Sunday, September 23, 2012
My favorite hymn is “Trust and Obey.” The words speak eloquently of God’s promises to bless us. When we look at a hopeless situation with the eyes of faith, we can know that God will turn it into whatever’s best for us. God is faithful. He can turn a seed into a colorful flower. He can turn our seeds of doubt into faith, and when we turn our faith into obedience it will grow—like a colorful flower.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
All Good Things
My granddaughter’s pregnancy included months of morning sickness and other illnesses. She also had low iron resulting in extreme fatigue and low weight gain. She developed the beginnings of a pregnancy-related liver condition that often leads to still births. By God’s grace and the prayers of hundreds, she delivered a healthy and unbelievably hefty eight pound girl. I’m sure the collective sighs of relief could be heard across the country.
Many of us have experienced a good outcome from a seemingly hopeless situation. Others go through tough times, yet choose to believe God’s promise of blessing. A woman I know suffered from cancer and its treatment, yet thanked God for the experience because it changed her entire perspective about life and death.
Other examples show us the value and blessing of prayer, of a positive attitude, and a strong trust that God will turn bitter experiences into blessing. The Bible is filled with examples of answered prayer, of changed attitudes, and of faith.
Although feeling hopeless, Abraham chose to believe God’s promise for a
legitimate heir, even though old Abe was nearly 100 and his wife way past the age of childbearing. In fact, she bore Isaac. He prayed, he focused on the promise, and he believed. Paul the apostle, and Jesus’ disciples who were sent on an evangelism trip, prayed for healing of the sick and deliverance of the demon-possessed. They saw hopelessness, but focused on the power of God’s Spirit and believed.
We can rely on that same power. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) When we pray, with thanksgiving and belief, His peace will fill us—through even the worst of situations. But prayer and faith require practice. Every time we decide to believe the best rather than the worst, our faith grows a little more.
Paul writes in Romans 8:28: “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.” God has called each of us to love Him, and consequently others, for His perfect purpose. When our physical eyes see hopelessness, our spiritual eyes can see hope—and good outcomes like the healthy baby God helped my granddaughter deliver.
Lord, as we pray for ourselves and others, we praise and thank You for the good outcomes only You can bring. Give us eyes that see beyond the hopeless to the working together for good. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, September 10, 2012
The leaves are falling from the poplars and maples faster than a blizzard of snowflakes. The green beans and zucchini are still producing in abundance. Bright orange pumpkins glow throughout a neighbor’s field. The harvest is ready! So is God’s harvest. Am I, are you, ready to use God’s fruit of the Spirit to draw others into His kingdom—today?
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
This year I put up a fancy climbing device for my pole beans. The metal pole supports two circular rings, one near the ground and the other six feet high, joined by intertwining strings that guide the pole bean vines. In past years, the deer hadn’t touched my outside-the-fence plants, so I rationalized that it would be safe to erect the climbing device outside the fence, too. The fenced gardens had no room for pole beans.
At first, my pole beans grew beautifully on their new home, holding a ton of leaves, blossoms, and beans. What a harvest! Then, one morning during my routine walk through the gardens, I witnessed a strange denuding. Hundreds of leafless, beanless stems stood straight up along the strings, like vertical pick-up-sticks. At least the top crop remained, apparently too high for the deer to reach. The whole affair looked like a 1970s ethnic hairdo.
I groaned and then laughed at the sight. What a picture of my life as a fruit-bearing Christian! “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22)
We’re all vulnerable to the vagaries of life that steal our spiritual fruit. God plants and waters us within the protective nursery of His Word and Spirit. However, we sometimes stray outside His nursery.
Our fruit of love, for instance, is snatched easily by anger and hatred following someone’s evil act. We allow our fruit of joy to be stolen and exchanged for sadness. God’s peace, His special fruit, is gobbled in a moment until only the visible stems of anxiety stand. An unkind word easily steals our fruit of kindness or goodness. Someone’s broken promise snatches our own sense of faithfulness. The harsh words of a friend or co-worker quickly turn our own gentle words into an unpleasant comeback or even retaliation.
Patience, a virtuous fruit, takes time to grow. Its fragility must be fenced in daily to avoid being eaten by unexpected, unwanted circumstances. Finally, there’s the fruit of self-control. We conveniently forget to ask God to fill us with it for the day, making it easy for marauding deer—misused time, unfulfilling pleasures, and poor attitudes—to snatch our self-control in one gulp.
Jesus has the answer to these fruit snatchers. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Lord, help us abide so closely to You that the fruit of Your Spirit dwelling within us cannot be snatched by surrounding marauders. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, September 3, 2012
As the rally call goes out during school football games, our rally call as Christians can be even more passionate. We’re in a war against evil, against worldly temptations, and against our own sin-prone flesh. Thanks be to God Who gives us the victory! He provides us with supernatural armor. We can choose every morning to cover ourselves with His truth, His righteousness and peace, our faith and salvation, the powerful Word of God … and prayer.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Praying for our Enemies
In nature, one animal preys on another to get its share of the proverbial pie, such as two squirrels chattering and fighting. The law of nature is all about survival of the fittest.
How does that apply to human nature? As a youngster and the dominant twin, I acted like a wild animal seeking the most food. My sister had to fight tooth and tongue to get her share. Fortunately, our mother came to the rescue—until she became so frustrated, she had one of us divide the food and the other choose her share. We made sure to cut as evenly as possible so the other wouldn’t end up with the biggest half.
Such silliness! However, don’t we all tend to fight for the biggest, the best, or the most? We can apply this example to most anything. We fight for respect, love, and acceptance. In an instant, we can feel mistreated, rejected, or unloved. It takes time to learn how to avoid becoming defensive or angry over someone’s mistreatment.
Perhaps in the natural world, survival of the fittest means we must fight. As Christians, however, our fighting is not to be against flesh and blood. When Peter, in the Garden of Gethsemane, cut off a soldier’s ear, Jesus said, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53)
We are to pray for those who mistreat us. In fact, Jesus told us to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27)
Huh? How can we pray for our enemies and still survive? Fighting them instead, whether with words or swords, will keep love from entering. Prayer is a powerful weapon. The Bible doesn’t tell us to pray that our enemies will be punished or banished. God is in charge of that. Rather, we are to “retaliate” with good. With love. With a sincere blessing for their spiritual welfare. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
Lord, help us to follow Your perfect example of love. Give us the grace to pray for our enemies and do good to all so they will be drawn to You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.