The Measly and the Mighty

NOSELESSIn Psalm 135, a vivid contrast is painted in broad strokes that compares the almighty and robust God of King David to the puny and powerless idols of the Canaanites. The Psalmist describes the inept and impotent gods: They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.

A recent viewing of some photography reminded me of this Psalm. The photographer had captured the image of some artifacts that portrayed their gods with smashed ears and crushed noses. I wondered if these ancient scars were the work of vandals or mischievous imps.

After reading Julia Wolkoff’s article on the subject, I found my answer: The ancient Egyptians, it’s important to note, ascribed important powers to images of the human form. They believed that the essence of a deity could inhabit an image of that deity, or, in the case of mere mortals, part of that deceased human being’s soul could inhabit a statue inscribed for that particular person.

By smashing the ears and crushing the noses of these images, the perpetrator thought he was castrating the idol and nullifying its power.

My worship and prayer aren’t focused on a toothless god who can be rendered impotent by the hand of man; my devotion is to the Omnipotent God who is great, above all gods, and the One who does whatever He pleases.

The God who is the focus of my attention is the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Focused or Fretful

headcaseIf you could look inside your head, would you find the thought center of your mind dotted with the warts of worry and the ulcers of anxiousness?

In anxious moments, I’ve found comfort in the potent promise of Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.

Here’s a simple truth: The mind that’s not staying on God, is straying from Him, and it’s easily disoriented by the worries of life.  Undisciplined thoughts leave room for unfounded arguments that foster fear; however, Christ-centered thinking augments faith and smothers the fires of fretfulness.

To “stay” your mind on God, I suggest that you begin by:

  • Focusing on God: I sought the Lord, and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears. ~Psalm 34:4
  • Claiming the promise of God’s presence: Be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do. ~Joshua 1:9
  • Believing God loves you: The Lord your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you with His love; and, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah 3:17
  • Getting a grip on life: For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” ~Isaiah 41:13

Think about it: When God is holding your right hand, you never have to worry about holding the wrong one.

Phil 4

Death by Hash Brown

hbrownAs I was leaving the coffee shop this morning, I looked to my right to see if it was ok to cross the parking lot.  Since the car at the drive-up window was stopped, I felt I could safely walk to my truck.

As I took my third step, I heard the roar of an engine, looked to my right again, and I took a quick step back. Instead of looking where he was going, the driver was stuffing a saliva-inducing hash brown in his mouth; with a river of drool dripping from his chin, and his eyes focused on the sack in his lap, he was the typical distracted driver.

This near-miss reminded me that if we are going to get where we’re going, it helps to look at the road ahead, stay focused on our goals, and live a disciplined life.

With this in mind, I think we can benefit from some specific looks:

  • A Look of Devotion—Psalm 5:3: My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.
  • A Look of Expectation–Psalm 145:15 The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season.
  • A Look of Empathy—Matthew 9:36: When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
  • A Look of Righteousness—2 Timothy 2:22: Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
  • A Look of Excellence—2 Peter 1:5-7: Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
  • A Look of Gratitude—I Thessalonians 5:18: In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you

To finish life’s race,  we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith (Hebrews 12:3, Phillips).

Who is Watching?

surveillance-signs-y4397371-80618-l11955-lg (1)Have you ever had that feeling that you’re being watched? It may be more than just a feeling. Comparitech, a company that is known for its, Thousands of hours of in-depth tech research, has discovered, the world’s most-surveilled cities.

After studying the use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, the researchers at Comparitech have discovered the top 20 cities in the world that are the most surveilled. Of the cities that made the top 10, all of them were in China except London and Atlanta.

The proponents of CCTV cameras say they are excellent tools to help prevent crime and to monitor the flow of traffic. There are many, however, who see a sinister use of this technology. Specifically, the detractors are concerned with the development of facial recognition and the prying eyes of big government: Will the use of this technology make for a safer society at the expense of individual liberties?

While big government might abuse and misuse this technology, it’s much different with our Big God. Solomon said the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3, NKJV).

When God sees the evil and the good in the world, we need to remember that His justice is balanced by His love, mercy, and grace. In Genesis 6:5, the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually; however, three verse later, we see that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

What does God see when He observes your life? May it be a life of justice, kindness, and humility (Micah 6:8).

Rhinos, Albinos, and Tanzania

mount kAs I usually do of the morning, I stopped by McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. As I was leaving, I saw a young father with his children—Isaac of the clan McNary.

We chatted a few moments about his good work in addressing the needs of the hungry. Part of his ministry with the Outreach Program is to minister to the hungry at home and abroad—even to faraway places like Tanzania.

When he reminded  me of the work in Tanzania, it stimulated a neuron or two in my brain and retrieved the memory of a post I made a few years ago; I’ve updated it below:

Most of us have only seen pictures of Tanzania, and its colorful landscape that includesrhino the majestic peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Ruaha National Park which is home to over 10,000 elephants and 430 species of birds. Among the many different animals that are found in Tanzania, one of the best known and most endangered is the black rhino.

While the plight of the black rhino is a concern, even more, worrisome is the warped and wicked mistreatment of the Albinos.  In Tanzania, albinos represent one in every 1429 births, and the innocent children among this number live in constant fear.  They live with the terror of knowing that some people want to harvest their body parts.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation has reported that the adherents of witchcraft place a high value on albino body parts.  Because some villagers believe albinos have magical powers, they hunt them and harvest parts of their bodies.

The National Geographic commented on this gruesome practice, saying:  “Some even believe that the witchcraft ritual is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, so body parts are often cut from live victims, especially children.  The use of children is likely linked to the pursuit of innocence, which, it is believed, enhances the potency of the witchcraft ritual.”

As I think of these brutalized children, I’m reminded that Jesus loves all of God’s children whether they are red, yellow, black or white. And, He loves the albinos of Tanzania every bit as much as He loves you.

Two Powerful Words

FOLLOW-JESUS-footprintsTwo words changed the lives of two men, and they gave birth to a spiritual revolution that changed the world. The two words were spoken by Jesus when He called out to Peter and Andrew, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).”

The best way to follow Jesus is to walk in His footsteps.  To make sure you’re on the right path, you can ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I walking in love?
  • Am I walking in the light?
  • Am I walking with wisdom?
  • Am walking or living my life in a way that is pleasing to God?

Before I was tall enough to see over the corn stalks and heads of milo that filled the fields where my dad would take me hunting, I never got lost; all I had to do was step where Dad stepped.  The same is true as you journey through life, simply walk like Jesus.

The apostle Peter said, Jesus suffered for us and left us His example so that we could follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21).

I encourage you to follow Jesus, walk in His steps, and use the words of Psalm 119:133 as a prayer: Father, Direct my steps by your word!

A Key Ingredient

Julia-ChildIn this age of reality TV there’s a vast array of channels with do-it-yourself (DIY) programs. Many of these are food-related and highlight the cooking skills of kitchen-famous chefs.

A pioneer of the DIY cooking was the Queen of Cuisine, Julia Childs. Aspiring chefs would jot down her mouth-watering and salvia-stimulating recipes and file them away for a special occasion.

Good recipes are the key to stirring-up some tasty treats, and even an inept cook can appear to be a polished chef when he measures and mixes according to a cookbook.

The recipe for a good and godly life is more likely to be found in the Bible than it is in a cookbook by Gordon Ramsay or Rachel Ray.  While your status as a cook can change by following a good recipe, your standing before God changes when you follow His Word. This is why we are encouraged to hide God’s Word in our hearts—it is the key ingredient to a robust and healthy spiritual life.

By the way, if you need to sweeten that favorite dish just a little, add a pinch of God’s Word—Its sweeter than honey and the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10).

The Ups and Downs of Life

wepnerLife is an adventure.  Some people seem to stumble their way through it, while others have the ability and agility to bob and weave their way through its obstacles.  Some people have the knack to fall face first into every mud hole that dots their path in life, while others can transform the sourest moments of life into a sweet and exhilarating experience.

Muhammed Ali’s life was more exciting than it was boring.  Ali was fond of saying that he “could float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” but even the Champ learned felt the brute force of a punch that was akin to the kick of a mule.

On March 24, 1975, Chuck Wepner introduced Ali to one of the universal laws of life:  Sooner or later you’re going to get hit by a punch you’ll never see coming!

Suffering is a thread that’s woven into the fabric of life, and it’s the sucker punch that can drop you to your knees.  

This universal law is the subject of discourse by both Peter and James:

  • Peter said you should not, “be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you (I Peter 4:12).”
  • Even though suffering is anything but pleasant, James said to, “Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2–3).” 

It’s important to note that James did not say that the suffering or trial is a joyful experience; instead, he said the joy comes in acknowledging the result of the trial—steadfastness.  The situations that shake your faith are the ordeals that form a faith that’s unshakable.

Your faith is like your muscle tissue—to get stronger, it must be stressed.

The trials of life can buckle your knees and make it hard to see the end of the journey. It’s only from the perspective of hindsight that we have 20-20 vision.  Paul confirms this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. When he contemplated the past through the light of the present, he could see the boldly colored thread of hope in the tapestry of his heartache.  He could see God’s purpose in the suffering he had endured: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live.  We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead.”

“This happened”, so Paul would know that God is able and that He would enable him. What God did for Paul, He will also do for you.

 

In the Blink of an Eye

USP OLYMPICS: SWIMMING-EVENING SESSION S OLY BRAI used to wonder why I wondered about certain things, but I’ve decided that somewhere in my DNA I must have an inquisitive gene that is alive and well.

So, I wasn’t surprised when I noticed my curious nature thinking about the speed of a blinking eye. After a quick Google search, I learned:

  • If you are an average blinker, you will blink about every 4 seconds.
  • Each minute of the day you will blink about 15 times or roughly 20,000 times a day.
  • The surface of your eye is cleaned and lubricated,  in the 10th of a second it takes you to blink.

A 10th of a second is fast, and this fact jogged my memory: I remembered the 2016 Olympics and Anthony Ervin. At the age of 35, Ervin set a record for being the oldest individual competitor to win a gold medal in the Olympics. Ervin swam the 50M Men’s Freestyle, and he won the gold medal; France’s Florent Manaudou finished second and won the silver.

The difference that separated these two men wasn’t the 10th of a second it takes you to blink, but the hairbreadth of just 100th of a second. Ervin finished the race in 21.40 seconds and Manaudou finished it in 21.41.

Even though the critical factor that separates the winner from the runner-up can be as minuscule as 100th of a second, the minuscule can be mighty powerful.

Had Anthony Ervin succumbed to the power of a negative thought for just 100th of a second, he may have returned home with the silver medal and not the gold.

Ervin achieved his dream because he trained hard in preparation for the Olympics.  To have success in life we should do the same. This is why the Scriptures encourage us to discipline the body and to focus the mind.

Another Olympian who attained great success is Jesse Owens. At the 1936 Olympics, he won four gold medals, turning his dreams into reality. Later in life, Owens said: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

I encourage to keep your eyes on the prize and run life’s race with determination, dedication, and self-discipline.