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

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Finding Roses Amist Thorns

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Christians like to argue over the nature of the thorn in the flesh, whether it’s physical disease or a demonic assault. My response: who says we can only have one thorn in our flesh? I have several of the chronic illness sort.

Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormone problem that can cause depressive moods. On top of that, I have inattentive-type ADD, which can cause meltdowns, especially if I get over-stimulated, and I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which again has triggers that can cause me to regress back to the way I thought as a child. When that happens, I’m stuck thinking like an ADD child/teen in meltdown, while also under the influence of the imbalanced hormones of an adult woman with PCOS.

These storms never hit me as a freak, random accident of biology. We have an enemy who knows our flesh’s weaknesses and how to attack us in ways that exploit those flaws. We further ultimately inherited them from Adam and Eve, who’d been corrupted by eating fruit the enemy sold them. So, yes, my thorns can be described in medical terms, but there is a spiritual war going on, too. With God fighting on our side, if we take refuge in the Lord, the enemy is little more than a thorn in our sides.

Rather than talk down to you, I’m going to assume you already know about the full armor of God. Even strong Christians can struggle with “thorns in the flesh” they’ve asked God to remove and God hasn’t. Some can’t understand why God would ever refuse to heal his child for any reason but that the child lacks enough faith. These folks tend to mind what the devil’s doing too much and mind what God’s doing too little. The reverse is possible, too, as it can be hard for the human mind to see affliction as simultaneously both the enemy out to kill, steal, and destroy and God testing us with fire. Any time God doesn’t deliver us from the fire, God is with us in the fire. When God doesn’t heal us, he means to use it for good every bit as much as the enemy means to use it for evil.

Sometimes, it is really hard to see how any good at all can come out of affliction. What comes out of me in a meltdown is dark, it’s terrible, it’s painful. In a word, it’s toxic. Some of that toxic waste had been locked in a corner of my heart, out of my reach, where it can’t be healed, where it can be gotten out of me. The devil attacks me for my harm, to use against me what he’d planted in my life long ago, but God means this for my good, to get it out of me, to get it healed, to get the good stuff of God’s word down in deeper. I am the one who must choose whether to sorrow unto death or unto life—and the devil’s strategy of attack in these meltdowns does often include suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Truth is my first line of defense. Only I put on Truth by going before God and pouring out all of that stuff before him, confessing what I’m thinking and feeling. If the attack is severe enough, and I am longing for Heaven, I ask Daddy right out to take his daughter home to be with him, but then I submit to God’s will and God’s plan for my life, whatever it is. That takes a lot of faith, and trusting God in my darkest hour is coming easier and easier, as I experience the Lord’s faithfulness to hold me in his sheltering arms through the storm—or gradually, gently lift me up out of the miry pit if you will. Further, God uses such trials to keep us humble and to remind us to stay close and reliant upon him.

So God doesn’t always heal us physically on this side of eternity, and this isn’t always due to a lack of faith. However, he always is at work on us spiritually through every trial. We can’t control God “by faith” and get him to do what we want. We can ask of our Father, hold our hands out, and follow wherever he leads us—or accept whatever he freely gives.

Feeling Like a Stalled Project God Has Shelved? For you. :)

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“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” — Philippians 1:6

Sometimes, when God has began a good work in us,  it seems to take forever, especially with emotional healing and overcoming all sorts of life challenges. We want an instant miracle, not a painful spiritual growth process that can have such a slow pace that it makes rush hour traffic look like its racing on a NASCAR track. We may feel like we’re getting no where and wonder if we’ve misunderstood what God wanted to do in our lives, or if God has given up on us. If what we’re struggling with is a sin, we may hope that he’ll let us into Heaven still prone to sin, or be afraid he’ll toss us into the cosmic trash.

Phil 1:6 answers: Never! God will never give up on us. Sometimes we quit on him, though, and God’s promises often have conditions. Let’s take a look at the context of this verse and what else Paul says here to his original audience, the first century Christians in the city of Philipi.

After his salutation and greetings, he tells them in verses three through five that he joyfully thanks God for them in his prayers because they have been his partners in spreading the gospel from the very beginning of his ministry. In verse seven, Paul adds that it is right for him to have such great love for them that he is sure that God will finish the work he’s begun in the Philipians. Why?

His evidence is that the Philipians have received and experienced the same grace that Paul has–and taken an active part in God’s grace. They’ve stood by him while he was imprisoned for the faith and defended and confirmed the gospel. Confirmed here means to give someone new assurance of the validity of the gospel. It corresponds with defending the gospel and is a non-violent offensive by the Church against the forces of darkness.

The text doesn’t state who the gospel is being defended against. Neither does it state who the gospel is being confirmed to. Paul is likely thinking externally. What would be visible to him is the Philippians’ defending the gospel against its human enemies and confirming it to those questioning it with open hearts. For many of us, though, what is most vital to us staying on Christ’s team until Christ is victorious is defending the gospel against the lies Satan tells us and confirming the truth of the gospel to ourselves.

Lord, we grow weary, we become impatient. Sometimes we’re tempted to give up and quit and learn to live with the brokenness or emptiness in our lives. It seemed like you’d gotten started healing us, but there have been stumbling blocks and obstacles. We’re starting to wonder if you ever really wanted to fill in this empty, broken area of our lives, or to set us free from a sin or bad habit that has hindered us emotionally, spiritually, physically, and/or mentally. Thank you for this confirmation that you have started a good work in us. Thank you for your reminder that you may not do it as we imagined, but you will continue to work on us and will complete us at latest upon your return for your bride. While we wait in our present weakness, Lord, fill us with your spirit’s power, teach us how to refute the enemy’s lies and rely upon you for strength. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Fill my cup, Lord

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By Adam Graham

“And herein is that saying true, `One soweth and another reapeth.’ I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor; other men labored, and ye have entered into their labors.” John 6:37-38

The context of the scripture is that the disciples were baptizing even more than John. The disciple’s success was the result of the ministry of faithful people who we don’t know. Probably these people didn’t even know they were sowing, maybe they even felt like they weren’t accomplishing anything or were failures. I really relate to them.

However, they ultimately prepared things for the Lord and his apostles. This gives me the feeling that we may be sowing and earlier Jesus promises:

“And he that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.-John 4:36.”

Lord, we thank you for your word. Lord, we are weary today and have been so restless. We feel more like those who sows, perhaps without realizing it, and someone else reaps. Strengthen us and encourage our hearts today. We thank you for your peace. We thank you for being with us. Please give us direction and purpose today. Show us your vision. Prepare us to receive from you whatever we need to fulfill your plan for our lives. Protect us from the enemy’s interference today. Empower us to resist the devil and overcome his wiles. Please bring forth a good harvest of bountiful spiritual fruits in our lives today. In Jesus’ name we pray, Lord, amen.

Help is on the Way

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Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD: that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise, (Psalm 102:18-21 ESV)

Before you were ever born, before Christ died and the Church was created and became the people of the Kingdom of Heaven, the words of scripture were recorded with you on the heart and mind of our God. From the beginning of time, he knew the horrors awaiting us and willed to save us from the grave. Before we groaned and cried out, he had already heard our cries as we were in the bondage of sin and determined to come and set us free.

So let’s not fear, brothers and sisters, as we groan and hurt and struggle. Let’s not quaver in doubt of whether our Father God cares and wants to hear about our troubles. He knew from the beginning and assured us with words recorded millennia ago that there is one who cares in Heaven and he has willed to bring us through this and deliver us home to His heavenly city and turn our groaning into praise and rejoicing in His name, too.

Thank you, Father, for knowing us from the beginning and willing to save us and bring us safely through this earthly turmoil. I pray we would trust in you and turn our eyes to the heights our help will come from. Grant us boldness to approach your throne and present our hearts to you as they truly are, to allow you to do the redemptive work in us that you have already purposed to do. In Jesus’ name we pray, Lord, amen.