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.

Remember When

rememberThe older I get, the more often I ask, or I am asked the question: Don’t you remember how it used to be?

This question was repeated several times this morning in a conversation, and it reminded me of a tender scene in The Lion King when Mufasa challenges Simba: “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.”

Like Simba, there are times we need to remember who we are—We are children of the King. This is not some simple mantra to be repeated; it is a truth full of practical applications when, like Simba, you lose your way.

When you truly realize you are a child of the King, you can:

  • Worry less by spending more time in prayer as you turn your problems over to God.
  • Stand tall when you feel like you are in over your head; God is in it with you.
  • Remember that God is bigger than any of your problems.
  • Be certain that you will never be so lost that you can’t be found.
  • Be assured that when you feel like no one likes you, God still loves you.

As a child of the King, God speaks to you and says: I will hold your right hand: Fear not, I will help you.

Monikers and Meanings

baby-name-surprisedMost people who know me call me by the shortened form of my name.  Although my birth certificate reads, Stanley Lee Seymour,  most people call me Stan.   An etymological search of Stan reveals that it is Old English in origin and means rocky meadow or from the stony field.

Etymology, however, had nothing to do with the selection of my name.  Because my last name starts with an S, Mom and Dad thought it would be trendy for the first name of each of their children to start with an S.  My older brother’s name is Steve and my younger brother’s name is Brad.

Before he was born Brad’s name was going to be Stuart, but Mom was already having trouble calling Steve, Stan, and Stan, Steve, so Stuart became Brad.

Had Mom continued her practice of using an S in the naming of her sons, Brad would have been Stuart; and, his name would carry the idea of one who is a guardian or steward.

Here, in America, we seem to be more ambiguous than rigorous when we consider the meaning of the name written on the birth certificate that labels our children for life.

This has not always been the case. In the biblical eras, names were pregnant with meaning and often prophetic in nature. The best example is the name that is above all names and the Old Testament descriptor assigned to Him: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Little did Mary know the angelic proclamation and the meaning of her son’s name would be as full of pain as it was promise:  You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

When that babe lying in Bethlehem’s manger was named Jesus, it was not just a slip of the tongue or a casual moniker, it was a bold declaration: The Savior has been born.

May we all remember the reason for this season.

Rituals and Wrinkles

mirrorIt is 4:19, and I’ve finished the first part of my morning routine: I just swallowed the last drop of my first cup of coffee.

The next item on my morning ritual will be the couple of minutes I spend facing a mirror to examine my wrinkled mug, to apply some shaving cream, and to wield the razor as I shave my whiskers.

When I check the stubble on my face, I often think of Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).”

When you think about it, isn’t life one examination station after another?

  • In your bedroom, do you examine your shirt for wrinkles before you button it up?
  • In the grocery store, do you check the apples to see if they are bruised or too green before you place them in your cart?
  • After you buy something, do you check to make sure you have been given the correct amount of change?

Do you take any time during the day for a spiritual examination?  The Psalmist said: “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies (Psalm 119:59).”  Are there times when you use God’s Word to iron out the wrinkles of your life?

The methodology of the Psalms was the same message espoused by James (1:21-25):

Lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the

When you use the “perfect law of liberty” as a mirror to examine your life, what do you see?

  • Do you see a reflection of righteousness?
  • Is there an image of personal purity?
  • Do you recognize the features of faithfulness in the face you see?

Let me share a favorite verse that I use as a mirror: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

When you look into God’s Word, what do you see?

Those Who Know

6325259a3ec2cdd15a2b3fbf87cf9de4It happened yesterday; it was one of those bright light moments of fresh comprehension. As I was reading Psalm 9, a verse stood out from the rest like a sunflower in a field of bluebonnets.

The words that caught my attention were a positive affirmation of God’s faithfulness: those who know Your name will put their trust in You.

At certain times and places, God would use a specific name to reveal His character to His people.  Many of the Psalms speak about the nature of God. From the many, I share a few that encourage me to put my trust in God:

  • Psalm 3:3 tells us that God is a shield.
  • Psalm 5:11 where God is seen as a defender of His people.
  • Psalm 13:6 states that God provides for the needs of the faithful.
  • Psalm 19:14 praises God because He gives the strength we need, and He redeems us.
  • Psalm 23:1 reminds us that the Lord is our Shepherd.

Then, there is Psalm 18:2 which is a compendium of God’s attributes. As you begin a new week, I encourage you to think about it today:

I will love You,  O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock  and my fortress  and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.