Friday, August 23, 2013

Spying, Scandal and Secrets

The scandal over National Security Agency snooping continues to evolve. A recent report showed that the NSA had violated privacy rules and overstepped its authority thousands of times while gathering foreign intelligence. It is attributed to violations of standard operating procedure and significant compliance problems. The issues may affect international relations, especially with Germany. And even more tracking has been revealed. Another report indicates that the NSA can track 75% of Internet traffic including phone calls made on the Internet.

The scandal has many people a bit nervous about government intrusion, especially when the NSA has been called the most powerful institution in the world. Many are wondering just what personal information might be seen and heard by strangers. But there’s another, more powerful, entity who sees all our secrets, and that should make some people really squirm.

The Bible says, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) “He knows the secrets of the heart,” according to Psalm 44:21. “O God, You know my foolishness,” wrote the Psalmist, “And my sins are not hidden from You.” (Psalm 69:5)

One can perhaps elude NSA surveillance by never using cell phones or the Internet, but there’s no place to escape an omniscient God. As the saying goes, You can run, but you can’t hide! “‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?’ says the Lord; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’” (Jeremiah 23:24)

The NSA may never use much of the information it gathers, but the actions and thoughts seen by God will have repercussions. “
For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 9:14)  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:13

The Good News is that there is a way to avoid the consequences. “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)

But this Man (Jesus Christ), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,’ says the Lord: ‘I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’” (Hebrews 10:12, 14-17) God sees all our sins, but once we put our trust in Christ, the evidence is destroyed and He forgets they ever existed!

There’s an upside to our deepest secrets being revealed: God doesn’t’ just see the bad, He sees the good things, too.

He saw us before we were even born, and knows us more intimately than anyone else. “
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” (Psalm 139:5)

God knows our secret desires and the pain we can’t share with anyone else. He hears our heart’s cry. “Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, and my strength fails me … My loved ones and my friends stand aloof … For in You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.” (Psalm 38:9-11, 15)

God rewards what may not have public recognition and promises to answer our prayers. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6: 3, 4 & 6)

Government spying on unsuspecting citizens might not always seem like a good idea, but God’s knowledge of all our secrets is always to our benefit. It points us to the need for salvation through Christ and the promise of His love, care and blessings.

Gayle Virkler

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rescue In The Wilderness

The ordeal for a teenage girl who was kidnapped and dragged far into the wilderness by her own father’s best friend is over. Hannah Anderson is alive and safe. Sadly, her mom and brother are not. Both died in a house fire and likely at the hands of the villain who took the teen and who later died in a shootout with the FBI. The rescue occurred after her captor, James Lee DiMaggio, was spotted by two couples on a camping trip in a wooded area. They sensed something was not right and reported the location to authorities after returning home and learning about the crime still in progress. When asked about whether it would have been better for DiMaggio to have received life in prison for his act or be killed as he was by federal agents, Anderson reportedly stated, “He got exactly what he deserved.”

Human sin takes many forms and some are far more gruesome than are others. This time, the victim was fortunate and may well live a long and full life - God willing. Others in similar situations have not done so well and  left memories and scares on loved ones that may never fully heal. But when it comes to perpetrators of such vile acts as this one, most hope that these do get exactly what they deserve. And as easily understood as that outlook may be, the Bible indicates that same grim outcome to be true for everyone – even most who would never conceive of a crime of this magnitude.

Scripture maintains that all have sinned and all have of fallen short of attaining God’s holy standard! The Old Testament confirms this harsh  reality in Psalm 53:3. The passage was written by a great man of God and one all too familiar with sin – serious sin! King David says there of the entire race, “Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.”  Then again in Romans 5, Paul reminds the reader how the amazing love of God  has been mightily shown to every desperately flawed, and fully undeserving, man or woman.  In verse 8 he records, “In that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Because of those 11 short words, not all will get “exactly what they deserve.” Instead, the opposite will be the case for some. The reason is provided in that fifth chapter. Right on the heels of the above verse, verse 9 reads, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” This clearly confirms the ultimate promise of not getting what we all deserve. It declares that some will not face eternal judgement for their willing and dreadful disobedience against their great Creator. But why is this true for some but tragically not others?

Hopefully Hannah Anderson has, or will realize in the healing days to come, that even as the innocent victim of this terrible offense, she and all of us with her can escape getting exactly what we, too, deserve. That can be true only by recognizing our deadly faults and then trusting in the One who got exactly what He did not deserve in order to save us! The Son of God sacrificed Himself willingly to pay the price of sin – all sin and every level of sin! Despite our initial lost spiritual state, He has given each of us the glorious opportunity to avoid the fully deserved penalty of eternal suffering and separation from Himself forever. It is through saving faith in Christ that we can all be spiritually rescued from a wilderness of sin and given in its place a new heart, a new life and a new eternal destiny!

Bill Breckenridge