Monthly Archives: February 2015

Rats Vindicated in Gerbil-Gate 2015!

Rats VindicatedEveryone knows that flea-carrying rats were to blame for the Bubonic Plague, right? Wrong! After years of being falsely maligned, chalk one up for the rat lobby. Rats are finally being vindicated for their worst public relations nightmare in history…wiping out 1/3 of Europe’s population in the 14th century.

According to researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway, the much-maligned rat is probably not to blame. Who is? The Gerbil! That’s right…the adorable little gerbil.

Of course, the real culprit, that claimed somewhere between 75 and 200 million people, is actually the flea. But, according to new evidence, fleas jumped from Asian trade route gerbils, not merchant ship rats, to European pack animals to humans. So…gerbils carried the fleas, not rats! Meanwhile, cute, loveable gerbils have escaped justice…until now.

Now, I’m not really interested in rats and gerbils. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of either. But what I can’t help but notice is how easy it was to blame the rats and never question the conclusion.

I imagine we all do it.

It is so much easier to blame something that seems blameworthy rather than spending the time and effort to ferret out the real culprit. And here’s the kicker…when it comes to sin, (fleas if you will) we all have them! We are to blame for the plagues in society today!

It would be so easy to point our finger and say, “the world is to blame,” or “those people of that race or religion are to blame,” or “those sinners are to blame.” But the truth is a whole lot closer to home. It may even be hiding among those adorable things we love.

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).

Let’s stop blaming others for our sins and fess up that we have a few deadly “fleas” of our own. Then we can start asking God for forgiveness, which He freely and gladly gives to those who seek Him.

#AshTag May Best Reveal Your #HeartThing. #JesusSaysSo

AshTagLogo-1024x987So today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season. It is a time when many observers of of a tradition dating back to roughly the 8th-9th century get an ash mark of a cross placed on their foreheads. Followers will attempt to spend the next 40 days in penitent prayer, fasting, and giving, remembering Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. And, of course, followers will post the obligatory Selfie with an Ash-marked forehead, #AshTag.

Wait, what? Isn’t that sacrilegious? #AshTag faith? 

Please don’t misunderstand. I assume that there are those who are serious about Lent. They honestly desire to grow closer to God by fasting, prayer, and giving alms (charity). And out of respect for the “sacred,” most followers probably aren’t #AshTagging Selfies of their foreheads. But it does raise an interesting question: “Was Lent ever sacred in the first place?” And is it really sacrilegious to #AshTag a Selfie today?

After all, Lent is not in the Bible. It is a tradition invented by men. Nevertheless, the Bible does give us several examples of true people of faith displaying penitence in sackcloth and ash. So is there anything wrong with taking 40 days to fast, pray, and give charitably? And is it wrong to let others know you are doing it?

Well, it depends.

And it may just be an #AshTag that finally reveals the heart of a believer. Because, like so many religious issues, it is a #HeartThing. And there is simply no better way to get to the bottom of heart things than to examine the words of Jesus. Consider Christ:

Matthew 6
Regarding Outward Righteousness:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” 

Regarding Charitable Giving:
“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” 

Regarding Prayer:
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

 

Regarding Fasting:
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

 

So, today is a great day to examine your heart. Is your first thought to practice your faith to be noticed by men or God? If by God, just remember that He told us what He wants. God knows your heart. He isn’t impressed with outward appearances. He wants followers who are dedicated to prayer, repentance, and serving.  It is a #HeartThing. #JesusSaysSo

Shhh, Your TV Is Listening!

Samsung got in hot water this week when the Korea Times reported a surprising disclosure from Samsung’s privacy policy. In the policy, Samsung warns that their “Smart TVs” are eavesdropping on private conversations! The policy reads:

“Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

In other words, you had better watch what you say in front of your TV; it is listening…always!

Of course, privacy groups and conspiracy theorists were quick to liken the feature to an Orwellian nightmare. But it isn’t quite that sinister. The truth is that the TV is “listening” for commands (it is, after all, voice-controlled). It is possible, therefore, that: 1) private conversations are recorded; 2) 3rd party software companies receive the conversation; 3) they analyze the words looking for voice commands; and 4) they send commands back to your TV set.

Still, I have never been happier with my “dumb” TV!

But it does make me wonder: “What kind of conversation would my TV capture?” What about yours? And would we watch what we say more carefully if our TVs were analyzing our conversations?  Would you be embarrassed if those words were made public?

Of course, few of us want to live in that public of a bubble.

But that doesn’t let us off the hook. Every single word we speak is known and recorded…and I don’t mean by Samsung and software companies. Jesus reminds us that we will “give an accounting…in the Day of Judgment” for every word. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

The standard, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,” ought to guide us, no matter who is listening (Ephesians 4:29). God is always present, always watching, and always listening.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

I don’t want my TV listening to my conversations, ever…for any reason. It just seems wrong. But maybe it would remind some of us to watch what we say a little more. And if a TV can do that, what does knowing that God hears every word and knows every thought cause us to do? Give it some thought…

Dying For A Selfie vs. Dying To Selfie

selfie in carThe Selfie. Harmless self-promotion? Or deadly danger? You decide! Up until recently, I would have said Selfies were mostly harmless, but maybe I was wrong.

Lately, the headlines are getting worse: “Couple Killed After Falling From Cliff While Taking Selfie,” “Train Selfie Kills Three Indian Students,” “15 Year Old Dies Taking Selfie In Front of Train,” etc. And the most recent? A Selfie was blamed for a plane crash!

That’s right. Based on information found on a GoPro camera at the crash site, the determination was made that the pilot of a small plane probably caused his death and a passenger’s, all because he was distracted…while taking Selfies.

Now, Selfie-danger isn’t new. In Greek myths, a young man named Narcissus was so in love with his own reflection in the water that he was unable to stop staring at himself. He ultimately drowned and was turned into a flower. Like Narcissus, some people are so enamored with themselves that they ignore the dangers around them. Like Narcissus, they would rather die because of a Selfie than die to Selfie.

What does dying to Selfie look like? Glad you asked. Take a look at Luke 9:23-24:

And [Jesus] was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”

Jesus is the perfect example. He wasn’t into self-promotion, and He always put the Kingdom first.

I’m not against using “Selfies” to capture memorable moments. This message isn’t really even about photos. But it is about your heart. And each day we take “Selfies” of our hearts and post them online…no, not Facebook…but in the Book of Life.

My question is, “Does your record promote self or show you following Him?”

If you follow Jesus, and die to selfish needs and desires, He promises the abundant life. But if you insist on Selfie first…well, I hope the danger was worth the shot.