Friday, August 18, 2017

Love Your Neighbor

Chuckle: One hunter to another: “Look at those bear tracks! I’ll go see where he came from, and you go see where he went.”
Quote: “Today . . we know that all living beings who strive to maintain life and who long to be spared pain - all living beings on earth - are our neighbors.” --Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Jesus states the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, . . soul, . . . mind, . . . and strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31 NIV). "But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the (robbed and beaten) man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him" (Luke 10:33 NIV).
A lawyer asked Jesus, "If I'm to love my neighbor who is he?" Jesus answered with the familiar parable of the "Good Samaritan." The story takes place on the 20 mile steep, rocky, and dangerous road from Jerusalem down to Jericho.
Who is your neighbor? It can be anyone, especially anyone you see, or know about, who has a physical, spiritual, or emotional need. It might be the person seated right in front of you in your worship service. All around us our neighbors are hurting (divorce, death, financial, illness, etc.). Some are poor, jobless, grieving, lonely, and spiritually cold. They need someone to show concern. Our Lord wants us to keep our antennae up and tuned in to the lives of our neighbors like the Samaritan. He saw someone in desperate need, and he put personal concerns aside and stopped to help his neighbor. Here are some key words that describe the attitudes Jesus wants us to have in relation to our neighbors:
Compassion - empathy - share their hurt - experience their grief. The word for compassion is often used to describe Jesus. But here it describes someone acting like Jesus. He let nothing stand in his way. Love does not see obstacles to helping others, only solutions to people's needs. It looks for opportunities.
Contact. The language of love is understood by everyone. Making contact in love with a hurting neighbor will often break down walls of distrust and make the person more receptive to the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Care. Care enough to bind up wounds, administer healing oil, put them on your donkey (car) and get them a room - make provisions for them. Whatever it takes.
Cost. It costs us time, money, energy, materials, and convenience to be a good Samaritan. Being a ministering Christian costs us something if we are to make a difference in people's lives. We must hurt before we help - care before it counts - pay a price before the joy of the blessing comes.
What did the Samaritan get from what he did? He received neither financial reward, prestige, nor recognition. However, he gained the personal joy, peace, and satisfaction from knowing he had touched another life at a critical time and place. God knew what he had done even if no one else did. Jesus said, "If you give a cup of cool water in my name, you will be rewarded." Albert Switzer said, "Really happy people are those who have learned to serve." There's room all around for more happy Good Samaritans.
Jesus asked the lawyer, "Who was the neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?" "The man who showed mercy on him," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Would you go this week and do likewise for someone in need? Sometimes we're so busy making money, taking care of ourselves, and doing our thing, that we miss opportunities for service and the joy that follows.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Healthy Soul and Body

Chuckle: After the church service, a little boy told the pastor; "When I grow up, I'm going to give you some money." "Well, thank you," the pastor replied, "but why?" "Because my Daddy says you're one of the poorest Preachers we've ever had."
Quote: "The whole point of this life is the healing of the heart's eye through which God is seen." --St Augustine of Hippo

"This letter is from John the Elder. It is written to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is" (3 John 1-2 NLT). ". . fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones" (Proverbs 3:7b-8 NIV).
This passage, verse 2 in particular, has caused me to consider its implications for all of us as modern-day Christians. We don't know much about Gaius, to whom this letter is addressed, but evidently he had befriended the apostle John with warm hospitality sometime during his travels. John loved him deeply as a faithful brother in Christ.
Obviously, our physical health should be of major importance to us. Once lost, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to regain. With the epidemic of obesity in this country, and all the associated health problems, there is a growing awareness of the need for more healthy lifestyles in general. John was praying that Gaius was as healthy physically as his soul was spiritually. For John to use Gaius' spiritual health as a standard for measuring his physical health, Gaius must have been a spiritual giant.
John's prayer for Gaius reminds us that God is concerned for both our bodies and our souls. As devoted followers of Christ, we should not neglect the health of either. We should not indulge ourselves in unhealthy ways but care for and discipline our bodies so that we can be at our best in service to our Lord.
Let me ask each of us this question: If your physical health was as good as your spiritual health, would your physical health be better or worse than it is now? Would you want other Christians to pray that your physical health would be as good as your spiritual health? How is your health, spiritually and physically? Maybe it's time for each of us to have a check-up. If the results are not what you want them to be, seek God's help in getting spiritually healthy. Spiritual and physical health should be our goal. Once attained, we should nurture our good health to the best of our abilities, in the power of the Spirit.
“Inner healing is simply this: Jesus can take the memories of our past and heal them . . . and fill with his love all these places in us that have been empty for so long., once they have been healed and drained of the poison of past hates and resentment.” --Francis MacNutt
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Planning: Do the Right Thing Today

Chuckle: "Americans are getting stronger. Twenty years ago, it took two people to carry ten dollars worth of groceries. Today, a five-year old can do it."
Quote: "Our motivation is worth ten threats, two pressures, and six reminders." -- Paul Sweeney

As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:16-17 NIV).
Do you neglect or procrastinate doing what you know God wants you to do? God tells us, through James, that we sin when we fail to do something good we know God would have us do. There are sins we "commit," and there are sins when we "omit" -- sins of commission and sins of omission. Failing to do something good for someone, or procrastinating, are sins of omission. An unknown poet wrote: "procrastination is my sin, it causes me great sorrow. I know I ought to change my ways, and I will, tomorrow." Here's another thought: "Procrastination is the assassination of motivation."
The Bible says that Christianity is not just a life of not doing certain things but a life filled with doing the things God wants us to do. To fail in life, just do nothing -- just do nothing to strengthen your marriage or to teach your children. The solution is doing something now. Write a letter to someone; write your parents; call your best friend and tell him/her what a difference he/she makes in your life; restore a fractured relationship with a friend or neighbor; get right with Christ today; join a church today; get your marriage right today; forgive others today. Not tomorrow!
A pastor put it this way. "I don't know anyone who got married tomorrow. I don't know anyone who died tomorrow. I don' know anyone who sinned tomorrow. I don't know anyone who made a difference tomorrow. I don't know a life that was ever changed tomorrow." That's why God said: "Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Every day we have choices. God puts your life in your hands and says: "it's yours - you can do with it as you wish." You can waste it with drugs, alcohol, or selfish pleasures; or you can invest it in the things that really matter here on earth and in eternity. When you invest your life, you find it; when you invest it, God multiplies it. No matter if you live to be 20, 30, or 90, your life can make a difference today.
You may have seen the movie, "Point of the Spear." It is the story of missionary Jim Elliott and others who were killed by savage Indians in a foreign country as they were sharing the gospel of Christ. Jim had written in his diary a few days before his death: "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose." Today, many of those Indians are Christians. He paved the way with his life. He said, "I'm not going to wait on tomorrow - I'll make a difference today."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Planning: Don't Count on Tomorrow

Chuckle: With hands over a woman’s eyes, a man said: "You have three guesses who this is or I'm going to kiss you." Woman: "Jack Frost, Santa Claus, King Leer. ."
Quote: "His (Jesus') cross is the door by which every member of the human race can enter into the life of God; by his Resurrection He has the right to give eternal life to any person, and by His Ascension our Lord enters heaven and keeps the door open for humanity." --Oswald Chambers

"What is your life? You are a mist (vapor) that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say; 'If it's the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'" (James 14b-15 NIV).
A young couple desiring to go into missionary work had invited a missionary couple to their home. The host couple kept mentioning that life was "so uncertain" for them because the husband had multiple sclerosis. He could even become immobilized in a hospital bed, or live normally until death, or die unexpectedly. After hearing the term "uncertain" so many times, the missionary turned to the couple and said, "All of our lives are uncertain. You just happen to know it, and most of us don't."
One important reason to include God in our planning for the future is that you cannot be certain of what tomorrow will bring. You may not have tomorrow -- you have only the one opportunity of today that is certain. This fact is less real to young people, but much more real to those of us who are older. Whether you are a teenager or senior adult, life is short and fragile. James says we make a foolish mistake when we presume to have a tomorrow. He also says we are fools if we boast about tomorrow. Proverbs 27:1 says: "Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring forth."
How then should we live? Simple! Live one day at a time. Some of us can't enjoy today because we are so worried or preoccupied with the future. Some can't enjoy their marriages because of planning for the future. Others can't enjoy school because they're planning for after graduation and for "when I get out of here." Jesus said: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34 NIV). He is telling us God will take care of tomorrow. So, you should pack your life today with all that God has for you.
Someone has said, "Life is what happens to us while we're planning something else." Many are missing life because being angry with someone is more important than living fully today; being consumed with the past is more important than enjoying the present; worrying about the uncertain future is more important than enjoying today. James encourages you to live it up, God's way. Psalm 90:12 says: "So teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom."
How are you spending your life? Psalm 31:15 says, "Lord, my days (times) are in your hands." God wants us to trust our lives into his care. We should say, "Lord, I don't know how long I will live, but I'll live everyday with the joy of your presence and will be ready when my life ends. Meanwhile, I will allow you to fulfill your purpose for my life."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 14, 2017

Planning Without God's Guidance

Chuckle: “Age makes you take twice as long to rest and half as long to get tired.
Quote: "Conscience is that faculty in me which attaches itself to the highest I know, and tells me what the highest I know demands that I do." --Oswald Chambers

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money,' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. (James 4:13-14 NIV).
In contrast to the Christi Lane song, "One Day at a Time," we can become so obsessed and preoccupied with the future that we cannot experience and enjoy God's best for us today. "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). James deals with three mistakes we sometimes make which results in the future not being clear and the present not being lived fully. Today, we will deal with the first of these: Planning without God's Guidance.
James describes businessmen talking about how they are going to expand; go to a new place; start a new venture; and the profits they expect to make. Planning ahead is a worthy endeavor, and there's nothing inherently wrong with making a profit. But in our passage, the problem was their failure to consider God's will in their planning. It is dangerous for Christians to make plans without God. We make plans for college, vacations, business ventures, our marriage, our family, etc. Where does the Father's will fit into our planning? James says we are to give God His rightful place in our planning. He wants our plans not be limited by human insight, wisdom, and abilities.
Alexander Saul: Wrote about the Russian revolution in the early 1900's that brought communism. He summed up the destruction of the Soviet Union and Communism by three simple words: "Men Forgot God." These same words could well be written about our nation in the 21st century if something doesn't change. We have forgotten God. How sad it is to see God's people making plans as if God does not exist. We do this often. We go about a life of practical atheism as we make plans for our lives. Where is God in your planning, choices, decisions, dreams, etc. If you include God, your won't make mistakes and you won't be disappointed. I've heard it said: "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans!"
James says we ought to say: "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that" (James 4:15 NIV). Most of us who have lived a while have discovered that our best laid plans often go awry. Murphy's law is working overtime to thwart our very best plans and intentions. We have seen plans and dreams crumble around us and wonder why? Our planning should start with: "Lord, what will you have me to do." "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (make your paths straight)" (Proverbs 3:6 NIV). "Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him and He will bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5 NIV).
God always has the last word in any of our plans for the future. As Christians, we need to stop asking God to bless what we want to do. Instead we should ask: "Lord what would you have me to do?" He will bless your plans if they are His plans.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Reality of Sin

Chuckle: A Man said to me, "I had to shoot my dog." "Was he mad?" I asked. "Well, he wasn't very pleased!" he replied.
Quote: "He (Christ) carried our sin, our captivity and our suffering, and He did not carry it in vain. HE CARRIED IT AWAY." --Karl Barth

"All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV). "Have mercy on me O God, . . . Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (Psalm 51:1-2 NIV).
We live in a world where absolutes concerning right and wrong are vanishing into a sea of relativism. This leads people to say, "what's right for you may not be right for me -- right or wrong depends upon the circumstances at the time." We see people committing even the most heinous of crimes without remorse, or acknowledging that their conduct is wrong and immoral. As these attitudes spread, they can lead to an undisciplined society of anarchy and chaos.
In the Bible, "sin," means missing the mark and the breaking of God's moral law. The Ten Commandments are an easily understood list of those transgressions that violate God's moral and spiritual laws. Incidentally, they are the basis for most of the laws in our society -- the Judeo-Christian ethic, if you will. Breaking these laws is a crime against society and sin against God. Let's look further at the reality of sin.
First, we must realize that "sin" sometimes describes a condition within the heart and soul of every human born into this world. This sinful condition can only be changed by God's forgiveness and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. The shed blood of Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Not only do we need saving from our sinful condition, but we need to be forgiven of our sinful thoughts and actions as well. The Bible uses a variety of terms to describe sin, but the most common one means to miss the mark or deviate from God's standard of moral behavior. Let's focus on "sin" as breaking God's moral laws.
Psalm 51 was written by King David after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah's wife. David had slept with Bathsheba, and then had her husband, Uriah killed so he could have Bathsheba for himself. David was devastated by guilt, remorse, and depression because of his great sins. Can you imagine a Godly man like David committing these sins? Remember, he was crowned King by God Himself because of his strong faith and immaculate character.
You may have heard this saying: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." David was a powerful king and nothing was denied him. He allowed his sinful nature to be tempted by Satan and yielded to the basic lusts of the flesh. The so called, "righteous" and powerful seem to fall the hardest when they succumb to temptation because they have the farthest to fall. In his sorrow and remorse, David came to his senses and concluded that he did not deserve God's forgiveness and prostrated himself before God and pled for mercy. Our loving and merciful God forgave him and restored him, but he dealt with the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. Like David, we all sin and need God's forgiveness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sin is Always Sin

Chuckle: A small boy drew a car with a man driving and a man and woman in the back. "That's God driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden," he explained.
Quote: "There is but one thing more dangerous than sin -- the murder of a man's sense of sin." --Pope John Paul II

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, . . ." (Romans 3:23 NIV). "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23 NIV).
You may have heard the saying, “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” Likewise, sin, no matter what we call it, is still sin. However, we live in a society where, for many, there are no absolutes when it comes to right and wrong. Right and wrong have become relative to the situation at hand. What is right for one person might not be right for another. If we take this view, then it's an easy transition to the notion that sin is not always sin -- not absolute -- the Ten Commandments are negotiable -- they become the ten suggestions.
The murder of unborn children has become an acceptable practice. We have become calloused and tolerant of adulterous lifestyles and relationships often glamorized and promoted by the entertainment media. Dishonesty has become acceptable as long as we don't get caught. Many do not see homosexuality as sin even though the Bible calls it a detestable sin (Leviticus 18:22 NLT) and an indecent perversion (Romans 1:27 NIV). But the definition of sin in God's Word is absolute and unchanging. The good news is that none of these and other sins are outside of God's grace, love and forgiveness. Let's look at three aspects of sin.
First: Sin is a condition. Because of Adam's original sin, we are all born with a sinful nature. "For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death" (Romans 7:5 NIV). We are all sinners because of who we are. The most moral and upright individuals and the most vile and despicable characters you know are equally in need of forgiveness and a Savior. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24 NIV).
Second: Sin is action. We are all sinners because of our sinful actions which show themselves in our rebellion against God and our disobedience of his commands. Sin is any attitude of indifference, unbelief, or disobedience to the will of God revealed in His Word -- whether this attitude expresses itself in thought, word, or deed. "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your life will produce these evil results (actions)"  (Galatians 5:19 NLT). Failing to do good can also be sin (James 4:17).
Third: All Christians sin. Even after we have been born again through faith in Jesus Christ, we l commit sins when we succumb to Satan's temptations. However, if we are genuinely born again, we will be miserable when we sin and will not want to continue to sin. But God has provided a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed when we do sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV).
Sin is sin no matter what kind of spin we choose to put on it. Allowing God to give us a new nature is the only answer. Let's pray that God will give us the courage and will to confront sin firmly as Jesus did -- but in a loving, caring, and compassionate way -- so that people will be drawn to Christ by His love.
Love, Jerry & Dotse