Friday, December 15, 2017

Thinking Like Jesus

Chuckle: "My sister has a life-saving tool in her car designed to cut through a seat belt if she gets trapped. She keeps it in the trunk!!!"
Good Quote: "The love we give away is the only love we keep." --Elbert Hubbard

"Let this mind (attitude ) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5 KJV)
If we could only learn to think like Jesus and have His attitude, all our problems in living like Jesus would be solved. However, before we can begin to think like Jesus, we must have the desire to do so. Before the "how to" must come the "want to." How is your "want to" coming along?
Prior to Jesus’ ascension back into heaven, He made some amazing promises. Among them was the promise that He would always be with us in the form of his Holy Spirit. It is His indwelling Spirit that gives us the ability to think like Christ by helping us understand the mind of Christ as revealed in God's Word -- to understand how Jesus thought and acted.
Having said this, what was the mind of Christ really like while he was here on earth? Well, he humbled himself even unto death and was willing to give up all his own rights as God by coming to earth to save people from their sins as the Father had planned. He accepted the role of, and had the heart of, a servant. He made himself nothing so that He could be everything to you and me. He is the supreme example of humility. Likewise, we should be humble servants living our lives for the good of others.
If we allow it, the Spirit of God will teach us to have the mind of Christ. He will teach us to get outside our selfishness and into the lives of others. One of God's primary purposes for the church is to build bridges of love to the people who need Christ. In John 20:21, Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, so I'm sending you." We must give up the idea that the church is some sort of fortress to protect us from the world and to make us comfortable and cozy with friends who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and act like us. It's true that the church can be a place of comfort and security, but Jesus commissioned the church (Christians) to go where it is uncomfortable -- our there where the people are -- where the action is.
When we begin to think like Jesus, we will have a love like His for people who are hurting, regardless of ethnic, economic, or social status. Jesus loved and touched people where they were. "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36 NIV). Jesus was referring to the sick, hungry, and naked -- those with desperate physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Finally, when we begin to think like Jesus, we will adopt his methods in dealing with people. In Luke 6:36, Jesus tells us to "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." When we think like Jesus, we will not say, "come to our church," but rather, "we're coming to you." Rodney Stark was puzzled about how the early Christians, a marginalized and persecuted people, were able to touch so many. In his study he concluded: "Their sacrifices released an explosion of light the world had never known."
When we think like Jesus, we will love our enemies. We will not explode in anger at those who are evil, but reach out in love to touch them. Jesus taught the early Christians to love and give more than they would ever receive in return. They refused to hide in safety. Their radical love was followed by selfless good deeds. Any act of kindness, no matter how large or small, says there's a God who loves you -- and I love you too.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Even Greater Things

Chuckle: "Nowadays early to bed and early to rise probably means the television set isn't working."
Quote: "Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish." --Michelangelo

"The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater (things) works, because I am going to the Father. You can ask for anything in my name and I will do it" (John 14:12-13 NLT).
When we read about all the miracles Jesus performed in the lives of lost, sick, needy, lonely, hungry, and hurting people, it's hard to imagine that any one person, or groups of people, could ever do greater things than Jesus did. If you consider that Jesus even raised the dead, it's hard to imagine his followers doing something greater than that. Yet, here, Jesus says this will be so. This begs the question, how could this be true?
I think a simple way to address this question is with another one. "After Jesus goes to the Father, what, or who, would enable the followers of Christ to do even greater things than Jesus did?" Jesus was not saying His followers would do greater individual works. But rather, the disciples, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, would carry the Good News of Jesus Christ and God's Kingdom from Palestine to the whole world.
Jesus was limited, geographically, in the scope of his earthly ministry, but he prepared his followers for a much larger mission, and he empowered them to accomplish it with his Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you" (John 14:15-17 NLT).
In the power of the Holy Spirit, down through the centuries, Christians have led millions to faith in Jesus Christ, many more than Jesus did personally. As he promised, Jesus is still with us in Spirit. "No, I will not abandon you as orphans -- I (my Spirit) will come to you" (John 14:18 NLT). By faith we can appropriate the Spirit's power each day we live. In our first passage, Jesus says we can ask for anything in his name and he will grant that request if such requests are consistent with his character and purpose.
Jesus will give us the love, wisdom, and power to accomplish His Great Commission: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT).
You and I are members of Jesus' team with the mission of doing even greater things as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

An Angry Jesus

Chuckle: Clerk: "This jug is genuine Indian pottery." Customer: "But it says, 'Made in Cleveland.'" Clerk: "Haven't you ever heard of the Cleveland Indians?"
Quote: "Anger would inflict punishment on another; meanwhile, it tortures itself." --Publilius Syrus

He (Jesus) looked around at them in anger and, (was) deeply distressed (grieved) at their stubborn (hardened) hearts, . . ." (Mark 3:5 NIV).
Anger, in human terms, usually refers to selfish, destructive feelings -- a strong annoyance and a desire to fight back when someone hurts us or opposes us. Such feelings can lead to harmful and objectionable behavior. However, the anger of God is the response of His holiness to the sinful actions of people. When God takes action against sin, it is called "wrath." In the Old Testament, the word translated as "Divine anger" is used 177 times, but the word "anger" is rarely used in the New Testament. Our focal passage is one of those instances. Let's focus on what angers Jesus and how He reacts when angry.
We are told in Scripture that Jesus was without sin (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15), even though He did become angry on occasion. In our passage we see Jesus' angry reaction after being criticized for healing a man on the Sabbath. The Matthew and Luke accounts of this event leave out the word anger, apparently because they were unwilling to ascribe to Jesus this "human" emotion. But the kind of anger Jesus felt is revealed by His being "deeply distressed (grieved) at their stubborn (hardened) hearts."
Another instance where Jesus showed strong emotions and even anger was when He witnessed the actions of the Temple merchants and money changers. ". . he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons (sacrificial animals). He said to them, It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers'" (Matthew 21:12-13 NIV). Here, Jesus is reacting to the desecration of the holy temple as a place of worship and the injustices against worshipers. He showed God's righteousness indignation.
Anger is a normal human emotion. However, it can lead to sin when we become angry for the wrong reasons and we act in sinful ways. Anger becomes a sin when we allow it to fester until it causes us to become bitter and act in ways harmful to others and/or reflects unfavorably on Jesus Christ and Christianity. "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV).
Jesus became angry for the right reasons -- sinful behavior and injustice. Likewise, we should be indignant and even angry when we see people being mistreated, abused, or neglected. Such anger or indignation should motivate us to do everything we can to correct injustice. However, becoming angry to the point of offensive behavior is never justified.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Good Omelet

Chuckle: Teacher: “Phil, who was the first woman?” Phil: “I don’t know.” Teacher: “Here’s a hint. It had something to do with an apple.” Phil: “Oh, I know. Granny Smith.”
Quote: “No clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet.” –C. S. Lewis

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others” (Romans 12:4-5 NIV). “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12 NIV).
I must admit I had never thought to use eggs and omelet as an illustration for  describing a healthy church, that is until I ran across the above C. S. Lewis quote. It reminded me of a central Biblical truth -- the body of Christ, the church, is comprised of many individual Christians, each of which is essential to the health of the church. “From him (Jesus) the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part (member) does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV). However, if some of the members are “bad eggs,” the church will never be what Christ intended it to be – a “good omelet,” pleasing to our Lord. To put it another way: the quality of the church is dependent upon the spiritual condition and contribution of its individual members.
There are many things we can do in an effort to compensate for the spiritual inadequacies of church members. However, no matter how many times we reorganize or rearrange the members, it is, ultimately, the condition of the hearts of individual members that will determine the condition of the church as a whole. Rearranging a church of bad eggs is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – both are exercises in futility. Let’s consider this question: does my faithfulness to our Lord and His church qualify me as a good egg contributing toward making my church what God wants her to be – a good omelet?
What “bad egg” attitudes can seriously damage the fellowship and effectiveness of the church? Here are a few for your consideration.
          My personal contribution to the ministry of the church is not important.
          I don’t have the ability to do anything significant to strengthen my church.
          I don’t need to attend church to have a good relationship with God.
          I don’t like the way the church is being run, so, I choose not to participate.
          Someone hurt my feelings so I’m dropping out of the church.
You get the idea. If we don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good another. But what a beautiful thing it is to see a church where, in the power of the Holy Spirit, all its members are actively contributing to its loving fellowship and effective ministries – a congregation of “good eggs” working together to produce a “good omelet” for the glory of our Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Good Eye

Chuckle: "My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't!"
Quote: "To be blind is bad, but worse is to have eyes and not see." --Helen Keller

"Your eye is a lamp for your body. A pure (good) eye lets sunshine into your soul. But an evil (bad) eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness. If the light you think you have is really darkness, how deep that darkness will be" (Matthew 6:22-23 NLT).
Those in law enforcement often find that multiple witnesses to the same crime will see the event with differing perceptions of what went down and what the perpetrator looked like. In other words, our eyes can sometimes fool us into thinking we see one thing when, in reality, we should have seen something entirely different. In the spiritual realm, our spiritual eyes/vision must be trained by God's Word and Holy Spirit to see clearly the reality of what God wants of us and to see the world as God sees it.
In the same way that we can train our physical eyes to accurately transmit to our minds true reality, we must also allow God to train our spiritual eyes to discern spiritual truth. When we are able to see spiritual truth clearly and accurately, our whole being will be filled with the light that only the Light of the World can provide.
The Message translation of our passage reads like this: "Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light." The next verse says, "If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have."
Our spiritual eyes perceive incorrectly the things of God because of a lack of understanding or discernment. It's easy to jump to conclusions and discredit a spiritual truth because our impaired spiritual vision transmits to our hearts and minds an incorrect image of God, His love, and His truths.
I'm sure you have heard "there is none so blind as those who won't see." Our spiritual eyes determine if we see light or darkness. If we make up our minds about God's truth using our distrustful squinty eyes and lack of faith, we can miss the amazing message of Scripture. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Many of those who are lost will "pull the blinds on their windows" and miss experiencing the light of God's love and the eternal joy of knowing Christ and trusting Him. But Christians can also miss the joy of a close personal daily fellowship with Christ because we will not surrender completely to Him and let His Spirit light our way and give us 20-20 spiritual vision.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, December 8, 2017

A Student and His Teacher

Chuckle: "We have a group of preachers in our town who bowl. They call themselves "Holy Rollers!"
Good Quote: “A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.” --Patricia Neal

"A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40 NIV).
All of us are familiar with the relationships between students and teachers. However, when it comes to our being the students and Jesus being the teacher, we all have much to learn. Take a look at these passages and let them sink into your heart.
"Let this mind be in you that is also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5 KJV), "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV), "I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him." (John 13:16 NIV), "You call me 'teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (John 13:13 NIV).
From these passages, what is Jesus trying to teach us? There is no question that he was revealing his goal of making us like himself in every way. He wants us to follow his example by thinking like him, loving others like him, acting like him in our relationships, and acknowledging him as our Master Teacher.
I think these messages are relatively easy to understand. However, there's a message here that may not be as obvious to us. The first phrase in Luke 6:40 is also found in Matthew 10:24a, and was used by Jesus to warn his disciples that they could not expect to receive better treatment than their Master received. He never let them forget what it would cost to follow him. Whoa! What's this? Do you mean that, as a Christian, I should expect to suffer as Jesus suffered, to be ridiculed as he was ridiculed, to be shunned as he was shunned, and to be abandoned by those close to me as Jesus was abandoned. . . .?
As our mind (attitude) becomes like Jesus; as our actions become like Jesus; as we exhibit Christlike characteristics in our lives, we have learned to let Jesus live through us. When we become "fully taught," we will reflect Jesus in everything we do. When this happens, we must expect others to react to us in the same way people reacted to Jesus. Are you ready for that?
I think we are often guilty of wanting to live the Christian life while leaving all the suffering and dying to Jesus. In other words, we put ourselves above our Lord by our unwillingness to suffer for him as he suffered for us. However, there is nothing that will draw us nearer to our Lord than when we are called upon to suffer for (with) him. The apostle Paul understood this truth when he said, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in death" (Philippians 3:10 NIV). Paul wanted to know his Lord so intimately that he welcomed opportunity to suffer with him as a means of drawing even closer to him. How do you feel about suffering for your Lord?
"The disciple who perfectly understands the rules and sees the example of his Master, will think it his business to tread exactly in his steps, to do and suffer upon like occasions, as his master did: and so he will be like his master." --Whitby
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Temptation and Sin

Chuckle: "The trouble with resisting temptation is it may never come your way again.” --Unknown
Quote: "O help me Father in heaven to overcome and resist temptation in every form or shape.” --Emmeline B. Wells

". . . but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:14-15 NIV).
Everyone is tempted.  It happens to all of us. "Temptation is common to man" (I Cor. 10:13). Temptation even came to Jesus. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one (Jesus) who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15 NIV). New Christians may be surprised to feel a pull toward those old sins. But remember, it's not a sin to be tempted. The sin comes in the yielding to the temptation.
Who tempts us? God does not tempt us, but uses temptations to help us grow toward maturity."God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone" (vs.. 13). We tend to blame God for our weaknesses, but that blame is misplaced. It's not God's will for us to yield to temptation. When we yield, we are the ones who make the conscious decisions and no one is to blame but ourselves.
Some say: "I was just made that way - it's just my nature!" (liars, cheaters, thieves, adulterers, etc.). We justify our actions by blaming God for making us that way. "To err is human, but to blame God is more human." Then if we don't blame God, we can blame our parents - "it was the way they raised me." Parents often fail in their responsibilities, but yielding to temptation occurs within us and we make the decisions. Nobody can make you yield to temptation. Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve, etc.
What are the results of yielding to temptation? "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (vs.. 15). When we succumb to temptation, we begin to die to purity, purpose, life, joy, meaning.
How can you and I overcome temptation? We must deal with our desires. You don't have to give in -- its up to you. You are the final authority. You have a new nature in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit lives within you. A little girl once said in response to a question about how to deal with temptation: "When Satan comes knocking at the door of my heart, I send Jesus to the door. When Satan sees Jesus, he says, 'Oops, I'm sorry. I must have the wrong house.'" "Greater is He that lives in us than the one who lives in the world." I John 4:4.
Here are some practical suggestions for dealing with temptations. (1) Recognize your desires as real and normal. (2) Keep your focus on Christ, the giver of every good and perfect gift. A trained dog will "sit" in front of a steak keeping his eyes on his master, and will eat the steak only after the master signals it's OK. (3) Discover and understand the areas where you are the weakest and most vulnerability and stay away from temptations in those areas. If you don't want to be stung, stay away from hornet's nests. (4) Learn to say "no" in the power of the Holy Spirit. "Walk (live) by the power of the spirit and say no to the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). (5) Acknowledge past failures, ask God for forgiveness, and begin focusing on Him.
Use the fellowship of Christians in your church to help you -- a friend in Sunday School -- an accountability group. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (I Corinthians 10:13 NIV).
Love, Jerry & Dotse