Wednesday, December 13, 2017

MUSIC IN THE AIR AND IN OUR HEARTS



Our hearts can be filled with music year-round as we contemplate and rejoice in the birth, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May yours be filled this season of love and hope.

Eternal Perspectives   by Sally Bair

Ever since I attended a youth symphony concert as a sixth-grader, I’ve considered classical music one of my favorite forms. I especially enjoy the old compositions, including The Messiah, my all-time favorite.

George Frideric Handel composed his famous work following a series of adversities. He suffered a stroke which rendered him unable to play an instrument because of a paralyzed right arm. The stroke also left him with blurred vision. Over several years he fell in and out of favor with English royalty. In debt and depressed, he came across a piece of music composed entirely of Scripture portions, mostly Old Testament.

It affected so him deeply that it inspired him to create the oratorio, The Messiah. Its  three-part composition includes prophecies of the coming Messiah, taken mainly from the book of Isaiah; the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ; and the end times with Christ’s final victory over sin and death as told in John the Apostle’s book of Revelation.

In 1741 as Handel wrote his piece, he is said to have been in tears as he composed the final Hallelujah Chorus, stating “I did think I saw heaven open and saw the very face of God.”

Such is the power of God-inspired music. As we listen to The Messiah and other great
music about the Lord, we can envision angels singing along with the choirs. And the best
part is that we can join in. The Psalms are full of references to singing and playing music to God
with our voices and various instruments. Paul tells us to “… be filled with the Spirit,
speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in
your heart to the Lord …” (Ephesians 5:19)

Our melody to our Savior must come from the heart, the center of our being, the deepest part of our existence. Rather than allowing our hearts to be anxious, fearful or bitter, may they make music of praise and thanksgiving, love and worship. The Christmas bells of joy from our hearts can ring out to reach every person around us, like ripples of sound waves.

Lord, thank You for making us an instrument of praise to You. As we worship You and meditate on the wonder-filled Word about Jesus’ birth, may we exude music that will glorify You, giving You and others joy. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IN HONOR OF GOD FOR HIS GIFT OF SALVATION, WE CAN MAKE THIS A SEASON OF GIVING FROM THE HEART




Eternal perspectives   by Sally Bair

‘Tis the season to give

Nowadays the opportunities to give toward a worthy cause seem endless. We can drop coins in the Salvation Army buckets, send money to a non-profit that gives goats to poor people in Nigeria or help clothe an orphan in Mexico. Surrounded by so many needs, we may find it hard to choose. But once we choose, we often feel better for our giving.

Research shows, in fact, that giving to someone in need releases oxytocin, a chemical in our brain that causes us to feel warmth toward others. And once our body produces more oxytocin by our compassionate act of giving, it spurs us to give even more, which produces more … you get the picture of the cumulative effect of giving.

We feel joy when we offer our money, time or talents for the benefit of those less fortunate. The very act of giving can change our mood from grumpy or sadness into a big smile. Giving also can fight loneliness by connecting us with others. And, of course, cheerful giving benefits us spiritually.

Giving is a godly act of sacrifice. The Bible has plenty to say about it being a discipline as well as a spiritual benefit. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

The author, Paul, is telling us that giving is like sowing seed, with the amount of the harvest determined by the amount of the seed sown. When we give, God is able to give us more so we can keep giving even more. He is generous in providing us with our own needs when we give others what they need.

God’s generosity knows no bounds. It began with Creation and has continued throughout the ages. We see it especially in the gift of His Son, Jesus. During this holy season, we do well to spend time meditating not only on His miraculous birth, but on His ultimate sacrifice on the cross for our sins. We find it hard to imagine such a gift!

We have the special privilege and calling to give out of the abundance of our hearts. Just as Jesus did and still does.

Lord, thank You for Your unending generosity. May we never take it for granted. May we, instead, follow Your example with open hearts, especially during the season of Jesus’ birth. In His name we pray, amen.
           

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

WHO IS YOUR RESCUER?



Honor and hats off to the thousands of rescuers: the EMTs, firefighters, military including U.S. Coast Guard, doctors and nurses, and more. And the most honor to our Lord, Jesus Christ, the ultimate rescuer for those who trust in and obey Him. Are you one of them?

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

Rescue Missions

Many of you know how, in December 1996, my son and four other professional fishermen were rescued while on the way home from a fishing trip in the Bering Sea. Williwaws (violent gusts of wind) came over the mountains of the Alaska Peninsula at nearly 100 mph, slamming into the sea and into their boat. My son and the other crew members tried frantically to chip fast-building ice from the boat so it wouldn’t become top heavy and capsize. But their efforts proved futile. They donned their survival suits and sent an emergency message to the U.S. Coast Guard before jumping off the 72-foot boat into a tiny life raft. They followed all the rules of survival at sea.

Huddling in the cold, wet, tossing raft, they waited until finally a Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived from the Kodiak station. The pilot lowered a swimmer to rescue the men, one at a time, while he kept the ‘copter hovering about 400 feet above the sea. None were lost in spite of the terrible sea conditions, the ‘copter running low on fuel, its windshield unable to remain clear of freezing salt water spray, and the rescue swimmer’s depleting energy.

We hear of rescues every day. Emergency crews rescue men trapped from auto accidents. First responders and some concerned citizens keep children from harm, rescue victims held at gunpoint and carry people from burning buildings. Environmental groups prevent forests from being clear cut, save rivers from pollution and clean up toxic areas.

But the ultimate rescuer is God. His greatest rescue came in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, sent to save the world from sin and give us peace with God. “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ …”  (Romans 5:1)  We don’t deserve entry into heaven because we’re born in sin. But God in His love has rescued us.

Just as my son and the fishing crew couldn’t rescue themselves from their sinking ship, we cannot rescue ourselves from sin simply by trying to follow rules and commandments. Only by turning away from sin and, in faith, embracing the truth of Jesus’ death on the cross and His bodily resurrection from the dead, can we have any hope of rescue. He is our ultimate rescuer.

Lord, thank You for rescuing us from sin through Your Son, Jesus. Thank You for the hope of eternal life, for peace, for joy and for righteousness. In Jesus’ name, amen.




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

GOD IS HAPPY WHEN WE BOND WITH HIM



Who can resist a puppy, especially an obedient one? We make our Lord happy, too, when we obey Him and cling to Him alone.

Eternal Perspectives     by Sally Bair

Puppy Bond

With leash in hand, I walked my nine-week-old puppy down the driveway and then along a nearby trail. Lyddie bonded to me in no time, following me so closely I had to watch my step. She learned quickly where to go for food and water and attention.

Lyddie frightened easily, clinging to me, trying to climb up my leg or crying. I picked her up and soothed her, holding her securely in my arms.

Like a child, however, Lyddie sometimes became independent and disobedient. She pulled at the leash or, when untethered, ran away to sniff out something “tasty” in the compost pile. She objected to me holding her down for her naughtiness but soon learned that misbehavior brought consequences.

Lyddie taught me lessons about bonding with my own Master, the eternal God. Like Lyddie, I feel dependent upon my Father in heaven when it suits me, yet turn away to pursue my own independent activities rather than becoming God-dependent. Like Lyddie, I too, misbehave, disobey or ignore God.

He has plenty to say about bonding. “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)
If we decide to cling to God, like a branch to its vine, we will be assured all our needs will be fulfilled and we will enjoy peace with Him and with others. But if we choose to pursue our own desires, we will pay the consequences—if  not here on earth then in eternity.

Puppies learn quickly who’s responsible for their sustenance, care and protection. Sometimes we humans aren’t as quick to learn. We act irresponsibly, forgetting we need to be under God’s protective care. We pull away from Him to do our own thing, but forget that He loves us enough to encourage us into faith and obedience to Him.

A well-trained pup who is loved by its master will do anything to please. As humans we can follow suit, knowing our Master loved us enough to die for us and offer us eternal life with Him. When we choose to bond with Christ, we can be assured that nothing will sever that bond.

Lord, thank You for giving us the freedom to love You, to believe Your Word and to serve You. Help us remember moment by moment to remain firmly bonded to You. In Jesus’ name, amen.