Monday, February 24, 2014


Remember the old Follow the Leader game we used to play as kids? We never knew what to expect. The leader might have taken us through water, thorn-ridden paths, or even danger. Rules stated that we had to follow—or else. We are blessed that God faithfully leads us with love and care. He wants only the best for us. We can’t go wrong when we choose Him for our leader.


Following the leader

On my walk one morning several years ago, I was surprised to see a pack of five or six wolves. They loped along the edge of a nearby field single file before the leader led them into the woods.

A pack’s lead wolf, called the Alpha male, always calls the shots. Being the biggest and strongest, he protects the others, sees that they’re fed, and dominates their social actions. And he tolerates no usurping of his authority. The others must deny themselves that role for the good of the pack. Heaven help any other wolf that tries to steal the Alpha male’s leadership role.

Those who decide to follow Christ also must be willing to put themselves under His authority—spiritual authority. To follow means to pursue, to go after—as Jesus’ disciples did when He called them to follow him.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)         

Denial of self can mean many things. What is it we desire most in life? Fun and fellowship? Intellectual pursuits? Acceptance and popularity? Power and status? The security of money? God wants to be first in our lives. He would have us be willing to give up whatever we believe we can’t live without. We are to hold lightly to the things in this world for His sake.

When we pursue—follow after—something such as an education or a new car or a promotion or … (fill in the blank) …, we willingly put our lives on hold and go after our dream fervently. When we decide to pursue Christ, as His disciples did, we become willing to put our earthly desires on hold and go after the Lord with our whole heart and soul. Like the pack of wolves, we will follow our Leader, Jesus Christ, wanting to serve Him so fervently that we will deny all else in our lives. Then we will become true disciples.

Lord, you said, “Follow me.” Give us the will and strength to deny ourselves and follow You today. Thank you for the promise that in denying self we receive, like the wolf, protection and sustenance and help. Thank You also for so much more—your peace, joy, love, righteousness, and desire to serve others. Thank You for sending your Son, Jesus, who denied all so that we might have eternal life. In His name, amen.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Yes, we’ve had enough snow this winter. But when we take the time to meditate on
God’s wonderful creation, we see facets of His personality that astound and bless us. 


     ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES      by Sally Bair


     It's Got Character                            


      Snow. Whether a beauty to behold or a nightmare       to drive in, snow has character.

Snow is a protective covering for plants, tree roots, and all sorts of critters. It insulates the ground, the underground, and our northern lakes against frost.

High in nitrogen, snow and its runoff brings energizing, enriching nourishment to plants and animals alike. All plants, flowers, and trees grow faster and are healthier from heaven-sent moisture than from water that comes out of garden hoses and irrigation lines.

Snow is a silencer. During a fresh snowfall, the flakes absorb sound, giving a hushed quality. Snow also reveals what exposed earth does not, because of its dazzling, light-enhancing quality. For instance, we can see the tracks of animals and birds after a fresh snowfall more clearly than at any other time.

Snow has its own personality, be it heavy and wet, soft and fluffy, or granular like pellets. We can tell the difference when we drive in it, walk in it, work in it, or shovel it out of our way.

Like snow, God's personality has many facets. The Bible is filled with illustrations about God's character. Our finite minds understand them best through the use of similes and metaphors. We can more easily understand God’s nature when we compare Him to something visible. For instance, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. He is the Bread of Life … the Light of the World … the True Vine. When we read such comparisons, our brains automatically picture a shepherd, a loaf of bread, a light, a vine.

Another comparison involves the third person of the trinity. Before Jesus left the earth, He promised to send His disciples someone to comfort them, encourage, and help them as they faced the cold blasts of adversity. This Comforter brings to our minds a warm blanket that brings security and warmth.

Like snow, God nourishes and energizes us, through His Word. He silences us so we can hear Him more clearly. He reveals our sins and shortcomings and turns our dark thoughts, words, and deeds into light, when we allow.

We may not always enjoy snow, but we can all rejoice in the many wonderful facets of God's personality.

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless." Psalm 18:30.

Lord, thank You for showing us Your wonderful attributes through nature. Open our eyes to understand You better as we meditate on Your Word and Your creation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


The word radical can mean “departing from tradition.” That meaning certainly describes our weather this winter, not only here in the Midwest but almost everywhere else across our nation. Contrary to the spiritual meaning, however, we have no choice but to accept the weather. We can choose to be radical in our Christian faith, though—a faith that departs from the tradition of the world.


Radical love

When a man's honor was at stake during the days of chivalry, he would challenge the offender to a duel. Back then, duels were considered acceptable ways for the offended to get even and avoid humiliation. In Jesus’ day, a slap in the face was considered the ultimate humiliation.

In some ways duels are still being fought today. Teen gangs, for instance, use covert acts of vandalism, theft, or even murder to get even. Whether a sword duel, a violent act of revenge, or a slap in the face, it usually comes from the belief that our reputation is at stake. Many dads teach their sons how to fight back. Moms show their daughters, in other ways, how to stand up for themselves.

Discounting societal laws that rightfully require a law-breaker to be penalized, let's face it—many of us want to get even with an offender. But that mindset is totally contrary to what Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount. He spoke against the old law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Rather, he told us not to resist an evil person. To go even farther than the offender forces us to go. To even turn our other cheek if someone slaps us.   

Is there something wrong with this picture? By worldly standards, it appears upside down. But this kind of love—radical love—looks at offenders through the eyes of Jesus. He sees all of us, victims and offenders alike, with eyes of love. Can we do any differently if we claim to be His followers? 

It's not easy to learn such a mindset. It requires being in such close relationship with Jesus that He will change our hearts so we can see everyone, good and evil alike, with the eyes of love.

Besides Jesus' perfect example of loving His enemies rather than turning on them with vengeance, we have the example of Stephen. One of the early Christian Church leaders, Stephen spoke God’s truth to the hard-hearted Pharisees and Jewish leaders. They rejected his words and stoned him. Yet, he pleaded to God, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7:60)

Such examples are hard acts to follow. But with God's help, by prayer and through faith in His Word, we too can love friends and enemies alike with the love of Jesus.

Lord, give us strength to turn the other cheek. Give us forgiving hearts. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, February 3, 2014


Worse, do you rub someone else the wrong way? Offenses pop into our minds as quick as lightning, but they don’t have to. God’s Word has the answers for our wrong attitudes, our offended sensibilities, and our complaints. All we have to do is listen.



The wind blows so hard some days that tree branches rub against each other. I remember taking walks through the woods when the trees actually groaned as they touched. Some screeched like banshees while weaving back and forth in the high wind. Not only was it scary to hear, but dangerous as well, since weakened, rotting trees—called widow makers—fall without warning during windstorms. 

No doubt some trees become bruised and raw from the rubbing. Perhaps their bark even shreds, leaving open sores beneath.            

The winds of adversity and offense can cause us, like the trees, to rub against one another. A little strife, an offense taken, and we're off in a huff. When we take offense to someone's words or actions, we allow our emotions to become open sores. As a result, we can easily stumble in our Christian walk. I believe three things result when we allow ourselves to be offended. (1) The Word of God takes second place in our lives. And the longer we focus on the offense, the deeper its scar, the farther we stray from God. (2) Our offenses ruin our testimony of God's love. No one enjoys listening to complaints and criticisms. (3) We don't allow God to calm the angry winds of our offense, but insist on stewing over problems that God is much more equipped and willing to solve.

Any or all of these can result in stealing our peace with ourselves and with God.

Proverbs 19:11 says, "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." First John 2:10 says it best: "Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble." When we allow ourselves to be wrapped in God's love, there will be no danger of becoming offended over anything or anyone. Our souls—our minds and spirits—will not be in danger of becoming painful, open sores. There will be no groaning or screeching coming from us. We will be able to move through the gales of life with peace and love. The closer we remain in God's presence and Word, the more love we will be able to give.

Lord, if we have offended or taken offense, forgive us. We want to be rooted and grounded in Your love. Help us to walk through difficult times without rubbing against others, to love those who have offended us. In Jesus' name, amen.