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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Hope for Lock Box Hearts

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lockbox heart

In my mid-teens, I wrote the following poem:

The Box

I locked my heart in a tin box
And threw away the key.
I ran from all like the fox,
But someday it will return to me.

 

Though I lost my tin box in my flight,
It returned to me to my surprise.
But alas, where is the key?
Without it, there is no hope for me.

 

So I must ask: Who has my key?
Would you please return it to me?

Guess who had the key?

When I look through the poetry I wrote in my teens, the ones not dedicated to Jesus, or not overtly about difficulties at school or home, were all about my imaginary boyfriend—or rather my hoped-for future husband–or crying after my imaginary ex-boyfriend had imaginarily beat me or otherwise broken my heart.

Yep, I was that kind of teenage girl once. This one was straight up a poetic confession about my defense mechanisms, hyper vigilance, on guard, emotionally withdrawn—in short, I was often too busy protecting myself from pain to let anyone in to love me, either. I had a lot of issues with going numb, shutting down, just going through the motions of life, only remembering what I needed to remember to function and survive at the time. It left most of my childhood a huge blank today with few memories retained. I fled into books and story worlds, both those others wrote and stuff I wrote—and I can remember the paracosms I created fairly well with a little effort.

As implied by the second stanza, to my surprise, God managed to reach me, to connect with a locked-up heart, teach me to trust the Lord and let in my Father God’s spirit, and submit to the long, slow, painful healing process. It began with an awareness of the dangers of my state and a desire for healing and freedom.

As a young, emotionally abused teenager, I imagined what I needed for my heart to heal and for me to come out of my shell was the love of the right boy. I also wanted my first serious boyfriend to be the man I married and to marry the one God meant for me to marry. God only gave me the second. When I met my husband, Adam, in college, I was no longer hoping God would send me a mortal man to rescue me as the Church’s Bridegroom was the great love of my life healing, teaching, and spiritually growing me, and helping me connect with others. I still have issues but I’m far better than I used to be.

you had mineI’d forgotten all about this poem when, for our anniversary one year, Adam got me a cutesy card with a heart on it and an attached key meant to go on a charm bracelet. The words inside read, “you’ve had mine from the start.”

Nonetheless, my heart seized, though consciously I was more thinking “aw” at the intended meaning that I had the key to Adam’s heart in a romantic way.

Yet a young woman with a heart on fire for Jesus tore that key off the card and placed it on the cross necklace I’ve worn regularly ever since I received it as a gift from Adam back when we were engaged. In fact, I pried apart the loop that connects the cross to the chain (shoelace really) and added the key to the cross charm.

The jewelry that I wear around my neck, personally, has powerful symbolic meaning to me; what I wear over my heart is a testimony to—and a personal reminder—of what is supreme in my heart. God’s even convicted me for having added to the chain an angel charm that I’d dedicated to the children I’ve lost before they ever got to be more than a dream in my heart. (Note: my ‘angel babies’ aren’t literally angels.) God let that go for years; only when I was ready to surrender them to God was I asked to put that one away.

God had previously talked to me about idolizing my husband and dealt with that heart issue without the key charm ever being mentioned. When I got on a roll and went to remove everything I’d hung beside the cross, and saw how I’d even chained the key physically to the cross, I actually felt convicted to leave it and God began showing me what it really was meant to represent.

The answer to the prayer of the young girl I’d been. God owns my heart, so the key to my heart was God’s from the start. God thus had the key, and God had returned it to me as I’d so earnestly prayed. The symbolic one coming to me via my husband is gently humorous as when I wrote that I’d still been foolishly imaging a husband could ever do more than hand me powerful symbols that remind me of inward, unseen realities and be a vessel of God’s grace.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]God remembers what we’ve forgotten. He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. (See Joel 2:25-27)[/tweetthis]

I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
–Joel 2:25-27

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.

Life Does Have an Instruction Manual–Love it!

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“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.” (Psalm 119:14)

This falls towards the end of an eight verse set with a clear and simple message. Want to keep pure? Want to do right? Stay in the word, let it guard your heart, seek God with all of your being.

Knowing the word, hiding it in our hearts, are the first steps to resisting the temptation of sin. The second step is stopping and recalling the word in the hour of temptation. Praying ahead of time about known issues is where we can best find the strength to stand on the word when the stumbling block does appear.

As the psalmist, let us ask God to teach us his ways, his principles, to bind our wandering hearts to him, to instruct us in how he designed us to operate. We know he wants us to, so we can trust him to answer us and do so when we pray this prayer sincerely from the heart.

The octane also suggests value in actually reciting the word allowed. This is likely due to our ears, along with our eyes, being pathways into our hearts as well as our minds. What we hear and do not dismiss goes straight into our heart, so we should put that to advantage and feed our hearts on the nourishment of God rather than feeding on the junk of the world.

That brings us to this verse’s secret: take delight! Obey out of love, out of the joy and pleasure of operating the way God designed you to, not out of fear and drudgery and reluctance. The last two verses repeat the instructions to feast our eyes and minds upon the things of God, his instruction manual for the proper operation and function of this naturally intelligent, organic, bio-molecular machine he’s molded out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into.

Thank you, Lord, for your guidance and instructions. Open our minds and hearts to understand your word and enable us to love and delight in your ways. Strengthen us to seek you sincerely, with our whole heart and soul. We are broken and full of bugs in our weak flesh. Refresh and revive our spirits, come and heal us and restore us to normal operating conditions. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

God, My Problem is Too Hard For You.

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“Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

Did that headline get your attention? O:-) Okay, so most of us would not say out loud, “God, my problem is too hard for you” with a straight face. If we’ve been a Christian any length of time, we know in our heads that, like Jeremiah praised God, “Nothing is too hard for you.”

Our hearts, on the other hand, often are praying that to God behind our backs. We can find out if they are. One clue is: what are we NOT praying about? What do we take into our own hands? What do we whine and complain or feel down about and don’t brother to confess it to God? The likely reason is we either think he can’t do it or can’t be bothered to do it.

God does prefer to work through his people. If we pray for help, we are likely going to be handed instructions, and they may well be strange or even impossible-sounding. Like I’ve said here before, if you’ve tested the spirit and know it is the voice of God, don’t despair when you feel like your legs are broken and he’s telling you to get up and walk. In the Bible, that type of command from God always is followed by a miracle–one that only comes if we take a deep breath and obey in faith.

Test him on this one. Take to God in prayer the problem you’ve been sitting on, ignoring, or making even bigger thinking it’s all up to you. Remember that his love is steadfast, that you’re his treasured child, and that he desires only what it best for you. Dare to trust God. If you keep at it and refuse to quit and walk away, you won’t regret in eternity having told your heart who’s boss.

Lord, forgive us for thinking in our hearts that our problem was too big for you to handle and that nothing would ever change. We reject the thoughts of our heart and will no longer let them lead us on this. Strengthen us in this, oh lord. Fill our hearts with a child-like trust in you, our heavenly father, to be big enough to fix all that is broken in our lives and bring good and glory for your kingdom. We are asking you to move in our situations. We may feel as hopeless as things looked for the Israelites when they were carried away into Babylon and the land left barren–what other nation had ever returned from the dead and become sovereign again? Yet you promised life would return and houses and fields and vineyards would be bought in Israel again. So it has come to pass, not once, but at least twice. You who restored your people then can restore your people in our individual lives now.  Write this upon our hearts as well as our minds, and keep us in remembrance always. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.