Wednesday, October 10, 2018

GOD WOULD HAVE US ALL PRODUCE SPIRITUAL FRUIT IN ABUNDANCE


Apples, pumpkins, and a host of other autumn fruit are tempting and delicious. Let’s make our spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit tempting and delicious to everyone we meet.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES             By Sally Bair

Fruit in Abundance

Since moving close to Lake Superior some years ago, I’ve learned a lot about the flora unique to the area.  One thing I’ve learned is that apples and other fruit grow in superabundance up here. The local orchards are located in a sort of mini-climate that offers the perfect conditions for growing apples.

Summers and fall are busy times of picking berries and cherries, vegetables and apples. Hundreds of people pay to pick their own or they buy the luscious produce outright. Festivals entice customers from all over, the famous, annual apple festival drawing over 50,000 people. Orchards offer apples to pick and buy, and they sell tasty apple treats along with a host of other apple-related products. This year, like so many other years, the orchards have produced a superabundance of  their fruit.

God wants us to have a superabundance of spiritual fruit, too.  Like apples, we need to grow in conditions that will cause us to bear much fruit for Him. When we live by faith in and through His Spirit, we will not want to gratify the desires of our sinful nature.  Instead, we will want to be led by the Spirit and, consequently, produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  (See Galatians 5:22-23.)

“Every good tree bears good fruit.”  (Matthew 7:16)  With the help of the Holy Spirit, we will be like a good tree bearing good fruit for God’s kingdom. 

Notice that the first fruit mentioned  is love.  All the others are founded in love.  “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” a song tells us. 

God’s love dwelling in our hearts brings about the perfect conditions for producing fruit for Him. Then we will produce the joy of the Lord.  We will live a peaceful life that spreads to others.  We will become patient with those around us even in the midst of stress and strain.  We will show kindness to all people.  We will show God’s goodness through our own.  We will be gentle with our words, rather than harsh.  We will remain faithful to our Christian faith and others can depend on our word.  And we will learn self-control in all things.

Such a list sounds downright unattainable, doesn’t it?  But we can remember that with the Spirit of God, all things are possible. 

Lord, we ask You to give us a superabundance of the fruit of Your Holy Spirit.  Above all, help us demonstrate Your love to every person we meet.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, October 1, 2018

TRUST IN GOD DIFFERS FROM INSTINCT


Like geese that are born with the instinct to fly back home and to their exact feeding-breeding ground, we are born with the innate knowledge to “fly” to our heavenly Father when we need shelter or help. He never falls back on His Word about directing us. We need only believe and obey. Let’s!

Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

Instinct and Trust

It’s that time of year when Canada geese begin to prepare for their long journey south. When a flock is ready to migrate, the geese use a simple ceremony. They flap their wings and walk toward their destination for a few steps. They repeatedly toss their heads, their bills pointed upward, to tell the others they’re ready to fly.

Once airborne, a rotating vortex of air (downwash) rolls off each wingtip, pushing the bird that is behind downward  and the air behind and alongside it upward (upwash). The lucky goose that flies in either of those zones gets a free lift, thereby saving energy. Scientists have determined that geese in the back of the V had lower heart rates and flapped their wings less often.

God has instilled a built-in knowledge in geese that tells them when to head for shelter and how to get there. He has done the same for us. His Word tells us over and over that if we choose His ways, He will direct us. By faith, we can find His love and peace, His righteousness and joy, His guidance—unerringly. We don’t have to be like the Canada goose, depending on a ceremony or ritual. We don’t have to wait for others to begin our faith journey.

Before Jesus’ ascension to heaven, He started His disciples on their new journey to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you …” (Matthew 28:19-20). And He promised them, “ …lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Unlike the geese that depend on the one in front to get a free lift, so to speak, Jesus’ followers received the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to “fly.” Their faith nourished by Jesus’ teachings, they dispersed to new neighborhoods, cities and countries to fulfill their destiny for Jesus’ sake.

Like Canada geese, we also have natural instincts regarding our safety and comfort. But to depend solely on them is to short-change ourselves of God’s total care—of body, soul and spirit, twenty-four/seven, now and for eternity. He loves us that much. How we respond will determine our own eternal destiny. 

Lord, thank You for being our guide as we traverse the path You have set out for us. We depend on You and ask that You strengthen and empower us to reach others for Your name’s sake. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

WE SHOULD CLING TO CHRIST RATHER THAN ANYONE ELSE


No doubt about it, we tend to cling to our “stuff” and things and people before we remember that Jesus is the only one to whom we should depend.

Eternal Perspectives            by Sally Bair

Clinging Vines

Poplar leaves of golden hue / Cling, tenacious, a stubborn few / Till frost assaults then life-stems die / Like rain they fall with wind-swept sigh.

As leaves shower to earth in the slightest breeze, a few cling to their branches even during hard winds. They spin round and round on their stems, pummeled by wind and weather. In the calm they hang limply, yet remain steadfast to their host branch—like a clinging vine.

We too may cling … to someone such as our mate, children or parents. We bombard them with questions: Where are you going? Where have you been? What are you doing? Clinging vines tend to smother the lives and affections of those to whom they cling.

We may cling to things, too. Alcohol, drugs, TV, money, position, even memories or memorabilia. All of these can be unhealthy ways to fill a perceived void. Clinging can also cause self-centeredness.

Like the tenacious fall leaves that cling to their branches, we should cling to Christ. “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)

Abide means to adhere or cling to. When we cling to Christ rather than other people or things, He will give us strength and nourishment to grow and to bear much fruit for His kingdom. He will prune us of things that need to be corrected.

Lord, we recognize You as the only One who can give us lasting and abundant love, joy and peace. Help us cling to You as a tenacious leaf clings to its branch, even when we are pummeled by the winds of life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(Reprinted from The Nature of God: Autumn’s Splendor Daily Devotionals by Sally Bair. She may be reached at www.sallybair.com.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

WE CAN CHOOSE TO WORRY AND FEAR OR WE CAN TRUST GOD


Although ways exist for us to avoid worry, the best way is to trust God through His Word and Spirit.

Eternal Perspectives           by Sally Bair

Fear and the mind

I awoke with a start when the house alarm went off at midnight. Too afraid to turn on the bedroom light, I groped for a flashlight then tiptoed into the back porch to turn off the alarm. Quietly and with pounding heart, I checked all the doors and windows but saw and heard nothing.

The one place I hadn’t checked was the basement. I had grown up in the house and the basement had been my most feared place. But now I knew I had to go down there to check the ground-level window. Surely someone had tried to get into my house.

The electricity went off so I couldn’t use my phone. Should I make a dash for my car and go for help? No, afraid as I was, I chose to face my fear. As it turned out, the alarm was caused by a mouse that had chewed a wire at the basement sensor. Remember from my last week’s column that a proven 85 percent of our worries come to nothing.

God has given us brains that have the amazing ability to quiet our “worry circuit.” For instance, when we take several deep breaths while counting to ten, we can overcome stressful thoughts. And the more we practice that one remedy alone, the stronger our brain will become in helping us avoid worry.

Many of us worry and fret over circumstances. Even Christians who claim to trust God become fearful. But we don’t have to fear. Besides using such simple tools as counting to ten, our first defense should be to trust God at His Word. Over and over, the Bible tells us to be unafraid. And every day God continues to prove Himself as being trustworthy. The more we meditate on and memorize His Word, the less fearful we can become of the problems we might face. It requires diligence and persistence to develop such a habit, but the rewards are worthwhile.

One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Lord, thank You for the spirit of power and love, and the gift of a sound mind. Help us to remember and speak Your Word, looking to You to help us overcome our fears and worries. . In Jesus’ name, amen.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

FEAR DOESN'T HAVE TO BE YOUR MASTER

We don’t have to ask “what if this happens?” Or “What if she doesn’t do what she promised?” It serves no purpose to ask ourselves the what ifs. Most of them don’t happen. With God’s help and wisdom, we can learn to give up the control of our fears and worries. With Him, all things are possible.

Eternal Perspectives          by Sally Bair

Fear

When I was a kid, I had many fears. Some were typical, such as fear of the dark, the bogey man and strangers. One was atypical—the fear of feathers—which began from a scary event in my childhood and became a phobia. Like most phobias, it has become such a comfortable part of my life that I don’t want to change.

Most of us have fears. Many are so afraid of war and nuclear threats that they hoard water and food for perceived bad times ahead. Because of the danger of falling, others fear taking a shower or going outside in the winter. Still others are afraid of people so they stay at home, trapped in their distrust.

Of course, we know how wise it is to take precautions about certain things. But to allow our fears, worries, anxieties or phobias to control our lives is not only unwise, it is unhealthy. A study has proven that 85% of our worries never happen. In the study, of the 15% that did happen, 79% of the subjects discovered either they could handle their difficulties better than expected, or they learned a worthwhile lesson. The study concludes with the astounding fact that 97 % of our worries are not much more than a fearful mind punishing us with exaggeration and misperceptions.

Other studies have shown that worry causes shrinking brain mass which can lower IQs. It also can lead to heart disease, cancer, premature aging and more. But scientists and health professionals have come up with ways to lessen, or even eliminate, our fears and worries.

God offers ways, too. In fact, His Word, the Bible, contains the word “fear” or its equivalent 365 times. That’s a year’s worth of verses to help us overcome our worries and fears. One typical verse is recorded in the book of Joshua. When Moses died and Joshua took over the daunting role of leading the Israelites to God’s Promised Land, God knew how frightened the new leader was. “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

God understands our fears. He would rather have us rely on His strength than walk in our fears, try to talk our way out of them or follow someone else’s advice.

Lord, thank You for loving us so much that You offer Your strength and Your solutions for overcoming our fears. Keep our eyes focused on You and Your Word so we can remain calm, trusting and in Your peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.