Monday, July 30, 2012
Most writers agree that good fiction hinges on conflict and resolution. The main character faces a problem and he resolves it. Real life also finds all of us facing one or more problems. Sometimes we can resolve them, sometimes not. Sometimes they resolve themselves, sometimes the resolution is entirely different than we expected. All the same, we can count on our problems being resolved in the best way possible when we believe in God’s promises and follow His expert advice. Do you?
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
The Sword of the Spirit
Swords make us think of conflict and battle. Even little kids like to play war with their harmless, toy swords to see who will win the fight. In some countries swords are still used for battle. In most, however, advanced weapons have replaced the lowly sword. Today we usually see them on display, over a fireplace mantle, or in an antique store. Their value has changed from practical weapon to symbolic keepsake.
One sword, however—the Word of God—will neither go out of date nor be replaced with another weapon. As Christians we are to stand firm against evil by putting on God’s armor, including “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)
A speaker at our church shared about his former life as a drug dealer and user, a thief and attempted murderer, and a Satanist. Abused and ridiculed as a child, he began to associate with older boys who were more accepting of him—although nefariously and illegally. He had been forced to attend a legalistic church when young and developed a hatred for anything “religious.” Satan ruled his life.
As a result, he ended up in jail and prison numerous times. His last time spelled hopelessness for him, except for one thing. By now desperate to be free from his meth addiction, he turned to a Christian ministry in prison. Against all he believed about Christianity, he reluctantly chose to read the Gideon Bible given to him. The words in that Bible pierced him as surely as if they were killing jabs from a sword.
God’s Word is that powerful. “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
We cannot overemphasize the importance of using God’s Word as a sword against sin and evil. None of us are immune to the need to fight for righteousness. The Bible’s message is as relevant and powerful now as when written. It can change a fallen, hopeless man’s life 180 degrees. It can change the life of anyone who is desperate enough to hear it. No one is beyond hope of God’s forgiveness.
Lord, whether we’re hardened sinners such as the man who spoke at my church or good, upstanding church members, we need Your life-changing, life-giving Word. Help us use it not only for our own spiritual benefit but as a weapon against the sin and evil around us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
I’m super busy today. The short-tailed shrew’s appearance last night put a clinker into today’s prioritized to-do list. Since he (or she) evaded the mouse trap by daintily nibbling the bait (he let me watch him eat), I must try another method which means a trip to town and time rigging the contraption. Where’s an ermine when you need one? The shrew is shrewd, but he won’t out-best me. Meanwhile, by God’s grace I’ll accomplish all I need to in spite of the interruption. May you also keep on keeping on.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Keep On Keeping On
All of us experience times when we want to give up on a task, a child’s misbehavior, or a particularly trying situation. I go through an occasional downtime when it comes to writing my weekly devotionals. My brain tells me it’s time to give it up after nine years. Isn’t that long enough? Wouldn’t quitting take some of the pressure off trying to finish other writing projects? They’re stacked up so high that it will take another century to make a dent!
No sooner do I ponder thoughts of quitting than I receive an email telling me how last week’s column touched a heart. Or someone will approach me with a hug and a message such as, “I clip all your articles and reread them and share them with my family.”
At those times, I realize quitting is not an option. For some readers, perhaps my messages are the only Gospel they read. For others, they are encouragement to stretch their faith … or to keep on praying … or to give them hope. Their feedback encourages me to keep on writing.
God uses people to encourage us when we most need them. He wants us to encourage others to keep going. God told Moses that he could not enter the Promised Land before he died because he had disobeyed God. Instead, Moses was to “command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.” (Deuteronomy 3:28)
I can imagine that Joshua needed all the encouragement he could get as he was about to lead more than a million people into an unknown country. He no doubt was familiar with all the people-problems Moses had faced during those forty years in the wilderness. Such a daunting task would tax anyone’s patience.
The apostle Paul also stresses the need for encouragement. When separated from fellow believers who were in spiritual need, he 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 ….” (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
An encouraging word or gesture can mean the difference between giving up and keeping on, between joy and sorrow, between hope and despair.
Lord, we thank You for encouraging us—through Your Word and presence—to keep on keeping on. As we are encouraged, help us to consider every opportunity as one to bring encouragement to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
No situation is ever perfect in this world. A mosquito bothers our sleep. The driver ahead is too slow. A worry holds our thoughts captive. Situations may not be perfect, but God is. He offers His perfect peace through any situation. When life gets in the way, His peace will clear the way.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Recently someone asked me if I’m becoming more impatient as I grow older. I said that, on the contrary, I seem to show more patience than ever before. Rethinking my answer, I must add an exception. I show less patience when interrupted by someone or something, perhaps realizing I must make the most of the time I have left.
Interruptions can distract us. As a young mother, I often told my kids, “Don’t interrupt me now.” Even today, I feel stressed when the phone rings during a crucial part of my editing. Sometimes I cringe, frustrated when someone interrupts me while I’m trying to say something.
Can you relate? Or are you like some who let interruptions wash over them like warm water and keep on smiling? Oh, to be like such super-humans!
“Interruptions never distracted Jesus,” quoted G.H.Morling in Quest for Serenity. “He accepted them as opportunities of a richer service. Interruptions were the occasion of some of His most gracious deeds and revealing words.”
There are many instances from the Gospels that prove Morling’s words. Jesus beckoned little children rather than turn them away as His disciples thought He should. He took time to heal Peter’s mother-in-law while at Peter’s house for dinner. He repeatedly stopped preaching and teaching to heal someone in need or to minister to them in other ways. He delayed His trip to bring a government ruler’s daughter back to life so He could heal a desperate, sick woman. He even took time out of worship in a synagogue to heal a man’s withered hand. And when His disciples wanted to send a multitude of people home, He instead fed them with a mere five loaves of bread and two fish.
How can we use interruptions as Jesus did—opportunities to serve others? Jesus’ actions are the best example we have. He spent much time in prayer and worship with His Father away from the crowds, a time of refreshing for His soul, strengthening of His resolve, and listening to His counsel.
Not much is said about Jesus’ time spent with His Father. But sprinkled throughout the Gospel accounts are words such as these: “He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” Notice that He went to a quiet place alone. When we spend time alone in a quiet place with the Lord, He refreshes our soul, too. He strengthens our resolve to rightly and lovingly deal with interruptions. And we can more easily hear His voice for direction in our life.
Lord, help us use interruptions as opportunities to serve others in love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, July 9, 2012
From one day to the next, we face change. Change in relationships, in government and religion, in education and business, and in nature. Nothing is sure except death and taxes, some people say. We followers of Christ can add that God never changes. He is faithful in all that He says and does. He is the One who helps us to meet every change with grace, wisdom, and joy. Praise the Lord!
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Before the days of buried cables, an electric line ran from a pole by our road to a pole in the yard and from there to our house and barn. The roadside pole held a transformer that changed electric power from high voltage—enough to serve the neighborhood—to a lower voltage for only our house and barn.
The word transform means to change in nature, form, or appearance. Transformation also means metamorphosis, as in a tadpole changing into a frog or a caterpillar into a butterfly. By our own effort we can cause transformations, too—a run-down house into a castle, a rock into a polished gem, a piece of wood into a table. An overweight mom can, by diet and exercise, transform her body into one that’s unrecognizably beautiful. A failing student can become a successful scientist through hard work and determination.
The Bible speaks of transformation, too. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
In this context, the words conform and transform are opposites. Instead of being conformed, or molded, by the values of the world or era we live in, Paul wants us to be transformed. Spiritual transformation begins in the mind and heart. When our mind is dedicated to worldly concerns, it will be tossed back and forth by cultural fads. Throughout history, culture continues to change from one societal fad or belief to another, sometimes at the whim of a single person.
As followers of Christ, we can resist the temptations our culture espouses. If we choose to believe the truth of God’s Word and consistently meditate on it, the Holy Spirit will guide and shape our thoughts and behaviors. Such action will renew our mind until “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)
Obtaining the mind of Christ is a lifetime process. We gain success one day and fall back the next. Our baby steps toward spiritual maturity require persistent effort and daily prayer. God promises to help us when we ask, when we are willing to do our part. God is a God of miracles, yet most change comes through hard work empowered by His Spirit.
Lord, thank You for transforming our minds into the mind of Christ. As we do our part, give us strength, encouragement, and power. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Look out, kids and young-at-hearts! My exciting adventure book, Trouble at Fish Camp, is now available. You can find it on Amazon and other ebook reader sites as both print and ebook.
What’s it about, you ask? A bear, a bully, and a buried secret.
As soon as I decide on a venue, I’ll be scheduling a Book Launch. Following that will be various book signings and talks at some of the same places I appeared with my first book in the “Ways of the Williwaw” series, Williwaw Winds. I’ll keep you informed.
I also plan to start a Clown Ministry, using my books as a tool to teach kids of age 8 and up about positive living. But I NEED A NAME. Will you help me out? “Silly Sally the Clown” has already been taken. Not that I would consider it, anyway.
Should the name have something to do with writing, perhaps? Should it sound silly? Humorous? How about something like “Courage the Clown?” Can you think of a better one?
If you provide a catchy name I fall in love with, I’ll give you a free copy of Trouble at Fish Camp.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Thank God for His patience over our mistakes. Thank Him, too, for the Godly patience in our loved ones, friends, and bosses when we err. Patience is an offshoot of love, but sometimes it takes time (and patience!) to learn how to be patient with others—and ourselves—over mistakes made. With God’s help, we can do it.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
I accidentally sent the same devotional article twice. That’s not the first mistake I’ve made this week. I chalk it up to brain overload, resulting in poor organization and forgetfulness.
We all make mistakes. And we usually excuse ourselves in some manner or form. Sometimes, though, we whip ourselves with slashing words such as, “How dumb could I be?” Or, “Dad always told me I was stupid. Guess I proved him right.” Or, “How can anyone like me after such a stupid mistake?”
Perhaps some of you readers were disappointed at having to read my same column twice—or not at all. I didn’t mean for it to happen. Some of our mistakes, however, can be costly. When we lie or renege on a promise, we can lose the trust of someone. When we break a promise to eat properly, we may risk our health. When we let our temper run amok or speak thoughtlessly, we may lose a friendship.
Some people constantly excuse themselves from their mistakes. They often blame others, including God. And some of us look at the mistakes of others as character weaknesses. I’m guilty of that at times, and glad I’m not God, or they’d get their come-uppance, that’s for sure. I have to keep reminding myself that the speck in their eye is nothing compared to the log in my own.
God, being holy yet patient, promises to remove our mistakes, sins, shortcomings or whatever we want to call them. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) We need only to ask for His forgiveness, and His help in avoiding them in the future.
Another thing about God. He doesn’t want us to tear out our hair or walk on hot coals because of our mistakes. Self-condemnation shouldn’t be in the Christian’s vocabulary. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 12:1)
Mistakes can be serious. We must not treat them lightly but we don’t want to dwell on those we make accidentally. God knows we aren’t perfect. The mistakes we make from our bad choices, however—sometimes willfully—are more serious. Even then, God, through Christ, will not only forgive us when we ask humbly, He will also give us power and strength to avoid making more mistakes. Then we can live with freedom from regret, recrimination, and anxiety.
Lord, thank You for Your forgiveness. Help us to be forgiving and nonjudgmental of the mistakes of others. In Jesus’ name, amen.