Monday, April 23, 2018

ARE YOU WEARING A MASK OF PRETENSION?


How easy it is to hide the sins and shortcomings in our lives. Rather, showing the world  our true selves will cause God to smile and may be the impetus of drawing others to Him. Think about it.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        By Sally Bair

Changing Colors

With the snow melting and the roadsides baring themselves, we’re seeing lots of deer browsing for grass again. They’re beginning to lose their thick, gray-brown winter hair, which soon will be replaced with a lighter, summer coat of reddish color. Nature has provided the perfect camouflage for this animal of the Northwoods.

People change color, too, in a different way but for the same reason. When we want to hide—camouflage—something about ourselves, we make a deliberate decision to do so. Putting on a new color can mean pretending to be something we are not. For instance, some may pretend piety but hide a substance abuse problem. Others may criticize someone yet face to face, smile and pretend nothing is wrong. Still others may profess holiness but commit sexual sins outside of marriage or delve into pornography.

Jesus spoke often against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the church leaders of the time. These men dressed and acted in a pious manner so people would look up to them and recognize the authority they had in the synagogues and throughout their communities. Many of them exhibited behavior that was an outward show of piety rather than one focused on the true intent of the law, which is love for God and others. Jesus berated these men with seven woes (“Woe to you, hypocrites …”), and ended His sermon with heartfelt words of sorrow for Jerusalem, the city of God. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37-38)

I once had a vision of a sea of smiling faces. All wore masks, camouflaging their true self. We’re all guilty at times of pretending we’re something we’re not. The faces in my vision could have represented churchgoers and leaders who are guilty of hiding their sins behind their smiles.

We may find it easy to camouflage our true, sinful self for the sake of popularity, gain, or high standing. Hypocrisy is no less a problem now than it was in Jesus’ time on earth. We would be wise to ask the Lord to reveal anything in our life that speaks of pretension.

Lord, reveal to us any hypocrisy we carry in our hearts that camouflages our true selves. Forgive us. By Your Spirit’s power, help us to replace our pretensions with love, mercy, and humility causing You to rejoice in our behavior. In Jesus’ name, amen.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

LESSONS FROM THE TITANIC


The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 caused Americans to think about their mortality. Many fell to their knees in repentance, not wanting to die without the assurance of their salvation. If nothing else, the event causes all of us to consider the impermanence of our lives. Like last week’s lesson, we can ask ourselves, are we ready for the day we die?

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

On April 15 over 100 years ago, the Titanic sunk in the north Atlantic. The Titanic was believed to be an unsinkable ship, safe and trustworthy. But she met her match against an iceberg. Heroes on board gave up their lives for others’ safety, while cowards pushed others out of the way to save themselves. More than fifteen-hundred people perished.

People today believe in their own Titanics, such as scientific answers or technology, to carry them safely to the other side of life. When we learn of an obstacle ahead, we may disregard warnings. Or float along without a lifeboat, depending on something or someone else to save us. Or we may believe nothing will happen because we’re healthy … young … financially comfortable … educated.

When we place our faith in man-made things and beliefs, we will flounder. None of us can be assured of a life tomorrow. “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry them all away, a breath will take them. But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13)

Our faith in God will see us through our difficulties and the icebergs we encounter. Does that mean we should not buy insurance? Keep a spare tire in our car trunk? Save for emergencies? We don’t know what unforeseen icebergs might sink our life-ship. But we can trust God. He is our strength, our peace, our joy, and our wisdom and knowledge.

Lord, You are “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1) In Jesus’ name, amen.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

ARE YOU READY FOR THAT DAY?


Eternal Perspectives         by Sally Bair

Ready or not

A tabloid headline screamed, “Christ will return on December 25!”  For some people that announcement might have seemed scarier than the picture of a Halloween vampire. For others it may have brought happy grins. The reader’s reaction depended on his or her spiritual standing with Christ.

There have been many other predictions in the past about a date and time of Christ’s return. None have been accurate, obviously. No one knows when He’ll return. Jesus said, “You…must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:40)

Are you ready for His return?  On that day will you fall before Him with fear and trembling, knowing you never heeded an evangelist or pastor’s call—or your grandmother’s prayer—to repent and turn your life over to Christ?  Or will you welcome Him, assured you will be taken up to heaven to live with Him in eternal joy rather than being sent to hell to suffer?

All of us will come face to face some day with our eternal destiny. Luke 9:59 says: “[Jesus] said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” 

Are you waiting first to see your kids graduate … to pay off your mortgage … to finish college … to give up drinking, smoking, or partying … to see justice accomplished for the wrong someone has done to you …to take your family to Disneyland or the Grand Canyon … to sow your wild oats while you’re still young? 

No excuse will hold back Jesus’ return. “I tell you, now is … the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) For the sake of your eternal destiny, do not put it off. Accept him into your life. Believe in Him. Confess your sins to him. Then turn your life around. You’ll not only be assured of eternal life with Him, you’ll also enjoy peace and joy and other blessings He has ready for you from this day on.

Lord, we want to be fit for Your kingdom. Help us to be ready for Your return by forgetting all else but You. In Jesus’ name, amen.



Monday, April 2, 2018

A BLESSED RESURRECTION DAY TO YOU!


Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

The Cross

Years ago I stopped at an historical marker telling about a tree that stood before me. The white oak had escaped the onslaught of millions of northern Wisconsin hardwoods cut during the early logging days. It was one of the few old growth trees left following that time.

Because I am enamored with trees, the huge oak impressed me. But when I consider all trees, the one that means the most to me is the one made into a cross that held the body of Jesus. Every time I see a replica of the cross, the instrument of torture that killed Him, I visualize the letters
L-O-V-E inscribed on the crossbar. Because without His love, exhibited so vividly on that cross, we would have no salvation from sin.

Many parents are willing to die for their children. Servicemen and women are willing to die for their country. Even some good friends are willing to lay down their own lives for one another.
But Jesus was prepared and eager to die for us all. He could have called a thousand angels down to save Him from the torture of His death on a cross. But He “… who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

His shame wasn’t for Himself, for He was sinless. His shame was ours. He took our place, taking our sin—and that of the entire world—upon Himself. All for love.

The Bible teaches that we all have sinned and cannot be saved from it without the blood shed by Jesus Christ. We could say that the crossbar on His instrument of torture was meant to become our stepping stone to God. When we wear a cross around our neck or as a tattoo, place it on our license plate or hang it on our wall, we show the world that God’s love has reached us, and redeemed us from eternal life without Him. The cross we choose to show is a testimony of our returning love for Him. May we wear it with humility, joy and enduring faith.

Lord, thank You for the cross. Thank You for Your willingness to send Your only Son to earth for the sake of taking on our sins in order to show Your everlasting, undeserving love. Give us the faith, willingness and power to share Your love with all those we meet, as Jesus did. We ask this in His precious name, amen.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

TRUTH CANNOT BE HIDDEN BY PAYOFFS



Hiding the truth usually brings unpleasant consequences. And even as we should never hide the truth, we should not hide our faith under a bushel basket. The Bible states that clearly. God’s Word is much too valuable to keep hidden.

Eternal Perspectives   by Sally Bair

When youngsters disobey their parents, they may be tempted to hide the truth by bribing a sibling. Perhaps you also have paid off someone to keep a truth hidden. Usually our motive is to hide an indiscretion or an illegal or immoral deed. Such bribery has taken place since the beginning of time, including during Bible times.

After Jesus died and was buried, the chief priests and Pharisees told Pontius Pilate to secure the grave to prevent Jesus’ disciples from stealing His body and telling the people He had risen from the dead. They had heard Jesus say after three days He would rise.

In spite of precautions, the immovable barrier was found to be rolled away and the tomb empty. Certain women met an angel there, who gave them the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The women, of course, ran to share the joyous news with Jesus’ disciples. The story continues about Jesus appearing to them, too, and a host of others before His ascension to heaven.

The news of Jesus’ resurrection became a secret from the public. At least, it was meant to be a secret, if the Pharisees had succeeded. “Behold, some of the guard … reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, ‘Tell them, “His disciples came at night and stole him away while we slept.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him …’ So they took the money and did as they were instructed …” (Matthew 28:11-15)

The chief priests told a good story, but it was untruthful and weak in explanation. If a guard slept at his post or a prisoner escaped, the guard would be put to death. Perhaps one soldier could have slept, but it would have been improbable for all to sleep simultaneously. Besides, sleeping people do not make good witnesses.

The hush-money did no good. People throughout history and the world have since accepted the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. The news spread like wildfire through the testimony of the disciples and countless others.

Jesus’ miraculous resurrection from the grave is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, not only for its newsworthiness and historical accuracy, but especially for the hope it offers us about our own eternal life. The Holy Spirit continues to make the truth known everywhere.

Lord, thank You for Your resurrection power that offers us the peace and joy that comes from freedom from our sin and the promise of eternal life with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.