Mata Hari, the most famous undercover agent of all time, spied for Germany in World War 1. In 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for peddling U.S. secrets to the Communists. In 1985 Aldrich Ames, a CIA operative, turned over American documents to Russia and got a life sentence.
Is it fair for God to surveil us? Many centuries ago Moses sent spies on ahead to assess the difficulty of taking possession of their promised land, today’s Israel.
In the Old Testament we find that “the eyes of the Lord search the whole earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”
David, Israel’s king, wrote, “Lord, You have examined me, and You know me. You know everything I do … You understand all my thoughts … Even before I speak, You already know what I will say.”
Do you see God as a power-crazed hall monitor, waiting to pounce on you when you screw up? Or as a devoted Father whose love for you was willing to let His Son be crucified so that you could join His forever family?
For 200 years the stethoscope has been used to listen for an irregular heartbeat, a murmur or a clogged blood vessel. With electrocardiograms we can now see as well as hear the heart.
Early Egyptians regarded the human heart to be the source of the soul. During mummification they tossed the brain but preserved the heart. Not until the Renaissance was it established that the heart’s sole purpose is to pump blood. From Valentines, appearing first in the 17th century, to emojis, the language of the heart has become the language of love.
History’s best-selling book states, “The heart is the most deceitful of all things.” It recommends, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and don’t rely on your own understanding. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.”
Upon what or whom are you relying to discover the right way?
Why does it seem that a disproportionate amount of today’s public discourse is devoted to disparaging others? Even the briefest foray into the mass media or a casual conversation with friends yields exaggerated name-calling and judgmental criticism of what someone said, did, looks like or stands for.
Remember the question, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?” One guilty of this has earned the job title of “hypocrite.” The early Greeks coined this word to describe a “deficiency in the ability to decide.” Those classy Greeks took the high road, didn’t they!
Calling attention to splinters in the eyes of others but overlooking the railroad ties in our own tramples on The Golden Rule. Love does no harm. By censoring our harmful attitude and words, we eliminate foul language, laying a foundation for supportive, peaceful, productive, loving relationships.
As you wait in the grocery checkout line, corporate forces commandeer those few seconds to tease you into making an unplanned decision. Using market research, they know what visual triggers will lure you to add a tabloid or a treat to your shopping basket. You are their deer in the headlights. You are an “impulse buyer!”
Suddenly, even imperceptibly, you have incubated an unpremeditated feeling that, like the borning of a butterfly, morphed into a desire, then a decision and, finally, an action that was certainly not why you went to the store.
Our wise friend, Bobb Biehl, sees it this way. “Maturity is putting process between opportunity and decision.” So obvious but not so widely followed.
The New Testament refers to “the sin that so easily entangles us.” It’s the handy transgression. It’s said that “Sin takes you farther than you wanted to go, makes you stay longer than you wanted to stay, and costs more than you wanted to pay.”
As we embark on a new year, what guard rails have you constructed to quash unwise entanglements?
All year that corner lot lies dormant, seemingly worthless. But as temperatures drop like your holiday bank balance, that lonesome lot comes to life with purpose, value and visibility. Suddenly it’s populated with a forest of Christmas trees and signs that shout, “Don’t wait too late to decorate!”
CHRIST – mas –tree
It was “mas” – “My Awful Sins” that drove God’s Son to that cruel, cross-shaped tree where He took all our sins so that you and I can be completely, forever forgiven!
When you, by faith, accept God’s pardon, the “mas” in “CHRISTmas tree” explodes with new meaning: “mas” – “My Amazing Salvation!”
Whenever you see a Christmas tree, will you remember this? God has erased your awful sins and offers you amazing salvation.
Right now you are thinking three times faster than you are reading. Your brain’s 100 billion nerve cells are linked with trillions of connections, called synapses, transmitting up to 1,000 signals per second.
This, say the deep thinkers at M.I.T., produces thoughts. As fast as one thought every 1.2 seconds. This, in large part, is what makes us human. But are thoughts merely electro-chemical reactions? Are we slaves to neuroscience, or can we control our mental activity?
The Bible’s writers have a few thoughts about this:
“Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing and perfect.”
“Keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable or commendable.”
“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.”
Winter here in the northwest corner of the Lower 48 trumpets its return with strong, prevailing southerlies arriving in impolite, unwelcome belches. The well-behaved summer zephyrs carry seeds and spores that produce our plants, flowers and magnificent forests of evergreens.
Recently Hurricane Harvey howled through Houston, leaving scores dead and $180 billion in damages. The Category 4 beast is America’s costliest natural disaster.
Long ago God wrapped the earth in a blanket of wind after Noah’s flood, forcing the waters to recede and dry land to reappear. Then there’s Jonah who resisted God’s assignment to go to Nineveh by hopping a ship bound for Spain. The Lord caused a whale of a wind to churn up the Mediterranean, jeopardizing the vessel, prompting the crew to feed Jonah to the fish.
Some 2,000 years later Jesus was approached one night by one of Israel’s religious leaders. In explaining the necessity to be “born again,” Jesus likened the Holy Spirit’s life-saving activity to the wind. We can’t see it. We can only see how it affects its surroundings.
Does what’s visible about your life resemble the sinful toll of a tornado or the soothing breeze of God’s forgiveness? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
Too bad November comes but once a year, leaving us only one Thanksgiving. That’s music to turkey ears. But for drumstick lovers, it’s as welcome as having the Sonics abducted to a state whose shape resembles a saucepan. That was not OK, see?
Truth told, we need more than one Thanksgiving Day to say “Thanks” to all who’ve helped and loved us along the way. Actually, it’ll take an eternity to express our gratitude to whoever introduced us to the Christ of Christmas. And even longer to recover from the speechless shock of thanking Jesus in person.
“Unmasking” is currently having its 15 minutes of fame. Until recent news stories revealed names of political operatives having supposedly secure conversations, the only unmasking many knew of was when bad hombres tried to rip the one from the Lone Ranger’s face.
We’re drawn to a speaker who knows infinitely more than he’s saying..
Bible writer Paul confesses, “God sent me to tell the Good News without using the language of human wisdom in order to make sure that Christ’s death on the cross is not robbed of its power. …For God in His wisdom made it impossible for people to know Him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called ‘foolish’ message we preach, God decided to save those who believe.”
What’s Paul saying? Maybe something like … “If God were to unmask everything He wants us to see and know, it would take forever. So, He opens the hood just enough to prove that there’s an engine, thereby giving us enough to go on so that, by faith, we can trust His power to take us where there will be no more masks.