The All-Seeing Eye

“For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity hidden from my eyes. Behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that I am the LORD.” “For his eyes are on the ways of man, and he sees all his steps.” “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.” Jeremiah 16:17,21; Job 34:21; Prov 5:21

With security cameras now on city streets, police dashboards, in homes and yards, we’ve become accustomed to knowing we are being watched, or at least, could be. Facial recognition is used for unlocking our smart phones, and investigating and determining criminal activity in some countries. We can get unsettled at the loss of privacy, other’s lack of trust, “big brother” watching over us….yet, God has always watched, always known our every step and way. He is the One to whom we are accountable. It’s easy to get caught up in horizontal thinking and living, with ‘the man upstairs’ being Uncle Sam and our defenses on guard against red light cameras and those who observe our activity, but vertical adjustment places us below our Heavenly Father, Who looks on us for our good.

What have I to hide from the merciful eyes of my Savior? What tears do I try to conceal from His compassionate look? What insecurities and fears and weak failings do I fail to bring under His powerful and transforming gaze? Why would I not welcome God’s all-seeing eye to penetrate, purify, and perfect?

Lord, Your eyes run to and from throughout the earth. Knowing You see all, may I live carefully, deliberately, wholeheartedly, blamelessly. You see what lies ahead, You see the meanderings of my thought, You see the condition and yen of my heart; You see after me, and You see to Your purposes and my every need. Give me eyes to see You and the world as You do. (2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 139:2-3; 1 Samuel 17:7; Genesis 16:13)

Steeples with Crosses

God, through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” “I have made you a light…that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” 2 Corinthians 5:18,20; Acts 13:47

Be children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” Philippians 2:15,16

Throughout the U.K. and Europe, countryside, villages, and cities are punctuated with steeples with crosses, ancient bold and beautiful beacons lifting high the cross, signifying truth that stands out and apart from the world. Sadly, many are now vacant, or repurposed into restaurants or retail; one in Aberdeen, Scotland is now a casino. What was initially a place of worship and light for the surrounding community can morph into a spiritless, hollow shell when care is not given to maintaining the vital connection with the Lord. When God’s people fail to tend to their own lives, and forget or abandon their first love, Jesus, they dry up and become ineffective and fruitless in making a difference in the world. (Revelation 2:4)

Penzance, Cornwall Coast, England,

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

Continue reading “Steeples with Crosses”

Knowing and Meeting Needs

When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim,  brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, ‘The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.’” 2 Samuel 17:27-29

What a beautiful paragraph in the middle or turmoil, angst, and desperation. David and his men have fled Jerusalem at the treachery of his son Absalom, who has declared himself king, entered the royal city, and taken David’s concubines ‘on the roof, in the sight of all Israel’ in a display of utter contempt and wanton pride. Absalom’s army now pursues the rightful king, and David’s men are weary and discouraged. Enter Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai! Their lavish gifts are bound with concern, love, compassion, prepared with much thought and delivered at great risk. What a welcome provision!

How attentive am I to the needs of others? Do I stay in touch enough to know what is going on, when a friend, neighbor, or fellow church member is under pressure, grieving, discouraged, or in particular need? Am I willing to spend the time to plan, prepare, and execute, to go the extra mile to deliver the provision to them, and give of my attention and love and presence, my prayer and blessing also? How often do I choose to spend on another instead of myself?

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

God of all bounty, use me to be Your arms and hands of goodness to others. You know their needs– by Your Spirit make me sensitive to know them also, and ready and willing to give generously to meet them. May they recognize that everything comes from You. (Matthew 6:8; Galatians 6:2; Matthew 6:25-33)

Divine Weapons

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The world can be relentless in its onslaught against truth. Words are slung that deeply wound, and ruin reputations; corporate decisions are made and laws are passed that condone behavior the Bible clearly states are wrong; even churches proliferate that teach from a horizontal perspective, valuing feelings and emotion over truth and righteousness.

Stormy skies from bridge 1, August

We are not left alone within our battle with the world. The God Who leads His army also equips, and He supplies armor perfectly suited to every attack. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Truth must be paramount in guarding our minds; thinking rightly affects all else- our understanding, responses, decisions for every other defense and action. When and how am I saturating myself with God’s word so it becomes the source of my living? (Ephesians 6:13-17)

Lord of hosts, You are sovereign over the present darkness in which we live. Grant keen discernment to recognize the fallacies and dangers of every argument that is false, and courageous determination to take up Your divine weapons. Make me a brave, smart warrior, knowing You hold the victory.

Influence

And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius. And embarking in a ship, we put to sea. The next day we put in at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for.” Acts 27:1-3

We do not know much about the Roman centurions who had charge of Paul, but we can infer from Acts 27 that he had quite an influence on them. Julias, by title a commander of 100, had charge of the prisoners on board a ship bound along the coasts of Asia for Rome, where Paul would stand trial before Caesar. He trusts Paul enough to give him leave to spend time with friends, and in the Port of Myra, he found the next ship for Paul and his companions and put them on it. We can imagine his thoughtful observance of Paul’s friends’ loving care for him, and the bond of their fellowship, perhaps a display similar to that at Ephesus: “He knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” (Acts 20:36-38)

FIshing boats, Cape Coast, Ghana

The new centurion, seemingly puffed with power and self-importance, was in charge on a ship to Alexandria. They were struck by a northeaster, violently storm-tossed, and had to jettison the cargo and tackle overboard. After many days without eating, likely with most seasick and cranky, Paul urges them to “take heart.” His stature, his calm, his willingness to encourage those in authority over his very life, did not go unnoticed. When the sailors sought deceitfully to escape the ship, Paul warned the centurion and soldiers that without them, they could not survive. After two tempestuous, suspenseful weeks without food, Paul urges everyone to take some nourishment. “‘It will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.’ And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.” The proof of Paul’s influence came when they ran aground on a reef and the ship began to break apart. The bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was being broken up by the surf. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan.” (Acts 27:34-36,41-43)

What brought a swaggering, expert Roman commander to take advice from a Jewish prisoner? What turns a haughty, suspicious attitude into one of kindness and esteem? We cannot measure the full impact Paul’s steady peace, presence of mind, concern for all passengers, and confidence in God had on this centurion, but we know it occurred, because he changed. In trial and tempest, in disappointment, strain, and grief, others are watching, and they are impressionable.

Lord, may I speak and live to upbuild others with truth, even if correcting, with kindness, so they might understand the gospel and glorify You. Make me most willing to spend and be spent for others’ souls, for Your sake. (1 Peter 2:12; 2 Timothy 2:24-25; 2 Corinthians 12:15)

Growing Dull

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” Acts 28:27

What a sad verse.

A knife or a saw grows dull over time, with repeated use, and especially after abuse or misuse on unintended tasks (i.e., kitchen knives used to cut wire or rope, not that I know anyone who has ever done that). To remain sharp, the blade needs to be kept honed on a sharpening stone, and used for the purposes for which it was made.

saws.jpg

As for a heart toward God, repeated rituals that become meaningless, inattention over time, and engagements in passions foreign to godliness, make dull the awareness of His grace and cool the heat of love for Him to lukewarm. His word still speaks, His arms are still open, yet we fill our ears with man-speak and focus on the urgent so we barely hear and see. Our casual affection and laissez-faire attitude toward Him, while we expend effort, expense, and passion on the temporal and immediate, make for a weak, distracted relationship. What we might excuse as accidental is not–we deliberately choose where to invest our affection and energy, we willfully divert our eyes.

Keep me close, my Whetstone. Heal me of every bit of dull complacency and lethargy toward You. May Your living and active Word, sharper than a two-edged sword, discern my thoughts and actions, pierce my heart, and shape my will, clear my eyes, and attune my ears. (Hebrews 4:12)

Sowing Bountifully

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8,10-11

Paul has been talking about generous financial giving as an act of grace among the Body, listed in the previous chapter with faith, speech, and knowledge as a gift to be shared. He’d given the example of the Macedonian churches: “In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5) It is hard not to see abundant joy, overflowed, wealth of generosity, beyond their means, begged for the favor in enthusiastic bold. What a model! Do I crave this involvement in my church’s ministry? Am I this zealous to trust the Lord with lavish giving and prove His faithfulness? Am I more sensitive to my own wants than to the needs of God’s church and people? Do I regard myself as owner rather than steward of my resources– to dole out as I determine? Is my sight so limited that my world revolves around me and I have no vision for God’s greater work? Do I define my own joy instead of delighting in the Lord’s for me? 

DSC_0259

The key was ‘first giving themselves to the Lord.’ It is doing so, day by day, that God transforms our reluctances into open hands and ready feet and eager hearts. He adjusts our eyes to see needs and His supernatural ability to meet them. When I submit my moments, my priorities, my resources to Him, He awakens desire to abound with Him in every way, every good work. When I am transfixed by the wealth of His sufficiency, grace, generosity to me, I am compelled to offer it all back to Him. 

Lord, may Your surpassing grace to me have its full effect. May I never grow weary of doing good, especially to those in Your household. May I submissively, extravagantly, offer the fruit of Your bounty to me back to You for Your use, causing the overflow of many thanksgivings and boundless glory to You. (Galatians 6:9-102 Corinthians 9:11-15)