Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Work in Progress

Chuckle: "I always use notes when I preach, in case I say something I want to remember!"
Quote: "In God, we live every commonplace as well as the most exalted moment of our being. To trust in him when no need is pressing, when things seem to be going right of themselves, may be harder than when things seem to be going wrong." --George MacDonald

"And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Jesus comes back again" (Philippians 1:6 NLT).
There have been times in my life when I felt I wasn't making much progress in my Christian growth and maturity. You may feel that way now or have felt that way in the past. Our lesson today, reminds us that each of us is a work in progress and that God will not be finished with us until his return or our lives on earth come to an end.
Our passage does not mean that your salvation is incomplete until Jesus comes. When a person first prays to receive Christ as Savior, he or she becomes what the Bible calls a "babe in Christ" -- fully saved and destined for heaven; but that's just the beginning for a Christian. "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" (I Peter 2:2 NIV).
We all know that for a baby to grow physically, he or she is dependent upon proper food, exercise, instruction, and nurturing by his parents and others. Likewise, for a baby Christian to grow spiritually, he or she must receive spiritual nourishment from God's Word, spiritual exercise through obedience to God, and many forms of nurturing by other Christians.
God will help you to grow in grace until he has completed his work in your life. However, you must have the desire and willingness to grow for God to do everything He desires to do in your life. When you are discouraged at your perceived lack of progress in spiritual growth, remember that God will never give up on you. He promises to take you from where you are to where He wants you to be. When you feel unfinished, incomplete, or distressed by your shortcomings, remember God's promise. Please don't make the mistake of letting your present condition rob you of the joy of knowing Christ or keeping you from growing closer to Him every day.
"We have all been driving down a highway and noticed bright orange signs that state, 'BEGIN CONSTRUCTION' and 'END CONSTRUCTION.' One thing about these signs is that they tend to remain around long after the construction work is over. If one of us were to announce -- that for the time being -- God's construction in our lives was going to be halted, would our friends say, 'I didn't know any construction was going on.'"
When God saves you, you belong to him and always will. You can take this truth to the bank. However, once you are saved, God wants to continue His work in you until Jesus comes or the end of your earthly life.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Our Imperfections

Chuckle: Ted: “You seem unhappy.” Roger: “Yeah, I am. Living with my mother-in law has been stressful and hard on both me and my wife.” Ted: “Well, if it gets really bad, you could just ask her to move out.” Roger: “We can’t. It’s her house.”
Quote: “Gladly we desire to make other men perfect but we will not amend our own fault.” --Thomas a Kempis

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). “Stop judging others . . . First get rid of the log in your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:1,5 NLT).
Isn’t it amazing how clearly we can see imperfections in others, but are totally blind when it comes to seeing our own? Many of us are really umpires at heart; we enjoy calling balls and strikes on someone else. But as we persist in judging others, we may come to view their minor imperfections as major while seeing our own major faults as minor and insignificant. Have you ever honestly taken stock of your imperfections? When you do, it may not be a very pleasant task. We all have blemishes and imperfections. For some, they are physical limitations. To others, they may be mental/emotional. Of course, our most serious imperfections are spiritual – originating from our propensity for sin.
By what standard should we measure our imperfections? This is the most important question we must answer if we are to honestly evaluate ourselves. The temptation is to say, “compared to others I know, I’m not so bad.” However, comparing our imperfect lives to those of other imperfect people will not give us the answers we should desire. No, when we begin to measure our imperfections against God’s standards, as spelled out in His Word, we are ready to let God’s Holy Spirit convict us and give us the strength to deal with our imperfections – that is if we are truly repentant.
Our imperfections, from God’s point of view, are called sins, even though we would prefer to call them missteps, mistakes, errors, shortcomings, etc. The most dangerous way to live with our imperfections is to become comfortable with them and go through life as if there is no need for alarm. The apostle Paul lived as close to perfection in his relationship with his Lord as any Christian who has ever lived. Yet, Paul was keenly aware of how far he was from spiritual maturity and perfection. Here’s what he has to say.
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be” (Philippians 3:12 NLT).
Instead of finding imperfections in others, we are well served by turning our faults and imperfections over to God and let Him deal with them. “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).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, October 15, 2018

What Influences You Most?

Chuckle: The church custodian quit, and the pastor asked the organist if she would be able to clean the church. The organist thought before replying, "Do you mean that I now have to mind my keys and pews?"
Quote: "Control your thoughts and desires; they may break into words and actions at any moment." --Unknown source

"But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law" (Psalm 1:2 NLT).
Everything you watch, read, or listen to influences your life. If you watch, read, or listen to wholesome materials, you will be influenced in a positive way. Of course the opposite is true as well. You may say: "I can watch trash on TV or read an off-color magazine or book without it affecting my thinking or the way I live." Let me explain why I believe this attitude to be wrong for Christians.
It's obvious that we have been influenced negatively by the things of the world if our actions become sinful. However, it may not be so obvious if only our thoughts are influenced. You can fool the people around you by playing the part of a faithful Christian while harboring sinful thoughts and desires. Failing to act on those secret desires does not mean you aren't sinning against God. Sins begin in our hearts and minds, but often don't remain there.
Remember, "Men look on outward appearances, but God looks upon the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15). "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man" (Proverbs 27:19 NIV). Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28 NIV).
Our sinful thoughts may not result in outward rebellion against God, but they can keep us from doing anything worthwhile for Him. If our minds dwell on ungodly things, we become apathetic toward God's work and disinterested in spiritual things. Here's a quick way to evaluate your heart and mind. Do you experience joy from studying God's Word and serving Him? If something else gives you greater joy, you have been influenced by the world.
Notice in our passage what makes devoted followers of God (Christ) happy -- the Word of God. It occupies first place in their order of priorities. They think about it day and night. They fill their minds with the things important to God. If you meditate on the Bible and absorb the godly principles that nourish your heart, mind, and spirit you will find fulfillment and happiness that only God can give. You will not focus on temporal things that soon pass away, but upon the eternal that can never be taken from you.
Love,  Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Jesus, Our Salvation

Chuckle: "Old age is when former classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald they don't recognize you."
Good Quote: "If you keep watch over your hearts, and listen for the voice of God and learn of him, in one short hour ye can learn more from him than ye could learn from a man in a thousand years." --Johannes Tauler

". . . and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:11 NIV). "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus Christ is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).
Many times I have been asked, "how can I become a Christian -- how can I know for sure I have been saved from my sins and have eternal life?" These verses give us a beautiful answer. Salvation is as close as your heart and lips. God's plan of salvation is so simple many just cannot believe it. We want to make it complicated and difficult. If we sincerely believe, and have faith in him, in our hearts and say with our mouth that Christ is the risen Lord, we will be saved.
The primary reason people think salvation is a difficult and complicated process is the preconceived notion that it must be earned by living good moral lives. I've had people say to me, "when I get to the point that I can live a Christian life, I will give my life to Christ." This is getting the proverbial cart before the horse. We must see ourselves as sinners, come to Jesus in repentance, ask him to forgive our sins, and trust our very lives and eternal souls into his hands through faith. Once we have been saved, he will then give us the strength to clean up our lives and serve him with holiness.
"Therefore, If any man (person) is in Christ (saved), he is a new creation; the old (life) is gone, the new life has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
We can see from these passages that good works that matter to God come as a result of our salvation, not to attain it. Our salvation comes from believing (having faith) and confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord. Confession and belief (faith) belong together like a hand and glove. A true believer will confess Christ publicly. Believing and confessing are not two stages in a process, but two parts of the same transaction.
Several years ago one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was interviewed and asked, "What did you think about as you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth?" The astronaut replied, "I remembered how the spacecraft was built by the lowest bidder." We as Christians can rejoice that the work of salvation did not go to the "lowest bidder" but was performed by an infinite God. There will never be a deficiency in his work. Our salvation is as sure as the architect of that salvation, Almighty God!" –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Listen Carefully

Chuckle: Little Amy confided to her uncle, "When I grow up, I'm going to marry the boy next door." "Why is that?" "'Cause I'm not allowed to cross the street."
Good Quote: “Half an hour's listening is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed." --St Frances de Sales
"So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it" (Hebrews 2:1 NLT).
I remember a game we played in my youth group when I was a teenager. It went like this: A person at the beginning of a long line of players would whisper something into the ear of the next person. That person then whispered what he had heard to the next person, and so it went to the end of the line. Then the last person would voice what he had heard and it was compared to what the first person had actually said. It was amazing, and sometimes hilarious, how distorted the original words could become. The distortion occurred from misunderstanding, embellishment, or just a failure to listen carefully.
Listen to what God said to his people through Moses. Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, "Listen carefully to all the laws and regulations I am giving you today. Learn them and be sure to obey them!" (Deuteronomy 5:1 NLT). In both our passages, a major emphasis is given to listening carefully to God, learning from God's words, and obeying what we have heard and learned. How carefully have you tuned your spiritual ears to listening to what God is saying to you? How committed are you to following God's directions so they do not become distorted, diluted, or irrelevant in your life because of the world's distractions?
James reminds us that listening carefully to the Word is the first step in becoming what God wants us to be. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22 NIV). We are to pay close attention and listen in a way that produces clear understanding with the intent to live out the instructions we have heard. Paying close attention involves the focusing our minds, bodies, and senses. This will help insure that God's Word does not become distorted or forgotten in our daily lives. The ability to Listen carefully to God and other people is a wonderful trait.
"His thoughts were slow,
His words were few and never formed to glisten.
But he was a joy to all his friends,
You should have heard him listen!'
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Making Things New

Chuckle: "We need a responsible person," said the employer. "I hope you fit that description?" "Yes, Sir, I'm your man," answered the potential employee. "On my last job, every time anything went wrong, they said I was responsible."
Good Quote: "We cannot hold a torch to light another person's path without brightening our own." --Ben Sweetland

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. . . . God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 NIV).
I was born in Zinc, a small mining town in the mountains of North Arkansas. It was called "Zanc" by some of the locals. The town was located in a beautiful little valley with Sugar Orchard creek and the railroad running through it. As a child, I remember it being a bustling community with a several stores, post office, canning factory, and other businesses. My grandfather, and later my uncle, owned and operated one of the grocery stores there. I thought it was the most wonderful place on earth.
However, today Zinc has grown old and there is almost nothing left of the community -- just a few houses but no commerce of any kind. When I last visited the place, I couldn't help thinking how nice it would be if I could just snap my fingers and blow away the "oldness" and make it like it once was -- make it new. But there's no way I can make the old town of Zinc new and there is no way I can make myself new. Only God can do that and only He can make me acceptable in His sight.
In our passage, we see ourselves with our old sinful nature with no way for us to change our condition in our own strength. Our old nature has become polluted by sin and the standards of the world and is not a pretty sight in the eyes of God. In the same way it would take a "miracle" to make Zinc new again, it takes God's power to miraculously make us into new creations with new natures. It takes God's Holy Spirit remaking us once we repent of our sins and place our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. When we are "born again." as Jesus describes it, we are "in" Christ, and if we are in Christ, all things about us are made new. This means our lives and new nature are now controlled by the Spirit of God, not the lure of the world.
Does your life need a makeover to bring it into compliance with God's plan for you? Do you have the new nature that God wants to give you? If not, won't you bow your head this morning, give your heart and life to Jesus Christ, and ask Him to forgive your sins, and make you into a new creation -- a new person? Let Him make all things new and give you a new nature, a new purpose, a new joy, and a new peace.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Finding Your Life

Chuckle: TV repairman: "So, what seems to be the problem with your TV?" Woman: "It has double images. I hope you men can fix it."
Quote: "No conceivable life can be so interesting and stimulating as that which we live in Christ." --William Little

Jesus said, "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it" (Matthew 10:39 NLT).
To the unsaved, and even to immature Christians, these words from Jesus are difficult to understand. It's a great paradox that one finds his life by being willing to lose it, just as he inevitably loses his life by trying to save it. The contrast is between living selfishly only for ourselves, and living sacrificially for Christ. Each person can find eternal life, and the abundant life here on earth, by surrendering his or her life to Christ or forfeit it by indulging in self-trust, self-love, and self assertion.
It's believed that Jesus may have also been making a reference to martyrdom. The one who, under trial, seemingly saves his life by renouncing Christ actually loses it; but the one who remains faithful suffers martyrdom for acknowledging his faith in Christ seems to have lost his life but actually finds his life in Christ.
What is the practical application of Jesus' words for us as we live each day? Simply stated, we must get our priorities in the right order. We can become so busy and preoccupied with our own lives that our priorities become upside down. The least important becomes most important. The most important becomes least important. The valueless becomes most valuable and the most valuable becomes a mere trinket in our flawed value systems.
The more we love the things of this world (leisure, power, popularity, wealth), the more we discover how relatively unimportant they are in God's grand scheme of things. The life Christ wants for us can only be achieved by loosening our greedy grasp on earthly rewards and follow Christ with His eternal rewards. Then we will understand and claim the promises of our lord when He said, "I have come that they (we) may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10 NIV).
Our Lord wants our lives to be abundantly full and rich in Him, both here on earth and in eternity, and our eternal lives begin the moment we pray to receive Him as personal Lord and Savior. Have you claimed Christ's offer in your life? Are you living for Christ or for yourself?
Love, Jerry & Dotse