Monday, September 29, 2014

NEVER AGAIN



We would do well to consider our words. How often do we say, “I’d never do that,” or “She always says such and such?” The trap of applying our words and actions to Always or Never is easy to fall into. The only truth we can count on is God’s truth—His absolutes. Remember, the Old Testament says that even time stopped once.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

Always…never

When it's cold out, I always wear a hat. And I never go out without gloves on my hands. Oops!  I did forget one time, and …. My mother once told me, "Never say never."  We could add, "Never say always."

Both sayings can be true, but nothing on earth is absolute. There are exceptions to every rule. Owls and beavers are considered nocturnal but they do come out in the daylight sometimes. The clock chimes on the hour but is not always totally accurate. Dad arrives home from work at 6 o'clock every night … except. We might wonder if we can depend on anything or anyone! 

Always and never may not apply accurately to the world in which we live, but they do apply to God's supernatural realm. We can always depend on God, and his love, because God is love. We read in the Gospels that He is with us always. His righteousness will never fail, we're told in Isaiah 51:6.

Another example of this absolute is given in 1 Corinthians 13 (the "love chapter"). We're told that love is patient and kind, and rejoices in the truth. Love does not envy or boast, is not rude or self-seeking or easily angered, and holds no record of wrongs. We could spend days mulling over those truths. If applied to our lives, each truth by itself could be life changing.

But the love chapter tells us even more. We learn that there is an always and a never in God's trustworthy vocabulary. Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres, or endures. And love never fails, or ends. God is love and He desires that we love others, even as Jesus loved us enough to die for us. Therefore, when we accept His unconditional love, He will give us the power and will to follow His example by loving others. He will make a way for us to love those we don’t like, to love even our enemies.

Lord, sometimes it's hard to love. When someone hurts us or uses us, we'd rather hurt back. Give us the desire and strength to always love them anyway, to never withhold Your love from anyone, to follow Your perfect example of love. May Your love shine through every word we speak and every act we give so others will see You in us. In Jesus' name, amen.



Monday, September 22, 2014

BEWARE THE DEVIL'S CLAW



Like the beautiful but deceptive leaves of the Devil’s Claw plant, hidden dangers surround us. God’s wisdom is so necessary for us to avoid such dangers. May He grant you the wisdom and discernment needed to avoid the falsehoods that tempt our faith in Him and His Word.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES             by Sally Bair

Danger ahead

The leaves of the Devil's Claw plant are like those of the pretty, red maple only much larger. Once touched, its name becomes uncomfortably evident. Like blackberry barbs times ten, the Devil’s Claw needle-like, barbed spines cover the underside of each leaf, along the veins, and around the stem. Brochures and signs urge travelers in Alaska and northwestern Canada to wear long pants and heavy, long-sleeved shirts while trekking through the bush country. Such protection will bring the promise of a more enjoyable time in the wilderness.

Other warning signs are common in the northwest wilderness, such as: Moose Crossing, Don't Feed the Bears, Danger—Rip Tides, and Beware of Incoming Tide (posted near certain tide pools that have no easy access back to shore). One warning is posted by the tidal mud flats along Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage, a place where many have drowned after being stuck in the innocent-looking, quicksand-like beach, when the tide came in.

No matter where we live, we’re wise to heed the warnings that helpful citizens and government workers have put up for our safety. After all, we are surrounded by things that appear innocent and enjoyable, but hide danger.

It's best to heed the warnings of the Bible, too. God's Word is full of them. As followers of Christ, we need to be watchful so we won't fall away from our faith. We should pray daily that our faith will not falter, that our minds and hearts remain pure, that we will not compromise our beliefs and actions with those of the world.

 Peter said, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…." (1 Peter 5:8) Jesus said to his disciples, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16) Even the prophets of the Old Testament cried out many warnings to the people. In fact, most of the authors of the Bible admonished God's people to beware of the devil, the world, and their own fleshly desires. We would do well to heed God's biblical warnings. The devil's claws are harmful, indeed.

Lord, keep us ever mindful of the deceptions around us. Clothe us in Your armor of truth and righteousness so we can walk more joyfully through the wilderness of life with You. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. In Jesus' name, amen.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

DANCE THROUGH THE RAINDROPS





Autumn is my favorite time of year in spite of facing the inevitable cold and snow of winter. Ah, the scent of decaying poplar leaves, the rustle of dry leaves underfoot, the incredible colors in every tree and shrub. In my mind, I’m a kid rolling in the leaf pile, dancing through the raindrops. Join me! Any tears you shed will be happy tears.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

Teardrops

A fine mist hovered in the air one day, gathering into tiny droplets that hung from twigs and bare branches. An occasional, bent branch hosted a single drop at its tip. Like a tear, it remained poised, ready to fall.

We come close to shedding tears, too. They come fast or slowly, unbidden or purposeful.
We cry for ourselves and for others and, depending on our emotional state, we either stoically hold back our tears out of embarrassment or become a blubbering bubble of anguish. We cry when we’re happy, sad, angry, or frustrated.

Many of us have shed tears of despair over a sick child and felt them change to happy tears when the child recovers. We know how good it feels to have a good cry about something upsetting. And who hasn’t shed tears of self-pity or anger? 

The Bible includes over 150 references to the word “weep,” 35 to “tears,” and more than 400 to the word “cry.” God’s people cried aloud often in repentance over their sins, among other reasons. In fact, every revival in the history of Christianity has wrought oceans of tears from sinners who have repented. Jesus Himself wept over the woefully-stagnant, spiritual condition of Israel.

Tears are useless, however, unless followed by action. All the crying in the world for our sins will do no good unless we turn away from them. All the tears we shed for our sick neighbor will bring nothing but soggy tissues unless we follow with acts of mercy and love. All the tears we shed over the ungodly condition of our households, neighborhoods, states, or nations will come to nothing unless we pray and share the love and mercy of Jesus.

We can all rejoice with tears, however, whenever someone repents and turns to Christ. Joy and tears are as inseparable as sorrow and tears. Our tears are used for cleansing, whether we feel joyful or sad.   

Perhaps we use our tears as a sacrifice, believing God wants us to cry. Some people, in fact, turn their tears on or off to suit their purpose. In some cultures, people are hired to cry at funerals. However, God wants us to use our tears for His glory. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” He says in Hosea 6:6.

Lord, we don’t want to use our tears as useless offerings. Help us turn them into action as a means to show others Your love and mercy, even as You have so graciously shown us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, September 8, 2014

CAN A WOLF SMILE?



As easily as a puppy can, in my view. Although animals weren’t made in God’s image, they do express emotion as we humans do. I like to think that this wolf is smiling because his stomach is full. He had just walked away from a deer kill. I also like to think that God smiled on him—after all, God provided the dinner that filled him. Remember with joy as you read on that God smiles on us, too.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

God smiles

Animals experience pain and grief and we know they also show their joy. Watching puppies play with toys, each other, or their owners brings a smile to our lips. Joy is contagious. We can’t help smiling or laughing over someone else’s happiness.

Because we’re made in God’s image, according to Genesis 1:26, we know that God also feels emotions. The Bible is filled with references to God’s grief, dismay, and anger. It also contains stories of His joy. For instance, Zephaniah 3:17 says: “The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Imagine God smiling over us! Not only is He pleased, but joyful, because of His great love for us. Our goal should be to cause Him to smile because of our love-filled thoughts, words, and actions. Of course, we can’t accomplish such a goal unless we have a deep, personal relationship with Him—sort of like children have with their parents. The more we want to please our heavenly Father, the more He will smile on us.

Our relationship, therefore, requires a few basic, Biblical truths. Through prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, and our willingness, we must become obedient to God’s Word—no matter the circumstances around us. Think about Noah when he built the ark. Though he was the only righteous, God-loving and God-fearing person on earth, surrounded by ever-increasing evil, he remained obedient to God’s command to build it.

While Noah built the ark, he also preached God’s love and salvation. If anyone finds it hard to believe that such a loving God would destroy the whole earth, remember that God waited more than 100 years for people to repent, as Noah hammered away at their hearts.

God smiled on Noah because of his obedience and trust during a stressful and perhaps dangerous time. Noah used his God-given abilities for the purpose of pleasing Him. Because of his closeness to God, no doubt Noah enjoyed preaching, building, and even thanking Him for the opportunity. Because of his closeness to God, Noah kept a positive outlook, knowing that if his emotions turned sour over the futility of his job, God would keep filling him with joy. Pleasing God must have made Noah smile.

Lord, give us the heart-attitude of Noah. We want to please You, to cause You to smile, because of our obedience and trust, our thankfulness, and our desire to use the abilities You’ve lovingly given us. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

SOFT TO THE TOUCH



Thank God for looking at our hands not with the eyes of one who criticizes how rough and unsightly or dirty they are, but how soft they are to the touch of others. Bless you as you use your hands with love and grace, patience and joy, for His sake and in His name.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES              by Sally Bair

Openhanded

We’ve seen pictures of dogs cozying up to their troubled owner, placing their paw on the person’s arm as if to say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting. I want to share your pain.” God’s creatures sense—and share—the way we feel. Their reaction is often a healing balm to our sadness.

We humans also understand the healing that comes from a hug or gentle touch from someone’s hand. Sometimes all it takes is a light squeeze on the arm to make us feel better when we’re hurting either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Science proves that babies thrive best when they receive the touch of another human.

Our hands hold the power to heal and the power to destroy. We can choose how we will use them. When we choose to offer sympathy and love by the use of our hands, God’s power will flow through them. In fact, when Jesus spoke His last words to the disciples before His ascension, He said, “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will … lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” (Mark: 16:17-18)

God’s promise for healing power through the use of our hands comes by faith. Countless people have shared stories of how they were healed when someone, through faith, laid hands on them and prayed. When our hands are open to the needs of others, great things take place. Jesus’ example of using His hands for healing is intended for all of us.

Jesus wanted our openhanded lifestyle to include generosity of our possessions, too. Throughout the Bible, we’re told that the poor will always be with us. When we joyfully seek out the poor to give them needed help, we become the most blessed. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” Jesus said. (Matthew 5:7)

When He said, “Follow me,” Jesus meant the command to include every aspect of our lives. He meant us to seek out the poor, the hurting, the needy, the unlovable, so He can—through us—help fulfill their needs, through faith and through His power. His hands were always open to the needy. Ours need to be, also.

Lord, thank You for hands made for healing. Give us the willingness, the joy, and the power to become as Your hands—full of mercy and love. In Jesus’ name, amen.