The Parable of the Computer

Standard

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]

Give Daddy Your Fake Pearls

Standard

If you haven’t read the modern parable the title alludes to, it’s here: What Are You Hanging Onto?

Would you ever look at a sobbing child who is being bullied at school and yell at her for crying, telling her that’s why no one likes her? Would you ever say those words to a child you love dearly and have authority over? A child who respects you and looks to you for guidance, protection, and comfort?

I was that sobbing child. The person who uttered those words never remembers saying and doing such hurtful things, but those words were uttered, for they burned deep into my heart and soul. The message drilled into me repeatedly was if you’re not happy, fake it. If you’re not perfect, fake it. You’re not likable let alone lovable unless you’re happy and have it all together. I tried my best to obey this teaching, but I wasn’t even good enough at faking it. Fake is too contrary to the nature God’s given me.

And I wonder why God saw me as a child forsaken and wrapped his invisible arms around the child I once was and comforted her and loved on her and faithfully there for her through it all. He showed me truth and he showed me mercy. It’s taken God years of showing me loving-kindness to bring me as far as I’ve come. The process has often involved letting enemy assaults bring me to the point of tears, to the point of being so overwhelmed, I can’t hold the pain in anymore and I pour it out before God, often while prostrate, on my knees, or in the fetal position.
That’s when something amazing happens. God sees me at my worst, my ugliest, my most broken and vulnerable. He doesn’t despise me. He doesn’t yell at me. He doesn’t kick me where it will hurt most when I’m already in distress. He is there, quietly listening, quietly hurting with me. Still loving me, still seeing everything good that he can make me into and do through me.

When I feel ugly, God calls me beautiful. When I feel inconsistent, God calls me faithful (to him, he doesn’t pretend I don’t struggle in the flesh.) When I feel unlovable, God calls me beloved. When I feel like a failure, God calls me forgiven. Not only that, he gently encourages me to get up and keep going. We’ll keep working on it together.

God does not play favorites with his children. What he does for me, he’ll do for you, too.

If you’ve been taught to fake it, and are better at it than me, if you ever want the real thing, you need to confess this bad habit to God and learn the right way to take our thoughts captive. The way Christians with dysfunctional backgrounds try to do that only serves to release not only bad thoughts, but negative emotions into the wilds of our subconscious. Instead, stare the tiger in the eye, admit you feel/think it, and give it over to God. Ask God to show you what hides in your heart and get it out in the open between you, where he can begin the work of healing you. Give up your fake joy and fake perfection so he can begin giving you real joy and continue the work he’s begun of truly perfecting you.

Which person do you like more? Someone who seems to always be happy and seems to always have it all together, or someone who is honest, humble, and strong enough to show their weaknesses? While humans do prefer confidence to insecurity and hopeful outlooks to negative outlooks, we prefer humble to prideful and honest to dishonest. Further, the closer we come to perfection, the more painfully aware of our imperfections we are, and fake perfect people rarely are perfect at showing God’s grace. So I suspect most of us in truth stand to be more likable by being real. If nothing else, hiding our struggles denies God glory when Christ brings us through those fires and gives us real peace and true joy.

Make this Our Only Boast: What God Has Won

Standard

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (Proverbs 27:1)

We take so much for granted in life. We make our plans and we carry them out. We schedule things in advance, expecting tomorrow to be available. To a certain extent, modern life requires this, but the day will come we are reminded that we don’t know everything. We can’t account for everything. So we shouldn’t be smug, resting on the laurels we expect to receive tomorrow like we’ve already won today. Bragging about our plans for the future, taking pride in our goals and ambitions, is setting ourselves up for failure. No matter how realistic we are in dreaming big, eventualities may rise that waylay us. We could get excited and run ahead of God and find, when we get to tomorrow, he had other plans.

God knows his plans for tomorrow, but we do not. Only God knows what the broken fallen world will throw at us and how he plans to navigate us around it and bring us peace and strengthened character, and him glory, and the kingdom advanced–if we trust him. This is why James instructed us to say, “If the Lord wills, I will do this and that.”

Dream big, but don’t count on anything but this: what God has specifically promised us, that he will do. However, we may not know how he will do it, and we rarely know when. We still can’t boast in tomorrow. We can only know that one day we will win a crown in Heaven. We will be a saint dwelling in a glorified body like our risen Lord’s, set free from the troubles and brokenness of this life.

If you’re Abraham or Sarah, and God’s promised you a child even though you’re old, you will have that baby. If you’re a slave in Egypt or Babylon, He will free you and deliver you to the land he has promised, even if he has to part oceans or soften the hearts of unbelieving kings. If you’re Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, or Jeremiah, and, God has given you a message to deliver to his people, keep on working toward that goal, knowing he will work through you to bring it to those he wants to hear it.

Lord, grant us the humility and wisdom not to boast of the prizes we plan to win for the chickens that haven’t hatched yet, but please also give us the courage and faith to trust that what you have promised us and secured for us in the future, we will receive when you will it. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Don’t Think So Lowly Of Yourself!

Standard

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. (1 Peter 5:5b-6)

Some of you are thinking the title and this verse don’t match. Others I’m sure got only as far as the title before they stopped there, thinking, “Wait, that’s backwards, the bible tells us not to think too highly of ourselves.”

Yes, it does, but if you’re mentally correcting me,  you’re likely not afflicted with arrogance in reality and likely in no need of a lesson on humility. Our focus today is the part about the humble being exalted by God at the proper time.

Thing is, too many of us haven’t been taught humility right. We’ve been told to get our faces down on the floor and keep them there by abusers who misuse the bible to keep us “in our place,” which is in their control and serving them rather than God. Abusers trained us to equate being humble with thinking lowly of ourselves. So the proper time comes, and God sends someone to come to us and lift us up as he promised, we rebel against His will and reject him.

Maybe we don’t out right rebuke the vessel of his grace, but we usually do politely ignore the person “tempting me to sinful pride” or we subtly reject God with an audaciously hypocritical, “thank the Lord.” We may claim we’re instructing a misguided person to give credit where credit is due. In reality, we’re not the Lord and can’t know that they haven’t offered him thanks, too. So we have no business saying something so rude and judgmental. That answer springs from spiritual arrogance, not humility.

The true humble answer to gratitude and/or praise is a sincere “You’re welcome” or “Thank you.” After the simple courtesy, if the person isn’t a believer, by all means, take the opportunity to tell them about the hope within you, if God leads.

On the flip side, while pride leads to a fall, thinking lowly of ourselves follows being already fallen and keeps us unable to get up because we think we can’t. We tell ourselves we’re losers. We tell ourselves we can’t win. We can’t lose weight. We can’t stop getting drunk all the time. We can’t resist the temptation to sin sexually. We can’t control our tempers. We can’t, we can’t, we can’t.

Brothers and sisters, whatever weakness we are struggling with today, telling ourselves we can’t overcome it, God is holding out his hand to us and saying to stop thinking so lowly of ourselves. Confess your weakness to God, accept his affirmation and encouragement, and let him exalt you from the low position of ashamed sinner to the saint you are in Christ by grace.

Lord, forgive us for thinking too lowly of ourselves. Help us to stop seeing ourselves through the darkness of the failures, flaws, and mistakes of the past and present. Help us to focus on the good work you are doing in us and to believe that is who we truly are and who we can become with your spirit of power, love, and self control/sound mind in us. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

[bctt tweet=”Don’t Think So Lowly Of Yourself! Let God lift you up!” username=”@andreajgraham”]

God Promised the Rain, If We Pray–Humbly.

Standard

“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God,for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.” (Joel 2:23)

This comes at a time when God’s people are being oppressed by enemies from the literal North and have been, not coincidentally, far from God and have turned from his ways to practice what the surrounding unbelieving culture does. God calls for his people to return to him with all their hearts, to call everyone together, and pray for God to spare them from the oppressor threatening to destroy them as a people.

It is in prophetic response to the expected obedience to this word that he tells us ahead of the time the answer to the prayer we’ve been commanded to pray: he will drive out the oppressor, restore their fruitfulness and feed them until they are satisfied of their hunger–and bring the rains in season. It appears in Israel there are two rainy seasons during which crops can be grown. Rain is water, and water is life, especially in the dessert. It means the crops can grow and that means food on the table and that means your family won’t starve.

God we know cares about our spiritual growth and the state of our souls. We can trust he means to deliver us from the power of the spiritual oppressor and make his people spiritually fruitful and and maturing in him. But at the time this was written, his people needed literal deliverance and literal rain–and he gave them.

Let’s not kid ourselves–God didn’t promise us a billion dollars in the bank, a swimming pool in the yard, and a red mustang convertible in the drive. Actually, he promised us it’d be hard and sometimes even painful in this life. But he will meet our physical needs and give us our literal daily bread as well as feeding our souls daily of his life-giving spirit.

This was, however, a conditional promise, dependent on us turning from the ways of the culture around us, follow God with our whole hearts, and humbly ask Daddy for his help, not obnoxiously demand and claim our “due inheritance.”