Monday, July 25, 2011
The rocks of life that we drag around can become so heavy that we lose our spiritual joy. What rocks need moving in your soul? Doubt that Jesus can bring blessings out of your problems? Disbelief in His promises, causing you to place your trust in other things such as your own strength or intelligence or feelings, in doctors, drugs, or alcohol? Why not place your heavy rocks at the cross and let God deal with them? With His help, you can move a mountain of rocks. The Bible says so.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Move That Rock!
When I was young and my dad farmed, every summer my sister and I had to help pick rocks. It seemed like our land grew more rocks than crops. How we hated that job. We always ended up with sunburn, broken fingernails, sore backs, and a sore attitude.
Rock-picking is a necessary evil for anyone who works the soil. Farmers can’t afford the time and expense of repairing or replacing plows, cultivators, and harvest machines that have been damaged by a rock. Some field rocks are so big that it’s easier to simply plow around them. Like big elephants, they can’t be moved without the help of special machinery.
The rock that was rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb was huge, too. If anyone had tried to roll it away, it couldn’t have been done because tombs back then were lower in elevation than the land in front of the entrance. When the disciples witnessed Jesus’ death and burial, they were devastated. They couldn’t see beyond the rock that seemed so immovable. No good could possibly come out of such a hopeless situation. For them, it spelled the end of three glorious years with Jesus, their friend. Only by the supernatural power of God could it have been—and was—moved.
But God had something else in mind, something so astounding, they could hardly believe it. His burial site was exposed and found empty. Now they understood His promise that after three days He would rise from the dead. Such news and proof should bring joy to His followers today, too.
Sometimes, however, we tend to keep Jesus behind the seemingly-immovable rock. Sometimes, when death or illness threatens, we find it hard to believe new life can come from it. Sometimes it seems impossible to see beyond the rock of defeat or rejection, anger or hurt feelings. “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)
Just as Jesus’ disciples were called to fulfill His purpose, we too are called. In obedience and love, we can know with certainty that however big the rocks seem in our lives, God will help us move them. And something even better will come from the moving.
Lord, give us the strength, wisdom, and will to move the rocks that prevent us from loving You and fulfilling Your purpose in our lives. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I took this picture one summer morning when my daughter and her family accompanied me to Alaska. It’s unusual to see the top of Denali as we did that morning. Already, one little cloud showed itself, and in hours the summit was obliterated with clouds. God truly blessed us with a glimpse of His marvelous handiwork.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The High Places
Mt. McKinley (Denali) is the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet. It is a magnet to nature lovers, photographers, outdoors enthusiasts, and mountain climbers. Its profound beauty, however, shrouds its dangers: violent winds, sleet, snow, severe cold, and avalanches. But nothing stops several hundred climbers who struggle to reach its summit each year.
There are man-made high places, too. Many cities vie to build the highest building. Larger-than-life statues of people and animals are seen all over our planet. We use high places as landmarks.
Although God’s people, the Israelites, worshipped Him, they built other gods—something visible to the eye—and set them on high places. When they looked up at their man-made gods, they believed they saw the object of their strength. Idol worship eventually resulted in their downfall as a strong, mighty nation.
Second Kings 12:2-3 tells that king Jehoash “did what was right in the sight of the Lord … but the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” That scenario is repeated several times in the books of Kings.
Things haven’t changed. Our lesser gods aren’t necessarily statues of mythical creatures or dead heroes. They consist of more familiar things such as gems and money, classic vehicles, and other things of great monetary value. Even while worshipping God, it’s easy to set things above Him—things such as our homes, families, friends, careers, leisure pursuits, health, churches, spiritual leaders, and ministry.
Though we worship God, claiming Him as our Lord and Savior, do we put our trust in something or someone else? When one of the New Testament scribes asked Jesus what the first commandment was, He answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
We could spend hours meditating on that verse. We could ask, how much of my heart am I devoting to the One True God? How much of my soul (emotions and will) belongs to Him? How much of my mind is focused on Him and on my service to Him? How much of my inner and outer strength do I allow Him to control?
Lord, draw us—heart, soul, mind, and strength—away from anyone or anything we may set on a higher place than You. Though we don’t see You visibly, we see the work of Your hands and learn about You in Your Word. Help us remember that Your grace is sufficient for all our needs. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, July 11, 2011
We’re never too old to learn and never too old to serve. May the love of God in you compel you to serve Him in a new way. It will stretch your faith and propel you out of your comfortable lifestyle, and it will bring you joy unspeakable.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Never Too Old
Missionary couple Charlie and Debbie Chivers recently spoke at my church about the work of Special Touch, a ministry that serves handicapped people. The Lord nudged me into signing up as a caregiver at their recent summer camp near Waupaca.
Not knowing what to expect, I was apprehensive about caring for someone disabled. Then I learned there would be not one, but three people under my 24/7 care. Yikes! After the first night—with a scant three hours sleep—I wanted to go home.
But God had amazing blessings in store for me and by the end of the third night I knew I wanted to return next year. Love flowed among the 175 guests and 125 staff members like a constant waterfall. It caused me to worship God with abandonment, as uninhibited as the guests. It brought me to a state of total contentment with whatever unpleasant task I faced. It taught me to trust God without a familiar, daily schedule. He led me moment by moment to perform each necessary task. And He gave me the grace and strength to do it willingly, without a thought about my own feelings or needs.
When one of my girls got sick, I didn’t hesitate to clean it up. When they clung to my hand as we shuffled from building to building, I remained patient with their slow pace. When they became upset over something, I hugged them fiercely. I cut up their food, helped them shower, changed their clothing. When they laughed, I laughed. When they cried, I cried. I felt like their mother, though two were in their seventies, like I am.
God doesn’t want us to remain comfortable in our faith, but to stretch it by taking a new step of service to others. Peter stepped out of a boat to meet Jesus on turbulent water. Elderly Abraham stepped out of his tent to follow God to a new, uncharted land. Reluctant Moses led God’s people across the Red Sea and through the desert to the Promised Land.
It’s easy to remain static and comfortable. It’s scary to step into a new role. But the love of Christ within us will help us grow in faith and be of greater service to Him. “But concerning brotherly love … you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, and indeed you do so … but we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more ….” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 in part)
Lord, give us willing, humble hearts to follow Your leading no matter what our age, circumstance, or readiness. And bless caregivers everywhere. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, July 4, 2011
I’ve been a Wisconsinite nearly all my life, and saw our state animal, the badger, in the wild for the first time. The badger dug into the soil so fast, in seconds it had displaced it into a large mound. They truly do look like cute rugs with their short legs and long fur. But I wouldn’t want to tangle with one, nor did the prairie dogs. Nature being nature, however, it’s inevitable they’ll manage to catch a few prairie dogs in spite of their warning system and their running speed.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
On a recent trip to the North Dakota badlands, my daughter, granddaughter, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching prairie dogs in their villages. Cute as buttons to us, they’re tasty morsels for badgers, as we soon learned when we happened to see one (my daughter calls badgers “rugs that run”) chase a prairie dog. The dog ran into its tunneled hole, the badger bounding behind. The other prairie dogs set up a loud and constant chatter, and several “guards” stood on their mounds from a safe distance. The feedback chatter from the other prairie dog villagers lasted during the entire episode. We watched for a long while but didn’t stick around for the final outcome. The last we know is that the badger remained in the tunnel.
Feedback is important. In the case of the prairie dogs, I imagine their feedback came in the form of warnings. Perhaps it came as encouragement, too.
We all need encouragement. The word comes from courage. When we face any sort of danger or feel desperate or discouraged, positive feedback from someone is always welcome. I treasure the many encouraging words I receive about my Eternal Perspectives columns. When I find it hard to write the right words for a new column, I need only remember someone’s email letter telling me how the column helped them get through a tough situation. When I wonder if I’m too preachy in my messages, I’m reminded that my message to you is for me, also. My words then become the positive feedback I need to get my own spiritual house in order.
The Bible speaks of courage and encouragement. God’s people are often beset with problems and dangers, and God intends that His words will give us hope. Paul wrote to the new Christians in Colosse, asking “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love ….” (Colossians 2:2) Like the prairie dogs that live in tightly-knit villages for the sake of safety and fellowship, we too need one another. Being knit together in the love of Christ, we become constant encouragers and hope-givers. Without the companionship of family and friends, we can easily flounder.
The continual feedback from God’s word, prayer, and fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters, brings us hope and joy that will help us through any danger, despair, or discouragement.
Lord, we thank You for Your living Word, Jesus. May we ever seek You through Him so we can become a source of encouragement to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.