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).

Strength for Today

bicepI started today as I do most days–with a cup of coffee and the Psalms.  As I was reading Psalms 31, I stopped to consider the 24th verse: Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
When you step outside of the safety of your house to face the world today, do so with the confidence that God’s:
  • Strength will build you up
  • Love will fill you up
  • Arms will lift you.
Keep this thought with you today, and you’ll begin to know the power of God’s promise to Paul:  My grace is sufficient.
The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He drives out the enemy before you and commands, “Destroy!”
Deuteronomy 33:27

More Than Adequate

When Paul was writing his second letter to the church at Corinth, he mentioned his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul said, Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Here are four reasons that God’s grace is just as sufficient for us as it was for Paul:

  1. God is omniscient—He knows everything that can be known; therefore, He knows everything there is to know about you and your needs.
    • Psalm 139:1-3: O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
  2. God is beneficent—He is generous in His love for His children.
    • Psalm 145:15-19: The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
  3. God makes you proficient—He provides the strength I need.
    • Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  4. God will never leave you deficient—God nurtures those He loves.
    • Isaiah 40:31: But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

As you think about the sufficiency of God’s grace, I encourage you to also give some thought to these words of the Apostle Peter: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature . .2 Peter 1:2-21

Stop and Refocus

refocusIf you started today worrying about what might go wrong, I encourage you to stop and refocus your mind on these five words:.

Slow: Take a deep breath and slow down. When you walk in step with God, you will learn that His love is not measured by a teaspoon—it’s measured by the bucket loads.

Time: Take a minute or two to consider God’s goodness.

  • Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Oppose: Don’t yield to catastrophic thoughts that are characterized by words like must, never, and always. These three words are usually false. Discipline your mind so you think about the hope and joy you can have in Jesus.

  • Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Promise: Claim the promises the are rightly yours. You are not some pauper, you are a child of the King.

  • The key that gives you access to God is not your strength—it’s God’s grace.

I’ll close with some words that can open the door of your mind to some life-changing  thoughts:

Deuteronomy 31:6:   Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Picker-Uppers and Put-er-Downers

judgment-1024x682-1-730x430Do you judge-mentally or are you judgmental? One is a well-reasoned response to a given situation, while the other is an irrational reaction. One investigates the specifics seeking the best outcome for everyone involved, while the other is condescending and self-serving in its handling of the facts.

A judgmental person thrives by focusing on your weaknesses and failures. As long as he can do that, he doesn’t have to think of his own puny performance and fatal flaws.

Paul challenged the church at Galatia to address this issue: “If a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Let each one examine his own work. Then he can take pride in himself and not compare himself with someone else. For each one will carry his own load . . . whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith (Galatians 6).”

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • When someone stumbles and falls, do I reject him or restore him?
  • Am I reaching out with a “spirit of gentleness?”
  • Do I have a “holier-than-thou attitude?”
  • Have I examined my life to deal with my own shortcomings?
  • Do I look for the opportunity to help carry the burden of the heavy-hearted?
  • Am I like the Good Samaritan, and try to do good to all?

Your answers to these questions may help you determine if you are a picker-upper or a put-er-downer. Which of the two are you?

A is for Apple

apple-bobbing-boys-1920x675I was enjoying the sweet taste of apples long before I had ever participated in the homespun, spit-swapping, and germ-spreading, tradition of apple bobbing. Fact is, I almost drowned a time or two while I chased an apple around the inside of a water-filled wood barrel.

Apples are a tasty delight and a welcome addition to most diets, and they are also a definite plus to the pocket books of Washington farmers.  The typical orchard will produce 37,100 pounds per acre with a value somewhere between $12,500-$13,000.  The fertile ground of Washington contributes $18 billion plus to the state’s economy in apples alone.

When I eat an apple, my preference is Jonathan, Fuji, or Honeycrisp, but I doubt David had a specific variety in mind when he prayed: Keep me as the apple of your eye, and hide me in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 17:8).

As the apple of God’s eye, you are so special to God that:

  • He is aware of your sorrows—Psalm 56:8
  • He likens your prayers to the sweet smell of incense—Revelation 5:8
  • He floods your heart with His love—Romans 5:5
  • He blesses you with His mercy—Psalm 57:10

From out of all the orchards in the world, you are the apple that God has picked, and it is, “According to His great mercy, He has given us [you] a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (I Peter 1:3-4).”

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry          ~Psalm 34:15

Fireflies At Night

fireflyPeople rarely partner stubbed toes and skinned knees with moments of pleasure . . . unless you’ve been a carefree child who chased the sentinels of light through the darkness of July nights. Even though those carefree days of bare feet and childhood innocence are long gone, I still enjoy the nocturnal dance of fireflies as they flutter across the night sky.

The waltz of the firefly reminds me of an old quote by Beecher:

If I were made a firefly, it would not become me to say: “If God had only made me a star to shine always, then I would shine.” It is my duty, if I am a firefly, to fly and sparkle, and fly and sparkle; not to shut my wings down over my phosphorescent self because God did not make me a sun or a star.

Regardless of person’s station in life, there seems to be a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction.  Solomon commented on this in Proverbs 27:19-20:  Just as water reflects a person’s true face, so the human heart reflects a person’s true character. As Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so the eyes of a person are never satisfied.

From their teenage years forward, people engage in an unending search for that elusive person, place, or thing that will satisfy the desires of their heart. The trivial pursuits of this world’s pleasures will never provide lasting satisfaction; you simply cannot find fulfillment in empty promises

Lasting peace and satisfaction is not found in the creation, but in the Creator:

  • Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
  • God satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul is filled with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
  • Notice the promise of Psalm 16:11: God You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.

The next time you see a firefly at night, pause and think about what it means to be content in and satisfied through Jesus.  When you do this, it might help to reflect on these words of Paul:

 I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles. ~Philippians 4 (The Message)

Life Perspective: diy or CWS?

focus-37863944If you’re as big a fan of the game of baseball as I am, you probably think of the College World Series when you see the letters CWS.  Even Google associates CWS with the College World Series.  When I typed CWS into the search box, College World Series of Omaha appeared in the second spot.

Sorry baseball fans, but this morning CWS has a focus on Christ Who Strengthens.  CWS can be a comforting thought in a diy (Do It Yourself) world.

When I typed diy projects into Google, the search engine gave me 42,500,000 results.  The list included home decorating, cake decorating, decorating Easter eggs, recipes for cheesecake, and instructions for cheesy projects.

My problem with a diy project is that sometimes it looks like I did it—some guys have a PhD in hammerology, but I’m just a hack.

Some people are so self-sufficient, they try to approach their spiritual life with a diy mentality, and they look like:

  • Adam and Eve thought they were smarter than God.
  • Samson was blinded by his strength.
  • Peter was tripped by pride.
  • David’s morals were sucked down the drain of a bathtub.

Each of these men faltered and failed because their focus had become more diy and less CWS.  This principle is found in both Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 40:29:

  • I can do all things through Christ Who Strengthens me—Phil. 4:13
  • He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength—Is. 40:29

Are you managing your life with a diy mindset or with a CWS perspective?

The Brotherhood of the Big-Footed

feetSince I belong to the brotherhood of the big-footed, I need a lot of help to keep my feet pointed in the right direction. This is one reason I have a special fondness for Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

When God’s Word is your guide, and you use it as a lamp for your feet, you’re less likely to stumble and fall.  It’s an ever-ready guide to help you:

  • Gain strength and to grow in love—Ephesians 3:16-20
  • Resist evil—Galatians 5:16-21
  • Increase in knowledge and to be filled with the fruit of righteousness—Philippians 1:9-11
  • Grow in your faith—2 Peter 1:5-8

To burn brightly the old fashioned lamps needed either oil or burning embers of coal.  The oil that fires-up the lamp of God’s Word is prayer.  To find the light and guidance you need, I suggest that you make Psalm 119:33-36 your prayer for today:

Help me understand Your instruction,
and I will obey it
and follow it with all my heart.
 Help me stay on the path of Your commands,
for I take pleasure in it.
Turn my heart to Your decrees
and not to material gain.