Allison requested this... and I did REALLY well. Man, I don't get to play this one nearly as much as I like.
  • Rabatz auf dem Riesenrad - Teuber kid's game with great components...
  • Tier auf Tier - even Collin (my 2 yr old) got to play this bit-o-licious animal stacking game
  • Goldener Drache - very cool racing game from Wolfgang Riedesser (the same guy who did Ave Caesar), complete with dragon's tail tile racks!
  • Schildi Schildkröte - I didn't get to play this Haba gem with the rolling turtles, but the point was for Dave & my boys to play... Nick & Braeden won the 111th Turtle Olympics
  • Kiki Ricky - Ravensburger silliness (essentially a King of the Mtn dice game with an egg-throwing chicken to knock you back) that's been a hit with every kid who's played it - Sam won.


  • Heroscape: I'll Dance On Your Grave is the scenario we played (probably the best 1 master set 4 player scenario I know - it's a 6 round free-for-all.) Each of us had 300 pt teams: Nick had Deadeye Dan & a passle of Vipers, Sam had the Marcus, Roman soldiers & archers, and Guilty McCreach, I had Sir Dedrick, the Knights, Cormac & the Vikings, and Braeden had Deathwalker 8000, Krug & the Deathreavers (aka "pesky metal dogs"). Sam was wiped out late in round 5, yet Braeden survived the death of both big guys and played a pivotal role with the Deathreavers. After all the fighting, Sam & I ended the battle trying to kill each other - Sir Dedrick vs Marcus. Final score: Mark 100, Sam 100, Braeden 40, Nick zero. (And a great time was had by all!)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Open Mic

In August, I'm going to doing a message series at my church called "Open Mic" - essentially, I'm opening the floor for questions & letting people ask about what's really on their heart: stuff they're afraid of, things they've always wondered about Christianity, how our church works, doctrinal dilemnas, silly things, whatever...

One of the ways I'm opening up for people to do that anonymously is through this blog. If you'd like to ask a question, all you need to do is hit the link "comments" below (it may have a number in front of it - don't worry about that). Then type your question into the box, click the "anonymous" button, input the spamcatcher word (sorry!), and click "publish".

For those of you who read the blog & would like to ask questions (but aren't a resident of the Fresno area), I'm happy to take your questions, but I'd really like you to let me know you don't live in Fresno. I want to give priority to the folks who are likely to attend these services.

Start typing!

UPDATE (Monday, July 30): The questions are trickling in... and you're welcome to add to the list. So far, I'm going to end up talking about priorities, sex, dinosaurs, & the 7 deadly sins, just to name a few.

UPDATE (Monday, August 6): A big batch of questions just came in (you can read them in the comments) and you're still welcome to add your questions to the pile. I'm really looking forward to this...