Christ's Glory, Not Mine

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

The Children and the Persecuted

Jesus and children

Recently, via the media, American Christians received a terrible taste of what the word “persecution” means to millions of our brothers and sisters around the world. People marching into some place you ought to be safe and ending your mortal life to express their direct objection to your faith. Of course, it also means churches meeting in secret, since it is illegal for you to gather with other believers for worship, being restricted in how you earn your living, risks of your home and business (of any sort) and church being torched because of your faith.

It is rare for people in my area of the world to face a direct choice between Christ and our lives. The most common threat we face is being threatened with losing our job/business on discrimination charges if we don’t by our deeds, if not our words, give our approval of certain sins. The world’s demands Christians actively participate in the celebration of sin, quit our jobs, or face legal or civil charges has only begun. And some of us are already terrified and ready to either cave in and compromise or go to the opposite extreme.

At its deadliest, sin becomes a core part of our identity like our ethnicity is. When that happens, we see the disapproval of the sin as a rejection of who we are and we see no difference between a business refusing to help us celebrate us and a business rejecting customers over skin color. If we’re all walking in the flesh, then the war is on. Whoever starts it, when we as Christians seek to stand for the truth that X behavior is a sin (that Christ died for) we can slip into deplorable behavior that is also a sin. When we get in trouble for said wrong, we play the “I’m persecuted” card to justify it, thus undermining our defense when we simply didn’t want to exalt sin.

For a theoretical example of deplorable behavior: an adoptive father gets his five-year-old son enrolled at a Bible-based private school or an activity like scouting. Little Johnny is welcome there until the Christian administrators realize he’s been adopted by two dads with a state marriage license. Then the Christian leaders perceive a threat, a wedge intended to silence their message and pressure them to teach the kids that Johnny’s parents’ sin is okay. So they kick the child out. He is hurt and confused that Christians he’d come to trust are suddenly angry at him and at his family and not letting him go play with his friends and learn about Jesus and other cool stuff.

Before you say this would never happen, consider that the only Biblical alternative is letting Little Johnny stay, look into his young eyes, and continue to teach Biblical values despite those values not being practiced at his home, to patiently, gently, kindly give age-appropriate answers to Little Johnny’s honest questions. Some defenders of Biblical values may well seek to justify the path of least resistance as the best path to defend Biblical values on.

Once, the twelve disciples thought the best path for furthering Christ’s mission was to turn away pesky, intrusive, insignificant children whose parents had brought them to be blessed. Matthew 19:14 tells us, “But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

He didn’t say, “but only let the little children of heterosexual, legitimately married, morally upright religious parents,” but since the children he was immediately addressing probably were, let me also remind you Ezekiel 18:20 says in part, “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Whatever circumstances a child was born in, or lives in, please don’t bar that child from coming to Christ. Don’t turn that innocent baby away, no matter how much more challenging his home situation may make things for you, no matter what ulterior motives his parents may have. It is better to suffer for having done right than to suffer for the wrong of rejecting a little child. (See 1 Peter 2:20, Matthew 18:6.)


hope flower
As some of you may know, my husband and I suffer from infertility, both male and female factors. Sometimes, I don’t know what is more painful, when your dreams of biological children start to die inside you or when others give up on you ever conceiving. I turned thirty-four earlier this month and my husband will be thirty-five next month. We’ve been married (and also together) for thirteen years as of July.

My ghost babies are growing up so fast. Twelve, nine, who knows?

If you’re not infertile, you may not get it, what it’s like to grieve for children who were not only never born but never conceived but your heart is stubbornly so sure ought to have existed. A big hole in your life, filled in by other things, hard to value them sometimes. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, a homeschooler. We’ve waited, and waited, and waited. The time I would’ve spent on those activities gets poured into other things, such as writing and editing. It gets harder and harder to value that time, the silence. Irony of life is, mothers long for things scarce to them, that I have too much of, while I honestly wish I had all the problems that go along with motherhood.

Some in our society have forgotten I am not blessed, I am cursed. Ironically, I say “I am cursed” partially from a social standpoint. Childless women can pick up subtle, hopefully unintended social messages that we are second-class citizens compared to mothers. We get left out, discounted, treated like we don’t exist, don’t count. In the media, women like me are often portrayed as either dangerously insane and/or as abusive shrews. Our pain can lead to bitterness and so forth, but due to resiliency, many of us remain loving, kind, compassionate souls who would’ve been great moms and are no threat.

When I say I am cursed, I also simply mean I lack a blessing. It is a blessing to have children. It is a blessing to have sticky fingerprints and crayon art everywhere. It is a blessing to get to give the same instructions repeatedly, to get to watch the same cartoon, play the same CD over and over. Children are blessings that not everyone is fortunate enough to have.

What about my ghosts? Are they doomed to never be? Will God remember the child who never was? Will God give eternal life in Heaven to the sons and daughters robbed of this life by the health problems that kept their parents from conceiving them? Do we infertile have any hope of seeing the babies we mourn in Heaven or are we without hope and fools to desperately believe otherwise?

If it is foolish to hope my never-were children are in Heaven, so be it. When I get there, God will comfort me some other way, if they’re not. All I know is God weeps with us childless would-be parents and with the children who have lost their moms and dads. Perhaps in good time he will make something beautiful out of our broken pieces.

Confessions of a wimp

Hi, my name is Andrea, and I am a wimp. So many people suffer so much worse than me, with bravery, faith, courage, hardly even seen them cry. Yet a little back pain and I want to rush straight to Heaven. A little pain in the ribs, where a deep breath hurts, and I succumb to tears, let it interfere with my work, keep me from accomplishing everything I should’ve done today.

Whining, grumpy, snappy, all things we should never be. A little pain in the flesh and the fruits we should show–love, peace, joy, kindness, self-control–they seem to evaporate. It shouldn’t be. I should be stronger than this.

Forgive me, God. Forgive, brothers and sisters. Everyone deserves better from me than what I’ve been today. Lord, help me to endure. Help me not to invert, focused on self and the silly, insignificant hurt of my day. Help me to be there for others who are going through so much worse, to patiently understand, to listen, be there for them. Help me to continue the work you’ve called me to, no matter what.

I pray I’d seek you and walk according to the spirit, not the flesh. Help me to be there for others in need. Show me what you’d have to do. Lead me. Give me the strength to bear up. To not let anything stop me. I am weak, Lord. You are strong. Grant me wisdom, to know to do. Faith, to walk in the way I should, even when it’s dark. Love, to put others first, even when the flesh is weak and hurting yet overpowering my soul. Change me, God. Make me better than this. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

If you have a prayer need, feel free to share it in the comments.

Quick Note: if you’d like, check out a sample of “Locusts Have Eaten” at Helping Hands Press’ blog. “Locusts Have Eaten” is Episode 9 of ten of the Web Surfer series of short stories and novelettes. It’s the shortest and bittersweet, captures a glimpse of a central conflict of the first Web Surfer novel from the view of an elderly lady in Germany.

Impoverished Gospel, Part Two by Adam Graham

Note from Andrea: This article concludes a two-part series on prayer by a special guest blogger, my sweet, thoughtful husband, Adam Graham. The first part was posted last Thursday.

war roomSuperficially, the Kendrick Brothers’ latest film, War Room appears to say, “If you pray in faith, your marriage will be saved. If your marriage isn’t going well, it’s because you haven’t prayed enough.” We’ve known people who have had marriages fall apart in spite of their prayers and efforts to fight for that marriage, so that doesn’t ring true.


I don’t think that’s the intended point. When the film opens,  Elizabeth is a realtor and the frustrated wife of a hotshot salesman Tony is neglectful, inconsiderate, arrogant, and often absent as his job takes him to other cities. He explodes at his wife when he finds out Elizabeth sent $5,000 to her sister without asking him. She’s haunted by guilt when she overhears her daughter telling her best friend that all her parents ever do when they’re together is fight. Elizabeth meets Clara, an elderly lady who challenges her to pray, to learn to really fight for her family before God in prayer.


**Spoilers Warning** The film charts her growth. Her walk with God in prayer makes her a calmer, more peaceful person. Her daughter sees and begins to copy her mother’s prayer habits. Finally, Tony’s dishonest deeds catch up with him and he’s fired from his job. He comes home and tells Elizabeth. She listens and says she’ll try and sell more houses until he can find another job. She’s all calm and that annoys him. She tells him, while she loves him, she refuses to have her joy wrapped up in him.


This is where her character arc peaks. At this point in the movie, Elizabeth’s prayer life hasn’t changed her husband, it’s changed her. In her times of prayer, she has found peace and joy which enables her to face the loss of the income of the guy who had brought home four-fifths of the family’s bacon. From there, the film focuses on the restoration of the marriage, but she could have handled it if things had worked out differently because her life had been re-centered and refocused. **End of Spoilers**


Prayer will always be frustrating if we view it as a vehicle for manipulating others by manipulating God to make them behave or to get God to fix our problems by fixing the world around us. God does move on circumstances and people at many times, yet it’s often true the one God will change is the one who’s on speaking terms with him. In other words, God changes us. Prayer is not primarily about God giving us things but about God giving us more of God. That sometimes changes our circumstances. More often and more importantly, it changes how we react to them.


This can be seen in the book of Habakkuk where Habakkuk wanted God to change his pronunciation of judgment against Judah. God didn’t do that, but at the end of his lament and seeking God the prophet was able to declare in Habakkuk 3:17-19.


Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.


Then there’s the Apostle Paul, a man so powerful in prayer and faith, he raised the dead. People took cloths he’d sweat on to the sick, and they were healed. Yet, he suffered a “thorn in his flesh” and when he prayed God to remove it, he was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9.)


On a spiritual level, Elizabeth from War Room, Habukuk, and Paul all got the same thing:  more of God and more of His grace.


If we’re honest, most of us don’t come to God in prayer out of a desire to get more of Him, it’s mostly to get our problems fixed or out of a sense of obligation. We will find prayer a frustrating practice as long as that’s where we’re at. The people who I’ve known whose prayer life bares the fruit people want from prayer have moved past that being the measure of whether the time they’ve spent in prayer was valuable or not. They’ve been changed through the time they’ve spent with God.


Despite its flaws, The War Room is a valuable film that challenges people to pray and to think about prayer. It illustrates how prayer works primarily by changing us to be more like Christ and how it can bring God’s grace to others. The movie’s portrayal isn’t entirely satisfactory, message-wise, but that’s one of the challenges of doing a movie about prayer or writing a book or article about it.


Prayer is a mystery. We participate in it, but our minds can’t fully grasp all of what it means. We can make it too complicated and speak too broadly about something we don’t fully understand. God isn’t a genie who gives you everything you want, but  God does give good gifts and God always begins by giving us Himself

gloria patri


Impoverished Gospel, Part One

By Adam Graham

Note from Andrea: This article begins a two-part series on prayer by a special guest blogger, my sweet, thoughtful husband. The second part will post next Thursday.

war roomThe Kendrick Brothers’ latest film, War Room, finished second at last weekend’s box office. The film focuses on the power of prayer. For many, that’s a problem. Some have accused the film of preaching a prosperity gospel that says all you have to do is pray in faith and your family’s problems will all go away.

I see the film as a mostly positive illustration of the power of prayer, but I also see how it could play into the hands of the false prosperity teachers. However, prosperity teachers aren’t the only sources of a warped view of prayer. This is important. Of all the areas where I’ve received poor teaching, none has done more harm than the variety of awful teaching I’ve received on prayer.

Growing up, the big thing was health. A popular sermon was, “Is it God’s Will to Heal Everybody?” The answer given was yes. The problem? As a child, I was often sick with bronchial infections. It recurred several times a year and hung on, time and time again, for weeks on. I begged God for relief and it never seemed to come.

When I was little, based on such teaching, I declared over my bronchial infections, “I am healed, and I was healed.” It was a nice, positive confession, but the illness continued to return to torture me round after round. As I grew older, I lost confidence that I would ever get better. Indeed, to this day, I have a bout once or twice a year with the same affliction that’s stalked me since my early days. I wasn’t alone in getting disillusioned from a lack of healing. I remember talking to a dear, sweet brother with chronic pain. He left a fellowship because he couldn’t live up to that standard of God healing him.

Thankfully, my never receiving a miraculous healing didn’t lead me to abandon God. I knew people who were healed, genuinely, absolutely, clearly miraculously healed, and only God could have done it. My conclusion was something was wrong with my faith and I couldn’t fix it. In the back of my mind was the idea maybe God didn’t love me as much as he loved others whose prayers seemed to be readily answered.

My confusion was infused with cynicism as I realized for some people, “I’ll pray about it,” meant, “I’m going to use prayer as an excuse to do nothing.”

At the first church I attended in Boise, I then heard a very clear message: God doesn’t want to hear about all your little selfish needs. “He doesn’t want to hear your selfish lists of requests.” This abusive church commanded us to only pray for others, and that’s what I did. Whole years passed where I would hardly mention my own needs to God.

It had been drilled into me that prayer was important and not doing it was bad for you. Prayer became the spiritual equivalent of an unpleasant medical exam: not fun but it’s got to be done.

I loved praying in groups because I did believe God would care about that prayer. Things that were prayed by groups had gotten God’s attention. He’d promised to move if two or three agreed. But me? Would my prayers ever change anything? Certainly not.

I did things for God and tried my best. Yet a lot of my effort was wasted. It’d be a mess or just unfruitful as I did my best to tilt at windmills and found the windmills winning.

Of course, I’d never publicly affirm that to be the case. I hardly admitted it to myself because it was too shameful to admit. But it’s had an effect on my life nonetheless. I worry too much and get way too stressed. I don’t have the peace I should have.
I read scripture verses that I desperately wished would define my life but didn’t. They’d almost make me cry with longing for them to be true. Cast your cares upon him for he careth for you. (1 Peter 5:7) In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6) That’d be nice, and I wanted it to be true, and to reign in my life, but it didn’t.

Instead, I carried far too much on myself. In the process of rejecting the tacky idea of the abundant life with perfect health now and everyone having a Cadillac and a boat, I’ve also missed out on experiencing what Christ meant by that phrase in the book of John.

However, God is working on me and one thing that ministered to me over the last couple of years is Diane Moody’s book Confessions of a Prayer Slacker (Second Edition). I got it free on Kindle, and it was the best free book I’ve ever gotten. It’s an honest book about how this author built her prayer life. She was honest about her struggles and the challenges she faced in doing it and it pushed me to making my prayer life a priority. And my Donna Fletcher Crow book Seasons of Prayer
has added some helpful organization.

Slowly but surely, I’ve drawn closer to God through prayer and the vast majority of days I’m remembering. I’m not where I should be, but I’m not where I was either. I sin a little less, fear a little less, and am moving closer to Him.

People who target a false doctrine often forget there’s more than one way to be wrong. For every churchgoer who thinks God owes them a BMW if they ask for it by faith in the name of Jesus, probably two or three wonder if there’s any point to praying at all. It’s this second group that War Room is meant to speak to.

Adam Graham is a follower of Christ and a contributor at PJ Media and Caffeinated Thoughts. He is the author of the novel, Tales of the Dim Knight (with his wife, Andrea) He has been an adult Sunday School teacher. He is also a former President of his local American Christian Fiction Writers Chapter. You can follow him on Twitter @idahoguy