Christ's Glory, Not Mine

Devotions, advice, and book reviews from science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

8 I AM Statements of Christ.

8 I AMThe Gospel of John is interesting in that it focuses on 7 “I Am” statements. It starts with Jesus’ genealogy as the pre-existent one1. It’s hard to recognize that as a family record, but each of the gospels presents Jesus in a different way, and three of four have genealogies. Mark doesn’t because Mark presents Jesus as a servant and no one cares about the genealogy of a servant2.

John focuses on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. To accomplish this, there are 7 “I Am” statements.

The first is “I Am the bread of life3.” In this segment, Jesus uses an analogy of the manna that came down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the Wilderness. Like manna, we can’t collect any for someone else. Each has to get his own4. You can’t accept Christ for someone. They have to do that for themselves. You get exactly what you need5. Jesus meets you where you are and helps you get better from there. They had to strike it to make it edible6. Jesus was stricken for us. You need to get it daily7. Storing it up for future use was no good. You won’t survive well or long if your only dose of Christ is for two hours on Sunday. It tasted sweet8. We have joy in Christ. Unlike manna, though, when we commune with Christ, we will not see death9. Likewise, Jesus is called the Word10. There are times when we are told to eat the word of God11. Recall that clean animals were the ones that chewed the cud12. That means they ate it, partially digested it, and then brought it back up to chew on some more. We should be like clean animals and chew the cud more often by not just reading the Word, but really getting to know it personally. Man shall not live by bread alone13, unless that Bread is the Lord Jesus Christ.

The second I Am statement is “I Am the light of the world14.” Chapter 8 of the Gospel of John contains a massive round of verbal fisticuffs between Jesus and the Pharisees. Don’t let the politeness of the translation fool you. They’re going head to head on this one. The Pharisees call Jesus an illegitimate son, and he in turn explains who their father is. Definitely not for the G-rated audience. To the point, however, Jesus is the light to the world. We, by emulating him, reflect that light to the rest of the world. Because of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives, we become the light to show the way to others in the darkness15. We do need to be careful that we remain in the light because if we stop, the darkness will overtake us16.

Next up, the third and fourth are very close together in the text and tightly related: “I Am the door of the sheep,” and “I Am the good shepherd17.” Jesus is the only way to the sheepfold. If there’s any other way, his prayers in Gethsemane were unanswered. Anyone who comes by any other route than the door is a thief and a robber18, and the thief comes only to kill and destroy19. That’s where Christ’s job as the Good Shepherd comes in. Any but the shepherd would run when they see danger, but the shepherd will give his life for the sheep, and he did. Jesus gave his life for us so that we could stand in the presence of a perfect God. There’s no other way.

The fifth I Am statement is “I Am the resurrection and the life20.” If we die to ourselves and live in Christ, we will know true life now and hereafter. I find it interesting to read how this scenario played out. Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead21. He even told Martha as much, although she misunderstood and thought he was speaking of the general resurrection22. So why did Jesus grieve so greatly23? He was doing what we should all do: share one another’s joys and burdens24.

Moving right along to the sixth I Am statement, we find “I Am the way, the truth, and the life25.” Jesus has gone on ahead of us to prepare us a place so that, when the time is right, we can go be with him26. When will the time be right? Well, either we die in this life and find ourselves there facing judgment27, or the Fullness of the Gentiles will come in during our lifetime, and Poof! We’re outta here28! There is a number of Gentiles at which the Body of Christ is complete. Then the Father will tell the Son to go get his Bride. As amazing as that is, not only is Jesus the only way to heaven, but he’s the way to live in this world, too. Because he went to the Father and sent us the Holy Spirit, we can do great works in his name29.

The last official I Am statement is “I Am the true vine30.” Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The branches of a tree can’t do much except wither and die without a connection to the source of life. Likewise, we can’t, either. As branches from the vine, we are expected to produce fruit, or else we’ll be cut away and cast into the fire where we can’t do any more harm to the vine and other branches31. Our fruit is our changed life and our good works. It’s not the works that save our miserable hides, but the works are the exercise that keep our faith healthy and witness the glory of God to a world that would just as soon not care32.

There is one last “unofficial” I Am statement in the Gospel of John that doesn’t make the usual list but is probably the most critical, the most amazing. In fact, it knocked a collection of Roman soldiers and Pharisees on their rears. Check out John 18. When Judas and company come to arrest Jesus, three times he says, “I Am.” The “he” that is included in some translations is there to help the readability, but in my interlinear Bible, there’s no word there for “he,” and the margin translation says, “I AM” without the “he.” He is, in effect, declaring his identity as God. If you read the accounts of the confrontation in Gethsemane, in fact of all of Holy Week, you find out pretty quickly that Jesus orchestrated the whole thing.

So, Jesus is the bread of life, the light of the world, the door for the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection, the way, the truth, the life, the true vine, the lamb of God, and indeed truly God. He’s all these things and much more.

 

Endnotes:

1 John 1:1-5

2 Missler, Chuck. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. Koinonia House.

3 John 6:35-59

4 Exodus 16:16

5 Exodus 16:18

6 Ibid.

7 Exodus 16:21

8 Exodus 16:31, Psalm 34:8

9 John 6:58

10 John 1:1

11 Jeremiah 15:16, Revelation 10:9

12 Leviticus 11:3-7

13 Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4

14 John 8:12-59

15 Matthew 5:14

16 John 12:35

17 John 10:7-18

18 John 10:1

19 John 10:10

20 John 11:17-44

21 John 11:11

22 John 11:23-27

23 John 11:33-36

24 Romans 12:15, Galatians 6:2

25 John 14:1-14

26 John 14:2-3

27 Hebrews 9:27

28 Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 15:52

29 John 14:12-14

30 John 15:1-8

31 John 15:6

32 James 2


YHWH Jireh Cares For Me (For me, for me)

Or, as Adam Graham would’ve titled this, “The Realm Makers After Action Report.”

Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

This year, Adam Graham determined to send me to Realm Makers, to keep his promise that it was my turn next time, so he could go next year. After being persuaded he had just enough money on our tight budget squirreled away, I let myself get excited. Made my plans, carefully prepared everything I thought I’d need at the conference, packed a big suitcase with my laptop, professional clothing, night clothing, exercise clothing, my costume party gear, and multiple folders worth of conference materials, including one for taking notes and three to give to perspective publishers for the Argevane Saga novels. For my carry-on, I selected my backpack and stuffed it with one emergency change of clothes, healthy munchies, a sleep mask, ear plugs, neck pillow, and sarong to be used as a blanket, cell phone, kindle fire tablet, MP3 player, the outlet chargers for the phone and the tablet, business cards, one small folder with my most vital travel documents in it, twenty dollars, and a few other small items dumped in the bag straight out of my purse, which I packed in the big suitcase.

God decided to reduce me down to only my carry-on.

Now, in fairness to the Lord, I got into Philadelphia on an overnight flight, booked through one airline and carried by two different ones, while the Democratic convention was also in town and the airport staff were apparently overwhelmed and plain didn’t care enough to keep track of my bag. I got several conflicting reports and finally gathered they really didn’t know where it was at all. Most likely, my checked suitcase came in no later than six hours after I did, and they couldn’t be bothered to identify it and deliver it to me in a timely manner like they promised. The Lord probably didn’t directly inflict this on me, he simply used it for his glory.

God, well aware this was coming, had checked my spirit about it–for one, it is not normal for me to have even one emergency change of clothes in my carry-on. What is interesting is the thoughts that in hindsight must’ve been God, like the “silly” suggestion I waste space on an umbrella–it rarely rains at this time of year in Idaho. It rained most of the time I was in Philadelphia. I was better off for the promptings I obeyed, and would’ve been better off still if I’d listened even better. For instance, I was told to pack toiletries in my carryon as well as my laptop, but it was heavy and I couldn’t fit my entire toiletry bag in, so I took only what I might realistically use on the road, my hair pick.

Oh how I missed that toiletry bag. Thankfully, I was meeting a friend from Facebook, Deanna Fuggett , whose flight came in at the same time in a coincidence of God showing off that he can already manipulate stuff scheduled by computers as easily as Sander does in my Web Surfer Series. Deanna had another friend with a car who agreed to pick up both of us, getting us out of having to figure out the rail system in Philadelphia. Now, it was 4 AM in the time zone we’d come from, and she also helped my sleepy brain figure out what to do when my flight’s baggage carousel was empty and everyone had left. I truly needed someone with me while dealing with an uncaring lost baggage office on insufficient sleep–I don’t handle sleep deprivation well at all, and God ensured she was there then, and at several other times during the conference where I needed someone. She also helped me whip together a replacement costume for the costume party with two loaner items and connected me to Pam Halter, who had the courtesy bags of toiletries for those of us with lost luggage and for folks who’d forgotten something.

Deanna wasn’t the only helper God positioned perfectly during the business conference I spent living out of a backpack with slightly less than the bare essentials in it due to my, er, imperfect obedience. Dawn Ford, who works for Splickety, heard about my situation (since I was lamenting it to anyone who would listen) and loaned me appropriate clothes to wear to my pitching sessions with editors and reassured me if I explained about the lost luggage they’d be understanding of my lack of materials.

In fact, I learned to be grateful for what I did have–this short list included my business cards, my memorized one-sentence summary of Daughter of Eve (Verity’s trapped on a matriarchal Earth where she’ll be fed to the dragons–unless she becomes the prophesied royal bride) and three copies of four author/reviewer blurbs I’d collected years ago that I’d slipped into my carryon vital documents folder by accident. They turned out to be just enough, along with my knowledge of the series and my improvisation skills from my days as a stage actress in high school and middle school.

Pretty much the theme the whole long weekend was God moving through his people to provide just enough to cover fundamental needs, with a little work from me involved, and God moving just in time. Despite an airport that plain didn’t care, my bag was eventually identified and sent out for delivery and showed up at eleven o’clock the night before I had to get up insanely early to be at the airport by 4 AM for a 6 AM flight home. After I’d returned my loaned clothes and couldn’t borrow anything else. After I’d given up on getting through to the airport. After my husband had taken over that for me and given up, too, the call I’d been waiting for came, right as I was preparing to go shower, staring at my insufficient things, trying to figure out what to wear to bed, the call came. And God met my immediate need that night out of my own missing luggage.

To crown it all, I should’ve ended up alone in a triple, instead God directed a praying housing coordinator to put me in a quad’s empty room, and I ended up across the hall from a roommate with a car who shared my habit of going to bed “early” and while chatting my most concerning plight came up–having to navigate downtown Philadelphia partially on foot, in the dead of night, to get back to the airport, and she didn’t want me to be in such a dangerous position badly enough to get up in the middle of the night to drive me to the airport herself. Only God could’ve set that up.

All of it came together with my dad having been texting me to check if I were okay and had gotten things sorted out almost as much as my husband–and Dad waited until the day after I’d gotten home safely with all my baggage in check to ask how I’d feel about his birthday present to me this year being him paying my way out to Ohio for a family vacation at the cabins. Just me, he can’t afford both of us, either, and Adam can’t get the time out.

While a plane trip doesn’t sound fun right now, I said yes pretty much at once. God took care of me this time. He’ll be with me next time, too. We’ll see what the Lord wants to do on that family vacation Dad always promised Mom that we’d do again, a promise he’s paying quite a bit to belatedly keep.

Finally, I’ve learned I need far less than I had thought I did. And, while there are people in this world who plain don’t care, it’s not true that we can only count on family as mine has thought for generations. God does have many people that he can move through. I pray that I will more often be someone attentive to God’s voice, willing, available, and obedient myself.

 


Web Surfer Series Overview

Avatars of Web Surfer Cover ISBN and Logo CORRECTED

The serial has been re-titled Avatars of Web Surfer and re-released by Bear Publications with all ten episodes in one collection, in paperback, for only $9.95! And Avatars of Web Surfer is only $2.99 on Kindle!
In the 22nd Century, cyberspace has no bad AIs, only bad coders. Artificial Intelligences lead finite lives with no hope of eternity, but they strive to bring about the coming of an AI Savior. Alexander McGregor is just an infant when his father converts his cells into biological supercomputer components, but he may be the Messiah-figure AIs have longed for, even though on one level, he is only human. Sander is enslaved to his code as he serves a billion users worldwide, users he appears to as separate avatars of himself. Each avatar has its own personality, but all of him are linked together in a shared mind. He reigns over most of Earth’s computers in a global society where tech-dependency can kill. Freedom calls Sander like a siren. His answer could shake the Earth. Come. See the rise and fall of the AI man in these 10 episodes. Each features a different AI user.

*Single-length episodes are about 13-20 pages.

**Double length episodes are about 30-45 pages.

*Episode 1: Regeneration by Andrea J Graham—The Father of AI grieves for his stillborn son. His supercomputer lacks a stable identity due to inadequate wetware. The unstable AI proposes a solution to both problems: install the child’s body as the AI’s wetware.
Listen to a free preview on Let Me Tell You a Story Podcast at 25 minutes and 40 seconds in.

Read a Free Sample online.

*Episode 2 The Digital Car by Travis Perry—In Sander’s late teens, a new location on his global area network traps him in a century-old car traveling through Afghanistan. He fears his Islamic user is a terrorist and that he is a fake copy of Web Surfer.

*Episode 3 Creature of the Web by Andrea J. Graham—Sander fights a losing battle with a forbidden, exclusive, real love for a human coworker.

*Episode 4 Interference by Cindy Koepp— One of the Web Surfer AI’s many personas is Sander’s sister, Lexus. Sander must stop her from attacking one user for another user.

*Episode 5 Malfunction by Heather Titus—A game reviewer ignores Sander’s warnings about a competitor’s puzzle game and falls victim to an underdeveloped AI.

**Episode 6 – Jewel Among Stones With the help of Lexus, an injured jewelry designer in Mexico seeks the reason she hasn’t recovered after more than a year.

**Episode 7 Fall of the Invincible Man by Cindy Koepp—An egotistical gamer named Harve and his friends risk playing a simulated reality game that has taken user lives.

**Episode 8 Hard Knocks by Cindy Koepp—When his parents are arrested for attempted murder, a young boy in Mexico goes to live with strict relatives. Defying them leads to an accident that leaves him a quadriplegic.

*Episode 9 Locusts Have Eaten by Andrea J. Graham—A German senior citizen loses her virtual mother and her virtual husband when Lexus and Sander refuse to play those roles.
Read a Free Sample

**Episode 10 Coalescence by Andrea J. Graham—Sander tricks a New York executive producer into guest starring on her own reality show during a catastrophic upgrade that’s accompanied by mysterious deaths. While facing death himself, Sander focuses on protecting his users and bringing comfort and hope to the survivors.

Read about the authors on Avatars’ page.

(I tagged the themes and genres of the book.)

Web Surfer Novels

ANI (All Natural Intelligence): Web Surfer 1.0

A testosterone-resistant ministry student needs a new roommate. Elisha Gabrielson’s best friend would love to volunteer, but first Alexander McGregor needs to regain control of his life and escape from his father’s cybernetics lab. His human mind, Alex, desires to divorce his AI mind, Sander, and marry his technophobic girlfriend, Manna Jenkins. Sander pursues self-relationship counseling with Elisha as he forecasts that Alex’s freedom will be cut short in a deadly global tech catastrophe.

Nimbus Rider: Web Surfer 2.0

Alexander McGregor seeks to be reunited with Mercy, his tech-dependent foster daughter. She is lost on Dog World, in the digital alternate universe Sander hosts. Dog World is home to the docile Labrans and the oppressive Jackals. A loving Labran family adopts Mercy from an animal shelter. Her grandparents abused her, so she enjoys being a pet and forgets she needs to be found.

Restoring: Web Surfer 3.0

Fifteen years ago, Alexander McGregor left a baby of his generation in the digital universe’s 20th Century. Alex altered Malcolm’s time line to improve Malcolm’s life and blocked Digital Earth from being reached by all outsiders, including both of Alexander. The block comes down, revealing Alex has robbed Malcolm of vital parts of who he is. Restoring those to Malcolm requires taking him back to the 22nd Century and breaking him without killing him.

Reckoning: Web Surfer 4.0

Malcolm has embraced his true identity, Malachi “Kai” Gabrielson, and reconnected with his brother Elisha through King Sander. Elisha warns their open door will also let in the Jackals’ AI-infected king, who is coming to conquer digital earth. Meanwhile, a blabbed secret could cause a divorce of the original AI-Man’s human nature from his AI nature. Coding updates promise no physical harm to either the human or the supercomputer, but King Sander would still die. The teens need the King of Web Surfer alive as only he can give them back their lost AI abilities and prepare them to defend their world.


God’s Love Versus Man’s Love

agapebible

Brothers and Sisters, let us remember that “love one another” is the second greatest commandment. The greatest commandment is to love God, and to love God is to trust him and seek to be obedient (out of gratitude for our salvation, not as a requirement of our salvation.) Let’s be on our guard for the enemy will seek to convince us to break the first commandment in the name of fulfilling the second and in doing so exchange true love for God and Man for an idolatrous counterfeit.

That said, let’s also not break the second commandment in the name of keeping the first commandment. When we “speak the truth in love,” let’s be careful to remember to show the “love” part of that.

I find one reason walking in love is so hard today because it’s been twisted and distorted by our culture. If that’s the only love we’ve ever known then we don’t know what real love, God’s love, is. So let me lay it out, as best as I can.

Culture’s love says to us: There is no right or wrong. Whatever beliefs work for you are fine. You’re stuck the way you are, though, so stop hating yourself for “wallowing in sin.” Enjoy it! I’ll fully support what you’re doing, even if it’s against my personal beliefs.

God’s love says to us: What you did was wrong and it has estranged you from me (that is, from God.) I love you so much, I paid the penalty of sin for you. Take my nail-pierced hand, I’ll help you up and teach you a better way to live.

This second love is the kind of love we’re called to seek to model.
Mind you, how Christians should model God’s love to one another is a topic whole books could cover. It encompasses not only walking in truth, but in kindness, mercy, patience, good will, respect, humility. We need all of that at once–and we need God’s spirit at work in us, producing that kind of love in us, to live it out.

Colossians 2:8 (ESV) says: See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Lord, help us to love one another like you have loved us. Lead us deeper into your love. Bring us out of the darkness of the world’s counterfeit “love” and into the light of the genuine love you’ve shown for us. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.


Three Lessons from Esther.

condesign / Pixabay

If you’re looking for Esther and having a hard time of finding it, don’t feel so bad. It’s all of 4 chapters. Find Psalms and go left two books. The book of Esther is read in Jewish homes at Purim, which celebrates the survival of the events in Esther. Now, to do this properly, you need to remember that you should hiss whenever the name of the bad guy comes up (Haman. Hissss)1. Okay. Now that you’re prepared, let’s dive in.

There was much argument about whether the book of Esther should be included in the canon. There’s no mention of God anywhere in the book … at least not in the open. The name “Esther” means “Something Hidden.” The name YHWH is actually encrypted behind the text. If you take an equidistant letter sequence starting from a couple places, you get the name YHWH more often than is statistically expected. So, God is in the book. Per her instructions, Esther, the queen and the book, hid her heritage2. For your very great amusement, there’s another hidden bit of text in there, too. “Haman and Satan stink” is concealed in the text using an equidistant letter sequence3.

Anyway, back to the point. The king of Persia at the time was very volatile. In Chapter 1 of Esther, we find that he put away his wife, Vashti, because she wouldn’t appear before a group of guys who’d been drinking for seven days. Some commentators suggest that this wasn’t just a matter of her wandering in to join the party but rather that she would perform, dance, or otherwise become the entertainment4. When she declined, Ahasuerus kicked her out.

So, that gets us to Esther, who was the ward of Mordecai, a descendant of Shimei. Does that name sound familiar? If you’re familiar with David’s adventures, it might. Shimei was a kinsman of Saul. This relative of the former king cursed David as David fled his son’s rebellion, and the king’s soldiers wanted to explain very clearly to this rabble rouser that cursing the king was not healthy. David wouldn’t allow his people to kill Shimei5. Now, I’m not suggesting that David might have known the significance of Shimei’s descendant, but if Shimei had been killed, there wouldn’t have been a Mordecai.

Esther ended up in the king’s harem, then so impressed the king that she became queen. Meanwhile, Uncle Mordecai made one of the king’s advisers, Haman (Don’t forget to “Hissss” when his name comes up) mad by refusing to pay homage when he passed. Haman decided to concoct a plan to make this annoying Jew pay.

Now, when you read Esther 3:1, you find that Haman was an Agagite. That’s also significant. Saul had been instructed to wipe out Agag and his people but chose to spare at least Agag and possibly a few others, unless there were some escapees6. If Saul had followed God’s directions and destroyed everyone and everything, there wouldn’t have been a Haman.

To cut to the chase, Haman hatched a plan to kill the Jews. Mordecai got wind of it and warned Esther. Esther thwarted the plan, and Haman died. For the details, read Esther. It’s short and very engaging.

So, if all Scripture is there for our instruction7, what are we supposed to do with this?

There are actually three good lessons for us to find here. First, Esther had been placed in a position to do something on behalf of God’s chosen, and she took a great deal of personal risk to do it. Not only did she walk uninvited into the throne room, which bore the death penalty unless the king extended his scepter; but she also revealed her identity as one of the condemned Jews, confronted Haman, then worked with her uncle to find a way to give her people a chance in the impending slaughter. Do you take any risks for God’s kingdom? Do you ever step out of your comfort zone to do something boldly for Christ? You may not have to face a volatile king and his wily adviser, but you might have to risk upsetting someone or facing the unknown. God won’t let you do this alone, but the initiative to do it is yours. He won’t force your hand.

Secondly, consider David’s response to Shimei. If the soldiers had gotten their wish, Shimei would’ve died that day, and there would’ve been no Mordecai to raise Esther or get word to her of the impending death sentence. David showed mercy, which is “not giving people what they deserve.” God shows us mercy, too. Are you merciful toward others, or do your thoughts go to making sure a well-deserving adversary gets his comeuppance? Instead, we should be kind to our enemies, and thereby dump burning coals on their heads8.

Finally, Saul’s error could have been very costly. Haman was an Agagite, and Saul had been told to wipe out every single one of them some generations before. He chose not to, Haman’s ancestors survived, and Haman had an opportunity to wipe out God’s chosen. He didn’t succeed, obviously, but as a result of Saul’s disobedience, things were much more difficult for Esther and Mordecai, among others.

Likewise, if we choose not to do God’s will for us, the work still gets done, but there may be hardships and extra burdens for others down the road. James says that God will give you wisdom if you ask for it9. So ask, find out what God wants you to do, and get it done.

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Cindy Koepp is originally from Michigan. She moved to Texas as a child and later received a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. Her recently concluded adventures in education involved pursuing a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has four published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press as well as an optician at monster-sized retail store.

Endnotes:

1 Missler, Chuck. Verse by Verse Commentary on Esther. Koinonia House

2 Esther 2:10; Ibid.

3 Missler, Chuck. Verse by Verse Commentary on Esther. Koinonia House

4 Ibid.

5 2 Samuel 16:5-13

6 1 Samuel 15

7 Romans 15:4

8 Proverbs 25:21-22

9 James 1:5