Tuesday, February 20, 2018

GOD'S WORD IS WORTH REPEATING



Every time we read or hear God’s Word, He gives us a new slant on its meaning. We can read it a thousand times and it will always encourage, uplift, convict, or comfort us. How great is that? So let’s make sure we keep reading!

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES         by Sally Bair

Worth Repeating

Years before my mother started having memory loss, she would repeat the stories about her childhood to me. I spent a lot of time with her and admit that many times I grew not only weary but impatient with her repetitions. Not until I grew older, myself, did I learn to appreciate her repeated stories. If she hadn't told them to me so many times, I would not have remembered them. Because she did, I now have the privilege of passing them down to my own children and grandchildren. Some things are worth repeating. And like my mother, I'll repeat my own stories to them, as well. They've become a rich legacy.

After Moses' death, Joshua took over his role of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua had been a close, faithful assistant of Moses for forty years of wandering in the desert. When he found himself at the edge of the deep, wide Jordan River, alone and without the help of his mentor, his heart must have wavered. Who was there to rely on now?  How could he possibly lead more than a million people without the great Moses?

God had some good advice for Joshua—advice that He felt worth repeating. "Be strong…and courageous," God told him. Not once, not twice, but four times in the space of a short conversation. Check out the first nine verses of Joshua 1.

God knew that Joshua, now an old man himself, could leave the safe past behind him and start out by himself on this daunting trip. But God knew Joshua needed all the encouragement He could give. And so God repeated His words—over and over.

I have a friend who was divorced many years ago, who still carries her grief around and is unable to make a new life for herself. I know people who cannot get beyond the pain of losing a loved one even after years of grieving. Some even put up shrines to the deceased where they can speak to the loved one, unable to sever the ties. Like Joshua, we all lose people, and things, which are dear to us. But God offers the strength and encouragement we need to move on. Like Joshua, when we avail ourselves of that, we grow stronger and become more fulfilled than when we choose to remain powerless or paralyzed in our misery.

Lord, we want to be like Joshua, ready to shed the effects of the past, letting go of our losses, so we can go forward with the strength and encouragement that You give. In Jesus' name, amen.
           


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

GOD DOESN'T WANT OUR HEARTS TO BE ENCASED IN ICE



Jesus is the perfect example of forgiveness and He wants us to follow His example. If anyone had good reason to be offended by lies and injustices, it was Jesus. But He wants us to be free from all our past hurts and offenses.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES             by Sally Bair

Melting Ice
           
At this time of year, from one day to the next we don’t know if we’ll be stepping on ice or water. I saw an icicle hanging from a nearby building that was as thick as a good-sized person. It nearly touched the ground. Temps fluctuate often at this time of year, and we welcome the warmer days.

Speaking of icicles, they remind me of some people who I’ve known. Indeed, our hearts can become encased in ice. A frustration or hurt can cause us to form a thin crust on our injured soul. The longer we allow our feelings to rankle, the thicker the icy layer becomes. "I'll never forgive her," we might say. Like the Hatfields and McCoys, an unforgiving act can be carried down through the generations until families don't even know what injustice brought on the feud.

Jesus showed and taught the lesson of forgiveness wherever He went. His ultimate act of forgiveness came after His own followers turned their backs on Him and His persecutors taunted, beat, and eventually murdered Him. He still forgave them. Though most of us hopefully won't have to go through such drastic persecution, our job is to follow His example—being willing to forgive even 70 times seven.

That can be hard!  Our emotions too often keep us from forgiving. But if we will trust and obey God, He will give us the strength to resist the urge to show resentment—and to forget the wrong. The popular phrase, "I can forgive but never forget" is a copout, something we should never settle for. We are to forgive as Christ forgave us—unconditionally, purposefully, permanently and lovingly.

It’s a medically proven fact that forgiveness brings emotional freedom. The "discovery" is not new. God's word has taught it for centuries. As we forgive—and love—those who have wronged us, something happens within us. The pain of the incident is washed away by God's power and inner peace is restored.

"Love keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:5) God doesn’t want us to be scorekeepers of the wrongs we've suffered. Like a frozen icicle, our hearts will thaw and warm when they are full of forgiveness and love.

Lord, we don't want hearts of ice. Give us the grace to forgive others regardless of their motives. We commit to leaving the pain behind so we can walk with hearts filled with the warmth of Your peace and joy and love. In Jesus' name, amen.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

OUR EARTHLY HOMES ARE TEMPORARY



At least, that’s how we should think of them, if we’re true followers of Christ. As Kingdom of God dwellers, we can consider our home as being with Christ now, and forever in His eternal, heavenly home. What freedom that offers! May we walk in that freedom.

Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

Temporary homes

I’ve lived in 26 houses. Three qualified as long-term residences, true homes, while others were short-term dwellings. Reminiscing, I wonder what “footprints” I left at each abode and how I reacted to the changes from one home to the next. Some brought happiness and peace, causing me to look back with fondness. A few were scary, both in layout of the house and my life experiences. Others caused angst and sorrow.

God’s people also moved often. Adam and Eve were ousted from their perfect home. Noah and his family and a host of animals were stuck in the ark for an entire year. Abraham, not knowing where God led him, obeyed nonetheless, without looking back. The Israelites, conversely, kept complaining how good things had been though enslaved by the Egyptians. Lot’s wife, forced to move quickly, turned to look back at what she might be missing. She turned into a pillar of salt.

During His days of ministry, Jesus lived wherever He could, sometimes sleeping under the stars. The place where He lay His head played second fiddle to the reason He was there, that of simply following His Father’s orders in drawing people to Himself.

People have asked me if I missed living in such and such a place. If I missed the spaciousness, the things I’d collected, the environment, the friends. On rare occasion I have felt brief sadness about a certain place and time. But I know that God’s Word tells me I have a much better home ahead. Jesus taught that we are not to become attached to things around us. Paul wrote, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, [our physical body] is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) 

If we are believers in Christ, it shouldn’t matter what kind of house we live in now, we will move into a much greater one after our life on earth is over. Noah, the enslaved Israelites, and countless other biblical characters, knew their earthly homes were temporary. By faith they looked forward to the better home, the same eternal home we can look forward to when we’ve made Him our savior and Lord. Like them, we are mere “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13) Like them, by faith in God’s promise of eternal life with Him, we “desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.” (verse 16)

Lord, thank You for the promise of a heavenly home, one far better than any earthly one where we might live. By faith and the power of Your Spirit, keep us ever mindful of Your perfect, heavenly home. In Jesus’ name, amen.
             
           

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

THIS WEEK LET'S WALK IN THE LIGHT OF GOD'S WORD



Punxutawney Phil may run and hide when he sees his shadow, but we should have no reason to hide from the light of the Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Eternal Perspectives
by Sally Bair

Punxutawney Phil 

On Feb. 2, we celebrate the 132nd anniversary of Groundhog’s Day. It all started in the early 1800s when each February 2nd, Candlemas Day, residents of the town of Punxutawney, PA, watched to see if any wild animals came out of hibernation. If an animal saw its shadow from the sun, it meant six more weeks of winter. If no shadow, it meant an early spring. An interesting way to predict the weather. Eventually the people of Punxutawney chose a mascot, one of the plentiful groundhogs in that region. Today one of them is kept safe in its own house, and wakened each Feb. 2nd, to offer its prediction.

The day has become a national, perhaps worldwide, week-long celebration. Among many interesting events, this year’s celebration will feature the Phind Phil Scavenger Hunt for kids and a Phantastic Phil Walking Tour. The annual trek has blossomed into a major event, resulting in the Groundhog Club, of which thousands of people claim membership.

Celebration aside, many of us may feel like hibernating, like Punxutawney Phil, during our long winters. More darkness, too much cold air, snow, and ice sap our energy and drag our spirit. No wonder we think about huddling under a quilt for more hours than we should. Oh, to be a groundhog, ducking into a hole to sit out the season!

 We may experience reasons other than the weather to hide out. Perhaps we feel like retreating in fear over a negative circumstance or a challenge we face. Or perhaps we sense the dark cloud of defeat because of a failure or disappointment. We may become so used to the darkness in our lives that we can’t stand the light that flickers not quite close enough to beckon us to step out into it.

God has the solution for our winter doldrums. Instead of retreating into our emotional caves He offers the light of His Word. “It is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Even as God commanded the light to shine in the darkness at creation, He turns on the light in our hearts so we can see who He is.

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)

Lord, we don’t want to cling to darkness, like Punxsutawney Phil might do on Feb. 2nd. Turn our fears to faith so we will see Your light through Your Word and walk in it. In Jesus’ name, amen.