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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Relax! God Doesn’t Play Favorites

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“Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:5-6)

Psalm 118 falls right before Psalm 119’s sometimes unappreciated, lengthy serenade to the law’s beauty and virtues.  In 118, the psalmist urges his audience to give thanks to the Lord because he is good and his love is steadfast. To these reasons, the psalmist adds his personal testimony: he was either troubled internally by mental or physical pain or suffering or he was in an external state of danger or desperate need, per the meaning of distress. He prayed to God for help, God answered him by freeing him from whatever was causing his distress.

Here he turns from past tense to present tense: the Lord is on his side. He will not fear now what men can do to him, he knows God is in control. This switch is implying that the psalmist is one again in difficult times; he is confident because he has past experience with God. He remembers what God has done for him in the past and trusts God to do what he has always done before.

Faith and trust in God grow over time, with each blind leap and each instance of God doing what he promised in His word. If you are young in the Lord and have not many personal experiences,  you can still make that leap with confidence based upon His peoples testimonies, if you trust in the accuracy of the bible (there are ministries who can feed your intellect with proofs of this) and also through the testimonies of your living brothers and sisters in Christ today.

God is not a respecter of persons, beloved. He does not play favorites with his children.  If you are His, and you know for a fact what God has done for His people in your situation, he will do it for you, too. Maybe not the exact same way, or with the exact same timing, but if you draw near to him and place your life and your situation wholly into his hands, daring to trust him completely, taking refuge in Him and His work in your life, he will deliver you and bring you through this, if not out of it. Even if we do face the pain of death, if we continue on with God, even in death, he will set us free forever.

Lord, forgive us for the times we have forgotten what you have done. Strengthen us today, remind us of what you have done in our lives and in our brothers and sisters’ lives in similar situations. Increase our faith. May we trust in you and your declarations over us, not the threats of men. Give us thankful hearts that praise you for who you are and what you do. Deliver us from fear and all emotional distress this day. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

Longing for your Heavenly Home or Fearing its Loss?

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“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

This is my favorite verse to turn to in times of trial and distress of any sort. Here the Lord reassures us that though he has returned to the Father and we cannot see him face to face and feel his physical touch of comfort, he is preparing a place for us, his bride, to dwell in, and he will return again and receive us as his own forever. No matter how hard and dark and cold and lonely the night is here on Earth, in Heaven, we have a warm place called home and we can always call home and talk to our Father and our Brother and be loved and welcomed and encouraged and strengthened and made whole where it matters most.

Older translations of this text render “rooms” as “mansions” while we can dispute which is more accurate and which is more desirable, the epistles suggest God is preparing not merely a literal dwelling place for us in Heaven, but a brand new body as well. God’s standards are strict, and we cannot hope to obtain to them on our own, but he is making preparations to transfer us from our old broken bodies of sin (spiritual corruption) and physical corruption to pure, spotless, incorruptible bodies, to transform us from sinners into saints.

Let us not lose heart then as we battle against sin within ourselves and to resist the external pressures of the corrupt world around us. No matter how many times we stumble and fall, so long as we continue to choose Jesus and trust him as both our Savior and our Lord, we stand secure, because He will never change His unfailing love for us. He will never abandon us nor forsake us, nor will he ask from us more than we are capable of or more than he is willing to equip us to do.

So many of us when our hearts are troubled turn to our friends and family. Some of us are fortunate enough to have strong loved ones who are full to overflowing and have plenty to give us and meet our needs. Others among us are surrounded by friends and family as every bit as troubled as we are and often are also running on empty. For those in this situation, leaning upon one another spreads the pain around like a game of hot potato being played with toxic waste.

Christ urges us this day to stop a cycle that tends to compound and multiply our troubles and bring our broken hearts to Him. The Lord is the ultimate source of the spiritual and emotional fuel we require to live and thrive, and He is the only true source of healing, and only He can take the toxic waste, nail it to His cross, and truly remove it from us and those around us once and for all.

Lord, open our eyes. Draw our attention to the times when our hearts are troubled. When we are tempted to unload the toxic waste building up in our fallen hearts on our loved ones, remind us to stop and pray and surrender it to you instead. Show us also when our loved ones are seeking from us what comes from you and handing to us burdens that only you can carry. Give us the strength to refuse to participate in what amounts to idolatry and the courage to gently, respectfully, and lovingly, yet firmly point them to you and offer to pray with them instead. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

 

“Law” Means “Law” Not Simply “The Bible”

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“I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” (Psalm 119:93)

This falls in an a eight verse octane that begins in verse 89 and continues to verse 96. It starts off saying God’s word is fixed in the sky, that the earth is firm and consistent because it’s creator is, and that all creation serves him and remains where it is because he has put it there.

From there it assert that only because he found joy and pleasure in God’s law was he able to survive great suffering that had caused him persistent pain and distress. This is why he never forgets God’s commands and principles, they saved his life  (probably by providing direction and helping him navigate through the storm) and kept him sane in the midst of great adversity, as we might put it.

Note we often mentally substitute “bible” for “law”  based on “the law” being contained in the first five books of Moses, which are sometimes referred to as “the law” as well as “the testimonies” here. But he’s clear later when he’s only talking about reading the scripture and being inspired by God’s dealings in history with his people Israel.  “The law” does emphasize the side of the scripture where we’re searching it for guidance, principles for living, and, yes, rules. It brings delight and pleasure from producing communion with God and by saving us from the pain and suffering of the consequences of sin.

In the next verses we learn he is again in trouble, despite his diligence to seek and follow God’s ways. He asserts he belongs to God and asks to be saved from enemies seeking to destroy him. He again turns to the bible for comfort, here considering the testimonies of the patriarchs. He also declares, in effect, all earthly claims of how to be perfect are quite limited in application, but God’s commandment is not, it is extremely “spacious, open, full, plain, obvious, unrestrained, general” (i.e it applies universally, in  every situation.)

Lord, open our eyes and our understanding, so we might find the joy and pleasure in your law, not only the promises,  but the principles and guidance in your word for daily living. Show us how to apply your ancient, fixed, unchanging command to our modern, unfixed, ever-changing cultural world. Give us wisdom and hearts that obey you out of love, not fear of punishment. In Jesus’ name we pray, Lord

When Mountains Fall and Rivers Rise

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“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Are you afraid? Are the walls closing in, the roof caving in? Are you teetering over the edge of a cliff, hanging on by a slim root? Do you feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of your life and like you having nothing to hold onto?

God here reassures the spiritual heirs of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, those of us who he has chosen from the every corner of the earth, that he is with us, that he cares about us and looking out for us. He asks us to trust him to be bigger than our enemies and all of our problems and hold onto the outstretched right hand he promises will be there for us to cling to even when our senses can perceive nothing there at all.

We can ask God for help and for strength with bold confidence, because he has already promised us he would do it, and God’s promises are always secure. He simply doesn’t work on our time table or do things our way. We often are looking too low, thinking too small. God often is way ahead of us, thinking bigger and grander, and the rewards down the road are often directly proportional to the amount of suffering we endure in the present–but we have to hold on and trustingly continue to love him to receive the good he has for us, especially if the particular payoff he envisions is intended to come in Heaven.

Lord, we thank you for your promises. We thank you for your steadfast love and the dependable strength of your arm. No problem we have is too big for you. Thank you for having everything under control even when we don’t. Increase our faith today. Strengthen our hearts to love and trust you more. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.