Monday, March 20, 2017

SAYING "I DO" TO THE LORD IS ONLY THE BEGINNING



Our vows to follow Jesus are even more important than those we repeat in marriage. After all, He is our Bridegroom, the One we need—and should want—to be near at all times. May the honeymoon never be over for you as you follow Him with joy and in obedience.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

We northerners enjoy seeing bald eagles soaring overhead or feeding on carrion along our roadways. Bald eagles mate for life. In fact they, along with wolves, put our human race to shame when it comes to remaining monogamous.

Vowing to remain devoted to a spouse has become unimportant for much of western society. For many couples, their “I do’s” includes a list of “I don’t’s” that has ended marriages long before death do they part. More and more, among both non-Christians and followers of Christ, the honeymoon period of marriage seems to grow shorter and shorter.

The solemn promise of a marriage vow can compare to that between a person and God. When we say “I do” to God, pledging to trust, follow and obey Him, it should not be taken lightly. We believers may see our new life with the Lord as a marriage, wherein we want to spend all our time with Him. We take joy in learning more about Him through His Word and spend time talking to Him in prayer often. Even daily. We trust He will take joy in us, protect us, give us strength and provide for our needs. In fact, He will be jealous of us, just as a wild animal shows jealousy by  guarding its mate.

Jealousy and envy are two separate emotions. Envy means to covet someone else’s belongings. Jealousy comes in holding tightly to what belongs to us, such as our faith and devotion to God. God Himself commanded: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image … you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God …” (Deuteronomy 5:7-8)

When a couple falls away from their closeness by allowing outside influences to take the place of their spouse, they may lose their unity forever. The best marriages are by couples who keep their vows to love, honor and obey their spouses. They vow to spend time alone together each day, whether sharing a walk in the woods, enjoying a meal out or sitting on the quiet porch where they can discuss their daily joys and sorrows and make plans for the future. When young children are involved, a couple can steal alone time somewhere, even behind closed doors..

 Lord, thank You for the example of monogamous bald eagles and wolves that show us their continual devotion. Compel us to remain true to our spouses. And cause us to love, honor and obey You above all others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, March 13, 2017

ARE YOU FULL OF GOD'S JOY TODAY?



The joy of the Lord is our strength, unlike the fleeting happiness of the world. Let us rejoice and be glad in each day, each hour He gives us.

Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

A Merry Heart

The flu bug took up residence in my whole body, including my brain. Since I couldn’t think clearly but needed a diversion, I watched comedies on my DVD player. Mindless yet entertaining, the I Love Lucy shows made me laugh. I not only enjoyed them, I learned that laughing benefited my health. Those silly movies helped bring healing to my body.

God knows we all need laughter, especially when we’re facing troubled times. Whether we suffer from the flu or emotional pain, we become healthier when we are merry. But merriment comes from joy, not merely from happiness. At times we can’t or shouldn’t be happy, such as when we or others are hurting, grieving or facing other kinds of loss.

Happiness differs from joy. The happiness we feel while watching humorous movies or listening to jokes is fleeting and external. True joy, however, is not an emotion; it’s an attitude. We can choose to be joyful regardless of our circumstances. When we know without doubt that we’re loved, valued and accepted by God, we will be filled with true joy. The Bible records almost 250 times the words rejoice and joyful.

Perhaps the most familiar Bible verse about joy is found in Proverbs 17:22. “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” The biblical word “merry” means joyful, as opposed to the word “dries,” which denotes withering, confusion or disappointment. None of us sets out to look or act like our bones are withering. We would rather have others see us as joyful. The joy we experience, in spite of what is happening, not only brings personal health, it rubs off onto those around us.

God would not have us be serious all the time. Our joy should be evident in our words and actions. In fact, when we choose to obey and walk in His teachings, joy should be an automatic response to Him. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) Complete joy comes when a follower of Christ experiences His love.

We may enjoy jokes and humorous movies and benefit from the healing effects of watching them. But only through Christ and His love can we enjoy total healing, Godly joy and peace of mind.

Lord, thank You for giving us a merry heart and for Your indescribable joy that comes in knowing You, obeying You and following after You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A SURE AND TRUSTWORTHY AMEN



The word “amen” means sure, trustworthy, and solid. May we remember that each time we use the word.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

Amen and amen

The ice on Chequamegon Bay this winter proved to be solid enough, in spots only, to hold a pickup or fishing shack. Other spots were fraught with fissures or too thin to support even a man. Thin ice has already caused several accidents.

Sometimes our faith in God can be weak, too. We may believe Him in some things but not others. We may trust ourselves more than God to solve our problems, bypassing His Word, His quiet voice or His promises in favor of our own solutions. Or we may believe God is so far away that He doesn’t want to bother with our insignificant lives.

I recently learned that the word “amen” comes from the same root word as faith and it is more solid than the thickest ice. I never gave much thought to the word amen. It happens to be the word used at the end of a prayer, a word perhaps most of us take for granted. Yet, it is important.

Amen means sure, trustworthy and solid. When we say amen, in essence we are saying “It’s true. Yes, I agree.” But we may be so used to saying amen after a prayer or someone’s statement that we dismiss it from our minds. Saying amen is like saying yes to God—to His salvation and love. It is saying it with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.

The implications of believing in Him wholeheartedly are great. “If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.” (Isaiah 7:9) Believing in Him is the key to receiving His promises. Such truth is sprinkled throughout the entire Bible.

Paul tells Christians to remain steadfast in faith. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7) We can add an amen to that!

We are also told that without faith we cannot please God. As we remain in God’s Word and close communion with Him, our faith—our amen—will increase in strength. We won’t have to be afraid of walking on unstable ground or on thin ice that won’t hold us up. His promises are amen-sure, solid enough to see us through any problem.

Lord, thank You for Your solid, unshakeable truth. Help us to stay away from unstable and unsafe situations and temptations that might cause our faith to falter. In Jesus’ name, amen and amen.  
             

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

WHEN THE WELL GOES DRY



Heaven help us when we allow the well of God’s living water go dry! We need His life-sustaining, growth-promoting Word and Spirit constantly. Not for a mere hour on Sunday morning or a two-minute devotion over breakfast, but daily. Hourly. By the minute and sometimes by the second.


Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

The water well

Back on the farm, our well didn’t produce enough water at times, so my dad filled up our cream cans at our neighbor’s place. They had plenty of water for their dozen or so cows while we had to make do, never sure when the well would give out and go dry. Never sure when the water would turn cloudy and taste bitter. It’s no wonder my dad gave up dairy farming after a few years.

Because of the unpredictability of our water supply, we always made sure to keep extra containers on hand. As a teenager, I considered the problem more than an inconvenience and worthy of many complaints. My parents never complained about the lack. They seemed to take it in stride.

We tend to take our water for granted, don’t we? A simple turn of a handle brings an abundance of the precious commodity. We drink it, bathe in it, nourish our plants and gardens and cows with it, and launder our clothes with it. We even play and swim in it.

Throughout the entire Bible, water is a frequent subject. In fact, God ordained a certain ritual for the Israelites to observe during the Feast of Tabernacles celebration. A priest filled a golden pitcher with water from the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem and carried it to the temple, where he poured it on the altar as an offering to God. The ceremony commemorated the event of God supplying His people with water that flowed from a rock, during their travels through the wilderness.

Jesus talked often about water. Perhaps during one of the Jewish celebrations He said these memorable words: “‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ This He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive …” (John 7:37-38)

  As much as the Israelites needed water to stay alive, and as much as our cows needed more water than our well could produce, we need the water of God’s Spirit to stay alive in Him. Not only does He promise it in sufficient supply to take us through any trial we face, but the living water of Jesus always tastes sweet. “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)

Lord, thank You for the Living Water of Jesus and for the assurance that it will never run dry. In Jesus’ name, amen.           


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.