Perfect Peace

Henry Drummond tells the story of two artists who were commissioned to paint a picture depicting perfect peace.

The first artist painted a landscape with a mountain lake: calm, quiet, serene.

The second artist painted a violent waterfall crashing down on jagged rocks, but next to it was a slender birch tree, with a single fragile branch stretched out over the water.

In the fork of the branch was a bird’s nest. Lying in the nest, untroubled, even glistening from the spray of waterfall, was a small bird fast asleep.

This is peace. It’s not the absence of crashing waves, it’s the security of the nest in the midst of the turbulence.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV)

Our challenge today is to look not at the waves, but to find our place of peace in God’s presence.

Today’s the Day

Mel FisherMel Fisher spent his life diving for buried treasure.

In the late 1960’s he began a quest for the priceless treasure cargo of the fabled lost Spanish galleon Atocha. Every day, for more than 16 years, Mel, his wife, his children, and his band of “Treasure Salvors” explored the waters off the coast of Florida, in search of riches.

He motivated his team and kept the dream alive by beginning each day’s hunt with the cry: “Today’s the day!”

After more than 16 years of searching, that day arrived. On July 20, 1985 Mel Fisher’s team discovered the Atocha, containing a treasure worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The days of sporadic paychecks and living hand-to-mouth were over for Mel and his team.

OUR SEARCH FOR TREASURE

Solomon tells us that if we’ll search for wisdom the same way Mel searched for riches, we’ll find an even greater reward: the knowledge of God.

The Bible makes the bold promise that within its pages you can discover foundational truths upon which you can build your marriage, your career, your family, your finances, your friendships, your relationship to God, and every aspect of your life.

And the best part is: these truths aren’t elusive. It doesn’t take 16 years to find treasure. When you search the Bible for God’s direction for your life, you can make a new discovery every day.

On one day you’ll be reminded of someone you need to forgive; on another day you’ll get insight in how to deal with a problem at work; on another day you’ll become aware of a sin you need to confess, and on and on.

When you open the pages of your Bible, you can truly say, “Today’s the Day!”

We haven’t been put on earth to stumble in the dark. God’s light is available. He speaks to us each day, giving us the direction we need, if we will only search for it.

In speaking of wisdom for daily living, Solomon said…

If you look for it as silver, and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:4-5)

Resilience - Psalm 121

The Ability to Bounce Back

I received a brochure a while back from a company specializing in resilient furniture: simple, sturdy, water resistant tables and chairs — not fancy in any way, but built to last.

They’re not cheap either; a plain white folding chair is about $90.

They’re not as pretty as the office chairs I buy at the discount store for much less money — but those chairs, as I am reminded every time I have to replace one, don’t have a long life-span.

There’s something to be said for basic, unadorned resiliency: the ability to get through, get over, and thrive after trauma, trials and tribulations.

In this sense, sturdy beats stylish every time.

USA Weekend did a cover story a few years ago on the subject of resiliency, asking the question, “Why do some people bounce and others break?”

The article noted how some who experience trauma withdraw into a shell, while others facing the same crisis not only bounce back, but bounce back stronger than ever before. It talked about how resiliency is being studied in universities and taught in corporate seminars.

Resiliency, the article said, could become the most important skill of the 21st century.

Why do some people break down while others bounce back?

Unlike furniture, I don’t think it has to do with our design. A chair can only be as strong as it was made to be. It can’t decide to grow stronger; neither can it decide to give up.

We, on the other hand, have access to support beyond ourselves. Our “design” — our emotional make-up resulting from parental and societal influences — can be overcome. A person who is, by nature, weak and easily discouraged doesn’t have to stay that way.

There’s a verse in Philippians that is so often quoted its meaning is sometimes overlooked. Paul is talking about being able to face hard times as well as good times, and he states confidently, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Resilience often comes down to a decision: from whose strength will I draw — my own, or God’s? The promise of Scripture is that if you will look to God for strength, he will give it to you.

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Choose Joy

Choosing Joy

A Stanford University study in 1994 revealed that happy people and unhappy people tend to have similar life experiences. It’s not that happy people experience one success after another, and unhappy people experience one failure after another. Their lives are pretty much the same in that respect.

The difference, the study concluded, is that the average unhappy person spends more than twice as much time thinking about unpleasant events in their lives, while happy people tend to think about things that will brighten their personal outlook.

In the book of Philippians, Paul never uses the word happiness, but he does talk about joy, and contentment, and the peace of God which passes all understanding — all of which are yours to experience.

How do you get there?

One key step centers around your thought life.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

For most of us, our life experiences aren’t all that different from the experiences of everyone else. The difference-making difference can be found in how we choose to think about each situation … and, ultimately, how we choose to respond.

What will be the focus of your thoughts today?

Living Deep

Directed by the Deep

In the frigid waters surrounding the island of Greenland there are countless icebergs, some tiny, some gigantic. If you watched them closely you would see that the smaller chunks sometimes move in one direction, while the larger ones move in another direction.

Why is that?

Small icebergs are driven by surface winds; the large are directed by deep ocean currents.

Of course, you can’t see the currents, but they’re there. If an iceberg has sufficient depth, it can be carried by the current, in spite of which way the wind is blowing.

It’s the same for people like you and me. Those with sufficient depth aren’t swayed by the breeze of public opinion or ideological fashion. Neither are they driven by any gust of random circumstance.

Instead, they’re directed by the deeper current of God’s Word … by faith in his promise: “I am with you always.”

For this reason, the goal of the believer is to become firm in their knowledge of Jesus Christ …

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. (Ephesians 4:14)

This means that job one each day is to take steps in knowing him more: Spending time in his Word, spending time with him in prayer.

This daily routine, more than any other, establishes the believer in the Christian life, enabling them to be directed by the deeper current of faith, not the ever-changing winds of chance.

Finished and Complete

Finished and Complete

There’s a story about a man named Samsundar Balgobin who won first place in an international linguistics competition with his response to following challenge: “No English dictionary can adequately explain the difference between ‘complete’ and ‘finished.’ How would you explain the difference?”

Here’s his response:

“When a man marries the right woman, he is complete.
When he marries the wrong woman, he is finished.”

As the story goes, he received a five minute standing ovation, he was rewarded a trip around the world, and he was invited to dine with the Queen of England. No doubt the judges themselves were married, and knew firsthand just how accurate is this definition.

From a theological perspective, there’s also a difference between the two words. When Jesus cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” he was saying, in effect, “The power of sin is done away with. It is paid in full. It is gone forever. It cannot hurt you anymore.”

And when Paul said, “Ye are complete in him,” he was saying that the Jesus you received at salvation is all you need for your life in God. You have complete forgiveness in him. Your hope is complete. Your future is complete. Your purpose is complete. In him you have everything and lack nothing.

With Jesus, you’re complete and sin is finished.

Without him, we’re all finished.

Prayer

Asklessness

“If you never ask, the answer is always no.”

The person who made this statement recently was talking to marketers about closing the sale. It got my attention because it also applies to our prayer life.

James said, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

More and more I see asklessness as the root of our problems.

True, James also said that we don’t receive because we sometimes ask with the wrong motives … but I’m convinced that the first part of the equation is the bigger obstacle for a good many of us.

The best way to solve this problem is with pen and paper and time spent in solitude.

Write down the things in your life that you have been dealing with on your own, that you have (inexplicably) neglected to pray about.

Then make a decision to bring these matters before the throne every day until they’re resolved.

You and I both know from history that it works.

Why we go through seasons of asklessness is a mystery for the ages.

Moments of Grace

Moments of Grace

Joshua BellIn January 2007 the Washington Post conducted an experiment: What would happen if a world class musician performed elegant classical music on a priceless instrument in the Metro station of a major American city?

The city was Washington D.C.

The musician was Joshua Bell, who can earn upwards of $50,000 for an evening’s performance.

The instrument was a 300 year-old Stradivarius valued at $3.5 million.

The music included the works of Bach and other masters.

The experiment was captured on hidden camera.

So, what happened? How did people respond?

During Mr. Bell’s 45 minute performance, 1097 people passed by. 27 dropped spare change into his open violin case, for a total of $35. And seven of them stopped what they were doing to listen for at least one minute.

The other 1070 people hurried past, oblivious, uninterested, unmoved.

This experiment might offer hope to pastors and teachers who find themselves frustrated at the lack of response their timeless message too often receives.

But we must also ask ourselves: how many times a day does we do the same thing?

How many times do we encounter truth, beauty, and excellence, without giving it a second look? How many messages of hope do we ignore? How many demonstrations of grace do we disregard? How many divine appointments do we overlook?

Ezra wrote these words:

But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. (Ezra 9:8)

Let’s make an effort to recognize — and fully experience — those brief moments of grace God sends our way.

There were be at least few today. Will you see it?

The Power of a Clean Slate

The Power of a Clean Slate

In the movie Clean Slate, Dana Carvey plays a private detective involved in a murder investigation.

The problem is that he has anterograde amnesia and is unable to remember any details of his life from the day before. So each day, as he wakes up, he listens to a cassette tape reminding him of who he is and why he is here.

Just like Carvey’s character, sometimes it’s easy to forget day-after-day just who the real “you” is.

It’s not a bad idea to pick up his habit — to begin each day with a reminder of who you are and why you are here.

It’s a reminder that you don’t get from a cassette tape machine. You get it from the Word….

Who are you, then?

A child of God. A friend of Jesus. A new creation. Whole and complete. Forgiven. Accepted. Chosen. Renewed. Alive.
And that’s just the beginning.

Each new day is a clean slate, another chance to live the life God called you to live, to be the person he called you to be.

Forget yesterday. Remind yourself today of who you are in Christ, and who Christ is in you.

Let this be your identity. Let this determine who you are and what you do.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)

Seeking God

The Restless Heart

American author once Iving Kristol said, “Being frustrated is disagreeable, but the real disasters of life begin when you get what you want.”

This is because what we want — or what we think we want — is often not what we really need to lead a fulfilled, meaningful life.

Eventually, the time comes when we realize that the trinket we worked so hard to acquire — or even the goal we sacrificed to reach — doesn’t bring the satisfaction we expected it could.

We then find ourselves asking, as so many have asked, “Is that all there is? Is this as good as it gets?”

Goals will always have a place in our lives, and accumulating possessions will always be part of the human experience, but we serve ourselves best the sooner we understand that these things will never be enough.

We serve ourselves best when we learn to say, as Augustine said, “O Lord, our heart is restless, until it finds its rest in thee.”

Where are you seeking your rest today? In a paycheck? In a relationship? In something you possess?

These may not be bad in and of themselves, but we must also remember that neither are they the finish line. There’s something better, something greater, something more meaningful to seek.

If your heart is restless today, take a moment to re-evaluate what you really want.

Strive today to say as David said, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” (Psalm 62:1)

Give Your Morning to God

Give Your Morning To God

Preaching editor Michael Duduit once asked Warren Wiersbe which one word of encouragement he would like to pass on to other preachers. Wiersbe said…

“Give your morning to God. Start your day with the Lord. Ministry is not what we do as much as what we are…If I didn’t spend time every day with the Lord and let him build me into what he wants, I couldn’t do what he wants. So my word would be that: Cultivate your spiritual roots. Give your morning to God.”