Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas to Remember

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. (Luke 2:9 AMP)

A Christmas to Remember
Would your reaction be any different? You’re outside, minding your own business, with nothing but a night sky, crackling fire, and an occasional bleating sheep or lowing cow. Then wham-o! An angel appeared and it’s more like day than night. I would have been scared out of my wits too. For those shepherds that first Christmas night, it was a Christmas to remember.

Today there are Christmases which we remember more than others. As a child one year I remember receiving a drum set. I must have made a big deal about them or my parents would not have purchased them. But I also suspect that there were moments they second-guessed themselves because I was probably the worst drum player they had ever heard. Believe me; I couldn’t carry a beat in a bucket in those days. I also remember Christmas eight years ago Marlo gave me an expensive watch. Now it wasn’t the gift of the watch I remember so well. The circumstances of that Christmas and its meaning carried much more weight than the gift.

Different situations in our lives cause us to view Christmas in a different light from one year to the next. Some are recalled more than others because of the sheer excitement of the gifts we receive. But some are held close in our hearts because of where our life is at the time, perhaps, recently coming through major trials or the first Christmas after the death of a loved one. A Christmas under such circumstances can sometimes take its toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. The truth is that most of us in adulthood have probably have seen those times and wish we could forget them. But those Christmases are the ones we remember most.

The Christmas we would rather forget is often one that helps build our character or reveal our shortcomings. You see, Christmas is traditionally a time of giving, happiness, and hope, So to have to mold Christmas into a situation that challenges our faith or shows us our wrongs just seems unfair. This time of year we don’t want to face our flaws. This time of year we want the warm fuzzes instead of having to look at reality. Christmas is supposed to be candy canes, rainbows, and fun. Thank you, but I’ll take my faith challenge after January 1st.

I used to buy Marlo everything she ever wanted for Christmas. For years she told me that if she could just have me that would make her happy. She said she would even live in a cardboard box if that’s what it took to have me. I would always reply, but you do have me, I’m right here in front of you. The only problem is that my heart was everywhere else. My heart was at work or involved in the community we lived in. I made countless attempts to buy her happiness, but it was all in vain. But when I was able to seek God and look at my life objectively through His eyes, Marlo finally got what she had wanted and prayed for. She finally had me, and I thank God that it didn’t take living in a cardboard box for me to finally get it. The first Christmas after that time in my life is one I will always cherish.

The best thing to remember about Christmas regardless of your circumstances is the angel’s first words to the shepherds.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people. (Luke 2:10 AMP)

Jesus’ birth was not only good news then, it is good news now. I’m not preaching one of those you need Jesus now messages. I am saying that if you have a relationship with Him, then there is no need to fear or dread any circumstance in your life. Read Psalm 65. David was in the middle of one of the biggest trials of his life, but his relationship with God saw him through.

Want to have a Christmas to remember? Put your trust in Him. Not only will this be your most memorable Christmas ever, but you will also have something in your heart that will bring you unquestionable joy. From Marlo and I and our family, we truly hope this will be a Christmas you will never forget. David Wells

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Blessed Christmas 2014

You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
~ Luke 1:14 (NAS) ~

Friday, December 19, 2014

Birth and Life of a Missionary

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15 NAS)

Birth and Life of a MissionaryEven before he was born, the parents of James Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) had prayed about their son going to China someday. But at age 15, Hudson Taylor was skeptical of Christianity and turned off “by the inconsistencies of Christian people” who claimed to believe the Bible but “were yet content to live just as they would if there were no such book.” He decided then to pursue a secular life and to live for his life only. His mother and sister, however, persisted in praying for him.

In June 1849, Taylor had a change of heart after reading a gospel tract he picked up from his father’s library. In it he came to understand the finished work of Christ and of His perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin. Salvation was apprehended in that moment as Hudson Taylor fell on his knees and accepted Christ as his Savior.

The next years saw Taylor learning the rudiments of medicine, studying Mandarin, and immersing himself deeper into the Bible and prayer. His heart was to have the Christian faith taken to the interior of China. Taylor was unhappy with the missionaries he saw who had adopted rich lifestyles and neglected going further inland to the rural and poorer areas.

“China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women,” said Hudson Taylor. “The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary.”

Within months after arriving Shanghai on March 1, 1854, Hudson Taylor along with Joseph Edkins set off for the interior, setting sail down the Huangpu River distributing Chinese Bibles and tracts.

Before long, Taylor was convinced that a special organization was needed to evangelize the interior of China, but he was wracked with doubt.  He was worried about sending men and women unprotected into the interior, and at the same time despaired for the millions of Chinese who were dying without the hope of the gospel. 

In 1865, Taylor wrote in his diary, “For two or three months, intense conflict … Thought I should lose my mind.” Then there was a break in his journal for seven weeks. Worn out and ill, Hudson Taylor had gone to friends for rest. While walking along the beach at the south coast of England in Brighton, Taylor’s gloom lifted.

“There the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. I told Him that all responsibility as to the issues and consequences must rest with Him; that as His servant it was mine to obey and to follow Him.”

With absolute trust in God, Taylor’s new mission which he called China Inland Mission (CIM) grew and prospered. Thousands were inspired by him to forsake the comforts of the West to bring the gospel message to the vast and unknown interior of China. Today, the mission of CIM is continued under the name, Overseas Missionary Fellowship (International), to evangelize to the world.

The life and story of James Hudson Taylor is documented in many places on the worldwide web. Many like him had passed on and accomplished great tasks following the will of God. As followers of the Lord, we have also been called to the great commission, but few are convinced to live beyond the mundane when it comes to reaching out to others because of inconveniences and unpopularity. 

Unlike many of us, Hudson Taylor was willing to become a laughing stock to both foreign and Chinese onlookers just in order to help people see what he preached was not such a foreign message after all. He chose to wear the clothes of the common Chinese so as not to be seen as an outsider.

Hudson Taylor died on June 3, 1905 and was buried in Changsha, Hunan. During his 51 years of service there, CIM established 20 mission stations, brought 849 missionaries to the field, trained some 700 Chinese workers, raised four million dollars by faith, and developed a witnessing Chinese church of 125,000.

Dear Lord, thank You for the example set by J. Hudson Taylor to teach us not to neglect those who are yet unsaved, simply because of inconveniences or fear of being ridiculed. Help us to be always ready to do Your work and to surrender ourselves for Your service.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Righteous in Christ

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 HCS)

Righteous in Christ
Stephen was born in a Christian family and grew up thinking that God is an angry God. Since young, he was afraid of failing because he did not want to anger God, so he started confessing every wrong deed he had done. Finally, he told himself he would do what he wanted to do first and come back to God later. Before long he was led astray and his life became bitter as he indulged in all kinds of sin—smoking, drinking, drug use and many other stuff.

A year after he thought he was going to die due to drug overdosed, Stephen came to the end of himself and wanted to return to Jesus. Hearing a sermon by a pastor about the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, he took hold of that truth as his armor against his sinful ways. Within two weeks, God delivered him from all his bad habits. Today, Stephen reigns over them. Two years has passed since, and the work of God in his life continues to amaze people around him. God has also been opening doors for him to preach the good news.

The story of Stephen Zechariah Christopher was written by him as a testimony, shared at Like Stephen, many of us have our own stories to tell about our adventures with God. Although some of our testimonies may not be as spectacular as that of Stephen’s, each of us surely have experienced the goodness of God in our lives, even if we may have gone astray from Him.

Jesus, in the parable of the lost son, told a similar story of someone who chose to leave his father to explore the world. He squandered his estate in foolish living and after he had spent everything and worked in the fields feeding pigs, he came to his senses and decided to go back to his father. While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran and threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. He then celebrated the return of his son with a feast (Luke 15:11-24).

This is how our heavenly Father is like. Even when we have walked away from Him, if we choose to return, He would run toward us and throw His arms around our necks and kiss us. He would celebrate our return with much joy. 

Today, we are able to experience and receive God’s unmerited favor only because we have been declared righteous by faith and justified through faith in the finished work of our Lord at the cross and in His resurrection. We are now able to live victorious lives because we have peace with God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Our lives can continue to impact and amaze the people around us if we live to show out Christ in us. Our God will open doors for us if we let Him lead in all our ways (Romans 5:1, 9).

Now to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us before His glorious presence, blameless and with great joy—to the only God our Savior—be glory, majesty, power, and authority through Christ Jesus our Lord before all time, now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

Dear Lord, thank You for loving us so much that You would run toward us and place Your arms around our necks and kiss us even while we are still a long way off. Your unmerited favor and overflowing love overwhelm our hearts, and we cannot help but declare Your praises and worship You. Our lives we now willingly place before You to do whatever You would have us do according to Your will, for only in You we can truly be satisfied and completely set free from our unrighteous ways. To You O God our Savior be all glory, majesty, power and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.    

Friday, December 5, 2014

Spiritual Maturity

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11 NAS)

Spiritual Maturity
At the age of 17, Edison was unsure what the years ahead would be like for him. He had completed junior high school but was unable to further his studies because of his grades. Two options were opened to him—to pursue vocational studies or to get a job.

Edison tried first to get into a vocational school, but his application was rejected. Left without a choice, he started work in a fast food chain as a crew, but after a while he gave it up. He then took up a junior clerical job with an accounting firm but knew in his heart that was not it.

A year later, Edison joined the navy and was assigned a logistics clerk position after a pre-enlistment checkup. While in the navy, he learned many things and grew in maturity. After two years, he was ready to enter the concrete jungle of the world at large, and with God by his side, he had nothing to fear.

Not many of those coming of age think like Edison anymore. These days, teens face greater challenges making decisions that could be life threatening, and they are not just about smoking or sex, but include crack and deadly drugs, violence, depression, drinking, among other vices. Problems like lying, cheating, learning disabilities, emotional trauma, and the like are also just as disconcerting. Many a time, we may not be able to understand what is going on in the minds of teenagers, but we must not lose heart guiding them.

The only one thing that differentiates between those in trouble and those that are not is the values the teenagers have learned and adopted from the adults. As Christian parents or guardians, therefore, we need to set good examples for our young, so as to teach them godly values from the word of God. We ought also to take time to listen to them, show them love and respect for themselves and for everyone else, and lead them to the right path, which direction they must eventually choose for themselves.

Just as there is need for teenagers to grow up in maturity, parents and guardians ought also to grow in spiritual maturity to better guide children. How we guide them along the way is of utmost importance. Let us pave our ways and our children’s ways to grow and progress steadily (1 Corinthians 3:2; 13:11-12; Hebrews 5:12, 14; 6:1). 

Dear Lord, help us understand our children, so we might guide them in the path of Your righteousness. Teach us in the understanding of Your word that we might grow in spiritual maturity to better guide them by examples, and instill in them Your godly values. In our busyness, remind us to take time to listen to them and to show them love and respect for themselves and others. Guide and lead them to the right path in their making of decisions that they might grow and progress steadily in You.