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).

A Life of Kindness and Compassion

sharing-ice-cream-kids_fSome people are incredibly kind and compassionate in the way they consistently treat others; however, due to the surface similarity of the two, the depth of difference between kindness and compassion can be overlooked.

While kindness is a spirit of benevolence that reflects our concern for others and the friendly and generous ways we treat people, compassion, is the spirit of mercy that motivated the Good Samaritan. He was moved to lay aside hatred and to cross social barriers to help the badly-beaten man who had been left for dead.

You can be kind without being compassionate, but, I don’t think you can be seen as compassionate without also being kind.  In Ephesians, Paul instructs the believer to practice both: You must put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and slanderous talk—indeed all malice.  Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you (4:31-32).

Acts of kindness and compassion, should be more than a theoretical discussion over a cup of coffee; these fruits of the Spirit are worthy of more than just lip service.

How can you begin to live a life of kindness and compassion?  I suggest you place a bookmark at Philippians 2:3-4, and use it as a reference point.  Read it frequently and follow its principles faithfully.  To get started ask yourself some questions from this verse:

  • What is it that motivates me?
  • Am I known more for selfish ambition or humility?
  • If I treated myself the way I treat others, would I be pleased with my actions?
  • Am I too self-consumed to show concern for the plight of others?

I share the words that follow, as a prayer for today and as a conclusion to this discussion:

Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds,

To reach out to others and meet their needs;

Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin,

With mercy and love that flows from within. ~Fitzhugh

A Circle of Friends

friendThe presumed benefits of friendship have been the focus of many self-help books and the authors have suggested that healthy friendships are a key metric to measure happiness; boost your physical and mental health; and, they may even extend your life.

A group of researchers from the University of Oxford decided to test the value of friendships, and their research has yielded some interesting results:

  • The research suggests that people with a large circle of friends have a higher pain tolerance.
  • The social interactions you have with your friends triggers the release of endorphins that are conducive to positive emotions.
  • Endorphins generate a strong pain-killing effect that’s stronger than morphine.

Which is of more value: Facebook posts or face-to-face interactions?  Katerina Johnson, co-author of the study, has said: “In this digital era, deficiencies in our social interactions may be one of the overlooked factors contributing to the declining health of our modern society.”

Even though, he didn’t make his conclusion based on a questionnaire, Solomon knew the value of a good friend:

  • Proverbs 17:17: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Proverbs 27:17: In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.

I’m not sure who Aristotle had in mind when he said, “The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.” I do, however, know that his words remind me of something Jesus said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:12-15).”

Character, Faces and Names

namesDuring a recent conversation, I was asked if I knew a certain person; I replied, “I know the name, but I can’t put a face with it.”  Names are used to identify, organization, warn, encourage, and to express hope.

The name and character of God was the focus of a Psalm that David wrote after the Ark had been recovered and returned to the Holy of Holies:

Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!  Remember His marvelous works which He has done…  ~I Chronicles 16:8-12

When a child calls out Mom or Dad, he is expressing trust and hope in the power and resources of his parents.  The same is true when God’s children “Call upon His name.”

Notice how the name of God is associated with His character:

  • Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you—Psalm 9:10
  • The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower—Psalm 18:2
  • The LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust—Psalm 91:2
  • The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knows them that trust in him—Nahum 1:7

Whenever I discuss the name of God, I remember the words of Paul in Philippians 2:9-11:

God has highly exalted Jesus and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I want to encourage you to follow the advice of an old gospel hymn, Take The Name of Jesus With You:

Take the name of Jesus with you,

Child of sorrow and of woe.

It will joy and comfort give you,

Take it then wherever you go.

Precious name, O how sweet!

Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.

Precious name, O how sweet!

Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.

A Godly Celebration

god-is-goodYou’ve heard it before: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.” When you read Zephaniah 3:17, you may think that it sounds too good to be true:

The Lord your God is with you. He is a warrior who saves you. He happily rejoices over you; renews you with his love; and, He celebrates over you with shouts of joy.

Before you pass judgment on the veracity of this verse, you may want to consider it from the perspective and testimony of some people from the pages of history:

  • Think about Daniel. He was thrown into a den of lions which was the sentence of death; however, God intervened; the lions were afflicted with a serious case of lockjaw; and, Daniel was saved.
  • What about David? This runt of the litter was fiercely courageous, and God used him as a warrior to slay Goliath.
  • Lazarus heard the shout of God, and he experienced a celebration and the joyful power of the resurrection.

Still think it sounds too good to be true?  Then you might want to read Psalm 121, the Pilgrim’s Psalm, from The Message:

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble; your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep. God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—Shielding you from sunstroke, and sheltering you from moonstroke. God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always.

Believe it! God is with you, and He wants to happily rejoice over you.

The Treasure in Measure

25_powerlockI’m certain that I’ve seen and spoken the word “measure” thousands of times in my life, and I’ve read Romans 12:3 many hundreds of times.  When I read it again a moment ago I noticed something different. I saw the three words found in measureme-a-sure.

 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. ~Romans 12:3

While me-a-sure has nothing to do with the meaning of measure or the theological significance of Romans 12:3, me-a-sure motivated me to think of the things that I can be sure of knowing, like:

  • Eternal Life: These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (I John 5:13).
  • The Truth: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).
  • The Good Shepherd: I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own (John 10:14).
  • The Hope: I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints (Ephesians 1:18).
  • The Love of Jesus: You may know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

In the third chapter of Philippians, Paul said there was one thing he was sure of, and it was the need to forget the things that were behind him and to focus on the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (3:14).”

How does your relationship with God measure-up?  How have you been reassured in times of trials and heartache?  How has your confidence in God been strengthened?  I’d like to know, so share a comment or two with me.

Valentine’s Day: Spoiler Alert

hqdefaultTHE WORLD ENDS TOMORROW!  If you want to do something special for your sweetie, you better do it today.

You may ask: “Why has Stan become a prognosticator of end time events?”  The answer is easy, and I’ll give it to you in one word:  “Ghostbusters.”

If you have about 12 seconds, you can watch the 1989 prediction that is the inspiration for this post.

 

While I have serious doubts about Ghostbusters ability to see into the future and the credibility of the movie’s prophecy, I do place great value on a time-related statement from Proverbs 27:1:  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

I agree with Solomon: It’s best to make the most of today and don’t waste time in a boast about what you will do tomorrow. 

 

MLK Day: More Than Monday

 

mlkToday is more than just another Monday.  It’s the day that has been set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King is remembered for his life of dedication, and his speeches that focused on forgiveness, peace, righting wrongs, and loving one another.

Since today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I share a few quotes to honor him:

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.
  • Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  • It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.
  • When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
  • To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Please give some careful consideration to this last quote.  I suggest that you focus on it, and make it a prayer throughout this week:

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

 

Loving God Because . . .

becauseIt was the insufficient, one word answer that I used as a kid to explain why I had done something:  “Because.”  It never made a bad situation any better, and in exasperation, Mom would say, “Because!  Because?  Because why!?

It may be “because” is in the 116th Psalm that its one of my favorites.  This Psalm begins with a four word statement:  “I love the Lord.”  Then “because” is the fifth word, and it states the condition or reason that the Lord is worthy of love.

I love the Lord because:”

  • He has heard my appeal for mercy (1)
  • He has turned His ear to me (2)
  • He is gracious and righteous and compassionate (5)
  • He guards the inexperienced and saves the helpless (6)
  • He is present in times of sorrows and trials (8)

When you get to verse 15 of the Psalm, you find one of the most tender verses in the Bible: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  What I’m about to say is poor English; however, it emphasizes the truth of this verse:  “He be the cause of our hope in the time of death.”  Its because you’re so precious in the eyes of God, that He gave His Son to die for you, to provide salvation for you, and to make a place for you in heaven.

After reflecting on the goodness of God, and why he loves the Lord, the writer says. “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”  May God be the cause that motivates you to say, “I love the Lord,” and to give thanks for His goodness.

Full of Grace and Truth

grace-and-truthThe message of the New Testament is to speak the truth in love, and not to use it to beat someone into submission.  When John wrote about Jesus, he described the Lord as being full of grace and truth.  Think about that for a moment and reflect on the manner of ministry embraced by Jesus.  What did Jesus do when He met the town prostitute at the city well?  Did he berate her with a long lengthy sermon?  No, He lovingly shared the truth with her and poured out His grace upon her.

What was the result of His one and one encounter with this sinful woman and the Savior of the World?  She drank from the cup of salvation and shared the water of life with those she knew, and revival broke out in her village.

Throughout the pages of John’s Gospel we see this same pattern repeated time and again.  The faces are different, the names are not the same, but the manner of ministry was always full of grace and truth.

When Paul wrote to the believers at Galatia, he said: If a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted (Galatians 6).

What has always intrigued me about the verse above, is the phrase, those of you who are spiritual.  If we fail to embrace this manner of ministry, are we failing in our spiritual life?

There have been several times in my life that people have told me that I am full of things that I’d rather not discuss.  My hope is that when people observe my manner of ministry they see it as full and grace and truth.