Thursday, December 27, 2012

WEEPING COMES IN THE NIGHT, BUT JOY COMES IN THE MORNING


The Christmas season is a time of sadness for many people. Thanks be to God, He promises joy and peace in the midst of sorrow. May you be filled with His joy and peace no matter what your circumstance. We join with the angels and sing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, good will to men.”

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair

Tragedy and Triumph

The hearts of our nation ache for those who lost loved ones in the recent Connecticut shooting. Evil brings tragic deaths and other losses every day, it seems, according to news reports. Many tragedies are far removed from our relatively safe environments, so we feel badly then forget it happened. When young children are struck down senselessly, however, the horror strikes all our hearts.

Sadly, more tragedies will happen in the future. None of us can run from them as they bring despair and hopelessness to many. When sin entered God’s perfect world, it raised all kinds of havoc. Sinful actions severed relationships between families and countries alike, bringing hatred and war. As long as evil exists, we can count on more wars, more severed relationships, more death.

When tragedy happens, such as this most recent one, many people blame God for its cause and subsequent suffering. But God is not an unjust, uncaring bystander who leaves us to fend for ourselves. The Bible tells how Jesus loved children and welcomed them to Himself. He took joy in them, displaying the same emotions we do. He wept, too, when His friend, Lazarus, died. And He wept over Jerusalem, God’s holy city, seeing its pervading ungodliness and spiritual rebellion.

Jesus weeps over the trials we face, too. He knows our sorrows because He sorrowed. And He promises healing to those who suffer loss. Though we will continue to be touched by evil, we have only to draw near to God and rest in Him—His Word and His peaceful presence—to triumph over tragedy.

Thanks be to God, through the love of Christ we can find peace in the midst of tragedy. God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. All we have to do is trust His Word that it is so.

We cannot possibly explain why tragedies happen. We do know, however, 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) We may not see His good in the midst of tragedy, but that doesn’t mean it will not come.

God promises to heal the brokenhearted, bit by bit, through the loving acts of His followers. Such are the acts of millions responding to the Connecticut tragedy.

Lord, use us to help bring healing to the brokenhearted, especially during this Christmas season when we worshipfully consider the gift of Your Son, Jesus. In His name we pray, amen.


Monday, December 17, 2012

NOTHING REFRESHES LIKE GOD'S LIVING WATER


Some experts say that when we think we feel hungry and yet know we shouldn’t eat, we should drink a glass of water. The water will make us feel full and even give us renewed energy. Such is the miracle of water. We can apply this truth spiritually, too. When we hunger after things we know we shouldn’t have, we can instead partake of the Living Water that is always available. Only Jesus can satisfy our thirst.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair

A Place of Refreshment

While boating in the British Columbia inland ocean, my husband and I motored right up to a beautiful waterfall to fill our water containers. The water spilled down, splashing over us with a fine mist. The icy cold water felt refreshing on such a hot, sunny day. We stayed there for some time, allowing it to cool our bodies and freshen our dry throats.

Bethlehem was known as a place of refreshment at the time Jesus was born. The word Bethlehem means "house of bread." Back then, people leading camels and donkeys and other beasts of burden stopped in that bustling town for provisions. They also watered and fed their animals and themselves at one of numerous inns before heading south to Jerusalem or north to Hebron. The town's businessmen and women made sure they were ready for those who would be passing through.

But was Bethlehem ready for Jesus when he arrived? Was everyone except a few shepherds too busy, too blinded by worry and fear to care? Even the innkeeper shuttled Jesus' parents off behind the inn to a smelly, dark stable. Unaware that their guest was the Bread of Life himself, they didn't recognize the One who eventually would offer a refreshing cup of water, Living Water, to anyone who thirsted after Him.

Christians are encouraged to offer a cup of water in His name to those who are thirsty in both body and soul. Are we saying a kind word to the grumpy store clerk whose feet are tired, whose mind is fed up with impatient Christmas shoppers? Are we blessing—in the name of the One who can refresh —and praying for the stressed mom who is trying to finish baking, shopping, and serving others, all before the big day?

"He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:25) Are we putting the needs of others before our own during this holy time of year, a time that has become harried or hopeless for many people? And if you don’t personally know the One who offers Living Water, what are you waiting for? The time to be spiritually refreshed as well as to be a spiritual refreshment can be right now.

Lord, we thank you for offering us refreshment of our body, soul, and spirit with the Living Water of your Word and your Spirit. As we travel on our own journey in life, may our hearts turn to you, the Bread of Life. And once having partaken of that wonderful gift, give us the willingness to share it with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, December 10, 2012

MAKING ROOM FOR LIGHT




I like lots of light. I’ll gladly tolerate frequent cleaning of my many windows in exchange for the view. We can sympathize for the people who are forced to live in a cave or a dungeon. But thanks be to God, His light shines in the darkest places. When we carry the light of Jesus within us, His joy and peace radiate toward those around us. May His light shine through you this holy season. 

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES  by Sally Bair

The Light of the World

The sun was at our backs while my family and I walked through the John Muir State Park in northern California. Long shadows of the park’s stately Redwoods surrounded us. But my four-year-old grandson saw only his own shadow, and he danced ahead, happily trying to step on it. 

The Christmas lights that dress up houses and buildings and trees remind me of my grandson’s antics. As the lights and candles glow in the darkness, they cast shadows that flicker and dance. They’re like magnets, drawing people to enjoy them. Many towns even hold contests for the most beautifully lit homes and yards. We view them with awe, forgetting that we view them from shadowy places. Once enjoyed, we turn our backs to face the shadows.

Christmas lights are meant to be reminders of the light of God’s love when He sent His Son, Jesus, to be born on earth. During that time, most citizens of the Mideast lived in the shadows of harsh dictators. They had little hope that their lot in life would improve. Then … a sudden light from heaven brought hope and joy and awe. Such a light brought unbelievable brightness to their dark world. It even caused fear.

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.” (Luke 2:8-9)

The shepherds, accustomed to the dark and to the far-off light of stars and moon, must have fallen to the ground in utter fear as they faced the light of God’s glory. Yet, their gaze remained on the light and they hurried to Bethlehem to “see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)

The message to the shepherds is also for us. When we turn away from the flickering, dark shadows of sin—whether a sin as big as murder or as seemingly small as pride or envy—or from life’s difficult problems toward His glorious light, we too will find joy and freedom. We will find forgiveness and completeness. Through Christ, we will become reconciled with God, our Father in heaven.

 Lord, we thank You for Your Son, Jesus, the Light of the world. Give us the strength and will to turn away from the shadows of sin and toward Your life-giving Light. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A BIT OF HEAVEN IN SONG




My ears find almost no music more beautiful than Handel’s famous oratorio, The Messiah. When my twin sister and I discovered its splendid sounds as teenagers, the best way to express our feelings of rapture was to pretend we were conducting the orchestra by waving our arms and holding onto an imaginary baton. Our hearts could hardly contain the joy we felt listening to those beautiful strains. I enjoy The Messiah so much that I even listen to it year around. Winter or summer, its beauty and message about God’s love and redemption stirs my heart.

Listening to The Messiah is almost as nice as listening to the songbirds that surround us in nature. God has given them a special gift for all to enjoy. Yet, the songs of angels is said to be the most beautiful of all. Imagine how their songs must have stirred the hearts of those lowly shepherds on that cold, dark night of Jesus’ birth. And to think that when we get to heaven, we can join them in singing praises to our everlasting King. Hallelujah!


ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES  by Sally Bair

A Song in the Air     

           

When I was in the sixth grade in Minneapolis, our class took a bus downtown to hear a young people’s concert at Northrop Auditorium. Hundreds of other students also filed in and filled the rows of plush seats. Everyone was excited—not so much about the concert but the fact that we were able to leave the classroom for a new adventure.

The conductor introduced us to the fine points of classical music and then turned to face the orchestra. When he lifted his baton every voice in the auditorium stilled, waiting for that first note. Would we like the sound of the classics? At home my folks never listened to music on the radio. All I had heard was pop music my older sister played on the piano, and an occasional church hymn or Sunday School song.

Not all the students enjoyed the classical music during that concert. Many whispered and giggled throughout the program. But I became enamored from the first note. How my soul stirred with surprise and excitement at the orchestra’s renditions of Mozart and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. I felt like I’d been transported to heaven. I closed my eyes and let the music of the classics flow through me. And I have the same feelings today whenever I hear classical music. During different stages of my life I enjoyed other styles of music as well. And I’m sure many of you have a favorite style – country, pop, folk, jazz, rock, inspirational, or others.

This time of year we hear beautiful Christmas carols. But imagine how awe-inspiring it was for the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth when they heard the unsurpassed voices of God’s angels singing words of glory and praise. I doubt that the sounds were hushed – the whole sky must have resounded with their voices. God heralded this memorable, historic event with the biggest choir in all the heavens! And some day His children will hear that choir again.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared…praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:13-14)

Lord, our voices can’t compare to those of Your angels, but our praises ring out in jubilation and humble adoration to You. You alone are worthy of our praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

FROM WHENCE IS YOUR STRENGTH COMING?


I count on my own strength too much. I forget too often that God is the source of all my strengths: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. He knows how I should get from Step 1 to Step 2 far better than I. My “word” for 2013 is going to be Wait--wait on the Lord before I make any decisions. How about you?

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES  by Sally Bair

Crutches

After my knee gave out on Honeymoon Bluff trail and the EMTs whisked me to the hospital, a nurse in ER handed me a pair of crutches. For several days those crutches helped support me while walking.

My crutches made me feel off-balance, however. They gave me sore muscles in my arms and hands. They tripped me up and anyone else in my way. But they were a good substitute for my painful leg and I’m thankful for their use.

Sometimes we use emotional crutches, too. People who suffer from loneliness, anger, or bitterness often use the crutch of alcohol or drugs to cover their feelings. Others carry the crutch of criticism and a judgmental attitude to prop up their low self-esteem. Some spend money extravagantly out of envy or their need for self-importance.

At times, we all need the crutches of support from someone—a family member, mentor or teacher, friend, or spiritual leader. Jesus is the ultimate Someone on whom we can lean. As the Good Shepherd, He becomes our legs when we’re weak, our arms when we’re too tired to serve, our mouths when we don’t know what to say. He comforts us when we face situations too difficult for us to handle. He protects us, leads and guides us, and provides for all our needs because He loves us like no other—not like family, not like friends. All He requires is our faith and obedience.

Christians are often accused of using their faith as a crutch, too weak to solve their own problems—as though that’s a bad thing. But the Bible tells us we’re like sheep that have gone astray, so God truly is our ultimate crutch, the One we can cling to and trust when we falter or fall.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

Lord, thank You for guiding and restoring us, for being our provider and comforter. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

GIFTS FROM GOD


A writer’s blog entry prompted me to follow the example of writing on paper a blessing from God each day. I don’t need reminders to thank God for anything and everything that comes my way, but it will be fun to read each entry at the end of the year. A friend is adding her notes to my big jar that sits on my dining room table, labeled, “Gifts From God.” May you enjoy your own gifts from God, too.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES

A Grateful Heart       

Thanksgiving Day is a day not only to watch football and enjoy a sumptuous meal with family, it is a day to remember our country's spiritual roots. The first emigrants, the pilgrims who had fled persecution for their Christian faith, suffered much during their first winter at Plymouth Colony. Most of them died of starvation or disease and those who survived suffered from the extreme cold and from hunger. By the next fall they had recovered somewhat, but not fully. They still faced many dangers, hunger, disease, and the uncertainty of the coming winter's provisions. Yet they set aside a time to give thanks to God for the little they had.

The story about the pilgrims reminds me of the people in Mexico I encountered while on a short-term mission trip there. Ministering to the poorest of the poor, our group offered the people small gifts—dollar store items like socks, pencils, toothpaste, and shampoo. To the children we gave small toys. Many had never received a gift before.

These people lived in shacks made of dismantled wooden pallets or cardboard, and patched pieces of tin. They pulled hand carts to get their daily water supply. They had no indoor plumbing, no medical care or insurance, no schools nearby. Most of the children could neither read nor write.

When we gave them their small gifts, you'd have thought they'd been handed a million dollars. The joy and gratitude they felt exploded on their faces and in their bodies.

That's what God wants of us, too—to explode with thanksgiving and gratitude for all He's given us, no matter what our life circumstances are. We have a loving, merciful God. We live in a country that is free of the restraints faced by many other countries, rich in the bounty that makes our lives comfortable, and beautiful to behold. How can we not be thankful?

As the pilgrims sat outside around their crude tables laden with simple fare, they might have recited Colossians 3:16. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." While we sit around our own table in our warm house and view the abundant food before us, may we too express heartfelt gratitude to God, our provider.

Lord, we give You thanks—not just today but every day—for Your goodness and love. Give us the will and desire and remembrance to always be thankful. Amen.
   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FRESH, PURE AIR IS NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT


There’s nothing better than breathing in the pure air that surrounds Lake Superior and other large bodies of water. Or the air of western mountains. Breathing such purity can revive us—body, soul, and spirit. Not everyone has that opportunity, however, including many of our servicemen and women and emergency workers, who are often forced to choke on smoke or dust laden air. We must remember to pray for their safety—body, soul, and spirit—and their freedom from the effects of breathing bad air. Their lives and ours depend on their good health.




ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES By Sally Bair



The Air We Breathe





We Northern Wisconsinites are blessed with clean, relatively unpolluted air. Not so those who live in areas where industrial or other kinds of pollutants fill the air. Even cigarette smoke affects many people. Add those who suffer from asthma and other lung-related diseases and the tally is incalculable.



When our lungs are filled with good air, it benefits every part of our body, including the heart muscle. If our lungs and heart are healthy, it's usually an indication of good, all-around health. When they are not, all kinds of bad things begin to happen. One thing for sure, we become sluggish and feel half-alive.



In 1988 during terrible wild fires out west, my husband and I were driving through Yellowstone on our way to northern California. The smoke became thick as fog in spots. An occasional wild animal stood or lay by the road, having come out of a smoky area. They all looked half-alive and lethargic, moving slowly.



There's such a thing as spiritual air, too. After Jesus died on the cross, His disciples no doubt grew despondent at His passing. They had lived with Him, seen His miracles, and listened to His teachings for three years. Now He was gone. What would they do? Perhaps they felt half-alive, as if the air had been snatched from their lungs.



But He reappeared after His resurrection, making Himself known to them. "Peace be with you," He said. "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And He breathed on them, saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit." (John 20:22) Now they could breathe deeply again, filled with His peace and power.



We need God's breath of spiritual fresh air as much as the disciples did, if we're going to be effective in our Christian walk. When our spiritual lungs are healthy, our hearts are also. Why should our hearts be half-alive, lethargic, or cold and useless when we could be loving, vibrant, growing disciples? Only then will we be able to offer God's breath of fresh air to others. His life-supporting breath wasn't meant for the twelve disciples alone—it is meant for all of us. We must avail ourselves of it.



Father, we confess to You that often we allow our hearts to beat half-time. We want them to be filled with the oxygen of Your Spirit so that others, through us, may find fresh air in their own lives. Breathe on us Your life-giving breath today. In Jesus' Name, amen.

WHO ARE YOUR HEROS? WHO DO YOU IMITATE?


I wrote my first book, Wild Hero, at age 13 after having just read the classic, Heidi. Heidi became my hero and I wanted to duplicate her in my own, feeble way. When my children were young, I tried to be the perfect homemaker—just like my neighbor. I had many other heroes during my life, as you no doubt have. I finally learned, however, that the real heroes are those who live with integrity and grace. How futile it is to place someone on our mental pedestal based on their accomplishments, looks, or showmanship. In God’s Word we have countless examples of true heroes—imperfect men and women who believed and obeyed Him through thick and thin. Many more heroes followed in their steps. I consider Thomas of Kempen one of them. Who are your heroes?




ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair



An Avid Disciple



November 11, 1897, marks the day a monument was dedicated at St. Michael's Church in Zwolle, Holland, to the memory of Thomas Hemerken. No doubt many of you have never heard of this man. Born about 1380, Thomas of Kempen, Germany, led a life of poverty, obscurity, and quietness. But his was a life of great accomplishment within the Christian church as a whole. He wrote The Imitation of Christ, a best-seller that has remained on the charts for over 400 years.



Thomas's parents, though poor, were able to send him to Holland to be educated by the Brethren of the Common Life. This group stressed spiritual conversion, practical holiness, and meditation on Christ. Their teachings impacted Thomas's life so much that he became an avid disciple of Christ. He eventually became a monk and preached, copied manuscripts, counseled, and wrote books until he died at age 90.



The Imitation of Christ became popular among Protestants and Catholics alike, an unusual phenomenon for that time. By the end of the fifteenth century it reached its 99th printing. Today it is considered one of the greatest devotional classics ever and still is widely distributed. Here is an excerpt from Thomas of Kempen's book:



"Strive to turn your heart from loving things that are seen, and to set it upon things that are not seen … How much better is a lowly peasant who serves God than a proud philosopher who watches the stars and neglects knowing himself … We must not trust every word of others or feeling within ourselves, but cautiously and patiently try the matter, whether it be of God. The more humble a man is in himself, and the more obedient toward God, the wiser will he be in all things, and the more shall his soul be at peace."



Thomas's words are taken from Colossians 3:1-3. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."



Heavenly Father, we pray these verses today. Help us to set our hearts and our minds on the eternal things of heaven rather than on the corruptible, unreliable, and temporary things in this world. In Jesus' name, amen.

STORMS AND STILLNESS


The air was still as a whisper here in Wisconsin, while in the east the wind and sea were raging. Our emotional or spiritual storms also rage, at times so loud we can’t hear or see anything else. How encouraging and empowering to know that Jesus is in the midst of our storms, always ready to bring us stillness and peace. His words to the disciples during a storm at sea are meant for us, too. “Peace, be still.”




ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair



What Are We Crowing About?



Recently a huge flock of crows flew across the road and lit in the tall trees nearby. Their continual, raucous caws dimmed all other sounds. So much for my quiet musing as I puttered in my garden.



As scavengers, crows have a specific purpose on this earth, but they do not have a good reputation. They're infamous for stealing corn and for being incessantly noisy. Crows are even the focus of some sayings we've grown up with, such as, "She's an old crow," or "What are you crowing about now?"



The noisiness of crows reminds me of a story in the Old Testament. Following the exile of the Israelites, they returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. When the builders laid the foundation, the religious leaders led the people in thanksgiving to the Lord. Most of the people gave a great shout of praise. The older ones who had seen the former temple, however, cried aloud. They mourned its past beauty and splendor.



Ezra 3:13 tells the story clearly. "No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away." Talk about confusing cacophony! Like a big flock of crows, those who wailed nearly drowned out the voices of the joyous people.



Sometimes unpleasant noises arise in and around our own lives, too—even in our churches. The world finds it hard to distinguish the sounds of joy from those of complaining or weeping. All of us would do well to ask ourselves what kind of noise we're making. Do we grouse about the changes that have happened to us, forgetting that change can mean new opportunities? Are we so stuck in our ruts of mediocre, unproductive, or senseless living that we can’t seem to move forward? Are we dwelling on what we've left behind and crying about it?



Pity parties are not fun to listen to. God forbid that we should be a part of them. The world needs to hear our joy in the Lord, which comes through experiencing a close relationship with Him. Then His joy will be evident as we share it through our own. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs." (Psalm 100: 1-2)



Lord, forgive us for crying, like noisy crows, over the past. Help us remember Your countless reasons to be joyful. Train our voices to sing joyfully so the world will hear our praise. Fill our hearts with the joy that comes in knowing and serving You, our King. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SENIOR BODY BLUES


I guess I hiked up one too many steep hills. With no warning, my knee gave out and here I am with a pair of crutches as my sole companion. We’re practically joined at the hip. I’ve decided ya gotta either love ‘em or hate ‘em, depending upon the moment. I thank God for the person who invented them. Now I await my next step (pardon the pun) in this new saga of senior body blues.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair

Counting the Cost

As a young woman, my great-aunt became engaged to marry. When her mother died, she broke her engagement so she could raise her younger siblings. That’s what the eldest child did back in the 1800s and early 1900s. She did an exemplary job, making sure the other six children received good schooling all the way through college. I often wonder what emotions she felt during those years of self-sacrifice.

There is a cost for everything. Many people today pay dearly for their bad habits, such as using drugs, overeating, or overspending. Even caregivers pay a price, whether physical, emotional, or financial.

The Bible speaks much about cost—in particular, the cost involved in following Christ. One day as Jesus and His disciples journeyed on the road, someone said, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,” He said, “but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-59)

For the sake of His Father’s will, Jesus chose to be homeless. He knew that at God’s perfect time, He would once again reside at the right hand of God. His desire to live without the security of a house shows us how transient our life on earth is and how permanent our eternal home will be. Jesus’ example is meant to teach us the value of following Him first and foremost.

Jesus taught more about values in verses 58 and 59. When a man told Jesus he must first go and bury his father, he really said he would follow Him tomorrow after he received his family inheritance. Still another man said he must first say goodbye to the family.

Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (verse 60) And, “No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (verse 62)

Perhaps we should ask ourselves: are we willing to count the cost of following Jesus’ teachings ... willing to forego our earthly inheritance? Are we willing to keep ourselves focused on God’s kingdom? Or do we keep turning back to the What If, the If Only, the hurts of the past? Placing our value on anything but Christ is worthless in the eternal perspective of things.

Lord, help us remember that the cost of following You is far more valuable than anything else in this world. You are our joy and peace, our strength and hope. Amen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SEASONS CHANGE, BUT JESUS IS UNCHANGING


Oh, what a mighty God we serve! He shows Himself in each season—a glimpse of His eternal beauty and faithfulness. All of creation praises His Name.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES  by Sally Bair

For All Seasons
    
Like many of you, I feel blessed to live in the Northwoods, especially this time of year. Each season brings its own colors, textures, and shapes. Maple leaves change hue from pale green to a deeper shade as spring turns into summer. They change into a variety of reds and golds in the fall and finally, as winter settles in, the lovely maple branches now devoid of leaves sport a coat of fluffy snow.

I find it interesting to study one particular tree from season to season—not only its changes in color but also its shadow. Nature always brings pleasure to our senses. When it comes to the life of nature around us, there is nothing dull or boring about it—especially in the Northwoods where the seasons bring their own rewards, their unique life-celebrations. In fact, all cultures celebrate their seasons in various ways.

During certain seasons the Israelites celebrated their identity in God. Even the prophecy about Jesus coming to earth specified He would appear at a certain time. You know the rest of the story, how each year we celebrate His birth during our winter season which we call Christmas.

A pastor told about a picture his young daughter drew, framing it with these words: "Jesus is the…Reason for the…Season." Most of us probably have heard that phrase. Her drawing, however, did not show a manger scene, nor an outdoor, winter scene, but a four-part portrayal of all the seasons. She was merely showing that we celebrate Jesus in every season.

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus spoke to His disciples as He prepared to leave the earth. He gave them their final instructions—to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you …” And His last words were meant to encourage them, even as they are meant for us today—"And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Lord, help us to remember every day that You are unchanging, a God for all seasons. Even as the seasonal changes in nature bring us joy, Your infinite love and faithfulness and goodness give us joy unspeakable and are available to us forever. May we always take joy in You, our Redeemer and our Friend. Amen.
   

Thursday, October 11, 2012

GOLD FOR OUR FUTURE


Gold is a valuable gem and it represents different things for different people. Some view it as financial security for the future. Others consider it something to strive for, to give them popularity or high social standing. Emotions can run high at the mention of gold—awe, fear, envy, resentment, pride, reverence. How do you feel about gold?

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair

Golden Promises

Never have I enjoyed autumn colors as much as during my recent trip to Calumet, Michigan. My eight-day stay required making daily visits to eye clinics for a close relative, up and down the Keweenaw Peninsula. For miles and miles, the trees along roadsides and on the mountains paraded their vivid reds, bright oranges, and golden hues of every shade. The pleasure of such astounding beauty eclipsed any discomfort I felt from my hours of driving.

The yellows and golds dominated the landscape. What a warm, joyful color! The colors yellow and gold are known to stimulate the mental process and nervous system, activate the memory, and bring happiness. Conversely, the same colors signify cowardice or deceit, as considered in the familiar saying, “He’s yellow-bellied.” The term “yellow journalism” is associated with sensationalism. In some cultures, yellow symbolizes liberalism. In others, it represents greed.

The Bible also tells about the color gold. Psalm 19:9-10 states, “The fear of the Lord is clean … the judgments of the Lord are true … more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold.”

Not only is the color gold used to describe the precious nature of God’s Word, it is also used to describe knowledge. “Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.” (Proverbs 8:10) Even our faith is considered more precious than gold. “…the genuineness of your faith (is) much more precious than gold that perishes.” (1 Peter 1:7)

In the book of Revelation, John also records God’s new heaven as having streets of gold. God showed him a new heaven and earth, “and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:21) 

The entire twenty-first chapter tells about the beauty and perfection of God’s residence, a place meant “only for those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” (verse 27) Our streets of gold leaves are but a glimpse of the beauty He has promised when we reside with Him in His new place forever. When the golden leaves of autumn are in their death throes, we realize that the world we live in now is imperfect. But the pure gold of our faith, our obedience, and our heartfelt devotion to Him, will last forever.

Lord, we look forward to a life of golden perfection and beauty when we meet You face to face. Thank You for Your faithful promises. In Jesus’ name, amen.
   

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

THE GLORIOUS COLORS OF AUTUMN


                            

        An extended stay during a family emergency turned out to be an unexpected blessing. As I drove up and down the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan several times, I had the privilege of enjoying the splendor of God’s creation in a way I never had. Vivid reds, oranges, and golds covered the peninsula mountains and roadsides for miles upon miles. Such breathtaking beauty! Such a taste of what’s to come when God returns with a new heaven and earth.

        ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES  by Sally Bair

 Coverings


When it rains, if we’re smart we use an umbrella, hat, or rain gear. When it snows, we get out the parka. In the fall we cover our flowerbeds and vegetable gardens with mulch or plastic. There are many ways to protect ourselves and the things that are dear to us.

Sometimes, however, we put a blanket on our raw emotions in an effort to avoid or hide them. How many times have you answered someone’s “How are you?” with a smile and a “Fine,” when you didn’t feel fine at all? You may have been crying on the inside because someone criticized you. You may have felt self-pity or loneliness when a friend or spouse neglected you. Perhaps you were sad because a loved one was ill or had died, or felt anxious and fearful about an encounter with someone who had threatened you.

Covering our bad feelings is common to most of us. We don’t like to expose our hurts and failures to others. Not that we should spew out our feelings of self-pity and anger to everyone. It’s always good to address our feelings, problems, or faults with those we love or with people of trustworthy counsel. But the problem with cover-ups is—they leave no chance for the problem to be solved. They also give others the wrong impression about us and, if we continue in the lie, we eventually tend to believe the lie ourselves.
    
God cannot work in our lives until we’re willing to remove our emotional blankets and expose our true selves to Him. Like a shepherd who covers the raw wounds of his sheep with oil, Jesus the Good Shepherd will bring healing to our body, soul, and spirit through His powerful anointing. When we finally remove our coverings and replace them with His, then joy, peace, and freedom will be ours forever.

       “But you have an anointing from the Holy One…” 1 John 2:20

Lord, forgive us when we’ve covered our bad feelings and our sins, thus hindering You from giving us Your perfect covering. Give us the will and strength to remove the coverings we’ve held onto for so long. We want Your joy, Your peace, and Your freedom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.