Christ's Glory, Not Mine

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

People Aren’t Enough, Objects Are

ENOUGH

While preparing to write “Enough” last week, I did a word study at biblegateway.com For the uninitiated, I mean I looked up Bible verses containing the word “enough.” Something struck me about the use of the word “enough” in the Bible. Things were enough. “It” was enough. People had enough, but nowhere was “enough” applied to a person, either positively or negatively.

So why do some of us apply “enough” to ourselves?

I also looked up “enough” at: m-w.com The short definition of the adjective, the part of speech that modifies nouns, is “equal to what is needed.” The long definition is, “occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.” Looking at all of the examples, the general gist of it is, this is a word applied to objects—and to people being objectified.

Why do we on any level objectify ourselves by asking whether we are enough? (Instead of asking whether we have enough and asking God to meet our need if we don’t.) Especially women raised in healthy families who are generally well-adjusted. It baffles me, unless the tendency is a throwback to the days when women were chattel. I understand too well when survivors of child abuse (of either gender) struggle with feeling like we’re not enough. Abusers do objectify their victims, treat us like things they own and deserve to have full control over. Abusers seek to be their victims’ gods, though they’re more likely to accuse you of trying to be God than to admit to their self-idolatry and their attempts to get others to idolize them, too,

potterBefore the actual God of Heaven, we are objects but only in metaphor. He is our potter, and we are jars of clay. Let’s be humble about that with God, but let’s also remember we’ve been found worthy to hold a great treasure inside us, the Holy Spirit. We’re created in the image of God, and God established our value on the cross. We were bought with a price, Paul says, and Peter chimes in with what the price of our redemption was: the precious blood of Christ.

Precious. Too valuable and important to be used or wasted carelessly. What was given as payment for us is priceless. When some of us look at our broken lives, it can be hard to imagine us being worth what God paid for “fixer-upers.” Let’s remember Christ can and will fix us up as good as new, has began that good work, and will complete it. God has every right to treat humanity like broken pots to cast into his flaming garbage dump. Instead God offers to make us a beloved bride worth our bridegroom dying to restore us. God also adopts all Christians as sons, makes us all co-heirs with Christ.

Before people, since they aren’t our potter, we are not objects in any way to them, so it’s a red flag when we feel we’re not enough for them. We need to be careful in how we evaluate what is wrong, though. It is possible for us to have a tape in our head playing that says we’re not enough for people without anyone in our life today actually treating us as objects. Due to that, I’d suggest we respond to the red flag by prayerfully asking God to show us if someone is treating us like an object today and ask him how to deal with it if so.

For those of us dealing with a “not enough” message not from a live human, whether it’s from past child abuse, or from living in a culture that often places unrealistic demands on us, let’s close in prayer: (Adapted from Ephesians 3:14-21 NKJV)

Lord, we bow our knees before you, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. According to the riches of your glory, please grant us to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. May we be rooted and grounded in love. May we have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to you, Father, who are able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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Enough


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The poised, young professional woman in white came boldly before the throne of God, dragging alongside her a battered, bruised little girl in filthy rags. “Lord, I’m surrendering this to you, my broken, wounded heart. I caught her running away from you and thinking wrong things again, so I’ve taken her captive, brought her back, and am presenting her to you again. I know she’s not much, but she’s all I have to offer, and I trust by faith she is enough. I have so much to do for you, and so little time, so I won’t keep you long. Amen.”

With that, the professional adult scurried away to get about the Father’s business.

The wounded child curled up on the floor in the fetal position, trembling, and sobbed. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The Son knelt before the terrified little thing and caught her tears in a bottle.

The girl shirked back. “Why are you collecting those? Aren’t my tears bad? Don’t you already have plenty of evidence of how bad I am? Who is she kidding? I’m not enough. I’m a worthless thing trampled on, not a valuable treasure worthy of belonging to the king. I can never live up to her expectations, or the expectations of others. She dumps me here with you so she doesn’t have to deal with my brokenness. All I do is get in the way and make trouble. If I’m not enough for flawed humans, how can I ever be enough for a holy God?”

“This is how.” Compassion in his eyes, the Son showed the wounded child his nail-pierced hands, spread open wide. “This is enough. Your value is not based on works or on the approval of men. What I paid for you is what you’re worth. How much is my blood worth?”

“It’s priceless.”

The Son hugged her. “You are my priceless treasure. You shall be a royal diadem in the hand of the Lord. You are accepted, and you are loved, simply because you are my child.”

He scooped her up and carried her toward an incomprehensibly vast, wide, deep pool full of liquid red love.

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Judging Righteous Judgment

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“If you feel someone is judging you, feel free to judge them back and punish them until your wrath has been fully satisfied.” These words do not appear anywhere in the Bible. Yet how often do we, God’s people, behave like God said that? Who among us has never responded tit for perceived tat? We may do this based on assumptions founded on past experience or based on how we felt in response to something someone said.

To begin with, the past isn’t a reliable predictor of the present and future, and the hurt we feel in response to someone’s words isn’t an innately reliable indicator of whether the person intended any judgment. Our flesh’s pain and fear responses are ways of warning us of danger, but let’s remember our flesh’s warning system is broken. Galatians 5:17 (ESV) puts it, “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” So let’s practice resisting our flesh in how we respond.

Especially if we’ve been abused, there’s a risk our negative feelings reflect our own self-condemnation. If we stew, thinking how dare they judge us, we are vulnerable to the trap of transferring onto someone else our heart’s self-condemnation. When that happens, we commit the hypocritical kind of judgment that Christ forbid. What I mean by that is, we’re judging them as judging us, judging them for it, and we feel entitled to judge them because we’ve judged them as judging.

Such circular reasoning is illogical and dangerous for our soul. However, I’ve known people who quote Mathew 7:1 out of the biblical context. Sometimes I wonder if some folks consciously think Mathew 7:1-5 justifies them in going off on anyone who admits to trusting God’s judgment when the Bible says God has judged X behavior that they admit to doing to be a sin.

Why would God say “don’t judge” the way the world says “don’t judge”? God does reserve for God alone the right to judge what is right and what is wrong. However, in the dominant culture today, people “don’t judge” because people have assumed God’s right: “You judge what’s right for you, and I’ll judge what’s right for me, and we’d better leave each other alone ‘cuz it’s Mutually Assured Destruction if we don’t.” That is the world’s way, brothers and sisters, not Christ’s.

If we’re still not sure the Bible doesn’t sanction us for judging someone if you feel judged by them, such behavior also violates the law of love, turn the other cheek, forsake wrath, answer softly, forgive one another, be respectful to one another, etc, etc.

To make the irony of the world’s abuse of Mathew 7:1 complete, the Lord was not saying to ignore God’s judgment of behavior that someone admits to. 1 Cor. 5: 12 does say, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” Let’s leave unbelievers alone unless they ask, a situation arises where we feel a need to explain why we can’t join them in sin, or we feel a strong urging to warn them that we are certain is from God.

However, most of 1 Cor:5 consists of Apostle Paul rebuking a “non-judgmental, loving” church for boasting about not disciplining a brother for unrepentantly engaging in sexual sin. The citizens of the Kingdom of God don’t get to follow God when we feel like it and do things the world’s way when we don’t feel like it. We need to choose. Are we going to follow Christ or not?

Don’t get me wrong. Making that decision doesn’t mean we won’t ever be weak, loose our footing, and stumble into the ways of our flesh. It doesn’t mean we won’t have blind spots or that we will always win our battles with sin. We are saved by grace, through faith in Christ’s full atonement on the cross, not by works, not by our obedience. God wants us to obey God out of sheer gratitude, trust, and love, not out of the fear of Hell. We all fail; We all give in to sin, we all fail to see the true nature of what we’re doing and how it breaks God’s heart. Thank God for grace.

All I’m saying it is dangerous to walk in sin because we’ve flat out ignored God’s judgement. That is self-idolatry. We set ourselves up as our own god when we judge what God’s word says is wrong as right for us. That robs us of a close relationship with God, it hinders us from operating in our spiritual gifts, and it stifles our spiritual fruits. It makes us vulnerable to the enemy influencing us by phone: getting us thinking down is up and that up is down, provoking us to hate Christians who haven’t also been taken captive by the enemy, and using us against the God we love and against God’s people.

I am not writing to this to condemn anyone. The goal is to open our blind eyes so we’ll seek deliverance from bondage. While I hope I never fall as far into self-idolatry as I’ve just described, I’ve struggled to some extent with such tendencies as we all do.

When we see others in the grip of what I’ve warned us about, let’s remember we too struggle with self-idolatry and deal with us first, then we may see clearly to offer our brother help.

Lord, help us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Give us supernatural power to react to verbal abuse not in the flesh’s wrath but to respond in a loving, kind respectful tone as we explain calmly how their words hurt and why they offended. When our hearts condemn us, help us to remember the words of 1 John 3:19-24

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.


The Edgy Psalm’s Invitation

O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock! Psalm 137:8-9, NKJV

These shocking words are more likely to be quoted by atheists than Christians. Most with even a cursory knowledge of the faith knows this flies in the face of our teachings on revenge.

If you’re reading it in a version that renders “Happy” as “Blessed,” understand why the NKJV turned “Blessed” into “Happy.” Too many verses–many of them right in the Psalms–describe God as gracious, loving, and full of compassion for us to accept the idea of God blessing someone for such cruelty. It can be hard enough for some of us to accept that, over the course of many centuries, entire cultures can become corrupt, unjust, and plain wicked enough for it to become in keeping with a merciful, compassionate God’s character to either order or carryout genocides, before or after the cross.

We hope the cross has changed that by taking all the wrath of God. We know it is Satan’s character to try to find ways to put God in situations that make God look bad to humans from our finite perspective if God refuses to bend the rules God plays by, which are all rooted in the character of an infinite being.

That’s not what this post is about, though. What I want us to focus on is why is Psalm 137 in the Bible? What is it’s real point?

If we read the whole Psalm, we will see, like many Psalms, it is a prayer, God’s people talking to God. This one in particular is a lament. What it’s saying authoritatively is that God’s people said this to him. Psalms isn’t primarily a prayer book, though. It’s ancient Israel’s hymnal. One thing a hymnal does is give God’s people examples of how to worship God in ways acceptable to God.

Psalm 137 is the prayer of a broken heart during the Babylonian captivity. It expresses the grief of a people who’d seen Jerusalem/Zion burned, plundered, and razed to the ground. It expresses the rage of a people who have been carried away as slaves into a foreign land. Their captors love to torment and mock them by asking them to sing the Psalms about Zion/Jerusalem. A very frustrated Psalmist responded to those taunts with Psalm 137.

I say this based on the whole text of Psalm 137. Likely, the Psalmist has also seen the women raped and loved ones murdered. If we read the whole thing, most of us can probably think of a situation that has provoked the kind of emotions the author of Psalm 137 is expressing.

The “formula” for a lament Psalm includes a “but” where after the Psalmist vents his doubts, fears, anger, and grief to God, the Psalmist praises God and starts singing the uplifting verses we love to quote. That is absent from this Psalm. Why? The author wasn’t ready for it, most likely. Don’t force yourself to return to “normal” worship because a formula or cultural script says it’s time to, if your heart’s not ready for that. Pour out grief to God is worship, too. It shows a trust and faith in God that are pleasing to God, if we’re doing it to fork over our toxic waste and are willing to let God fill us with the “good stuff” when God says it’s time.

Christ forbid cursing our enemies as Psalm 137 does, but it remains an invitation to pour out our honest emotions to God in prayer. His grace can handle such confessions and trade us the power to do right.

 


Web Surfer Series Overview


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New Release! Web Surfer Complete Series I (Vols. 1-5 for only $2.99)

At the turn of the Twenty-Second Century, cyberspace had no bad AIs, only bad coders. However, AIs measure their lives in days, eternity is out of their reach, and they fail to bring about the advent of a holy infant in cyberspace. Alexander Lloyd McGregor is an infant, but he isn’t holy, and only he is saved from death by his father converting his cells into biological supercomputer components. The child develops an AI mind called Sander and a human mind called Alex. Sander is a bad AI subjected to slavery’s chains to get him to obey his code as he serves a billion users all around the world. He’s also a king who reigns over most of Earth’s computers, in a global society where tech-dependency can kill. Freedom’s calling to Sander like a siren. His answer could shake the earth.

Come. See the rise and fall of the AI-Man in these ten episodes of an in-world reality show. Each features a different user of the AI-Man.

*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.

*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. Read More about Interference at Helping Hands Press’s blog.

*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. Visit Helping Hand Press’s blog for more info or to Read the first few pages free.

**Episode 6 Jewel Among Stones by Cindy Koepp—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. They struggle to teach him to respect others before his bratty behavior leads to a serious accident.

*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.

**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.

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

The Web Surfer Series was on The G-ZONE 2/10@8PMEST! Listen in!

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.