Wednesday, August 16, 2017

PRAISING GOD SEVEN TIMES A DAY



How many times a day do you praise our risen Savior? Seventy times seven doesn’t seem enough when we think of all He’s worthy of.

Eternal Perspectives   by Sally Bair

Seven times

I’ve always been fascinated with numbers. As a kid I counted everything, but silently so others wouldn’t think me weird. I counted the steps to our second floor, the bites I took of an apple and the cracks in the sidewalk. I still count things. Habits can cling like static electricity.

Numbers are important in the Christian faith, too. The number seven has special symbolic significance and means completion or perfection, as in God creating the universe in seven days. He also instituted seven feasts. He instructed Abraham to make a candlestick—the Menorah—of seven branches as a symbol of the light of His Word. He sent seven plagues upon Egypt which led to the freedom of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. The number itself and references to it are mentioned many hundreds of times in the Bible. A person would find it enlightening to study the number seven.

Because the number seven has great meaning to God, it has for us, too. It did for King David, who wrote, “Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments.” (Psalm 119:64) Whether he literally praised God seven times a day is not the issue. We do know he made it a priority to praise God. Not only during religious services or before meals, but throughout the day. Every day. Although David’s psalms often express remorse, fear, sorrow, hopelessness and other negative emotions, they always end with praise to God.

One of the best-known lessons about the number seven is about forgiveness. Jesus taught that we should have no offenses. “If your brother sins against you … seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4) The act of forgiving brings complete freedom from anger and hatred.            

We can develop a “praying heart” like David, where prayer and praise became a permanent part of our life in spite of wrongdoing of others toward him. Having a God-consciousness of praise and thanksgiving, rather than a self-consciousness, will bring great reward. Our God-thoughts alone, about His goodness, can bring peace in the midst of turmoil, as they did for David.

Praise to God includes more than words about His attributes. It encompasses words and thoughts about His “righteous judgments,” His teachings. We’d have no life if not for His Word.

Lord, we give You praise. May we praise You not seven times seven, but at all times. Thank You for Your Word that tells us You alone are worthy of our praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.
           

Monday, August 7, 2017

GOD'S GRACE EXTENDS TO THE LEAST DESERVING



What would we do without God’s grace? Yes, obedience follows on our part, but without His unearned favor, we would lose out on His love, His freedom from sin and bondage, and His incomparable peace and joy. We are blessed, indeed.


Grace

Eternal Perspectives          by Sally Bair

My computer messed up again. It wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. I admit, most times it messes up because of operator error. But not all times. When it errs on its own, I feel like throwing it out and starting with a new one. I mumble and complain, wanting to give up on it.  

We mess up sometimes, too, some more than others. I know a man who became a hard-core drug addict, thief and Satan worshiper. His life and marriage appeared to be doomed. Many people probably believed his was a hopeless case and he’d end up going straight to hell. But God in His mercy and grace brought him to saving faith. Today he is a pastor who ministers especially to others who are caught in the same kind of seemingly hopeless, unredeemable cycle.

We may know of others who appear to be beyond help and unsalvageable. The chronic alcoholic. The addicted gambler. The sex offender. Even the serial killer. They all appear to be outside the realm of redemption. Some believe in the worst punishment possible for such offenders because “they will never change.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ shows us otherwise. Over and over, Jesus taught that we should love even the worst offender. God’s Word offers hope for the hopeless, without exclusion. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

All men? Too often our prejudices contradict God’s grace. We tend to give up on people and lack patience with those who are evil. But God doesn’t.

The prophet, Jonah, ran away from God because he didn’t want to obey Him by  preaching to the evil people in Ninevah. Perhaps he was afraid of the Ninevites. More likely, he felt they didn’t deserve to be rescued from their noted, unrelenting wickedness. He didn’t want God to change His mind and give them a chance to repent.

After being spit out of a whale’s mouth, Jonah did go to preach repentance to the Ninevites. Surprised because the undeserving Ninevites repented, Jonah sulked. In the end, however, he realized that God offers grace to all of us—the good and the bad.

Lord, we thank You for being “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Psalm 103:8) As you grace us with forgiveness and blessing, may we be gracious to everyone we meet, including the least deserving. In Jesus’ name, amen.
           

Thursday, August 3, 2017

ARE YOU "EAGER" OR "ANXIOUS?"




There is a vast difference between the meanings of these words. Consider them carefully in your thoughts and speech, and strive to live with eagerness rather than anxiety.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES              by Sally Bair

Eager?  Or Anxious?

I’m considered a word nerd. I tend to edit other peoples’ writings and spoken words in my mind. Don’t worry, I rarely share my internal edits, so you’re safe. There is one edit I will share, however, since it has spiritual significance, and that is the difference between the words “eager” and “anxious.” Eager means enthusiastic, impatient, ardent, whereas the word anxious describes a state of uneasiness, worry, and apprehension.

I’m reminded about one of my trips to Alaska, where I experienced both emotions. I was eager to dig for clams but anxious about the boat trip across the rough, sea-tossed bay. I was eager to see the mountains but anxious about traveling on the steep, narrow mountain roads. I was eager to see wildlife up close but anxious about seeing it too close—especially after all the reports I'd heard about grizzly bear and moose-with-baby attacks.

The Bible clearly defines the words eager and anxious. First Peter 5:2, written to Christian believers, tells us to care for and serve other believers, "…not because you must but because you are willing, as God wants you to be … eager to serve."  Titus 2:14: "…Jesus Christ … gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good." 

How often we worry about things when we wouldn't have to. We could, instead, turn our anxiety into eagerness, anticipation of better things ahead.

This is not meant to be a lesson in English grammar but a lesson in Biblical principle. It all comes down to a matter of attitude. We can choose to be eager about something or anxious about it. We would be wise to heed Paul the apostle's words from Philippians 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God …."   Paul, a missionary to heathen countries, had every reason to be worried and anxious. He was frequently beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. Yet he admonished the new church in the city of Philippi to not worry about anything. We can choose to follow his example.

Lord, we know that worry and anxiety are unhealthful to our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Forgive us when we've allowed ourselves to be anxious and worried about situations. Remove from our minds that temptation. Help us rather to choose eagerness and anticipation in everything we face. Like Paul, give us the will to thank You for whatever comes our way. In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

GOD STILL SENDS DREAMS TO GET OUR ATTENTION




When God sends dreams our way, they become unforgettable. Does He send you dreams, too?


Eternal Perspectives   by Sally Bair

Dreams

For several nights in a row, I had weird dreams but couldn’t remember them. All I knew is that they held a common thread. Soon after, I was in the middle of another weird dream that was interrupted by a loud clap of thunder. The sudden stop caused my brain to remember the dream. Then I knew God had sent that dream for a specific purpose.

In each dream I was running away from something toward a specific goal. I sensed the thing I kept running from was the busyness of my life, such as my writing and marketing and numerous activities—good activities worthy of my time. They were keeping me from seeking God with my whole heart, soul, body and mind. The time I spent attending church, studying His Word and praying had become repetitious.  What was lacking was the quality.

I think back to my time as a young mother. Some days I allowed myself to become too busy with the essentials of keeping house. Back then, a mother who didn’t keep an immaculate house was often criticized—sadly, at the expense of her children’s emotional welfare. I neglected spending quality time with my kids.

We can think of many reasons to neglect becoming emotionally close to our loved ones. The same is true of our relationship with God. Perhaps we’ve thought, “I’ll spend time with the Lord as soon as I finish this task,” only to find the time has flown by. The saying goes, “No time with God, no breakfast.” It may not work for everyone to spend time in God’s Word and prayer before breakfast, but it can work at another designated time of day. When we place the time on our mental calendar—and perhaps our written one—the habit will eventually cause us to look forward to that time. All else will become secondary, as it should.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) Knowing He waits for us as a patient parent for a child, we can rejoice in His presence. We can stop trying to run away from the cares and supposedly important things that keep us busy and run straight to Him. It’s in His presence that we will find the peace and joy that will not only please Him but make our tasks all the easier.

Lord, thank You for showing up in our dreams and for always welcoming us into Your presence. Help us remember to place You at the top of our agenda. In Jesus’ name, amen.