Monday, April 25, 2011
I pulled the brittle, dead asparagus stalks to make room for the new shoots. During this time of year, our gardens and yards, fields and forests are filled with new life. May the new life of Christ abound in you as well—in all that you think, say, and do.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The Death Road
While my grandson, Alex, and his youth mission team traveled throughout Bolivia, they had to take the “death road” from La Paz down the mountain to a jungle village. According to AAA, Bolivia’s Death Road is considered the most dangerous road in the world, and every week someone is killed on it. If you search for “Bolivia death road” on the internet, you’ll see some frightening pictures. After reaching the end, Alex sent a text message to his mom: “I had fear for lunch today.” Thankfully, they made it down, and back up two weeks later, without incident.
There is a spiritual death road, too, which is something everyone should avoid. We know our body will die some day. But whether our spirit dies or lives after our physical death is for us to choose. The Bible sets the choice before us. We can experience eternal life with Christ or eternal death without Him. Jesus told His disciples, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body … but I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him … who has the power to cast into hell.” (Luke 12:5)
Why would anyone choose eternal death in hell? It is the biblical promise of life after death that gives hope to believers in Christ. Without hope there is nothing but futility and fear. A nurse once told me she could tell when dying patients believed in Christ as their savior because they had a peaceful countenance and attitude, even in the midst of pain. Conversely, those who did not believe, who rejected the truth of the resurrection, displayed fear and anxiety about their dying.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25)
What a promise! The truth of Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the crux of the Christian faith. We Christians can celebrate Easter Sunday every day of the year—not with bunnies and eggs and candy, but with the knowledge that we will be resurrected some day with Christ for eternity.
It’s part of our nature to feel fear from sudden danger, as my grandson and his mission team felt while going down the Death Road. But knowing we hold the promise of spending eternity with Christ can banish our fear in an instant.
Lord, You have set before us life and death. We choose life—with its blessings of peace and joy here on earth and with its hope of spending eternity with You. Thank You for being the Resurrection and the Life. Amen.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Yesterday I gave a talk at the public library in Columbus, Wis., near Madison. All went well until I started home. I encountered numerous snow showers that slowed my progress—at times to a halt. With winds at 30 mph or more and gusts to 50 mph, the snow bursts became virtual whiteouts. It’s eerie when a whiteout suddenly obscures your vision like a thick, white curtain. If I hadn’t written today’s devotional earlier, I surely would have been inspired from yesterday’s drive home. It’s about another curtain, the veil in the temple. May God bless you this week with joy and peace as you celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, which allows us total access to God. Hallelujah, He has removed the veil!
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The Open Curtain
When the curtain goes up, it means the play is about to begin. We will now be able to see the much-anticipated actors and action. Hopefully, the closed curtain will rise and we will get our money’s worth—a good performance.
In the days of Moses, the Israelites dealt with a closed curtain. God instructed them to construct a curtain, or veil, for their portable tabernacle. The curtain in God’s dwelling place, in the Holy of Holies room, separated Him from the people. Once they settled in Jerusalem, they built a temple, complete with a new curtain made for God’s new dwelling.
Their perpetually-closed curtain was meant to keep the sight of God separated from the people because they could not look upon His awesome glory and holiness and yet live. It also obstructed sinful man’s approach to a perfect God Who would not tolerate sin. There was no direct entry to God in the Holy of Holies behind the veil except by the high priest who, once a year, was allowed to enter the sacred room. And even he could not enter without presenting a blood sacrifice and a cleansing of his body.
It is said that everything in the Old Testament conceals what the New Testament reveals. When Jesus died on the cross—by virtue of His own blood shed for our sins—it brought a glorious end to the need for any separation between God and man. The curtain’s purpose ended on a sudden, dramatically-supernatural note when God’s mighty hand tore it from top to bottom at the very instant that Jesus said, “It is finished.”
No longer would sinful man have to stand afar off from God. Jesus forever removed the obstacle to fellowship with God for anyone who would approach Him through faith and in spiritual worship.
The writer of Hebrews 10:19-22 clearly explains this wonderful truth. “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Lord, we thank You for removing the veil so we can approach You through faith. Thank You for giving us victory over sin and death through Your Son, Jesus, who is our Overcomer. Amen.
Monday, April 11, 2011
My favorite symbol of this season is the lamb. When my kids were young, we raised a couple lambs. Like puppies, they were adorable. We also found them dumb, helpless, and vulnerable to danger. But they never ceased to cause me to think of God’s great sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus. He submitted Himself to torture and death so we might live in forgiveness of our sins and in close fellowship with Him now and in eternity. Hallelujah! “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The Red Thread
Our life is dependent on the blood that flows through our veins and arteries. Its red and white cells, plasma, and platelets have distinct and complex jobs. Simply put, our blood gives us oxygen for energy and food for fuel and heat, and it provides us with a built-in alarm system that tells us when something is not working right. Blood is so powerful that without it, we would die.
Blood is powerful in the spiritual sense, too. Did you know that the Bible carries a “red thread” from the books of Genesis through Revelation? That is to say, the Bible tells the story of Jesus’ blood sacrifice throughout the entire Bible. An agnostic told me she could not believe in a religion that taught about blood sacrifice. Little did she know how important it is to our spiritual wellness.
In the beginning, after Adam and Eve sinned, God clothed them with the skins of animals that could not have been taken without the shedding of blood. We can fast forward to the story of the Israelites when God delivered them from Egypt across the Red Sea. Before they left, they were instructed to smear lamb’s blood on their doorpost as protection from death by God’s angels. The blood became their covering, or atonement.
God made an everlasting covenant with His people that included the sacrifice of animals. He promised redemption from sin and protection from death to eternal life. His blessings included power and healing. His promise holds true today for those who believe in Him. But there is a great difference between then and now. No longer do we need to offer blood sacrifices for our well-being. Christ did it for us, once, and for everyone.
Take time during this Lenten-Easter season to meditate on the great sacrifice our Savior made for us. Remember that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Jesus is our High Priest—the One who took over the job of Israel’s former high priests who sacrificed animals to atone for, or cover, the sins of the people. I repeat: Jesus took it upon Himself, once, for everyone, to cover our sins.
We thank You, Lord, for Your shed blood that gives us these gifts: spiritual energy to live according to Your will; food from Your Word and Spirit for a healthy body and mind; and warnings to heed against our enemies. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Wouldn’t you think the family of deer pictured here would be nicer to each other? That’s the puzzle about relationships. Sometimes we humans quickly change from the feeling of love and closeness to that of anger, spite, or disgust. The biblical example of the Good Samaritan offers us a good example to follow. Jesus IS our example. May this week offer you opportunity to meditate on the lessons in His parable.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Who is Our Neighbor?
I have new neighbors, a friendly, young couple whom I intend to get to know better. Their political views may be different, their religious affiliation may not match mine, and their lifestyle surely varies because of our age difference. But none of that matters. They’re my neighbors. That means as a follower of Christ, I must offer them my love.
Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan talks about neighbors. Not much is said about the victim in the story, the man stripped and beaten by robbers. Did he, like his attackers, have evil intentions against someone? According to society, did he deserve to be rescued?
The priest and Levite in Jesus’ story walked by the victim without offering to help because they had much at stake. Their law demanded that they not touch a bleeding man. Doing so would have required submitting to a long process of ritual cleansing, taking time away from their duties and leisure.
The Samaritan, however, provided extraordinary care. He didn’t question the victim, but simply acted on a need without counting the cost. He bound the man’s wounds, using his own oil and wine. He set the man on his own donkey, probably choosing to walk, and took him to an inn. He stayed with the man all night, probably losing sleep because of his moaning. If all that wasn’t enough, he even used his own money to pay for the man’s stay and told the owner he’d make up any required difference when he returned.
Would you or I go to such lengths to help someone we didn’t know? Consider the lengths Jesus went to for our sake. He suffered a cruel, undeserved death on the cross to rescue us from sin, dis-ease, and eternal death. How can we not respond to the needs of others after receiving Jesus’ extraordinary rescue of us? To our neighbor who we may not think deserves help? To the person who may differ in political or religious views? Who may speak abrasively? Who may be ungrateful and contrary?
Jesus asked the lawyer, who set out to trick Him with the question, “Who is my neighbor?”, “Which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” When the lawyer answered correctly that it was the merciful Samaritan, Jesus simply said, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Lord, may Your love overflow in us so much that we, like the Good Samaritan, will be compelled to go and do likewise, without counting the cost of our time, reputation, and money. In Jesus’ name, amen.