First Things First
When you travel by air, before the flight takes off an airline employee presents a safety briefing, which explains what to do if there is a loss of cabin pressure. Passengers are told that oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above and they are to put one on themselves before helping others. Why? Because before you can help anyone else, you need to be physically alert yourself.
When Paul wrote to Timothy, he stressed the importance of maintaining his own spiritual health before helping and serving others. He reminded Timothy of his many responsibilities as a pastor: There were false teachings to contend with (1 Tim. 4:1–5) and wrong doctrines to correct (vv. 6–8). But to discharge his duties well, what was most important was to “watch [his] life and doctrine closely [and] persevere in them” (v. 16). He must take care of his own relationship with the Lord first before he could attend to others.
What Paul told Timothy applies to us too. Each day we encounter people who do not know the Lord. When we tank up on our spiritual oxygen first through time in God’s Word, prayer, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, we will get our relationship right with God. Then we will be spiritually alert to help others.
Mightier than All
Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina is a spectacular waterfall system of 275 falls along 2.7 km (1.67 miles) of the Iguazu River. Etched on a wall on the Brazilian side of the Falls are the words of Psalm 93:4, “Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the
The writer of Psalm 93, who penned its words during the time that kings reigned, knew that God is the ultimate King over all. “The
The roar of a waterfall is truly majestic, but it is quite a different matter to be in the water hurtling toward the falls. That may be the situation you are in today. Physical, financial, or relational problems loom ever larger and you feel like you are about to go over the falls. In such situations, the Christian has Someone to turn to. He is the Lord, “who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20) for He is greater than all of our troubles.
What Are You Known For?
A memorial stone stands in the grounds of a former Japanese prison camp in China where a man died in 1945. It reads, “Eric Liddell was born in Tianjin of Scottish parents in 1902. His career reached its peak with his gold medal victory in the 400 metres event at the 1924 Olympic Games. He returned to China to work in Tianjin as a teacher. . . . His whole life was spent encouraging young people to make their best contributions to the betterment of mankind.”
In the eyes of many, Eric’s greatest achievement was on the sports field. But he is also remembered for his contribution to the youth of Tianjin in China, the country where he was born and that he loved. He lived and served by faith.
What will we be remembered for? Our academic achievements, job position, or financial success may get us recognized by others. But it is the quiet work we do in the lives of people that will live long after we are gone.
Moses is remembered in the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11, as someone who chose to align himself with the people of God instead of enjoying the treasures of Egypt (v. 26). He led and served God’s people by faith.
Each year for several weeks around Christmas, Singapore’s tourist belt, Orchard Road, is transformed into a wonderland of lights and colors. This light-up is designed to attract tourists to spend their money at the many stores along the street during this “golden month of business.” Shoppers come to enjoy the festivities, listen to choirs sing familiar Christmas carols, and watch performers entertain.
The first Christmas “light-up” ever was not created by electrical cables, glitter, and neon lights but by “the glory of the Lord [that] shone around” (Luke 2:9). No tourists saw it, just a few simple shepherds out in their field. And it was followed by an unexpected rendition of “Glory to God in the Highest” by an angelic choir (v. 14).
The shepherds went to Bethlehem to see if what the angels said was true (v. 15). After they had confirmed it, they could not keep to themselves what they had heard and seen. “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (v. 17).
Many of us have heard the Christmas story often. This Christmas, why not share the good news with others that Christ—“the true light that gives light to everyone”—has come (John 1:9).
Bringing Light into Darkness
In 1989, Vaclav Havel was elevated from his position as a political prisoner to becoming the first elected president of Czechoslovakia. Years later at his funeral in Prague in 2011, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who herself was born in Prague, described him as one who had “brought the light to places of deep darkness.”
What Havel’s introduction of light did in the political arena of Czechoslovakia (and later the Czech Republic), our Lord Jesus did for the whole world. He brought light into existence when He created light out of darkness at the dawn of time (John 1:2-3 cf. Gen 1:2-3). Then, with His birth, He brought light to the spiritual arena. Jesus is the life and light that darkness cannot overcome (John 1:5).
John the Baptist came from the wilderness to bear witness to Jesus, the light of the world. We can do the same today. In fact that is what Jesus told us to do: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
In our world today—when good is often considered bad and bad is seen as good, when truth and error are switched around—people are looking for direction in life. May we be the ones who shine the light of Christ into our world.
The Wrong Horseshoe
Napoleon's defeat in Russia 200 years ago was attributed to the harsh Russian winter. One specific problem was that his horses were wearing summer horseshoes. When winter came, these horses died because they slipped on icy roads as they pulled the supply wagons. The failure of Napoleon’s supply chain reduced his 400,000-strong army to just 10,000. A small slip; a disastrous result!
James described how a slip of the tongue can do great damage. One wrong word can change the careers or destinies of people. So toxic is the tongue that James wrote, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). The problem has increased in our modern world as a careless email or a posting on a social media site can cause great harm. It quickly goes viral and can’t be retracted.
King David tied respect for the Lord with the way we use our words. He wrote, “I will teach you the fear of the
A comfortable plane ride was about to get bumpy. The voice of the captain interrupted in-flight beverage service and asked passengers to make sure their seatbelts were fastened. Soon the plane began to roll and pitch like a ship on a wind-whipped ocean. While the rest of the passengers were doing their best to deal with the turbulence, a little girl sat through it all reading her book. After the plane landed, she was asked why she had been able to be so calm. She responded, “My daddy is the pilot and he’s taking me home.”
Though Jesus’ disciples were seasoned fishermen, they were terrified the day a storm threatened to swamp their boat. Why was this happening? They were following Jesus’ instructions (Mark 4:35). He was with them but He was asleep at the stern of the craft. They learned that day that it is not true that when we do as our Lord says there will be no storms in our lives. Yet because He was with them, they also learned that storms don’t stop us from getting to where our Lord wants us to go (5:1).
Whether the storm we encounter today is the result of a tragic accident, a loss of employment, or some other trial, we can be confident that all is not lost. Our Pilot can handle the storm. He will get us home.
My Personal Space
An industrial design graduate from a Singapore university was challenged in a workshop to come up with a novel solution to a common problem using only ordinary objects. She created a vest to protect one’s personal space from being invaded while traveling in the crush of crowded public trains and buses. The vest was covered with long, flexible plastic spikes normally used to keep birds and cats away from plants.
Jesus knew what it was like to lose His personal space in the commotion of crowds desperate to see and touch Him. A woman who had suffered from constant bleeding for 12 years and could find no cure touched the fringe of His robe. Immediately, her bleeding stopped (Luke 8:43-44).
Jesus’ question, “Who touched me?” (v. 45) isn’t as strange as it sounds. He felt power come out of Him (v. 46). That touch was different from those who merely happened to accidentally touch Him.
While we must admit that we do sometimes wish to keep our personal space and privacy, the only way we help a world of hurting people is to let them get close enough to be touched by the encouragement, comfort, and grace of Christ in us.
Saying goodbye is hard—to family and friends, to a favorite and familiar place, to an occupation or livelihood.
In Luke 9:57-62 our Lord describes the cost of being His disciple. A would-be follower says to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus responds, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (vv. 61-62). Is He asking His followers to say goodbye to everything and every relationship considered precious?
In the Chinese language there is no direct equivalent of the English word goodbye. The two Chinese characters used to translate this word really mean “see you again.” Becoming a disciple of Christ may sometimes mean others will reject us, but it does not mean we say goodbye to people in the sense that we are to forget all our past relationships. Saying goodbye means that God wants us to follow Him on His terms—wholeheartedly. Then we will see people again from the right perspective.
God wants the best for us, but we must allow Him to take priority over everything else.