Friday, February 23, 2018

Living the Bible

Chuckle: "A bore talks about himself; a gossip talks about others; and a brilliant conversationalist talks about you."
Good Quote: "Some students drink at the fountain of knowledge -- others just gargle." --Unknown

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry . . . . Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. . . . The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it -- he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:19, 22, 25).
Today, there is no shortage of Bibles -- they are everywhere - in all sizes, shapes, and colors. The Bible is a perennial best seller.  Sadly, however, many don't even know the purpose of the Bible which is to cause each of us to live out what it says. The printed words come alive within us by the power of the Holy Spirit and change our lives. We must read, study, memorize, and meditate on it, but the purpose of all that is to change our lives. It's not if we know Biblical content, but does it leads us to faith in Jesus Christ and produce righteous lives. Let's think about how we should do the Bible.
First, before we can do what the Bible says, we must hear and listen to it. According to Webster, to hear is "to receive sound through the ears." To listen is "to pay attention in order to hear." We can have sound waves stimulate our eardrums without listening with the intent to learn and understand. Our spiritual ears should listen as God speaks to us through reading the Word, listening to preaching and teaching, spending time in meditation, and being persistent in prayer. Hearing is the starting point. Here are four ways to help you hear and listen to the Biblical message.
Pay attention: "Be quick to hear." Focus on what we're hearing. In this electronic information age, our attention spans are short. With TV and computer images changing every few seconds, we are not trained to listen attentively for extended periods. Have you been conversing with someone - and say to yourself: "when will they ever hush so I can talk." We think ahead to what we want to say and are not really listening to the other person. Some won't even let you finish - some finish your sentences for you. We must learn to concentrate on listening. Say to the Lord right now: "Lord, I'm going to concentrate on your word, and if you want to say something to me, I'm listening."
Stop talking: If we are to learn to listen, we must just shut-up. James says "be slow to speak." If we're talking, we aren't listening and aren't learning very much. I must make time to listen to God and others as they teach me. If I didn't, what I write here would be worthless. The same applies to you if you are a teacher, or a parent teaching your children. Even our prayers can become all talk and no listening. When you pray, how about taking a few minutes to just listen to God. Socrates was teaching someone to be an orator who talked all the time. He said: "my price is double because I must teach you to hold your tongue before I can teach you to use your tongue."
Control our anger: James says: "be slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." You have a hard time listening if you are angry, bitter, or resentful. These attitudes set barrier between us and God.
Purify our lives: James is very pointed here: (vs. 21) "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent." The bible says: "Sin separates us from our God." To hear God, we must let him clean up our lives. Why am I so miserable? Why am I not enjoying life? Sin separates us from God and destroys all the joys of fellowship with Him. And if we have filthy lives, we can't hear God. Just take that life off and throw it away, like a dirty shirt. The old hymn: "nothing between my soul and the Savior, none of this world's elusive dreams." We often rationalize about our sins not being really that bad -- a minor thing. We can keep our pet sins - but if we do, we won't hear God clearly.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Receiving and Doing the Word

Chuckle: "Old age is when former classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald that they don't recognize you!"
Good Quote: "If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it, they are wrong." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

". . . humbly accept (receive/welcome) the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says"  (James 1:21-22 NIV).
We must welcome God's Word into our hearts before we can do what it says. In our first passage, "receive" is a hospitality word. It means to welcome someone in the same way you would invite an old friend into your home with a warm, enthusiastic, and sincere welcome. In a similar way, God wants us to eagerly welcome the truth of his Word into our hearts as if it is my very best friend whom I haven't seen for a long time. Remember when you asked Jesus into your heart and life as Savior and Lord - He stood at the door of your heart and knocked - you asked Him in - you were born again - your sins were forgiven - the burden of sin was lifted - you were filled with unspeakable joy. We should continually welcome/receive God's Word into our lives with that same sense of expectation, excitement, and joy! After all, it's Almighty God speaking to us.
Next, God would have us do what his Word says -- practice it in our lives. Listen again to what James says: (vs. 22) "Do not merely listen to (hear) the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."  Assume you came to me and said: "Jerry, your looking a little heavy - a little flabby in places." But you said, "I want to help you" and then you gave me a book on body-building by Arnold Swartzenagger. I can study that book until the pages are worn out and it won't change my flabby condition one iota. I'm still the same old fat preacher, because I haven't changed my habits. The purpose of the book is realized only when readers do what it says. You have heard and read the Bible and maybe even underlined some verses, but what are you doing about it? Are you following its instructions. To live out what the Bible says, we must do three things.
1. Respond to the Word: "Do not merely listen to the word." The word here for listening without doing is like auditing a class in college. You just sit in on a class, but without the responsibilities of doing the class work or taking the exams. Also, no credit is given for auditing a class. Just auditing requires no real effort on the student's part except to attend. But God does not give us the option of just auditing his Word. He requires us to put into practice what we learn there. If we listen to the Bible, we will learn some things about ourselves we would rather not know. But if we respond and act upon it, we will become different people and our lives will reflect that difference.
2. Remember the Word: (vs. 25) "look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom." Keep on looking, studying until the truth becomes a part of you. This truth is a challenge for us preachers. Studies show that by Wednesday you will have forgotten most of what the pastor says on Sunday. But If you take notes, you will remember so much better. But, if you listen, take notes, then go home and study them you will remember 25% more.  Then if you take the truths and practice them they will become a permanent part of your lifestyle as reflected in your changed behavior.
3. Reproduce the word: Only the Holy Spirit can help us do this. We will see a pattern of reproducing the words in the way we live. The word will be reproduced in others as they see us living or doing the word. James tells us how we can identify a doer of the Word:
(a). He/she exercises self-control: (vs. 26) "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." Our speech becomes a blessing to others rather than something that puts others down. We also will control our anger. (b). He/she shows love and compassion for others: (vs. 27) "Religion that the Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress." The welfare of others becomes of paramount importance to us. (c). He/she lives a life of cleanliness and purity: (vs. 27) ". . . and keeps oneself from being polluted by the world." Adherence to God's Word will inoculate us against all the satanic evils the world can throw at us.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How Can This Be?

Chuckle:  A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a great time as I am."
Quote:  Why, who makes much of a miracle? As for me I know nothing else but miracles – To me every hour of night and day is a miracle, Every cubic inch of space a miracle. –Walt Witman 
When considering the possibility of our accomplishing something important for our Lord, we may do so from the human perspective which includes taking into account our physical strengths and weaknesses.  As Christians, we can be tempted to dismiss out-of-hand what we know God would have us do because we view it as impossible. This is because we lack confidence that we can accomplish God’s assignment.  We might express our doubts or cynicism by thinking and saying, “This is impossible” or “how can this be?’ or “How is this possible?”  
In the Scriptures, there are numerous recorded instances when God revealed His plans to His people and gave them instructions for carrying out His plans.  Often, His people reveal their lack of faith and confidence that they can do what God asked of them.  They begin making excuses based on their perceived personal limitations.  Let’s look at three instances that might evoke the question; “how can this be?”   
The angel, Gabriel, to Mary, “You will become pregnant and have a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” . . . Mary asked the angel; “How can I have a baby? I am a virgin” (Luke 1:31-33 NLT).  “How can this be so?”  What Gabriel told Mary was so incredulous to her that it didn’t seem possible.  In response to Mary’s question, Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”  The answer to all our doubts and questions about God’s direction for our lives rests in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.    
God to Moses at the burning bush, “So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10 NIV. Moses began to make excuses to God because he didn’t think he was up to the task even after God said, “I (my Spirit) will be with you” (v. 12),  The excuse that resonates with many of us is when Moses said he couldn’t speak well enough to convey God’s message to Pharaoh.  Moses continued to make excuses.  “Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses” (Exodus 4:14 NIV).
Jesus to His disciples: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father”  (John 14:12 NIV).  To me, this is one of the most profound and amazing declarations to come from the lips of our Lord.  What is the truth Jesus wants His disciples, and us, to understand from this passage?  Surely, He doesn't mean that we will do greater miracles than raising people from the dead, healing the sick, forgiving sins, or the granting of eternal life.  These miracles are as amazing as miracles get.  The key lies in Jesus' statement as to why He said we will do greater things than He did while He was here on earth.  This will be true "because I am going to the Father."
How did His going to the Father change what believers are able to do?  It was the coming of the Holy Spirit into the lives of all believers who provides the motivation, direction, and power for us to do greater things.  Later, Jesus said, "Unless I go away (to the Father), the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7 NIV).  After Jesus had gone, the disciples would be working in the power of the Holy Spirit; the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT). Jesus said to His followers, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age”  (Matthew 28:20 NLT).  Down through the ages, God’s people (believers) have brought millions of people into God’s kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit.      
In the power of the Spirit, God continues to use individuals and groups of Christians to accomplish miraculous results.The next time, you sense God calling you to a specific ministry or destination, please don’t couch your answer in terms of human limitations and frailties, but rather, in the limitless power of God’s Holy Sprit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Holy Living

Chuckle: "Mom said she became an octogenarian on her last birthday. She can do as she wishes with her life, but I hope she doesn't will them all her money!"
Quote: "Holiness includes what we call moral goodness but moral goodness is not the same as holiness. It is only a constituent part of it." --Graham Leonard

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth" (Colossians 3:1-2 NLT).
What a different world it would be if all who claim to be Christians truly focused on making our lives holy before God. In this chapter, we can learn what true Christian behavior should entail. Paul emphasizes the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to change our moral and ethical standards and make us holy as God desires us to be. A right relationship with God will make us holy and result in right relationships with other believers.
A definition of "Holy" includes: "apartness, the separation of a person or thing from the common or profane for a divine use." It also means to be reverent, pure, and chaste. To paraphrase, we are set apart by God for His service, and are to be pure in mind and spirit as we serve Him. "But just as he who called us is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be Holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV). Let's look at some prerequisites for holy living.
First: We must belong to God. "Since you have been raised to new life with Christ." We must belong to God by establishing a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. We can try our hardest to live good moral and benevolent lives, and many people may benefit from our kindness. But if we don't belong to God, it will all be in vain. Being good will not make us belong to God -- and will not make us holy.
Second: If we belong to God, we are to "set our sights on the realities of heaven . . and let heaven (things above) fill our thoughts." Everything we do begins in our thoughts. If our thoughts are on the things of God, they will be reflected in the holy things we do. If we concentrate on the eternal rather than the temporal, it will show by the way we live and allow us to be holy as we live out God's purpose for us.
Third: If we belong to God, we will "not think only about things down here on earth." Sadly, our thoughts are not always completely pure and holy; and since God knows the thoughts and desires of our hearts, we can never meet God's standards for holy living while harboring sinful worldly thoughts and desires.
Howard Hendricks wisely observed, "It is foolish to build a chicken coop on the foundation of a skyscraper." The Christian who does not live a holy life is failing to utilize the foundation for his life that Christ has given him. When we are made holy, we will be "useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Timothy 2:21 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 19, 2018

Live One Day at a Time

Mike Looks Back: February 2015                                                 Click here for my blog
Chuckle: "A man will laugh at a woman putting on makeup, and then take ten minutes trying to make three hairs on top of his head look like six."
Quote: “Today is a most unusual day, because we have never lived it before; we will never live it again; it is the only day we have.” --William Arthur Ward

A few years back Christie Lane had a hit recording and a portion of the lyrics went something like this: "One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that's all I'm asking from you. Help me today. Show me the way, one day at a time."
The only time any of us have is today -- time can't be saved and it can't be retrieved -- it can only be savored. I've heard it said, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans for tomorrow." James 4:15 tells us that when we make plans, we should say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." Several Scriptures attest to the value of living for today.
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself" (Matthew 6:34). "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring" (Proverbs 27:1). "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow" (James 4:14).
Some live in the past and dwell on mistakes and failures which are now history and cannot be changed. Others live in the future in a constant state of expectancy and dissatisfaction with their lives today. Either of these mind-sets can cause us to miss the blessings God has for us today.
Living one day at a time means keeping yourself responsive to simple things. For most of us, there are few big moments in life -- only a plethora of small ones. Most of us never win the Pulitzer prize, nor the Nobel, nor an Oscar. But we're all eligible for life's small pleasures -- a pat on the back; a hug; a 12-point buck in your sights; a big bass on your line; a full moon; a crackling fire; a good meal; a glorious sunset.
If our happiness is dependent upon major accomplishments and events, we won't be happy much of the time. If, however, our happiness depends on a good breakfast; flowers in the yard, a brisk walk, or a nap, we will have a lot of happiness. A good motto would be: "Learn from yesterday, hope for tomorrow, but live for today." Living one day at a time will help make your life be all it can be. When you kill time, it has no resurrection! Today is the only certain time we have to share the love of Christ with someone.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 16, 2018

Showing Respect for the Elderly

Chuckle: "When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra." --Will Rogers
Quote: “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world will cry and you will rejoice.” –Unknown

"Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD" (Leviticus 19:32 NIV). "Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. . . . "May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice" (Proverbs 23:22, 25 NIV).
In our last lesson, we addressed the need to respect and honor all people with emphasis on the elderly. Scriptures are replete with admonitions concerning how we should treat the elderly with love and respect. I ran across a Bible lesson by Samuel Simmons on this subject. After a discussion on showing respect to the elderly, he asked the question, "What about you?" Following are his words.
Try to imagine yourself at over 80 years of age (no imagination is required for some of us). Think about how you would want to be treated. When you do, you probably see that patronizing sympathy or superficial pity falls far short of showing respect. . . What form of respect might you want in your later years? Consider these possibilities:
* The respect that says, "You still matter to God." When you hurt, God cares. When you are lonely, God is there. When you feel abandoned, God is faithful.
* The respect that says, "You still have purpose in the world.". . . God invites elderly persons to join Him in His kingdom work. When you feel useless, God gives you purpose.
* The respect that says, "I'm interested in your life." What was your vocation? Where did you live? "What do you think of this or that national crisis? . . . What are the top lessons you have learned in life?
* The respect that says, "God forgives you." Did you make mistakes? Did you hurt others? Do you have regrets? No failure in life lies beyond the powerful forgiveness possible in Jesus Christ.
* The respect that says, "If you need me, I'm here for you." Is someone trying to take advantage of you? Is someone asking you to do something that makes you uncomfortable? Let me know and I will help you if I can.
* The respect that says, "I want to hear your opinion." Do you have a different view than mine? Does your life experience tell you something different? Help me understand what you are thinking. I will listen. "Is not wisdom found in the aged? Does not long life bring understanding" (Job 12:12 NIV).
One final thought from Mr. Simmons: The way we treat our elders is the model our children and others may use in relating to us when we are old. If that is true, how will those younger persons treat us when we are old? We may be writing the script right now by the way we treat the elderly.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Respect for the Elderly

Chuckle: "We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress." -- Will Rogers
Quote: "Life is short, and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh, be swift to love, make haste to be kind!" --Henri Frederic Amiel

"Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as though he were your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat the older women as you would your mother, and treat the younger women with all purity as your own sisters" (1 Timothy 5:1-2 NLT).
In general, there seems to be a growing attitude of disrespect for others in our society. Many have little or no respect for authority and little respect for themselves or others, especially the elderly. I read somewhere that a good measure of a nations health is the way it treats its elderly. No doubt you have seniors in your family, community, and church who yearn to know they are loved, respected and appreciated. Their long lives reflect God's honor and blessings on them and has given them the time to increase in knowledge and wisdom. Ignoring this great reservoir of wisdom shows a definite lack of respect on our part.
I don't want to appear self-serving, since I am a member of our older generation, but the seniors in America are deserving of respect and honor because of their tremendous contribution to the building of this great nation. Their perseverance and personal sacrifice have no doubt added significantly to our quality of life and we owe them much. Many of them are great role models of faithfulness to our Lord and sacrificial service to others. When you think of all they have done for you, an attitude of love, thanksgiving, and respect should follow.
The Bible is an all-sufficient instructional manual for our inter-personal relationships, both in our biological families as well as our spiritual families. Please note in our 1 Timothy passage that the emphasis is on giving the same respect to all people that you give to your own parents and siblings. The passage assumes respect, honor and thoughtfulness will be shown to our biological family members, and uses this as a model for how we should treat others. Unfortunately, this model of caring and respect is missing in many biological families, and sometimes even in spiritual families.
As a pastor, I have made untold numbers of visits to elderly and disabled residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers. It’s a joy to see residents regularly receiving expressions of love and respect by family members and friends. However, I’m deeply saddened when I see mothers, fathers and grandparents who have been "deposited" in such facilities and seemingly forgotten. Some residents seldom receive visits from family members who show little interest in letting them know they are loved, valued, and respected. This is a terrible tragedy which all of us need to address and do our part to correct.
Next time, we will consider some ways to show respect for the elderly.
Love, Jerry & Dotse