Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Words From the Cross: Duty to Family

Chuckle: "When you become dissatisfied and wish you were young again, think about algebra!" --Will Rogers
Great Hymn: “When I survey the wondrous cross On which the prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.”Isaac Watts

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple (John) whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, the disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27 NIV).
Much about the relationship of Jesus with his mother remains a mystery, however, there must have been a deep love between them. Mary was the only person that knew by experience that Jesus was virgin born. Everyone else, including Joseph, had to accept that truth by faith. After all the events leading up to Jesus' birth, Mary "treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19 NIV). Mary suffered great grief and heartache as she watched her firstborn Son condemned and hanging on a cruel cross. However, she received some kind and loving words from Jesus when he said to John, "here is your mother." In his dying hours, he was mindful of her and made provision for her by entrusting her care into the hands of a trusted disciple and friend.
Even though Jesus' third utterance from the cross may seem to have a less profound and important message for our spiritual lives than the others, it may, in reality, have the most. Our love and concern for our families and the weakest around us exemplifies the attitude of Jesus when he reached out to those many others would have shunned as less important and not worthy of their attention. Have you observed that quite often, we treat those closest to us with less courtesy, compassion, and kindness than we do for casual acquaintances?
Even as He died, Jesus, as the eldest son, considered it his duty to provide for the welfare of His mother. His earthly father, Joseph, must have been dead by then, and Jesus asked John to care for his mother. In his time of agony, Jesus saw not only the weak men but the weeping women, especially His mother. With tenderness and love, he made certain she would be properly cared for and respected. He fulfilled his duty as her son and set an example for us in how we should relate to our mothers and fathers. Other than salvation, our families are our most precious gifts from God, and we should value them and care for them no matter the circumstances. This means putting their welfare ahead of our own. We should never neglect our loved ones.
Today, let's think of ways we can show exceptional love and kindness to those who are most precious to us -- our spouses, our parents, our children, and other family members. By doing so, you will bring them great joy and comfort, and God will bless you with joy of your own.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 26, 2017

Words from the Cross: Salvation

Chuckle: Alex: “Weren’t you afraid when the robber pulled a knife on you?” Will: “No, I knew he wasn’t a professional. The knife still had peanut butter on it.”
Quote: “The Cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed forever to show us how God would become a man and a man become God.” --Malcolm Muggeridge

Jesus said: "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43 NIV).
As Jesus died on the cross, God used the anger of human beings to glorify himself. It also offered Jesus an opportunity to display his great love, grace, and mercy even as his own life slipped away. Today, let's look at the interaction between the repentant criminal and Jesus as they hung there on their respective crosses.
We often hear the phrase, "his/her last words were. . ." Some of the most enduring quotes are the final words of people before their deaths. The last words of the two criminals crucified with Jesus show the great contrast between them and revealed the type people they were. One continued to reject and mock Jesus with a sneer to the very end. The other must have understood the spiritual nature of Jesus' message and requested to be a part of Christ's kingdom. Our passage is the loving response of our Savior to the man's "deathbed" confession of his sins. Jesus said the man would share a life with him beyond the grave.
It doesn't matter how old you are or how many years you have lived a life of sin and rebellion against God, you can repent of your sins and be saved by God's grace through faith -- anyone can. A wise pastor once said: "I believe in deathbed confessions. I believe one can be saved in his last moments. I've seen several, and I know deathbed confessions are valid and accepted by God."
There can be no doubt about the authenticity and sincerity of the thief's confession because Jesus validated it with his response. It seems the dying criminal had greater faith than the rest of Jesus' followers put together. The thief was saying, "I'm sorry for my sins. I accept you for who you say you are. Please let me share with you wherever you go." This is all any of us can do, regardless of our age or circumstance. No one is saved by being good, but by throwing oneself on the mercy of God through repentance and faith. When we approach God in this way, we have his promise that our sins will be forgiven and that we will spend eternity in His presence. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).
A certain atheistic barber was talking with a minister as they rode through the slums of a large city. The unbelieving barber said, "If there is a loving God, how can he permit all this poverty, suffering, and violence among his people? Why doesn't he save them from all this?" Just then an unshaved and filthy man crossed the street. He had long scraggly hair hanging down his neck. The minister pointed to him and said, "You are a barber and claim to be a good one, so why do you allow that man to go unkept and unshaven?" "Why, why . . ." the barber stammered, "He never gave me a chance to fix him up." "Exactly," said the minister. "Men are what they are because they reject God's help!"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, June 23, 2017

Words From the Cross: Forgiveness

Chuckle: "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint." --Mark Twain
Quote: "There he hangs, nailed to the Cross in the darkness and He loves us still." --Fr Andrew SDC

"Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 NLT).
Here, Luke records the first of Jesus’ seven utterances while he was hanging in agony on the cross, and His words give us insight into why He died. Three of the sayings were directed to His Father, and four to the people witnessing his crucifixion. The first laid the foundation for the ones to follow. If Jesus had not had a forgiving spirit toward his tormentors, he never could have been the world's Savior. Even in the face of human hatred and injustice, Jesus revealed the extent of His divine love and forgiveness.
At Calvary, three people died, Jesus and the two criminals/thieves, and there were three different approaches to the deaths that occurred. One died without hope because he was stubbornly unrepentant and rejected God's love. One died pardoned from sin because he repented and pled for mercy: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom"  (Luke 23:42 NIV). The One on the center cross died for the sins of mankind because He was the only one who could. Jesus' death came as a beam of eternal light in a dark world.
We must understand that Jesus' prayer for forgiveness (Father, forgive them) was not a universal request, but referred to those who were putting Him to death. The gospel teaches that for people to be forgiven and saved, they must repent of their sins, individually, and place their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. What then was Jesus asking his Father to do? As it relates to salvation, forgiveness releases us from the guilt and consequences of our sinful acts and attitudes. This forgiveness requires repentance on the part of those seeking forgiveness. Paul uses the word justification to describe those who have been saved and have begun the Christian life.
Forgiveness can also mean giving of one's self to restore a relationship (soul-union) between the one who was wronged and the one who did the wrong. God's forgiveness restores us to a personal relationship with him. This is why we must forgive to fully understand God's forgiveness. Those who have never forgiven cannot fully understand what takes place when God, for Jesus' sake, forgives them. Jesus said, "Love your enemies . . . and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44 NIV). Implicit in Jesus' prayer on the cross was the request that God gives his enemies opportunity to be sorry for their terrible sin, repent of their sins, and turn to the Savior.
A person becomes a Christian by experiencing God's forgiveness through what Christ did on the cross as atonement for sin that was perfected in his resurrection. I believe Jesus was asking His Father to withhold condemnation of those who crucified Him until they became aware of what they had done and repented of their sins. God has done that for you and gives you opportunity to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord. A beautiful poem: "The sandal tree perfumes, when riven, The axe that laid it low; Let man who hopes to be forgiven Forgive and bless his foe." --Source Unknown
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Living with Terrorism

Chuckle: "If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would’ve put them on my knees!"
Quote: "When I stand before God at the end of my life I hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and can say, 'I used everything you gave me!'" --Erma Bombeck

"The Lord is my light and my salvation -- so why should I be afraid? The Lord protects me from danger -- so why should I tremble?" (Psalm 27:1 NLT).
Fear is a dark and foreboding feeling that can ultimately make us prisoners within ourselves. I’m sure we all live with a nagging uneasiness about being attacked by terrorists or other criminals. We are reminded every day that ruthless people do not hesitate to kill innocent men, women, and children to further their selfish and irrational religious, political, or economic causes. As God's people, we must turn to our source of comfort and strength and trust Him. Remember, He stands ready to free us from the insidious feelings of fear and anxiety if we will only trust Him completely. Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NIV).
God would have us remember that our eternal destiny is secure through the blood of Jesus and cannot be changed by terrorists or anyone else. We can find peace in the face of the storm of cruelty and chaos from the Prince of Peace. Jesus said, "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill you. They can only kill your body; they cannot touch your soul" (Matthew 10:28 NLT). God doesn’t want us to live in a state of panic or worry about what could happen to us.
So, what should we do in the face of the growing threat to our safety and well-being? One thing is certain. Having a strong faith should not translate into carelessness or foolhardiness. God wants us to trust Him, but He has given us wisdom to understand that we should adopt safe practices and take precautions as we go about our daily lives. This does not mean you are overcome by uncontrolled fear or panic, but rather are acting wisely. Staying alert for suspicious actions, sights, and sounds around you can provide early warning that something bad is about to happen and could save your life or the lives of those you love. We should all be vigilant.
I believe the terrorist and other criminal threats we face should impact the way we pray. Obviously, we should pray for God's protection of our troops and law enforcement officers fighting the war on terror and other criminal activity. But, how about our prayers for the terrorists and criminals? Listen to the psalmist's prayer: "Arise, O Lord, in anger! Stand against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice" (Psalm 7:6 NLT). Outrage because of what's happening seems appropriate when asking God for His protection and justice for the perpetrators.
Now, here's the tough part. Jesus said, "You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemies. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV). It is possible to love our enemies while despising the things they do. This is how Jesus loves you and me when we sin. We can pray that the hearts of the terrorists will experience the love of the one true God and that their lives will be transformed by His mercy and grace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Laziness or Diligence

Chuckle: "Why did Moses wander in the desert for 40 years? Even then men wouldn't ask for directions."
Quote: “Thou, O God, dost sell us all good things at the price of labour." --Leonardo da Vinci

"We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:12 NIV).
Lazy is defined as, "not eager or willing to work or busy oneself; slow and sluggish." Has anyone ever accused you of being lazy? I can think of no greater put-down than to be labeled as "lazy," especially by our Lord. As Christians, our hope (assurance) of salvation should keep us from becoming lazy or feeling bored in God's service. Instead, we should be like the athlete who trains hard and runs with all his strength, while remembering the reward that lies ahead. We should never be accused of being lazy when it comes to serving our Lord and others. Here are three characteristics of a Christian who is not lazy but is a diligent one.
Godly Living. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is you spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1 NIV). As living sacrifices, we daily lay aside our own desires to follow him, putting all our energy and resources at his disposal and trusting him completely to guide us. This type of sacrifice is possible out of gratitude for our sins having been forgiven and for our belonging to Christ.
Godly Loving. Jesus said, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12-13 NIV). Jesus loved us so much that he gave himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. We may not be called upon to die for someone, but we can show sacrificial love in various other ways: listening, helping, encouraging, giving, and praying. Give all the love you can, then love some more.
Godly Laboring. "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (I Corinthians 15:58 NIV). Sometimes we become apathetic about serving our Lord because we do not see the outcomes we had hoped for. God would never have us become discouraged over apparent lack of results of our labors. Since we know our labor is not in vain, we should always work enthusiastically as we search for new opportunities for service.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Joy of Knowing Christ

Chuckle: "From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." --Winston Churchill
Quote: "Gratitude and faith are brothers, and their children -- optimism and enthusiasm -- are first cousins." --William Arthur Ward

"We can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God -- all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends with God." (Romans 5:11 NLT).
We should be grateful for what God has done for us rather than grumbling because He has not done enough. I suspect each of us has no problem finding something to grumble about if we really try. If we lose sight of the miraculous relationship we have with God through Christ, we become susceptible to feeling sorry for ourselves when we face even minimal hardships.
Just think about it; through Christ you are not only a child of God, but a friend of God. Jesus said to His disciples, "I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it -- the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. You are my friends if you obey me. . . . Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me" (John 15:12-14,15b NLT).
Because Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, He has every right to call us servants; but forgoing that right, He chose to call us friends, and He laid down His life for His friends. As children and friends of God, "then we are heirs--heirs of God and heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8:17 NIV). Yes, we can grumble and complain when we experience disappointments and hardships; but if we really understand our amazing relationship with Almighty God, the joy we experience should far outweigh any suffering we may be asked to bear.
Believers in the first century suffered extreme economic and social persecution. Some were even tortured and killed. These same types of persecution are being exacted on Christians in parts of our modern-day world. Yet, like the first century Christian, those being persecuted continue to experience great joy because of their relationship with our Lord. "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name" (1 Peter 4:16 NIV).
The next time you feel like grumbling, reflect on your eternal relationship with the Creator of the universe and the love He has shown you. This reflection should convince you to be praising Him rather than grumbling because things are not exactly like you would prefer. Our hardships are nothing compared to the sufferings of our Lord which made our inexplicable joy possible.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, June 19, 2017

Joy That Jesus Gives

Chuckle: "Some people are funny," mused the curbstone philosopher, "I know a man who had not kissed his wife for ten years. Then he shot a fellow who did."
Quote: "All our discontents about what we want appear to me to spring from the want (lack) of thankfulness for what we have." --Daniel Defoe

Jesus prayed, "And now I am coming to you (Father). I have told them (disciples) many things while I was with them so they would be filled with my my joy" (John 17:13 NLT).
The word, "joy," conjures up in our minds a state of happiness, safety, comfort, peace, contentment, well-being, etc. One could go on and on reflecting on the ramifications of the word "joy" and specifically its meaning for us as Christians. I'm often amazed at how unhappy and devoid of joy some Christians appear to be. Some even seem downright sad, defeated, and dejected. Why is this so? Of all people, the body of believers should exhibit abundant joy. Each of us would be wise to take a spiritual snapshot of ourselves and see how it compares to the picture Jesus paints of a Christian full of HIS joy.
As Jesus spoke with His disciples, he often expressed His desire that they be filled with joy as they realized they are the beloved of God who had made them His children and joint heirs of His kingdom along with Jesus Christ because of their faith in Him (Romans 8:16-17). They, who had once been declared dead in their sins were spiritually alive in Christ (Romans 6:4). With the assurance of God's miraculous salvation through Christ, how could His disciples be anything less than joyful? How can we? If you are living a life without joy, you are failing to claim your spiritual birthright. As a child of God, you should never be satisfied with a life without joy.
For the purpose of our discussion, I want to distinguish between "happiness" and "joy." They are essentially synonymous in our current English usage. However, from a spiritual standpoint, I like to think of them this way. We usually think of happiness as being the result of having everything we want. This way of thinking makes our happiness dependent upon the circumstances of our lives. However, the "joy" that Jesus wants for us is not circumstance driven. If we distinguish between happiness and joy this way, every believer should have a permanent, deep, and complete fullness of joy that cannot be taken away even during the most trying of circumstances.
"Joy is consistently the mark both individually of the believer and corporately of the church. It is a quality, and not simply an emotion, grounded upon God himself and indeed derived from him . . . . Every believer is called upon to share in the joy of Christ by a daily walk with him and a daily practice of rejoicing in the knowledge of him and his salvation" (New Bible Dictionary).
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Your joy, then, is a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to make himself known in your life. Our passage for today from John 17, is a part of our Lord's prayer. Jesus prays for His disciples and, ultimately for you and me. He did not pray for us to escape life's grief and troubles. He prayed that we would be filled with the same joy the Father had given Him. This is a supernatural joy that comes from a genuine, intimate, and continuing love relationship with the Father. It is the kind of joy that cannot be shaken by external circumstances. Do you have this kind of joy?
 
Love, Jerry & Dotse