Monday, June 27, 2011
And the living is marvelous. Green grass, red fawns, yellow dandelions, and other bee-you-tee-ful flowers. The lupines are my favorite, and this year they’re extra tall. It’s time to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation. It offers therapy and healing, and never ceases to bring a smile.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Seeds that Multiply
The beautiful Wild Lupine plants are in full bloom. One plant spike contains dozens of five-petaled flowers all the way from stem to tip, which can be as long as twelve inches. They’re so abundant that the roadsides and fields are a blue and pink feast to the eyes.
Lupines are not only pleasing to the eye, they offer other benefits as well. They give nectar to the endangered Karna blue butterfly. In fact, the lupine is that caterpillar’s only host plant. The lupine, a legume plant, also restores nitrogen to the soil. Some of the 200-plus species of lupine are referred to as green manure.
Each flower from one lupine plant can produce between ten and twenty seeds. It’s mind-boggling to imagine how many more lupines can be reproduced from a single plant. If not for insect predators, we would see lupines everywhere. But that’s true of many plants, which exist to reproduce more of their kind.
Jesus told a parable about seeds, recorded in Matthew 13, that reminds me of the life of a lupine plant. Jesus is the One who sows the seed through His Word and through the words and deeds of us Christian believers. He uses us to plant good seeds along the roadsides and in the field of the world. But we can sow His seeds of love only if the soil of our own heart produces attractive and beneficial crops like lupine.
Galatians 5:19-20 says: “the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.” Such fruit is what all Christians should ask for, strive for, and live for, so the seeds we sow in the name of Jesus will reproduce good fruit in others. The more we do that, the more seeds of God’s love and joy and peace we can spread throughout our world.
Every day God gives us the opportunity to sow good seeds that will produce an abundant crop of beautiful and useful soul-food, like the lupine. Every day God gives us the opportunity to keep bad seeds—worry, envy, unbelief, discontent, and pride—from getting mixed in with the good. The day will come when He will gather His harvest. As with any crop, the harvest will entail getting rid of the fruit of bad seed. Only the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s seed will last.
Lord, we look toward the day of Your harvest, when “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43) Thank You for the privilege of planting seeds of love, joy, and peace in the world. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, June 20, 2011
On my recent trip to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands near Medora, ND, I saw pairs of bison, mule deer, prairie dogs, and many varieties of songbirds. Love is in the early summer air for animals and humans alike. What is more exciting than a wedding in June? What is even more exciting than to be united with Christ in His love?
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The recent wedding of William and Kate brought oohs and aahs from many viewers. No one could deny its beauty and perfection. Kate’s attire and William’s regal presence awed the massive crowd. The well-trained horses didn’t miss a step. Color, glitter, pomp, and pageantry filled the air.
The wedding brought joy and hope to the people. Surely anyone living under a kingdom would want to exult in their beneficent, royal leaders. Even when their leaders falter, display character flaws, and disappoint, the people look to them as exalted rulers who will keep them from hardship and harm.
We who follow Christ can also exult in our God who is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. The Bible is filled with references of His royal attributes. “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty.” (Isaiah 33:17) “The Lord … is clothed in majesty ….” (Psalm 93:1)
The family of William and Kate will reign over England and its territories for many years to come. By contrast, our God will reign “forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
People throughout the world will honor and rejoice over their royal leaders. However, the Bible tells us to give honor to God. “Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory ….” (Revelation 19:6)
There’s an even greater contrast between earthly and spiritual royalty. Followers of Christ are much more than mere subjects of a kingdom who must be content to watch a royal wedding. As inheritors of God’s kingdom, we receive all the benefits of royalty. We are the bride of Christ—that is, the Christian Church.
Kate’s white gown was spotless. We too must be spotless—without sin. Such a condition comes only through repentance and acceptance of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as not only our Savior from sin, but as Lord of our lives. Only then will we become the recipients of everything that royalty offers. “For the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
Lord, thank You for giving us the awesome opportunity of becoming a member of Your kingdom. Thank You for promising us eternal life in Your kingdom. We are humbled by Your majesty and we exalt You. Continue to reign over us in Your truth, beauty, and holiness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Babies have a way of wrapping us around their fingers. Who can resist them? They learn how to manipulate their irresistibility at an incredibly young age. For grandmas like me, that’s fun. Whether innocent or not, ya gotta love ‘em. Best of all, so does God.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The Benefits of Praise
We enjoy watching animal shows on TV. My favorites are about newborns that romp and play around their mothers in the prairie grass, on mountaintops, and under water. Their antics tickle my insides. Perhaps they make God, their Creator, laugh too. Perhaps their exuberance at life is simply their way to praise Him.
Human children are just as uninhibited and exuberant in their playful praise. Watching a toddler splash in water or run through raindrops brings sheer pleasure and joy to our hearts.
God’s heart receives our exuberant praise with joy, too. He encourages us to praise Him—whether we clap our hands, shout, sing and dance, or raise our hands. He encourages us to be still before Him, which is another way to offer praise.
Praise is a powerful tool that hinders the devil’s plans. Through praise, God brings us out of our spiritual slumps. Through praise, he breaks our habits of complaining. Through praise, He replaces our fears with faith and turns our negative thoughts to positive.
Praise is a discipline we all should learn. When we’re in a slump or facing a difficult situation, we can choose to praise God in and for the situation as we go through it. The bible tells us, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Think of it this way: when you don’t feel like praising God, decide to sacrifice your feelings and do it anyway. Such beautiful sacrifice brings great rewards. Such sacrifice brings a sense of God’s power and presence like nothing else. When we offer praise to God before the battle is won, we open the way for Him to bring us victory. Praise in the tough times brings us hope and encouragement and power to meet our adversaries. What are our adversaries? The temptation to smoke or do drugs or eat too much, the feeling of helplessness or fear or anger, the pain of rejection or illness or grief.
Lord, no matter what our age or circumstance, help us to be as exuberant as a baby critter in our praises to God. We agree with the Psalmist: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1) In Jesus’ name we offer you our sacrifice of praise. Amen.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Something big was happening. Ann, my niece, started to scatter sunflower seeds on her deck for the resident chipmunk. Every day the chippie came. The news spread. A chickadee joined the chippie, then a nuthatch, then a white-throated sparrow. Two more appeared. Then three. Then … Now they all watch and wait for their daily rations. The crowd has grown and is eager—just like the pray-ers were during the great Prayer Meeting Revival. Great things come to those who faithfully wait.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The Great Prayer Meeting Revival
It started on Sept. 23, 1857, during a desperate time in America. On the edge of financial collapse, banks and businesses failed, and unemployment figures reached many thousands. People in desperate straits didn’t know where to turn for help. The spiritual climate showed the Christian religion in decline as well. That’s when Jeremiah C. Lanphier posted a sign outside a New York church advertising a prayer meeting during the noon hour.
Like many prayer meetings, only a handful of people attended at first. But as they began to meet weekly, the numbers grew. Soon the people met daily to pray. When their numbers outgrew the church capacity, other churches and even a large theater opened their doors for prayer.
Some 150 interdenominational prayer meetings took place in Brooklyn and Manhattan alone. Within six months, over 10,000 men met to pray daily in New York. The prayer revival soon leaped to Philadelphia, Chicago, Louisville, Cleveland, St. Louis, and many other cities to the west and then overseas. In fact, the meetings continued until 1860, just before the American civil war began.
There was little or no preaching during those daily meetings—only unified prayer. The results of such persevering prayer astounded the world. By 1859 the hearts of over two million people had turned to God through personal repentance. In parts of Europe, the revival continued during the American Civil War. In America it brought us such spiritual giants as William and Catherine Booth, who founded the Salvation Army, and Dwight L. Moody.
The great Prayer Meeting Revival is a testament to perseverance. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing … for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Anything worthwhile requires perseverance. When we see the broken hearts of people around us—the sick, the depressed, the helpless—we should be compelled to pray without ceasing for them. God wants all of us to be reconciled with Him.
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16) Fervent prayer accomplishes great results, as shown by the great Prayer Meeting Revival.
Lord, thank You for hearing our prayers. Kindle a fire within us that will become another Prayer Meeting Revival. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The deer up here in the Northwoods are finally shedding their gray winter coats for the rusty-red ones that help to camouflage them in summer. When this doe came through my yard this morning, I laughed at her striped coat. Half gray, half rusty-red, she reminded me of a transplanted zebra. Within a week, I expect her gray coat will be totally shed.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
It’s said we can be sure of only two things: death and taxes. We might add one more thing: change. Every day we’re bombarded with items that have changed literally overnight. Our favorite style of shoes has been replaced by a new style. The roll of toilet paper has become narrower. A new computer program has made ours obsolete and useless.
Harder yet to deal with are the sudden changes in our circumstances. A death in the family, a divorce, or a new job—they all cause stress to our mind and body. Every change requires time to adjust. And when too many changes take place too fast—even happy events such as a wedding or birth—our systems become overloaded and stress takes its toll.
Like a cooker equipped with an adjustable steam valve to control its pressure, we seek ways to control our inner pressure. Taking a walk or pulling weeds helps dissipate anger. Writing a letter or journal entry calms our spirit and offers a new perspective. Drinking a cup of cocoa or eating a chocolate bar soothes the turmoil in our gut.
Since the days of cavemen, people have used the “fight or flight” instinct when facing sudden change. Sometimes flight has its purpose, such as in seeking shelter from a dangerous storm. At other times, we may be tempted to fight a situation head-on. Our decision to flee or fight usually determines the outcome—safety from the storm we fled, or victory over the enemy we faced.
Regardless of our response to change, we know that eventually we must accept change. In fact, change can be a blessing rather than a curse. And when we choose to count on God’s strength and wisdom, changes become easier and the results more satisfying.
God’s ways of lovingly leading us into change are far better than our own. He knows exactly what we need to learn from the experience as well as in what area we need to grow in faith.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:3-4) Change does not have to be difficult when we allow God to have His perfect work in us, thereby increasing and strengthening our faith “wised up” and “toughened up, we won’t have to endure stress.
Lord, help us to wise up and toughen up whenever we face change. Help us remember that with You, all things are possible, so we need not face change fearfully. In Jesus’ name, amen.