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.        

Monday, May 15, 2017

GOD'S JOY COMES IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES



When we focus on the Lord and His Word, we can experience His joy no matter what we’re going through. Then sickness, grief, disappointment, rejection, fear and much more will have little effect on our lives. Count it all joy today! God never disappoints.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES             by Sally Bair

Count it all joy

One of the most pleasurable sounds in springtime is that of birdsong. Between the robins and finches, the cardinals and wrens, they seem to be trying to outdo each other. Their singing changes the whole atmosphere from morning blues to joy and peace. Their voices have a way of invading our unhappy thoughts and our biggest problems, if only for a little while.

We tend to respond to happy words from other people, too. An encouraging word or a smile does wonders to lift our spirits. God’s Word is also filled with words of hope for our weary souls. “The Lord is my strength and shield,” David wrote in Psalm 28:7. Similar promises and affirmatives lift us out of our morning blues and replace negative thoughts with positives. They offer hope and energize us—body, soul and spirit.

We all have troubles. How we respond to them determines the atmosphere around us. When we choose to commiserate about the state of our health, our neighborhood or the world, we create a negative mood, which brings out the worst in everyone around.

God’s kingdom has little room for negativity. In fact, He commands that we rejoice in Him at all times. Our response to our surroundings reflects the level of our faith. While imprisoned and in stocks, Paul and Silas sang hymns and praised God. Their positive attitude brought an angel to release them and the others with them. Job’s misery didn’t keep him from standing firm in his faith. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,” Job said (Job 13:15). God blessed his faith with twice over what he had lost.

Like theirs, our responses to problems shout to everyone around us. They see how strong—or weak—our faith is. We believers should be walking billboards of God’s grace as we carry His presence with us.      

I’ve often quoted James 1:1-8. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be … complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God … But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Lord, cause our faith to grow in strength so we will always respond to our troubles with joy and not with fear or unbelief. May our responses to others be as pleasurable as birdsong. In Jesus’ name, amen.
           


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

AVOID LIVING ON THE FRINGE



Living on the fringe of life reminds me of extreme sports people who “live on the edge” of danger, almost as if they want to see how close they can come to death. The same can apply to our spiritual lives. God doesn’t want us to live on the edge of His kingdom. He wants us to live in it, where we will find the greatest rewards. 

Eternal perspectives   by Sally Bair

The Fringe

You’ve probably watched nature films that portray lions going after their prey. You may even have witnessed a predator pursuing an animal that is at the edge of its pack. Those clustered in the center are relatively impervious to attack. It’s the ones on the fringe that become easy targets.

 We humans need each other, too, not only for safety and the basic essentials of food, clothing and shelter, but for love, encouragement and companionship. God also provides us with spiritual family. When we become weak in our faith, discouraged or beleaguered by temptations, we can call on fellow believers for encouraging prayer or help.

The early Christian church, in fact, thrived and grew in number because of their close ties to one another. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

For people who have experienced lack of love, care or encouragement in their biological families, God provides them with Christian community that offers help in every aspect of their lives. God promises to be with us through all things, but He also does not want us to be lonely. We need each other. John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.”

By the same token, God doesn’t want us to live on the fringe of our Christian life. Even Jesus lived with close friends and His chosen disciples, who almost always stood by Him. Peter, in fact, vowing to protect Jesus, raised his sword against a soldier who had come to arrest Him.

Like the animals, we also have predators but in the spiritual sense. Their attacks can come quickly, unexpectedly. Temptations surround us. Our own thoughts can condemn us. And the devil, our adversary, “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith …  (1 Peter 5:8)

Our resistance can be strengthened when we remain within the “pack” of other believers. Every believer should partake of regular fellowship within a church or group. Such fellowship offers family benefits. Love. Help when needed. Encouragement. Follow-up. A listening ear. Strong faith. Wisdom and knowledge of God’s Word. Most importantly, members of a Christian “pack” rely on God’s protection.

Lord, thank You for providing us with others who help undergird our Christian walk. Keep us from wandering toward the fringes of our faith in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, May 1, 2017

IS YOUR FAITH ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN?



God doesn’t want us to be wishy-washy followers. When He told His disciples, “Follow me,” He meant them to be so focused on Him that the things and people around them would “grow strangely dim,” as the hymn goes. Though we live in a world of endless distractions and temptations, we can remain loyal to Him—with the help of His Spirit.

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

On again, off again

One day the thermometer reached 72 degrees. The next day it plunged to a high of 36. Such temp fluctuations happen often in the Midwest, especially close to Lake Superior and Michigan. We should be used to it, but the way we keep talking about it with others, we won’t ever become accustomed to the on again, off again weather changes that happen within minutes.

We’ve all encountered people who exhibit such fast changes in their words and actions, too. Their unpredictability is startling, to say the least, and makes us feel like we’re tiptoeing on eggshells. We wonder how they’ll react to our silences, our most benign words, and our innocent actions. I speak from the experience of having been around such mercurial souls. Such encounters steal our feelings of peace, exchanging them for anxiety and perhaps fear.

Jesus called for total loyalty of His followers. As His own devotion to us is trustworthy and predictable, ours toward Him also must be so. He makes it clear that we cannot be divided in our loyalty. “He who is not with Me is against Me….” (Matthew 12:30) We must not be on again, off again regarding our faith. Either we choose to wholly love and serve Him or not.

The early church was taught this truth and it’s meant for us today. James wrote: “…he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8)

Jesus loves us so much that He wants all of us to accept His salvation, repent of our sins and vow to follow His teachings and example. Such a decision promises peace and joy and the hope of eternal life. It also demands that we keep ourselves from temptations that can cause us to be unstable and double-minded.

 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)  
           
Lord, thank You for Your steadfast, rock-solid love. Help us stay on the narrow path of faith so we won’t live an on again, off again life with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.