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.




Monday, September 3, 2018

THE GRASS ISN'T ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE


Having greener grass, so to speak, doesn’t always satisfy. We’d do well to be content with all that the Lord gives us.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES           by Sally Bair
           
Greener Grass

When I lived in the country, my lawn was full of dandelions, some quack grass, and even thistles. Some of the grassy areas were greener than others, especially during one summer of drought. Others were flat-out anemic in color. Most of the time, I was quite content with my country lawn. But at times when I’d drive by other people's lawns, I wished mine were as lush
and uniform as theirs.

Some lawns could compete easily with those pictured in popular lawn and garden magazines. They're that perfect and beautiful, as are many other things we see. My friend's little girl once told her mother she wanted something their neighbor had. "Theirs is beautifuller than ours," she said. Let's get one like theirs."

It's easy to become discontent with our own lawns or belongings. That's probably the reason some of us try to "keep up with the Joneses." We want something bigger, better, beautifuller. There's nothing wrong in wanting a "beautifuller” lawn, as long as our motive does not come from envious discontent.

When I moved to another place, I did so not out of discontent or envy. This time, in fact, it was because I wanted a smaller house and yard. Something easier to keep up. Perhaps as we grow older, we realize the futility of living with something bigger, better, and yes, even beautifuller. I know I do.

Feelings of discontent can stem from the need to be accepted, especially if we have been deprived or rejected in the past. The key to contentment is to change our source of dependency from the things around us to Christ, the only One who can fulfill all our needs.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth, which are eventually destroyed or stolen. Rather, we are to "store up … treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20-21)

Lord, teach us how to be content. Give us the desire to depend on You alone, rather than on the things around us. Help us to seek after and rely on the treasures You have in store for us. In Jesus' name, amen.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

INTERRUPTIONS: BANE OR BLESSING?


Interruptions can overload our lives. We can ignore them, become anxious about them, or … look at them as opportunities. Which will it be?

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES         by Sally Bair

Interruptions

Recently someone asked me if I’m becoming more impatient as I grow older. I said that, on the contrary, I seem to show more patience than ever before. Rethinking my answer, I must add an exception. I show less patience when interrupted by someone or something, perhaps realizing I must make the most of the time I have left.

Interruptions can distract us. As a young mother, I often told my kids, “Don’t interrupt me now.” Even today, I feel stressed when the phone rings during a crucial part of my editing. Sometimes I cringe, frustrated when someone interrupts me while I’m trying to say something.

Can you relate? Or are you like some who let interruptions wash over them like warm water and keep on smiling? Oh, to be like such super-humans!

“Interruptions never distracted Jesus,” quoted G.H.Morling in Quest for Serenity. “He accepted them as opportunities of a richer service. Interruptions were the occasion of some of His most gracious deeds and revealing words.”

There are many instances from the Gospels that prove Morling’s words. Jesus beckoned little children rather than turn them away as His disciples thought He should. He took time to heal Peter’s mother-in-law while at Peter’s house for dinner. He repeatedly stopped preaching and teaching to heal someone in need or to minister to them in other ways. He delayed His trip to bring a government ruler’s daughter back to life so He could heal a desperate, sick woman. He even took time out of worship in a synogogue to heal a man’s withered hand. And when His disciples wanted to send a multitude of people home, He instead fed them with a mere five loaves of bread and two fish.

How can we use interruptions as Jesus did—opportunities to serve others? Jesus’ actions are the best example we have. He spent much time in prayer and worship with His Father away from the crowds, a time of refreshing for His soul, strengthening of His resolve, and listening to His counsel.

Not much is said about Jesus’ time spent with His Father. But sprinkled throughout the Gospel accounts are words such as these: “He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” Notice that He went to a quiet place alone. When we spend time alone in a quiet place with the Lord, He refreshes our soul, too. He strengthens our resolve to rightly and lovingly deal with interruptions. And we can more easily hear His voice for direction in our life.

Lord, help us use interruptions as opportunities to serve others in love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

HAPPINESS AND JOY ARE NOT THE SAME


Happiness is a temporary feeling. Joy can be permanent.

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

A friend recently lost a loved one and is also going through a difficult family situation. We often witness, hear about or experience losses and difficulties. After all, we live in an imperfect world. To offset our unhappiness, we search for ways to make us smile and laugh and feel better emotionally. We read jokes and “happy” books and attend humorous or spirit-lifting events—anything to offer us a temporary reprieve from our sorrows.

However, the solutions we choose are not long-lasting. Our problems don’t always disappear and we face new ones every day. We grumble and show our unhappiness even for the little things that go wrong, including the weather, don’t we?

On the other hand, we’re happy when we get a good night’s sleep. When our kids come home with good report cards. During lunch with a friend. At weddings. When the rain holds off until we get home. After a bumper crop of veggies … or apples … or alfalfa.

All these occasions for happiness come from outside circumstances. They depend on what “happens”—perhaps that’s why it’s called “happiness.” And when we put our trust in happiness, we become controlled by our circumstances, which can change from hour to hour.

Happiness meets our surface needs. We can compare happiness to a thermometer which registers conditions. Joy, on the other hand, is more like a thermostat, regulated by conditions. It comes from within and meets our deepest needs. During times of suffering and angst, happiness can act like a bandaid that will eventually disintegrate. Joy, however, often intensifies during such times. I can testify to that truth firsthand. When my husband was killed, it was not an occasion for happiness by any means. But my grief was diminished by my faith in God.

The apostle Paul went through many extreme hardships, yet was joyous throughout—so much so that he advised us also to “rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) Please note that this verse doesn’t tell us to rejoice in circumstances, which change continually, but in God who never changes.

Lord, thank You for joy. Though we may have tragedy, sorrow, heartache or pain, we take joy in Your salvation, hope and strength. May our joy in You be a magnet to others so they, too, can know You. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.