Making Mario Super

Updated April 25

I own Super Mario Maker, and in my opinion, it’s one of the few Must-Haves for Wii U owners (also Splatoon and Twilight Princess HD).  I love playing levels, but I also love making levels, particularly normal/easy and traditional levels.  Here are my first few:


yi2rm - 0D66-0000-00C6-F788Yoshi’s Island 2: Remixed

My favorite world-one level in any Mario game is Yoshi’s Island 2.  There’s a lot about the level that can’t be replicated in SMM as it currently stands – including, oddly, the length.  So I had to put half of it (the part after the midpoint) underground.

But in doing so, I also accidentally made the level soft-lock-able: if you jump over the fake goal underground without a cape, there’s no way back.  I think this one is due for a remake soon.

ttv - 6BE7-0000-00ED-2938The Thwomp Variations

Super Mario World is my favorite 2D Mario game, and the feeling of the castle is part of why.  I particularly like the way the thwomps have many different ways of challenging the player, and many different ways for the player to deal with them.

I’d like to rebuild this level soon, too, though; it’s really rough.  The branching paths aren’t really worth exploring, and the gimmick doesn’t really pay off in a meaningful way.  Maybe some pink coins would help?

a1yomt - 49A3-0000-00EC-803BA 1-Year-Old Made This

Heh, this one was fun.  And very literal.  My son was watching me build levels, and when I opened up a new castle level, he crawled up to me and started scribbling on the screen.  I erased the unscalable wall he made, gave him cloud blocks to play with, and let him scribble.  Then he chose where to place the galoombas and fish, all of which die before you can reach them.

Then I moved the goal to where he stopped when he got bored and uploaded it!

hi - AAB3-0000-00F5-D9FFHistorically Accurate

Not much to say about this one. It’s World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros., recreated block-for-block in SMM.

I built it in order to build the next one (The 1-1 Rewind), and also because I wanted to look at it in the other styles. Hopefully it can be helpful to others, too!

If I redid this again, I’d probably fix the underground and center it a bit better.

Oh, and fix the thumbnail.  Yuck.

11rw - 214B-0000-00F5-EBCB<< The 1-1 Rewind <<

“Historically Accurate” was  built mostly so I could put this one together.  I wanted its base to match 1-1 as closely as possible.

I like the result.  Play 1-1, but backwards!  Trying to figure out what makes the level good, and then also making it possible to run it backwards, is pretty fun.

I did, of course, add some bonus stuff.  The underground portion is probably my favorite.

ft7hb - 4760-0000-0183-422BFind the Seven Hidden Blocks

I’d been working on a level with a sort of “unreliable narrator,” where it was obvious that whatever you were told to do, you should do the opposite.  It was intended as a joke for people who play a lot of 100 Mario Challenges, because so many builders think it’s fun to do something trolly in exactly the same way as everyone else.  All I could figure out how to do fairly was hidden blocks.

I’ll probably revisit the original idea soon with pink coins, but I’m pretty happy with this one for the time being.

w94 - B76F-0000-01B0-1378World 9-4

In the beginning of 2016, I watched Spamfish play a lot of Super Mario Bros. in his first annual Mariothon.  It took him 61 hours.

And while I was watching, I spent a lot of time thinking about how a ninth-world castle would look.  It came out a lot easier than I expected, though; this is really more of an alternate sixth-world castle.  Still, I like this as a traditional-style level; it was fun to build.

tg-3815-0000-022C-5192New! The Gauntlet

For this one, I needed some help. I had the idea for this course ages ago, and wasn’t able to really make it work until the March 9 Key update, but I still couldn’t make the final battle with Bowser work. So I enlisted the assistance of my friend Luke, and he helped come up with the thwomp/rotating block mechanic in the final battle room – which is, admittedly, a pretty sharp difficulty curve, but I’m ok with it. I’d love to work with that particular mechanic on another level in the future.

I’m also really pleased by the visuals in this one. I think it looks better than any level I’ve made yet!


There will be more levels coming soon, but until then, I’m looking forward to hearing your feedback on my levels!

No, Matt Walsh, all religions are not equal. But all people are.

brussels1I don’t even know how to react to terrorist attacks anymore.

Even the attacks in Paris last fall made me speechless; I felt like I had to respond on Redeeming Culture, but my response was about the associated response to the refugee crisis, not about the attack itself.  And the reason I’m writing here instead of on Redeeming Culture is that…I don’t think I have anything to say here, either.  Other than the usual truths (I mourn and weep with those affected, I can’t understand the loss they’re going through, I hope that people meet Jesus through this), what is there to say?  I don’t have any words.

Thankfully, Matt Walsh does.  (Could you hear my eye roll there?)

Walsh published an article on The Blaze this afternoon that’s already getting some play on Facebook. And while I typically assume that Matt Walsh is a generally decent guy who amps up his outrage and removes his filter while writing to get clicks, this time I feel like he goes a little far.

Let’s start with the title.

First of all, Walsh calls his article “It’s Time To Stop Pretending All Religions Are Equal.

I suppose you can see where that might get some angry response, but my problem with it isn’t what most people’s might be. I suppose in a way I agree with the statement, but not with how it’s used.

First, I agree that religions aren’t equal. Christ is truth, and so all others are lies in the face of His reality. And He is also infinitely valuable; that’s why repeated calls to “tone it down” or otherwise remove our faith from the core of our being (or the core of our interaction with others) are missing the point of our reality.

But to many Muslims, their faith is just as important as ours is to us. And if we want to reach their hearts with the truth of Jesus, denying that reality is folly. We cannot be surprised that someone who is not a Christian holds other beliefs more valuable than Christ; we cannot disparage their beliefs without losing the battle for their souls. Openly, wantonly, disrespectfully disparaging another’s pursuit of their passion, even if that passion is sinful or untrue, can do nothing but push them away. And if we hold them as God’s creation, needing the same Jesus we claim, we cannot risk that.

No, other religions aren’t equal. But the people who follow those religions ARE.

Diversity vs. Individuality

Walsh starts his piece from a point of sadness, but soon goes on the offensive against diversity.

Diversity is a strength, they tell me, but I have seen no evidence to support this doctrine. Diversity of thought might be a strength, but even then it is only a strength if the thought is rational and directed towards truth. The nonsensical thoughts of relativistic nincompoops are not valuable or helpful.

This sounds more like ravings than like truth. In fact, proof of diversity’s effectiveness has been established by several studies; in Scott Page’s 2006 book “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies,” he details how a diverse group can be more productive than even a more technically proficient group at solving particularly difficult problems. The podcast “Reply All” recently chronicled his diversity research, as well as science writer Carl Zimmer’s medical evidence, in a recent episode about diversity in Silicon Valley.

And, to be sure, things that are “nonsensical” or “irrational” are unhelpful. But when Walsh uses those words in this context, he is clearly referring to leftward-leaning viewpoints; nothing objective or proven.

But in a strange reversal, Walsh trumpets the value of homogeneity in almost the same breath that he decries it. Immediately following the quote above, he says,

Similarly, racial and cultural diversity does not enrich us if we lose our identity in the process. When you throw a bunch of people with diametrically opposed beliefs and values and priorities into a food processor and hit frappe, you end up with a smoothie that tastes an awful lot like the collapse of western civilization and the rise of barbarians.

So which is it, Matt? Are we more at risk when we aren’t homogeneous, or when we’re not individually unique?

It’s a silly question to ask, especially since no one is asking anyone to give up their identity. Not even Walsh, who doesn’t mention the topic anywhere else in the article.

That said, his particular choice of threat may be rather apt; the barbarians. In fact, their destruction of a homogeneous, inward-focused Roman empire is uniquely prescient for our society.

The United States might just be the closest analogy in the modern world to the superpower that Rome was in its heyday, but we face the same problem they did: the inability to focus with any clarity on concerns of the marginalized, whether inside or outside our own borders. For Rome, that meant a drought which put their outlying provinces at risk of invaders, the individuality of their populace swallowed up in the homogeneity of the approaching Barbarian hordes. What threat faces us? What marginalized people might cause our downfall?

The Demonization of Islam

Of course, Walsh has an answer for that, too.

If Islam is a peaceful religion, why are Muslims literally the only people in the world setting bombs off in subway stations and airports and theaters and embassies and restaurants. Spin this anyway you like, but right now the global terrorism market is a Muslim monopoly. We are certain a terrorist attack was carried out by Muslims the moment the bomb explodes. Shouldn’t that tell you something?

This paragraph is clearly “begging the question,” but logical fallacies aside, it ignores a historical truth. Yes, there are evil Muslims in the world. Maybe a larger percentage of this group is evil than any other group in the world. I don’t have any numbers on that.

But five decades ago, there were more evil Soviets than any other group in the world. A century ago, there were more evil Germans and Japanese than any other group in the world. 250 years ago, it was Southern, slave-owning Americans. 500 years ago it was the Spaniards. Two millennia ago, it was the Romans. Centuries before that, it was the Egyptians. But in all of these cases, for every individual perpetrating violence, there was a large group of his kinsmen who didn’t. Why do we think that would be any different for Muslims?

Christians demonizing Muslims doesn’t solve any problems. At best, it pushes moderate Muslims away from ever meeting Jesus; at worst, it pushes less-moderate Muslims further into the same extremist camp the terrorists occupy.

The Danger of Fundamentalism?

Walsh doesn’t have much patience for this argument. He rails against those who would (erroneously) call terrorists “fundamentalist Muslims,” reminding his readers that fundamentalist Christians tend to perpetrate more good upon the world (which is true) while fundamentalist Muslims perpetrate more bad upon the world (which is not true). But then he notes that the word “fundamentalism” has come to be seen as the problem.

Liberals are fond of saying “fundamentalism” is the problem generally, as if living by your convictions is wrong regardless of the nature of your convictions. Such an idiotic notion can be expected from moral relativists who believe nothing to be fundamentally true, therefore anyone who adheres to any fundamental doctrine, no matter the doctrine, is dangerous.

Here, Walsh speaks the most truth—and in so doing, undermines the very point he’s trying to make.

See, fundamentalism and the close adherence to values is not evil. Not even when it’s wrong. In fact, it’s the fact that they hold their values very dear that actually makes Christians most like Muslims; and if we ever hope to reach them with the message of the Cross, it must be on that bridge.

Superiority and Fruit

Walsh does hide some truth about Christ and Christians in his article. Like this: “Christians, individually, are responsible for plenty of evil, but that evil is a result of their rejection of the truth of Christian doctrine. The more they reject it, the worse they are. The more they accept it, the better.”

But several times in the piece, Walsh asserts the superiority of Christianity. “Christians are not perfect, but Christianity is,” he says, blatantly ignoring the fact that neither are perfect, but Christ is. He insists that “Whether you believe in Christianity or not, it’s [sic] superiority is beyond question. And the fact that it is so superior ought to make you reconsider your decision not to believe it,” which makes me cringe so much that you probably felt it.

Christ does not call us to a “superior” religion, but to a humble faith in Him. He does not call us to haughtiness. And He certainly does not call us to trumpet the “superiority” of what we have found to a lost world that will never understand it; but to take up our cross. His last command to His people (in Matthew 28:19-20) was, in order, to:

  1. Go (requiring you to leave where you are and to move toward others)
  2. Make disciples (requiring you to have a favorable relationship with them)
  3. Baptize them… (requiring you to not compromise on the truth of the Gospel)
  4. …in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit (requiring you to recognize that it is not your doing that will convert them)
  5. Teach them to obey Jesus (requiring you to know good theology and to lead by example)

Nothing there about superiority.

Walsh also hides some truth in one of his last words, where he says “By its fruits you shall know it.”

Yes, its fruits.

  • Overreaction and hatred in the face of world events
  • Incorrectly claiming the moral high ground
  • Anger at non-Christians for not acting like Christ (despite the fact that they do not have the Holy Spirit)
  • Valuing money over compassion
  • Shirking their responsibility to the widow and orphan
  • Valuing “rightness” over the hearts of others
  • Equating conservative politics with Christian doctrine

In many ways, these are the fruits of the American church, and they’re starting to rot.

If we ever want to be taken seriously as Christians—by Muslims, by atheists, by the world that needs to see Jesus more than they need to be protected from the bombs of any terrorists—we have to be willing to live like Christ. Our fruits must be His fruits. Our loves must be His loves. And by asserting that we are better or “superior” than Muslims, we truly do bear our fruit: pride in the tribe we are aligned with, not humility before a Lord that we worship.

• • •

(cross posted to Medium)

The Safe Job

Alternate Universe 4528-J

March 10, 2017

It’s March 10, 2017 in Alternate Universe 4528-J. In Cupertino, California, employees are arriving at the offices of “Canteloupe Corp,” manufacturers of top-of-the-line hardened safes. Sales are good for Canteloupe; their “iSafe” line of safes are well-known and well-loved for their good design, ease of use, and security. Though expensive, they have a well-known cultural cachet that has propelled their sales beyond those of their nearest competitor, Mountain View-based “Avogadro, Inc.” and their “Automaton” line of safes.

In the past ten years, safes have become incredibly popular in the United Statez, largely due to Canteloupe’s market dominance and aggressive marketing. Nearly everyone in the country owns either an iSafe or Automaton, and regularly uses it to store their information.

Meanwhile, it is lunchtime in Washington, D.P., and newly-inaugurated President William J. Clinton is having lunch with James Comey, the director of the U.S. domestic security organization known as FBI. “Your wife understood the importance of what we’re trying to do when she was president,” he says between mouthfuls of soup. “As the first male president, you wouldn’t want to get a reputation for being soft on domestic terrorism, would you?”

Clinton gazes over the Potomac, pondering, before finally nodding his head. “I’ll appoint Garza,” he tells Comey without looking back. He places a piece of bread into his mouth.

“You won’t regret it,” Comey says. “This is probably the most important…”

With a suddenness that surprises even Clinton, he turns back and points at the security director. “You’d better get something for me, James.” He swallows the roll and straightens his shoulders. “Garza will get confirmed, and he’ll break the Supreme Court deadlock in favor of the FBI. But I’m going to suffer a huge blowback here, and I’ve got too much to do to get defeated in 2020. If this works, the people will stand behind me after what Farook did in San Bernardino. But if you don’t find me some sort of domestic terrorism network, or prevent an upcoming attack, I’ll make sure you can’t get a job as a public defender in Baltimore after this.”

April 17, 2017

With a swiftness that defied logic, the Supreme Court found in favor of the FBI, and Canteloupe was duly ordered to create a master key for their iSafe line and deliver it to the FBI offices as soon as it was created. Amid protest and public outcry, Canteloupe complied with the demand, delivering the key to the FBI on April 17.

True to Comey’s word, the FBI shortly thereafter announces that they have discovered information within the terrorist’s iSafe that would lead to the arrest of five alleged collaborators in the San Bernardino attacks, but the validity of this information is immediately called into question by many in the law enforcement community. All five alleged collaborators are silently released from custody one week after their arrest, late on a Friday night and at the same time that a celebrity sex scandal is leaked to the media from an “unknown source.”

May 10, 2017

Tim Cooke, CEO of Canteloupe, is whisked away from his plane at London’s Heathrow airport in an unmarked black armored car, and carried to 2 Marsham Street, where the head of the British Home Office Theresa May welcomes him to her office.

“I trust your flight was comfortable,” she tells him with a smile, gesturing him toward a seat and sitting down herself. “I’ll cut to the chase. The Investigatory Powers Law of 2016 gives the Home Office authorization to possess a master key to unlock any safe sold in the United Kingdome, unless it is technically impractical or illegal in the company’s country of origin.” She leans forward in her chair. “And last week, Canteloupe proved that neither is the case with regard to the iSafe.”

Cooke eyes her dourly. “And if we do not comply?”

May’s smile vanishes abruptly. “If you do not provide a copy of the master key, Canteloupe would in very short order find their licence to sell iSafes in the United Kingdome revoked. And you, Mr. Cooke, would rather likely find yourself in jail for breach of UK law.”

She stands from her desk and turns to the large windows that frame her office. “And in case you were considering something particularly naughty, the IP Law does provide for criminal penalties in the unfortunate event that this request is revealed to any third party.” She eyes Cooke. “Which means you cannot tell the press.”

May 15, 2017

Citing a similar law, France has made the same request of Canteloupe, being delivered the master key in short order. Due to European Union law, the master key is now available to every nation within the EU, and many of their allies, within the week. This includes Italy, whose former president, Silvio Berlusconi, appointed several members of the mafia to high-profile positions, allowing the crime organization to gain access to the master key as well.

Interestingly, on the same day that France makes an official request for the iSafe master key, an independent FBI consultant named Jeffrey Hollins begins work at the agency as a researcher.

May 16, 2017

Jeffrey Hollins finds and scans the master key to a digital file as a part of his research. He soon begins smuggling the file out by memory in octets over the next seven months and reconstructing it on his home computer.

Meanwhile, the FBI, having established precedent with Canteloupe, begins to put pressure on Avogadro to create a master key for Automaton models, as well.

June 30, 2017

By way of treaties, backdoor deals, and outright espionage, nearly every developed nation on Earth now has a copy of the iSafe Master Key. Notably excepted is North Korea, who have been focused largely on their own international hacking efforts. Less than ninety days after the FBI delivered their demand to Canteloupe, the percentage of people and organized crime syndicates with access to the master key is approaching 100%.

July 8, 2017

Jeffrey Hollins releases his stolen copy of the Master Key on the Internet, promptly following Edward Snowden to a country with no extradition treaty. It becomes the most downloaded, most shared torrent in Pirate Bay history, easily surpassing season 2 of Firefly for that title.

The public backlash from this leak causes several major shockwaves which divide the nation; some say that Hollins has harmed national security by making this key public, while others say that the FBI should have safeguarded it more closely.

Either way, consumer confidence in Canteloupe Corp drops massively, triggering a massive sale of their stock immediately and plunging the company deep into debt. Purchases of the iSafe drop by 50% almost overnight. Demand for Automaton safes rises exponentially, but as the FBI continues to press on Avogadro to build a master key, the company opts instead to cease production of their safes and leave the market entirely.

With that, low-quality operations are the only ones which remain in business, selling cheap safes at high markups now that their competition has all but evaporated.

Those who continue using their iSafes soon find them utterly indefensible, and their data is stolen on more days than when it isn’t. Governmental overreach by corrupt nations reaches an all-time high.

And in security circles, 2017 is soon discussed as “the year that personal privacy died.”

And that is why Apple must not acquiesce to the FBI’s demands.

Special thanks to Computerphile’s “Golden Key” video for filling in lots of information I didn’t have before.

Cross-posted to Medium.

Our Advocate, the Holy Spirit

Ben Reed’s sermon at Redeemer Indy on February 21 was another incredible message.  Speaking from John 14:8-31, he reminded us about the Holy Spirit: our champion and our advocate.

“Our Advocate, the Holy Spirit” was delivered on February 21, 2016, at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN by Ben Reed.

Thesis and Outline

“The Holy Spirit is a precious gift.  Run to Him!”

  1. The Problem: Misdirected Affections
    1. Our misdirected affections are built on fear.
      1. In Peter: fear of insignificance
      2. In Thomas: fear of ignorance
      3. In Philip: fear of missing out
      4. This is not life-giving; survival is the goal of fear.
        There is no fulfillment to be found here.
    2. Jesus addresses our fear directly in verse 18:
      1. “I will not leave you as orphans.”
      2. Jesus sends us an advocate.
  2. The Solution: Our Advocate, the Holy Spirit
    1. There is a legal connotation
      1. A lawyer is ethically bound to do whatever is best for you.
      2. Your lawyer is always for you—even if you were guilty and deserve death.
    2. More than just legally: the Spirit…
      1. Dwells with us (v16-17)
        1. “He” – The Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force.  (You can’t have a real relationship with a force)
        2. Relationships are important to show us where our blind spots are.
        3. He doesn’t get disappointed in our metrics and statistics and decide to “go on to holier Christians”
        4. He is not distant or passive – he indwells with us, actively.  He…
      2. Champions for us
        1. Intercedes for us according to God’s perfect will
        2. Empowers us with strength and refreshment from God
        3. Emboldens us to learn and speak
        4. “Groanings too deep for words” – approach God, even when you don’t know what to say.
      3. Helps us remember (v26)
        1. Brings us memories of truth (see children’s question below)
        2. Stir up a desire to glorify God through us, leading to obedience
        3. Reminds us of Christ’s salvation
        4. Pushes us to Repentance: lies get pushed away, and truth unites us to Jesus and to others.
  3. The Action: Run to the Spirit
    1. Don’t waste any time!
    2. As we run to Him, our clarity of Him increases.
    3. How to run to the Spirit:
      1. Through the Word.
        1. Difficult!
        2. The Spirit will use it to bring healing, conviction, comfort, and life.
        3. He will meet you there.
      2. Through Worship.
        1. A temperament and lifestyle of worship
        2. The Spirit uses worship to turn us around so we can live as we’ve been called
      3. Through Prayer.
        1. For others
        2. For your own memory!
  4. Quit trying and start collapsing
    1. The Spirit reminds us to be a newborn in our Father’s arms: nothing else matters to a newborn
    2. Fight for expectant, bold, free, life-changing prayer in your community
      1. Yes, it’s weird…of course it’s weird! (we serve a dead guy who’s alive again).
      2. Ask the Holy Spirit for one person to go to, pray for, and be present with. (encouraging a community of broken prayerfulness.

Bulletin Discussion Questions

  1. The apostles are concerned about Jesus leaving. Even though he promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with them, he must constantly remind them that he will not leave them as orphans. What are ways that you live like an orphan? Are there ways that you live as if God has forgotten you?
  2. This Lenten season we are talking about the affections of our heart. The Holy Spirit helps those affections be focused on Jesus by reminding us of things like the truth of God’s word, our adoption as children of God, and the joy of our salvation. Are there examples in your life where the Holy Spirit has reminded you of these good things? Are there places in your life where you are ignoring the Holy Spirit as he tries to remind you of the truth?
  3. Spend some time praying for each other. Pray that the Holy Spirit’s voice would be loud and clear in your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit would help you tear down the walls you have built in your heart.


Sometimes when we are going through a hard time, we suddenly remember a story from the Bible, or a song from church, or we just remember that Jesus loves us. That’s the Holy Spirit reminding us of those things. Are there examples in your life where the Holy Spirit reminded you of something good like that? Did it help you to remember those things? Share those with your friends and your parents.

Happy Birthday, Charizard!


Happy Birthday, Charizard!

For my Redeeming Culture article today, I have to admit, I was strongly considering running with this as a thesis:  “Jesus is the ULTIMATE master, and we’re His Pokémon!  He catches us all, and…”  But I couldn’t figure out a way to finish the sentence, and it seemed kind of…”icky” to me.  I’ve played all of the main series games (if you’re curious: Red, Gold, Ruby, FireRed, Diamond, HeartGold, White, X, AlphaSapphire), and even though the relationship between the player and his Pokémon is one of teamwork, love, and mutual respect, it just…doesn’t feel right to me.

I remember talking to someone in my 8th grade English class about what we wanted for Christmas.  I mentioned what I really wanted was Pokémon, and I said something that I’ve said for many Christmases and birthdays since, and really meant it: “If that’s all I get, I’ll be thrilled!

When I finally unwrapped Pokémon Red Version that Christmas and switched it on, I didn’t know what to expect, but it soon became a feeling inextricably tied to Christmas for me: playing Pokémon in the warm house with a cold blanket of snow outside; struggling to see the non-backlit screen in the dim twilight as we drove home from grandma’s house; begging to turn on the light so I could “just finish this battle” (and, let’s be honest, the five after it).  And it became a big part of my life.  Obviously.

pokemon-3My first team is, sadly, lost to time.  But I know that I named my player “David,” my rival “Kyle”, and chose a Charmander (as every good thirteen-year-old boy did!) whom I did not name.  And my Alakazam was my pride and joy back in those days; the two of them took on all comers and always came out on top.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played Generation I, but since the games are being re-released today on 3DS, I might pick it up again.  If only to say “hi” to Charizard again.  And to whip Kyle’s Blastoise’s butt one last time.

Two Twitters


Yep, if you look in the top-right or bottom-middle of this page, you’ll note two Twitter links.

I know about it.  This is intentional.

One links to @ilinamorato, my personal/family/geekiness/faith account.  I’ve had it for a while.

The other one links to @RDavidAtwell, my work/professional/marketing/programming account.  I made it shortly before getting business cards as a Salesforce employee, when I realized that my personal account just doesn’t look very professional.  Heck, I tweet fart jokes sometimes.  So I made a more professional account.

Well, that worked well.

Anyway, yes, there are two Twitter accounts.  That’s not a mistake.

(Well, it was at least intentional.  Verdict is still out about whether or not it’s a mistake.)

The Highest Affection

lastsupper-wideToday’s sermon at Redeemer Indy, given by Jeff Nottingham, was one of my favorite sermons in recent memory.  Based out of John 13:31-14:12, it’s a beautiful and heart-stirring message about our affections that get in the way of loving Jesus, and I commend it highly.

“The Highest Affection” was delivered on February 14, 2016, at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN by Jeff Nottingham.

Thesis and Outline

“We need to make Jesus our highest affection, because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

  1. Peter’s Interruption: “I would lay down my life for you.”
    1. Affection: significance.
    2. Jesus’ response: “Will you lay your life down for me?  No, will lay my life down for you.  You will deny me.  But I will still prepare a place for you in my Father’s house.”
    3. Make Jesus your highest confession and affection.
  2. Thomas’ Interruption: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going.”
    1. Affection: knowledge.
    2. Jesus’ response: “You know the way.  Its me!”
    3. We are not those who possess Biblical truth.  We are those who are possessed by it.
    4. Thomas’ unfair nickname: “Doubting Thomas”
      1. Jesus wants to hear Thomas’ doubts!
      2. John 20: Jesus will draw Thomas close and prove Himself to Thomas – not to dismiss, but to cure Thomas’ doubts.
      3. Do not leave Jesus untested and somehow wanting.  He desires that we “taste and see.”
  3. Philip’s Interruption: “Show us the Father, and it will be enough for us.”
    1. Affection: personal experience.
      1. Experiencing God is good!  But Philip misses the fact that he has been experiencing God for the past three years.
      2. When we begin seeing the spiritual disciplines as mundane, or hold the method of experience in higher esteem than God, we are falling into the same trap as Philip.
    2. Jesus’ response: “You’ve seen me, my miracles, my love.  You’ve already seen the Father.  The love with which the Father has loved me, that is the love with which I have loved you.”
    3. The reality of the Trinity is your greatest joy.
  4. What does this do for us?
    1. “The Expulsive Power of our Highest Affection”
      1. Jesus can and does expel all lesser affections.
      2. “I don’t think I’ll ever hate my sin enough to stop sinning…Loving Jesus?  That’s another story.”
    2. Layers of tradition can desensitize us to the love and affection of Jesus.  But it’s uncomplicated!  Jesus’ love pulls me away from my evil.
    3. “Jesus does not merely point out the way, and speak the truth, and restore the life.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.”
  5. How should we respond?
    1. Meditate on and be with Jesus.
    2. Let us reacquaint ourselves with Him.  Talk about Him and His work.
    3. Take time to pray – even “one-line prayers.”

Bulletin Discussion Questions

  1. We all have too much deep affection for our own significance (like Peter), or our own understanding (like Thomas), or our own experience (like Philip).  Remember, our significance, our understanding, and our experience are in fact good, created things in and of themselves, but we take them too far; we “ultimatize” them.  The Lord Jesus can re-direct each of these deep affections towards himself.
    1. What is a specific example from your life right now where you can ask Jesus to replace your deep affection for your own significance with a deeper affection for his significance?
    2. Or, replace your deep affection for your own understanding with a deeper affection for his understanding?
    3. Or, replace your deep affection for your own experience with a deeper affection for his experience?
  2. Jesus teaches us about himself in this passage that he is the way, the truth, and the life.  Please share with your group what one of those mean to you.
  3. Jesus calls us to love other Christians with the same love with which he loved us.  Which denominations, groups, or “flavors” of Christ-followers today would you rather distance yourself from than love with that kind of love?
  4. What is a practical way that the Lord can re-direct this deep affection of yours (your significance, your understanding, or your experience) into a deeper affection for the significance, understanding, and experience of Jesus?


Jesus is the only way to live with God forever.  What kinds of things would you like to do with Jesus forever?

The Adjustment Bureau

adjustment-bureau-planToday’s Redeeming Culture post is about the 2011 film The Adjustment Bureau.  It’s a beautiful romantic action film, and I love it quite a lot.  In fact, back in 2011, I did a Film and Theology event about it.  Here are the notes (be aware, there are spoilers!); let me know if you think today’s article is any better.

Film and Theology #9: The Adjustment Bureau


Welcome and Explanation

  1. Welcome to F+T #9!  To start, a strange question: Why are you here?
    1. Did you choose to come here?  Were you forced, coerced?
    2. Or has your presence here been planned from the beginning?
  2. The Bible: all of history has been a story, told by a Master Storyteller
    1. Even your life has been a part of that story from the beginning
    2. Not a story about you, you’re only a character
    3. Grand epic; action-packed thriller; fantastic romance
  3. Everything we create echoes the story we’re a part of
    1. That’s what F+T is all about:
      1. Examine culture
      2. Discover: what can we receive, reject, redeem?
    2. Exploring entertainment: it’s not mindless, it’s a reflection of the author
      1. Create and Enjoy: reflections of the story God has put inside each of us.
      2. Intentional or not, everything images that.
  4. Tonight: The Adjustment Bureau.
    1. Released this year, short story written in 1954.
    2. Tackles questions that humans have been wrestling with since forever.
  5. What are those questions?
    1. Why do things happen the way they do?  (That is, is it chance or a plan?)
    2. If there is a plan, do I have a part in it?
    3. Do I have free will?


— Prayer —

— Movie —




  1. Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1954 story “Adjustment Team”
    1. Dick’s work often focuses on the nature of reality, humanity, life.  (Existential)
    2. His sci-fi work inspired Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, etc.- all works about the question of what reality is, what the point of life is, and what it means to be human (or a complete human).
  2. This movie raises some interesting questions.  Surprisingly, that’s the point.
    1. Writer/Director/Producer George Nolfi – “The intention of this film is to raise questions – that’s what art should do.”
    2. Doesn’t have to be a Christian movie to raise questions that matter eternally.
      1. Perry Noble: “Jesus didn’t die to make songs Christian” – or movies.
      2. God writes desires & stories on our hearts – what we create/enjoy expresses them, explores them.
    3. What questions?
      1. Some films raise very basic questions: Am I loved, Can I be rescued?
      2. Some are tougher/deeper: React when I’m wronged, abandoned?
      3. Some are even philosophical: What is truth, what is worship?
      4. We’ve looked at all of these over the past year.  But this one:
        Is there a plan?  What is my part in it?  Do I have free will?


  1. Is there a plan?
    1. Many would say no.  (Chaos Theory, random chance, etc)  But the Bible says there is, and there’s proof all around.
      1. Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
      2. Romans 1:19-20: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
      3. Creation is a testament to God, His existence, and His hand in the creation of the universe.
        1. Darwin: “To suppose that the eye […] could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”
        2. Einstein: “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable.”  Beauty, elegance, impossible complexity were proof enough for him.
      4. The Bible, scientists, the sky itself all agree: God exists, and has made a plan for the world.
    2. What is the plan?
      1. David is told that the plan is just to keep the world together.  True?
      2. Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
      3. Romans 11:36: “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
      4. Plan: That the glory and goodness of God would cover the earth, and that everyone would understand that God is good.  So much bigger than survival, which is the Adjustment Bureau’s (Chairman’s) plan.
  2. Do I have a part in the plan?
    1. David had a part in the plan the Chairman wrote.  But while it was the best for the world, it may not have been the best for him.
    2. But Jeremiah 29:11 says God’s plan is a good one; peace, hope and a future.
    3. Colossians 1:23, Matthew 28:18-20 say that God’s plan for our lives is to be ministers of His gospel.
    4. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says everything we do should be to His glory.  (dinner, movies, games, work, etc)
      1. What does this mean?
      2. Love, trust, thank, obey Him.
      3. Advance the cause of the Gospel
      4. Do everything He commands


  1. So, (in light of that) is there such a thing as free will?
    1. Thompson: “You don’t have free will, David.  You have the appearance of free will…you have free will over which toothpaste you use or which beverage to order at lunch, but humanity just isn’t mature enough to control the important things.”  Is this true?
    2. What we see as “free will” isn’t actually.
      1. Romans 8:7-9: “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
      2. 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
      3. We’re not free to do whatever we want.  We can’t follow God, even if we want to, on our own.  We’re slaves to our sin.
    3. No way out on our own.  Our power is insufficient.
      1. We are trapped, chased from all sides by an enemy- our sin – which is more powerful than we are.
      2. And there’s no chance of “getting to the blue door” without the help of a being greater than us.  We need more than a hat.
    4. Good news: He has given us power (Holy Spirit) to do all He has commanded (Acts 1:8) – not only power but desires and guidance.
  1. So what does this all mean?
    1. In the end, David gets what he wants.  He and Elise get to write their own path.
      1. But if we’re slaves to sin, is that the best outcome?  I don’t think it would.
      2. Our own path would lead us directly to death.
    2. There is an author:  All-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving.
      1. He can spin the universe into existence, he can give us what we need
      2. The future isn’t an unknown for Him, it’s a place where He is
      3. He loves us more than we could comprehend.
    3. Here’s how much.
      1. When He proposed that love to His people, the forces of Satan did all they could to keep Him from us.  They sent all of their agents to adjust His path.
      2. But He sent His son into existence and made a mad dash for us.
      3. We were moments from giving in (marrying less); He came for us, showed us the truth behind the curtain, a land of wonder and amazement.
      4. And then He made His own way, dying on the cross, sacrificing everything to be with us.  (I’d rather die than live forever without you)
      5. Then He rose!  And with that, He was given a blank page.  His path has become our own.  Join Him, the one who loves us – and be free!


— Prayer —

–Discussion Questions —


  1. Do you believe that you have free will?
  2. What sins are keeping you from being a part of His plan?
  3. He sacrificed everything for you, for love.  What will you risk for Him?