Tuesday, August 14, 2018

God of Surprises

Chuckle: Two political candidates were hotly debating. Finally, one of them yelled at the other, "What about the powerful interest that controls you?" The other guy screamed back, "You leave my wife out of this!"
Quote: "You pray in your distress and in your need, would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and your days of abundance." --Kahlil Gibran

"So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. . . .Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. 'Quick, get up!' he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. . . . But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished." (Acts 12:5, 7, 16 NIV).
This passage reminds me how surprised and astonished we are sometimes when God actually answers our prayers. I must admit there have been times when I've prayed for something to happen while not really believing that God would grant my request. There have also been times when God totally surprised me by answering my prayers in ways I could never have imagined.
We may think these early Christians showed a lack of faith by praying while not expecting the answer they received; but is that really the way it was? I believe they had faith that God would answer their prayers; but when they saw Peter at the door, they couldn't believe it. They were astonished by such an amazing demonstration of God's power. Evidently, the middle of the night rescue of Peter from prison by an angel of God was far beyond their expectations. Perhaps they expected that God would answer in a more "normal" way. Do we expect God to answer our prayers by doing certain things in certain ways?
If we make a habit of praying earnestly and continually, no doubt we will be astonished by God's mighty works far beyond what we expect. If we are never astonished by what God does, is He really working in our lives and around us? Remember, it is God Himself who answers our prayers, not our finite mental image of God.
I believe God expects us to be a people of faith who always believes that God answers our prayers if we are praying in accordance with His will. When you pray, you should believe you will get an answer, and when the answer comes, be astonished but don't be surprised. Instead, just be thankful. "But when he (a person) asks, he must believe and not doubt" (James 1:6 NIV).
A final thought: If we pray selfishly, we have every reason to doubt that God will grant our requests. James warns us about praying selfishly. "When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 13, 2018

Tears of Concern

Chuckle: "The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom." --H. L. Mencken
Quote: "You may soon forget those with whom you have laughed, but you will never forget those with whom you have wept."Unknown source

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, . . ." (Philippians 3:18-19a NIV).
What does it take to make you cry? Some cry easily; for others it's more difficult. As I get older, I seem to weep more easily and somehow I feel good about that. The Bible says that "Jesus wept" when confronted with the death of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Jesus showed that He cares deeply about our sorrows, enough to weep with us when sorrows overtake us. Being moved to tears by concern is a Biblical way to show our love and compassion for others. Back to my original question: what does it take to make you shed tears?
In our text, Paul was not ashamed to shed tears and neither was he ashamed to tell others about it. His concern, that moved him to tears, was the plight of the unsaved who had declared themselves enemies of Christ. He had a burning desire to see people come to Christ. He was keenly aware of the eternal consequences of their rejecting the salvation that is available only through faith in the crucified, buried, and resurrected Jesus Christ.
It simply broke Paul's heart because he loved people and was terrified that many of them would go out into eternity lost forever with no hope. He was determined to do everything within his power to lead people into a saving relationship with Jesus. He was totally committed to the task of rescuing the perishing.
I ask you again: what does it take to make you cry? How long has it been since you shed tears for an unsaved family member, co-worker, classmate, or neighbor? When we come face to face with the reality that a lost person will spend eternity without God in a place of eternal punishment, and if we really care, the tears should flow freely. But tears without action are wasted. If we see someone drowning, each of us no doubt would shed tears of concern. But if we stand on the shore and cry and do nothing to help the person who is dying, what good are our tears?
Oh, you tears,
I'm thankful that you run.
Though you trickle in the darkness,
You shall glitter in the sun.
The rainbow could not shine if the rain refused to fall,
And the eyes that cannot weep are the saddest eyes of all.
Charles Mackay
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, August 12, 2018

From Sorrow to Joy

Chuckle: "Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now!"
Quote: "Faith is knowing there is an ocean because you have seen a brook." --William Arthur Ward

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9 NIV)
In your mind's eye, travel with me back in time to the triumphant entry of our Lord into Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago. He was welcomed as the long awaited Messiah and King with shouts of joy and praise. The path, over which He traveled on a donkey, was strewn with palm branches and cloaks from the revelers. It was truly a festive occasion for so many, But they were totally unaware how things would change before the week was out, and that their hero and source of joy would be crucified and His body laid in a borrowed tomb. It wasn't until Jesus' resurrection from the dead after three days that their sorrow could be erased, their joy restored, and their hopes fulfilled.
Imagine the roller-coaster nature of their emotions as the week unfolded. They went from extreme joy to devastating disappointment, sorrow, fear, and uncertainty. Their experiences will cause most of our disappointments to pale in comparison. However, you may have experienced similar feelings about things that have happened, or are happening in your life.
Perhaps you were looking forward to a new job, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, or an exciting professional opportunity. Perhaps you praised and thanked God for the opportunities you were experiencing or anticipating. Then circumstances beyond your control destroyed your plans and left you distraught and depressed. If your emotions have gone from great joy to great sadness, it's important that you keep your eyes on our Lord and realize that He is in control and will, in His own time, restore your joy.
Remember, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28 NIV). So, every day greet the Savior with praise, as did the people on His path into Jerusalem, and do so with great joy. Things may not go the way you had hoped or anticipated in the near term, but you can take comfort from knowing God is with you and will work everything out for your good according to His purpose and plan for your life. In His time He will restore your joy.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b KJV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Loving God

Chuckle: "There would be fewer problems with children if they had to chop wood to keep the television going."
Quote: “I did not hear the words you said, instead I heard the love you showed.” --Unknown source
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31 NIV).
What does "with all your heart" mean to you and me? Obviously, when Jesus says we are to love God with all our hearts, he's talking about something much different than the organ in our chests that pumps blood throughout our bodies. In Scripture, the heart is mentioned numerous times and usually describes the very center or totality of your being. All your heart, as used in our passage known as the Great Commandment, includes your appetites, emotions, passions, intellect, will, thoughts, and spirit. One scholar has suggested the Great Commandment might be better translated: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart -- that is with all your soul, mind, and strength."
When you love God completely, with every fiber of your being, then you have fulfilled the intent of God's command. However, I think many of us want to love God with only parts of our hearts. We may love God with our emotions but insist on holding back our passions and wills as private property belonging only to us. That tendency explains God's command to love Him with ALL your heart -- holding nothing back.
God is more interested in the condition of our hearts than he is in our actions for Him. You may be involved in every activity of your church, but activities will not satisfy God and will not cause Him to overlook a disobedient and sinful heart. It doesn't matter how active you are in your church unless you devote yourself to knowing Him and loving Him with all your heart.
As a Christian, you remember full well, the joy, excitement, and peace that entered your heart and life when you first gave your heart to Christ. But over time, temptations of the world may have drawn your heart away and you no longer love God with all your heart. If so, you are being disobedient to the Great Commandment and need to turn your heart back to Him in an attitude of repentance and ask his forgiveness. When you do this, the great joy of your salvation will return and you will be amazed at how clearly you will once again hear God's voice as He reveals His will for your live.
As you face each day uncertain about which course of action to follow in a given situation, just ask yourself which action best demonstrates love for God and love for others. We are reminded that "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (I John 4:20 NIV). One of the best indicators that we love God with all our hearts is how we love other people.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Humility and Relationships

Chuckle: Grandson: "Grandpa, do you know how you and God are alike?" While mentally polishing his halo, grandpa said, "how are we alike?'' "You're both old.”
Quote: "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." --Charles Spurgeon

“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up” (James 4:10 NIV). “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2 NIV).
What does it mean to humble ourselves before our Lord and others? I ran across the following two stories which can teach us valuable lessons about humility.
1. In September of 1986, two Soviet ships, a liner and a freighter, collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. 398 passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship's presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. When they came to their senses, it was too late.
2. A former missionary told the story of two rugged mountain goats who met on a narrow mountainside pathway. On one side was a chasm 1,000 feet deep; on the other, a steep cliff rising straight up. There was no room to turn around, and the goats could not back up without falling. What would they do? Rather than fight for the right to pass, one of the goats knelt down and became as flat as possible. The other goat then walked over him, and they both proceeded safely.
The story about the mountain goats teaches us a valuable lesson about humility when compared to the stubborn pride of the ships captains. When Jesus left His heavenly home, He humbled Himself and paid the penalty for your sins and mine. He saw us literally trapped between our sin and God's righteousness with no way to help ourselves -- no way of escape. He came in humility and took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:5-8). Then, by dying for sinful mankind, He let us "walk over Him" so that we could experience forgiveness and receive eternal life.
By His humility, Jesus took the penalty for our sins upon Himself. Peter pointed to Christ as an example of humility. When we are mistreated for Jesus' sake, we must learn to be humble enough to let others walk over us if need be. This is not a sign of weakness but of strength and true humility. Such a response, when done for Christ's sake, brings glory to His name.
Jesus said, ". . ., whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV). Does stubborn pride dictate the way we relate to others? Will we humble ourselves for the sake of others and for God's glory? 
“Spread abroad the name of Jesus in humility and with a meek heart; show him your feebleness, and he will become your strength” –Thomas Merton; The Wisdom of the desert
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Living Faith

Chuckle: One preacher asked for a discount at a store saying, "You know I'm just a poor preacher." "I know," said the storekeeper. "I heard you last night!"
Quote: "Trust God as if your salvation depended entirely on faith; serve God as if your salvation depended entirely on works." --William Arthur Ward

"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)
Please notice, in our passage, that faith "lived" in young Timothy's grandmother and mother . As I study this passage, I'm reminded once again that our faith is to be living, dynamic, and demonstrated by actions. It is a faith of "doing," not just something we have been given by God. It is true that faith has its beginning in our hearts when we commit our lives to Christ; however, God does not intend for it to just remain there. It is to be revealed to others through our actions. James expresses this concept like this:
"So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all -- it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, 'Some people have faith; others have good deeds,' I say, 'I can't see your faith if you don't have good deeds; but I will show you my faith through my good deeds (by what I do)'" (James 2:17-18 NLT).
We can never earn our salvation just by service to others. We can never earn our way into God's favor. However, our actions show that our commitment to God is real. Acts of loving service are no substitute for, but rather a verification of, our faith in Christ. When we become Christians, "We are God's workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
It takes very little effort just to express our faith verbally, but it requires a serious effort to always express our faith by our actions -- to meet the needs of others, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual. "As gloves are to a surgeon's hands, so are Christians in service for God. It is actually God's hand doing the work. We are but used by Him and therefore have nothing to boast about" –Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green.
Let's pray together that God will help our faith become more alive and more evident by our Godly actions.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, August 6, 2018

Snatching Them From Danger

Chuckle: Only a Southerner knows the difference between a "hissie fit" and a "conniption fit," and that you don't "HAVE" them, you "PITCH" them.
Quote: "Let those who thoughtfully consider the brevity of life remember the length of eternity." --Thomas Ken

We know Jesus wants Christians to be in the world but not of (like) the world. In the little book of Jude, we find some graphic words of instruction and warning. "Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins" (Jude 22-23 NLT).
As I read today's passage, I'm reminded of the times I've cooked hotdogs or hamburgers on our backyard grill. More than once a patty or wiener has fallen through the grill into the red-hot coals below. My instant reaction was to quickly snatch the meat out of the fire before it is was consumed while, at the same time, trying to avoid being burned myself. To me, that's the picture Jude paints for us here. He says we are to show mercy to the unsaved, and to those who have fallen into sin, mixed with fear lest we become stained (burned) by the same sinful (corrupted) ways of the world.
The first thing we see from this passage is that we should look with mercy upon non-believers and those who are doubters. We are to see them through the eyes of Jesus with the same love and compassion that He has for them. In love and mercy, we are to do everything we can to "snatch" them from Satan's clutches and bring them into the comforting love of Christ -- as the Holy Spirit gives us strength.
When reaching out to those to whom we witness, we must be careful not to fall into the quicksand of compromise. Always be careful not to become so much like non-Christians that no one can tell who you are or what you believe. Draw others for Christ, but don't allow them to draw you into sin.
How can we avoid being drawn away from our Lord and into the ways of the world while maintaining contact with those who need Christ in their lives? By keeping our eyes focused on Jesus; By spending time regularly in prayer and Bible study; By relying everyday on the Holy Spirit for strength to resist the various temptations that Satan places before us; By being faithful and active members of a Bible believing church; and by "Living in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you" (Jude 21 NLT).
We also have responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Christ who stray into sin. At the first indication that they are being drawn away from our Lord and into the ways of the world, we should befriend them and do everything in our power to love them back into the warm and loving fellowship of believers. In my experience as a pastor, I have discovered many "Christians" who have left the fellowship of the church for various reasons, and are convinced that nobody cares. It's up to us to prove them wrong. . . .
Love, Jerry & Dotse