Tuesday, July 10, 2018

OUR WORDS HAVE POWER


The words we speak have the power to lift up or to tear down. Which shall your words be today?

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

Our words

Ever since I learned how to read the Dick and Jane books as a child, words have captivated me. I determined to learn their correct spelling and usage, and how to string them into sentences that made sense. In so doing, I became an editor of sorts. Early on, however, I learned that it’s okay to correct youngsters for their incorrect spelling and grammar, but not for all adults. That’s why today I try to be a closet editor—correcting others’ errors in my mind only.

Because of my internal editing, I cringe at every error I see on Facebook. It’s not the spelling errors but the content of Facebook posts that disturb me the most. I read words that are vulgar, negative and hurtful, sometimes by nice, good, church-going folks. And because God is who He says He is, I’m sure He also is saddened by their written content.

God, in fact, has much to say about our spoken—and written—words. Jesus once took to task some Pharisees for following their strict traditions but disobeying the pivotal commandment of loving God above all else and their neighbor as themselves. He said, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:10)

Jesus also taught that we are known by the fruit we bear. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” He said. “For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34-36) Our words contain the power to either tear down or lift up.

Scary words, to be sure. Scary enough that we should all heed them by searching our hearts and our habits. Our thoughts usually determine the words we speak or write. If our thoughts center on positive, encouraging and life-giving ways to communicate with others, not only will they be blessed, but we will too. And our hearts will rejoice.

One of the best ways to keep our thoughts and words, whether spoken or written, on the right track—God’s track—is to learn from His Word. Jesus is all about the good, the positive, and the life-giving way. In fact, Hebrews 4:12 says “the word of God is … sharper than any two-edged sword …”

Lord, thank You for Your powerful words of life. Fill our hearts, minds and lips with only the words that bring joy, peace, love and life to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

HEARING GOD OVER THE NOISY STORMS OF LIFE


The recent storms we’ve encountered may have been noisy, but God can quiet the storms of our lives through our abiding faith in His promises and power.

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

Noisy storms

In light of the severe storms we’ve experienced recently, I was reminded of a column I wrote several years ago, one I included in my book, The Nature of God: Daily Devotionals Celebrating Summer. I include it here, hoping you too are reminded to remain faithful to God’s promises in the midst of the severest of life’s storms.

Nature can be noisy. During a heavy rainstorm, we must shout to be heard. In the 1800s when grasshoppers invaded the prairies, the noise of their wings and chirring made it impossible for homesteaders to hear anything else. Tornadoes are as noisy as freight trains.

But some outwardly quiet things such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, disease, or other losses, can be just as noisy to our internal ear as a loud storm.

The Old Testament prophet Job faced a life-changing storm when God allowed Satan to take everything away from him. Although he never cursed God, his inner voice screamed doubt and anguish. “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him,” Job said. “I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him … But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:8-10 in part)

Although unsure, Job still clung to his weakened faith. If we had faced the same situation, would we have clung to our faith? Or would we have asked God, “How can You do this to me, Lord? I’m a good person. Aren’t You a God of love? Where are You, Lord? I can’t hear You. Where’s the justice?”

Like Job, sometimes we struggle with doubt during trials. Our questions and complaints may become such an internal roar we can’t hear God’s voice. We can unstop our ears from the noisy din of suffering and anguish by choosing in faith, however, weak, to submit to God’s sovereignty. His plans are good, though during life’s storms we can’t always see them completed. We can only trust.

Lord, keep our internal ears free from the noise of our complaints, doubts, and anguish that come from life’s storms. We want and need to hear Your clear voice through Your Word and Spirit. in Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

AVOID DETOURS BY STAYING ON GOD'S PATH


Certainly some detours are meant to keep us safe from harm. But many of them we choose to take to fulfill our selfish desires. They can pull us away from God’s perfect path in the blink of an eye. Only through His Word and power will we remain where He wants us to be. The rewards are much greater than our fleeting, and perhaps unfulfilling pleasure.

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

Detours and straight paths

A widespread, three-day storm in northern Wisconsin recently left thousands without electrical power. Houses were flooded. People lost their pets. Some farmers lost their crops. Many roads, if not entirely washed out, have weakened in structure. And several people have lost their lives.

Besides the more drastic results of the storm, many of us are having to change our travel plans around road conditions. As I’m scheduling a few day trips to market my new book, I find myself studying maps, checking online for road detour updates and asking for advice from friends. Some closures won’t last long since there was little or no road damage. Others, however, may affect travelers for weeks and perhaps even months.

Finding the best detours can be challenging. They all require more miles driven, more gasoline used and more time taken from our regular schedules—all for the sake of avoiding something unpleasant or dangerous. Detours taken to check out new and interesting places or to visit someone along the way, however, can be fun and relaxing.

Fun and relaxation can be important, especially when we must face difficulties and hard-to-solve problems. But sometimes I find myself taking other kinds of detours from God’s straight path. I spend too much time and effort trying to do things on my own strength. Or I focus on non-essentials and frivolous, time-wasting pursuits. If I’m not careful, my detours can become bad habits. Only through God’s Word, prayer and the power of His Holy Spirit am I able to find my way back to His path.

His Word tells all of us how to avoid detours. “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet …” (Hebrews 12:13) It takes persistence and Godly wisdom to stay on the right path.

Besides availing ourselves of God’s Word and power, we can pray whenever we find ourselves faced with detours. “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness … make Your way straight before my face.” (Psalm 5:8)

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness, Your power and Your love. Help us stay on Your perfect path. Guide our steps and keep us focused on You alone so we will avoid the detours that can cause us to step out of fellowship with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

COME TO THE LORD AND GO OUT FOR HIM


Coming to the Lord for salvation is just the beginning. We must then be willing to go out for Him, obeying His will to reach others with His love and mercies. Through His Word, prayer, and fellowship with other believers, He will guide us in so doing. Blessings as you come and go for Him.

Eternal Perspectives               By Sally Bair

Comings and Goings
           
The squirrels and chipmunks are everywhere, it seems. They hurry and scurry from one backyard tree to another. They run across the patio and climb the bird feeders to steal food from them. It’s fun to watch their endless comings and goings.

Watching the critters, I’m reminded of my own comings and goings. Some days it seems that’s all I do—come and go, with nothing of value to show for my hurry-scurry.

Jesus, on the other hand, had a special coming, to earth, and a special going, to the cross. Since we believers are to follow His example, our comings and goings should have value as His did.

Jesus invites every one of us to come to Him—for healing, deliverance, and salvation. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The best way we can come to Him for rest and sustenance is through daily, intentional, committed prayer and Bible reading. Once we come to Christ, we are told to go for Him. In fact, He commands us to “follow” Him. That going means we must be willing to go to the cross—that is, humble ourselves as He did, and deny ourselves so we will be holy, sacrificial servants of His love. Jesus means that we should make our love, devotion and service to Him our highest priority, even to the point of being willing to give up our physical lives for His sake. Followers of Him throughout the world have died and are still dying for their faith in Christ. Can we be willing to do less for His sake?

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

Lord, forgive us for our frantic comings and goings. Give us the will and strength to take up Your cross and follow Your will, not our own. Help us remember to spend special time with You daily. In Jesus’ name, amen.




Tuesday, June 12, 2018

MEMORIES ABOUT GOD ARE THE BEST



Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

I recently spent time with my sister to edit our life stories. We’re each writing a memoir about our childhood spent as identical twins. Along with her husband, who also grew up in the same area, we reminisced about the past. Many events and details that we thought we’d forgotten came back to mind.

Memories are like that. We recall them through our journals and diaries, and we share them during family get-togethers. As we remember a few, we recall others, and others, until they fill our minds like a tapestry waiting to be finished.

Memories can help us understand our present circumstances. As I write my memoir, I’m surprised how many of my remembrances show me a different perspective about my life. And they also remind me that I have the choice of which memories I want to keep and which I need to erase. When we keep the negative ones alive, we may tend to view our world as dark and dangerous. Positive memories, however—the ones that bring a laugh or a smile—can bring healing, health and joy. Others who hear us share good memories, and even bad memories that we can laugh about now, can’t help but rejoice with us.

God shows us the value of good memories through His Word. After He led His people across the Red Sea into freedom, He told them through Moses to “remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place ….” (Exodus 13:3)

King David, who faced many hardships and threats, took refuge in his memories of the Lord’s past help. “I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds.” (Psalm 77:11)

The more time we spend in God’s Word and in remembering the good things, the more we will remember His mercies. In doing so, we will keep a positive outlook regardless what is going on around us. And when we do tend to forget, God sends help. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [Jesus], will … bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26)

Lord, thank You for memories. Show us by Your Holy Spirit how best to use them for Your glory and our spiritual, mental and physical health. In Jesus’ name, amen.