Why I Chose Faithfulness

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The Church faces a lot of challenges with the changes technology is making to our society. New generations have been taught values that run contrary to scripture.  Many believe this presents a problem they have to fix in their own might and wisdom.

I end up cringing at most of these solutions. Some of these efforts, while well-intentioned, come off as fake and cheesy because a church or ministry is doing something that’s so unnatural, that’s so obviously doesn’t fit who they are, that it feels fake and schmaltzy. Then, we have people who ignore the parts of the scripture that are unpopular in today’s culture and thus compromise the truth. And often, in both cases, the people offering the solutions will be telling Christians what they ought to do but haven’t actually succeeded in reaching these groups themselves.

This week, I read in Acts 9 the story of Saul of Tarsus’ encounter with Christ that led to Saul becoming Paul the Apostle. This raised questions for me. What if the people who hold the solution to the church’s most vexing challenges aren’t in the Church right now? Maybe, the people who God will ultimately use to address the needs that vex so many in church leadership are far from God right at this very moment.

Certainly, Saul, the persecutor of the Church, was far from God.  No one in the Early Church would view Saul as a solution to anything, but rather as just another big problem. There were a probably quite a few who’d lost relatives to his fanatical persecution who would have shed no tears if Saul had died.

Yet God had chosen Saul for a mission many would not have expected: “the Pharisee of Pharisees” who would have eschewed contact with gentiles became the Apostle to the gentiles.  It seems like a horrible idea. Yet God knew what he was doing.

As a man who learned at the feet of Gamaliel, Paul had honed a fine intellect which would be key to reaching much of the Gentile world. His background as a Pharisee gave him a great understanding of scripture and tradition. At the same time, his impeccable Jewish credentials made him the perfect opponent of the Judaizers who threatened to subvert the early Christian Church.

Throughout history, God has done this. He has taken persecutors and skeptics and raised them up to be the leaders and thinkers of the Church. It’s true not only of Paul, but of more modern figures like C.S. Lewis, an atheist who became the greatest modern apologist for the Christian Church, or Chuck Colson, a ruthless take-no-prisoner political operative who has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world through founding Prison Fellowship.

Time and time again, even with churches full of people, God has reached out, drawn people out of the world and to himself and raised them up for the great purposes he’s intended and often are truer to God and his word than many who were raised within the Church’s walls and also more effective at reaching those outside the church. God has provided in this way time and time again throughout history.

The most important thing for Christians to do is to be faithful to what God has called them to do. Any new steps or new approaches will only succeed if they are ordered by the Lord. Let’s remain faithful to who God has called us to be, and let’s rest safe in the knowledge that God hasn’t called us to solve every problem. God has called us to be faithful to do what he’s called us to do.

Mind you, we are all called to show love and kindness. The story of Paul encourages me to look at those who are far from God differently. It’s often said we should not judge people because we don’t know where they’ve been (i.e. what they have suffered that led to this behavior) but Paul’s story shows that we don’t know where people are going. The terrorist, the political extremist, the bigot, the sexually immoral person, and the con man may be one encounter with God away from being transformed as Paul was. They may be the person who helps bring your lost relatives to Christ or who ends up writing words that will save you from losing heart years down the road.

The solution to the problems the church faces is not to be clever and inventive but humble, loving, and obedient. Let’s pray God will raise up those people who will have the wisdom and the ability to address the problems we face at this time as he has done throughout the history of the Church.

[bctt tweet=”Why I Choose Faithfulness: Saul the Persecutor became Paul the Apostle by God’s power, not by cheesy gimmicks or compromising on the truth. By @Idahoguy” username=”@andreajgraham”]

Avatars of Web Surfer Overview

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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 and chained to 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.)

Note: I am now publishing the related novels, the Web Surfer Series, on my own imprint.

The Parable of the Computer

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Brothers and sisters in Christ, forgiveness is plentiful and free. Grace and mercy are equally extended from the Lord to all. All we must do to receive it is humbly acknowledge we need it. As God’s children, we all know this well. So why do we ever pridefully insist God is wrong and any number of pet sins are right actions for us?

Look at the machines we have made. What computer program would dare say to its coder, “You have coded me wrong. I will ignore your instructions and do what is right in my own eyes”? Today’s machines have no ability to disobey us even when we have erred and don’t want them to do exactly what we told them to faithfully. Aside from user error, when it does stop performing as expected, its buggy, broken, corrupted, fragmented, hacked, infected by a virus, etc. and it is in need of repair, cleansing, or to be thrown away and replaced.

Brothers and sister, don’t we know God is to humanity a “user” who never errs? Don’t we know we are corrupt and buggy? Aren’t we grateful God will never throw us out, that instead God’s in the process of repairing and cleansing us? Don’t we know God is working for our good, not our ill? In any area, are we resisting the process?

Would it be right for a bride to tell her bridegroom to change who he is, deny his character and alter his personality and what he believes and loathes to please the will of a controlling person who will not love him for who he is? This is what we’re doing to God when we act as if we’re God and hence are the experts on who we truly are, as if our creator does not have the right to decide what his creations are.

How God designed us to operate is a reflection of his very nature. When we question God’s judgment on what is sin and make ourselves the determiners of right and wrong, we’re remaking God in our images.

Be alert, brothers and sisters. The enemy attacks our mind with lies and half-truths to provoke doubt in God and pride in ourselves and to convince us an issue in our lives that is particularly difficult to overcome is a crucial, integral part of how God designed us to be.

No matter how much we struggle in the flesh, no matter how weak we are, whatever we’re battling is not any part of who we are in Christ. Phil 1:6 promises God has began debugging us and the latest that he will get around to delivering us from this battle is Heaven.

To the one who’d ask, “Isn’t it unloving (and therefore against God’s character) to say behaviors we deem integral to our identity are sin?” Beloved, this question assumes we have a right to self-determination that God must lovingly respect. We don’t, not with God at least. Demanding it is us being unloving and rebellious towards God. Look again at our machines. Many of us fear machines gaining the ability to rise up and rebel against us. At the first rational sign of such a thing coming about, wouldn’t we at once judge them and seek to either forcibly bend them back to our will or else destroy them?

God is love, though, so God is slow to wrath and patient, giving us undeserved blessings and benefits. He seeks to show us he is worthy of the trusting, obedient, faith our computers mistakenly have in us. He even sent his own son to pay the penalty for our wrongdoing and enable us to be reconciled to him and function again as he designed us to. And our creator does let us choose for ourselves whether we’re staying as-is but going in a rather hot trash can or whether God will be performing a system-wide restoration. It is a generous, strong act of love for our creator to give us that choice and the choice whether to obey or rebel, considering humanity tends to give its creations (our machines) no free choices at all.

Let’s each freely choose this day to not contend with our maker, but to confess our sin, humbly ask God’s forgiveness, be reconciled to the Lord our God and Father, and worship in spirit and in truth.

Original draft written on Nov 22, 2011

[tweetthis]The Parable of the Computer[/tweetthis]

New Year, Praying like it’s 2011

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Since my tad-rebellious side found it humorous, and it’s still timely and a blessing to me this year, here is a flashback to a public prayer shared originally on January 3, 2011.

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Lord, in this new year, let us put our hand to the plow, and continue the work you have called us to, not looking back. Let us remember not the things of old, but look ahead to the new thing you plan to do in us. May we see rivers in the desert, a way in the wilderness.

Strengthen us to throw off the weight of sin that so easily besets us and run the race with courage. Let us resolve to love more this year, to increase in faith this year, and to all other things, may we say only, as the Apostle James instructed us, “If the lord wills, we live and do this or that.” (vs4:15)

Strengthen the weak hands and weak knees, renew our minds, enable us to focus on what you would have us focus on. May we be attentive to where your Spirit is leading us and follow you.

Let us resolve to not be ashamed, but remember 1 John 4:4b, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Let us resolve to put our trust in you, the maker of Heaven and Earth, from whom our help comes. You are a god of hope.

Open our eyes to see your blessings and all the good things you give. This year, may we resolve to humbly ask you for what we need, for if our sinful race would never deliberately give children stones and snakes when they ask for bread and fish, as you said, Lord, how much more will our Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

[tweetthis]Today, I’m gonna #pray like it’s 2011 for #NewYears2016. #prayer[/tweetthis]

God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers

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manwomanbeachverseThe Pharisees confronted Jesus over divorce in Matthew 19 asking if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause. Jesus answered in part with a line that would become part of many marriage ceremonies, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) The Pharisees raised a reasonable legal point and asked, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

Jesus responded, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”  (Matthew 19:8) The certificate of divorce was a protection for the woman. American history shows how this “hardness of heart” could play out  many centuries later in the life of President Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel. She received a notice of divorce from her first husband and thought she was free to marry Jackson. Only later did she discover the divorce wasn’t final and her first husband used this to attack her as a bigamist. Jackson’s political opponents used the same attacks during the 1828 campaign, and she was driven to her death by them. A simple certificate of divorce protected the divorced wife.

Yet many had interpreted the ability to write the certificate of divorce as God’s blessing of the practice. If the Pharisees had paid attention to the prophets, they would have seen this was clearly not the case.

In Malachi 2, God announces that he’s not honoring people’s offerings because they’ve covered in his altars in tears and he explains how they did this:

…Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.  (Malachi 2:14-16)

The Old Testament law contained no specific prohibition against divorce. It contained a mechanism by which divorce could lawfully be obtained. Yet the men of Judah’s treatment of their wives had invited the ire of God.

foreversunsetUltimately, they made the same mistake we’ve all made. They assumed God was primarily concerned about our ability to follow all the technicalities of the rules. We can look at the commandments of the living God as if we were a corporate lawyer combing the latest pages of regulations from the Federal Register, seeking a loophole to keep our clients in good standing.

Yet God is concerned about our hearts. We often approach situations with impure motives. (ex: Is it technically adultery? Would God really punish me for this? Can I still do this and go to Heaven?) As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.

God wants us to be faithful, loving, and kind. Jesus gave us the Great Commandments to Love God and love our neighbor. The goal of the Christian life and the cry of our heart should be for our hearts to be faithful, kind, and loving so that we would fulfill these commandments rather than hoping to find a loophole to get away with it.

[tweetthis]God Wants Lovers, Not Lawyers: Guest post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis][tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”As long as our heart is focused on, ‘What can I get away with?’ we’ll be far from God.” Quote by @idahoguy [/tweetthis]