Across their products, Google has over 60 privacy policies – which means that those of us using the Google products need to know what information’s going where depending on which product we’re using. Gmail might have one policy, while Picasa has another, and my Android phone has a third – add in Google docs, Adsense, Blogspot and anything else you use, and suddenly things start getting very confusing.
- Reminding you of a meeting based on your location.
- Figuring out what you mean when you search a term like ‘Apple’; ‘Jaguar’ or ‘Pink.’
- Tailoring ads that you see to topics that you’re interested in.
Now the thing is that Google’s been doing this for years. The collection of information on the internet is nothing new, and it was happening well before Google became the be all and end all of searches. What Google’s doing, though, is streamlining things so that the information collected can be used as effectively as possible.
I, personally, like the analogy on Google’s site explaining it all. I go to my local café several times a week for my morning coffee, and now, the staff there greet me by name, ask if I’m having the chai or the latte today, and get to making it. I don’t have to order, I get a nice personalised service, and I’m in and out quickly.
No, Google isn’t a barista, and isn’t having a conversation with me while I look up the Wikipedia article of my current fascination, however, what they are doing is providing me with information that is relevant to me.
Fact: Nothing is free. Google provides me (and you) with a free service, but they have to make money. No money means no servers, no power, and no Google, does it not? Therefore, they have to sell advertising. It’s just going to happen. Why shouldn’t that advertising, then, be something that’s tailored to me? Personally, I’d rather see an ad for the latest cricket equipment than something for the latest in beauty therapy. Why is this a bad thing?
Fact: I use my phone to keep track of appointments, to check Facebook, to look up directions to where I’m going. I’d love for my diary to sync with my email to sync with my directions! Think of this: Someone emails me asking for a meeting next Thursday at Big Joe’s Sandwich Bar over lunch. I reply and say yes, and then save it to my Google calendar all on my desktop. At 11AM on Thursday, my phone beeps to remind me that I’m meant to be having lunch with Bill, and includes the Google Maps directions from where I am to Big Joes, including an estimate that it will take half hour to walk there. Great, I can leave a couple of minutes before noon and get there on time! Why is this a bad thing?
Fact: I choose to utilise these services. I like Gmail for its ease of use, storage and functionality; I use Google+ as a social networking tool (not as much as Facebook, but I’m on there occasionally); I use Google to look up information; I use Youtube to look up videos. I think it’s great that any relevant information shifts across these sites smoothly. In particular, the ‘Search Plus Your World’ feature in Google Search. After all, let’s look at it this way – if I’m looking for a new hairdresser, who am I going to turn to? There’s a good chance I’m going to ask my friends who their recommendations are. Same for a mechanic – I’ll ask my mates who they recommend. Now when I search online, Google is going to include in the results pages that my friends recommended or liked. Why is this a bad thing?
Seriously, people, get over it. If you’re online, your information’s going to be collected. Live by the adage that you can’t take back what you put onto the internet. This isn’t a Google thing, it’s an internet thing, so get used to it, or stop using it. Second, if you want Google to be free for you, then someone needs to pay them so that they can do that. Again, if you don’t like it, don’t use it.
And that’s the kicker. You can choose not to use Google’s services. They can’t do any of this unless you actually have an account and are signed into it.
And from me? Thanks, Google, for a smoother service that’s providing me with a better experience.
So, growing up in the Church, the book of Judges could have really just been the book of Gideon and Samson – they’re the two main occupiers of the children’s stories that I remember from Sunday School and the like.
Here’s the beginning of Gideon’s story, and it opens in a pretty familiar fashion.
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. ~ Judges 6:1
They were oppressed, troubled, abused – and after a few years of this, once again, they cried out to God. Sounds almost identical to how the story of Deborah got started.
So this time it’s a young guy called Gideon, he’s just going about his daily duties when an angel shows up.
When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” ~ Judges 6:12
And Gideon’s first response is, ‘but’.
Gideon reminds me a bit of Moses, actually. When Moses was first called by God to go back to Egypt he had every argument under the sun ready – not bad, really, for a guy who claimed he wouldn’t be able to speak to Pharaoh. Now Gideon’s being called, and his immediate reaction is basically, “Wait, you’ve got the wrong guy.”
The interaction here is interesting, actually. Gideon shakes his head, saying that if God’s with them, then why are they suffering? He brought them out of Egypt, but he’s abandoned them.
The angel’s response is what I like.
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go out in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” ~ Judges 6:14
When it comes to Gideon asking the why question, when it comes to him saying they’ve been abandoned, the angel doesn’t say anything. Just get on with it – you’re being sent, aren’t you? Let’s go.
Gideon’s not convinced – he asks for a sign, and gets one. After that he cuts down the Baal altar and uses the Asherah pole for firewood, but then when he’s called to go after the Midianites, he’s wanting two more signs before he’ll go.
Now here’s the big thing I noted in this chapter – it’s not actually about the signs, it’s about the few verses in the middle. Gideon sneaks in at night, not wanting to get caught, and destroys the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole alongside it, and sends up a sacrifice to God.
We go off track, and we fall into these troughs in our lives. I know I do, a lot, so I’m glad God’s as patient with me as he was with the Israelites – coming to the rescue and looking after them despite their constant fluctuations between loving him and thinking he must hate them. This little part, though, between Gideon’s signs speaks something very important.
It starts at home. Gideon’s first task was to destroy the Baal altar and the Asherah pole. Why? Because they needed to make sure that they had cleaned up things internally before they could go out and deal with the Midianites.
How often, when things are going wrong in our lives, do we blame the outside influences? How often do we say that it’s all someone else’s fault?
Maybe it is, but the fact is that the place where we can make the most peace, the place where we can do the most restoration is right in our own hearts.
Please note: I’m not necessarily saying that if things aren’t going well for you in your life right now, then it’s because of something you’ve done wrong. However what I am saying is look closer to home. Instead of blaming someone else for things not going right, what can you change in yourself to make the situation better?
Imagine if they wrote songs this long all the time today – the music industry would die because our short-attention-span society can’t focus on anything that lasts more than about four minutes.
But social commentary is not the aim here.
So last chapter I didn’t actually get to the story, so here it is. With the Israelites being oppressed and beaten down by Sisera, the prophetess Deborah was leading Israel and she sends this bloke, Barak, son of Abinoam to send Sisera and his armies packing. Barak’s not convinced, and he tells Deborah that he’s not going unless she comes too.
And so begins a feminist’s favourite bible story!
Deborah says sure, she’ll go with him, but because he’s asking her to come with, he won’t get to be the hero. The villain of the piece, Sisera, will instead be handed over to a woman – and that woman’s name is Jael. Sisera’s on the run from the Israelites and decides to pull in for a pit stop at Jael’s tent. With refreshments provided, he decides to have a nap, and while he’s napping, Jael takes a tent peg and hammer and pins his head to the ground.
Anyway, in chapter 5, Deborah sings about it. There’s actually not a real lot to say here, because a lot of the song is retelling the story that we just went through, but in lyrical format. What I will say, though, is that song is powerful.
I love the first couple of verses, especially.
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves -
praise the LORD!” ~ Judges 5:2
My relationship with God is one where he is constantly reminding me of the heritage he adopted me into, not to boost my own ego (believe me, it doesn’t really help there), but to remind me of just how powerful He is. He’s a king, not just any king but the king over Heaven, Earth and everything created, and the thing is that he brought me into his family as his son and heir to that kingdom.
Just like he did for you.
We are all princes and princesses, and what we can take from this chapter is a mission to lead.
God hasn’t called us as his children, as his heirs and as his soldiers to hide behind others. He hasn’t called us to hide behind the walls of the kingdom where it’s safe and protected. He calls us to lead. Read that verse again:
“When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves -
praise the LORD!”
When we take the lead, he is to be praised. He is to be glorified. When we lead, God’s light is shone into the darkness.
God’s calling you to be a leader – that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re meant to run a church or build a ministry, but it does mean that you are called to be the example to those people around you. God hasn’t called you to himself to hide in the shadows. He hasn’t called you to sit quietly and acquiesce when others around you are going down the wrong path. He’s called you to lead. To stand up and show them that there’s a better way, God’s way.
In which situation in your life can you lead and be an example for your King and Father?
Again, it’s been a while – one of my goals going in to 2012 involves improving my discipline, and one of the areas of that is getting back into my writing more heavily.
Reading Judges chapter 4, I didn’t even get into the bulk of the story before God started speaking to me. I just want to draw in on the first three verses.
After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried out to the LORD for help. ~ Judges 4:1-3
I remember noting something several times going through the Pentateuch books – God’s patience. It frustrated me during that period just how many times I’d read that the Israelites would again start grumbling, and again start saying that they wanted to go back to Egypt, and again God would have to do something to show that he still loved them and that they were still on the right track. Now, even after they’ve reached the promised land, the cycle’s not much different. Here we have Israel again doing evil in the eyes of God.
So what happens? They are sold into the hands of Jabin, and under the oppression of Sisera for twenty years until they cry out to God for help.
Now in typical sermon fashion, there’s three things I want to draw out of this passage.
1. The Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD.
You know what amazes me? How often I end up kicking myself, because once again I’ve screwed up. Sometimes it’s a daily event, other times I’m either too blind or too proud to recognize that I’ve done something wrong in the between times. The thing is, though, it happens to us over and over and over again. We can’t be perfect, and we should know that.
It’s a lesson I still can’t get to sink into my heart, that I can’t earn God’s love.
I was listening to one of my best friends share something just recently, where they talked about trying to earn their own biological father’s love, and how God spoke to them and said they didn’t need to try and earn his love, that he already gave it to them unconditionally.
And he does it to you too. God’s not sitting up in heaven keeping a tally of whether we deserve his love or not, because nothing we can do is ever going to earn that love from him – we’re always going to make mistakes, we’re always going to do things wrong. All we can do is then accept God’s love, his grace and forgiveness, and put into practice the lessons that he’s teaching us when we do go wrong.
Which brings me to my second point:
2. God sold them into the hands of Jabin and they were oppressed for 20 years.
You know what I’ve learned throughout my life? That sometimes when I make a mistake, or take a wrong turn, or do something wrong – I have to backpedal.
Here’s what, for some people, might be a reality check. God’s grace is immediate – when we’re on the wrong path and we turn back to him, he’s right there with open arms, telling us to come to him.
However that doesn’t mean that we’re immediately back on the right path. Usually it takes time to remedy the mistakes we’ve made, or it takes time to get back onto the right path, because we have to backtrack (or sometimes just bush-bash) our way from where we’ve found ourselves, back to where we actually should be.
3. They cried out to God.
This, in a way, kind of relates back to the last point as well.
It took them twenty years to cry out to God.
How often, when things are going wrong for us, do we try and just deal with it? I know that I’m really good at this. In my past, I relied over and over on my own strength to battle through some of the hardest times of my life, and for years, I believed that through my own abilities, I was able to survive. I didn’t flourish, but I survived. The thing is, that if I’d cried out to God – and even today, if I’d cry out to God in the first instance, he’s going to come running straight away. Like I said, he’s standing there, arms open, waiting for me to come to him.
We don’t have to wait twenty years to call on God! We don’t have to wait until we’ve exhausted all the other options that we think are around us. Call on him today, not in a week’s time!
As I go in to 2012, this is the first challenge that God’s been putting on my life. To let go of my reliance on myself and trust in him. To not call on him after I’ve exhausted all my other options, but to go to him first and let him take care of things.
This is a really difficult challenge, and on a personal note, I’d appreciate all of your prayers as 2012 goes ahead. I’ve been straight with God, and I’ll be straight with you – I’m terrified to let go of that self-reliance.
As you step into 2012, how are you with self-reliance? Are you ready to let go of dealing with things yourself? Or will you be taking the page from the Israelites, and waiting twenty years before crying out?