Monday, May 28, 2018

BE TRANSFORMED INTO GOD'S IMAGE


We can try all we want to change into a better Christian, but only by God’s Holy Spirit can we be transformed into what He would want us to be.

Eternal Perspectives              by Sally Bair

Transformers

Before the days of buried cables, an electric line ran from a pole by our road to one in our yard. The roadside pole held a transformer that changed electric power from high voltage, enough to serve the neighborhood, to low voltage for our house and barn.

To transform means to change in nature, form, or appearance. Transformation also means metamorphosis, as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. By our own efforts, we can cause transformations, too. We can turn a run-down house into a castle, a rock into a polished gem, a piece of wood into a table. Overweight people can transform their bodies, by diet and exercise, into ones of health and beauty. Struggling students can become successful through hard work and determination.

The Bible speaks of transformation, too. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) The words conform and transform given here are opposites. Instead of being conformed, or molded, by the world’s values, Paul wants us to be transformed.

If our mind is dedicated to worldly concerns, it will not line up with God’s perfect will. When we choose to believe the truth of God’s Word, however, and consistently meditate on it, the Holy Spirit will guide and shape our thoughts and behaviors. Such action will renew our mind until “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Lord, thank You for Your Spirit, who gives us the strength, encouragement, and power to resist worldly pursuits and to transform our minds into the mind of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(Reprinted from The Nature of God: Daily Devotionals Celebrating Summer, by Sally Bair

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

HOW THICK OR THIN IS YOUR FAITH?


Like grass that grows thicker in some spots and thin in others, our life with Christ can compare to its healthiness. How is yours growing?

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

Blades of grass

While mowing the lawn for the first time one year, I zipped through some sparse areas of grass. In other areas, the grass grew thick, causing me to push for all I was worth with my battery-operated mower that was not self-propelled. The sparse area looked like it hadn’t even been mowed. Conversely, the thick grass looked luxurious and inviting.

Our lives may work that way, too. When we work hard at something, it brings us a deep sense of satisfaction for having done a job well. When we fly through a task, the result is often boredom or the sense of being unfulfilled. Think of intelligent school children who are not challenged to learn new and more lessons. Often, boredom brings the desire to start trouble, refuse to follow rules, or skip school. Some even drop out of school. Some take the initiative, however, to strive for excellence and growth by doing extra credit work or seeking new, independent ways of learning.

Of course, many children and adults would rather do the minimum amount of work. Like the sparse lawn, they barely get by in many areas of their life.

We can apply this analogy to our spiritual life. Many Christians are content to attend church once a week, depending on their spiritual leader to spoon feed them with a short dose of the Word. Some may throw a handful of change in the Christmas kettle, believing they’ve done their Christian duty.

Such a sparse life, like the thin grass, will be prone to dis-ease when drought or flood come. Its shallow roots can easily allow weeds to take over.

“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)

God, our spiritual gardener, can cause our immature, thin roots to grow. All we have to do is become willing to follow His instructions. A daily dose of His Word is full of the growth-enhancing minerals we need to become flourishing plants. A constant attitude of praise, thanksgiving, and humility as well as a desire to learn more about His works and wonders will bring richness to our mind and spirit.

Lord, we don’t want to languish like sparse patches of grass, content to take the easy way out. We want to flourish with the fruit of Your Holy Spirit, unafraid of the effort it may involve. Help us to abide in You, to desire nothing so much as to depend on Your grace and love for our growth. In Jesus’ name, amen.

  


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

IS THE LORD THE SONSHINE OF YOUR LIFE?




Every time we delight in a spring wildflower, we can think about our Lord, who is our son-shine, who waters us and helps us grow to spiritual maturity and ultimately draw others to Him.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES        by Sally Bair

Sonshine

May flowers are covering our north woods everywhere. They seem to begin from nothing, working their way upward through the soil, bringing forth little buds that unfold each day until a flower emerges. They release their sweet scent and give beauty to the earth and all that is in it.

Their varieties are endless. We revel in the beauty of daffodils, tulips, and violets. Soon the trilliums will flood the roadsides, to be followed by wild roses, lilacs, and lilies. Within all those species are a wide array of colors, shapes, and sizes.

How lovely and magical our world becomes when the flowers arrive in springtime. And how blessed we are that God provides flowers for us throughout the summer and fall, too.

Wildflowers need little or no care, but domestic plants must be nurtured to grow to their maturity. We must make sure their soil is good, they receive enough moisture, and they are given enough light. Even the plants that thrive best in shade must have some sunlight.

We're like flowers, too, in that we have certain needs in order to grow. Plenty of food, water, and fresh air help us mature physically. Love and acceptance bring us to emotional and relational maturity. And our spirits will grow only through the food of God's Word and the refreshment of His Holy Spirit. Jesus calls Himself the Bread of Life and the Living Water. He also is referred to as the Light of the World—what we can call Sonshine.

When we allow Him to help us grow to spiritual maturity, it will affect every part of our lives. We will be like a flower, unfolding from a tiny bud into a beautiful bloom that brings the   fragrance and beauty of peace and joy to those around us. Like a sweet smelling rose, we will draw others to God through us. We should all strive to "blossom like the lily," as spoken of in Hosea 14:5.

“I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your Word.” (Psalm 119:16)

Lord, give us the desire to become the beautiful, fragrant flowers You want us to be. Help us to grow through Your life-giving Word—to take the time to read it, to study and meditate on it, and to apply its truth to our lives. In Jesus' name, amen.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

LESS STRESS MEANS MORE OF GOD'S PEACE


Sometimes we can’t avoid stress, but when we can we feel the benefits immediately. One way is to meditate on God’s Word or spend some quiet time with Him, without distractions. Let’s do it!

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES              by Sally Bair

Stress versus peace

During a strong wind one day, a branch on one of my lilac trees blew around the Baltimore oriole feeder. The leaves wrapped themselves so tightly around it that the orioles could not feed there. The male put up a fuss for almost two hours—until I could get the feeder untangled and refilled. I didn’t hear a peep afterwards.

We sometimes act like that oriole. When something goes wrong in our lives, we stress about it until it's fixed. For instance, while we're on our way to an important meeting we find our car battery dead. Or, a child must be taken to the emergency room during an ice storm. We may become displaced because of a nearby refinery fire. My daughter and granddaughter still cannot return home following the Husky Refinery explosion in Superior, due to toxic reactions.

Every day we can find a new problem to face. It doesn't matter whether it's something beyond our control or whether we've brought it on ourselves, we’re tempted to holler and grumble and scold. Our fussing may even be directed at God. "Why did you let this happen, God?" we ask. "Why can't you fix it?"

When we react negatively, we bring stress and anxiety to our minds. That affects our mood and our body.   And the big question is, how will we face our problems?

The Bible teaches that we are not to be anxious in anything. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything … with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  (Philippians 4:6.)  The Bible also says that those who are meek will enjoy great peace. They will find that the tangles of adversity disappear. Those who are not meek, on the other hand, those who put up a fuss and stress out, will reap the fruit of their negative emotions. The tangles, like those around the oriole feeder, will remain and, perhaps, grow tighter than ever. How we respond to glitches or problems in our busy lives will determine the amount of peace we will experience while going through the problem.

Lord, You know how hard it is for us, in our mortal bodies, to be thankful in all circumstances. Yet, You promise that if we do thank You even while we experience glitches or problems, You will give us inner peace. Help us remember to thank You in all things. In Jesus' name, amen.  
           



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

WHAT KIND OF TRACKS DO YOU LEAVE BEHIND?


Are they clean, free from moral dirt and grime? Do they bring a smile or a frown? Wherever we go, with whomever we walk, we should be aware of what impressions we leave.

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES                    By Sally Bair

Muddy Tracks

My puppy, Lyddie, loved to play in the mud. In the spring and after every rain she went looking for things to dig up, and the soft, muddy path behind my house made for easy diggings. Once she came back home, I'd wipe her feet with an old towel, trying to remove the mud between her toes and claws. I'd spit and sputter and scrub and rub, but no amount of effort short of a bath in an outside tub brought total cleanliness. And the deck showed her dirty paw marks in spite of numerous sessions of hosing her down.

During one mild winter, I saw muddy paw prints all along the roadside on each new layer of white snow. They made me wonder what kind of footprints I leave.  Every time I speak an unkind word, I leave a muddy track for the world to see. Every time I walk past someone in obvious need because I’m too preoccupied with my own plans or desires, I mar the landscape. Every time I go against the teachings of Christ, I deepen my dirty tracks.

Paul speaks for all of us in Romans 7:15, 17, 24: "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. … but now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. … O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Like Paul, we who are in Christ—that is, who have accepted Him by faith and been brought to wholeness and purity through His death and resurrection—keep messing up because of our sinful nature. We unintentionally gravitate toward the muddy paths and leave our tracks behind. Try as we may, we can't keep ourselves clean. Only through God’s Son, Jesus, can we be made righteous.

Our battle to remain clean, pure in God's sight, is a daily battle. We must never give up. If we do, our muddy tracks will get so deep that those outside the Church will think we're one of them. God has set us apart from the world so we can follow His perfect will—to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Lord, we want to be pleasing to You. We don't want to leave muddy tracks. Cleanse us and give us the strength and power to live according to Your Word. In Jesus' name, amen.