Are You in a Storm? (1)

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‘A great storm arose…’ Matthew 8:24 NCV

Matthew records, ‘Jesus got into a boat, and His [disciples] went with Him. A great storm arose…’ (Matthew 8:23–24 NCV) In the Greek language the words ‘a great storm’ are one word—seismos. A seismologist studies earthquakes and a seismograph measures them. So the storm the disciples were in must have shaken them to the core. There’s an important lesson here. Getting on board with Jesus doesn’t mean you will never go through a storm. Jesus said, ‘…In the world you will have tribulation…’ (John 16:33 NKJV) In spite of God’s promise to protect and prosper us, you’ll still have to deal with things like disease, lack, and fear. The difference is: the unbeliever faces the storm without Christ, but as a believer you go through the storm confident that all will be well because Jesus is on board. Does that mean you will never experience panic? If only it were so! But it isn’t. Looking at the swelling waves and the sleeping Saviour, the disciples asked, ‘…do You not care that we are perishing?’ (Mark 4:38 NKJV) This is why fear is so deadly. It corrodes your confidence in God’s goodness. It unleashes a swarm of doubts. It deadens your recall. By this time the disciples had witnessed Jesus ‘…healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.’ (Matthew 4:23 NKJV) Fear creates a form of spiritual amnesia. It dulls your miracle memory. It makes you forget what Jesus has done and how good God is. That’s why you must starve your doubts and feed your faith on God’s Word, for faith is what will take you through the storm.

Enjoy Your Old Age

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‘They shall still bear fruit in old age…’ Psalm 92:14 NKJV

Age is just a date on a calendar; attitude is what counts. You can be old at 29 and young at 92. Larry King once interviewed Ty Cobb, one of the all–time great baseball players. He asked Cobb, then 70 years old, ‘What do you think you’d hit if you were playing these days?’ Cobb, a lifetime .366 hitter (still the record) replied, ‘About .290, maybe .300.’ King asked, ‘Is that because of travel, the night games, the artificial turf and all the new pitches like the slider?’ Cobb responded, ‘No. It’s because I’m 70!’ Here are three great benefits to having lived longer: (1) You should be more tolerant. Having fallen into many of life’s potholes yourself, you should be quicker to extend a helping hand when others fall into them. Having survived defeats and lived to fight another day, you’re qualified to offer strength and hope to those who struggle. (2) You should be more humble. A man who’d just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary said, ‘A man is always as young as he feels, but seldom as important.’ Realising that the world doesn’t stop at your command or cater to your whims, you become more realistic. And in the process you find peace. (3) You should value time more. Margaret Deland said, ‘As soon as you feel too old to do a thing, do it.’ Start by asking yourself, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’ Here’s a promise from Scripture you can stand on: ‘They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.’ (Psalm 92:14 NKJV) Now get up off the couch and get going.

The God of All Comfort (2)

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‘As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you…’ Isaiah 66:13 NKJV

When you’re troubled, remember: (1) God’s comfort is real. Do you recall being sad or afraid as a child? And do you remember feeling the comfort of your mother’s presence? God’s comfort is even more real than your mother’s was then. ‘As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.’ God’s more concerned about you now than your mother was in your childhood. ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast…? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands…’ (Isaiah 49:15–16 NIV) You can always count on God when you need comfort! (2) The Comforter lives in you. When we’re suffering, God seems distant and inaccessible. But He’s not. Jesus resolved that concern for His anxious disciples—then and now. ‘…I will pray [to] the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.’ (John 14:16 KJV) The Holy Spirit, who forever abides in you, is closer to you than the air you breathe. He’s equipped, willing, and able to comfort you. He will sometimes do it by reminding you of the verse from a hymn, a line from a poem, a sermon you heard, etc. When He does, believe it. Say to yourself repeatedly: ‘The God of all comfort lives permanently in me!’ (3) Scripture brings comfort. The apostle Paul reminds us ‘…that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.’ (Romans 15:4 KJV) When you’re down, you may not feel like reading the Bible. Do it anyway. It’ll bring you the comfort you long for.

The God of All Comfort (1)

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‘He comforts us every time we have trouble…’ 2 Corinthians 1:4 NCV

Of all the names given to God in Scripture, none is more consoling than ‘…the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…’ (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NIV) Notice the words ‘all comfort’. That means there are no exceptions and no limitations to God’s comfort, no matter how dreadful your circumstances. Comfort is God’s name and nature; it’s who He is and what He naturally wants to do! You can’t get close to Him and not be comforted. Lack of comfort results from disconnecting from God—usually the result of a lack of faith. Comfort comes by faith. You can know intellectually that He’s the ‘God of all comfort’, but not feel comforted because of your doubts. Jesus instructed the blind man who came for healing, ‘…According to your faith will it be done to you.’ (Matthew 9:29 NIV) ‘Knowing’ needs the addition of ‘believing’ before you’ll experience comfort. Feeling follows faith, not vice versa! Suppose you’re taking your first ocean cruise and have some concern about safety. The captain assures you he’s a qualified veteran and the ship’s the latest version available, equipped with modern communications and safety equipment. If, like too many Christians, you refuse to believe him until you first feel the comfort, you’ll probably disembark or spend the entire voyage unnecessarily sick with worry. But if you make up your mind to believe the captain’s word, you’ll soon feel the lessening of anxiety and the presence of comfort! Today, decide to trust the ‘Captain of our salvation’ who promises to ‘comfort us in all our troubles’, and you’ll experience the comfort He provides.

You Can Do It!

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‘…we can certainly do it.’ Numbers 13:30 NIV

After seeing the giants in the Promised Land, ten of Israel’s twelve spies came back and said, ‘It can’t be done.’ But the other two, Joshua and Caleb, said, ‘It can.’ But because of Israel’s unbelief, Caleb had been forced to spend forty more years wandering through the wilderness. And by the time the Israelites crossed the Jordan River he was almost eighty years old. Then another seven years passed before the various tribes of Israel were assigned land to occupy. Here’s how Caleb described it all, years later: ‘I was forty years old when Moses…sent me…to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ (Joshua 14:7–8 NIV) If you’ve a negative attitude when you’re 40, there’s a good chance you’ll have one when you’re 85. Actually, there’s a good chance you won’t even make it to 85! Psychologist Martin Seligman studied several hundred people in a religious community; he divided them into quartiles, ranging from the most to the least optimistic. 90% of the optimists were alive at 85, while just 34% of the naysayers made it to the same age. Twelve spies went out, but only Joshua and Caleb had the faith to say, ‘We can do it.’ And over 45 years later Caleb was as feisty as ever! Want to guess what happened to the other ten spies? They died. None of them made it to Caleb’s age. It’s as simple as this: faith and optimism can add years to your life.

Practise Being Unselfish (5)

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‘…I am not seeking my own good but the good of many…’ 1 Corinthians 10:33 NIV

Here are three questions people often ask themselves when you’re talking to them: (1) Do you really care about me? Dr. Calvin Miller put it like this: ‘When people listen to others speak, sometimes they’re silently thinking, “I am loneliness waiting for a friend. I am weeping in want of laughter. I am a sigh in search of consolation. I am a wound in search of healing. If you want to unlock my attention, you have but to convince me you want to be my friend.”’ (2) Can you really help me? Successful people bear in mind that others are continually asking themselves that question. And one way you can answer it is by focusing on the benefits you have to offer. Let’s face it, people are bombarded every day with the information on the features of this product and that gadget. So eventually they tune out. (3) Can I really trust you? William Arthur Ward wrote, ‘Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate.’ Your charisma and ability may get you to the top, but only your character and commitment will keep you there. Trust is built on telling the truth and following through on your commitments. People take action for their own reasons, not yours. And what we learn about them always results in a greater reward than what we tell them about ourselves. Whether they’re buying a car, choosing a mate, or listening to a sermon, deep down they want to know, ‘Can I trust this person?’ Well…can they?

Practise Being Unselfish (4)

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‘…no one cares for my soul.’ Psalm 142:4 NKJV

People you seek to influence in life always ask themselves: Do you care about me? Think about the best experiences you’ve had with people in your own life. What do they all have in common? They genuinely cared about you, right? And what’s wonderful is, you can broaden your ability to care about others outside your social circle. Regardless of your profession, when you help people, you make your life and theirs better. Let’s listen to some observations by successful people from various backgrounds. Business: ‘You can’t make the other fellow feel important in your presence if you secretly feel…he’s a nobody.’ (Les Giblin, former national salesman of the year and popular speaker) Politics: ‘If you would win a man to your cause, you must first convince him…you are his sincere friend.’ (President Abraham Lincoln) Entertainment: ‘Some singers want the audience to love them. I love the audience.’ (Luciano Pavarotti, legendary Italian tenor) Ministry: ‘The “show business,”…so incorporated into…Christian work today, has caused us…to think that we have to do exceptional things for God; we have not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things. ’ (Oswald Chambers, evangelist) The Psalmist wrote, ‘No one cares for my soul.’ And deep down some of the people you deal with every day feel that way, too. Whether you’re trying to share your faith, do business with them, make friends, or help them in a particular area, you must prove to them that you truly care. It takes time, effort, and even sacrifice, but if you’re serious about connecting with others, you’ll do it. The chances are somebody did it for you, and it helped determine the person you are today. So do it for others!

Practise Being Unselfish (3)

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‘…take an interest in others, too.’ Philippians 2:4 NLT

John Craig says, ‘No matter how much work a man can do, no matter how engaging his personality may be, he will not advance far if he cannot work through others.’ That requires you to see value in other people. This truth is understood worldwide by successful people from every walk of life. At an international meeting of company executives, an American business person asked an executive from Japan what he regarded as the most important language for world trade. The American thought the answer would be English. But the Japanese executive, who had a more holistic understanding of business, replied, ‘My customers’ language.’ Having a good product or service isn’t enough. Becoming an expert isn’t enough. Knowing your product but not your customers just means you’ll have something to sell and no one to buy. Furthermore, the value you place on people must be genuine. Leadership coach Bridget Haymond writes, ‘You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but people know in their gut if you really care about them.’ If you want to connect with others you have to get over yourself, change your focus from inward to outward, away from yourself and onto them. And the great thing is, you can do it. Anyone can. All it takes is the will to change, the determination to follow through and a handful of skills anybody can learn. The motivation to learn can be found in these words from the apostle, Paul: ‘Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.’ (Philippians 2:4 NLT) When you look for opportunities to invest in others, you’ll find them.

Practise Being Unselfish (2)

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‘Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.’ 1 Corinthians 10:24 NKJV

Great leaders often have great egos, and therein lies great danger. In The Empowered Communicator, Calvin Miller uses the form of a letter to describe this problem and the negative impact it has: ‘Dear speaker, your ego has become a wall between yourself and me. You’re not really concerned about me, are you? You’re mostly concerned about whether or not this speech is really working…about whether or not you’re doing a good job. You’re really afraid that I will not applaud, aren’t you? You’re afraid that I won’t laugh at your jokes or cry over your emotional anecdotes. You’re so caught up in the issue of how I’m going to receive your speech, you haven’t thought much about me at all. I might have loved you, but you’re so caught up in self–love that mine is really unnecessary. If I don’t give you my attention it’s because I feel so unnecessary here. When I see you at the microphone, I see Narcissus at his mirror…Is your tie straight? Is your hair straight? Is your deportment impeccable? Is your phraseology perfect? You seem in control of everything, but your audience. You see everything so well, but us. But this blindness to us, I’m afraid, has made us deaf to you. We must go now. Sorry. Call us sometime later. We’ll come back to you when you’re real enough to see us…after your dreams have been shattered…after your heart has been broken…after your arrogance has been wrecked with despair. Then there will be room for all of us in your world. Then you won’t care if we applaud your brilliance. You’ll be one of us.’

Practise Being Unselfish (1)

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‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.’ Philippians 2:5 NLT

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.’ (Philippians 2:4 NLT) Spiritual maturity is the ability to see and act in the best interests of others. Immature people have difficulty seeing things from someone else’s point of view. They rarely concern themselves with what’s best for the other person. In many ways they’re like children. In Property Law as Viewed by a Toddler, Michael V. Hernandez describes the world from a typical child’s viewpoint: (1) If I like it, it’s mine. (2) If it’s in my hand, it’s mine. (3) If I can take it from you, it’s mine. (4) If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine. (5) If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way. (6) If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. (7) If it looks like mine, it’s mine. (8) If I saw it first, it’s mine. (9) If I can see it, it’s mine. (10) If I think it’s mine, it’s mine.

Unfortunately, maturity doesn’t always come with age; sometimes age comes alone. You must fight your inherent selfish attitude, and that can be a lifelong battle. But it’s an important one, because if you don’t win you’ll end up focused on your own agenda and overlook other people. Unless somebody’s important to your cause or your interests, they won’t get your time or attention. The Bible says, ‘You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had,’ and everything He did, He did for others. It comes down to this: if you’re serious about following in His footsteps, practise being unselfish.