In his book What God Thinks When We Fail, Steven C. Roy tells a fictional story about a young violinist who lived in London many years ago. Although he was a superb musician, he was deathly afraid of large crowds, so he avoided giving concerts. But after enduring criticism for his unwillingness to give concerts, he finally agreed to perform in the largest concert hall in London.
The young violinist came onto the stage and sat alone on a stool. He put his violin under his chin and played for an hour and a half. No music in front of him, no orchestra behind him, no breaks—just an hour and a half of absolutely beautiful violin music. After ten minutes or so, many critics put down their pads and listened, like the rest …. After the performance, the crowd rose to its feet and began applauding wildly—and they wouldn't stop.
But the young violinist didn't acknowledge the applause. He just peered out into the audience as if he were looking for something—or someone. Finally he found what he was looking for. Relief came over his face, and he began to acknowledge the cheers.
After the concert, the critics met the young violinist backstage …. They said, "You were wonderful. But one question: Why did it take you so long to acknowledge the applause of the audience?"
The young violinist took a deep breath and answered, "You know I was really afraid of playing here. Yet this was something I knew I needed to do. Tonight, just before I came on stage, I received word that my master teacher was to be in the audience. Throughout the concert, I tried to look for him, but I could never find him. So after I finished playing, I started to look more intently. I was so eager to find my teacher that I couldn't even hear the applause. I just had to know what he thought of my playing. That was all that mattered. Finally, I found him high in the balcony. He was standing and applauding, with a big smile on his face. After seeing him, I was finally able to relax. I said to myself, 'If the master is pleased with what I have done, then everything else is okay.'"
Do we have the same feeling that this violinist did? Are we more concerned about pleasing God, our master, or are we more concerned about pleasing others? One of the saddest statements in the Bible comes from John 12:42-43, "Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him (talking about Jesus), but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God."
These men didn't confess and accept Christ as their Savior, not because they didn't believe but because they were more concerned about the applause of the crowd than they were about the applause of the master.
I challenge you this week to put your focus more on looking for the applause of the Master than on the applause from the people around us. Our purpose is not to strive for the applause of the world but to serve and please God and one day here Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
VOLUME I, Number 2
Neil Armstrong was a Korean War Navy veteran and he was the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong passed away August 25, 2012. In a eulogy his friend Gene Cernan said, “You have now shown once again the pathway to the stars. As you soar through the heavens, beyond where even eagles dare to go, you can now finally put out your hand and touch the face of God.”
The death of Neil Armstrong reminds us of another era in American history when teamwork was dramatically demonstrated. As Armstrong reflected back on his monumental moonwalk four decades later, he said, “I was aware that this was a culmination of the work of 300,000 or 400,000 people over a decade.” Maybe such thinking is what caused astronaut Jim Lovell to give Armstrong this tribute: “His favorite part was being part of a team.” Mr. Armstrong’s comments and example could easily be applied to the body of Christ.
As we seek to accomplish God’s mission for our lives, we work together with more believers than we often see and we depend on them more than we often realize. The body of Christ is one body made up of many different members. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
Since we are the members of one body, to be effective in reaching others we have to work together. Some members work in the spot light and others work behind the scenes. Both members are essential and needed. The ones that work in the spotlight cannot be effective without those who work behind the scenes, and the ones who work behind the scenes cannot be effective without those working in the spotlight. When both work together the body is complete, without each other the body is divided.
VOLUME I, Number 3
Jason Gray has a song entitled, Remind Me Who I Am, the first verse and chorus says,
When I lose my way, And I forget my name, Remind me who I am. In the mirror all I see, Is who I don't wanna be, Remind me who I am. In the loneliest places, When I can't remember what grace is. Tell me once again who I am to You, Who I am to You. Tell me lest I forget who I am to You, That I belong to You. To You.
We all at times need to be reminded who we are. With everything that we face each and every day, it is easy to forget. We need to remember what the Bible says about who we are and we need to be reminded of what God thinks when he sees us. Below is a list of just a few of the things the Bible teaches us about who we are.
You are a child of God “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
You are a friend of Christ “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15
You are a fellow heir with Christ “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:17
You are no longer a slave but a child and an heir “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:7
You are a new creation “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
You are a citizen of heaven “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” Philippians 3:20
VOLUME I, Number 4
Let us be grateful
Edward Spencer was a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, and also a member of a life-saving squad during his school years. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue seventeen passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever bothered to thank him.
Worse than being merely discourteous, these people displayed a gross lack of gratitude. In Luke 17:11-18 we read about ten lepers who were crying out to Jesus for mercy and when he healed them only one came back to thank him.
“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priest.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praised God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’”
Many times in life things are not going the way we planned and life seems to be falling apart. We may be facing an illness, repairing a broken relationship or trying to comfort someone in need. In these times we cry out to God for help, for strength and for guidance. When He hears our plea and answers our prayers, how often do we forget to thank Him?
Max Lucado in his book, In the Eye of the Storm, says, “Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t give you only that which you remember to thank him for?”
We need to remember to be thankful. God not only helps us through difficult times in our life but He also saved our life, when He sent his son to die on the cross for our sins. For this we should be eternally grateful and thank Him each and everyday. We need to strive to be like the one, who went back to thank Jesus and not be like the nine. Don’t let Thanksgiving Day be the only day you were thankful but instead make every effort to be thankful everyday.
VOLUME 1, Number 5
We often times exhibit a degree of thanksgiving in our life in reverse proportion to the amount of blessings we’ve received. Martin Luther wrote in his book Table Talk: “The greater God’s gifts and works, the less they are regarded.” The blessings of life, health, freedom and food are not really appreciated unless they are lost or threatened. Because sunrises and sunsets occur daily, they are taken for granted.
Helen Keller said: “I have often thought that it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days for some time during his early adult life. It would make him more appreciative of sight and of the joys of sound.”
A hungry man is more thankful for his morsel than a rich man for his heavily laden table. A lonely woman in a nursing home will appreciate a visit more than a popular woman with a party thrown in her honor. A Christian living in a country where being a Christian is illegal and having a Bible could bring punishment, is happier when he receives his own copy of the Holy Scriptures than we are for all the Christian books, magazines and translations that overflow our shelves.
Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “if the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they are there every night, we barely give them a look.”
One of the evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is a gradual reversal of that twisted pattern. God wants to make us people who exhibit thankfulness in proper proportion to the gifts and blessings we’ve received.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We should always be thankful for what we have. We should be thankful when we have plenty and we should be thankful when we have little. Do not forget to thank God for his greatest gifts.
VOLUME I, Number 6
A manger in your heart
Rose Kennedy was the mother of our 35th president. Years ago during a fund-raising benefit for special-needs children, she had a private conversation with a dinner guest about her faith. She asked him if he was one of those “born-again” people and he responded affirmatively. She acknowledged that she was a “born-again Catholic” and then proceeded to tell her story. She spoke of her wonderful life and marriage until the birth of their third child.
Rosie was born with special needs and was placed in an institution. Rose said her husband blamed her for the problem and the two became estranged. They lived separate lives and she plummeted into depression, anger, bitterness, alcohol, and all kinds of medications. She became someone that nobody cared to be around.
One day when she lashed out at one of her housekeepers, the woman gently replied, “Mrs. Kennedy, you’ll never be happy until you make out of your heart a manger for Jesus to be born.” She rocked through the day with her usual drinks and pills and finally fell asleep. But around 3:00 a.m. she woke up and began to sob. She noted that she never cried; yet, that night she couldn’t stop weeping. She said, “I felt the presence of the living God. I got out of bed with a clear mind and knelt down on these Roman Catholic knees and prayed, ‘Oh, Lord, make out of my heart a manger for Jesus to be born.’” She went on to explain, “God did that, and I invited Jesus Christ into my heart. Since that night, I’ve never been the same.”
If we truly let Christ into our hearts and let the Holy Spirit work, we will never be the same. We will no longer live by the flesh but we will produce the fruits of the Spirit, which is, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Every nativity is incomplete until our heart becomes the manger.
VOLUME I, Number 7
As a first-grader, Dianne Matthews learned one of life’s most important lessons. She was a happy and contented child until the girl behind her brought and exquisitely wrapped little Christmas present and set it on her desk. Every day that tiny package captured her imagination and fueled her discontentment. She knew there was an amazing treasure inside so she conspired to get it. Because Dianne’s bus always arrived early, she was able to easily slip into the classroom one morning before school and secretly discover the jewel. She frantically tore off the beautiful wrapping paper and opened the box, only to find that it was nothing more than a hollow decoration. The emptiness of that tiny package left her empty and deceived.
Little did she know how often that feeling would return throughout her lifetime. As the years went by, numerous shiny packages attracted her attention and always promised higher levels of happiness. Yet when they were finally acquired, emptiness soon returned with alarming regularity. Each year Matthews thinks back to that December day long ago when she first learned about the deception of cleverly wrapped packages.
We need to be on our guard for cleverly wrapped gifts, this world is full of them. Sometimes we feel that what’s inside the next gift will finally satisfy our longings and fill our emptiness but nothing in this world will be able to sustain us. 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Although the things of this world and the gifts in this world will never satisfy us or complete us the gifts from God are completely different. His gifts are perfect and will never disappoint and his greatest gift of all is his son, Jesus Christ.
VOLUME I, Number 8
The Middle C
When Lloyd Douglas, author of The Robe, attended college, he lived in a boardinghouse. A retired, wheelchair-bound music professor resided on the first floor. Each morning Douglas would stick his head in the door of the teacher’s apartment and ask the same question, "Well, what’s the good news?"
The old man would pick up his tuning fork, tap it on the side of his wheelchair and say, "That’s middle C! It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat. The piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, that is middle C."
We all need a Middle C. Relationships change. Health changes. The weather changes, but Jesus never changes! He is our Middle C! Life is forever changing, but Jesus is the constant we can always trust in him while traveling life’s journey.
Hebrew 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”