Tuesday, October 23, 2012
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
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 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
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
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
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.