Friday, September 22, 2017

Sacrificial Lamb

Chuckle: "How old were you on your last birthday?" "Eight." "How old will you be on your next birthday?" "Ten." "I don't think that's possible." "Oh, yes it is -- I'm nine today."
Good Quote: "I believe there are thousands of men who could go to the stake and die, or lay their necks on the block to perish with a stroke for Christ, who nevertheless find it hard work to live a holy, consecrated life." -- Charles H. Spurgeon

    "When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood" (Genesis 22:9 NIV).
I ran across this story which sets the stage for our lesson today. "When telling his young daughter the story of Abraham and Isaac, a father related how God had finally told Abraham not to kill Isaac and provided a sacrificial lamb/ram instead. The little girl looked up with a sad expression and said, 'I don't like killing lambs.' The father was speechless for a moment and then realized how traumatic such sacrifices were -- how serious was the killing of a lamb and how destructive was the reason for the sacrifice, sin. If the killing of a pure white lamb seems horrendous, how immeasurably more so was the crucifixion of the Lamb of God!"
The mistake we can easily make in studying the story of Abraham and Isaac is that the ultimate thing God wants from each of us is to sacrifice our lives to the point of death. But God's miraculous intervention in this story shows that the taking of a human life for His sake is not what God wants from us. He wants us to sacrifice ourselves while living for Him. The only life God demanded for our sins was that of Jesus, the ultimate blood sacrifice.
I think Oswald Chambers said it right as he describes what our attitudes should be toward sacrifice: Lord, "I am willing to go to death with You, but -- I am willing to be identified with Your death so that I may sacrifice my life to God." He goes on to say, "It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a 'living sacrifice,' to let Him have all your powers that have been saved and sanctified (made holy) through Jesus. This is the thing that is acceptable to God." The apostle Paul put it this way: "Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1 NIV).
In Old Testament times, God required the sacrificing of animals for the sins of the people. Every morning and evening a lamb was sacrificed in the Temple (Exodus 29:38-42). This may seem cruel and barbaric to us today, but this requirement was a part of life in those days. However, that all came to an end when Jesus came as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Such sacrifices are no longer required because the sacrificial death of Jesus, the Lamb of God, on the cross fulfilled, once and for all, the requirement for animal sacrifices (Hebrews 10:10). The New Testament shows the need to give ourselves and all we are to God as our act of worship. Now self-giving is the acceptable attitude of worship.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Whole Person

Chuckle:  "In a school essay on parents, one little girl wrote: 'We get our parents when they are so old it is hard to change their habits!'"  
Quote: “Almighty God, bestow upon us the meaning of words, the light of understanding, the nobility of diction and the faith of the true nature. And grant that what we believe we may also speak.” –St Hilary of Poitiers
Jesus prayed: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing it to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!” (Matthew 11:25-26 NLT).
Jesus refers to two kinds of people in His prayer to the Father, the “wise and clever” – proud and arrogant in their own wisdom and knowledge – and the “childlike” – humbly open and responsive to the truth of God’s Holy Word. To which group do you belong? Do you consider yourself wise in your own eyes or do you search for truth with childlike faith and understanding that only God holds all the answers to our questions
Speaking of childlike faith, I have been touched by the words of Elder J. J. Johnson, Pastor of Sunlight Christian Spiritual Mission African Baptist Church in New Orleans. He was a man who could scarcely read and write, but with a level of faith seldom seen.  Please read with your physical eyes and listen with your spiritual ears to what Elder Johnson says in this sermon excerpt
    “If you don’t believe in God, you ain’t a whole man; you just a number in the book. A lot of smart people claim they don’t believe nuthin unless they can see it. Look, friend, you can’t see electricity in that high-tension wire up yonder, but I DARE YOU TO TOUCH IT!  No, you can’t see that electricity but you can see the light.”
What a beautiful expression of his faith. I think each of us goes through life searching for that which will make us whole/complete and bring us ultimate fulfillment – true contentment, peace and happiness. No doubt, we all want to be seen as a whole person, not lacking in anything that draws us closer to our Lord. The kind of faith Elder Johnson described meant not only believing in God but trusting Him with your eternal soul and in every circumstance of life here on earth.
When a father tosses his little daughter into the air, she giggles and is not afraid. Even though she sees herself in the most unusual and threatening circumstances with nothing between her and the hard floor below, she has no fear because she trusts her father to catch her and gently lower her to the floor.  That’s the kind of childlike faith and trust each of us should have toward our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Possessions Can Possess Us

Chuckle: "Only floss the teeth you want to keep!"
Quote: "It is impossible to out-give God, to out-reach His concern, to outrun His mercy, or to out-live His love." --William Arthur Ward

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38 NASB).
This devotional is borrowed from an unknown author. I hope it is a blessing to you.
God is the source of everything and He supplies "all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19 NIV). And His riches are unlimited and eternal! Our obedience to His principles demonstrates that we trust Him in all areas of our lives, including our finances and possessions. According to Deuteronomy 14:23, one purpose of tithing was to teach the people of Israel to put God first in their lives.
How we handle money reveals much about the depth of our commitment to Christ. Jesus often talked about money and one-sixth of the gospels, as well as one out of every three parables, touch on stewardship of money and possessions. Money matters. For some of us, though, it matters too much. "But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9 NLT).
Often, it is easier for a person to live by faith when he does not have money than when he does. The one who has nothing has little choice about how to live and is much more inclined to live totally dependent on the Lord. But when a Christian has money in the bank, he has a choice to make. He can spend it by faith or he can spend on self. John Jacob Astor, the wealthiest gentleman on board the Titanic, once said, "I am the most miserable man on earth." In a situation of plenty, it becomes most important for Christians to properly use the wealth that God gives them.
Attitude toward things and not the things themselves constitutes good or evil. On the one hand, it means that the Christian must not covet money or the things it can buy. On the other hand, it doesn't mean the Christian should not enjoy the things that God gives him, if these things are placed in proper perspective and bought in the will of God.
If every one of your possessions and all your finances were taken from you today, would you still find yourself able to thank the Lord? Would you be content in all things? Chances are this won't happen, but you should, be truthful as you contemplate your answer to these questions. What standard of measure do you use in counting your blessings?
“Money is an article that may be used as a universal provider of everything – except happiness.”
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Selfishness and Happiness

Chuckle: Patient: “Doctor, Why do you whistle when you operate?” Doctor: “It helps take my mind off my work.”
Quote: “He who lives only for himself is truly dead to others.” –Publilius Syrus

“An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1 NIV). “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT).
Everyone I know is searching for happiness. But searching for happiness by being selfish is like trying to catch an elusive butterfly. When you stop trying to catch it and instead devote your attention to tending your garden, often the butterfly will quietly and unexpectedly light on your shoulder. You can try and try to catch happiness to no avail; but when you stop searching and begin immersing yourself in the really important things in life, happiness will present itself when you least expect it. This is because your mind is on something bigger and better than yourself. To put it another way, it seems to me that happiness is a by-product of a well lived life, not a separate entity to be pursued.
The world would have you believe that happiness will come only when you look out for yourself at the expense of others. Self-indulgence in money and things is touted as a means to attain happiness. The concept of happiness differs between individuals, but a truth from God’s Word is that no person can be truly happy who lives solely for himself. But the wise person makes his relationship with God his first priority, followed by concern for others, and lastly himself. In our passages, we are warned about selfishness.
Preoccupation with self and selfishness can destroy relationships within families, churches and communities, but genuine humility and selfless concern for others will produce healthy relationships. This does not mean we should put ourselves down, but that the wellbeing of others is more important to us than our own. This means having the wisdom to forecast outcomes from selflessness and the desire to unselfishly share our time, talents, money and possessions with others to enhance their lives.
Ralph L. Woods: An ambitious farmer, unhappy about the yield of his crops, heard of a highly recommended new seed corn. He bought some and produced a crop that was so abundant his astonished neighbors asked him to sell them a portion of the new seed. But the farmer, afraid that he would lose a profitable competitive advantage, refused. The second year the new seed did not produce as good a crop, and when the third-year crop was still worse it dawned upon the farmer that his prize corn was being pollinated by the inferior grade of corn from his neighbors' fields. --C.R. Gibson, Wellsprings of Wisdom.
Seeing others’ interests as more important than our own connects us to Christ, the ultimate example of humility and service, and puts us on the road to true happiness.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, September 18, 2017

Interceding Holy Spirit

Chuckle: More fun with the English language. "The buck does funny things when the does are present."
Quote: "The best prayers have often more groans than words." –Unknown Source

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for; nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will" (Romans 8:26b-27 NLT).
Have there been times in your life when you were praying but just could not find the right words to express the condition of your heart? Have you been in such pain and sorrow that no words were adequate to express the way you felt? I'm quite sure each of us has had a similar experience sometime(s) in our lives. What a beautiful picture of God's grace and provision we see in this passage.
The Holy Spirit takes our burdens, griefs, sorrows, and frustrations and intercedes with the Father through groans that cannot be expressed in words. Isn't it wonderful that the Holy Spirit of God is interceding for us in the same way we pray intercessory prayers for our fellow believers. But, that's not all. Listen to this: "Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God (the Father) and is also interceding for us" (Romans 8:34 NIV and Hebrews 7:25).
Here's the picture! God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the Trinitarian Godhead, are all involved in the intercessory process for us as believers. God the Father, who knows all hearts, searches all human hearts while the Holy Spirit and Christ Jesus intercede for all Christians. Even when you don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit prays with you and for you. God understands those prayers even if they reach Him only as groans and He answers according to His own will. If this doesn't light your fire, your wood is wet!
We are admonished to intercede for one another as the Holy Spirit and Jesus are interceding for us. "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone. . ." (1 Timothy 2:1 NIV). Notice that intercession is only one form of prayer mentioned here. We may deal with other forms of prayer at a later date.
With God helping us pray, we should not hesitate to approach His throne of grace in prayer boldly with freedom and confidence. "In him (Christ) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence" (Ephesians 3:12 NIV). We do so with the confidence that the true meaning of our prayers will be accurately communicated to our Heavenly Father by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, September 15, 2017

Confidence in God

Chuckle: A pastor was talking to some children and asked, "What is brown, furry, with a bushy tail, and hides nuts?" One little boy replied, "I know the answer is Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel."
Quote: "God is sufficiently wise, and good and powerful and merciful to turn even the most, apparently, disastrous events to the advantage and profit of those who humbly adore and accept his will in all that he permits." --Jean-Pierre de Caussade
"But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head" (Psalm 3:3 NIV).
What is your first reaction when problems arise in your life? Where do you focus your attention for help in dealing with adverse situations? How do you plan ahead for dealing with troubles when they come, and how do you shield yourself from their damaging impact?
When King David wrote this psalm, he was not setting on his comfortable throne in the safety of a palace, but was running for his life to escape from his rebellious son, Absalom, and a host of other traitors. It's a gross understatement to say he was dealing with major troubles. When trouble comes, it's tempting to think God has turned His back on us and is meting out his wrath upon us. This attitude often causes us to turn away from God in time of trouble rather than toward Him. But David remembered an eternal truth: God is always with us even when everything and everyone seems to be against us. "If God is for us, who can be against us" (Romans 8:31 NIV).
Someone has said, "glance at your problems and gaze at God" when trouble closes in. This makes eminent sense if you think about it. The key question is where do we focus our attention during troubling times? If we gaze (focus) on our troubles and only glance at God, the perceived magnitude of our troubles will increase and our confidence in God and dependence upon Him will decrease. Like David, we should learn to keep our eyes focused on God in all circumstances.
Jesus said to His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NIV). As we keep our eyes (gaze) upon our Lord and focus on His faithfulness, our confidence in Him will become stronger and unshakable. God will never abandon us, and we can enjoy the peace of Christ even in the most troublesome of times.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Why Does God . . .?

Chuckle: Only a Southerner knows how many fish, collard greens, turnip greens, peas, beans, etc., make up "a mess."
Good Quote: "The love of God is like the Amazon River flowing down to water a single daisy." --Unknown

"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).
I'm sure many of us have asked the question, "Why does God let horrible things happen, like the recent hurricanes that took many lives and did untold millions in damage to homes and other property?" Inherent in this question are certain affirmations for Christians: (1) That God is in control, and (2) That we can't understand God's ways. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8 NIV).
We can never answer all the questions to everyone's satisfaction. But, for us as Christians, when we ask these questions, we must remember that God is good and we can trust Him. So, we should ask God what he would have us learn and do as a result of these type disasters. Using Luke 12:13-21, our pastor pointed out three major lessons for us. I want to share them with you.
1. Life is more important than possessions. In verses 14-15, we find two brothers squabbling over their inheritance. Jesus knew their hearts and said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (vs. 15). We live in a society of greedy people. We love our stuff. In fact, much of what we do indicates that our stuff is more important to us than anything else. But, did you notice, in the aftermath of the hurricanes, all people could think about was the safety of their loved ones, not their possessions. It takes disasters like this to help us put possessions in perspective. It teaches us about values. . . .
2. Eternity is more important than time. In verses 18-21, Jesus shows us how valueless our possessions really are when our lives come to an end. A rich man was worried about where he could store all his possessions. He was content with himself because he had all the material things he would ever need. But in verse 20, Jesus said: "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be required from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (verses. 20-21).
3. Generous Christian ministry is always needed. We see the generosity of the American people, especially Christian people, in the face of such terrible need resulting from natural disasters. What if the rich man had used all his riches to honor God by helping others in need? God blesses us so we can bless the lives of others. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of us were less self-centered and greedy and more loving, compassionate, and giving all the time; not just in times of great emergencies.
Love, Jerry & Dotse