Friday, August 31, 2012

OUR REFUGE IN THE STORM

By:  D. Egner

The best correspondents for Life magazine were sent all over the world to ask the question, “What is the meaning of life?” They talked to philosophers and children, taxi drivers and Nile River boatmen. More than 100 premier photographers provided images.

One dramatic photograph of a lighthouse off the Brittany Coast caught my eye. A huge Atlantic storm had sent gigantic waves around the mammoth brick structure, nearly swallowing it up. But on the sheltered side, literally surrounded by frothing, boiling waves, stood the lighthouse keeper. He was looking casually toward shore, his hands stuck nonchalantly in his pockets, as enormous waves crashed around him.

This powerful illustration reminded me of the many fierce storms of trial we face in life. And I was grateful for the promise that in God we are as safe as that lighthouse keeper. The words of Isaiah 25:4 are true for every believer: God is our refuge during the storms of physical affliction, emotional turmoil, and spiritual attack. With His protection we can endure any trial with the calm assurance that He who shields us cannot be moved. And that gives us peace no matter how turbulent our circumstances.

I trust in God, I know He cares for me
On mountain bleak or on the stormy sea;
Though billows roll, He keeps my soul;
My heavenly Father watches over me
. —Martin

The Lord may calm the storm around you, but more often He’ll calm the storm within you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

TRUE MEASURE OF GREATNESS

By:  R. Weeks

A young student once asked his old teacher, 'Teacher, what is the true measure of greatness?' The teacher looked far away into the mountains and gave the following reply:

  • Some measure greatness in height and weight, but great people are never so tall as when they stoop to talk to a child or bend their knees to help a hurting friend.

  • Some measure greatness in physical strength, but great people are never so strong as when they shoulder the burden of the downtrodden stranger.

  • Some measure greatness in terms of financial gain, but those who show generosity to their family and friends, they are the ones who are truly rich.

  • Some measure greatness in applause and accolades, but those who seek opportunity to serve in the quiet places of the world, theirs is the higher reward.

  • Some measure greatness in commitment to achieving in material ways, but those who spur others on to reach their goals is great indeed.

  • Great people have vision and do not keep the truth to themselves.

  • Great people have passion for life and are not ashamed to show it.

  • Great people expect the best from others and give the best of themselves.

  • Great people know how to work and how to play, how to laugh and how to cry, how to give and how to receive, how to love and how to be loved.

There are many people who are by the world called great, but those who bear honour in their hearts, who can, in the evening hours, lie upon their beds and peacefully close their eyes, knowing that they have done all that is within their power to live their lives fully, faithfully, and fruitfully, those are truly great people.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

STONES THAT KILL GIANTS

By:  V. Burke

One small stone from David slew the giant Goliath who was in full battle gear. We, too, have stones with which to slay the giants harassing and intimidating us in our lives. Stones that still kill giants — each stone a reminder from the Spirit of biblical principles we can apply in our lives.

1. For the Giant GUILT, you need the stone that says, YOU ARE CLEAN. Satan's job is to accuse and hurl charges against us. He makes us carry the heavy yoke of guilt to drag us down. When we get stained by sin, we need to humble ourselves and plead guilty before God. Jesus comes to our defense, with a show of hands as evidence that He bore the punishment we deserved. By Christ's blood, we have been washed clean.

Having been justified by Christ, the verdict reads: “NOT GUILTY,” just as it is written: “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). These words are from, “Jesus the faithful witness....to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood...” (Revelation 1:6). And this silences our accuser.

2. For the Giant COMPROMISE, you need the stone that says, SEEK HIM FIRST. There are voices other than the Holy Spirit that would seek to direct our lives. And to take up that giant of compromise we need the stone that says put Jesus first. So as not to fall into the same pattern as the unbelievers do, we need to remind ourselves that we are in the world but not of the world.

We are soldiers in Christ's service and therefore, our duty is to please our Commanding Officer (2 Timothy 2:4). When we put God above all else and put to death those desires that cause us to compromise, God will satisfy our legitimate needs, including wants that are aligned to His will. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

3. For the Giant CONFUSION, you need the stone that says, GOOD AND HARD. Many end up confused and disillusioned because they thought life would be problem-free once they become Christians. No one said it was going to be easy. Not even Christ promised that. Rather, we are told, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you...” (1 Peter 4:12).

We must accept the reality that, yes, there are joys, but there are also sorrows. There are good times, and there are also hard times. There are battles, but there is victory. Having Christ in our lives does not mean the absence of storms, but it means having Christ with us in the midst of the storms.

Both good and bad blend together in harmony toward what God wants to accomplish in and through us. What seems like adversity can become a blessing for the glory of God. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

4. For the Giant FAILURE, you need the stone that says, DON'T LOOK BACK. The past has a way of paralyzing us. We must learn from the past but not be controlled by the past. We must leave the past behind, and move on. Past failures, past successes, past grief, past glory – these are things that need to be removed from our memory bank. So goes an Irish saying, “Never forget what is worth remembering and never remember what is best forgotten.”

Turning our eyes on Jesus will get us past yesterday's failures and set our sights ahead toward a glorious future. As Paul said, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

5. For the Giant DISCOURAGEMENT, you need the stone that says... NEVER GIVE UP! The fierce battles and disheartening situations can take their toll on us. They can weaken and bring us to the point of weariness and despair.

But God will give us the strength to keep going, as Isaiah 40:30-31 encourages: “Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

We can cling tightly to God's hand and hold firmly to His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Following Jesus' example, we must endure the hardships in life, never giving in to the pressures and never giving up on our purpose. As long as we fix our eyes on Jesus, He will carry us through the race till the finish line.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1a-2).

Sharing Christ is what we must keep on doing even in the most trying times.
If God is for us, who can be against us? Like David, we may be outsized and be carrying nothing more than stones into the battlefield, but these are the very stones that will strike our enemy down. Use them we must!

Monday, August 27, 2012

GOD MAKES US M.A.D.

By:  R. Sarthou

It should not make us mad when people say we are fools for Christ. But when we hear derogatory remarks like, “Why is he like that? Isn't he a born-again Christian?” then it may be that we have a part in giving Christianity a bad name.

In advertising, the “before and after” technique is used to show the effects of a product as its selling point. But if a dirty shirt, after being washed by what is promoted as a “powerful” detergent, does not look any different, would consumers buy that detergent?

In the same way, when people look at our lives, do they see the difference that Jesus makes? Will they be attracted to the Savior we speak of? Is there a difference that people can clearly see?

We need to allow the Holy Spirit to examine our lives and ask, “Lord, is there something that is getting in the way of my being a witness for You?” It is the Holy Spirit that makes us M.A.D. -- that stands for “MAKE A DIFFERENCE”. We are in this world to make a difference for the glory of God, and it is the Holy Spirit who will empower us to do it. We can make a difference because:

1. We are APPOINTED to MAKE A DIFFERENCE. “This is to My Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples…You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:8, 16).

Jesus said we are appointed to make a difference. He called us to be the salt of the earth and as such we are to give people a taste of who Jesus is and what He is like through our lives, through our witness, and through our testimony. He said that we are the light of the world, and as such we are to radiate the character of Jesus in our lives (Matthew 5:13-16). Hence, the distinction that sets us apart as God's appointees is a transformed life that makes a positive influence on others.

Christianity is more than just avoiding sins or going through life quietly. It is about creating an impact by our wise ways and kind, gracious speech, through which Christ is properly represented, thus giving justice to our assignment as His ambassadors. “We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

When people see how we make decisions, how we behave wherever we are, at work or at home, do we make a difference? Are we able to make an impact even in seemingly small things?

2. We are EMPOWERED to MAKE A DIFFERENCE. The wonderful thing about the Christian life is that not only does the Lord say, “Go out and make a difference, make disciples and share the gospel”, He gives us the power to do so. He does not leave us on our own because He knows, like sheep, we are helpless without Him.
Our sinful flesh is in constant conflict with the Spirit in us. We lust for things that are not in harmony with what the Holy Spirit wants (Galatians 5:16-17). Hence, we need to live by the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit moment-by-moment, to keep us from gratifying the desires of our sinful nature. By constantly seeking God's direction and wisdom, by praying without ceasing on every occasion, and making confession and repentance as part of our daily conversations with God, we are placing ourselves under the power of the Holy Spirit who empowers us to make a difference in this world.

3. We are PRIVILEGED to MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Having the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - is one reason we are privileged as Christians.

When we experience times of pain and difficulty and yet by the power of the Holy Spirit, we manifest the fruit of the Spirit in response, then clearly we make a difference for the glory of God. Christian living does not mean the absence or the removal of problems from life. It means the experience of the fruit of the Spirit in spite of difficult circumstances that may come our way.

How we successfully cope sends a powerful message about Christianity, making others want what we have. The Gospel is, therefore, advanced, and Christ is made known.

“If being a Christian was a crime, would there be enough evidence in your life for a conviction?” We are in the world to MAKE A DIFFERENCE for the glory of God, and it is the Holy Spirit who will make it happen. How can we, in our own lives, counter the negative impressions about Christians and create a positive impact for Christ?

Paul exhorts, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).