Monday, May 23, 2011
Like some other flowers, dandelions close their proverbial eyes at night. Come morning, they open into beautiful, butter-gold blooms that are a feast to our eyes. I've decided that since they're too prolific to think about eradicating, I might as well enjoy them. Now when I look out at the golden sea in my yard, I smile. Actually, I laugh, content that I'm not alone in hosting the 'lions, for every field and yard and roadway is covered with them. Perhaps part of their purpose is to remind us that God even uses pernicious weeds to show His glory.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Keeping the Veil Open
I recently wrote about the curtain, or veil, of the temple being torn in half when Jesus died on the cross, allowing total access to God. No more blood sacrifices are required for our sins, since Jesus sacrificed His own blood on our behalf.
The veil has been opened. But sometimes we close our hearts to that fact. For instance, when we plan our day—and our future—without asking God what He wants us to do, we draw the veil closed. God tells us, “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man (nor in ourselves, I add), in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:3-4)
When we hurry into the day without feeding on God’s Word and communing with Him, we draw the veil closed. Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” “Direct my steps by Your Word ….” (Psalm 119:133)
Refusing to believe that God can bring something good out of our terrible situation closes the veil over our heart. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
If we believe we don’t deserve God’s love or aren’t good enough to be accepted by Him, the veil closes. The Bible says, “For 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)
Conversely, if we believe someone else doesn’t deserve God’s love and salvation, we’ve closed the veil. “Judge not, that you be not judged … why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1, 3)
When we simmer and stew and take offense to what someone said to or about us, the veil closes. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Lord, You’ve opened the veil so we can have fellowship with You. Help us to keep it open every day, regardless of our circumstances and feelings. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, May 16, 2011
A few weeks ago, ice presented us with a challenge along the trail. Now it’s wood ticks. The little buggers are everywhere. They drop from overhanging branches, crawl onto our socks from the grass, and sometimes I think they bomb us from the air itself. But unwelcome intruders as they are, God has given them the purpose of feeding the birds. They simply add to our summer experiences and challenges.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
A Step at a Time
The wooded, meandering trail still had ice on it which had built up, and been compacted by earlier trekkers. The only way to reach our destination was to keep moving and, in this case, move slowly and deliberately. Our greatest concern had to be the next step, not the destination. At times we had to stop and consider where to place our feet without fear of slipping or falling.
Our walk with God could be compared to hiking a trail. In fact, the Old Testament tells about men of God who didn’t know the details of their future but who trusted God to lead them on the right path. They knew little more than the next step. Joseph, for instance, though imprisoned and without knowledge of his future, believed God would reveal the next steps he should take. Abraham left his home country at God’s command without knowing his destination. Countless Christians called by God to enter the mission field simply left their comfortable lives, trusting that God would take them where He wanted them to minister.
None of us knows what our future holds on this earth. Our job is simply to walk with God, trusting in His guidance and His promises to plant our feet where they should go. Such a simple trust will propel us forward, knowing with assurance that God will direct us.
It’s when we focus on the icy trail ahead that our walk is hindered. Fear of movement will cripple us, rob us of God’s promised trail-blessings, and prevent others from starting or continuing their own walk through life with God.
Fear of the unknown looms large in the hearts of many. But usually the “What ifs” we ask ourselves come to nothing. The opposite of fear is faith. God’s Word asks for faith, promotes faith, encourages faith. It is a fact that there are at least 365 “Fear nots” in the Bible—one for every day of the year. That’s enough to cause all of us to start walking!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Lord, we want to walk with You one step at a time and depend on Your leading. Keep us from fearing the icy steps ahead. Rather, keep our minds and hearts on Your perfect path. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Copper Falls during high water rivaled any I’ve ever seen. The water roared as it raced down its boulder-strewn path. It spewed mist in its wake, casting delicate rainbows, while tumbling through narrow canyons. Water offers us a picture of God’s awesome beauty and power. Whether it comes as a trickle or a flood of problems, we can count on His presence to help us through.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Never Give Up
In the early 1800s William Carey, known as the “father of modern missions,” spent hours translating and printing the Bible into as many East Indian languages as possible. Then, while away from home, his print shop went up in flames. He lost his printing press, his complete library, typeset for 14 languages, hundreds of reams of paper, thousands of printed sheets, and much more. “The work of years—gone in a moment,” he whispered.
But Carey did not mourn long. “We are not discouraged,” he wrote. “We are cast down but not in despair.” His words mirror those of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed …”
Life happens. Fires destroy, diseases strike, losses occur. But Paul reminds us that in any time of trouble, God is with us. He would want us to get up again when we’re knocked down. Self-pity, despair, and hopelessness should not be in our vocabulary. When we’re willing to go forward and try again, God will surely bless us.
In the case of William Carey, God used his loss to catapult his mission to greater success. People began to donate their money and volunteer their services to help rebuild and enlarge his Godly industry. By 1832 complete Bibles, New Testaments, and separate books of the Bible had been printed in 44 languages and dialects.
When we are resilient—able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions—and trust God to take us through, there is no end of the blessings He will bestow on us. The key is to focus on Him through His Word. There are countless verses of encouragement we can use to bring about resiliency and hope.
For instance: “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)
And: “(We) sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2-3)
Lord, we thank You for being with us through thick and thin, like a good friend but much more. We look to You as the One who encourages and strengthens us, and restores our losses with so much more. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Sometimes Spring can be a pain. This year, for instance, up here in the Northwoods, Winter has had a choke-hold on Spring, releasing itself at times just enough to bring Spring to her knees, gasping for life. But the promise remains … and we look toward nicer days. May we never forget that God’s promises remain, too. His blessings of peace and joy as we worship and serve Him are never-ending.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Burdens Made Light
While hiking down a mountain, a grouse startled me, causing me to trip and lose my balance. Catching myself, I ran down, my heavy backpack ready to push me headfirst onto the ground. I finally managed to slow and then stop, but not without hard huffing and puffing. I laugh now thinking about what a sight I must have been, but at the moment of difficult descent, I struggled mightily.
The experience caused me to start carrying less weight on the trail. That’s a hard lesson for many of us. We tend to over-burden ourselves with non-essentials. Think about it. We collect stuff, hoard stuff, cling to stuff that is simply fluff. Yes, I know that some stuff—even fluff stuff—is necessary for living a comfortable life. But the more we collect, the more time it takes to file it, clean it, protect it, think about it. The list of things we collect is endless: clothing, appliances, household items, collectibles, vehicles, even our fun toys.
Perhaps we all need to stop and consider our limitations. Some of us are stronger than others and can carry heavier loads. Most of us, however, carry more than we need. Like my hike down the mountain, this can lead to a life of imbalance, a loss of vision for the beauty around us, and a breathless exertion that is unnecessary and unproductive.
Happily, our current economic situation has caused many people to pare down on their possessions. Living a simpler life, one with fewer encumbrances, has become the mantra for a growing number of us. Like mountain hikers, we’re packing less stuff, making our lives easier, freer, more satisfying.
Jesus ministered on earth without a bed on which to lay His head. His was the perfect example of an unencumbered, fulfilling life as God meant it. He doesn’t necessarily want us to go to His extremes, but His example does show us that He wants us to count on His help in carrying our burdens. He is more than able to supply all our needs.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Lord, help us trust that You will meet all our needs so we won’t be tempted to overpack. Teach us what is necessary and what is non-essential to our lives as we travel Your path up and down the mountains of life. In Jesus’ name, amen.