Monday, December 10, 2018

The Spirit of Christmas

Chuckle: If you turn on the lawn sprinklers on Christmas Eve to keep carolers away, you just might be a Scrooge.
Quote: "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12 NIV).

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21 NIV). "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV).
The spirit of Christmas is not about motifs but redemption and salvation. If Christmas becomes only a time for decorations, shopping, and festivities, its significance will have been lost. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case across our land. Even those of us who are Christians are not immune to being caught up in a secular and commercialized Christmas. People often speak of the "spirit of Christmas" as if it is something to be caught while scurrying around in a shopping frenzy. You may have heard someone say, "I went shopping and caught the Christmas spirit." If tired feet, overspending, and standing in long lines constitute the Christmas spirit, we're all in trouble.
To me, the Christmas spirit is a warm feeling of love -- being loved by God, loving others, and being loved by others. It's the spirit that says, "I want to give of myself to someone else." This kind of Christmas spirit comes from God. The real spirit of Christmas begins when we accept the best gift of all, the one born in a stable and laid in a feed trough, the one and only Son of the most high God. When we accept his salvation and forgiveness, we receive the precious gift of His Holy Spirit who lives within us and guides our steps in this life.
In return for his amazing gift, God wants us to give ourselves to him. To do this, we must be willing to abandon self and let God use us as He chooses. If Christ is born in our hearts, God is our Father, and the Holy Spirit is alive within us. Because of this truth, we will serve God by serving our brothers and sisters. As we experience the Spirit of Christmas and begin a new year, let's listen to the words of Jesus. "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first must be your slave: even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matt. 20:26-28 NIV).
If you want to receive the true Spirit of Christmas, you must be God's servant -- you do this by being the servant of others. Look again! "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights as sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son, into our hearts" (Gal. 4:4-6 NIV).
God sent the Spirit of his Son into your heart, so that out of your heart you cry, "My Father!" If the Christ of Christmas is only a nativity scene on your coffee table, He is not alive in you. If the star of Christmas is only an ornament on the Christmas tree, it has nothing to say. But if Christ of Christmas lives in your heart, He has a message for everyone to hear. From your heart the living Christ causes you to cry out in praise and thanksgiving!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Season to be Still

Chuckle: "Time may be a great healer, but it is a lousy beautician."
Quote: "I hope your Christmas has a little touch of eternity in among the rush and pitter and all. It always seems such a mixture of this world and the next -- but that after all is the idea! --Evelyn Underhill

"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).
My December 5th devotional dealt with handling stress during the Christmas holidays.  Some time ago, I ran across the following by Holly Gerth and wanted to share it with you.
"Tis the season to be busy. There are gifts to buy, meals to make, trips to take, decorations to be hung, songs to be sung, places to go, people to see… It's December 1st and I'm already tired. Anyone else?
I read the words... 'Be still and know that I am God.' Psalm 46:10. But how can I be still when there's so much going on? Of course, the first answer is to simplify my life.
Yet the kind of stillness God is talking about isn't just about my circumstances. It's about being still on the inside.
'I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother.' Psalm 131:2. What is a weaned child like? One that has learned to stop asking for more, more, more and instead simply rests in the arms of love, love, love.
My hurry and stress come from that want of more. I want to do more, be more, pack more in to these few short days. Then it seems God whispers to my heart, 'Enough. You are enough. You have enough. In the middle of the busy, make a quiet place inside and stay with me. My love is what you really need.'
I settle, quiet down, breathe a sigh of relief. The miracle of Christmas? God came for us so we could come to Him. Even (especially) in the busy, broken, chaos of our lives. 'Tis the season to be still.'"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Evils of Envy

Chuckle: Teacher: “What happened in 1809?” Eddie: “Abraham Lincoln was born.” Teacher: “Right. Now what happened in 1812?” Eddie: “He turned three years old.”
Quote: “Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.”Abraham Lincoln

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30 NIV). Love is kind. It does not envy, . .“ (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV). “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, . .” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).
From Wikipedea: Envy is an emotion which “occurs when a person lacks a superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes the other does not have it. . .” From the Dictionary: Envy is “jealousy and dislike felt toward another because he has some thing, quality, etc, that one would like to have.”
It seems obvious to me that materialism and envy go hand in hand. In a society where one’s worth is measured by what one has, the insatiable desire to “have” can drive a person into sinful thoughts and actions toward those who may have more than he. Envy is the enemy of contentment, and causes us to lose the joy we should have in the life God has given us.
Today’s quote is from a speech Abraham Lincoln made to a labor union in 1864. I’m sure he was aware that a person’s hopes can easily turn to envy and hate toward someone because of what he has that I want. Hopes and aspirations are great if accompanied by a willingness to work to fulfill those hopes in a way that honors God. However, the envious often want what someone else has without the willingness to work for it. Some may even feel entitled to have what they desire. Our passages teach us some valuable lessons and we should let them sink into our hearts. This fable reveals a great truth about envy.
Satan was angered by the incompetence of his subordinates because they had failed to draw a holy man into sin. He said, “You have failed because your methods are too crude. Watch this.”
Satan approached the holy man and whispered in his ear, “Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria.” Instantly the holy man’s face showed Satan had been successful: a great scowl formed over his mouth and his eyes tightened up. “Envy,” said Satan, “is often our best weapon against those who seek holiness.” --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green.
“A little grit in the eye destroyeth the sight of the heavens; and a little malice or envy, a world of joy.” –Thomas Traherne
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A New Master

Chuckle: "Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again."
Quote: "You will rest from your vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last." --Marcus Aurelius

"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do." (Acts 9:6 NLT)
As I thought about these words of Jesus to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, I was reminded that we all serve a master of some sort. It may be greed, anger, addictions, lust, or anything else that controls our lives. Our master determines our actions, thoughts, and attitudes. What you think about constantly, spend a lot of time with, or expend resources on is likely to be your master. What, or whom, is your master? Before Saul met Jesus, his master was his unrelenting desire to persecute Christians.
As Saul traveled to Damascus in pursuit of Christians, he was confronted by the risen Christ and brought face to face with the truth of the Good News. You may not have such an encounter with Christ as Saul did, but everyone of us who hears the gospel is brought face to face with the truth of the living Christ. And through the Holy Spirit, He speaks to us as he spoke to Saul.
These words of Jesus, completely changed Saul's life. Until this point he had answered to the desires of his own heart and the traditions handed down from his fathers. But now he was to obey the voice of Jesus, the risen Lord, above all. To receive Christ as Savior should include receiving him as Lord and Master of your life. Like Paul, Christ should be our new Master and we are to obey His voice above all. As we obey Him, we experience great joy -- for He graciously leads us into God's perfect will. "I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart" (Psalm 40:8 NLT).
After Jesus had changed his name from Saul to Paul, Paul refers to this conversion experience as the start of his new life in Christ. He saw the risen Christ and acknowledged him as Lord, confessed his sin, surrendered his life to Christ, and resolved to obey him. Paul now had a new Master. If you have met Jesus Christ on your own Damascus road, and have received him as Savior, perhaps you should ask yourself: "Is Jesus Christ really the Master of my life?" If Christ isn't the Master of your life, you would be wise to pray asking him to teach you to put him first, listen to his voice, and obey him.
Maybe you are trying to serve two masters -- God and something else that has control over your life. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24 NIV). Jesus' words are especially applicable today. We live in a society where money and possessions are the masters of many.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Managing Holiday Stress

Chuckle: A motorist and his wife had been arguing and hadn't spoken for miles. Suddenly the man pointed to a mule in a pasture they were passing. "A relative of yours?" he asked. "Yes," the wife replied, "by marriage!"
Quote: “Keep your sense of humor. There's enough stress in the rest of your life to let bad shots ruin a game you're supposed to enjoy.”Unknown source

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV).
The Christmas holidays can be a stressful time when we become too busy rushing to do too many things in too little time. We can find ourselves in such a frenzy that not only do we become stressed out, but we risk completely missing the peace and joy that Christmas should bring to us. In this stressed-out condition, even small irritations can become huge at times. Even though little stresses only last a short time, if they aren't managed they can accumulate and leave us unable to handle the larger stresses of life. We can't afford to spend emotional energy on things that don't really matter. Let them go!
To help relieve some stress, you might consider making some small, but important, choices in your life. Give yourself an extra few minutes of travel time to appointments. Eliminate some unnecessary activities outside the home. Do you really need to be there? Let the answering machine pick up your messages for a while. Identify the little stresses and determine to keep them in perspective.
Another way to get some reprieve from stress is to shorten your "To Do List." However, the only way to find real peace and contentment is to enter the restful and peace-giving presence of God. He provides His people rest -- rest in Him! "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV). The most important thing you can change is to acknowledge God as you go through your day. Pray for strength and patience. Ask for His wisdom as you plan your schedule. Look for His blessings in your life and don't forget to thank Him.
Our Proverbs passage, gives us God's promise if we acknowledge and trust him in all we do. He will guide and direct us along our path (Proverbs 3:6 NIV). As we acknowledge God and invite Him into the details of our lives we will find ourselves living with more peace and balance. Isn't it time for a change? It serves us well to dwell on the words of Jesus: "My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you." (John 14:27 NIV).
Each of us is wise if we make time for rest and renewal during the holidays. We should get away with our Lord in a quiet place and rest in Him as we consider His miraculous birth two thousand years ago. You'll see how He multiplies your time, eliminates the stress, and provides peace that the world can never understand! It's my prayer that you will experience God's peace and joy this Christmas season.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 3, 2018

Confessing Jesus as Lord

Chuckle: A child was asked to complete this statement: Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and . . . . . . . "someone yells , "Shut up!"
Quote: "Finding God is not our greatest need; rather it is recognizing Him in each of life's ever-present situations, and then submitting to His will." --William Ward

". . . in human form he (Jesus) obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name. So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:8-11 NLT).
As I contemplated this passage, I was reminded of a TV commercial where an automobile repairman says, "pay me now or pay me later." He says we can pay him to fix a minor problem at little cost; or we can wait until the problem becomes more serious and costs much more to repair.
We can confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior now while we still have time and only costs us our faith and trust in Him, or we can wait until the last judgment when it will be too late to save us and the cost will be spending eternity separated from God in a place the Bible calls "hell." Not a pleasant thought.
This is one of the most profound passages in Scripture. At the last judgment, if not before, every human being will bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. It describes the exalted position of Jesus and the power of His name which is far greater than any other. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 NIV).
For those of us who know Christ as Savior and Lord, this passage affirms our faith and the joy we experience from having confessed who He is, repented of our sins, received His forgiveness, and asked Him into our lives. Our confession of Jesus includes thanksgiving, praise, and life-long commitment to Him. My prayer is that you have made such a commitment to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
"A man was shown a red glass bottle and asked what he thought was in the bottle. He replied, 'wine? brandy? whiskey?' When told it was full of milk, he could not believe it until he saw the milk poured out. He hadn't known that the bottle was made of red glass which hid the color of the milk. So it was with our Lord's humanity. Men saw him tired, hungry, suffering, weeping, and thought he was only a man. He was made in the likeness of men, yet he ever is God over all, blessed forever." --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Darkness of Depression

Chuckle: "If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments!!"
Beautiful Prayer: "I believe in Your everlasting love, dear Father, and I accept it. I trust in Your sovereign control over the circumstances of my life, and I will rest in the knowledge that Your character is trustworthy and unchanging. Amen." --Kay Arthur.
 "Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don't turn away from me, or I will die" (Psalm 143:7 NLT). "Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again. . ." (Psalm 5:5 NLT).
Are you suffering from depression, or do you know someone who is? If so, you realize full well the sense of worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness depression can bring. If you watch television, you are aware of the many commercials advertising drugs to help people overcome the devastating effects of depression. Depression seems to be an epidemic in our society and there are many approaches to treating this disorder.
I recognize that some suffer depression brought on by physical problems -- chemical imbalances, etc. Those may require professional help. Obviously, I can't offer you help in this area, except to encourage you to seek the help you need. However, I am convinced that many suffer feelings of depression brought on by a spiritual vacuum in their lives. Claiming to be a Christian will not necessarily fill that vacuum. Often we see depressed Christians. Why?
A while back, I read a short sermon in the Religion section of our local newspaper. It was entitled, "When Your Roots Don't Hit the Water." The message dealt with depression and the title was derived from John 7:38 NLT: "If you are thirsty, come to me! If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within." Here, Jesus uses the term "living water" to refer to the Holy Spirit who is always available to believers because he lives within us. It is the Holy Spirit who stands ready to fill every spiritual need we have if we are willing for Him to do so -- not trying to solve our problems on our own.
We can become discouraged, depressed, and worried about what the future may hold. Maybe you are not well and are fearful that death may not be far away. Maybe you are feeling guilty because you are not living the way you know God would desire. Maybe you are feeling deep disappointment and hurt because of a rebellious child or a wayward spouse. Maybe one of your children is suffering from a physical or mental disorder and you feel helpless to change the situation. Maybe you have recently lost a loved one. Any of these circumstances can bring on feelings of depression and despair. But your Heavenly Father is faithful and will sustain you. All too often we find ourselves doubting that God is really in control in our lives and are reluctant to trust him completely to take care of us.
When God is given first place at the center-court of your life, you can be content and sleep in peace. This is because the roots of your being are being nourished in the never-ending living water of life -- the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, when we realize that not every situation will turn out the way we wish, the best we can hope for is a sense of God's peace. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:5-7 NIV). When you feel depressed, read the Bible's accounts of God's goodness, and meditate on them.
Love, Jerry & Dotse