Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IN HONOR OF GOD FOR HIS GIFT OF SALVATION, WE CAN MAKE THIS A SEASON OF GIVING FROM THE HEART




Eternal perspectives   by Sally Bair

‘Tis the season to give

Nowadays the opportunities to give toward a worthy cause seem endless. We can drop coins in the Salvation Army buckets, send money to a non-profit that gives goats to poor people in Nigeria or help clothe an orphan in Mexico. Surrounded by so many needs, we may find it hard to choose. But once we choose, we often feel better for our giving.

Research shows, in fact, that giving to someone in need releases oxytocin, a chemical in our brain that causes us to feel warmth toward others. And once our body produces more oxytocin by our compassionate act of giving, it spurs us to give even more, which produces more … you get the picture of the cumulative effect of giving.

We feel joy when we offer our money, time or talents for the benefit of those less fortunate. The very act of giving can change our mood from grumpy or sadness into a big smile. Giving also can fight loneliness by connecting us with others. And, of course, cheerful giving benefits us spiritually.

Giving is a godly act of sacrifice. The Bible has plenty to say about it being a discipline as well as a spiritual benefit. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

The author, Paul, is telling us that giving is like sowing seed, with the amount of the harvest determined by the amount of the seed sown. When we give, God is able to give us more so we can keep giving even more. He is generous in providing us with our own needs when we give others what they need.

God’s generosity knows no bounds. It began with Creation and has continued throughout the ages. We see it especially in the gift of His Son, Jesus. During this holy season, we do well to spend time meditating not only on His miraculous birth, but on His ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our sins. We find it hard to imagine such a gift!

We have the special privilege and calling to give out of the abundance of our hearts. Just as Jesus did and still does.

Lord, thank You for Your unending generosity. May we never take it for granted. May we, instead, follow Your example with open hearts, especially during the season of Jesus’ birth. In His name we pray, amen.
           

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

WHO IS YOUR RESCUER?



Honor and hats off to the thousands of rescuers: the EMTs, firefighters, military including U.S. Coast Guard, doctors and nurses, and more. And the most honor to our Lord, Jesus Christ, the ultimate rescuer for those who trust in and obey Him. Are you one of them?

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

Rescue Missions

Many of you know how, in December 1996, my son and four other professional fishermen were rescued while on the way home from a fishing trip in the Bering Sea. Williwaws (violent gusts of wind) came over the mountains of the Alaska Peninsula at nearly 100 mph, slamming into the sea and into their boat. My son and the other crew members tried frantically to chip fast-building ice from the boat so it wouldn’t become top heavy and capsize. But their efforts proved futile. They donned their survival suits and sent an emergency message to the U.S. Coast Guard before jumping off the 72-foot boat into a tiny life raft. They followed all the rules of survival at sea.

Huddling in the cold, wet, tossing raft, they waited until finally a Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived from the Kodiak station. The pilot lowered a swimmer to rescue the men, one at a time, while he kept the ‘copter hovering about 400 feet above the sea. None were lost in spite of the terrible sea conditions, the ‘copter running low on fuel, its windshield unable to remain clear of freezing salt water spray, and the rescue swimmer’s depleting energy.

We hear of rescues every day. Emergency crews rescue men trapped from auto accidents. First responders and some concerned citizens keep children from harm, rescue victims held at gunpoint and carry people from burning buildings. Environmental groups prevent forests from being clear cut, save rivers from pollution and clean up toxic areas.

But the ultimate rescuer is God. His greatest rescue came in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, sent to save the world from sin and give us peace with God. “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ …”  (Romans 5:1)  We don’t deserve entry into heaven because we’re born in sin. But God in His love has rescued us.

Just as my son and the fishing crew couldn’t rescue themselves from their sinking ship, we cannot rescue ourselves from sin simply by trying to follow rules and commandments. Only by turning away from sin and, in faith, embracing the truth of Jesus’ death on the cross and His bodily resurrection from the dead, can we have any hope of rescue. He is our ultimate rescuer.

Lord, thank You for rescuing us from sin through Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for the hope of eternal life, for peace, for joy and for righteousness. In Jesus’ name, amen.




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

GOD IS HAPPY WHEN WE BOND WITH HIM



Who can resist a puppy, especially an obedient one? We make our Lord happy, too, when we obey Him and cling to Him alone.

Eternal Perspectives     by Sally Bair

Puppy Bond

With leash in hand, I walked my nine-week-old puppy down the driveway and then along a nearby trail. Lyddie bonded to me in no time, following me so closely I had to watch my step. She learned quickly where to go for food and water and attention.

Lyddie frightened easily, clinging to me, trying to climb up my leg or crying. I picked her up and soothed her, holding her securely in my arms.

Like a child, however, Lyddie sometimes became independent and disobedient. She pulled at the leash or, when untethered, ran away to sniff out something “tasty” in the compost pile. She objected to me holding her down for her naughtiness but soon learned that misbehavior brought consequences.

Lyddie taught me lessons about bonding with my own Master, the eternal God. Like Lyddie, I feel dependent upon my Father in heaven when it suits me, yet turn away to pursue my own independent activities rather than becoming God-dependent. Like Lyddie, I too, misbehave, disobey or ignore God.

He has plenty to say about bonding. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
If we decide to cling to God, like a branch to its vine, we will be assured all our needs will be fulfilled and we will enjoy peace with Him and with others. But if we choose to pursue our own desires, we will pay the consequences—if  not here on earth then in eternity.

Puppies learn quickly who’s responsible for their sustenance, care and protection. Sometimes we humans aren’t as quick to learn. We act irresponsibly, forgetting we need to be under God’s protective care. We pull away from Him to do our own thing, but forget that He loves us enough to encourage us into faith and obedience to Him.

A well-trained pup who is loved by its master will do anything to please. As humans we can follow suit, knowing our Master loved us enough to die for us and offer us eternal life with Him. When we choose to bond with Christ, we can be assured that nothing will sever that bond.

Lord, thank You for giving us the freedom to love You, to believe Your Word and to serve You. Help us remember moment by moment to remain firmly bonded to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.  




Thursday, November 16, 2017

EVERY DAY IS A THANKSGIVING DAY



We thank and praise You, Lord, each day for all You’ve given and done for us. May we never forget Your bountiful love and mercies.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES       by Sally Bair

Grateful hearts

With Thanksgiving Day looming, many of us think about the big football game on TV or hunting for that big buck in the woods. Either way, we usually follow our fun with a sumptuous meal with family. We must not forget, however, that the day has been set aside to remember our country's spiritual roots. The first European emigrants, pilgrims who had fled persecution for their Christian faith, suffered much during their first winter at Plymouth Colony. Most of them died of starvation or disease and those who survived suffered from the extreme cold and from hunger. By the next fall they had recovered somewhat, but not fully. They still faced many dangers, hunger, disease and the uncertainty of the coming winter's provisions. Yet they set aside a time to give thanks to God for the little they had.

The story about the pilgrims reminds me of the people in Mexico I encountered while on a mission trip. Ministering to the poorest of the poor, our group offered the people small gifts, such as socks, pencils, coloring books, toothpaste and shampoo. To the children we gave small toys. Many had never received a gift before.

These people lived in shacks made of dismantled wooden pallets or cardboard, and patched pieces of tin. They pulled hand carts to get their daily water supply. They had no indoor plumbing, no medical care or insurance, no schools nearby. Most of the children could neither read nor write.

When we gave them their small gifts, you'd have thought they'd been handed a million dollars. Their whole bodies exploded with joy and gratitude.

That's what God wants of us, too—to explode with thanksgiving and gratitude for all He's given us, no matter what our life circumstances are. We have a loving, merciful God. We live in a country free of the restraints that many other countries face, rich in the bounty that makes our lives comfortable, and beautiful to behold. How can we not be thankful?

As the pilgrims sat outside around their crude tables laden with simple fare, they might have recited Colossians 3:16. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." While we sit around our own tables in our warm houses and view the abundant food before us, may we too express heartfelt gratitude to God, our provider.

Lord, we give You thanks, not just today but every day, for Your goodness and love. Give us the will and desire and remembrance to always be thankful. In Jesus’ name, amen.