Monday, February 20, 2017

PUTTING LIFE'S PUZZLES TOGETHER




May the Lord bless you as you face your life challenges this week. He is able!


ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair


Puzzle Pieces  

The residents in my senior complex enjoy putting jigsaw puzzles together. In fact, at least one puzzle is being worked on at any given time. The process of fitting one piece to another spurs us “puzzlers” on to keep looking for other pieces, enlarging the picture until it becomes a beautiful whole. The process also brings a sense of satisfaction and joy during the process.

Living is like completing a puzzle. Challenges lie before us, causing us to question and doubt our ability to solve them. In time, like a puzzle, our life-picture develops into a recognizable whole, which eventually brings rewards. Think of young men or women going to college. Each class they take may seem disconnected to the promised end result, but it is completed with the knowledge that it will help them reach their educational goals. Mom or dads may wonder if the day-by-day acts of parental love and discipline will pay off in the end. Yet knowing they are doing the right thing brings hope that their children will grow to satisfactory maturity in body, mind and spirit.

Every day we face new challenges. In fact, God allows trials to come into our lives. He also encourages us to face them head-on, not giving up but putting one piece after another in place by faith. Each time we seek His help, each time we obey His Word, He gives us another piece of the puzzle until we complete the challenge and go on to the next one. Through faith and obedience, joy comes in the journey and in the completion. "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for." (Hebrews 10:39, 11:1-2)

Many Old Testament patriarchs faced trials and challenges. No doubt their minds were filled with questions and doubts and mystery. But they persevered, faithfully obeying God's commands, knowing that even though they couldn't see the whole picture, it would be brought to a beautiful completion.

How do you view the "what ifs" and mysteries in your life? As trials? Or as challenges—like a jigsaw puzzle? "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Lord, give us the will to focus on the unseen reward, the completed puzzle of our live. Give us the grace to persevere in our trials and tribulations, and help us to be joyful in the journey. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THE LORD IS ALWAYS WITH US IN OUR WILDERNESS




No matter how dry, how miserable, how hopeless and hard our life situations, God is always there for us and with us. He always sees us through—with His strength and power, His comfort and peace.

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

Unwelcoming wilderness has its good points

When I hear about Siberia, I think of a vast wilderness where the only inhabitants are those who have been exiled as punishment for their crimes or political differences. One of the least populated places on earth, Siberia’s extreme harshness seems to shout, “No one welcome here.” Those forced to live there have had to make drastic changes in their living habits in order to survive.

Any wilderness can be less than welcoming to people. Some may contain much natural beauty, but the surrounding harshness of weather or living conditions overrides their attractiveness unless people are prepared.

We might all face an unwelcoming, harsh environment at times. Our wilderness could be a place where lack of love shuts out the pleasing sights around us. Or feelings of grief, hopelessness or distrust may distort our perspective of the beautiful surroundings. Few people purposely choose to spend time in such unwelcoming places, whether mental or physical.

The Bible offers a different view of living in a wilderness. It can become the source of our greatest spiritual growth, our greatest joy. Many biblical leaders have experienced life-changing encounters with God while forced to stay in a wilderness. Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist met God in the wild places of God’s own choosing. Each found his spirit renewed by such an encounter. And when the Israelites floundered in body, mind and spirit in the wilderness of exile, God promised to help them.

“’Fear not, you … men of Israel! I will help you,’ says the Lord and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. … ‘I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.’” (Isaiah 41:14, 18) The Israelites would need water when they returned to their damaged and desolate homeland, and God promised to provide them with such.

In the Christian community, it is not unusual to hear comments such as, “I’m going through a dry, wilderness time with the Lord. I want to be back on the mountaintop [of spiritual bliss] again. What shall I do?” Rather, time spent in the wilderness can be our greatest joy, for it’s there we can focus on God without distractions or enticements. As wilderness lovers prepare for their outdoor experiences, we too can prepare for encounters with God through Bible meditation, study and prayer.

Lord, thank You for the bleak, seemingly unwelcome places we encounter in life that draw us back to You. Remind us of Your promise to help us through our wildernesses by bringing new growth and bountiful provision. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

GOD PROVIDES US WITH A WAY OUT OF TEMPTATIONS




Today let’s choose to overcome our temptations with God’s strength and power, rather than with our own.

Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

Temptations face us every day. TV ads tell us we won’t be popular, healthy, or fulfilled unless we buy their product. Stores position their candy and other enticing products near the checkout counter. Temptation also entices us toward immoral thoughts, words or actions. It shows itself on the movie screens and pages of bestsellers. It assaults our hearing in the form of negative and profane language.

Anything that steals our time away from following Jesus becomes a temptation. Jesus faced temptation in three forms. “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16) Because of Jesus’ ability to overcome the devil’s temptations at a time when our Lord was at His most vulnerable, hungry and tired after fasting for forty days, He knows how it is with us. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:14)

However, His Word points us to a promise that helps us overcome any temptation, just as Jesus did.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Every day we all face the same temptations. And every day we have a choice to take advantage of the way of escape God provides or fall into the enticement. And every day we decide whether to go God’s way or our own. We can choose to rely on our ability or God’s.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

If we choose to trust Him, laying hold of the power He offers, we too will overcome temptation.

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness in keeping us from being tempted more than we’re able to stand. Show us Your way of escape even from the seemingly small temptations such as buying into enticing products or lifestyles, or doing so much we forget to spend time with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

GOD'S WORD AND SPIRIT KEEP US FROM REPEATING OUR MISTAKES




Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

Mistakes and boo-boos

Mistake 1: I recently made four trips to the DMV before finally having all the necessary documents in hand to renew my driver’s license.

Mistake 2: Once while on an extraordinary trip through Custer Park, I took dozens of photos of the huge herd of bison that crowded around my van and stretched way ahead, only to discover later that I had no film in my camera.

Mistake 3, but not mine: I heard about a woman who set her fancy cake on top of her vehicle while tucking a child inside and then forgot to remove the cake before taking off. It flew like a bullet onto an unsuspecting driver’s windshield.

Some of us could fill pages of our past mistakes and boo-boos. We all make them. Some of them may come from speaking the wrong words or at the wrong time. The foot-in-mouth disease seems prevalent in our society, and some of our mistaken words can be quite humorous. Others, however, are serious enough to cause job loss or broken relationships.

Mistakes and boo-boos have been our heritage ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. We redirect our focus away from God toward other things. We forget to use His wisdom and fall headlong into calamities of our own making. We lose our concentration. We rush through our daily chores without thinking about possible consequences. God created our brains to focus on the task at hand. If only we’d learn!

Even Paul the Apostle admitted to making mistakes. Paul states what many of us may be thinking. That is, what we want to do, we don’t. What we don’t want to do—or say—we do without thinking. He ends his confession with these words: “…it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me … I delight in the law of God … but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind …. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:20, 22-25)

Being imperfect human beings, we’ll keep making mistakes as long as we live. But thank God, He covers our mistakes. He may not remove the unpleasant results, but He will give us the wisdom and strength either to make them right or avoid repeating them.

Lord, keep us so focused on You and Your purposes for our lives that we can avoid the mistakes and boo-boos we’re so prone to making. Thank You for promising to deliver us from them. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

YOU CAN CHOOSE TO LIVE IN GOD'S SUNSHINE OR IN THE SHADOWS




The light of God’s love not only discloses our sins, but guides us on His path and draws others toward His light.

Eternal perspectives              by Sally Bair

Sunshine and shadow

When I owned a quilt shop years ago, I taught various patterns, including the popular Sunshine and Shadows pattern. Made of alternating squares of light and dark fabric, the final result is always a thing of beauty. The pattern is still popular, especially in Amish communities where their beautiful works of art reflect not only nature but their Christian faith.

In such a quilt, the dark pieces symbolize evil and the light pieces are reflections of God’s light. We know that many evil deeds are done in the cloak of darkness. Conversely, light is the place where truth is most often revealed. “Step out into the light where I can see you,” we say to the child hiding in the shadows after being naughty. Light reveals a person’s body language and countenance as surely as dark shadows hide them. We can tell much about a person when standing in the sunshine or lighted room.

The Bible warns us about living in darkness. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him [Jesus], and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6) John also makes it clear that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. …If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5, 7)

Before coming to faith in Christ, we were “…once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light … finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness …” (Ephesians 5:8-9)

We can find out what is acceptable to God by practice, looking through any darkness or evil that confronts us and toward the good—the sunshine—that lies beyond. Deliverance from spiritual darkness should bring us to look toward and live in the light of God’s Word. Since any bad habits we’ve accumulated may prevent us from doing so, we must make it a daily practice to avoid them.

Through the power of God’s Spirit and our faith, we can win the victory over sin’s darkness.

Lord, thank You for being the Light of the World. Give us the desire and power to remain in Your Word. Help us become a pattern of light, rather than of darkness, that will shine before all those around us and dispel any shadows. In Jesus’ name, amen.