Tuesday, June 20, 2017

WE ARE GOD'S INSTRUMENTS OF PEACE AND JOY



Ever wonder what kind of music your Christian testimony portrays to those around you? With God’s everlasting righteousness, peace and joy, our thoughts, words and actions will be as harmonious as the most accomplished choir and the most beautiful birdsongs.

Eternal perspectives   by Sally Bair

Everywhere I turn, I hear a symphony of birdsongs. Some don’t add to the harmony, but their voices always gladden the heart and imbue a feeling of peace.

Whether by voice or instrument, music always brings a reaction. It can soothe our anxious soul, rouse us to action or bring a joy-filled smile. Certain musical renditions can keep us awake or put us to sleep, and evoke feelings of romance, sadness, fear, hilarity or patriotism.

The Israelites of long ago used music for many occasions. Trumpeters marched ahead of the soldiers in battle or called the people to gather for assembly. Other instruments were played during their festivals and in worship, even as we use them today.

David, gifted in the playing of the harp, was called upon to play for King Saul when “A distressing spirit from the Lord troubled [Saul].” (1 Samuel 16:14) The music refreshed the king and the spirit would leave.

The dictionary states that an instrument, besides being a device for producing musical sounds, is a tool or piece of equipment used for delicate work. In a sense, God uses us as His tools for the sometimes delicate work of sharing His goodness with others. We are His instruments of peace and joy and rightness with Him.

The Psalms are filled with references of making music to the Lord. “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Psalm 118:14) This verse is repeated twice more, an indication of its power and importance. Psalm 40:3 again attests to God’s salvation and the need to share that news. “He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord.”

Sharing the Good News can be a delicate task. That’s why God has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us. We need to stay attuned to His Word and His still small voice so we can know what to say and when to say it. Our demeanor is important, too. We need to show God’s joy and peace rather than allowing our worries and circumstances to cloud our message so it sounds out of harmony. Our willingness to serve those in need should always be a chorus of Christian love.

Lord, thank You for the joy and peace that come from knowing that You love us and have saved us from our sins. Show us how to share Your righteousness, peace and joy in such a way that it will be harmonious music to those around us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ARE YOU EXPERIENCING ANY LIFE-STORMS?




Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

The calm before the storm

One hot day, my family and I unknowingly drove directly toward a town where tornadoes were forecast. The car radio announcer yelled, “Take cover now, or die!” We immediately diverted our route and stopped in a different town to wait out the weather.

From a parking lot we watched the black clouds spawn another tornado. The air remained as still as a lifeless leaf. Then, without warning, a huge gust of wind shook the car. That second tornado, though small, touched down and damaged property behind us.

We all face storms in our personal lives: unknown circumstances, death or devastation, change or loss. In the midst, it can become hard to find a tranquil spot. For instance, we might take a walk to relieve anxiety. Some might use less favorable mechanisms such as drinking, using drugs, running away, or over-working. Others seek tranquility through the practice of yoga or transcendental meditation. We all crave peace, especially when our emotions become unstable during stormy circumstances.

The best calm in any storm is found in the presence of God Himself. Psalm 91:1-2 says: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.’” Jesus desires that all of us should experience the peace of abiding in Him. His peace transcends our understanding, no matter what storm we face.

Lord, thank You for Your peaceful place of refuge. Forgive us when we look in the wrong places for peace of mind. Teach us to put our trust in You alone so we can thrive even when the storms of life rage around us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(Reprinted from The Nature of God: Daily Devotionals Celebrating Summer)        



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

OUR CHOICES AFFECT OUR LIVES EACH DAY




When we remember that every thought, every word spoken and every act is made by choice, we are more inclined to make the ultimate choice—that is, to let God choose for us. His are always better.

Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

Choices

Oh, the choices we face! For instance, consider our northern weather changes. From hour to hour we must decide whether to take an umbrella, wear a winter jacket and gloves or don summer sandals instead of waterproof boots.

Choices such as we make in the grocery stores present their own dilemmas.  Should I try that new cereal brand among the dizzying array of products? What shall I make for dinner? Do I really need that ice cream?

The internet also offers countless choices, not only regarding food but other necessities as well as a host of non-essentials. Some may be dangerous. Yet the final choices are ours to make. If we decide on items we don’t need or might be detrimental to our well-being, we may suffer the consequences.

God allowed Adam and Eve choices, too. Rather than listening to God’s words, they made a wrong choice which brought hardship, death and disease. God continues to give us choices. His Word teaches that when we choose well, He will bless us. In His mercy He also spells out the consequences of our wrong choices.

Before Moses died he restated God’s Law to the Israelites, including these words. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Jesus also spoke of choices. When He accepted Mary and Martha’s invitation to their home, Martha became distracted by all she had to do in serving their guest. Mary, meanwhile, spent her time at Jesus’ feet, focused on what He taught. This didn’t set well with Martha, who complained about having to do all the work alone. Jesus’ answer is worth remembering.

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Our choices, like Martha’s, often bring worry and trouble. When we choose, however, to sit at the feet of Jesus—in quiet meditation of His Word and presence or in prayer—we are blessed with His life-enhancing peace and joy. And all distractions disappear.

Lord, thank You for giving us the choice between life within Your kingdom and death to the distractions of the world. Help us make choices that matter. In Jesus’ name, amen. 


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

JESUS IS OUR ROCK



No one is stronger, more reliable, or more unmovable than Jesus. We can depend on Him at all times and in all circumstances.

Eternal perspectives              by Sally Bair

The Rock

Big or small, colorful or drab, rocks evoke feeling. The farmer whose soil grows better rocks than corn isn’t happy with them. Rock hounds, however, delight in collecting, comparing and bartering them. Rocks are admired for their shape and symmetry, their grain or textured pattern and their variations in color.

The Bible mentions rocks numerous times. The Israelites built memorials to God using rocks. God wrote the Ten Commandments on two rocks. He is called the Rock of Israel and our Rock of salvation. And Jesus told His disciples if they had faith as small as a mustard seed, they could say to a mountain, the largest rock of all, “Be moved.”

Jesus also compares Himself to a strong and secure rock—on which we must build our spiritual house if we are to withstand the winds and rains of hardship. Peter said, “Coming to Him, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’” (1 Peter 2:4-8) This passage continues by saying that stone (Christ) is precious but will cause the downfall of those who do not believe.

Some rocks are a delight to the eye, as God is a delight to those who trust in Him. Other rocks are colorful, as God is full of beauty. Still other rocks are large and immovable, as God is our strength. We can count on Him for all things.

Lord, thank You for being our rock-solid security and strength. Help us always remember that You are the Rock of our salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Reprinted from The Nature of God: Daily Devotionals Celebrating Summer, by Sally Bair. Available at sallybair.com or Amazon.com.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CLEARING THE COBWEBS FROM OUR MINDS



We do well to stop and ask ourselves what cobwebs are clogging our minds, especially when we feel hurried, harried, or confused. God’s Spirit will reveal them to us when we ask and will remove them when we confess.


Eternal Perspectives               by Sally Bair

Sometimes I wonder if the cobwebs are bent on overtaking my house. In hours, it seems, they make their way across the windowsills, at the corners of the floor molding and above every door. It takes constant vigilance to keep them at bay. I fail miserably.

When I was a kid working nights at the local bean factory, my twin sister, a neighbor and I walked home after each shift. The country road was dark, too dark to see the old, dilapidated house tucked in the woods. But we knew it was there and always hurried past. I pictured it full of cobwebs too thick to walk through, imprisoning and choking the life out of anyone brave or perhaps stupid enough to enter.

Cobwebs can clog our minds, too, enough to hinder us from pushing through. We can be caught in the grip of anger, for instance. Or hopelessness. Gossip. Frustration. Unforgiveness. Selfishness, pride or a host of other destructive feelings. Such cobwebs can be like dirty windows, keeping us from seeing clearly.

Not only that, they can entangle us in a web of negative or false thoughts and beliefs. A wrong thought here and an angry thought are like cobwebs that prevent us from seeing the true picture.

God has much to say about our minds. Here are six examples worth remembering: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) What we think matters to God and to others. And the Bible also warns us not to dwell on things about illicit sex, a subject which today is so prevalent and accepted in our society. “For to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:27)

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) When we focus on God’s truth, love and blessings, our cobweb-like thoughts will vanish, to be replaced by His indescribable peace. We do well to follow the Apostle Paul’s example: “Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)

Followers of Christ have this wonderful promise: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) In fact, Paul says we should be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind …” (Romans 12:2)

Lord, thank You for sound minds. Show us how to remove the negative and tangled mental cobwebs that keep us from Your peace and hinder us from serving You and others. In Jesus’ name, amen.