Claw Machine

Capture device for soft toys on background of heap of toys

Your thoughts are more like a claw machine than you might think. What our mind pulls up is sometimes the machine on autopilot like the ones in local stores around here. They show off the machines function by randomly setting it to mill around the machine, never actually grabbing anything. What our mind pulls up is sometimes triggered by something in our environment-something someone said or we saw-and we may or may not have wanted to grab ahold of that thought. Sometimes our mind malfunctions, like with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and we keep pulling up something we didn’t want in the first place. In all of these cases, learning the release on the claw machine (I know, they don’t really have them in real life) is critical. Letting go of a thought and dropping it back in the machine-that can take a lot of effort, sometimes the help of a mental health professional, and, above all, prayer.

Many times, though, what we pull up isn’t an accident. Many times, what we pull up is our own choice. In these times, what we think about is a reflection of what we’re trying to grab. What ends up in the deposit box if a reflection of this thinking. It’s what happens in your alone time and in the time you’re acting like you’re engaged with someone or something, but you’re really thinking about something else. The “prizes” you carry home with you are what you spend your time trying to grab. These prizes are always a secret between you and God. You are the only two who know about them. As you react to the prizes you get, others may suspect what you’re thinking about, but most of the time, no one will know for sure. Only you and God.

I don’t know about you, but it’s so easy for my mind to go on “auto-pilot” and lose these precious moments of pulling thoughts I really want to have to mind. It’s also easy for my mind to slip into aggressive worries and regrets of the past rather than purposefully mining for treasure. Whatever your mind is doing, know that there is hope.

God commands us to love Him with all of our mind. We’ve all chosen to sin and we’re all fallen, so no one except Christ will ever fully do this in this life. But we can strive to know Him more. Every time we let go of a thought we didn’t want, to search for the truth of God, we’re learning how to love Him with more of our thought life. Every time we capture a thought for Christ, we show that we’re serious about loving God with our minds.

It’s time to recognize the claw machine within your head-and start targeting the thoughts you’re proud for God to see you think, and prizes you’re glad to give to the King.

. . we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Claw Machine

It all started with a purple whale.

I was about five or so, and my dad tried to win me a purple whale.

He didn’t.

Now, that whale was probably worth about 50 cents.  If that.

But do you know how many times I have thought about that purple whale?

Years later, I was in a mall with an arcade, and was wooed by a machine full of very cute panda bears.

I wanted one of those panda bears!

I decided I would spend $2.50, I think it was.  The game cost $.50 per try.  On my second or third or fourth try—I don’t really remember because those tries don’t matter so much to me—the claw reached down and wrapped around the head of a panda.  I was in shock.  The mechanical arm pulled up, and there was my panda, being carried by the head!  I stared at the panda and claw, mesmerized.  Could it really be true?  Could I really have won?

And then—the final test!  The claw released, and down, down, down fell my panda—right into the slot!

I shoved my hand through the tray, still not sure there would be a panda there!  Yet—there it was!  Real!  I picked it up and carried it out of the arcade.

A lot of people seem to have an innate drive towards claw machines.  There is something about being able to see something you cannot yet touch, and find a way to bring that prize towards yourself.  It’s a rescue!  It’s a triumph!  It’s a claiming of something that couldn’t belong to you before, but now does!

I think the claw machine reveals a tiny bit about the personality of our God.  Though we were meant to live in relationship with God, our sin placed us in a cage of impenetrable glass: Satan’s observation tank where he holds us until we have spent all our days and are ready to be shipped to Hell.

Just as stuffed animals in a claw machine are helpless to move themselves towards the escape slot, we are helpless to move ourselves towards the escape that righteousness provides.  Although many people tried to keep the Law to be made right with God, everyone finds it is impossible.  We are immobile in our sin, unable to take even a single step towards God.

God knew very well what a quandary we were in.  And, though He could have made brand new creatures for a brand new world and left us in our hopeless trap, He walked over to our tank, and He looked in on us.  And though He saw defective, ruined people: stitches loose, stuffing hanging out everywhere, eyes and noses falling off, stains on the fabric . . . He laid His hand on the glass, and He planned our rescue.

God is love.  (1 John 4:16b, NIV)

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

We cost God so much more than pocket change.  We cost God His one and only Son.  God paid our price.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)

And, one by one, God began fishing us out of the tank.

Some people are packed too tightly in their selfish desires, worldly temptations, bitterness, anger, hatred, or sadness.  And those people . . . they stay in the machine.  The greatest gift in history is useless to them—they act as if Christ never died for us, or as if it doesn’t matter!  And by treating their one and only salvation with contempt, they stay locked inside Satan’s cage, expecting a rescue that will never occur.  Only when Satan comes to haul them off to Hell will they realize what an eternally dreadful mistake they have made.

If you try to be made right with God through the law, your life with Christ is over — you have left God’s grace. (Galatians 5:4, NCV)

Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14, NIV)

So one choice is to stay packed inside our sin for all eternity.  The other choice, however, is not to unpack ourselves from our selfish desires, our worldly temptations, our bitterness, anger, hatred, sadness—no sinner can do that!  We are as helpless as stuffed animals in a machine!  The choice we have is very much simpler: we can look up for God’s salvation, coming down to save us.

What does God’s salvation look like?  Search-and-rescue through Jesus Christ!  Jesus, Son of God, promises us that, if we look Him, He will save us!

For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (Romans 10:11, NASB)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7, ESV)

I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4 KJV)

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:10, NASB)

What if God doesn’t want me, though?  What if I am not the one He wants to rescue from the machine?  What if I am too ugly or too broken?

What if He has a list of people He plans to save, and I am not on it?

Is this how God works?

These questions are fears that needn’t be your fears at all.  Predestination is something God understands far, far better than us.  The Bible tells us God chooses people to be His own (e.g, see Luke 18:7, Thessalonians 1:4-5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:1-2), but the Bible also teaches God’s own people rejecting Him at times (e.g., see Psalm 118:22, 1 Peter 2:7-9; the Old and New Testament show throughout that God’s people, Israel, rejected Him).  At all times, we must keep in mind that God shows no partiality among us, that He receives anyone who believes in His Son (e.g., see Luke 2:10, John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 1:21, Titus 2:11), and that He does not want anyone to die without knowing Him (e.g., see Isaiah 30:18, Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11, Romans 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, 2 Peter 3:9, 2 Peter 3:15).

On God’s list, the only names missing are those who refuse His salvation.  God does not choose to refuse people on the basis of partiality.  God chooses to help all of the human race through His Son, though not all will receive that help.

My prayer is that you won’t for a second think that God will reject you if you ask for Jesus to rescue you.  Whichever way you look at predestination, however you interpret it, this holds unshakably true:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, ESV)

God never lies.  He never breaks His promises.  And His Word lasts forever.

Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it.  And without any question that oath is binding.  God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind.  So God has given both His promise and His oath.  These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie.  Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.  This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.  Jesus has already gone in there for us. (Hebrews 6:16-20a, NLT)

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 24:35, ISV)

If there is thrill and happiness when we pull a little stuffed toy out of a machine, just think of how much more exhilaration and joy there is for God and humans when He rescues us from the hands of Satan!

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him [Jesus].  And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So He told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if He has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:1-10, ESV)

And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. (2 Corinthians 4:15b, NLT)

God’s arm is reaching out.

Will you say, “Here I am, Jesus!  Oh, pull me out!”?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.” (Jesus, quoted in John 10:27-30, NIV)

Photo by /~helmar, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/helmar/

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