Monday, April 23, 2018

Thoughts are Key

Chuckle: "I just got skylights put in my place. The people who live above me are furious."
Quote: “All the events in your life are a mirror image of your thoughts.” –Unknown source

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- If anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think on such things" (Philippians 4:8-9 NIV).
Many people carry key rings containing many keys. Sometimes they fumble trying to find the right key to open the door leading to where they want to go. We can find ourselves frustrated and anxious in such situations. The right key is the answer. The same is true in our spiritual life. We may search and search to find the key to a closer walk and fellowship with God. The key that Paul shows us will help us get from where we are to where we can realize God's promise of peace and fulfillment.
Paul's key is to "think on such things" as he enumerated in our passage. In other words, he tells us to allow only godly thoughts to fill our minds. These words mean to ponder, dwell, and concentrate on such praiseworthy things. If we want to draw nearer to God, the thoughts we entertain will make the difference. This is because our actions will reflect the thoughts of our hearts. Holy thoughts will result in holy words and actions. Jesus said, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34b NIV).
This theme is emphasized in Romans 12:2b NLT, "but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." When we think on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things our lives will reflect such thoughts and we will draw closer to God. As Christians, we know it is the Holy Spirit who guides us to entertain godly thoughts. It's only when the Holy Spirit renews, reeducates, and redirects our thoughts that we become truly transformed. Under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will be on the offensive to fill our minds with thoughts and values totally different from those of the world.
Do you have problems with impure thoughts and daydreams? If so, you might consider what you are putting into your mind from TV, books, conversations, movies, and magazines and replace the polluted input with wholesome material. Above all, study God's Word and pray -- asking God to help you focus your mind on what is good and pure. Then you will be motivated to put your wholesome thoughts into godly words and actions. In the process, you will grow spiritually and draw closer to your Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 20, 2018

Helping Others Deal With Tragedy

Chuckle: "Birthdays are good for you -- the more you have, the longer you live."
Quote: "Hope means expectancy when things are otherwise hopeless." --G.K. Chesterton

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God" (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV).
When someone close to us experiences a tragic loss, such as the death of a loved one, we feel inadequate to express our feelings as we grope for the right words. We hope to somehow make the tragedy a little more bearable by our presence and support. Because of our human inadequacies, there's only one place to go for consolation and comfort -- God's Word. How can we minister to those experiencing tragedies in their lives?
We can intercede for them in prayer. I love this prayer. "O Lord, who is the comforter of your children, the God of love and tenderness, I pray for those who mourn at this time. We need not tell their sorrow to you. In the stillness of our hearts we ask for them your sustaining grace. Be their stay in this sore trial; the strength of the fainting heart and the Light of the darkened home. Open their eyes to see the Father's House on high, and may they feel assured that the departed has found a better life, and a more perfect rest in you. Almighty God, may this visitation of death be your voice speaking to us, and may it minister to a truer and holier life in our souls. May our passing days be rich in those things which death cannot take from us; and may you strengthen us to live that life of faith and righteousness, of love and peace, which makes the last earthly change but a step nearer to you, our Everlasting Refuge and Home. Hear us for your mercy's sake, through Jesus Christ our Lord." --John Hunter
We can help meet their spiritual needs by encouraging them to turn to God for comfort, strength, and peace rather than being angry with God. "The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving" (Psalm 28:7 NLT).
We can help meet their physical needs in practical ways. "When God's children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night" (Romans 12:13 NLT). You can help greatly by your compassion, warm hospitality, and other practical ministries.
We can help meet their emotional needs by making ourselves available and by spending time with them. We can be a shoulder to lean on and cry on. We can offer a sympathetic ear to their expressions of pain. "When others are happy, be happy with them. if they are sad, share their sorrow" (Romans 12:15 NLT). "Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2 NLT). Hurting people need empathy and understanding rather than advice.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why Not Be Happy?

Chuckle: What is an eyedropper (i-drop-ur)? A clumsy ophthalmologist.
Quote: "Man still wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible." --St Augustine of Hippo

"So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God" (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NLT).
God wants His people to be happy and optimistic about today and the future. I don't think it pleases our Lord when we are grouchy, grumpy, and pessimistic Christians. It's sometimes easier, however, for us to dwell on the things that are wrong and unpleasant in our lives than to focus on all the blessings that God gives us every day. As I read this passage, I'm reminded of another one: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17 NIV).
I think we often look for happiness in the wrong places. It's tempting for us to look at the years gone by as times of true happiness. We may say something like, "Oh, how I wish I could go back to those good old days!" We can fail to see all the reasons we should be happy today rather than dwelling on the past. God wants us to enjoy life and be happy in our relationship with Him today and every day, even in the face of physical limitations, pain, heartache, financial difficulties, etc.
You may say, "But Jerry, you don't understand. With all my problems, I just don't have much to be happy about." I do understand the feeling, but I'm also convinced that we sometimes let such feelings overtake us without taking inventory of the positive and happiness producing blessings available to us -- our children, grandchildren, other family members, friends, fellow believers, and most of all, a God that loves us with a love that exceeds our ability to fully understand.
True happiness is a matter of choice. When we chose to look to God for happiness rather than the past or our current circumstances, we are often amazed at how our attitude toward life changes and we find ourselves being happy in spite of the difficulties and challenges we face. With the proper view of God, we will find happiness as we enjoy all the good gifts He showers on us. What is it in your life that really makes you happy?
"Happy the man (person) to whom 'tis given
To eat the bread of life in heaven;
This happiness in Christ we prove,
                                      Who feed on His forgiving love."
--Charles Wesley Hymn
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Making a Difference

Chuckle: "Back in the sixties when the economy was suffering in England, some consideration was given to selling the Rock of Gibraltar to the French. All negotiations were halted when the British learned the French were planning to rename it "De Gaulle Stone."
Good Quote: "That best portion of a good man's life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and love." --William Wordsworth

"You obey the law of Christ when you offer each other a helping hand" (Galatians 6:2 CEV).
Sometimes you may feel like a total failure. You may perceive that your life is not positively impacting anyone in a meaningful way. You may think that the routine of your day is unimportant. You may be thinking that you should be doing more with the life God has given you. Welcome to the club. I suspect we all have had similar feelings.
Recently, I received a kind note from one of my devotional readers who said a particular lesson had met a specific need at a critical time in his life. It's always good to know that our lives and ministries are having a positive impact; however, when such comments of affirmation and encouragement are not forthcoming, it's good to remember who we are serving and from whom our most important encouragement should come. As Christians, our service is to our Lord, and we serve Him by serving others -- meeting the needs of people around us. It is His approval that should be our motivation, not the response of the people we serve.
A sign read, "There is no limit to the good that a man can do, if he doesn't care who gets the credit." If you really don't care who gets the credit, then you can just enjoy yourself and do all kinds of good deeds for others. Just be glad that it is done, and don't worry about who gets the credit on earth, because your heavenly Father knows.
Just think of the lives you touch each day: your family members, neighbors, workmates, classmates, etc. Consider those who depend on you. Think about the positives in your life. The great preacher, Dwight L. Moody once wrote: "He does the most for God's great world who does the best in his own little world." Jesus always encourages His followers to be faithful in the little things of life, as unimportant as they may seem to us.
You are God's unique creation, with unique gifts and abilities and you can make a difference. All around you there are people who need a hug, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, a show of genuine love, and compassion. Just love them as Jesus loves them. There's no better time than the present to refocus on touching the lives of others in kindness and love. A helping hand reveals the condition of the heart.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Faith of a Child

Chuckle: "Children are like mosquitos: the minute they stop making a noise, you know they're getting into something."
Quote: “Faith fills a man with love for the beauty of its truth, with faith in the truth of its beauty.” --St Francis de Sales.

Then Jesus prayed this prayer, "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!" (Matthew 11:25 NLT).
Words spoken by Jesus himself penetrate our hearts and minds in extraordinary ways. His words in our passage are no different. Here, Jesus mentions two kinds of people in his prayer: (1) Those who see themselves as learned, wise, and clever -- arrogant in their own knowledge and wisdom; and (2) Those who approach God with a humble faith like that of a little child -- open to receive the truth of God's Word.
To hear our Lord praying these words to his Father should cause each of us to examine our motives, priorities, and where we are placing our trust. How do you see yourself -- as wise and self-sufficient, or as one who seeks God's truth with humble childlike faith, realizing that only God holds all the answers to our questions about life and eternity?
In his teachings, Jesus often contrasted the believing wise and the foolish unbelievers and emphasized a need to become wise through a simple faith like that of a little child. Here are additional words from Jesus. ". . . I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, anyone who becomes humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3-4 NLT).
These words should cause each of us to fall on our knees and ask forgiveness for our arrogance, self-centeredness, and self-serving attitudes. Children are, by nature, innocent and trusting, and Jesus used a child to help his self-centered disciples understand his teaching point. We are to be humble with sincere hearts -- not childish in our actions but with childlike faith.
"When a father picks up his little daughter and tosses her into the air, she laughs and enjoys it, for she trusts -- has faith in -- her father. Even though she finds herself in unusual situations, like being upside down four feet above the floor with nothing supporting her (normally a most uncomfortable circumstance), she does not fear, for she trusts her father. That is the sort of faith we should have toward our heavenly Father, too."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, April 16, 2018

Your Importance to God

Chuckle: "Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late."
Quote: "Our worth comes from the image of God in all of us, and must be the basis for our concept of ourselves." –Unknown source

"When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers -- , the moon and the stars which You have set in place -- what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us?" (Psalm 8:3-4 NLT).
Each of us was created with a powerful curiosity and the insatiable need to explore God's creation -- to go where we've never gone before. We want to know what's beyond that next mountain, ocean, or planet. We may go to new places physically or explore them through written and pictorial descriptions.
Knowing how He had made us, God laid open to us the entire universe to reveal Himself and His power to satisfy our desire for discovery. The more mysteries that are uncovered, the more we find out about who God is and what His attributes are. All His creation helps us to understand not only who God is, but, equally important, who God is not. The Bible says He is not limited in power. He is not apathetic about what happens to us. He is not partial. His love is not limited.
When you are tempted to question your worth and importance, remember that you are highly valuable to God. We have great worth because we bear the stamp of the Creator Himself (Genesis 1:26a). Great effort is being exerted by scientists to prove any theory other than the miracle of creation by God's own hands. As more scientific evidence is found, it becomes more and more difficult for the non-creationists to explain how the universe and the living creatures therein came into existence. The Scriptures tell us that man has exchanged the truth for a lie.
Paul writes, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. . . Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Rom. 1:20, 22-23 NIV).
Yes, God wants us to discover the greatness of His creation which reveals the dimensions of His power and His great love for us mortals, the crown of His creation. God has proven over and over how much He loves you and me, with the ultimate expression of His love being shown on a cross outside Jerusalem where His only Son suffered, bled, and died. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 NIV). How can you read this verse and not see how important you are to God, our Heavenly Father.
So, God gave us His whole creation to show us the dimensions of His power, and He gave His Son to show us the dimensions of His love. Because God has declared your value to Him, you can be set free from feelings of worthlessness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, April 13, 2018

Heaven: Our Eternal Home

Chuckle: "Eating a puffed rice cake is like eating the lid of a Styrofoam minnow bucket!"
Quote: "There are no crown-wearers in heaven that were not cross-bearers here below." --Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; Trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-4 NIV).
Do you find yourself thinking about heaven from time to time? Do you really believe there is such a place? Do you know for certain that you are going there when you die? Do you ever wonder what heaven will be like? I do. And I'm reminded of the old hymn, "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!" R. G. Lee described heaven this way: "Heaven is the most beautiful place the mind of God could conceive and the hand of God could create." In chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation, we are given a glimpse into heaven and a brief description of what it will be like. We know for certain that it will be so far beyond anything the human mind can conceive that we will be overwhelmed when we see it.
In our passage, Jesus comforts his disciples prior to his crucifixion and tells them He is going to prepare a place just for them, and us, in His Father's house or heaven. He was asking them, and us, to have faith as follows:
First, Faith in the Person named Jesus Christ. He said we should have faith (believe in, trust) in Him. "You believe in God; believe also in me." You see, it is in the person of Jesus Christ that we must trust to have assurance of eternal life. It is one thing to believe in God, but something altogether different to believe in the person of Jesus -- to have a personal relationship with Him. The Bible declares it is faith in Jesus alone which gives us hope, comfort, and assurance of spending eternity in heaven. "Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16 NIV). Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never die" (John 11:24 NIV).
Second, Faith in a Place called Heaven: We are to have faith that a place has been prepared and reserved for us in our Father's house -- our eternal home. Jesus said: "I go to prepare a place for you." Old hymn: "There's a land that is fairer than day and by faith we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way to prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore." Your faith in the person of Jesus Christ prepares you to have faith in a place called heaven.
Third, Faith in a Promise From Jesus: We are to have faith in His promise to return: "I will come again and receive you unto myself." What will happen when Jesus returns in power and glory? The Bible tells us that the dead in Christ will be raised first to be inhabited by their spirits from heaven. Then we who are alive at his coming shall be changed into our "glorified" bodies and then be caught up together with them in the air - forever to be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:16 NIV).
Jesus went on to say, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 NIV). Have you placed your faith in the person of Jesus Christ? Have you prayed asking forgiveness for your sins and asking Him to come into your life and be your Lord and Savior? If so, then heaven awaits you as Jesus promised. May this thought bring you much peace and joy. . . .!! "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Corinthians 2:9 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse