Saturday, December 21, 2019

Merry Christmas

My dear friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, Dotse and I wish for you and your family the most wonderful Christmas Season ever, followed by a fantastic New Year. Please, let’s focus on Jesus Christ as the center of all our Christmas celebrations this year.
I will be taking a few days off starting December 23 and will resume the daily devotionals on January 6th. I look forward to being back with you next year.
Love, Jerry & Dotse  
I’m sorry about the “Merry Christmas” e-mail I attempted to send a little while ago.  Above are the words from that e-mail.
                                             Image result for christmas religious clip art

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas, Jesus' Birth

Chuckle: An Army recruit was on guard duty at 2 A.M. He did his best, but fell asleep about 4 A.M. He awoke to find the officer of the day standing before him. Remembering the heavy penalty for being asleep on guard duty, this smart young man kept his head bowed for another moment. Then he looked upward and reverently said, "A-a-men!"
Good Quote: "Yesterday is gone; forget it! Tomorrow never comes; don't wait for it. Today is here; use it!" --Unknown Author
"And while they were there (in Bethlehem), the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn" (Luke 2:6-7 NLT).
For many years, when you walked in our front door at Christmas time, You would see a beautiful Hummel nativity scene that I purchased 30 years ago while stationed in Germany. It is precious to us not only because of its artistry, but because it visually captures the essence of the Christmas story for us like nothing else. Yes, we do other decorations, but the nativity brings us the most joy.
In our passage, we see a beautifully worded but simple account of the most miraculous and world-changing birth in all of human history. It doesn't matter that I have heard and read this story of the nativity hundreds of times, it never fails to touch my heart in a fresh and unique way. Although our first picture of Jesus is as a baby in a manger (animal feed trough), it should never be our last. The Christ child in a manger is a beautiful and lasting Christmas scene, but we cannot let the picture end there.
This tiny and helpless Jewish baby lived an amazing sinless life, died for your sins and mine, rose again on the third day, ascended to heaven, and will come to earth again as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will rule the world and will sit in judgment of all people according to their decisions about him. Please don't let your mental picture of Jesus end with the nativity, but let Him be not only your personal Savior but the Lord of your life.
Notice how Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in strips of cloth (swaddling clothes). This wrapping of newborns was a common practice in Jesus' day and is still practiced in many Mideastern cultures. Obviously, such cloths were for warmth, but they also were used to give the infant a sense of security and safety. The cloths were also thought to protect the infant's internal organs.
Since he was laid in a manger, it's safe to assume Jesus was born in a dark and dirty animal stable -- not the atmosphere the Jews expected as the birthplace of the Messiah King. Stables were often caves with feeding troughs carved into rock walls. In my mind, it is only fitting that Jesus, as an humble servant, would enter this world in the most humble and unexpected way. Later in his life, Jesus said he "came here not to be served, but to serve others, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
A Christmas prayer: "Dear Lord, please restore the joy of Your salvation to us; let us experience the joy of Your presence in a refreshing new way this Christmas!" Amen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Christmas, The Birth of John

Chuckle: "I got called back to a church which I didn't expect. I asked one of the deacons why. He said, 'We didn't want no preacher no how and you were the nearest no preacher we could get.' "
Quote: "The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes." --Martin Luther
"Now it was time for Elizabeth's baby to be born, and it was a boy. The word spread quickly to her neighbors and relatives that the Lord had been very kind to her, and everyone rejoiced with her" (Luke 1:57-58 NLT).
John, the Baptist, was to be God's voice to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. Elizabeth was well past the child-bearing age, but God, through the angel Gabriel, had promised her and Zechariah a son. And, of course, Mary had been told by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a Son who would save the people from their sins. "When the baby was eight days old, all the relatives and friends came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, 'No! His name is John!' " (vv. 59-60).
At the time of John's and Jesus' birth, the circumcision ceremony was an important event in the life of every Jewish baby boy. During the ceremony, the people rejoiced with friends and family as the baby became part of God's covenant with his people. Passing family names down from one generation to the next was also extremely important in Jewish families. Thus everyone expected his name to be Zechariah, and were surprised by his being named John. But you may recall that the angel Gabriel had told Zechariah that the baby's name would be John (Luke 1:13).
In answer to their prayers, Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah to inform him that he and Elizabeth would have a son, even in their old age. He also told him the son's name would be John. Zechariah was skeptical that such a thing would happen. Because of his unbelief, the angel told him he would be unable to speak until after the baby was born (Luke 1:19-20). After months of silence, Zechariah praised God with his first words once his speech was restored. "So they asked the baby's father (Zechariah), communicating to him by making gestures. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone's surprise he wrote, 'His name is John!' Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God" (vv. 61-64).
Zechariah understood the mission of his son, John because Gabriel had explained to him that "He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival" (Luke 1:17). What an absolutely amazing sequence of events unfolded as the time approached for the birth of our Lord. One cannot read the story of John's birth, and that of Jesus, without doing as Zechariah did -- praising God from the very core of our being. As we focus on the Christmas story in 2016, rejoicing should be the reaction of all of us whose lives have been transformed by faith in the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" -- the Babe of Bethlehem.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

A Virgin Will Conceive

Chuckle: (church bulletin blooper): "The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, 'Break Forth Into Joy.'"
Quote: "Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from (within) it. He did not evolve out of history; He came into history from the outside." --Oswald Chambers
"Look! A virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him 'Immanuel,' (which means) God is with us" (Isaiah 7:14b NLT). "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 NLT).
It's important for believers to have an appreciation for God's plan to send his Son into the world to live among us and to pay the price for our sins through his shed blood. Our passage was written some 800 years before Jesus' birth. This gives great credence to the fact that all Scripture is inspired of God and written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Belief in the virgin birth of Jesus is a cornerstone of our Christian faith. The term "virgin" in our text is the translation of a Hebrew word which describes a young woman who is unmarried even though she is sexually mature and of the age to be married. This young woman was destined to bear a son to be named Immanuel which means "God with us." Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 to show fulfillment of this prophecy and identifies the virgin as Mary who bore a son, Immanuel the Christ.
God's people were experiencing dark and difficult times when Isaiah foretold Jesus' birth, as they were at the time of his actual birth. The coming Messiah would be the light of the world even in the darkest of times. The Holy Spirit being his Father, and the titles given him in Isaiah 9:6 allude to the deity of the Son to be born of a virgin. With Jesus birth came a message of hope foretold by Isaiah, and the establishment of his eternal kingdom in the hearts of people. He came as the redeemer of all people to deliver them out of the bondage of sin and the consequences thereof.
It is absolutely mind-boggling when we try to fully grasp the magnitude of God's love, mercy, and grace revealed in the Christmas story -- the story of the birth and ministry of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! "God gave him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9b-11 NIV).
God made one of the most complex and mind-boggling events in history so simple that even the common man could have enough understanding to stand amazed and rejoice in them. Let's take the time this Christmas to thank God for the gift of his love and the gift of his Son. And let's do so with great rejoicing!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 16, 2019

Showing Kindness

Chuckle: "What do reindeer have that no other animals on earth have? Baby reindeer."
Good Quote: "Twas a thief who said the last word to Christ: Christ took the kindness and forgave the theft." --Robert Browning
"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else" (1 Thessalonians 5:15 NIV).
I wrote this ten years ago to the day. As you read, please think about the urgent need for kindness toward all those with whom we interact, and compare the level of kindness in people today with the way I described it ten years ago. 
A few days ago, Dotse and I were riding in the car and thinking about the approach of Christmas. I mentioned to her how kind everyone seems to be lately. We discussed it at length and wondered about it. My heart has been warmed in recent days by extraordinary kindness from people around me. I have always heard that Christmas tends to bring out the best in people, but this year something unusual is going on -- at least from my perspective.
I have recently had encounters with servers in restaurants, medical personnel, insurance advisors, financial specialists, and sales personnel, and everyone has been extraordinarily kind, courteous, and helpful. It's as if people have suddenly been inoculated against unkindness. Maybe the kindness serum has been mixed in with the new H1N1 flu vaccine!!. Not likely, you say. I agree. But maybe it's not from a vaccine but something even more powerful and effective.
Could it be that God is getting the attention of people who are becoming fed up with hateful, discourteous, dishonest, and hurtful attitudes that have been prevalent in our society in recent years. Selfishness, greed, and lust have made many of us disgusting people to be around. What's in it for me has replaced concern for the welfare of others. I wonder, also, if the severe economic downturn has prompted people to reexamine their values with the intent to discover the really important things in life -- relationships.
Notice in our passage that we, as believers, are first to be kind to one another. Then we are to show kindness to everyone else as well. "The Lord's servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape the Devil's trap. . ." (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NLT). If you and I are living under the control of the Holy Spirit who resides in us, we will practice kindness because kindness is a supernatural fruit of the Spirit, along with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22).
The unusual kindnesses that have been shown to me in recent days, have made me examine my own heart and prompted me to show more kindness in return. Treating people with kindness is such a simple solution to so many relationship problems. It's amazing that we aren't more faithful in its application. "A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble to himself" (Proverbs 11:17 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, December 15, 2019

When Crises Come

Chuckle: "I'd really like to die in my sleep like my grandfather. Not kicking and screaming like those others riding in the car with him."
Quote: "It is motive alone that gives character to the actions of men." --Jean De La Bruyere
"Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, 'My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.' So Jesus went with him" (Mark 5:22-24 NIV).
As a pastor, my heart has often been deeply moved as I stood in the pulpit and looked out over a congregation, I saw people who were suffering through severe crises in their lives. Here are some examples of the pain and heartache that people suffer. There's the wife of an abusive husband. There's the grieving family who recently lost a loved one. There's a husband and father who has just lost his job. There are the parents in extreme emotional pain because of a rebellious child. Each of these situations represents a serious need for a loving, caring, ministering hand. 
More than likely you have been the recipient of a ministry of kindness and love in your own life in a time of crisis. If so, you are keenly aware of the comfort you felt from just knowing someone cared. Knowing that someone loves you enough to share your burden or hurt gives added strength to see you through even the most difficult of times. Jairus' heart was broken at the plight of his beloved daughter, and because of his sorrow, he set aside his pride and threw himself at the feet of Jesus. He was desperate for help and recognized both his need and his helplessness.
If you are suffering through a crises, the lesson for you here is that you must seek help if you are to make it through. Likewise, if you are aware of a crisis in someone else's life, Jesus would have you be sensitive to that need, as He was, and be willing to do what ever it takes to help that person endure the crisis and be strengthened by it. Because of his love and compassion, Jesus went with the man and restored life to his little girl who had died even as Jairus was searching for Jesus.
In Matthew 25, Jesus describes what our reaction should be to those in crises and need. We are to visit the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, satisfy the thirsty, etc. Jesus saw such actions as indicative of our relationship with him, and he had harsh words for those who choose to ignore the needs in people's lives around them. We are taught to imitate Jesus in our ministry to others, and do so with the same love and compassion he has shown us.
So, if you are in a crisis, first draw close to your Lord, then swallow your pride, and seek help. If you know someone in crisis, make the time to minister to that need in the name of Jesus as you would want someone to minister to you. It is a struggle for each of us as Christians to find the right words or action that will help alleviate the pain. But the important thing is for us to be willing to help. Then God will show us the best way to minister to a given need. God will bless you as you bless others!
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Why Do I Exist?

Chuckle: At Sunday School, they were teaching how God created everything, including human beings. Little Johnny seemed especially intent when they told him how Eve was created out of one of Adam's ribs. Later in the week his mother noticed him lying down as though he were ill, and she said, "Johnny, what is the matter?" Little Johnny responded, "I have pain in my side. I think I'm going to have a wife!"
Ponder This: “Mankind's role is to fulfill his heaven-sent purpose through a sincere heart that is in harmony with all creation and loves all things.” --Morihei Ueshiba
"For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible. . . everything got started in God and finds its purpose in him" (Colossians 1:16 MSG).
Do you ever think about and wonder how much value you are to God and to others around you? I suppose it is a common human trait to want our lives to amount to something -- to have value -- to make a difference. We like to think the world is a better place because we are alive. However, sometimes we become convinced that we are relatively insignificant and really aren't very important in God's grand scheme of things. Many people suffer from feelings of low self-worth which can bring on depression, anxiety, and hopelessness.
The truth is that you were made by God and for God. Until you understand this, life will never make sense. You have heard the old saying, "necessity is the mother of invention." In other words, the purpose of an invention/creation of anything is preceded by a need or purpose to be fulfilled by that creation. In the same way that you may have made something to fulfill a purpose, God has a purpose for your life to fulfill a need/desire in his heart. You and I are here on earth because God has a purpose for our lives.
Some time ago, I preached a message on this subject. I began by holding up a strange looking and ancient contraption and asked the congregation if anyone could tell me the purpose of the gadget. Some tried, but most were not sure. I made the point -- if you really want to know the purpose of a gadget, or your life, ask the one who made it. . . . God made you, so look to his Word for the answer to the question, "what is my purpose in life?"
It doesn't matter what your age is, if you have not come to terms with your purpose in life, it's not too late to discover God's plan for your life. Through prayer, study of God's Word, and input from others you can find purpose. Once you have a sense of purpose, it will surprise you how God will speak to you about how you can fulfill that purpose. He will provide you opportunity to accomplish his purpose for your life. You are unique, one-of-a-kind, and God has a purpose for you uniquely suited to your spiritual gifts, other abilities, and personality. A sense of purpose will add to your peace and contentment, and bring clarity of God's call on your life.
"A man (or woman) without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder--a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you." --Thomas Carlyle
Have a great weekend as you reflect on your purpose in life!
Love, Jerry & Dotse