Monday, August 29, 2011
We’re never finished with our learning. Whether it’s trying new words or styles of writing, building a better mousetrap, or identifying a new animal or plant, we’re smart to always be open to the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. So it is in the Christian life. The more we read God’s Word, the more we learn about Him. The more time we spend meditating and praying, the closer we become to Him. Now, there’s a goal to pursue! He alone is worthy.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The seasons dictate who starts school when. In the natural world, spring is the time for baby animals to learn vital lessons from their mamas. Birds learn how to fly, fawns how to protect themselves from danger, and foxes how to hunt for food. Humans, on the other hand, usually start school in the fall. Kids around the globe learn how to read and write and solve math problems.
As animals and humans learn, they study for the inevitable tests they face after lessons are completed. Passing a test of strength, ability, and cunning can mean life or death for an animal. Passing school tests can mean future success or failure for a student. Smart students study for tests. I remember many late nights reviewing everything I’d been taught. I didn’t want to miss any test questions.
We grownups keep learning new things, too. If we review the information, we’ll be able to apply it to our lives or avoid repeating mistakes. We’ll gain self-confidence, expertise, and success for our efforts. Perhaps you remember the joy in learning how to build a set of cabinets, or can dill pickles, or use the Internet. Practice and review made it easier and, in essence, you passed the test of success.
Learning new things applies to a Christian’s life, too. As we study the Bible we discover that living a life for Christ means more than attending church on Sunday, saying the right words, and doing the right things. The test comes when we realize that being a Christian is much more than that; it is accepting Christ as Savior and Lord of our life.
Such testing requires self-examination. Do we truly believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Or, like many, do we believe there are various paths to heaven, that Jesus was simply a good man, or that our good deeds will give us entry to heaven?
Paul said, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Being “in the faith” means being righteous through Christ’s gift of salvation. Without that, we fail the test. But through self-examination, we can learn if we fall short and then take steps to mature in our Christian walk.
Lord, as we grow in Your grace, stumbling and falling along the way, we take joy in knowing that You are always with us to encourage, empower, and restore. May we ever strive for maturity for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Monday, August 22, 2011
On a recent trip to the North Dakota badlands, we enjoyed watching the prairie dogs. They’re very social mammals, and I call their villages “kingdoms.” It’s hard to tell which one is king of each kingdom, however. Many of them stand upright and erect on top of their house, which is a big mound of soil, almost as if they’re vying for the privilege of being king of the hill.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES By Sally Bair
Where is Our Kingdom?
A dog’s domain is his doghouse or kennel, his yard or his farm. A wolf and its pack claim a specific territory for its own, and heaven help anything that invades that space. We humans tend to be territorial, too. We jealously guard our homes, property, and accumulated goods against intruders. We count ourselves owners of our jobs, our families, and our hard-earned leisure time. In other words, we consider ourselves, whether consciously or subconsciously, kings of our castles.
Our “kingdom” is where we spend most of our time, our thoughts, and our indulgences. Some of us acquired our property through family inheritance. Others of us earned our way to the top, becoming “king” through hard work and expense. Still others consider themselves king of the very little they possess. Any way you look at it, we strive to be king of our domain.
There is a kingdom, however, that goes beyond the natural—the kingdom of God. When Jesus lived on earth, the Jews looked for a king who would bring them freedom from the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. What Jesus brought, instead, was the divine power of God in action—salvation from sin, spiritual power over Satan’s rule and dominion, healing and deliverance, and “a life of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
The Bible tells us we are to seek God’s kingdom daily by resisting sin, the devil, and the world’s enticements. His kingdom is not for those who take lightly the discipline of prayer nor neglect the reading and meditation of the Word. Nor is it for those who have little spiritual hunger or desire to know God better.
His kingdom is more like that of Jacob, from the Old Testament, who wrestled with God all night in order to obtain his blessing. His kingdom is like that of Elijah who challenged the Baal worshipers to a power-duel because he knew that his God, the One True God, would prevail over Baal, their man-made god. His kingdom is like that of Daniel’s three friends who were supernaturally rescued from a burning furnace because they insisted on worshiping and believing only in the One True God.
For those who believe, the kingdom of God offers salvation, safety, peace, joy, and “unspeakable riches.” No other kingdom can offer that. It’s ours for the mere asking and believing.
Lord, we thank you that your kingdom of power and glory can be ours. We ask that only You—not any other “god”—will rule in our hearts, minds, and souls. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
God has given us an incredible natural world to enjoy. Summertime offers us vistas of color, texture, and shape to feast our eyes upon. As well, the enjoyment and study of creation bring needed peace to our soul when we need it. Imagine how pleased God is when we’re praising Him for every butterfly, beast, and blade of grass.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Only God Satisfies
As our resident hummingbirds gear up for their long trip south, their appetites become gigantic. More and more often, we must refill their feeders. The best food for the hummers, however, is the nectar produced by flowers. They flit from flower to flower for the best stuff and yet keep returning to our feeders.
Processed sugar isn’t as good for them as naturally-made nectar. If that were all they had available, they wouldn’t be as healthy as those that also eat from the nectar of flowers. Sometimes I wonder if they’re thinking, “This sugar water is great stuff.”
That’s the way with us humans, too. We eat more of the second-best stuff and think it’s great, when in truth our bodies crave the best foods. The irony is that the less we eat of the best, the more we go for the second-best. The need for self-satisfaction is evident in other areas of our lives, too. The more money we make, the more we crave psychologically. The more we drink and use drugs, the more we crave physically.
At one time in my life, I sought out the so-called pleasures of alcohol and partying. The day came, however, when I realized that none of it satisfied my soul. On that life-changing day, I finally realized that only God can fill my deep, spiritual need. On that day His peace and joy overwhelmed me.
We all experience the need for God’s love and forgiveness, His peace and joy. God has put eternity in our hearts, we’re told in Ecclesiastes 3:11. In other words, He has purposely designed us with a deep, spiritual longing that can be met only through a relationship with Christ. That place in our heart is reserved for Christ alone.
When we realize that nothing can satisfy except Christ, it becomes easy to surrender everything we own and desire to Him. Jesus invites us to empty ourselves so He can fill every part of us with His cleansing, unfailing love. The key words here are “every part.” If we hang onto the least bit of our bad habits, desires, and pride, we won’t experience the peace and joy He desires for us. And like the hummers, we’ll be satisfied with the second best.
Lord, reveal through Your Holy Spirit anything that keeps us from being satisfied with anything less than You. Give us the strength and will to surrender to You everything we think, speak, and do so we can be wholly satisfied in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Summer days are meant to celebrate. God’s glorious creation offers us the chance to rest and relax and reconnect with God. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 1:20. “For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So men are without excuse…”
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Celebration is meant for weddings, births, family reunions, holidays, holy days, and any other event. In fact, there are so many celebrations across our country—especially during the summer—that we can pick almost any town and find something to celebrate. There are Renaissance fairs, county and state fairs, and music festivals. We celebrate pumpkin harvests, rutabagas, and apples. We toast famous men such as Will Rogers and Mark Twain with parades, and famous battles of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. We celebrate with parades, food, games, fireworks, fun, and fellowship. There’s virtually no end to what or how we celebrate.
God’s people also celebrated victorious events. They sang and danced after God led them across the Red Sea. They celebrated major victories over their enemies. They celebrated, and still celebrate today, the famous Passover of the Angel of Death after living under Pharoah’s rule for 400 years. They still rejoice at harvest times and other events.
Some of us today even celebrate the deaths of loved ones whom we believe have passed from this life to eternal life with Christ. Such celebration is able to minimize our sorrows for their loss and maximize the peace and joy we receive from our hope and faith in His promises.
One event we celebrate surprises me every time I read of it and partake of it—that of the Lord’s Supper. When it came time for Jesus and His disciples to celebrate the Passover, although knowing He would soon die a cruel death, He said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16)
This would be Jesus’ last chance to share in the earthly celebration and He made the most of it by using the unleavened bread and wine as a remembrance of Himself. Thinking only of them, of their spiritual welfare, He fervently—with passionate joy—offered Himself to them.
When we, too, partake of His body and blood, we’re reminded not only of His suffering and death for our sake, but we celebrate the same hope of the disciples, that of spending eternity with Him. Each partaking of the Lord’s Supper should become a celebration of joy and hope and communion with Him.
Lord, thank You for cause to celebrate life with family, friends, and with You. May we always be mindful of Your sacrifice for our sin and may we always be filled with joy that comes when we commune with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.