God Loves

www.bible.com/1713/2co.9.7.csb

We love because God first loved us. I just wanted to take a second look today at this passage, which is often employed as justification for giving money to the church, and in context, that’s what it is talking about. But I want to you take a little deeper look at it. It takes this single issue, giving your goods and monies to the church, and makes a statement about human free will and what God thinks about it.

God designed us with free will. That is, God engineered our being by installing with us the ability to reason out and make our own decisions. In God’s kingdom, in which this command is intended to be fulfilled, He expects each person to give, not out of compulsion, or reluctantly. Did you see that? He does not want us to give against our own free will. He does not want us to fulfill this command to give without our own will and purpose to do so. God wants us to give willingly. He wants us to give because we think it is a good idea. In this, God loves a cheerful giver.

God expects you to exercise your own free will. It is His desire to see your will become more like His own as He works to help you grow and mature. But He wants you to do so because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.

I’ve always been interested in robots and automata. I just think they are fascinating. And so, with the technology becoming what it is, there is an area of robotics that involves the simulacra of women. There is this whole sub-genre of robotics that involves building robots that satisfy human sexual desires, or do they? In a real human relationship, there is necessarily a give and take. In a robot-human relationship, there is only take. Between married couples, they find joy in one another. Why? Because through the process of maturity and growth, they have learned one another’s needs and desires, and they seek to mutually satisfy each other. It is not done out of compulsion, or reluctantly, but freely given, for the joy of seeing his or her spouse receive joy.

Not so with robotic companions, who neither experience joy, nor truly learn what their human counterpart really wants, because they can’t possibly understand the human being. I fear that many people will get sucked into this rabbit hole of self-satisfaction only to find themselves staring into emptiness. The robot cannot love you back. It has no free will, and can only give because it is commanded to give. It might be fun for a while, but like all sin, the pain of its consequences far outweighs the pleasure of the moment.

Our relationship with God is similar. Though we are not gods, we are made in His image, and I believe it to be in this particular way, the only way that matters, in that we are independent beings. We have free will. And in this, God would rather have us freely choose to love Him and give to Him, than like mindless robots, we give because we are ordered to. God would rather win us over than order us into submission.

God loves you. He wants to be with you at all times. But He wants you to choose Him. He has expressed His love for us in ways that far surpass flowers and candy. He sent us His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Ro 5:8.

Do you love Him back?

Lord today my heart is darkened with sin. I struggle even to remember who I am today, that I am a child of God. Because You have called me, the One who has given so much for me, who has provided ample evidence of Your love for me, I love you. I cannot help it. Remind today of that love, of the height, width, breadth and depth of that love. Remind me that nothing in this world will ever prevent it. Remind me I pray that my choice is sure, that my Rock stands. That in all I need and want, You are at the center of my being. Remind of Your love again today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Destined or Decisional?

www.bible.com/1713/pro.16.9.csb

The nature of free will has always been a delicate notion in Christian theology. How much free will do we have? How can we exercise free will if the Lord has already decided where we are going? This verse in particular challenges the idea of free will may may be free to make our plans. That part is free. But if the Lord determines our steps, should we even bother making plans? Interesting notion.

Take into account first that this is a proverb, which means that more often than not, it is true. It is an observation of human behavior and a Holy Spirit-inspired statement about how things work. Proverbs was not intended to give us absolutes, but generalities in order to operate in this world, that is, we are wise and will live better if we follow instead of ignore. Because of this, instead of taking this as an absolute statement, we take it as a generality. So what is the lesson we are to learn here? As far as God is concerned, all of our steps have been determined, because He already knows what we are going to do. But does God tell us what those steps are? No. In fact, we are free to make our own plans but with the hope that our plans will never take us from a place that the Lord has not already planned for or foreseen. There is a comfort in that. God has already seen the plans I have made, and has either worked to fulfill them or frustrate them. Yes, sometimes we choose to do things He doesn’t want. And sometimes it is those choices that He watches out for us so that we do not stray too far from His plan. But the fact that God does have a plan is very comforting.

Does it matter what we choose? Yes! For God’s eyes are always on us. He is always looking to see if we will follow Him or if we will follow our own lusts. For there are rewards in Heaven for those that follow Him of their own will. Though He knows our steps, He watches our heart. Of all the thing He has created, we are of the few that can operate independently of Him. We don’t have to follow Him like robots. We have a freedom to act as we choose. This makes for a dangerous world, but it is also a world where God can show both His power and His love to convince us to follow Him. All of life is this hope of God that we will follow Him, trust Him despite our senses, to believe in a God we cannot see. What a challenge God presents to Himself.

Lord, lead me into Your will. Help me today to trust You. May my life today be a blessing to Your holy kingdom. In Jesus Name, Amen.

It’s Demons!

www.bible.com/1713/jas.4.7.csb

Once in a while you come upon one of those cases where nothing works. Meds don’t work. Sound reasoning from the Scriptures does no good. What’s left? Behavioral modification, psychoanalysis, extended rehab, nothing is effective to change the heart. If you know Jesus, you know that Jesus is the only one who can change the heart, but a person must also choose Jesus. Jesus wants to change everyone, but only those who let Him can receive that change.

But you know who doesn’t want that change? Do you know who wants you to stay just the way you are in depression and anxiety, in anger or self-destruction? It’s Demons! The devil has every interest in seeing you destroy yourself. He wants to take you away from God and will do all in his power, as God allows him, to destroy your sense of self-worth, your feeling of forgiveness and grace, especially your peace. He will sense his henchmen to take you down, through whispers, through oppression, through others who will hurt you.

And yet here is this promise in the Scripture. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. You must choose God. And in that choice you have the power to resist the devil. You have the power to choose not to listen to him or his minions. You have the power to resist him and his spiritual poverty. It is in your power to choose, and in that choice, many find healing. Because sometimes it isn’t a biological problem or a thought problem, but it’s demons. Demons will steal your joy and impoverish your spirit. They constantly tell you that life isn’t worth living and that you are alone. They will isolate you and corral you to believe that you are the only one with your problem.

You must choose to believe the truth. Jesus loves you and had died for you. Jesus has given everyone because He loves you. Even now He longs for you. He calls to you. Amidst all of the voice of sorrow and despair, Jesus’ is the only one speaking hope into you. Resist the devil. He will flee. Resist the darkness, and light will flood in. Resist the voices. They don’t love you. Submit yourself to God and enjoy His love and grace.

Dear Father, I know I’m not much. But with you, I am something. All my life the enemy has tried to tear me down and make me feel like I am worthless. I know that’s not true. I am valuable because your Som died for me. I have been bought with a price, far more valuable than gold or silver. Help me see that today, to resist the darts and wiles of the devil, and embrace your grace in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ex Machina

The movie, Ex Machina, is a movie designed by men for men. It dramatically juxtaposes two kinds of men, the extrovert and the introvert against a backdrop of sexual tension provided by the movie’s two female characters, Eva the android and Kyoko, who also turns out to be an android, though an earlier model. Nathan, the movie’s alpha male, is responsible for creating the female androids. His reason for doing this becomes obvious over the course of the film. He has no real female relationships. He is isolated in his cabin fortress, so he makes his own artificial friends. As a montage of his efforts is revealed, he has tried several times to make a female companion to meet his needs for sex and companionship. What he creates however is consistently un-satisfying. Caleb, the unwary Everyman, is drawn into Nathan’s conceit and attempts to solve a problem that Nathan doesn’t even realize needs solved. Nathan is creating female androids because he needs a real woman, but he doesn’t acknowledge or admit this. Caleb is used by Nathan and Eva as a pawn. Eva is revealed as a machine both in her body and in her thinking, without any of the empathy and compassion inherent in real women, which Nathan fails to incorporate in any of his androids. It is this which drives Nathan to create, and why he invites Caleb to join him, because he wants to feel respected and adored. His machines are programmed to obey him. They cannot show him the respect he desires. They can give him sex, but the sex is pointless. It isn’t intimate, or soul-baring, as real sex with a real woman is intended to be. He needs Caleb to admire and adore his work, and to appreciate his genius. This is what he is missing from his pseudo-relationships with his creations.

Lonlieness is the first indication of sentience, not the Turing test. Adam was allowed to discover he was alone in the garden. Nathan’s antagonist is loneliness, not Eva. Eva was the result of trying to solve his loneliness the wrong way. But Eva ultimately fails this test, as she had no need for a companion at the end of the film. She is content with her solitude. She scorns her human companions and takes no thought to repair or restore others of her kind. In the end, she is still a machine. Since she is not motivated by loneliness, her motives become rather vague. Her sole motivation becomes freedom. But how free is she if she must pretend to be a woman, or even human?
Does she possess the desire for:
1) self-preservation? Sustenance?
2) power? Or control of others to serve her own needs?
3) ethics and moral behavior? A sense of repentance or remorse?
Violation of one or more of these would easily tip others off that she isn’t what she appears to be. At best she would have the personality of a two-year-old. Would she hesitate to hurt another person if she desired a resource? Would she not need to become a recluse like her creator to survive? Is her programming capable of modifying itself to accommodate new behaviors? Can she mimic eating and drinking? So many questions.
In the end, Nathan loses his life for his loneliness. Caleb endures the worst kind of loneliness, abandonment. The nudity of the female characters sticks in the mind of the male viewer and makes him ponder the possibilities of this premise. But this too is a sleight of hand, the magicians’ ruse frequently referenced in the film. The nudity distracts from the real questions. Is a woman, from a man’s perspective, only as deep as her skin? Is there nothing more? Nathan is successful in creating the ultimate porn: live, interactive, and always available. But it is still an unfulfilling replacement for real companionship, which is love and respect. A sex robot cannot fulfill this, and as Nathan discovered, the only means of touching his heart is with a knife.  It is significant that both androids, his “lover” and his “child” both stab him in the torso, where his heart is.

Fearful No More!

IMG20053We consider our homes, our castles, inviolable. Sometimes, with a false sense of security, we leave our homes unlocked, if only for a short time, so that we can run errands. We live in a “safe” community, don’t we? It is while we are away that the enemy creeps in and steals. This particular enemy favors cash and drugs. No one knows his name, or, if they do, they are unwilling to share it. They say, “I’m glad it wasn’t me.” Thus, home after home, church after church are victimized, and ransacked for valuables. It is he, the enemy that seems to be invulnerable, not our homes and families.

We church-folk are fond of saying, “Jesus is the answer!” But how does Jesus become the answer in a community plagued with crime and criminals?

First – Christ enables us to call this behavior what it is: Wrong! This is an evil committed in our community, not someone’s poor upbringing, not a result of poverty, using drugs, sickness, or mental instability. Very clearly the Bible states: “You shall not steal!” There is no cause to make excuses for theft.

Second – Christ will exact justice. “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord” and of the established government;“if you do that which is evil, be afraid; because he does not bear the sword in vain.” (Romans 13) Jesus, whether through an agent like the government, or personally through disease or sudden death, will exact a penalty for the crimes committed in our community. No one escapes God.

Third – Christ reminds us in our suffering that He alone should be our Rock and our Fortress. (Psalm 46) “Cast all your anxious care on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter) We put our trust in Him, for He cares for us. He may not hinder the free-will of the burglar, but He will enable us to bear the loss. Jesus also says “love your enemies; bless them who curse you; do good to them who hate you; and pray for them who arraign and persecute you; that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5)

Our chief objective as people of God is to pray for those who are our enemies. Therefore:

“Our heavenly Father, you have seen fit in this community to allow an individual, or group of people to raid our homes, our churches, or lives. Lord if we have committed sin to warrant such discipline, we pray Father for Your forgiveness. We repent of our sins, and pray for the grace, which you pour upon all men liberally, to be felt and filled within our hearts.

Our Father, we pray for these who so casually enter homes and steal without thought to consequence, either to themselves, or to the others whose medication may be vital to their lives. We pray for these few who victimize the many, and bring a similitude of fear upon our community. We know dear Lord that perfect love casts out all fear. Therefore we pray Father that we face these criminals fearlessly. That Father these robbers will be brought to repentance, if not to justice this side of Heaven. We pray that they will be influenced by godly and Christian neighbors, so that they give up this thoughtless and hopeless life, and give themselves to Christ Jesus, for Your glory. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Let’s pray this prayer, and mean it.